(Blackjack15) Part the Fifteenth

We all need a pantomime to remind us what is real.

“Out of My Mind,” James Blunt

Bruce stared, enthralled, at the television as various hired hands moved around him preparing for the upcoming fundraiser.  “He’s insane,” he murmured to himself as he took in the threat released by the joker, the voice chilling him completely.

Steps sounded behind him, and he turned his head minutely, expecting Harry to kiss his cheek or wrap his arms around him from behind him, but nothing happened.  Instead, Bruce heard a gasp and he turned, confused, to see Harry staring at the television.  “What is he doing?” he murmured.

“A criminal run amok,” Bruce tried to soothe, pointing the remote control at the television to turn it off, but Harry reached forward and grasped his wrist.

“Don’t,” he whispered, his eyes once again riveted on the image of a man dressed in a batsuit and the horrifying painted face of the Joker.  “He painted the scars.”

Bruce’s eyebrows rose in confusion.  “Painted his scars?” he repeated in question.

Harry nodded, staring as the video ended.  “Yes.  I—it was horrible when it happened.”

“You know him?” Bruce asked.

Wary dark green eyes met Bruce’s and he saw the truth in them.  He quickly turned off the television and turned fully to Harry and pulled him into his arms.  “Do you know—why he’s doing this?”

“He said he wanted the Batman,” Harry breathed.  “I can only assume—“

Bruce waited, running his hand through Harry’s hair.  Several long minutes passed and eventually they were left alone in the room.  “I need to go to China without anyone knowing,” Bruce whispered.  “Gotham has to think I’m here.  I need to be visible but out of sight.”

Harry pulled away and wiped at the corner of his eyes, and Bruce noticed sadly that they were brimming with tears.  “Oh?  What’s in China?”

“Lang,” he responded.  “China won’t extradite him.”

“So you will,” Harry supplied wryly, a half grin curling at the left side of his mouth.  “What would you normally do?”

“Normally?  As in before I swept you off your feet, Blackjack?”  He pulled Harry closer and dipped him slightly, claiming his lips in a soft and reassuring kiss.  As soon as he righted them, Harry let out a breathy laugh, smiling up at him.

“Yes, before that.”

“I would probably be pretending to date one of the ballerinas,” Bruce conceded.  “The prima ballerina, and as Rachel is going to the ballet this upcoming week with her pet D.A.—“

“—be nice,” Harry mock-chided, reaching up and brushing a kiss along the corner of Bruce’s mouth.

“She has him wrapped around her finger,” Bruce argued playfully.  “Anyway, I would abscond with the entire company to some secluded location.  I would make a big deal about it so it would be in the papers, and then slip away unnoticed.  A yacht perhaps.”

“A love boat,” Harry remarked, entwining his arms around Bruce’s neck.  “We could still do that, you know.  Abscond with the entire Moscow ballet.  Teddy would be pleased and, well, culture could never hurt him.”

Bruce laughed in the back of his throat.  “He’ll be scared out of his wits with all those beautiful women.”

“It will be good practice for ten years from now,” Harry whispered.  “Natascha can’t be more than twenty.  They could be well matched if he fancies older women.”  He leaned up and kissed Bruce again. “Plus, it will make you jealous to leave me alone with all of them, especially when I’m a hero.”

Growling at the thought, Bruce pulled him closer, his hand pressed to Harry’s lower back.  “Blackjack,” he warned carefully, but Harry just smiled up at him cheekily.

“You do know I’m considered quite a catch back home, right?  I’ve been named the most eligible bachelor in England since I turned sixteen.”

“Well, it’s only England.”

“I’ve been the most eligible bachelor of Europe since I was eighteen,” Harry continued, and Bruce captured his lips in a searing kiss, their tongues pushing back and forth against each other, dominance passed between them evenly. 

Teddy was thrilled when he was told that the Moscow ballet were going on a short holiday with them, and walked around the penthouse for over a day telling Dollface all about it.  The kitten was finally able to be touched by others, but she preferred to curl up on Teddy’s lap and hiss at anyone if they approached without a treat.  Harry thought it was adorable, and recounted stories of his pet owl when he was little older than Teddy.

