A Tragedy for Every Comedy
Alexnandru Van Gordon
Before I start this out, I just want to clear up a mistake in the last chapter. When Barbara was sitting under the table with the sugar, Richard says to Bruce: "Hello—I was born in a circus, live with a nice old butler and a mean excuse of a man, and fight criminals in my spare time. When on earth was I ever given the right to be normal?" I'm just going to pretend that Barbara was too busy laughing to herself that she didn't hear it or she thought he was joking. My bad. Sorry…
IMPORTANT: And yes—re-read the title if you don't have the slightest idea of what's going to happen next. I mean what it says—a tragedy for every comedy. Reality hurts and I have to take this back down to earth for a short while before the humor kicks in again…AKA: This story will actually have a shorter plot within the original plot before I take this back to being a comedy. I'll probably try to add some humor in here and there—but enough rambling. On with the story!
"He did it—he tipped the scales! AND he almost caught me for good…" He was on the verge of tearing the hair from his head while Barbara watched him march back and forth across his room. "He knows you're here too—I just don't know why he doesn't come upstairs and boast about his big discovery again."
She shrugged, swinging her feet off the edge of his bed. "Maybe he's being merciful."
She obviously had no idea who she was talking about. If only she really knew…
"He called your dad."
"WHAT!" Sitting up straight, her eyes grew wide. "Did he tell him that I'm here—what I'm doing?"
"Bruce can be malevolent but he's a detective at heart. He won't make an accusation unless he has the proof…"
"Big words for a little man…" She muttered. "Who gave you the dictionary for Christmas?"
"Oh…" She shifted and began to chew on her lower lip. "So what now? A surprise attack or do we chill the vengeance until it's ready to serve? You've done pretty much all the drastic stuff I can think of, but who knows—maybe there are a few stunts in a book or something."
"We wait for Alfred." The man hadn't been too keen on the war between Bruce and Richard in the beginning but Alfred always had a soft spot for kids. He'd side with Richard if the kid was kind enough and used the right words. Besides, so far Richard was the only one Alfred had sided with at all. Bruce didn't stand a chance when up against the man who was his father-figure, friend and butler.
"He thinks he's such the detective…" Barbara started muttering to herself. "The kid has help and who gets blamed first? Me…"
That gave him an idea.
Bruce did pride himself in the brilliance of his mind and ability to out-do anyone who dared challenge him. Heck—if he didn't, one of Gotham's villains would have done him in long ago.
"Thanks for dropping by, Barbara."
The girl gave him a suspicious look and stood. "What are you thinking…Do you want my help for the next prank?"
"No. I think I'll need to do it on my own if I want to reclaim my pride. Thanks anyway—if this one works out then you can help me out on the next one."
She didn't seem convinced at first, but after eyeing Richard long enough she shrugged and opened one of his bedroom windows. Climbing out onto the edge she jumped for the tree and started her way down toward the lawn. "Call me later and tell me how it works out!" She called back up to him. "And don't get yourself grounded. Your pranks have made the beginning of this summer vacation so much more exciting."
He could try…but with any more slip ups like before maybe a good grounding was waiting ahead for him after all…
Alfred returned three days later and was nearly shocked to death from the silence in the house. He was greeted by a well-behaved boy and a (actually) smiling business man who, when he left, confined himself to the office and didn't know anyone was in the house until they unexpectedly walked in on him. It was an improvement…but there was that feeling in the air, that sense of asphyxiation when an argument had gone on not too long ago and was being masked through a well-crafted charade. He was getting the feeling that Richard and Bruce had been ignoring each other for the longest time until they came to the door and greeted the butler home.
The answer came sooner then they expected, he could see they were caught off guard by the looks on their faces, but each had prepared in one way or another for a situation like this. Richard shook his head, smiled softly and said it was nothing while Bruce gave him the regular arch of the eyebrow. Neither one would admit he was right—they were too stuck up with pride in their little war game to admit defeat. But he knew how to get it out of them. He just had to give it a little time.
"Never mind then…"
Richard took his coat. "How was the wedding?..."
