I’m one of those people who has always wondered how speedsters do it. It seemed a fitting topic to contemplate in depth in the sanctity of Earth 81.
Posts tagged fiction
How did you first come up with the idea for your plot of Earth 81?
I got back into Batman after a long hiatus and discovered Damian Wayne. There was something about his personality that had me going—how the fuck is this kid going to deal with puberty? And it just kind of went from there…I’d always wondered weird things like, how in the hell does Clark actually have sex with a human? I mean, really? And the Flash. Man. You can vibrate through walls. What’s that mean for Linda? Wonder Woman’s bondage background. That sort of thing. Damian kind of presented himself as the one adventurous enough to get answers to these questions. Or at least be bold enough to ask them.
How much of the plot do you have mapped out?
The story you’re currently reading is the first arc titled The Family Business. It will carry all the way through to the end of the gala. After that, I have an entire second arc planned out that’s more drama and adventure than comedy, though it still maintains the essence of 81. There are certain events that will happen, but much of the filler—which can be anything from conversations to random sexual encounters—is somewhat in the air. I’m sure there’s going to be a third arc, but I’m not sure what it will be yet. There is the possibility that I’ll take time off after the second arc to explore other Gayties.
Do you have notes for what you want to happen in each chapter?
Yes. For example, I had pages and pages of questions and clothing for Risk Analysis. For R&D – Investment, I had certain things written down that I wanted them to address in conversation.
How long ago did you start working on/planning out Earth 81?
Um…about a week before I first posted Business Before Pleasure. So…middle of May? It spiraled pretty quickly. I didn’t have all this insanity planned from the start by any means.
If the writing bug sticks with me and I can continue to channel the snarky voice of Jason Todd, I just might have more 81 for this weekend. Fingers crossed.
Bruce looked up, blinking sleep out of his eyes. He frowned. “Jason?”
The boy smiled, waving a wet hand, sticky with juice. It dripped down his wrist and into the rolled sleeves of his shirt
“Hey, Bruce.” He smiled, wiping black hair out of his eyes with the back of his hand. Flour was smeared across his nose and over the fading bruise on his cheek. Taking another peach from the bowl of water beside him, he went back to peeling the fruit with slow, awkward deliberation.
Bruce’s brow dipped further. He drank deeply from his mug, then refilled it from the pot. Alfred hummed quietly to the jazz on his little black radio as he manipulated the rolling pin with an effortless skill.
The man blinked, running a hand through his tousled hair. Something wasn’t right. He drank more coffee, wincing as it finally hit his stomach. Sighing, he walked between the two bakers to the refrigerator, reluctantly lightening the coffee with creamer. The door fell shut when he released; he stared out the window at the bird feeder and drank. The sun crawled lazily toward its zenith.
Bruce lowered his mug and looked at his ward. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”
“Wow. Batman’s observation skills are crap after dawn, huh?” Jason joked.
“Bats, Master Jason,” Alfred said, transferring the bottom layer of crust to a glass dish. “Work best in the dark.”
“No kidding,” the boy said with a grin, putting down a peeled peach and picking up another. He caught the slippery fruit as it slid out of his hands, licking juice off his fingers. Bruce stared, the mug paused halfway to his lips. Shaking his head, he lowered it with a frown.
“Robin, why aren’t you in school?”
Jason’s brow shot up and he whistled. Even Alfred’s motions halted.
“Geez, Bruce. You’re not just tired, you’re a dead man walking. Why don’t you go back to sleep before you accidentally give the mailman the access code for the Batcave?”
First, I managed to slice my finger open making breakfast this morning so typing is a bitch. I apologize for not replying to comments right now, but I’ll get to them as soon as I’m able.
Second, how the hell is it that every time I go to write something into 81, the damn thing shows up on my dash? It’s amazing and creepy.
Here, have some preview of the next installment. It’s what I managed before the knife slipped.
