Thursday, March 23, 2006

244. Dick

Houston, TX

These last few days in Houston have been pretty much the first time I've ventured out of the path of Katrina and Rita in--can it be?!--six months. There are still signs of the hurricanes' devastation here (mostly in subtler forms than fallen trees or damaged property) if you look hard enough, but since we got here we've been more concerned with other matters. Other catastrophes, you might say.

Ollie and I have had a lot of long talks since we managed to escape with our lives a few days ago. Actually, it's more like one REALLY long talk punctuated now and then by breaks for food and the chance to just lie next to each other and stare into each other's eyes--or, on a more mundane front, to nurse our many wounds.

So very much has come out in the last few hours. Ollie wanted to know how I managed to untie myself, which after some hesitation led me to FINALLY tell him about my brief, undistinguished career as sidekick to the World's Greatest Detective. To my surprise, he hadn't heard of Batman, but then

a) he's really been on the road for the last ten years or so (most of that time in his own nocturnal guise), so he hasn't really kept up with current events, and

b) I guess the legend of the Batman may not have left Gotham City after all. In those heady days a year or two ago when our names were in the paper nearly every day it was tempting to think we were superstars, but maybe Batman is more of a local phenomenon in the long run. (He always said that anything resembling celebrity was more of a detriment than a reward. Even in Gotham, a sizable chunk of the population had probably never heard of us, and an even greater percentage assumed Batman was just an urban legend--which is just what Bruce wanted.)

Once we got done with the whole Robin discussion--and now that Green Arrow was starting to think of me as a potential colleague rather than an innocent bystander--I had a milion questions for him, starting with What the hell just happened?, moving on to Who the fuck were those assholes, and why did they want to kill us?, followed by How did you get involved in all of this in the first place?, and then meandering ever so gradually into the territory of What are we going to do next?

The answers to the first three were long and complicated and often confusing, but always fascinating. In a nutshell, while Oliver Queen has been spending his days lending a hand to the hurricane relief effort, the Green Arrow has been continuing his decade-long work pursuing society's underbelly by night. There's been no shortage of action on either front, but in the last four or five months he's noticed a distinct upturn in bias-related criminal activity--hate crimes. At first he thought it might be a localized phenomenon, an aftereffect of the shock and panic caused by the storms, but he gradually realized it was far more widespread, with ripples in nearly every community we visited, large or small. Statistical research (and don't ask me how he managed to find the time to conduct any, since we've been working our asses off and traveling all over the damn South virtually nonstop) revealed that there were indeed certain patterns emerging, and over time he started to suspect that there was a connecting thread in all of this. Someone or something, he believes, has been working overtime to unite the diverse threads of extremist crazies scattered across our fine land. The logo I noticed on our attackers' robes, for instance, has been popping up all over the place, sometimes in slightly different variations. The recurring theme in all of them is the letters "HM," and Ollie (er, Green Arrow) has been trying to figure out what they stand for. This has been an even more gruelling challenge given that he seems barely able to turn on a computer, let alone use it to Google anything. Besides, access to computers in some of the places we've been living lately has been nonexistent--there are still a few former towns with no electricity or running water, even after all these months.

Anyway, Ollie had been starting to investigate one of these micro-level extremist cells (not that those three asswipes deserve the designation of a "cell," mind you) when they caught wind of him and chased him back to the motel. That's where I came into the picture.

As for the question of where we go next, that one is still pretty much up in the air at this point. For right now, we're laying low, trying to recuperate, and even enjoying a tiny break. I've got a funny feeling that's going to last all of 48 hours, max.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

243. Dick

Houston, TX

I guess I have Mr. Bruce Wayne to thank for the fact that I'm alive and writing this.

