I want your ugly, I want your disease, I want your everything as long as it’s free.“Bad Romance,” Lady Gaga
Bruce quietly stole through the floor, peaking into the windows of various cells, searching desperately for the inmate, imagining all the horrors that could take place at night with a guard who wasn’t watching the security cameras and Crane—the bastard Dr. Jonathan Crane, Gotham’s leading and corrupt psychiatrist who drugged his patients—who admired his beauty and had full access to his patients on the prowl. He didn’t even know the inmate’s name, a hint of an identity apart from his accent that sent shivers through Bruce in his dreams when the man kissed him gently, their bodies pressed together wantonly in summer heat with only the coolness of silk sheets and ice cubes to ease the humid warmth.
It had only been a week, but Bruce knew he was completely lost, nearly as completely as when the desire for vengeance had coursed through him after his parents were shot in front of him.
He stalked through the shadows and then down a floor until he came to a group of offices, and still there had been no sign of the inmate. Just before he was going to sneak into Solitary, a nameplate on a door caught his attention, and he hesitated, staring at the locked office of Dr. Jonathan Crane.
Easily finding the key, Bruce slipped through the door, allowing it to shut behind him with a soft click, and then surveyed the room. There were filing cabinets along one wall, but they appeared to be for actual legitimate patients—not ones without a paper trail and who didn’t exist according to official records. The only other piece of furniture was the desk, and a few moments later he was sitting behind it, his hands running along it to search for any weaknesses in the furniture or cracks that would indicate that there was a hidden trap drawer.
Almost giving it up for lost, his fingers found an indent and he carefully pressed it, hoping it wasn’t an alarm. A soft click and a solid piece of wood detached slightly from the rest of the desk to show a small cubbyhole where there was a single file. Bruce drew it out and flipped it open, noticing the slanting hand on simple lined pages. There was no name at the top, simply the room designation: 21A.
His eyes flicked over the first page, picking up words and phrases, and his jaw clenched harder and harder. Witness of rape—favor—British, wealthy, approximately twenty years of age. He looked up to the top and noticed the date at the top, September 2000, over five years earlier.
Bruce’s stomach dropped painfully and then he turned his attention back to page. No identification, no family, lucidity—patient insists on innocence and asks to speak to Kingsley Shacklebolt of the British government—signs of childhood malnutrition—bite mark on arm—scars on hand—knife wounds on back, badly healed—various sports related injuries—virginal. Bruce’s hands shook and forced himself to take a deep breath and he continued, turning to the next page, his eyes skimming rapidly as he read more and more. Immune to hallucinogens—childhood girlfriend named Ginny—possible former soldier—nightmares suggest starvation and torture—refuses to give his name as no longer trusts me.
Flipping through the remaining pages, Bruce became more and more sickened, various dates of sessions ripped through his mind, but there was no mention of Teddy Lupin, and Bruce nodded to himself, proud of the nameless inmate who knew to keep his godson safe. As he continued, Bruce saw that the notes became more and more personal, graphic, and he closed them shut when the date of the first “assignation” took place, not wanting to look at it any more. Pressing the button again, the panel shut and Bruce stuffed the folder in the back of his trousers, knowing that it would be uncomfortable but safe there. He couldn’t leave any trace of the man behind for someone to find.
Growling lowly to himself, Bruce slipped out of the room again, going to a room number he saw printed next to the first assignation, fearing what he would find there. It was nearly quiet on the sixth floor, the cells primarily empty and large rooms that were used for storage or for interviews, he noticed. There was even a small waiting room that looked comfortable compared to the rest of Arkham, but Bruce continued onward, barely sparing it a glance as he continued to the room, stopping only to look into the window only to see dull green eyes staring blindly back at him.
