Wednesday, April 26, 2006

258. Dick Grayson (letter from Houston, TX)

Dear Bruce,
I just wanted to follow up on a few things after our phone call last night. (Don't worry--of course I remember how I'm sending this and to whom I'm writing. You taught me well, you know.)

First, let me say it was so wonderful to hear your voice again after all this time. It sounds like things are going great for you and that your life is back on track at last. I can't wait to see you and meet your new ... companion.

Actually, to be honest, I'm kind of dreading that last part, just as I don't exactly look forward to introducing you to Oliver. He's an extraordinary man, as I'm sure Carl is. But we all know this is going to be awkward for everyone involved, and we'll just have to get through it somehow or other. It is, after all, work that is bringing Oliver and me to Gotham--work that looks like it will necessarily involve you and Carl as well. Perhaps the fact that we all share a common purpose now will be enough to help us push through the surface complexities.

Speaking of which: re lodging, there is no reason to apologize or explain about my apartment being sublet. I'm just incredibly thankful that you have kept up rent payments for it for all these months, with no evidence that I would ever return. Your commitment to me through thick and thin is truly humbling.

Oliver and I have primarily been staying in motels and shelters for the last six months, so we're pretty good at it by now, and we don't mind doing it a little longer, at least until my apartment becomes available again.

Please thank Alfred for handling our flight reservations for us (and thank you for covering the cost of both tickets!). I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. We'll see you very soon, I'm sure. As I mentioned, Oliver and I have just one more piece of unfinished business to take care of before we leave Houston. As soon as that is done, we'll be on our way to Gotham.

In the meantime, take care of yourself, Bruce. I promise I'll do the same.


Friday, April 21, 2006

257. Robin's notebook

Finished interviewing the suspect a few hours ago. He was badly shaken and hyperventilating after we released him from the restraints where we found him. We talked to him for three hours, then drove him to a remote Houston subdivision--the suspect still hooded and wearing the bondage attire in which he had been dressed while captive. We can reasonably assume he will not attempt to reconnect with the core group, and they may well believe he is dead by now.

During interrogation he refused to provide his birth name or even the code name he uses as part of the organization, but our confrontation did yield invaluable information about that group and its overall structure.

"H.M." or "The Honest Men" is a newly formed umbrella group uniting a previously diverse collection of right-wing extremists, militias, survivalists, and other organizations throughout the United States whose individual agendas embrace a plethora of racist, xenophobic, anti-gay and anti-choice ideologies, among countless other missions. An unknown number of local chapters all answer to a single centralized authority--an extremely charismatic figure who also uses the intitials "H.M." Remarkably, given the brief amount of time the Honest Men have been in operation, this "H.M." has managed to assert his influence far and wide, bringing together fringe groups in the smallest of towns and the biggest of cities.

As luck--or something more ominous--would have it, the group leader's base of operations appears to be ...

Gotham City.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

256. Robin

I guess it's time I started keeping a journal as Robin again, even though the last time I did, it nearly ended both my life and Batman's. Oh, well: you live, you learn. And one thing I'm begining to learn is that I seem to have this vigilante crimefighter business in my blood. Or else it's my destiny. Or maybe I'm jusy as crazy as Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen.

Anyway, I'm here, and I'm alive, and I guess I'm Robin once more.

I very nearly wasn't any of those things, just a couple of hours ago. Thank god I still remembered the breath control techniques Batman taught me--and thank god I finally figured out why O calls himself the Green Arrow. His collection of blades, planted in various nooks and crannies of his uniform, is the one thing that saved us both from suffocation.

I should say it saved all three of us, because the minute GA cut us both loose from our plastic tombs, we discovered another person in the room with us, chained to the wall, and got him some air just in the nick of time. Must have been one of the goons who conked us over the head back when the fun was just getting started.

We'll know more in a little while; we're about to interrogate him. He's the best--and only--lead we've got. (Did I just say "we"? Damn, it's all coming back to me... The old team spirit.)

Hoo-boy. It's been a long, long time since I've been part of a good interrogation. Feels great to be back.

255. Batman

Just a few nights into his apprenticeship, G is proving that he has what it takes to do this work.