Well, I have to thank Mr. Oliver Queen, too--and I will, as soon as I wrap up this journal entry. To show my gratitude, I plan to kiss him on the lips for, oh, about 15 minutes, then move down to his right nipple for another 10, then kiss my way slowly across his hairy chest, taking my time until I land at the left nip, linger there until he starts to moan, and then head as far south as I can before I start running into those areas that are too bandaged to risk such attention. (That's probably not a very smart plan, medically speaking, but damn, I can't keep my hands off that man.) His significant injuries are probably going to stop us from doing much more than kissing tonight, let alone for the next few days/weeks, but that's okay. I just thank god we're both still breathing.

To backtrack, it was Bruce who taught me what I needed to know in order to escape that tree trunk I was tied to--and while I'm thanking people, I should really thank that anonymous state trooper, or fire truck, or whoever it was whose siren going off way in the distance spooked our would-be murderers enough to convince them to run to their truck and get the hell out of there. I should probably even thank our hooded idiot friends for being too stupid to bring any matches for their little human bonfire, too. (You'd think at least one of them would be a smoker, but evidently they're more into the chewin' tobacco, judging from the wads of it they spat at me at various points during the ordeal.)

As for Ollie, I've got to hand it to him--he had even me convinced that he was unconscious that whole time. The minute the assholes ran off, he opened his eyes, gave me a wink, and set about cutting himself loose from the rope that held him upside down from that branch. I'm still not quite sure how he did it, but I think there was some kind of blade concealed in his boot. (At least that's how Bruce would have pulled it off. I assume all masked vigilantes travel around with trick blades hidden in their boot heels; there's probably even been a feature on it in Masked Vigilante Monthly, for all I know..)

It was kind of cool that we both managed to free ourselves even while we were gagged--it reminded me of the kind of wordless communication Batman and I developed after a while. Only I had with Green Arrow on our very first outing!

Whoops,that makes it sound as though I'm anxious to do this kind of thing again. Sorry, but I hung up my cape back when Strange got his creepy hands on it. I'm in retirement now, and NOTHING is gonna change that.

And that's a promise.

Monday, March 20, 2006

242. The omniscient narrator

Beneath his frightened exterior, Dick Grayson was tapping into the reserve of calm and calculation he'd been trained to access in his days as Robin, carefully trying to find a way out of this disaster. After all, he had spent a year learning from and working alongside the best in the business. The very best. True, since that time they'd both been broken and brainwashed and left the business, but no matter. Once a superhero, always a superhero. World, meet Robin, the Boyish Wonder!

And beneath that facade, he was even more terrified.

Holy shit, he thought to himself. I'm somewhere in the woods in the middle of Southeast Texas, tied to a tree in my underwear, about to be set on fire by three idiots in Klan getups! And the one man who could save me--the same man who accidentally got me into this mess--is unconscious and on the verge of death himself right now. He's even worse off than I am, and there's not a damn thing I can do to help either one of us.

That wasn't entirely true; he was busily remembering the techniques Bruce had taught him for escaping from rope bondage, for instance, even though his odds of escaping were still remote at best. At the moment, all he could concentrate on was the burning desire to puke. If he did hurl, he realized, the gag would catch it and he'd probably choke on the vomit--an even less appealing option than being burned to a crisp. Besides, they'd probably roast him anyway.

"Got the gas can?" said Yokel One.

"Yup," said Yokel Two.

"Well, wutcha waitin' for?" nagged Yokel Three. "SOAK 'UM!"

Sunday, March 19, 2006

241. The omniscient narrator

"All right, here's yer damn signs," said Brother Wolf, holding up two crudely lettered pieces of poster board each bearing the single word "FAGGOT."

"Stick 'em on their bodies," said one of the other men. "Stick 'em on there real good, so's they don't fall off."

"Well, THAT's dumb," said another. "How's anybody s'pozed to read it after we burn 'em up?"

Great, thought Dick. I"m going to be set on fire. What a perfect way to start the day. He wondered why he was taking such a cavalier approach to the matter of his imminent demise, then realized he was slipping into his old Robin routine, a wisecracking persona he'd adopted as a means of self-defense. Any port in a storm, he thought to himself.

The robed and hooded yokels continued bickering throughout his moment of self-awareness.