As Bruce had predicted, their retreat made every paper and he slipped off the boat after sharing a loving kiss with Harry under the curious eyes of the ballet corps on the yacht.  The long flight to China was filled with thoughts of Harry and his desire to return to Gotham with his family, and when he finally returned to the yacht, it was to Teddy jumping into his arms, making them almost fall backward into the water, Natascha laughing good-naturedly at them with a twinkle in her eye.

They slipped back to Gotham the morning of the fundraiser, Teddy tanned and happy, his hair a bright purple. 

“It all went to plan?” Harry asked him in between kisses as they lay down for a nap in the afternoon.  “You’re unharmed?”

“I’m fine,” Bruce responded, nibbling Harry’s bottom lip until he moaned.  Alfred had taken Teddy out to the magical shopping center on some pretense, and they had the entire penthouse to themselves.  “Love you so much.  Blackjack.”

Harry moaned into his mouth and hands scrabbled for the hems of shirts that were soon lifted over their heads and thrown across the room.  Their chests collided, Harry resting on top of Bruce, before he released Bruce’s lips and moved down to nibble his shoulders and lightly kiss his chest.  “Love you,” Harry promised, and Bruce lost himself to sensation as their bodies rocked against each other, their gasps mingling together in their pleasure.

The tailor arrived three hours before the fundraiser, and Harry shooed Bruce away toward the large drawing room that took up half of the penthouse.  When Bruce had grimaced at him, Harry had laughed and pointed to the grand piano in a corner.  “Play for me,” he whispered seductively in Bruce’s ear.

“And what should I play?” Bruce asked, kissing Harry’s lips softly.  “My Blackjack.”

“Something romantic,” Harry responded, arching into the touch before going back into their bedroom.  At the last minute, Harry had decided to forego his usual robes and wear a tuxedo, saying he had always wondered if he would look good in one.  The thought had enflamed Bruce’s passion, imagining himself undressing Harry slowly later that night when the guests had all finally left and Teddy was safely asleep.  They had moved him out of the master bedroom earlier that day into the one right next to it, and Bruce had no doubt Alfred was helping Teddy pick out extra pairs of sheets and all sorts of magical posters and toys to fill a room of his own.

Sitting down at the piano, Bruce let his fingers hover over the keys before slowly playing Debussy, his mother’s favorite, listening to the sound of hushed murmurings from the other room.  Servants moved about him with platters of sweets and he paused once to grab one when he was feeling peckish, wondering just how long it took to fit and sew a custom made tuxedo.  He’d never really timed it.

He watched the sun go down, the last lingering notes of Clair de Lune echoing in the large room, and finally put an excited Teddy to bed, reading to him from the Tales of Beedle the Bard, biting his neck gently before kissing him on the forehead.  Teddy sighed in pleasure, snuggling beneath his comforter that was covered in dragons that were actually flying and breathing out fire.  He was holding his Pierrot doll under his chin, his wolf sitting on his pillow, staring imperiously toward the door as if watching it for any intruders.

Closing the door carefully behind him, Bruce found Alfred sitting in a rocking chair outside of the door, a large hardcover book in his hands.  He was on guard duty for the night over Teddy while there were dozens of guests in the penthouse.

“The nightlight,” Bruce began carefully, looking at Alfred in question.

“Ah, yes,” Alfred said, a wistful smile on his face.  He closed the large book on his lap, which Bruce noticed was entitled Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.  “Master Harry suggested it as Teddy gets night terrors and since he’s moving into his own room.”

Bruce nodded.  “It—was it a fairy?” he breathed out, his eyes wide with wonder.

Alfred chuckled.  “The finest on the market,” he agreed.  “Fairies are interesting creatures.  They will only shine when they’re happy, so you have to audition for them before you can purchase one if you want her to do her job.  All young Master Teddy had to do was promise that his father was really Lord Black and so there would be plenty of residual magic to make the fairy happy.”

“Oh,” Bruce whispered, glancing toward the closed door.  A sign reading “Teddy Black” in broomsticks was displayed proudly.  “Fairies.  Really.”

“Only the wealthiest can afford one,” Alfred agreed.  “It’s a status symbol as well.  Wizarding children aren’t ashamed of having one but try to compete among each other for the best fairy and when the child grows up, the fairy is let free in nature again.—I believe Master Harry should be almost finished,” he said kindly when he caught Bruce glimpsing toward the half open door to the master bedroom.

