(Blackjack10) Part the Tenth

I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind.  There was something so pleasant about that place.

“Crazy,” by Gnarls Barkley

Bruce smiled as he woke up for the tenth morning in a row to the sight of Teddy curled into Harry’s arms, his green hair standing up in different directions.  The early morning light shone through the glass walls, illuminating the angry scar on Harry’s forehead that still looked as fresh as it had been nearly two months before and, careful not to disturb Teddy, he reached forward and traced the lightning bolt with the back of his fingers.

Harry shifted in his sleep, sighing out, and Bruce stilled, not wanting to wake him.  It was only around seven in the morning and not even Bruce had to be awake.

Running his fingers along the edge of Harry’s nose and down across his right cheek, Bruce marveled at the man in front of him who had given him so much and asked so little in return.  Harry had given him the hope of a future life, of a love, of a family and a son.  He was a balm to Bruce’s soul, the reason he now breathed, and he was terrified to think of what would happen to him if he should ever somehow lose Harry.  He knew it was still a chance, however small it was becoming.  Harry wasn’t in love with him—not yet—and had a life away from Gotham, the city that falsely imprisoned him and raped him while his godson was poisoned in another country.

His thumb traced Harry’s lower lip, marveling at its softness, and Bruce wished to lean forward and claim it, drinking in sleepy breaths, but their Teddy was in the way, worming his way into their bed as he had into Bruce’s heart in just a little over a week.  Abandoning Harry’s lip, his hand carefully came to Teddy, brushing through his hair that defied reason and possibility and then down to a small ear.  Bruce tilted his head to the side and saw the soft bite mark on Teddy’s neck.

It was such a lupine gesture and it almost frightened him, but Harry had explained that for Teddy’s people it was an act of dominance and of security.  “A leader does it to every member of his people, a father to his son.  It means I take responsibility for him.  If I were like Teddy, I would have drawn blood to make it a pact signed in blood, but I couldn’t do that.”  Teddy would still bend his neck every night to Harry, begging him silently to make the oath again, and Harry would comply before nuzzling away the pain.

Bruce had attempted to discretely research Teddy’s lineage, trying to figure out what bizarre sect he was born into.  He’d figured out that one’s placement in the tribe was through the mother and not the father given what Harry had said, but he found nothing when he searched except for vague references to werewolves, which was impossible.  It was an understandable confusion, however.  Teddy did have wolfish gestures, was allergic to silver to a chronic degree, and somehow classified everyone else as human, never fully including himself among them.

“He’s beautiful, isn’t he?” Harry asked sleepily, and Bruce looked up, meeting dark green eyes with a spark of life in them.

“Yes,” Bruce agreed.  “And his hair is now green.”

“It defies reason,” Harry reminded him kindly, and Bruce nodded his acceptance.  “It might be orange by the end of the day.”

Bruce surveyed Teddy’s sleeping form critically.  “I think he’d look better in purples and blues.”

Harry laughed quietly, making Bruce smile.  “His mother favored Bubblegum pink.  I remember the first time I met her, I was just fifteen and being smuggled from one location to another for my protection, and there she was talking about how she’d thought all Muggles were messy like her father—his parents were Muggles.”  A small smile crossed his face.  “She died too young.”

“Many do in war,” Bruce answered, reaching forward and grasping Harry’s chin between his fingers.  “Many do.”

Harry surveyed him carefully for several long moments.  “You haven’t left since Teddy came,” he observed. 

“No,” Bruce agreed with a sigh.  “He’s more important and I want to be here for him.  Gotham can get along without me for a few weeks.”

“Thank you,” Harry breathed out and carefully untangled himself from Teddy’s limbs, leaning forward and kissing Bruce gently.  Bruce arched into the kiss, returning the pressure, and capturing Harry’s bottom lip between his teeth, suckling it gently before the soft kiss ended.  Harry’s eyes were glazed in want, and he sighed, sinking back into the bed.  “Thank you,” he repeated again, his voice dazed and husky.

“I have a family now,” Bruce explained, lovingly.  “I don’t intend to miss it or destroy it with my absence.”

“Teddy’s already fond of you,” Harry confided.  “He asked me yesterday morning if you were insulted that he hadn’t bared his neck for you as you were going to be his other ‘daddy.’”

“I wouldn’t want to hurt him,” Bruce whispered, turning his attention back to the sleeping Teddy.  “But I’m honored he’d even think of me.”