"All right, goddammit, we'll just burn ONE of 'em. Happy???!!! The pretty boy. The 'Green Arrow' dude'll die pretty soon anyway, after the beatin' we just gave him, and on accounta hangin' upside down for so long an' all."

"But we gotta have TWO SIGNS. Stick to the script! People gotta know what was wrong with EACH ONE of 'em. They gotta know the one that burned up was a faggot, too."

"Okay, okay--we'll take th' other sign and put it next to the tree so people know it was for him."

"But it'll just fly away in the wind, you dumbass."

"NOT if we put a fucking ROCK on it, shithead."

"Or the bat! We could put the BAT on the paper, with all their blood on it."

This mention of bats--albeit a very different kind--struck Grayson as more than a little coincidental. There are no accidents, Bruce had said time and time again. No coincidences. There are only signs--signs we must learn to read, or ignore at our peril.

"Let's just get this fucking OVER with," said Brother Somebody or Other. "Throw the gas on him and I'll get the match."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

240. The omniscient narrator

Dick held his breath as one of the yokels pulled down on the mask and removed it to expose Oliver Queen's rugged face.

"Recognize him?" said the one who'd done the deed.

"Nope," said one of his companions.

"Me neither," said the other. "TOLDja he wuddn't from aroun' here."

There was a long silence. Dick felt the gag bite into the corners of his lips; it had already absorbed most of the moisture from his mouth and he longed for a drink of something cool and wet.

The men stared at the Arrow, then glanced at Grayson, then looked at the ground. Several more moments passed.

"Now what?" one of them said.

"Time to kill 'em, I guess," said another.

"We gotta mark the site first, remember?" said the third. " 'Stick to the script,'"

Dick felt dizzy as the gravity of the situation began to sink in even further. The conversation became a jumble of voices unattached to faces--faces which were hidden from view, in any case.

"Did y'all make the signs yet?"


"Well, how we s'posed to mark the site without them signs?"

"Hold on. I got some spray paint in mah truck."

"Run go get it."

"Don't tell me what to do, you fuckin'--"

"Brothers! BROTHERS! Now ain't the time for ..."

"Shut up."

"YOU shut up."

"Fuck you."

and so on. They continued in this vein for the next fifteen minutes while the one apparently called Brother Fox retrieved a can of spray paint and begin writing on the grass betwen the trees:


This was accompanied by a crude spraypainted approximation of the logo on their robes--or at least that was what Dick assumed was the next result of Brother Fox's artistry. Grayson's attention was diverted by the fact that he was currently being beaten in the stomach with a baseball bat wielded by the goon he dubbed Brother Son of a Fucking Bitch.

Friday, March 17, 2006

239. The omnisicient narrator

Dick stared helplessly at the still-unconscious body of the Green Arrow hanging upside down, swinging ever so slightly--first clockwise, then counterclockwise--in response to even the slightest breeze.

There wasn't much else he could look at, under the circumstances: the ropes holding him to the tree trunk did not permit him to move his head very far in any direction. Up until now, he had not seen the men responsible for this awful turn of events. They were only disembodied voices--snarling, drawling, cigarette-damaged voices that sounded like they came straight from Deliverance. Under other circumstances, Dick would have held off the temptation to stereotype them as rednecks, but he had little inclination to think of them as anything else.

"Hey, Bobby--this one's kinda cute," one of the men now yelled with drunken sarcasm, taunting his companion--

--who was quick to silence him. "DON'T FUCKIN' CALL ME THAT," he barked. "Not when we're wearin' these. We gotta stick to the script, dumbass."

"That's BROTHER Dumbass," the third man said. "Stick to the script."

This seemed to be some kind of catchphrase--or at least a running joke, Dick thought. What "script"? Who the hell are these guys, and what do they want from Ollie?