Voices wafted toward them and the sound of a light bell-like laugh.  Bruce’s jaw clenched.  The laughter definitely didn’t belong to his fiancé.

“Master Harry adores you,” Alfred soothed.  “You have nothing to worry about.”

“I know,” Bruce sighed, leaning against the wall as there wasn’t another chair.  He could always fetch one but he would soon be changing for the evening and their guests had already begun to arrive from the sound of it.  He didn’t really care.  He was famous for his late and overly dramatic entrances.  Normally, he would fly in on a helicopter with at least two models or starlets on his arm as his dates, but tonight he would just be walking in proudly with Harry beside him.  It was their first appearance together as a power couple.  While Bruce had taken his family to the ballet two weeks before and they had most certainly been seen (pictures of them had covered the papers for days), they hadn’t interacted with anyone apart from the occasional nod of the head from Bruce.  This would be the first time that Harry was introduced to Gotham’s elite, and he knew that while none of his guests would think of turning down an invitation from a Wayne, everyone was really there to meet Harry and try to impress him.  It was just a bonus that they’d be signing over a fat check to the new D.A. to feel good about themselves and their philanthropy and social consciencenesses before drowning themselves once again in champagne.

The continual cycle disgusted him, but it was the world he had grown up in, and one he would bring up Teddy and any other children he and Harry might adopt in the future.

Laughter met Bruce’s ears again.  He grimaced.  “Who is she anyway?” he asked Alfred.  “I haven’t seen her before.”

“No,” Alfred agreed, placing a bookmark back into his book that he had opened during Bruce’s silent musing.  “She’s highly recommended and a recent graduate from Gotham’s School of Design.  She’s been named one of the up and coming designers in New York, and has opened a boutique that has a waiting list just for appointments.  She also,” Alfred hesitated, drawing Bruce’s attention to him.  “Her sister, from what I understand, is a Muggle-born witch.”

Bruce’s eyebrows rose and he stared down the hall toward the door to the master bedroom.  “She’s a Muggle, though?”

“Yes,” Alfred agreed, “but one that understands the antiquated and often colorful fashion choices of wizards.  I thought it would be an acceptable compromise given that Master Harry prefers wearing robes.”

Bruce nodded in agreement.  “What’s her name?”

“Elissa Anne Granger, professionally.  There are rumors in the fashion world, though, that she has recently eloped with a minor oil tycoon.”

Bruce immediately relaxed at the news.  If this Elissa Granger was married he had nothing to worry about on her part.  He didn’t like it when women flirted with Harry.  Smiles he could take, but he was overprotective and jealous of Harry.  He wanted nothing to threaten his family that he loved so dearly, even young idiots with long legs who knew how to bat their eyes.  Fortunately, Harry never looked twice at them, but the same fear coiled in Bruce’s stomach.  He trusted Harry implicitly, but he did fear that he would lose him somehow—to Arkham—to whoever locked him up—to wizards and their kind—to criminals who wanted to hurt him as Batman or as the Prince of Gotham.  There were too many possibilities and they all frightened him, echoing in his mind and driving him slowly insane in the darkest hours of the night when he traipsed the streets of Gotham.

The sound of clinking glasses met Bruce’s ears and he turned back toward the large gathering room that he and Harry would enter in a little over half an hour, together, in love.  A smile flitted across Bruce’s lips at the thought of Harry accompanying him that evening to the fundraiser he was giving for Rachel’s latest beau, knowing that it would probably be the first time he enjoyed the glad-handing and the smiles as long as he knew that Harry was beside him and would come back to their bed at the end of the night—where they could arch against each other in passion, their bodies sliding against one another.

One day, he promised himself as he turned briskly to the left, past a portrait of some great-aunt he had never known.  One day Harry would fully make love to him and they would be joined completely.  Bruce longed to be taken, to feel Harry within him, but it was still too soon.  Harry was still frightened that any form of penetration was excruciatingly painful, and wouldn’t hurt Bruce like that even if Bruce begged him.  Bruce sighed.  Until Harry could overcome his fears, Bruce could only sit back and be supportive and loving, hoping that Harry would realize that their physical love would be different—that since Harry loved him the shadows of Crane’s actions would slip further away from them.

