A/N: Hey guys! I had this idea rolling around for a while and thought I'd give it a try. It didn't quite turn out the way I wanted (they normally don't), but oh well. It wouldn't leave me alone and I feel better now that it's done.
Also, as a side-note, I will not be adding a second installment or an alternate perspective to this piece. I want to start focusing on some multi-chapter ideas :)
At the end of the day, Bruce Wayne stripped of a few million dollars will still be Bruce Wayne.
Rowan said to me, "Rich pricks like him are so loaded, they could grind half their fortune into mulch and still have plenty to spare."
And he's right, in his own, crazy sort of way.
But I didn't think he would – that we would – do something like this.
"He's the son of the richest fucker around. He's guaranteed cash," Rowan had said.
"But we won't hurt him," I had added, asking, hoping. But Rowan just laughed.
So now, Wayne's kid is in the corner, wrapped up like fucking Harry Houdini while Rowan yanks the tie from the school uniform and balls it up.
"It's too much," I say. "He'll choke and you'll kill him."
There is no reason for it. He isn't crying or begging or screaming or any of that shit like I was expecting. But Rowan is paranoid. He doesn't like taking chances. So he crams the tie into the kid's mouth, all of it, and wraps a few layers of duct tape around his head to keep it there.
Still the kid is quiet, though now it's possibly more because he's too busy trying to tongue the tie away from the back of his throat so he won't die.
I ask, "Rowan, is this necessary?"
I don't know any kids personally, though I almost had one of my own, once. But my girlfriend was jumped and killed about a month before he was due. God, I never thought I could love someone so much before they even existed, but I did, I loved that baby. Having my girlfriend and my unborn child taken away from me like that, it was crippling.
And this kid here, fuck, he's someone's kid. He belongs to someone. Someone who gives a shit about him. A lot of shit.
Fuck me, I should untie him, I know. I can practically hear his bones creaking, he's tied so tight. I can see it hurts.
But, okay, we can't be flaking out now – I know that. We're in too deep already. But damn, there has got to be another way to go about this. We could lock him in the closet or something.
"Don't touch him," Rowan barks when I take a step closer.
Rowan scoffs, then tells me, "Little fucker's used to this shit. He'll be fine."
Something pinches in my stomach. The thought of Wayne's kid being used to crap like this makes me feel sick. I begin to wonder how bad we need the money, how bad really, and how a thirteen-year-old can be worth so much of it. I stare at him for a long while, trying to figure it out. I mean, out of all of Wayne's cash, connections and possessions, this kid is the thing he'd give anything to keep.
"He'll jump through hoops for this brat," Rowan swears. "Hell, I could ask him to show up dressed in a chicken suit and I bet he'd do it."
He's probably right.
"Other people have done this, you know," I remind him. I'm nervous. This all feels too real right now and, well, I'm not a kidnapper. Or at least I never used to be. "I hear Wayne is friends with the Bat."
Rowan doesn't flinch. "That's what this is for," he says, tossing me his gun. It feels extremely heavy in my hands.
"Wait. This is for Batman, or…" I can't bring myself to finish. He can't possibly mean the kid, right?
Rowan doesn't answer.
Rowan hasn't made any demands yet; says waiting wears people down. Makes them more willing to comply, or something like that. The kid's old man probably misses the shit out of him.
Hours pass. I spend them sitting a few feet away from him, staring, watching. He doesn't really do much but stare back at me, and I wish he wouldn't, because he looks so fucking young, you know?
I break eye contact and crouch down next to him to observe Rowan's handiwork; a crisscross of rope and a few gleams of duct tape. Keeping him restrained… I get that, but this is overkill.
"I'm not letting you go," I warn him as I start picking at the knots. If I do this right, his hands and feet will still be tied but his body won't be twisted into such an uncomfortable position. "I'm just trying to help you get better situated. This will only take… What the hell? Did he tape your fingers together?"
Shit, man. Rowan went out of his way to make sure the kid literally couldn't lift a finger to help himself.