The deeper answers were not fast in coming, but Grayson soon got his first glimpse of his captors when they began to gather beside the Green Arrow. They were wearing off-white robes now, their faces covered by hoods. The robes were made of something that looked like burlap and bore a stylized logo Dick had never seen before. ("Very KKK," he thought to himself, though there was something distinctive about this particular version--it looked mass-produced, along the lines of the pre-manufactured protest signs conservatives always seemed to wave at demonstrations of any sort.)

"Brothers," said the second man, now adopting a stilted tone that bore little resemblance to the one he'd just employed. "Let us have a look at this man who has been such a thorn in our side of late."

"Hear, hear," said the third man, all of them laughing at their own pretension. "Remove this 'Green Arrow''s mask, Brother Wolf."

The first man reached down and grabbed the sleeping Arrow's mask in his right hand.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

238. Batman

Carl Gustavus has announced his intention to begin a career similar to mine, and after much careful consideration I have given him my approval. This is an extremely dangerous calling, but I know him well, and if anyone is up to the task, it is him.

I know, also, that I do not desire another "sidekick," nor would I accept one. With all due respect to Mr. Grayson, I cannot afford the risks entailed by working with a less experienced partner or the time required to serve as his mentor. There is no need for debate on the matter; Carl shares my feelings with equal resolve. Nonetheless, we will work closely together--continue to work together, I should say, for he has played an absolutely essential role in my own retraining, becoming more and more actively engaged in the process. So much has he learned from these sessions, in fact, that I daresay he will be ready for active duty very soon. He is currently in the process of selecting a name for his new alter ego.

Our current plan is this: he will continue to live and train with me for the next several weeks or even months, joining me on patrols off and on, then launching a solo identity as quickly as possible. Although we are open to whatever the future may bring, we envision a time when he will move his base of operations to his own home (after he has completed the necessary preparations there). This will, of course, mean that our domestic relationship will change. While our feelings for each other remain passionate, we must face certain realities. My return to the life of Batman has reminded me that it is the single most important purpose of my brief time on earth; as deeply as I care for Carl, I cannot allow any personal bond to distract me from the enormous task at hand. He, on the other hand, has told me on several occasions that he feels stifled by the current power dynamic between us, which is quite different from the one by which we first operated. He was, to use his own blunt phrase, happier with me when I was "all bottom, all the time." That is no longer the case, and we must each deal with the consequences of the change.

I have no intention of breaking off our sexual bond. I owe him more than I can say--without his professional assistance, I might never have been able to come to terms with certain interests of mine, and without his love (I must not run from the term) I might never have been able to put those interests to productive use. (My language about this delicate matter is formal by necessity.) I do not see why we cannot grow closer as lovers even as we may grow farther apart as friends and fellow travellers.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

237. The omniscient narrator

Richard Grayson awoke just as the first rays of daylight were beginning to make themselves known. Under other circumstances, it might have been downright romantic: two lovers watching the sunrise together.

Only there was nothing even remotely pleasant about the actual scene. Dick's head hurt like hell, and the more he came to his senses, the more he began to sense he'd received a major-level bashing while he'd been asleep. He knew without looking that he was bleeding in at least two places, neither of them very good ones to be bleeding.

He looked up and saw Oll--Green Arrow, hanging upside down from a nearby tree branch, still unconscious, also bleeding, hands still tied behind his back, face turning red from the unnatural flow of blood to his head. Dick was bound, too, he soon realized: rough bark pressed hard into his spine and thick ropes traced a tight spiral from his neck to his feet. Both men were gagged.

He smelled cigarettes and cheap beer, then heard a voice he vaguely recognized from a few hours earlier. "Yer fuck buddy here learned a valuable lesson tonight," the apparent ringleader said. "Y'all don't belong here. The triiiiiibe has spoken."

The voice sounded like it was only a few feet away, but Dick could not see the speaker. The only thing he could see, other than enough trees to tell him he was in a forest somewhere or other, was the inverted body of the ... Arrow.

"The Arrow"? "Green Arrow" with no "the"? Just plain "GA"? What the hell was he supposed to call this costumed alter ego of the man he'd known for months as Oliver--sometimes Ollie--Queen?