He has already been invaluable in apprehending half a dozen petty thieves and is eager to begin pursuing cases on his own. His instincts are sound, his response time is quick. He is an excellent fighter. In the interrogations I have seen him conduct, he makes full, confident, and creative use of the qualities he brought to my own rehabilitation.

And, I must say, he looks ... magnificent in his new uniform. It accentuates his muscles, his broad shoulders, his imposing chest. Last night, as we returned to the cave after a long, difficult evening of patrols, he caught me examining him when I thought he did not see me. (Did I mention how impressive his powers of observation are?) He smiled. I do not recall which of us made the first move, but soon we were locked in an embrace, our sweat-soaked bodies clinging tightly to each other. As we kissed, I felt the stubble on his cheek graze the corner of my cowl. Through my glove, I could sense the fabric of his shirt and beneath it the firm muscles of his back.

Much as I hate the cliché, this is all like a dream come true--a dream I never knew I had, but one I now realize has haunted me my entire life. For the first time, I have an equal. A partner.

And yet... And yet... A part of me keeps wondering when the dream will come to an end. Given our line of work, that could happen at any minute, and I must harden myself. I must brace for the inevitable. As my own past has taught me, happiness is fleeting. Only the mission remains.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

254. The omniscient narrator

Selena's Place was still and silent as the two men who called themselves "Brother Iron" and "Brother Steel" gently closed the door and drove away. They would wait a couple of hours and then call the cops, posing as neighbors concerned by suspicious activity in the notorious sex club. (The actual residents of the neighborhood where Selena's and the future Houston Male party were located had long since learned to ignore just about everything that happened in and around those establishments, except when it involved especially loud music or noisy, violent bar fights. They weren't happy about the businesses in the area, but realized after decades of fruitless complaints that there was little to be done about the situation.)

Inside Selena's, three bodies lay waiting to be discovered. Two were heavily bound in plastic and topped off with freshly spilled semen, while a third was shackled to the wall. All would soon be dead if they weren't already. The entire spectacle was certain to make quite a sensation in the local papers and on the tv news for weeks and months to come, igniting bitter debates about the depravity of contemporary city life. Exposés would be printed, hearings would be held, sermons would be uttered, and laws would be enacted...

... Except for one thing.

Look closer, reader, and see if you can find it. Examine the scene carefully, and listen for that tiny sound--the sound of something being torn, of a hole being poked through something solid with something sharp. Watch for the first sign of motion--a twitch, barely noticeable unless you are paying rapt attention--beneath one of the mounds of plastic.

Something is about to happen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

253. The omniscient narrator

The newly christened "Brother Hardon" was instructed to stand over the table holding one of the hooded, bound men with his cock in his hand.

"You like this, don't you, Brother Hardon?" said Brother Steel.

"Y-yes, sir," the now-frightened but still excited man answered.

"You're a fucked-up freak, too, aren't you, Brother Hardon?" said Brother Steel. "Lookin' at these men like this, wrapped up under inches of plastic, hoods over their faces, knowin' they don't have long to live--it's makin' you horny, ain't it?"


"Well I think you gotta do somethin' about that. Whatta you think, Brother Iron?" said Steel to the third man.

"I agree, Brother Steel," said Iron. "I think he better get that juice out of him, real fast."


"I think he wants to shoot it right onta them bound men," said Brother Steel. "Ain't that right, Brother Hardon?"

"Oh yessir..." Iron and Steel helped Hardon out of his robe. He was terrified by the implications of that gesture, but could no longer resist the temptation to bring himself to orgasm. A thick ribbon of cum flew from him and hit the mummified Green Arrow on the chin and chest. Hardon turned and sprayed the remainder of his fluid onto Robin's prone form, then collapsed on the floor beside them, exhausted and petrified.

"It's all right, Brother Hardon," said Brother Steel. "Everybody's a little bit fucked up. Everybody gets turned on by somethin' a little bit weird. These guys here--" he pointed at the two helpless heroes--"they like puttin' on Halloween costumes and actin' like faggots. You get hard watchin' em all tied up like this. You know what turns me on, Brother Hardon?"

"N-no, s-sir..."

"RIDDIN' THE STREETS OF FUCKIN' TRASH LIKE YOU," Steel said, grabbing a serious-looking mace from the wall and smacking the trembling man with it so hard that he collapsed, unconscious.