It's the first thing I remove. His fingers flex and curl the moment they're free, and he even gives a soft sigh at the sensation of movement. Slowly I tend to the knots hogtying his hands to his feet, careful not to loosen the wrong ones. When the tension in his body is removed, he flops heavily onto the floor with a groan. Then I reach for that dreadful length of tape swathed around his head, and unravel it.
The instant he is able, he spits out the tie, soaking wet.
"Please don't scream," I beg.
But he just licks his lips, takes a few steady breaths and goes, "What's your name?"
Out of all the questions that must be racing through his mind right now, I'm surprised that this is the first thing he voices. Confused, without thinking, I say, "It's Cal."
"Cal," he tests it. "What's going on? I can tell you don't really want to do this."
God, Rowan is going to flip his shit if he finds me striking up a casual conversation with his meal ticket.
"You should be quiet," I tell him as kindly as I can. It's weird; my voice is shaking more than his. "It's better if you stay quiet."
"Let me go, Cal," he asks regardless, and fuck, he asks it so nicely. Even worse, he adds, "Please."
But before I can answer, the kid's eyes dart to the side and twitch. I know Rowan is there before he even says anything.
"What. The fuck. Are you doing?"
He is behind me in an instant, hand twisting into my shirt to shove me aside. He takes in the sight of the kid, at how his handiwork has been undone, and the prominent vein on his forehead starts to pulse.
"There's nothing to worry about," I promise.
"Nothing to worry about?" he scoffs. "You were letting him go – that's a big deal."
"I wasn't letting him go. It was too much, what you did. Look, his hands and feet are still tied. See? It's fine. He isn't going anywhere."
"It's true," the kid agrees suddenly. He's sitting propped up against the wall now, looking comfortable, and, I mean, fuck, is he actually grinning? "Besides, it's like, after midnight. Everything's closed."
I blink. Does he not understand the shit he's in right now? And he's going to be in even more of it with comments like that. Rowan isn't much of a funnyman.
In fact, he spies the roll of duct tape on the floor and snatches it up angrily, ripping off a quick strip and slapping it over the kid's mouth. He turns to me, scowling. "You can't be pulling this kind of shit on me, Cal," Rowan stresses. He runs a hand through his hair, then lowers his voice. "You're sure he can't get out of that?"
"Positive," I say, averting my gaze downward and back to the kid. The kind blue eyes from before are now narrowed at me, and let me tell you, this kid? He's got one hell of a glare.
Out of everything, this is the moment I've been dreading the most. I don't like kidnapping. I don't like keeping kids away from their families. And I sure as hell don't want to call up said families to rub it in their noses.
Rowan, on the other hand, has been waiting for this. He's practically glowing when he dials the phone.
"Well good morning, Brucie," he grins after a few seconds. His friendly tone sends chills down my spine.
He strides over towards the kid, swings his leg back and sends a violent kick straight into his side.
The kid doubles over into himself, his horrid coughing muffled by the gag, but I'm certain Wayne can hear it.
"Now that I have your attention, let's chat," Rowan then proposes into the phone. He takes the conversation into the next room, and thank God for that, because I don't even want to hear it.
I crouch in front of the kid, patting his back in an attempt to be comforting. Despite the blow to his side leaving him breathless, he still manages to glare heatedly. I suppose I deserve that much. Trying to be nice doesn't really amount to much when I'm part of the reason he's here.
"It's almost over," I say, but I don't know for sure. He just keeps staring at me, even as I reach forward and peel the tape away once more. He looks almost frustrated at the indecisiveness about whether or not he should be deprived of his voice. "Are you okay?"
Stupidest question in the world.
"How do you think this is all going to end, Cal? Tell me, in what best-case-scenario do you walk away from this?"
He's a smart fucker, I'll give him that. Deep down, I know that Rowan and me are doomed. I say, "I don't know."
"He's not going to let me talk to Bruce?" he asks, nodding his head towards the door that Rowan disappeared into.
There's an honest, heavy disappointment in his voice that he doesn't even try to hide, and I wonder what circle of Hell I'll be dropped into when I die.
"I don't think so. Ro is… cautious. Doesn't like taking risks. I mean, we're not even in Gotham right now because, well," I pause. Lean in closer. Whisper. "Is it true that your old man knows the Bat?"