“Soon, he’ll be crying that you’re entirely human,” Harry whispered with a breathy laugh.  “I’ve had to explain to him that I like being human.  Poor little Teddy.  They made him fear all humans when they hurt him, and he’s not even a wolf; it’s a vicious cycle.”

“He’ll learn we’re not all going to hurt him,” Bruce promised.  “And as far as I’m concerned, if he wants to be a wolf instead of a fireman, that’s perfectly fine.”

Harry tried to hide his smile in his pillow, but didn’t manage to escape Bruce’s eyes in time.  “I just wanted to be ‘normal’ when I was his age.  I still don’t think I’ve quite managed it.”

“I wanted to be a pilot,” Bruce confessed. 

“I love to fly,” Harry mused.  “There’s no where to properly fly here.  Too many people around.”  He turned and looked out the glass wall and the sprawling city around them.  “Teddy will need to learn soon, I suspect, if he doesn’t know already.”

Bruce’s eyebrows furrowed but he didn’t ask.  He knew this was one of the mysteries that he wouldn’t comprehend—not yet—just like why Teddy went to bed with brown hair and now had dark green hair that was almost the exact shade of Harry’s eyes.  It defied reality, science, everything Bruce knew, but the gentle proof was in front of him.  Alfred had only looked at Teddy for a long second the first full day he was at the penthouse, and then nodded, accepting it, and asked Harry if it was a hereditary trait and if it was at all common, startling Bruce into silence.

Bruce’s eyes shifted back to Harry when he realized that his breathing had evened out and he had fallen back to sleep. 

Teddy was full of boundless energy later that morning, and Harry smiled, sharing a knowing look with Bruce over their breakfast.  The silver, it seemed, was finally out of Teddy’s system.

He sat at the table with several figurines and enacted a battle.  It seemed like the soldiers were evil and the wizards were good, of all things, and Bruce smiled at the display, his grin widening when Alfred set down a plate of pancakes in front of Teddy, who immediately abandoned his toys for his breakfast with wide blue eyes.

“The papers from England,” Alfred said quietly, setting a stack of newspapers in front of Harry next to his own breakfast.

Harry glanced over them, his eyes narrowing at a headline, before he promptly turned over the top copy, but not before Bruce saw the headline: Savior Renounces Us Again; Kidnaps Godson.  His eyebrows arched in contemplation, especially when it seemed that the front color photograph of a younger Harry almost seemed to move in a breeze.

He shook himself mentally.  It was just a trick of the light, he told himself.

“What are you doing today, Blackjack?” Bruce asked Harry.

Harry shrugged.  “We might start the hunt for a cat,” he mused, and Teddy’s head immediately shot up.

“A cat?  A real one?”

“Yes,” Harry answered.  “You are seven and old enough, I think.  Or would you prefer an owl?”

“A kneazle,” Teddy answered with a firm nod.  “They’re almost as intelligent as wolves.”

“A kneazle it is then,” Harry answered with a smile.  “It’s a type of cat, Bruce,” he answered Bruce’s unasked question.  “I also need to check with the Salem Institute and make certain that Teddy’s on their list.  I wouldn’t put it past my alma mater to try and stake a claim on Teddy because his parents went there.  I’m not sending him back to Britain after everything.”

“Only girls go there,” Teddy objected, looking up at Harry with large blue eyes.

“It’s always been co-educational,” Harry corrected.  “America is a little different from England, Teddy.  Muggles are called Mundanes” (Teddy made a face at that and Harry laughed quietly) “and they use the particular term in the Salem Institute to refer to both men and women because of their peculiar history in Salem.”

“But they burn us,” Teddy whispered in a quiet voice, looking at Bruce fearfully.

Bruce reached out gently, and was horrified when Teddy flinched away from him and shrank toward Harry. 

“Hey, there,” Harry whispered gathering Teddy in his arms.  “Not for hundreds of years, and Bruce would never burn anyone.  Never.  He hasn’t burnt me yet, now, has he?”

“But you were gone, for so long,” Teddy argued quietly, tucking his face in Harry’s neck and smelling the line of it. 

“Other people took me away,” Harry assured him gently.  “Uncle Bruce got me out.  He saved me, and he would never burn either one of us at the stake.  He knows about your hair, and he hasn’t done it yet.  He’s not an ordinary Muggle.”