He didn't find out what had happened until a day later when he prepared lunch and set it ready on a tray to take down to the cave. The two of them were fighting again—sparring, that is—and it was just about the only thing they did together during the day besides the patrol last night . Even the cat and dog were quiet now that they're owners were growing serious in their game. They sat still at the top of the stairs as he stepped over them.
"I know how you feel." He whispered to the two of them and made his way down into the darkness…
"Stop taking an extra step—they'll know you're going to make a move if you do that." There was a grunt made in effort from Richard and then Bruce spoke again. "Higher. My head isn't that low."
"I wonder if your brain is…"
"Ow—I said higher!"
"What—you expect a criminal to hold still?"
"Not a lot of them would still be standing anyway!"
"You can't afford to have them getting back up—now try again."
There was another grunt and more sounds of movement, breathing erratic as they fell into something of a dance. By time Alfred reached the bottom of the stairs, Bruce grabbed Richard by the front of his white shirt, pulled his arm back, and threw the kid to the far side of the other mat. The boy struggled in air to gain balance and fortunately did before he landed gracefully on both feet and a hand for good measure—for charging forward and leaping up to connect his right foot with the man's head. Bruce, on the other hand, raised his arm to block and throw Richard off balance again, this time the young master falling to his back at Bruce's feet before—
Both gave a start at the sound of his voice, staring at the butler as he placed the tray down on the table beside the main computer control panel. Richard got up on his own and made his way over toward the food with a scowl on his face, Bruce glaring at the boy's back as he grabbed a towel off the back of a chair and wiped down his face and neck.
"Soup—what kind?" Richard asked hungrily, hiding his anger once again.
"Tomato, sir." He answered, staring at Bruce's back before whispering. "Perhaps you should eat upstairs in the kitchen. I think there's something we should talk about…"
"Gotcha." The boy replied. He was too tired too put up much of an argument, despite how snappish he became after sparring. Alfred knew that was the best time to approach the boy.
He left one bowl downstairs for Bruce and carried the second one up for Richard, winking to the cat and dog as he passed. Half way through the meal, Alfred began his interrogation.
"What exactly happened this time?"
"Hm?" The boy looked up from his soup. "You mean while you were gone?"
"Between you and Master Bruce, to be more precise."
The boy frowned somewhat to himself, taking another spoonful of soup before pushing the bowl aside. Leaning his elbows on the table—something Alfred would only allow for the time being-he gave in quite easily.
"I remembered you saying how Bruce kept worrying that he was older than he actually was. I got Barbara to help me play a few tricks on him to make him think he was losing his mind…"
"That would explain the white hair…" He could recall seeing a faint gray shade above each ear on Bruce's black hair…
"Nah—that's just some paint Barbara gave me. It'll wash out eventually…" Then he continued. "But the thing that really hurts is that he caught me. He knew it was all me, even though he can't prove it entirely, but then he had to go and act like the detective/hero again. I get enough of his ego when we go out each night—it drives me nuts!"
"That's understandable, but you're giving as good as you're getting in this foolish little war. How would you have it end?"
The answer surprised him—especially coming from someone as fun loving and happy as Richard. Maybe Bruce would have said something like that, but it didn't suit the boy one bit.
"A tragedy?" He inquired. "Don't those usually end with death?"
"Fits it, though, doesn't it?" The boy stared at the far wall, brows knotted together in distress and deep thought. "A game bringing upon the end of a family…or what had the potential of becoming one…"
So Richard still thought of leaving. The boy never quite felt like he belonged when his mentor took him in—and he had everyone fooled for the longest of times. Now that Alfred thought about it, the only time Richard ever spent with Bruce was either practicing, on duty, or pulling pranks on him. The only way he could spend time with the man was through fighting physically or passively with the man, which, when you thought about it, took a lot of energy. The fun had grown old and turned into war only because he was getting exhausted.
Charades couldn't be kept up forever.
'This place must be very lonely…'
Those were some of Richard's first words about the Manor when he arrived. It was lonely to him and maybe it always would be…
"Have you tried talking to him?"
Richard rolled his eyes. "And say what—I give up? That's the only thing he'd want to hear and then he'd never let me forget how he's so much better than me. If I try to say anything else he'd probably think I was up to something else…"
"You brought it upon yourself."
"He's the adult!"