"Not in Gotham?" his face scrunches, ignoring my question. "Where are we then?"
"Eh, closer to Metropolis. The outskirts of it, kinda. Fairly secluded."
He must know of the city, because his eyes widen slightly at the mention of it. Carefully, he says, "That is pretty far."
"It sure as shit is," Rowan's voice startles me, and I expect him to be angry for being near the kid again, but he looks to be in a good mood. I'm guessing the phone call went well. He's got his gun in hand as he approaches. He pushes me aside and squats down in front of his hostage, grinning viciously as he runs the tip of the gun along the kid's hairline to brush his bangs aside. "I know your daddy's got some pretty big connections, but I promise you that as long as you're here, there isn't a single human being on earth who will hear you scream."
Chills slither down my spine at the certainty in Rowan's tone, and another one follows suit when, for some reason, the kid looks straight into Rowan's eyes, fucking smiles, and says lightly, "I know."
And then, fuck man, everything is a blur. I don't know how or when the kid freed himself, but his foot shoots up out of nowhere and smashes into Rowan's chin. Rowan goes reeling and hits the floor, and the kid – holy shit – is fast as hell, because he's already on his feet and vaulting over my head. He hits the ground running and bolts for the door, and as he runs, he's hollering over and over at the top of his lungs, "SUPERMAN, HELP! SUPERMAN! SU. PER. MAN!"
Suddenly, Rowan's paranoia explodes from within me. If this kid gets away, if he escapes, if the fucking Man of Steel himself actually shows up, we're done. I'm not ready for the inevitable yet, and the fear that grips me is unreal.
"Don't let him get out!" Rowan screeches from the floor, sounding strange. I think he's bit his tongue. "Fucking go, man!"
I react, snatching the gun Rowan dropped and sprinting after the kid. My heart is pumping. My fear is bubbling, and I don't know why, but I start to feel angry.
The kid is already trying to undo the collection of locks that bolt the front door shut, but when he sees me barreling down the hall, he darts to the adjacent window and throws his elbow into the glass. The sound of it breaking gives me a burst of speed; he is halfway out the window when I grab him by the leg and wrench him back inside.
"Superman!" he keeps screaming, even as I throw him to the floor, and he's so, so loud. "Superman!"
And man, oh man, he needs to stop that, he needs to stop that right now. He needs to be quiet – I need to shut him up.
"Stop," I say, voice shaking, but he just keeps calling out. "Stop," I say again, louder. But he opens his mouth to scream some more, so before he can even get out another syllable, I whip the pistol across his cheek. There is a disturbing crack and a little bit of blood, and shit I'm fucking scared, so I hit him again. "Shut up!"
He ceases calling for help, but his lips are moving like he wants to keep trying, so I continue. Two, three, four more times I strike him, left then right, left then right, until he stops moving altogether.
The blood is what brings me down from the high. It's on my shirt, my hands, the floor, the gun. It streams out the kid's nose and mouth. His teeth are pink.
I'm scared and angry and crying as I drag him back to Rowan, hoping he'll be able to fix what I've done. But he's livid when I get there, ripping the kid from me and dumping him to the floor. He doesn't check for life, he just puts a new layer of tape over his still-bleeding mouth and mummifies his arms and legs with what's left of the roll.
I'm mesmerized by the unfamiliar stillness of him. The lack of expression. I wish he would glare at me. There is an awful discoloration to his face and his nose looks a little crooked, and I feel sick because I just beat up someone else's child.
Rowan turns to me, red with rage as he seethes, "From now on, you do everything I say. And I'm telling you, don't. Touch him. Anymore."
"Okay," I rasp, looking down. It's for the best, probably. I don't want to have to look at him right now, at what I've done. I don't want to see what I'm truly capable of.
Maybe it's a good thing I never became a dad.
The kid doesn't move for a long, long time. If I wasn't going to Hell before, I certainly am now.
"You were yelling, he was screaming, and I panicked," I defend, but Rowan doesn't look like he cares, either way.
He says, "You did a real number on him. I told Wayne he'd get his brat back intact, but maybe we can use this to squeeze a little more money out of him."