Harry leaned back and gently nudged his nose against Teddy’s, causing him to smile. 

“And,” he added for emphasis, “Bruce knows you’re a wolfling, and he doesn’t care.”

Teddy nodded hesitantly and looked over at Bruce questioningly and, after a long pause, threw himself in Bruce’s arms and nuzzled his neck in apology. 

“You’re safe,” Bruce murmured against his green hair, clasping the small boy to him that was now silently crying.  “You’re safe.  I’m never going to hurt you, Teddy.  You’re my son now, too.  The son of my heart.”

Teddy pushed away suddenly, looking up at Bruce with wide eyes that seemed almost amber all of a sudden.  “You sleep with Daddy,” he finally whispered, looking at Harry.  “Like Victoire’s parents.”

Harry looked startled and then nodded once, reaching out and tucking a stray piece of hair behind Teddy’s ear.  “Yes, we do.  Just like Victoire’s parents.”

“Why?  You’re not married.  Boys can’t be married,” he said with the surety of a seven-year-old.

Harry laughed quietly.  “Not yet, no.  But it’s what two people do when they love each other and want to be a family.  And we’re a family, all three of us.”

“Family,” Teddy whispered once, glancing back at Bruce.  “You look a little like Daddy,” he informed him.  “You have black hair and you’re strong.”

Bruce laughed.  “Well, there you have it.  We’re family, Teddy.  Even though I’m a Muggle—whatever that is.”

“It means you’re not special,” Teddy informed him casually, as if it were obvious, and Harry burst out laughing. 

“Who told you that?” he asked, gasping for breath.

Teddy scrunched up his face in concentration as if trying to remember.  “Ron.  Hermione’s husband.  I don’t like them very much.  They made me eat silver.”

Harry’s face darkened immediately.  “They’ll never come near you again,” Harry promised, “and if they do, Bruce and I will stop them.”

“I know,” Teddy whispered.  “They only did it so you would come back.  They said I was important so if I hurt, you’d come back—and you didn’t, not for years—but then you came and got me.  They must be so angry.”

“It doesn’t matter if they’re angry,” Bruce said quickly when he saw that Harry was stunned in silence.  “What matters is that you’re safe, and they can’t hurt you anymore.”

Harry reached out and grasped Teddy’s small hand, entwining their fingers.

“How would you like to come for lunch today?” Bruce asked, changing the subject and hoping that it would lighten Teddy’s mood.  “We could have a picnic at the office or go somewhere else, treat Teddy to the horrors of American cuisine, such as hotdogs.”

Teddy’s ears immediately perked up.  “They eat dogs here?  Muggles eat dogs?”

“No,” Bruce laughed, burying his head briefly in Teddy’s hair.  “No, they’re a type of sausage that just have a strange name.  It’s very American.  People eat them at ball games.”

“Like Quidditch?” Teddy asked, and this time Harry laughed.

“No.  A much simpler game with one ball and a bat.  Kind of like beaters’ bats but much smaller, and you run around bases.  It’s kind of like cricket.”

“Oh,” Teddy responded sadly.  “They don’t play Quidditch here in America, do they?”

“They play Quodpot,” Harry said matter-of-factly.  “I don’t really know the rules, but I’m sure we can go see a game soon, and maybe even shock Bruce and bring him too.”

“But he’s a Muggle!”

“Yes, but he has us, and we aren’t Muggles,” Harry stated.  “Now, what do you say to lunch with Uncle Bruce?”

Teddy was soon off, excited about his first day out of the penthouse, and wanting to choose his best robes, and Harry smiled after him. 

“I’m not special,” Bruce said with a feigned pout, and Harry immediately laughed, walking towards him and kissing him lingeringly.

“You’re very special,” he countered, hesitating before straddling Bruce on the chair and then wrapping his arms around Bruce’s neck.  “To me, anyway.”

“Well, that’s all that matters,” Bruce said in contentment, waiting for Harry to kiss him again, his eyes open and showing all the love he felt for his fiancé.

Harry didn’t disappoint, leaning down and capturing Bruce’s lips until Teddy’s gasp of surprise startled them apart. 

“You really are like Victoire’s parents!” he said, pointing at them, a grin on his face.  “I didn’t know boys kiss.”

“Yes, they do occasionally,” Harry answered, getting up from Bruce’s lap.  “When they love each other.”