Tim slid onto the stool, tugging the sundress into position with practiced ease. He tensed as Jason leaned over, putting a hand on his knee, moving under the slit that exposed his thigh. His fingers played with the knife Tim had strapped to his garter.
“What do you think, baby? Hey, give my lady something with an umbrella in it, would you?” Jason decided. “I’ll take mine strong and straight up.” He winked.
“Sure thing, slick,” the bartender replied, moving to comply. “Mai Tai coming right up.”
“Get away from me,” Tim commanded lowly when they were alone enough not to be overheard, his eyes dark and irate under the tastefully and meticulously applied makeup he’d laboured over that morning. Jason’s hand slid toward his inner thigh.
“We booked passage on the fucking love boat,” the other man murmured; Tim jerked when Jason’s free hand settled on the back of his neck, playing with the wisps of hair that had escaped the sloppy bun he’d pulled the wig into. “And you’re acting like a goddamn virgin.” His fingers tightened and Tim made a sound that could have easily been mistaken for desire by outside observers. Only Jason knew it for the warning it was.
“You need to lighten the fuck up, or we’re never going to find him.”
Tim grit his teeth and held his gaze. Jason’s normally blue eyes were coloured with brown contacts and his black hair was freshly dyed. Dressed in a bright white suit with a flashy red shirt, he looked like a completely different person.
Except the shitty little smirk that sat on the corner of his mouth.
The younger man didn’t resist when Jason raised his chin, though his entire body tensed. When their lips met, he closed his eyes and went through the periodic table starting numerically with the lowest atomic number.
Jason coaxed his lips apart and Tim didn’t deny him; the logical part of his mind knew the other man was right. They were there for a reason. They needed to blend in. Bruce was living on borrowed time. If kissing Jason Todd got them closer to their goal, he should have been waiting with arms wide open.
But he couldn’t get over the pesky voice in his head that reminded him that the former Robin had tried to kill him.
It was not my intention to make you cry. I apologize if that is a side-effect. I’ve had too much tea, but I think I’m feeling a bit better now…
This is not as edited as I’d like. Maybe I’ll play in this universe again at a later date.
Tim peeled into the hospital parking lot burning rubber. Skidding to a halt, he cut the engine on the bike and tore the helmet from his head. It was instinct that kicked the stand that kept the motorcycle from falling. Dismounting quickly, he threw the helmet at the seat and didn’t wait to see where it landed.
The emergency room entrance was brightly lit against the dull November sky. He jogged toward it, tasting fear.
Timmy, how fast can you get to Gotham General? I need you.
He couldn’t get Dick’s words out of his head; they played on a sickening loop that twisted his insides and left his mouth dry. A million questions had surged and he’d quenched them all. There was something in his brother’s voice that sounded cracked and broken and he wasn’t sure if he was ready to know. There was only one thing he could think of that would cause Dick Grayson’s voice to break.
And Bruce still wasn’t picking up.
The automatic doors didn’t open fast enough. A lifetime passed between the moment he paused and the second they opened. He slid through them before they even had time to open fully.
He memorized every sterilized detail in an instant. The man sitting in one of the stiff plastic chairs holding his hand in a bloody towel had sliced it doing woodwork at home. A little girl sniffled against her mother’s side across and down from him, holding her arm. Fractured by the look of it. Another man paced back and forth irately in front of the television that capped the row of seats scrolling the news. His hand opened and closed at his side—a smoker. Waiting for news on—a ring flashed gold against his hand as it fisted. His wife. He’d brought her in.
The man turned, swallowing hard. Dick was on the other side of the room near the entrance; he’d completely overshot him in his haste.
His throat caught. He couldn’t ask if he was ok. Ok was being bandaged in the cave with Alfred’s constant fussing. A little less than ok was dealing with Leslie’s disapproving glower.
There was nothing ok about Gotham General. It was everything not right about who they were and what they did. They didn’t get hurt this badly.
Except for his parents. And Conner. And Bart. And—
Tim closed off that part of his mind as efficiently as pulling the blinds in a too-bright room.