"You started it."
Richard crossed his arms, seeing the defeat ahead. "I'm not apologizing. If he doesn't want me around then I can take a message. I'm sure Haley will take me back if I go to him…"
Alfred gave a small laugh. "You're to young. That's one of the reasons you were brought here in the first place."
"Yeah—because I'm a short and skinny little orphan that everyone pities; just a charity chase. It doesn't matter anyway. As long as I keep practicing I can return to the circus as soon as I'm old enough. He can't hold me hostage here forever…"
Boy was this kid reading the wrong page…
"You're not a charity case and he doesn't want you to leave. He's just…irritated."
"Alfred, everything irritates him. Look at him the wrong way and he'll have you pinned up against the wall so fast you won't know what season it is."
He rolled his eyes again. "Easy for you to say—you've never fought against him."
"He just needs to realize what a mistake he's making."
The two froze when they heard his voice. Richard stood with a sigh and glanced at the clock. "Is it that time already? I swear patrol is getting longer each day…"
"That's only because you're not enjoying it as much as you used to." The older man answered. "Come and talk to me when you return. There's something else we need to go through."
"Richard! This can't wait!"
"Okay—but no more lectures. I get enough of them from the monster under my bed."
Alfred allowed himself chuckled, but stared wearily after the boy as he ran from the room. Holding together was something this family wasn't too good at and that would have to change before Richard grew older and found the real rebel within that every teenager came across. If it stayed like this for much longer the two opponents would be spitting fire…
And something else worried Alfred greatly…didn't tragedies usually end with the death and/or demise of the hero?
How ironic it would be if Richard was having a vision of foreshadowment…
He hurt. Everywhere. Neck, hands, feet, knuckles, arms, legs, shoulders, back, head, chest, stomach—anything that could get hit was hit that night and the numb feeling that came with a good adrenaline rush started to wear off as he finished drying himself after the bath. And then there was the headache…all he did on the way home was argue with Bruce about who it was that alarmed the thugs they were there—and it wasn't just eight or nine of them. It was a warehouse full of maybe a minimum of sixty brutes gathered for some sort of big drug deal.
And to hell with crow-bats. The next time he saw one he was going to melt it in the fireplace…
He probably should have stayed home for a little longer than a couple of days for his ribs to heal. He was sure they were worse now—with a few new additions. Alfred would freak if he saw him without his shirt on. There were bruises all along his chest and back, and quite a few on his arms where one guy tried to grab him and shove him out the window. He fought like no tomorrow to get out of that man's vice-like grip—and thank God in any case for grappling hooks. He was going to break the neck of the next thug who tried to throw him three stories down out a window.
Changing into a loose white t-shirt and black shorts, he ruffled his hair with a dry towel and left the washroom in search of Alfred. He would need him to help with bandaging up the arm and leg wounds. He'd have to (painfully) ask Bruce to help him fix up the chest wounds, but, judging by the feud going on between the two of them, the insufferable fool would much rather tell on him to Alfred.
Why would he even bother asking?
"Master Richard—what in heaven's name happened to you!" He froze mid-stride down the hallway toward his room, turning to see Alfred stomp his way. Excuses flew through his head at a sickening rate but it didn't matter. The man already knew what as going on.
"I fell…" Scratching the back of his head, he forced a grin. "…down some stairs."
"Off a building is more like it! And onto what—an open engine?"
…Not exactly the last part, but he was pretty darn close about the first assumption. Good old Alfred…always one step ahead of the game…
"This will not do." The old man growled, knelling on a single knee before Richard and grabbing his hands gently to exam each arm. "Look at this—was that a chain? I see link marks here and here and—did he leave you alone on this one, or did he throw into a pack of criminals? What about your ribs—"
Richard back-stepped when he reached to lift his shirt, pulling it down lower, if possible, in shame. "It isn't his fault…we were outnumbered."
"There's no need to explain yourself, Master Dick. Bruce is the adult and he should have sent you home the moment things took a turn for the worse." He sighed, licking his lips as he stood and took one of Richard's small hands into his own. "Now, let's see what can be done about your wounds. I don't suppose Bruce has some of his own to show me?"
"He'd never admit to it." Richard murmured. "He'd rather patch himself up."