Bruce looked at Teddy for a long moment.  “Your hair is purple again,” he stated, looking at the purple ensemble Teddy had put on with small black toggles.  He turned to Harry.  “It was just green—and there doesn’t seem to be a time table.”

“It matches,” Teddy informed him self-importantly, and Bruce took his small offered hand.

“Well, then, if it matches,” he agreed, pulling Teddy onto his lap and tickling him gently as his father had once done to him.  “That’s all that matters.”

“It can be pink,” Teddy informed him self-importantly, and a moment later it was. 

Bruce just stared at him.  “So it can.”  With a final lingering kiss to Harry and a nudge to Teddy’s nose with his own, Bruce left for the office and yet another boring board meeting, although he intended to poke around Lucius’s old department. 

“Mr. Wayne,” a young office aid called when he got off the elevator and Bruce sighed.  He hadn’t been in the office for a minute and already he was being summoned to something that would be unpleasant.  At least he had lunch with Harry and Teddy to look forward to.

“Yes?” he asked the man, recognizing him at the assistant who held open the door on the roof when Teddy was flown in.

“I thought I should warn you—the Assistant D.A. arrived over half an hour ago and insisted on waiting in your office, even though I informed her that it wasn’t even certain you would be in today, given that you were spending time with your family.”

“Thank you,” Bruce sighed glancing to his office.  “What’s your name?”

“Jonathan,” the man answered quickly.  “Jonathan Woodhouse.”

“Thank you, Jonathan,” Bruce replied, making a mental note of the name.  “Could you keep a look out around lunch time for my fiancé and our son?  I don’t want them being bombarded by Miss Dawes.  It is Miss Dawes, right?”

“Yes, sir,” Jonathan answered apologetically.

Bruce nodded absently.  “If I’m still in there when the meeting starts, tell Mr. Fox to go ahead.  I have a feeling this is going to take awhile.”

He slowly walked to his office and saw Rachel sitting in the comfortable chair in front of his desk, her briefcase sitting primly on her lap.  He didn’t really want to do this, not when Teddy just had gotten better and his life was going so well.  Bruce would never make the mistake of asking Rachel a hypothetical question in passing again.  They both knew that legally she didn’t have a leg to stand on, but Bruce still had to participate in the dance unless he wanted to resort to bribing someone to silence the annoyance.  It could be done, of course, he just didn’t want to sink to that level—and he didn’t think “I believe in Harvey Dent” would go for it, either.

“Miss Dawes,” he greeted as he entered, not bothering to look at her as he set his bag on the desk and flung his coat into a corner.  “What can I do for you this fine morning?”

“Bruce,” she greeted, not getting up.  “It’s been awhile.”

“Yes, well, I’ve been busy,” Bruce responded, giving her his most charming, self-deprecating smile. 

“So I’ve read.  Not only do you have a fiancé but he has a child that was airlifted in, and there are rumors you had specialists sent in from across the world to look after him.”  Her dark eyes glinted attractively, but Bruce barely noticed.

“Teddy’s fine.  Thanks for asking,” he responded.  “I doubt this is a social call, Miss Dawes.  You don’t have a warrant or the police would be here, so what can I help you with?”

She sighed and looked down in regret, picking up her briefcase and pulling out a file from it.  “As you know, no one’s been charged yet with Dr. Crane’s murder, and at this point it’s doubtful we’ll find anything.”

Bruce shrugged, not wanting to pretend sympathy that the bastard was dead and could no longer hurt his fiancé.

“A discrepancy has been found, though, when looking into Arkham.  According to several of the guards, there’s a missing a patient—from room 21A.  There is no reference to the room being occupied in the past five or six years, but they all describe the same patient, who was brought in wearing silks.”

“Intriguing,” Bruce said into the silence, not willing to risk saying anymore.

“There’s no court record, no patient invoice, no file in the computer database or handwritten—and—“

“And?” Bruce asked, raising an eyebrow at her, egging her on to finish her thought.

Rachel pursed her lips in annoyance.  “I wouldn’t blame you,” she began in a quiet whisper.  “If it was you.  If you admitted it and came quietly, you could get off with the right lawyer with nothing more than a slap of the wrist, Bruce.”

Bruce feigned surprise.  “I wasn’t the patient in room 21A.”

“No,” Rachel countered, her dark eyes sad.  “But you knew about him.  One of the guards confirmed that you visited the patient less than a week before Crane was murdered, and all the testimony states that Crane was having sexual relations with this patient.  It might have even been rape.”