"Gimme a hand with this fuckin' loser, will you, Brother Iron?" said Steel.

"Sure thing," said Iron. It did not take long for the two of them to strip their colleague of his street clothes and outfit him in a leather harness, jockstrap, and boots stolen from the club's shop, then shackle him to an iron cross on the wall. They placed a ball gag in his mouth, clamped his nostils shut, and fastened a leather hood over his head.

"Now the cops'll have an even better freakshow to enjoy when they get here," said Brother Steel with an icy laugh. "Three corpses are better than two."

"I like the way you think," said Iron. "They'll shut this place down, the faggots'll stage a protest--which we'll invite them to do at the big 'Houston Male' bash--and just when the club is full to the rafters--"

"--we burn the whole fuckin' thing to the ground. Three dead faggots pavin' the way for three thousand. Okay, let's get the hell out of here. We've got work to do."

252. The omniscient narrator

The robed men loaded the unconscious bodies of Robin and Green Arrow into their van and drove the short distance to Selena's Place, a notorious and controversial club devoted to sexual adventurers of all persuasions. It was now nearly 4 a.m. and the doors were locked, but Brother Steel reached into one of the pockets in his robe and produced a bright blue key.

"Where'd you get that from?" asked the third man.

"Stole it from one of the members," Steel replied, not wanting to provide any further details. Once inside the door, they lowered the bodies onto the floor and turned on a set of lights.

Brother Steel worked efficiently, as if he knew the place inside and out. "Strap them to those tables over there," he ordered, and the other men obeyed. The three of them had left their comrades back at the new club to continue preparing the space for the coming inferno.

"These guys are into masks, so let's give 'em new ones," Steel said, grabbing a pair of eyeless, noseless, mouthless hoods from a wall display and securing them over the already disguised faces of Robin and Green Arrow. He tightened each one at the neck.

"Watch out, or they won't be able to breathe!" pointed out the first man, clearly the dullard of the bunch.

"That's the whole idea," said the third man, growing impatient. "Now what?" he asked Brother Steel.

"From what I hear," the team leader answered, "a lot of these freaks are into shit like 'mummification,' and--"

"You mean like human mummies?" said the first man.

"Yeah," replied Brother Steel. "Wrappin' each other up 'n shit. Then there's 'breath control,' which sounds like plain ol' suffocation to me. So what we're gonna do is, we're gonna wrap these guys so tight they can't move. I see some special plastic stuff over there. Real heavy duty. Now, usually when they do this shit, they make sure the victim has some air holes, but we're not gonna bother with that..."

"I get it!" said the first man, who was also beginning to sense that the very idea was exciting him to a degree he never could have anticipated. "That's fuckin' hardcore!" His use of the word made him aware that he himself was growing hard as well. "Y'all think y'all can spare me for a minute? I gotta go have a smoke. I'll be right back."

"Just be QUIET," barked the third man as he began the laborious process of wrapping Green Arrow's immobile body, starting at the boots and working his way toward the head. "We don't want anybody pokin' around here before the cops come."

"I hear ya," said the first one. He turned his back to his colleagues and slipped out the front door, then walked to the side of the club. The very thought of what was going on indoors at this moment made it impossible for him to concentrate on anything else. Within seconds he'd reached his hand inside his robes, unzipped his pants, and started to rub his growing erection. Through the window, he could hear faint traces of the wrapping process, and as he stroked himself he envisioned what was going on with the two captives inside, the outlines of their bodies gradually being obliterated by layer upon layer upon layer of plastic...

He was soon so engrossed in pleasuring himself that he didn't even notice the sound had stopped until one of his comrades was standing right beside him. "Hey, 'Brother Hardon,'" said the third man, resting his palm on the first man's shoulder and chuckling at the nickname he'd just devised. "Why don't you bring that business back inside? I think we've got a use for it in there."

251. The omniscient narrator

The Green Arrow proved just as easy to overpower as Robin had. It was not quite as easy to drag both bodies into the building, however, but with teamwork, the robed men managed to do it.

Teamwork was key to everything they did. They were coordinated, they were trained, they were ready for any situation. Including unwelcome guests like these two.

"Who the fuck are they?" said one man. "Look like fuckin' freaks."