"But he won't stop me when I do it for him."
Alfred smiled warmly, starting down the hall toward the boy's room. "I'll whip up a little remedy for you tonight to assure a sound slumber. You just might sleep the day away."
It didn't really matter to him. One way or another, he'd be bedridden for the rest of the week if Alfred or Bruce had anything to say about it. What a way to start summer…
Where was Ebony when he needed her?
It wasn't the easiest task to pull slivers of wood from his side with nothing but his bare hands and a small set of tweezers. He was lucky anything bigger didn't impale him wholly when he landed on the crate. He had been too distracted by Richard cursing at the man about to throw him out the window to notice the bloke that slammed a broken pipe into his jaw. Technically speaking, it should have been broken (sure felt like it was…), but perhaps he was adjusting to the blows. But, also 'technically' speaking, he should have died when he fell off the catwalk.
Thank God for Fox and his inventions.
As he finished wrapping up his chest, the notion of checking up on the kid came across his mind. Usually Alfred would deal with Richard the instant they returned home but, knowing Richard, the boy wouldn't want to let the old man—or anyone, for that matter—see him in the shape he was. Dick was probably already hoping the whole ordeal would be forgotten by time the sun rose in a couple of hours so he wouldn't be locked in his room for the next couple of days.
"Oh my—you too."
He nearly jumped out of his skin when they old man popped up next to him, somehow making his way down the stairs quiet enough that both Bruce and the bats didn't noticed. That was quite the accomplishment considering that you were sneaking up on a man of stealth in an echoing cave.
"Nothing big, Alfred. How about Richard?"
The old man shot him a disappointed frown, shaking his head before answering. "Worse than this." He gestured to Bruce's wounds. "I called Dr. Leslie to check on him in the morning."
"What about now?" Guilt was eating away at him now, but he tried hard not to show how well Alfred's glare was working. "Is he all right? Does he want to talk to me?"
The man held up a hand for silence, sighing heavily as he turned toward the table of gadgets Bruce broke that night. "I gave him one of my remedies. He was fast asleep when I left him."
Well…Richard was a kid, but he took pain like a man. Bruce would let him sleep the night (seeing that there was no use trying to wake someone on Alfred's drink), but in the morning he'd have to settle the war between them or, at the very least, put it on hold. They were too busy being angry at each other to work as a team that, as shown tonight, it would soon prove to be their undoing. They couldn't afford to keep fighting one another and every other person that hated them.
The odds were too great.
"Alright then…I'm heading up for bed. I have a meeting tomorrow morning."
Alfred gave a nod and started to clean up as Bruce headed back upstairs. He had to leave in five or six hours and what little sleep he collected before then would be all he could get until after the next patrol.
It was like they say—'Don't waste your life on lead' (1)…
Off all the challenges in his entire life, this had one ended up being the hardest. Museums, tombs, banks, excavations—you name it. He could break in and out of your house before you knew you owned anything of real value. That couldn't be said for the majority of the rich population, but even then they didn't notice something was stolen or replaced by something fake until years later when they decided to move to another country. He had only been close to being caught once and that was thanks to—believe it or not—some little boy with red hair and a knack for sneaking around in air ducts.
What a freak accident that turned out to be…
So, learning from his lesson, he tended to stray away from jobs that concerned children—especially kidnapping unless it was utterly necessary on behalf of himself and Joel, the only man he ever trusted enough to be his parent. He didn't quite remember how the two of them became friends in the first place, or, at least, partners, but he vaguely recalled a job in Italy and a night of too much wine…
Slipping past the last camera, he pressed his back up against the side of the building and pulled out the rope he had wound around his waist. Looping it around his arm, grappling hook in hand, he swung it a couple of times before lifting his arm up high and aiming for the eaves of the roof. With a soft 'clank' it caught on something sturdy.
'You ready yet?'
Tapping the com stuck in his right ear to make sure it would stay; he began his ascension up the wall. "Yeah, yeah—I'm on my way up the east side. Third floor, right?"
