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.