"I don't recognize the one with the cape," said another man. "But the older guy looks like the one that's been causin' trouble all over the operation for months. Calls himself 'The Green Arrow.' Thinks he's Robin Hood or somethin'. There's a picture of him on the main HM website. 'Armed and dangerous.'"

"He don't look so dangerous to me," said a third. "Just looks like a goddam pervert."

"That gives me an idea," the second man said, stroking his chin in the manner of self-styled criminal masterminds the world over. "A way to get rid of these two, AND help out our mission. There's a fetish club about two blocks away from here, and--"

"A what?" said the first man.

"It's a place where the most fucked up of the fucked up go. I've heard some crazy shit goes on at that place," said the third man.

"That's what we're countin' on," said the second man, whose role as ringleader was quite clear. "What we do is--"

"How come y'all know so much about this pervert stuff?" said the first man.

The other two looked at each other. "Research, Brother," the second man said. "Now shut up and let me tell you the plan. We're gonna take these two freaks over there, kill 'em, and then call the cops sayin' we heard somethin' suspicious goin' on. They go in, see the bodies, figure out that the perverts musta murdered some a' their own in the middle of some of their weird-ass rituals, and that's that. Two meddlers dead, the story hits the media, and the public learns just how fucked up these faggots really are."

"Genius, Brother Steel," said the third man. "You're a goddam genius."

The one called Brother Steel looked embarrassed. "Just help me haul their bodies into the van. We don't have much time."

250. The omniscient narrator

I have a bad feeling about this, Robin thought to himself from his makeshift observation post. For starters, the binoculars he was using, purchased earlier the same day from a sporting goods store, were nowhere near the quality of the ones he'd used during patrols with Batman. But there were far bigger problems: as an individual, he was well aware that he was no longer in fighting shape--and as for teamwork, he and Ollie had no history together. They'd barely even had time to map out a strategy for the present situation, other than each of them taking a different side of the building and watching and listening for anything out of the ordinary.

And Robin began to find plenty of signs of that right away: a giant warehouse plopped right in the middle of a residential neighborhood (not so unusual in Houston, he'd learned during his stay thus far), apparently being converted rather hastily into a nightclub. That, too, was not so strange, but what did catch his eye was the large number of gas cans lining the perimeter, and the half dozen men busily disguising them by covering them up or tucking them into hedges. These men wore robes very much like the ones Robin had encountered a few days earlier. They worked in near silence, and he knew he'd have to be even quieter as he signalled Green Arrow--

But how could he? They hadn't thought to pack anything like walkie-talkies, and even if they had, the noise from the consumer models would surely be enough to alert the goons.

That little glitch was the first indication that Robin's worries had been legitimate. The second indication came in the form of a gentle rustling in the grass just behind him, which was followed by a very fast, very painful blow to the back of his head.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

249. The omniscient narrator

It was sometime after 1 a.m. when Oliver drove past the address in the ad, then parked the car a block and a half away and the two men made their way toward the site of the mysterious upcoming "Houston Male" event. As they walked in silence, Robin thought about how much easier it had been to do this kind of investigation in Gotham City, where he and Batman knew the streets and where their beat tended to be more downtown than a mostly residential neighborhood like this one. It occured to him that the Green Arrow must have had a far harder time of it throughout his career, constantly on the road and thus constantly on unknown turf.

Dick felt a bit like a common burglar as he and his... partner? ... snuck through back yards and under hedges along their route. There were no rooftops to swing from, and that sort of thing didn't really seem like Ollie's style, either. He'd been wondering about the whole "Green Arrow" business, since although Ollie dressed like an archer--Robin Hood, to be precise, one of the same inspirations Dick himself had followed--he didn't seem to drag around any sort of actual bow or arrows.

Dick was aware, too, that he was out of shape for this sort of mission in more ways than one. He'd worked out whenever the journey of the last several months had allowed, but nothing on the order of the training Batman had put him through. Equally dubious was his grasp of his (re-)assumed alternate identity. He realized he'd been shifting back and forth from thinking of himself as Dick Grayson and Robin, doing the same with Oliver/Green Arrow, and he was well aware that such slippages could be disastrous in a time of crisis. He reminded himself of one of the first and most important lessons Batman had taught him: that as long as he was dressed as an invincible crimefighter ready for action, he had to be that person, come what may.