Bruce smiled softly and bid Alfred a good night, and walked quietly forward, hovering outside out of a partially open door and smiled to himself as he saw Harry’s reflection in the mirror.  Harry was standing on a small pedestal as a young woman was making last minute alterations to the cuffs of his trousers.

“Are you certain you don’t want proper robes, Lord Potter?” she asked quietly, causing Bruce to start at what she called Harry.  Lord Potter.  Harry Potter.

Harry looked down at her and shook his head.  “It wouldn’t be appropriate,” he murmured.  “This is a Muggle gathering after all with Muggles, and I’m making enough of a stir as it is, I’d imagine.  I wouldn’t want to take away all of Harvey Dent’s deserved attention.”  A hint of a smile played through his eyes as he looked down at the tailor, who Bruce realized after a moment was very young and attractive—and British.

He swallowed painfully at the exchange, forcing his jealousy to still and quiet.  He wondered at his oversupply of possessiveness that day, but he supposed it was because this was their first hosted event as a couple, all under the watchful and critical eye of Rachel.

“You should hear ‘Mione on the subject of Muggles,” the tailor sighed, and Bruce found himself leaning closer despite himself.  “She used to—used to be so tolerant, but once you left everyone for the Muggle world—“ she paused, biting her lower lip and Bruce was unhappy to realize that it was turning plump and attractive.  “No one knew what happened to you, Lord Potter—and ‘Mione blamed the Muggles for taking you away.—Did they take you away?”

“No,” Harry responded quietly.  “No, they didn’t take me away.”  Sadness flitted across his dark green eyes.  “I am the Chosen One, after all, Miss Granger.”

“Elissa,” she murmured, circling around Harry’s back and standing up smoothly, checking the shoulders quickly.  “You have been my sister’s best friend since we were small.  Near the end of it all—she would come home and sometimes talk about how in her ideal world, she would marry that Ronald Weasley and you would marry Ginny, and you’d all be one large family.  Miss Weasley, forgive me, Lord Potter.”

Harry looked away, his eyes meeting Bruce’s suddenly in the mirror, but he didn’t speak, just held his gaze for a long moment.  He could see the turmoil in the dark green eyes at the name Weasley, and realized that the tailor was the sister of one of the people who had poisoned Teddy for years.  His jaw clenched, but he didn’t see any worry from Harry, so he didn’t call Security as he was briefly tempted to do.

“Ginny and I broke up when I was sixteen,” Harry finally murmured, stepping down although Elissa wasn’t quite finished.  “What brings you to Gotham anyway?  I thought you and your family loved England.”

“We did,” she responded absently, pushing her bushy brown hair behind one shoulder as she surveyed Harry from the front, taking in the lines of the suit a little too admiringly.  “It’s just—after Hermione sent us to Australia, I never really felt comfortable around her anymore.  Oh, we still keep in touch.  Hermione convinced my dratted brother-in-law to install a phone in their home, but it’s not the same.  I can’t trust her at all.”

Harry sighed and carefully placed a hand on her shoulder.  “I’m sorry,” he whispered and then stepped away again.

Elissa looked at him with watering blue eyes.  “She just decided for us—took our memories, Lord Potter.  I realized then, when it was all over, that she thought little of Muggles even though her family were made up only of them, to take away our choice.  She said it was for our safety—but I always felt it was so she wouldn’t have to spare us a thought.  She took over two years to come and find us once it was all over—and I’d already graduated college and was accepted to design school.”

“The best in Gotham, I hear,” Harry said with a smile, his eyes flitting back to Bruce.

“Thank you, your lordship,” Elissa murmured.  “I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable in England—and she would think of looking in Australia—so I came here.  I even have an unlisted number so she can’t call me—though I phone her once a month.  She tries sending me owls, but, well, I managed to hire a wizard to ward my house.”

“More intelligent than she was,” Harry murmured, “and that’s saying something.  She was a shoo-in for Head Girl.”

Elissa smiled sadly and then went over to the side of the room, returning with a handful of bow ties for Harry to choose from.  Bruce supposed cummerbunds would be next. 

“Should I—should I tell her anything?”