Rowan's face gets contemplative and the contents of my stomach curdle. I start thinking of all the terrible, unspeakable things Rowan could do with the kid if he thought it would make him a little bit richer. I don't know if he's morbid enough to start chopping the kid into pieces and mailing them, but the image slips into my head and I want to vomit right then and there. "You said we wouldn't drag this out," I croak.
"And you said you didn't want to hurt kiddo over there," he grins. "But look at us now."
Whatever I am about to say next dies in my throat when a soft thud sounds from above. I lift my eyes to the ceiling while Rowan lifts his pistol, finger tense on the trigger. We stare for what feels like a very long time.
He keeps listening. It could be an animal scurrying across the roof. It could be our paranoia collectively tricking us. It could be the foundation groaning – this place is falling apart. Whatever it is, Rowan doesn't like it; he starts firing away at the ceiling.
"Fuck!" I spit, wrapping my arms around my head and ducking. Chips of the ceiling sprinkle to the floor around me, and when Rowan finally stops shooting, I hear it again – those gentle thuds. It sounds like footsteps.
"Get the kid," Rowan whispers.
I look to him, then to the ceiling, then to him again.
"Now," Rowan froths.
But I hesitate. It'll be the first time I go near him since beating him unconscious. I don't know if I'm ready.
The house shakes like it's threatening to crumble down on top of us. It creaks, and the holes in the ceiling form cracks that reach out to one another, and then, I know it sounds fucked up, but a section of the ceiling actually disappears. Like, it detaches and floats away. The night sun filters through the gaping hole, like a fucking spotlight. Here I am.
And then I see him. A flowing red cape and blue spandex. The dude would look hilarious if I didn't know who he fucking was.
"Piss. It's Superman," Rowan growls bitterly. He must have thought we were far enough away from the city, but holy shit, wonder boy here actually heard the kid screaming.
Rowan fires, gun aimed directly at Superman's chest, but true to the tale, the bullets do nothing. They clatter to the floor and as they do, like a delayed shadow, Batman drops through the hole in the roof.
Son of a bitch, I'm almost star-struck, and I just want to shove the kid at them now because, well, it's like the kid said earlier, there really isn't a way for this to end well for us.
"Cal!" Rowan bellows, and I look to the kid, wondering if I should even try to grab him. But before I can even debate with myself, something strikes me on the back of the head and sends me to the floor. As I fall, a bat-shaped device clangs to the floor and a dark presence sweeps past me and towards the kid.
I've never seen the Bat up close before. I can see why people are so afraid of him – the rage in his eyes when he spares me a quick glance is monstrous. It drills right into my soul. He lowers himself to the floor next to the kid and removes every last restraint, including the gag. The kid's teeth are still stained pink and I wonder if he's even still alive or if he's somehow choked on his own blood.
The stories and rumors in the streets of Gotham about Batman talk about his voice being so dark and grave that it makes your skin crawl. They talk about him being able to snap every bone in your body in half with his bare hands. I heard one guy swear up and down that the guy could actually communicate with bats.
But he's over there just… holding the kid as though he's done it a million times before, whispering to him, and I can't help but question how much of the rumors are actually true.
Rowan is cursing, overpowered instantly by a man who wears his underwear on the outside, but I know better than to judge by appearances. I mean, I don't look like much either, and look at what I did.
No one is even paying attention to me now, but I slowly lift my hands into the air. And as I do, I stare at the Bat and the kid.
It's weird, you know? Hearing all these things and then seeing him be all gentle, holding the kid the way a father might hold his son. The way I would have liked to have held my own. And it's like, seeing this, Bruce Wayne comes to mind, the kids real dad, and how we nearly robbed him of the one thing he was willing to give everything to get back. I didn't even know my kid and it hurts to have him taken away – what the hell does it feel like to have a history and a life with your kid, and to lose that?
I don't move. I stand there with my hands raised, waiting. At the end of the day, Bruce Wayne stripped of a few million dollars will still be Bruce Wayne. But a man stripped of his son has nothing. You know what, though? I'm sure old man Wayne knows that better than anyone.