There was a time when he'd been good at remaining in character, performing his extraordinary job with a ferocity and confidence wholly unlike his daylight persona. But that was before he'd been --

--Best not to think of that horrible ordeal now. Best to focus solely on the present. They had reached their destination, and--for the first time in a full year--"Robin" was a reality once more, whether he liked it or not.

Friday, April 07, 2006

248. Dick

Houston, TX

I knealt there, horny as hell--and suddenly alone. Ollie had walked over to a coffee table to examine one of the bar rags we'd picked up earlier. The entire back page was an ad for a huge party. GAY MEN OF TEXAS, the text screamed, JOIN US FOR THE BIGGEST BASH THIS STATE HAS EVER SEEN. It went on and on in that hyperbolic tone, the promises of unsurpassed hedonism punctuated by pictures of buff young bodies, all to be unveiled in just a couple of days.

By the time I got up off my knees and read the thing myself, Oliver looked like he was about to blow a gasket.

"I don't get it," I said. "I've seen thousands of ads like this over the years. Surely you've heard of circuit parties--oh, wait, you don't get out much, do you?"

"Don't you SEE it?!" he practically shrieked, his face growing red with exasperation.

I said nothing.

"The promoters. The organization," he insisted. "Look at the logo."

"'Houston Male,' I read aloud. "What's the big d-- Ohhhh...."

"H.M.," he nearly shouted. "And look at the logo!"

"Nearly identical to the one on the robes of those men who tried to kill us!" I said, finally catching on.

"I've been seeing it all over the country," Oliv--the Green Arrow told me. "This whole thing is a trap of some kind. That term 'bash' looks like a hint at their darker intentions. I don't know for certain what they've got in mind, but I suspect that if we don't act soon, hundreds--thousands--of innocent men could meet their doom."

"You mean... someone who hates them is rounding them up in order to stage some kind of mass slaughter?" I asked, my mind racing at the possibility. It seemed unbelievable, and yet...

I'm typing these notes as Oliver gathers a few tools, then we're heading out to investigate. I thought we might want to change clothes first--I mean, why bother with secret identities when no one around here knows who we are?--but Oliver reminded me that the whole point of donning these uniforms in the first place was to give us the upper hand in battle, and besides we'll have whatever weapons we may need in easy reach...

Battle. Weapons. Investigation. I have a bad feeling about all of this. All I wanted to do was to bring a little mystery back into our sex life for a night, and now it's all getting real all over again. I don't like what happens when I get roped into these little adventures with these men I love; I don't like the realization that I could be dead in a matter of hours. But I'm beginning to realize I may have no other choice.

247. Gustavus

I don't have a name yet.

I've decided I don't need one. Not yet. Not in order to begin my mission.

I am unformed, a work in progress. What I do have is an identity. I am a threat, a promise, a reality.

And I have an outward appearance. It is a variation on the clothes I have always felt most comfortable in: black pants, black shirt (a tight turtleneck), black shoes and belt and gloves--all of them made of specialty materials, heavily reinforced, developed for me by Alfred at B's insistence. I wear a black nylon mask that completely covers my head. I carry weapons designed to protect me and compromise the safety of my enemies.

I do not share B's taste for theatrics. Except for the mask, the uniform I have adopted is one I could wear in public without attracting undue attention.

Attention is not what I seek. What I seek are results.

246. Dick

Houston, TX

I never dreamed I would ever say this, but it feels good to be dressed as Robin again. It feels damn good.

Didn't take as long to get the outfit back together as I'd expected, and with Oliver's help I find myself with a costume that would actually serve me in combat. Not that I'm planning to see active duty again, although it does sort of look like things are heading that way...

... But I'm getting ahead of myself. What I really wanted to record here was this brief moment of remembering what my life used to be like, all over again. I've spent months trying to run away from the nightmare that that life turned into back in Gotham City, but maybe it's time to move on. I'm sitting here with these clothes clinging tightly to my body, feeling like I can face anyone and anything that comes my way. And there's a strong, invincible man at my side once again--a different one than last time, granted, but every bit his equal.