Chalk it up to shock that questions of nomenclature were the biggest concerns on Grayson's mind in this dire moment. He wasn't trying to be the nonchalant sidekick--far from it. He was fairly certain he'd left his sidekick gig back in Gotham City months ago, along with his own pair of tights.

Tights. Green tights. He glanced over at Green Arrow--there, the new name was starting to come more naturally now--and wished the hero's introduction had been a bit less dramatic. Then again, his first meeting with Batman had been under similarly drastic conditions, too.

Batman... What would Batman do if he were here? If he still existed, that is...

For one thing, Dick thought, he'd have a belt full of equipment to help him out. Me, I've got two quarters and a handful of pennies in the pockets of my ...

Pants. Pants...

For the first time, Grayson noticed he wasn't wearing any. No, he was standing here out in the woods, tied to a tree, in his underwear. And from the looks of things, he and his latest costumed gentleman caller were about to die.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

236. The omniscient narrator

Oliver braced for a fight. Dick was too surprised--and far too out of training--to do much more than freeze while flashbacks of vaguely similar encounters from his past began to flood his mind.

As it turned out, there was to be no hand-to-hand combat, only a pair of guns pointed at each of the two lovers. Queen and Grayson both raised their hands, then lowered them behind their backs and allowed their wrists to be tightly bound. Oliver (Dick was still adjusting to thinking of him as "The Green Arrow") contemplated his next move, but his options were limited as long as Dick's life was on the line.

One other thing prevented the masked man from taking any sort of further action. That thing was the butt of one of the attacker's guns, which landed hard on the base of his skull and knocked him out cold.

Dick watched the beating in horror, then saw Ollie slump to the floor unconscious.

"You're next, faggot," said the head yokel. In the blink of an eye, Grayson felt something big and ugly connect with his head.

Then he felt nothing at all for a long, long time.

235. The omniscient narrator

It was 4 a.m. on a prematurely warm night in Southeast Texas, and Dick sat up in his motel room bed reading an ancient copy of The Advocate he'd picked up somewhere along his travels. "Holy heatwave," he thought to himself. "If it's this bad in early March, imagine what it's gonna be like in August."

A noise outside the door to the room caught him off guard for a moment, but as soon as he heard a key enter the lock he relaxed. Only Ollie. No need to panic. And what a change: this time, instead of leaving in the middle of the night, he was returning...

The door opened, and a shadowy figure entered quickly. It wasn't Oliver--not exactly, at least. If you knew the man as intimately as Dick did, you'd recognize certain key aspects of him: the massive biceps, the sturdy chest, the rugged face, the goatee that glowed almost gold, even in the dim light. But all of that was augmented by his striking clothes, all in the darkest shades of green: mask, cap and vest (beneath which his chest hairs poked out), large boots and specialized archery gloves, and the tights that had first caught Grayson's eye.

"Nice outfit," Dick purred. "Even sexier than I'd imagined. Pleased to meet you, Green Arrow."

Grayson felt his own shaft stiffen at the thought of getting reacquainted with his lover in an entirely new way. He pulled the bedsheet back in an open invitation for company.

Oliver Queen clearly had something else on his mind. "There's no time for that," he snapped. "They're after me. I didn't mean to bring you into this. Didn't want to show up here like this... too dangerous. But there's no other way. We've got to get our stuff and get out of here--immediately."

Dick was confused. He noticed now that Ollie was disheveled; he stank of something vaguely familiar. "Have you ... been drinking?" he asked cautiously. Alcoholism had been one of the theories he'd turned to in past months to explain the older man's frequent disappearances, but recent revelations had led him to rule it out. Still, what if this whole alter ego business was some sort of drunken fanta--

"Listen to me, Dick," Queen said, his voice as calm and commanding as he could make it. "There's no time to explain, but my life--and now yours--is in danger. We HAVE to LEAVE. NOW. Grab whatever you can and leave the key on the television. As soon as I change clothes, we're out of--"

Before the masked man could finish the sentence or his listener could comprehend it, the door burst open once more and three thuggish-looking men entered the room.