Harry shook his head after a long pause.  “No, my life there is over.  I couldn’t bear going back to being a hero.—It’s no wonder the Batman keeps his identity a secret.”

“Yes, well, as the guest of Bruce Wayne and as one of the richest men in England, you’re going to have difficulty keeping a ‘low profile,’ as Americans would say.”

Harry laughed, but it sounded hollow to Bruce’s ears.  “No, but it will be different this time around, I’d imagine.  Neither of us are the Batman, after all.”

Bruce looked away briefly, ashamed, conflicted, but pushed the turmoil from his thoughts as he slipped into the room, Elissa not noticing him at first.

“So, are you interested in politics, Lord Potter?” she asked quietly. 

“Not particularly.  I had enough of that when I was still in school,” Harry answered.  “I think I’m supposed to be Bruce’s date—or do you normally take houseguests to social functions, Bruce?” he asked quietly, his eyes meeting Bruce’s momentarily, a teasing light brightening the normally dark color.

“You’re far from a houseguest, Blackjack,” Bruce murmured lovingly, reaching up and taking Harry’s hand.  “This is our home.”

“Shh,” Harry whispered conspiratorially as Elissa looked up in confusion, glancing between them quickly.  “Elissa didn’t know.”

The tailor’s mouth dropped open, making her look like a guppy.  “You,” she whispered in horror.  “You’re the mysterious fiancé.”  She looked at Bruce, her large brown eyes full of wonder, and then laughed softly, the sound like a bell.  “’Mione has been going on for years about how you were to marry her sister-in-law, and you’re engaged to the Prince of Gotham.” 

Harry smiled at her, and Bruce wrapped an arm protectively around Harry’s waist.

“I’ve been hearing a great deal about this Ginny,” Bruce sighed, accepting the cummerbund that Elissa held out and fitting it on Harry himself, letting his hands linger at the small of his back.

“I was sixteen,” Harry stressed with a laugh.  “We’re allowed to make mistakes when sixteen, Bruce.”

“True,” Bruce agreed, kissing Harry’s ear lightly and then helping him with his coat.  He looked at Harry’s reflection in the mirror.  “You look dashing, Lord Black.”

“I look like a Muggle,” Harry corrected, glancing toward Elissa who was now packing up her bag, a soft smile on her face.  “Thank you so much for doing this on short notice, Elissa.”

“Not at all, Lord Potter—er, Lord Black,” she corrected.  “I thought you were Lord Potter.”

“I am,” Harry agreed, “but I’m also Lord Black.  It takes precedence, but it doesn’t really matter.  Either works.”

Elissa left soon after that and Harry had once again taken off his coat, lounging on the bed as he watched Bruce undress and then put on his own tuxedo. 

“Harry Potter,” Bruce whispered as he fixed his bowtie, staring at Harry lovingly. 

“Harry James Potter,” Harry whispered, his voice catching and the slight sheen of tears in his eyes.  “I’m sorry.  I should have just—told you—but—I hate that everyone recognizes my name.”

“You have nothing to apologize for,” Bruce stressed, leaning down and kissing Harry’s lips gently.  “Blackjack.”

Harry sighed into the kiss.  “I still can’t play cards, except for exploding snap.”

“Your hair is black,” Bruce murmured, picking up his coat and buttoning it.  “Also, your title is Lord Black.”

Harry laughed deeply.  “A lucky guess,” he complimented.  “I laughed with Alfred over it when you first brought me to Wayne Manor.”

“I had to call you something,” Bruce agreed, entwining their fingers as he led Harry out of their room, closing the door carefully behind him.  “You were without a name—now you have too many.”

“Harry Potter,” Harry agreed, “Lord Potter, Lord Black, Henry Ducard—“

“Dusan al Ghul.”

“The worst of the lot,” Harry agreed as they walked into the main room, the two of them smiling at each other.  Bruce quickly grabbed two glasses of champagne for them and they clinked them together, looking into each other’s eyes and drinking, Bruce painfully aware that their entrance from the private section of the penthouse had garnered notice.

“Love you,” Bruce murmured, kissing Harry chastely, tasting champagne on his lips.

Harry smiled against his lips.  They pulled away and Bruce looked around at the assorted guests.

“Now,” he announced.  “Where’s the man of the hour?  Where is Harvey Dent?”

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