'Should be a large room. Mr. Wayne's is on the other side of the building and his guests tend to stay near the south side. You shouldn't run into anyone.' The word was said as more of a command than an opinion, but it didn't matter to Jason. He'd grown used to the getting orders…but never really acknowledging them…
Quietly he made his way up, planting his feet firmly on a small ledge beneath the window before pulling out a small knife and plaster from his belt. Most of the rich people had their security systems set up so that when the pressure on a windowsill eased, an alarm would go off. Smear something heavy on the sill and there wouldn't be any problems.
When he was finished with the plaster, he stabbed his knife deep between the window and its sill, lifting it without any noise or flashing lights.
'You in yet?'
"Yes, now shut up." Slipping inside, he gently lowered the window behind him and turned to look around the room. "One more thing—what exactly am I looking for again?"
'It's an ancient jade—'
"Wait—I'm in the wrong room." He froze when he saw the boy stirring; holding his breath for a moment when he almost thought the kid saw him.
'How can that be? You're on the third floor—'
"And there's a kid in here!"
'Say what—stupid, this is Bruce you're talking about. He doesn't have any kids.'
Rolling his eyes, he relaxed. "When was the last time you watched the news?"
'Since…never. I was in Italy, remember?'
"He adopted some kid."
'Then get around him and start looking…"
Well, that was a no-brainer. The only problem was, every time he tried to move, the kid would stir, and, if he was as young as he looked, chances were he'd wake the whole household the moment he saw Jason.
"He's going to wake up."
'Maybe if you'd shut up, he'd go back to sleep. And if he wakes up—shut him up instead.'
"How? You want me to punch his lights out?" Cautiously he made his way over to the boy's bed, leaning over to have a look at him. "Wow…"
"Looks like someone beat me to that idea. Jeez…I wonder if he was in a car accident or something…"
There weren't many bruises, more on the neck than anywhere else (strangling perhaps?), but there was a long scar across his left temple and bandage wrapped around his forehead. Grabbing the collar of the boy's shirt gently, he pulled it down a little to sneak a glance at his chest. Sure enough, that was wrapped up too…
"I don't think we should worry about him waking up." He sighed. "I don't think he's going to be up and about any time soon."
'Then grab him.'
'Hold him for ransom. I don't think Bruce is a child beater, and he went through a lot of hell to adopt that kid.'
"Even if that's true, I don't do kidnapping."
"Since ever. If you want to ransom him, then you can come up here and grab him yourself."
'With a broken arm? Sure, go and open the front door and I'll stroll right in.'
Rolling his eyes, he glanced at the boy again. "I think he's been through enough hell already."
He nearly jumped out of his skin, backing up a step when the boy opened his eyes. He thought the boy was asleep—sure looked like it—but what surprised him more was that the kid wasn't moving to scream or runaway. Looked…kind of dazed.
"What medicine do they have you on, kid?" Jason murmured, tempted to head tails and just run. "Aren't you going to call for help?"
'Great—teach him how to arrest you. What's wrong with you!'
He wasn't too good with children.
"Get out of here and I'll pretend I never saw you." The kid yawned, closing his eyes again. Either the boy thought he was seeing things or he was being literal.
'Don't listen to him—just grab him!'
"And tell your friend to shut up." The boy added tiredly.
'How loud do you have the volume on? You want him to hear me?'
"I have it on low…" He grumbled. "It's your yelling that he hears…"
"I can yell for help if you want me to." The boy sighed, opening his eyes again and sitting up with a wince. "But…"
Jason froze when the boy shook his head, the dazed look still in his eyes. He was on medicine—either that or poison—and maybe this could work.
"Go already!" The boy moved to stand, but, with a slight sway, he decided it was better to stay seated. He looked like he was on the verge of passing out.
'Jason, if you don't grab him I'll call the police.'
'As an anonymous tip I'll tell them who you are and what you're doing there. The plaster on the window should be proof enough…'
Why that little…
The boy took a deep breathe and opened his mouth—just as Jason covered it with one hand. "Okay, kid. I can't do this the easy way so this has to go—"
'Would you just get out of there already? You can chat to him all you want in the van…'
At least things were easier now. The boy, as he suspected, had passed out.
Maybe he could get away with this…
Anyway—stay tuned for next time. I have to get going to my first class period, so have a nice day!
Alexnandru Van Gordon