"Toldja he ran in here," one of them said, in a tone suggesting this was the capper to a long, idiotic argument.

"Okay, you win, asshole," another replied. "Whoopty-fuckin-do."

"And what have we here?" the third said upon discovering the barely dressed Grayson. "Looks like the freak has a girlfriend. This is gonna be FUN."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

234. Dick Grayson

Orange, TX

Can't quite figure out how to start this entry with the proper tone:
1. Here we go again...
2. Is it me?
3. What the --

I guess any one of them will do. I just need some way to express the state of shock I've been in for the last 24 hours or so. Still trying to wrap my head around what happened the other night:

Okay, so I finally confronted Oliver about finding my tights in his suitcase. He was, predictably, pissed, but the rest of his response took me totally by surprise.

Turns out they're not mine at all. Which I guess should be some kind of relief, because at least now I know I"m not dealing with some clothes-stealing weirdo.

What I am dealing with, I learned after many, many hours of talk, is something far more ...

I don't know what to call it. What to call him. Except, I guess, what he calls himself, during those times when he leaves in the middle of the night and doesn't show up for hours, then refuses to talk. Which is...

The Green Arrow.

It's true. Unbelievable, but true:

I have somehow managed to find myself intimately involved yet again with a sexy older man who leads a double life as a masked crimefighter. I've never heard of a "Green Arrow" before, but then he travels around a lot, and keeps a much lower profile than Bruce. He's not one for publicity.

I somehow managed not to tell him about my own storied past, such as it is, but I figured we should limit ourselves to one major revelation a night. It's funny how closely coming out as a costumed crimefighter resembles coming out as gay. There's so much trust involved, and an accompanying feeling of power when you finally let the secret out to someone you care about. (God, I just had a flash of the first time I told Tanhoger about my little secret... Hmm, better not dwell on that too long right now. Moving right along...)

I asked him if he'd put on his full suit for me sometime. I just want to see it, before I make up my mind what the hell I"m going to do next. (I was seriously considering a return to Gotham, and I don't know if this changes everything or ... not.)

And who knows--maybe I'll come clean about the masked skeleton in my own closet soon, too. I thought my Robin days were far behind me, but something tells me they may be just beginning.

Here... we go... again.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

233. Gustavus

It's about fucking time.

It's about taking time to do it right: making sure to seat your slave in the proper chair, to double-check that his ass is placed just so (since for all he knows he will be planted there for a long, lonnnnnng time), to guarantee that his ankles are flush with the legs of the chair, that his forearms mesh with the arms of the chair, that the ropes are wrapped with care, around and around and around his chest, his limbs, every inch of his body.

It's about pulling those ropes tight and taut, about standing next to your captive and listening to his breathing, trying to read what his eyes are saying. His eyes are all he has, the rest of his face buried beneath a mask and a gag.

He does not struggle. He knows you are not an enemy but a friend. A very special kind of friend. One who knows him inside and out, one who loves him in a way few men can understand.

I stood beside him until I grew tired of standing, then I pulled up a chair and sat beside him, still staring at him, not saying a word even though I alone had the ability to speak. It was the longest time we have been together in months, and I wanted to make the most of it.

As I sat there, I got an idea. And today I acted on it.

With B's approval (once he'd freed himself from his restraints), I asked Alfred to make me a suit of my own. A very special suit.

For a very special role.

Friday, March 10, 2006

232. Dick Grayson

Cameron, LA

It's been more than five months since the hurricanes, and it's amazing how much work remains to be done. And to be brutally honest, I just don't know how much longer I can do it. Never thought I'd say this, but being Robin was, in a way, so much easier: swoop down on the bad guys, tie them up, alert the police, end of story. (Well, that's how it went when it worked...) This cleanup job is so completely different. It just goes on and on and on. Every time we think we've made some progress, we head to a new town, like this one, and it's time to start from scratch. So much destruction, so much pain, so little hope. I'm seriously thinking about calling it quits and moving back to Gotham. But would that make me ... a quitter? I left that place when things went wrong (horribly wrong), and now that I realize it's not going so great down here, I dream of going back?