Rage filled him as he quietly unlocked the door and slipped in, only the inmate’s eyes following him. The man was lying on a double bed that had been placed in the corner, clean sheets covering it. His hair fell across his eyes and his wrists were handcuffed together to the bedpost as well as his ankles, as far as Bruce could tell—it was obvious that it had been done once Crane was finished with him, to keep him from moving while Crane slept.
Revulsion welled up in Bruce as he slinked forward, his finger coming up to his lips to indicate that the inmate should remain quiet.
The man’s eyes followed him silently, and he showed no emotion at being seen by a stranger in such a state of undress with barely a sheet to cover him. The arm of his rapist was wrapped around his waist as Crane slept on peacefully, unaware that someone had entered the room. Bruce took in the form of the psychiatrist, sleeping peacefully pressed against his patient, a smug smile on his lips as he dreamed.
Clothes were scattered around the bed—both Crane’s professional suit and the inmate’s uniform sans the straight jacket.
The inmate watched silently as Bruce walked forward and carefully moved his head to remove the pillow that was under his head. “Please,” he whispered into the darkness, tears forming in his beautiful and yet soulless green eyes, breaking Bruce’s heart quietly. He wasn’t certain if the man was begging for his freedom, for the ending of his pain, for death—but he was determined to give him freedom and take him away to where he was safe, to where he could bring Teddy once he had recovered if he so wished.
As the man’s form began to quake with silent sobs, Bruce reached out gently and rested his hand on the man’s shoulder, his eyes begging him to be still for just a few more minutes. The inmate looked away, his black fringe falling into his eyes and hiding his tears almost from sight. Reaching forward, Bruce carefully disengaged Crane’s arm from around the man’s waist and watched as he sighed in his sleep before settling again on his back.
Then, kneeling in front of the man on the edge of the bed, he reached over and slammed a pillow down onto Crane’s face, holding firmly as the man began to struggle, slashing about and screaming although it could barely be heard in the room. The inmate’s sobs increased as Crane’s arm and leg repeatedly struck him but he remained nearly still, waiting until Bruce was finally certain that Crane was dead and removed the pillow, throwing it casually next to the corpse’s head.
“You’re safe,” he murmured quietly as he took out the keys again, searching for ones to the handcuffs. When he didn’t find any, he quickly slid off the bed and began searching the pockets of Crane’s discarded trousers until he finally found them.
“Shh,” he whispered as the man continued to cry, fear in his eyes as he looked up at Bruce, trembling at what would come next. “I came so you could send Teddy his next birthday present,” he explained, quickly unlocking the two sets of handcuffs and releasing the inmate.
The man rubbed his wrists and looked up at Bruce with wonder in his eyes. “It’s you?”
“Yes,” Bruce answered quietly, hoping the man would believe him. He snatched Crane’s clothes from the ground and pushed them into the inmate’s hands. “Put these on. They’ll help you blend in,” he explained before picking up the patient’s uniform and dressing Crane quietly, looking at disgust at his sated corpse and the bodily fluids covering him.
A dead weight briefly settled over Bruce’s heart as he finally realized that he had killed a man in his sleep, but he pushed the feelings away, knowing that if anyone deserved death it was this man, especially after what he had done to the inmate who he had not only raped repeatedly for years, but only admitted to Arkham as a favor to someone who had enough money when he knew that the inmate had done nothing wrong and was completely sane. Bruce hadn’t been able to kill his parents’ murderer, but he had been able to smother the man who had done this to the innocent who—he set the thought aside, deciding to analyze it later when they were safely back at Wayne Manor.
“Are you ready?” he asked when he was finished, thankful he had worn gloves so that there was nothing to connect him with the murder. The inmate’s prints would probably be everywhere, but he didn’t exist and probably didn’t have a criminal record. This was also one of the public rooms, so it probably didn’t signify anything.
The man looked up at Bruce as he was tying up a slightly large shoe and nodded quickly, getting hastily to his feet. “What about the cameras?”
“I cut the wires,” Bruce admitted as he grabbed the man’s arm gently and led him out of the room, looking both ways before they ran quietly through the hallway to the stairs.