Bruce stilled, staring at her for several long moments. 

“We’ve even been getting anonymous calls in the D.A. office off and on for years about a potential patient who shouldn’t be there.  Someone called ‘Green Eyes.’  The caller always claimed that Crane was hurting him.  Once the word ‘rape’ was even used.”

Bruce’s jaw clenched painfully.  “And you didn’t even think to investigate, did you?”

Rachel was silent, glancing down, but she didn’t apologize.  Bruce looked away from her, hating her completely in that moment.

“If it had been rape, and you found out about it, murdering Crane would be viewed by a jury as a crime of passion, Bruce.  You would be painted as a hero, but he needs help, Bruce.  Whoever this man is, this ‘Green Eyes’—he needs help.  He was a mental patient at Arkham; no one knows what psychological problems he has, and he’s been continually assaulted while in Arkham.  You need to admit that you murdered Crane and tell me where this invisible patient is so that we can help him.”

Bruce didn’t answer her for several long moments, taking in the strong and confident woman across from him, his oldest and dearest friend.  She was almost a complete stranger to him now, and he realized that she had been since that day when Joe Chill was killed in front of him before he could exact his revenge for his parents’ murder. 

“Your parents would want you to be a better man than this,” Rachel coaxed, and anger rolled through Bruce at her words.  “They would want you to—“

“Don’t talk about my parents,” Bruce cut her off.  “You’ve already accused me of harboring a mental patient and killing Crane on numerous occasions with no evidence, and then you try to emotionally blackmail me with the memory of my parents, who you frankly barely knew.”

“I grew up—“

“As the maid’s daughter,” Bruce replied scathingly, pushing past the slight remorse he felt at the hurt in her eyes.  “They were my parents and I knew them better than you could have ever have hoped to.  I will be making a formal complaint to Mr. Dent within the day about this misplaced persecution.”

“Bruce—“ she began, her lips trembling as she pushed her dark hair behind one ear.

“Mr. Wayne,” he corrected.  “Now, do you have anything to actually ask me, or would you like to plan out how I committed this murder when sleeping safely at home?”

She sat still for several long moments, her chin resting on her fingers, as she surveyed him from across the desk.  “You’re going to ask for a lawyer if I ask you a single thing,” she finally said in a low tone, her eyes sad and imploring.

“It would be the responsible action to take, given that I have a family to think about,” Bruce responded carefully, his voice completely serious.  They both knew that as soon as a lawyer was called in, it would go on record and would only hurt Rachel’s career as well as getting him out of any further questioning unless they miraculously found hard evidence.  The press would catch wind of it, and it was doubtful that the District Attorney’s office would come out unscathed, especially considering the public’s adoration of Bruce at the moment.  It was also only a matter of time before someone leaked the presence of the missing patient and the anonymous phone calls.  Harvey Dent would go down in flames even though he hadn’t been the District Attorney at the time.

“I’ve noticed something interesting,” Rachel said carefully, biting her lip and looking out the window.  “The Batman seems to have been woefully absent since about the time your fiancé’s child arrived.”

“Fascinating.  I really don’t keep track of his movements.  I have far more important concerns than the actions of a vigilante with a predilection for bats.”

“You used to be frightened of bats if I remember,” she remarked, looking at him carefully.

“I still am,” he added flippantly, turning his chair to the side and getting up, shucking off his suit jacket and walking to the window.

He didn’t move when he felt Rachel’s presence come up behind him.

“What happened to us, Bruce?” she asked quietly, sadly.

“There was never an ‘us,’” Bruce answered dispassionately, closing his eyes in pain at the thought of their imploding friendship.

“Bruce—“ she began, but the phone rang, and he turned away from her, striding back to the desk.

“Yes?” he asked into the receiver, and was startled when a calm voice came on the other end of the line.

Bruce Wayne?” the voice asked.

“Speaking,” he responded, glancing at Rachel who was staring out the window, her arms crossed and her shoulders shaking minutely, as if she were trying to hold in her tears.

Co-guardian of one Ted Remus Lupin?”

“Yes, may I help you?” Bruce asked carefully, turning his mind to the phone call.

I’m calling from the Salem Institute of Witchcraft to confirm that Mr. Lupin is on our list for the class year of 2009, at the request of his other co-guardian,” the voice purred, startling Bruce so completely that he had to take his seat in shock.

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