I don't know. I just don't know.

Meanwhile, it's been almost a month since I opened Ollie's suitcase and found ... a pair of my own tights! The green leggings I wore as Robin. I don't know how he got his hands on them, or what he knows about me, or why we still haven't talked about this, but we haven't. Granted, I didn't look too closely--just saw them, shut the case, and tried to go about my business. I keep meaning to bring it up, and I haven't found a way to do it without admitting that I was snooping around where I shouldn't have.

Other than that gaping hole in the trust department, things are going great between us. We keep moving from one town or city to another either together or within a few days of each other, sharing sleeping quarters, and fucking like bunnies. Sometimes I fantasize myself being the meat in a Bruce-and-Ollie sandwich, and I like what I see. Strictly for selfish reasons, I'd love to introduce those two to each other--

--or not. I mean, two emotionally cold but physically hot daddies in the same room? I'd either freeze or melt. Or both!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

231. The omniscient narrator

The Batmobile roared to a stop at its designated spot in the Cave. The headlights faded out, and the driver exited the vehicle. It took him less than a minute to pull the cowl off his head and grab a towel to dab the sweat that had gathered beneath the mask.

"Long night?" Carl Gustavus asked, not bothering to look up from his copy of the Gotham Gazette. Bruce had taken to calling him "Carl" for the last two months (when he called him anything at all, that is), a subtle indicator that the power dynamic between them had shifted.

Bruce said nothing and began to unfasten his cape. He'd sustained a few minor injuries during the evening's adventures and was eager to treat them quickly. Nothing major, just a couple of cuts and scrapes--the sort of thing Alfred was so very good at handling, only he had the night off.

In the last several weeks, this had all become routine: Batman gone for hours, sometimes until after sunrise, then the silent treatment upon his return. Work seemed to be the only thing on his mind. He had a city to save, after all.

Gustavus's presence in the Batcave was the only thing even slightly out of the ordinary about this particular morning. Since early February--a week or two into Batman's re-emergence--the former mentor had been spending more and more time in his own home, even working with clients after a long break. There was no point in camping out at Wayne Manor any more, he reasoned, since Bruce was never there, and they barely ever even touched each other, let alone made love.

"We have to talk," Gustavus said in a low tone that resembled Batman's studied growl. "This is madness. I was all in favor of your returning to work, but now that you've been doing it for a while, I don't see any place for me in your life. You're gone half the night, and I fucking HATE sitting here waiting for you to return. It's not my style to play the housewife. Do you have any idea what it's--"

Gustavus looked up and saw that Batman wasn't even paying attention to this monologue. And yes, he was Batman again--the cowl was back in place, and he was reaching for something in his belt. Goddammit! Was he heading out on some fucking case again, at this hour?

The masked man turned and faced Gustavus. There was passion in his eyes. "Tie me up," he said. It was half an order and half a plea. "Use this." Batman handed his lover a length of rope from the utility belt, and offered his outstretched arms as a starting point.

Monday, March 06, 2006



By Thomas Drury
Staff Reporter

Almost one year after his presumed death, alleged sightings of the fabled character Gotham City once dubbed "The Batman" have resumed at a dizzying rate. In the last two months, more than three dozen people have reported seeing the masked vigilante on the prowl once again. Dressed in his trademark mask and cape, the mysterious individual--or perhaps a copycat--has intervened in an unknown number of petty crimes.

Not everyone is convinced the rumors have any validity. "Wishful thinking," sniffed police detective Harvey Bullock. "This town is goin' to hell, and people are lookin' for a savior from the skies. Sorry to burst yer bubble, folks, but there ain't no such thing as a 'Bat-Man.' If you want to save this city, you're goin' to have to do it yourself."

At least five of the accounts have been dismissed as prank calls, but the rest are being taken seriously by the GCPD.

[story continues on page B6]