Less than ten minutes later and the keys were returned to the security guard’s pocket and they were standing in the fresh air by the river, the inmate breathing in deeply as he looked up to the moon.
“I’m free,” he said with reverence, and smiled gratefully at Bruce. “I don’t even know your name.”
“When we’re safe,” Bruce answered carefully, leading him away to an alley far enough away where he had parked his car. The man hesitated when he saw the tumbler, looking at Bruce in confusion. “Later,” Bruce explained getting in and, thankfully, the man slid in to the passenger seat, curling up on himself as he rested the side of his head against the seat, almost instantly falling asleep when Bruce started the car and drove carefully away, looking over every few moments at his precious cargo.
He didn’t remove his mask until he was safely back at the cave and he was thankful the man was asleep so he wouldn’t have to answer any questions about his underground lair. He had only cared about stealth when he left, knowing that the tumbler would afford him a certain level of anonymity and protection as well as speed. No one would connect Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy, with the vehicle and so the crime—or his or the man’s connection to the crime—could never be traced back to them in case the tumbler was caught on camera somewhere.
Bruce hadn’t planned to murder Crane in cold blood, only to free the inmate from Arkham and to nurse him back to health. The file had said he was strangely immune to hallucinogens but before the man had dressed himself, Bruce had noticed the several needle marks along his arms. He’d probably been drugged to keep him relatively yielding and quiet—especially when Crane brought him to that room.
When they arrived at the cave, Bruce lifted the sleeping man from his seat, smiling gently when his head rolled naturally onto Bruce’s shoulders and his arms came around his neck as he continued to sleep. Bruce wanted to run his hands through the man’s hair, but restrained himself, instead carrying the inmate carefully through the secret passageway and into the house.
A light snapped on gently and Bruce was momentarily blinded.
“Master Wayne,” Alfred said quietly from a chair in front of him in a dressing gown, with a glass of milk beside him and a book in his hand. “We have a guest, I see.”
“Yes,” Bruce replied carefully, walking through the room and motioning with his head for Alfred to follow him. “I’ll need a room in the family wing prepared immediately for him if possible, otherwise I’ll just put him in mine for tonight. And a bath. He needs one immediately.” He grimaced at the thought of Crane’s sweat and seed on the beautiful man in his arms.
“Of course, sir,” Alfred said, leading him into Bruce’s own suite and toward the bathroom. “Does he know?”
“No,” Bruce answered hurriedly. “He knows nothing about that—except for the tumbler.”
Laying the man on the bed, Bruce brushed his hair away from his eyes and gazed at him for a long moment, drinking in his features. He’d have all the time in the world to admire the man, he reminded himself. What mattered at the moment was getting him clean and safe. As long as none of the guards talked about the patient who didn’t exist, then the inmate was entirely safe—and Bruce swore to himself that he would keep him safe until the day he died—if only the man would let him.
“The bath is ready, Master Bruce,” Alfred said behind him and Bruce glanced over his head, nodding.
Turning back to the man, he gently shook his shoulder. “Wake up,” he murmured. “There’s a hot bath waiting for you.”
The man’s eyes instantly opened and he reached in panic to the pillow beneath his head as if looking for a knife or gun hidden underneath it.
“It’s all right,” Bruce said quickly, putting up his hands and taking two steps back. “You’re safe—they can’t find you here.”
The inmate looked around the room quickly and then sat up, taking it all in again. “Where am I?”
“My home,” Bruce answered. “Wayne Manor just outside of Gotham.”
The man looked at him warily, taking in his features. “I thought Bruce Wayne had disappeared in 1998 and no one could find a trace of him,” he said suspiciously, clearly trying to read Bruce’s body language.
Bruce offered a half-smile. “I came back a few months ago,” he offered. “Come. The bath water is getting cold.”
