Title: Carry a Bow and a Victor's Crown
Summary: In which horses and stables become a metaphor of sorts of the bat-family. Or, Batman with horses and Dick and Jason too.
Pairing: Dick Grayson/Jason Todd
Notes: Written during English Writing class while our instructor was telling us how unnatural it was to start a sentence with a while. Well, I can see how college education is helpful in every way but leading normal, healthy, social lives.
Disclaimer: I don't own Batman.
Warnings: What I know about horse racing I gleaned from books such as Thoroughbred, Lord of Misrule and the Horse Whisperer. And pages upon pages of Wikipedia entries of which only a fraction had to do with actual horses. So if there are any mistakes, feel free to point them out and I will fix them. This fic is unbetaed. All grammar mistakes are mine too. Also, it contains animal abuse and some violence.
"Good turn out." Dick commented as he and Damien entered the barn. The crowd milled around the stabling area, spreading and receding like the tide. They saw several familiar faces and made small talk with Julie Madison who had come on the behalf of St. Cloud. She professed an interest in the Joker filly who had escaped the greedy clutches of the Arkham Stables up north. Dick had to quickly pull Damien away from where he had buried his nose in a program when another woman charged past, her massive bulk thrusting everyone else against the walls.
Damien quickly shrugged him off. "Tt. It would have been bigger if Kerr hadn't sold off his better stock to Arkham."
"I know." Dick said mildly disappointed. "I was hoping to see the Joker."
Damien cut him sharply with his too blue eyes, too young to be truly threatening.
"You know what father says about..."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Joker is mad and Kerr was insane for keeping him but even Bruce can't deny that the horse could run."
"We have the Queen of Assassins." Damien said loftily, reminding the man of the world-famous, multimillion dollar racemare that his mother had gifted Bruce. Face crumpling into a scowl he added, "And Red Robin". Who was the latest of Batman's sons to take to the racing scene. The colt had started off his three-year-old campaign by capturing the Louisiana Derby. With luck, he would make it to the Triple Crown.
"Guess I miss seeing Nightwing run." The six-year-old had been sidelined the year before with a hairline fracture that led to his eventual retirement. The stallion's first crop of foals was due in a few months, adding to the already prestigious line of Batman.
Dick laughed and groaned, "Why didn't I bring Tim with me?"
"Because father needed him. And he thinks that you're irresponsible."
"Right, I get distracted by Roy that one time and he never lets me live it down." Dick sighed. "This is good experience for you too you know."
"Tt. I've seen better among my grandfather's culls."
"I bet." Dick mumbled as he read the name plaque. "Spoiler by Cluemaster out of Crystal. Pretty." He motioned for a groom to take her out. Seeing the filly in motion, Dick repeated appreciatively—"very pretty".
"Her bloodline is impeccable and devoid of the Joker's taint as per father's orders."
"Shame really." Dick replied, eyeing a pale grey filly being walked down the aisle. The two-year-old tossed her head nervously but was fluid in her movements, almost like ell of silk under the florescent lights. "Jester threw out some good colts."
"But the Joker was the best." Damien said grudgingly.
"You two done?" The groom interrupted, flicking the filly across the nose when she lipped his sleeves. "Because I've got places to be if you don't mind."
For the first time, Dick looked at the groom—really looked at him, his mouth going dry when he saw curls of red hair peeking out from under the ugliest cap he had ever seen in his life. The man was young, younger than he was despite having a good four inches on him in height. He was wearing his shirt inside out, a white sock paired with blue, his appearance no worse for its hasty assembly but open like a loose invitation. He swallowed and Damien, perhaps seeing the danger of keeping Dick near a leggy redhead on two legs, elbowed him hard.
"I do mind." The young Wayne said imperiously, crossing his arms. "Where is Amygdala? He is not in your inventory. For that matter where are the other horses?"
"Looking for something?" The groom asked lightly before Dick could chastise the boy for his lack of manners.
"It is strange that Crazy Quilt is unlisted when her yearling is up for sale. If she had been sold, we would know about it."
Leaning close the groom asked, "You're Wayne's kid aren't you?"
"How did you...?"