When we had each gathered everything we needed from the outside world today, we returned to the B&B and set about assembling our uniforms, each of us in a separate part of the suite, careful not to reveal what we were doing. Then we stood face to face, Robin and Green Arrow--two variations on the same theme, two paths to the same destination. I sensed his eyes travel from my boots to my green tights to my makeshift utility belt (the least complete part of my revised look), then hover at my outer briefs. For my part, I started at his head--green cap, mask, and beard--then down to the tunic that clung so closely to his hairy, muscular chest before I landed my gaze at his waist.

And there we were: two men in masks, checking each other out, the bulges in our tights soon betraying our inner thoughts.

"Holy fuck," I murmured. I hoped it was too quiet for him to hear, but no such luck. He chuckled, and beckoned with one finger. (His outstretched arm drew my attention to one of those magnificent biceps of his and the long, archery-style gauntlet that encircled it.)

"Come over here ... Robin," he said, smiling in the most irresistible way.

"At your service, Green Arrow," I replied. I moved closer and gave him a long, wet kiss. My lips brushed against his whiskers and I smelled his manly aroma. He pressed his pelvis into mine and I felt his, er, green arrow seeking its intended destination.

Without a moment's hesitation, I slid down his torso and repositioned myself in spitting distance of his cock.

"Yeah," he mumbled as I kissed his erection through the fabric that covered it. "Right there..."

I sucked away, savoring the taste of precum as it leaked through the spandex. It's not like I hadn't taken him in my mouth dozens, probably hundreds, of times before tonight, but this was different. We weren't our old selves now--or rather we were, but we were somehow more than those selves, too. It was almost as if we were meeting for the first time, bringing with us all the knowledge of each other we had accumulated during the last several months, and supplementing it with a whole new reality.

I stared up from my vantage point on the floor and the sight of his masked face gazing down at me was overwhelming. This was all too good to be true--

--and, as it turns out, it was too good to last. We locked eyes one more time, and then I saw something else catch his attention.

"Oh my god," he said.

And then everything changed.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

245. Dick

Houston, TX

I was skeptical that we'd ever actually get to take any time off at all, but in fact the last week has been a mix of round-the-clock research (mostly Ollie's) and something resembling relaxation (mostly mine). I convinced Ollie that we should check into a gay bed-and-breakfast for a little R&R, and to my great astonishment he agreed with the plan, even though the level of luxury is completely not his style. (By "luxury" I mean somebody washes the sheets every couple of days, and there's an ice machine. Okay, and a jacuzzi, which has been a major help in our rehabilitation.)

It's even kind of close to the vacation I used to dream of taking with Bruce, and it's probably playing out much the same way: I'm the one on vacation, while my handsome lover is still doing business as usual.

Be that as it may, a couple of nights ago we managed to go out to a bar in the neighborhood. It was on the leather/levis side, with a smattering of twinks looking for daddies (and finding no shortage of them). We had a few drinks (!), danced a little (!), and I watched every set of eyes in the room check Oliver out. We picked up a bar rag or two and headed home.

When we got back to the room, I told him that I'd like to see him in that Green Arrow outfit again, this time under happier circumstances. He reminded me it was pretty torn up after his last outing in it, and I said that wasn't a problem. (Okay, I admit I always found Bruce at his hottest when his suit had a tear or two in it.) Then he admitted he'd been trying to picture me as Robin lately, and I got the strong impression he was pretty into the concept on more than a professional level.

I said the remains of my suit were still in Gotham (I didn't mention that Dr. Strange had essentially destroyed it--best not to bring that up just yet), but that if he gave me a day or two I could probably cobble together a reasonable facsimile after a few trips to sporting goods and fabric stores. No real weaponry, but at least I could approximate the look, certainly for the purpose I figured he had in mind.This somehow gave him the idea to repair and re-stock his own outfit (there goes the disheveled look, dammit!), so starting tomorrow morning we're both going to do some heavy duty shopping--including some police supply places he's found in the suburbs. (He's somehow got law enforcment credentials, which I guess he picked up at some point along his travels of the last 10 years.) So it looks like what started as innocent flirting may be leading back to--you guessed it--work. For him, at least, if not for me.

In the meantime, though, we both took off our smoke-drenched clothes and climbed into the jacuzzi one more time. I sat opposite him and stared straight into his inviting eyes. Have I ever mentioned just how sexy those blonde eyebrows of his are when you get so close to them you can kiss them?