Carefully the man stood and picked his way toward the open door, pausing and looking in. He glanced at Bruce once more and Bruce backed up two more steps to show that the man would be given full privacy. “Would you like anything to eat for after?”
The inmate shook his head and, with one last glance at Bruce, entered the bathroom and closed the door. A second later Bruce heard the click of the lock in place.
Staring at the door for several long minutes, Bruce sighed and turned away, taking in his room. He could almost imagine the man there permanently—not just for a bath or a single night while Bruce slept down the hall. When he returned from his seven years in exile, he hadn’t moved into the master bedroom but instead had claimed the second largest one, his childhood room remaining much as it was since before he left for Princeton. The room was full of dark woods and had several large windows that looked out across the estate, giving it a sense of security and yet openness. He doubted the inmate would feel trapped within it.
“The room across the hall is ready,” Alfred remarked quietly behind him and Bruce turned and nodded.
“I guess I better get over there to give him some space,” Bruce said distractedly, his eyes lingering on the door for several seconds too long before he went to his wardrobe and took out his pajamas. “Suit,” he reminded himself, and a moment later Alfred had moved to the closet and had taken out one that was newly pressed.
“Thank you, Alfred,” Bruce said, giving him a tired smile. “He’s to have anything he wants or needs.”
“Of course, Master Wayne.” And with one final look to the closed bathroom door and with Alfred fussing over a spare pair of pajamas, Bruce swept out of the room, leaving his heart behind.
The inmate was still asleep, according to the all-knowing power of Alfred, when Bruce finally made his way downstairs for breakfast that morning at half past nine. “Please tell me I don’t have any appointments for at least an hour,” he murmured to his butler before inhaling a glass of orange juice.
“You have an informal meeting, if memory serves, with Mr. Fox at half past eleven.”
Bruce sighed in relief. The night before he had been unable to sleep, knowing the inmate was sleeping just across the hall.
“Have you checked the news this morning?” Alfred asked carefully after a long moment.
Shaking his head, Bruce looked up, asking a silent question.
“I think it would be most fortuitous if your guest did not know until he was much recovered,” Alfred said simply, setting down the Gotham Times. A large color photograph of Jonathan Crane dominated the page along with the headline PSYCHIATRIST MURDERED AT ARKHAM IN NIGHT.
“Ah,” Bruce said quietly, nodding once. “It might be better if he doesn’t see this for awhile unless he specifically asks.”
“Of course, Master Wayne,” Alfred said carefully, appraising his employer.
A chill swept down Bruce’s spine. “Is there something you’re not telling me, Alfred?”
“The person in your room,” Alfred began, not looking at Bruce, “has been missing from society since 1998. There have been several national searches throughout his home country and I believe he is a much-beloved public figure and philanthropist.”
“You know him?” Bruce asked in astonishment. “Who is he?”
“It is not my place to say, for the gentleman’s privacy. I have never before had the pleasure of making his acquaintance, but he is certainly recognizable even after what looks like years spent in Arkham. Is there a possibility he’ll go into drug withdrawal?”
“Yes,” Bruce replied, trying to process the new information. “He’s immune apparently to hallucinogens, but it seems like he was injected with something fairly regularly to keep him—accommodating to whatever happened to him.”
Alfred leveled his blue gaze for a long moment, searching for something and then nodded. “You did the right thing,” he finally said, taking a deep breath. “I’ll look for symptoms and have a private and trustworthy physician on call. Were there medical records?”
Bruce paused. “Unofficial ones. They are disturbing.” Carefully, he took them out of his briefcase and handed them to Alfred. “No one else can see them—even him. I didn’t see a name of any one medication, but I was going through it rather quickly.”
“I’ll lock them in the safe when I am finished.”
“No expense should be spared on him,” Bruce instructed, “and although he might not like it, he really shouldn’t leave until he’s well, if you can manage that without making this seem like another prison.” He left it unsaid that he hoped the inmate would never leave at all and that he would be able to bring life back into the man’s haunting green eyes. “The scar on his forehead should be looked at as well; it looks fresh.”