He nodded to Dick and he felt something suspiciously close to warmth tickle his stomach. "Dick Grayson right?" The groom looked down again, "Do you really want to know kid?"
Crazy Quilt was a decent racehorse who had won several small stakes in the Deep South before being laid up with chipped knees. Despite her lines, none of her progeny did well at track until Joseph Kerr decided to breed her with a sprinter. Tally Man had come out of nowhere and gone down just as fast. But his record at Champagne Stakes had made an impact. Everyone was waiting for Crazy Quilt's yearling, a full brother to the ill-fated sprinter.
"Right then." The groom nodded as though he has seen something he liked in the boy. "Come with me."
"I thought you were busy." Damien snarked and Dick wanted to stick his head down a hole somewhere.
The groom passed him a grin "cute".
Damien punched him in the guts for a good measure.
Out one end of the barn was a dirt pasture where several horses were crowded in a temporary pen, soaking up the last of autumn sunlight. There were horses of various ages, horses Dick recognized immediately and thought they'd already been privately sold off. Amygdala, a top yearling purchased by Kerr the year before, was instantly recognizable with his blotchy snip and the big, burly frame.
Dick grabbed Damien, his footsteps suddenly heavy.
"Welcome to the killing pen."
Several shady men stood around the fence, muttering to each other between quick flicks of cigarette ash that landed at their feet like snow. The horses snorted at the flickers of flames, almost habituated to the stiffness in their legs, other obvious hurts in forms of heavy scars. Dick felt Damien stiffen up beside him at the sight of sullen horses, all lean and hungry looking like the Mares of Diomedes. Even the big Amygdala seemed reduced, his head hung low as the mares kicked and bit at him for space.
"So it was true then." Damien said finally, his voice cool and aloof for a thirteen-year-old.
"You have no idea."
A man waved familiarly at the groom.
"Jay! Got buyers?"
"Working on it!" Turning back to them he explained, "When he got busted for abuse, Kerr went the whole way. He'd maimed eleven horses by the time police arrived; all of them were destroyed on the spot. These are the lucky survivors."
"Why them?" Horror retreated for a moment, overcome by curiosity at the animals, all relatively sound, scheduled to be destroyed.
Jay scowled, "Because the man is crazy that's why. This isn't about the money; this is about getting back at the world. If he can't have them, no one can."
Suddenly, a stallion raised his head and whinnied, leaning against the temporary barrier. Jay hurried over and the group of men made room as Dick and Damien approached close. "Who's this?" Dick asked, ignoring Damien's scandalized gripes about putting intact stallions with each other.
"This," Jay answered, allowing the bay to slurp at his fingers, "is Red Hood."
Dick's eyes widened.
The reason why Batman's bloodline was so coveted was because of its exclusivity. Bruce let very few be covered by his superhorse and never the ones that came from Joseph Kerr. But somehow, the Joker mare Haywood had slipped through the cracks and the entire racing community had held their breath waiting for its end result. That foal had been Red Hood, spurned by his dam at the moment of his birth and spurned later at the tracks because the colt had stubbornly refused to run.
But at that moment, all Dick could think about was Jay and his fingers tugging at the stallion's lips, smiling like a proud parent. "How much for him?" He blurted out and a hard pinch in his elbow later, he was facing Damien who looked like a cat dunked in water.
"Are you out of your mind Grayson?"
"It's the Red Hood."
"Tt." Damien sneered, a carbon copy of his mother. "Do not presume to think that you can..."
"It's one of Batman's babies!" He said exasperated, throwing up his hands. "If I don't buy him, they're going to ship him off to the slaughterhouse."
Damien said carefully, "There are others who'd claim him."
To which Dick responded, "Not if they know Joseph Kerr."
The boy held up a list, striking it with a quick snap.
"Drake gave us a list!"
Dick knew he'd won. He gave the boy an impish smile.
"And since when do you listen to Tim?"
End notes: In which Jason totally guilts a rich person into buying a horse. Don't do this at home kids. Unless you are Jason Todd. So how was it? Good? Bad? Delete immediately? So the next chapters should be less horsier, unless you guys like that kind of thing. Tell me what you think :)