Alfred started momentarily and then nodded. “I will do all in my power to make your guest comfortable. You’ll be happy to note that there is no mention of anyone matching his description in the article.”
“The police could be holding it back,” Bruce commented with a grimace. “We need an official story.”
“He’s a houseguest and a close friend that you met on your travels, Master Bruce, and perhaps he has even visited previously although he never showed his face in public as he is a rather private individual.”
Bruce nodded. “He still doesn’t have any identification.”
“The gentleman won’t need it if a few words are whispered in the correct ears. Someone is bound to recognize him and no one who knew of him would ever believe he would have been in a place like Arkham, Master Wayne, and I daresay he has more admirers than even you.”
He startled at that, finishing his morning bowl of fruit. Possessiveness and a hint of jealousy coursed through him at the thought of anyone ever touching the inmate again. The image of Crane’s naked form wrapped around the man was still painfully taunting him, as well as the sight of the man’s tears as he lay handcuffed to the bedposts. “Just how wealthy is he?”
“It is not only a matter of wealth, Master Wayne, although he comes from an old family.”
“You’re being purposefully vague, Alfred.”
“As I said, Master Wayne, it is not my place to disturb your guest’s privacy, and if he hasn’t told you his name, then he must have a reason.”
“Thank you,” a new voice answered and Bruce turned to see the man standing cautiously in the doorway, his hair brushed away from his face and a dressing gown wrapped around him. “It’s much appreciated.”
“Not at all,” Alfred responded kindly, instantly taking out a new place setting at the counter and then pouring a generous glass of orange juice. “Coffee or tea?”
“Tea,” the man answered carefully and instantly attacked the toast and jam, only glancing at Bruce once or twice perhaps to gauge his reaction.
Bruce noticed that both the file and morning paper had been slipped away, and smirked at Alfred’s competence at making his guest’s stay less stressful. He didn’t want anything getting in the way of his emotional healing.
“How did you know?” the man asked Alfred carefully, looking at him.
“My grandfather, may he rest in peace, was a Flint. My grandmother was nothing more than a common affair and my mother was born without any striking talents,” he paused, “but she told me the stories and I keep my ear to the ground.”
“I knew a Flint—Marcus—he was a few years above me at school. He cheated—at football,” he added hastily, glancing at Bruce once again before sighing in happiness when Alfred placed a full English breakfast before him. “I haven’t had sausages in years.”
“Begin carefully, then, sir. There’s plenty of food and I can make more if it gets cold.”
The man nodded and smiled, instantly cutting into his sausage.
Bruce watched him carefully, smiling at the pleased look on the man’s face as he was served tea with milk and no sugar and slowly ate his food, chewing it carefully and savoring the flavor before swallowing. Glancing at the kitchen clock, he was upset to see that he should really leave if he wanted time to tinker in the testing room before he met with Lucius.
“The house is open to you,” he said quietly to the man, “and let Alfred know if you need anything at all—and tell him if you think you’re going through withdrawal from whatever they were giving you.”
The man looked over at him, his green eyes shining dully, and Bruce gave him a charming smile.
“Until this evening.” Bruce got up and closed his suitcase and turned to go when he felt a strong hand grasp his wrist.
“Teddy?” he asked, his eyes imploring and hope in his eyes.
“I sent the gift yesterday and Alfred should have a tracking number. It won’t be delivered without a signature.”
Alfred was looking at him closely and contemplatively, and Bruce nodded to him farewell.
“Thank you,” the man whispered as Bruce left the room, reminding him of the first time he heard the man, begging for someone to tell him the date so he could know when his godson’s birthday was.
If Crane weren’t already dead at his own hand, Bruce knew he would kill him again for the pain in the man’s eyes and the haunting lilt of his words that struck his very soul.