Instead, he analyzed Dick’s drawn features and tired eyes. Saw the dark circles and red rims. The way his hands held the cup of coffee in his hands just to have something to do. He noticed the check-in nurse and the practiced way in which she smiled sympathetically at everyone and made eye contact with no one.
“I’m really glad you came,” his brother said with something that wasn’t a smile. It was unnatural on his face. As wrong as them being under the fluorescent lights of Gotham General. They worked better in the dark and shadows. This was wrong wrong wrongwrongwrong—
“Dick,” he said, making his voice steady. He walked toward his brother with even, measured steps. He had to keep control. Because Dick was close to losing it. Dick had more to lose. Dick was lost.
He sat beside his brother on one of the blue plastic chairs and put a gentle hand on the man’s leg. Dick’s jeans were torn at the knee—red dust in the tear. From brick. Flipping off a wall. He’d come directly off of patrol—
“Tell me what’s going on.”
Dick glanced at him, put the coffee on the ground near his foot, and ran both hands through his hair before slumping forward, his elbows on his ripped knees.
“Timmy…” he whispered.
Tim’s throat tightened. Dick never called him that anymore. Not since he’d reached over and beyond puberty. Not since he’d learned how to shave and had started doing it regularly. It was Tim now. Mr. Drake when his brother was feeling playful. And once, just once, it had been Timothy. On a night they never spoke of in a place he should never have been with a man that he hadn’t thought of as brother. Not then.
But now…it was his brother that needed him.
“Dick,” he said softly, moving the hand to his brother’s back and rubbing because he didn’t know what else to do. Feeling the muscle and bone and the shuddering that came when Dick remembered what it was like to breathe.
“Is it…Bruce?” he finally managed. He felt like vomiting. He didn’t want to know the answer. He needed to know. God, why was it taking so long for Dick to respond?
God, Dick…don’t say it…
Dick shook his head and Tim’s breath left his body in a rush. His head rushed. He frowned.
Dick licked his lip, pulling it in and biting it. He closed his eyes and covered his face with his hands.
“It’s Jason, Tim. He was in an accident. A really bad accident.”
Tim’s hand paused. He blinked and absently noticed that the clock on the wall in the waiting area was a minute and a half fast, according to his watch.
“Jason?” he repeated. Relief was almost overwhelming. Thank god it’s not Bruce. Anger was fast to follow. You had me this scared about Jason? He tucked them both away in the same place and wrapped his arm around his brother’s shoulders. Dick’s hands fell and he leaned heavily against him. He smelled like autumn leaves and the fibrous polycarbonate blend that contributed to the Nightwing suit and that night that he wasn’t supposed to remember.
“How did you find out?” he asked carefully.
Dick’s mouth tightened again and Tim actually heard him swallow.
“He had me down as his emergency contact,” his brother said. His voice broke and he cleared his throat.
Tim’s surprise was evident. “You two…talk?”
His brother shook his head, pushing black hair out of his flushed face. Before the news, Dick had already been sleep-deprived. Tim could tell by the lines around his overly bright eyes.
“No,” he whispered. “We hadn’t. Not since we fought last when he came to New York…”
Tim’s brow creased further. “I don’t understand,” he said simply. Because he didn’t. Jason Todd had come back from the grave like an avenging angel and nothing any of them had done made any difference. It was like he was there to remind them of their sins, not absolve them.
“Neither do I,” Dick said with an exasperated laugh that contained no trace of humour. They both looked up as a doctor came into the room. They tensed simultaneously and took a breath together as she made her way to toward the end with the television. Tim felt a pang of sympathy for the husband as he listened to news of his wife and glanced away as he sank into a chair.
“It just made me realize how stupid we’re all being,” Dick said softly, staring at that same man as he started to cry. “How proud we are. Jason died once and it was the most excruciating thing I’ve been through since the death of my parents. When he came back…god,” his brother turned to look at him and Tim noticed how truly blue his eyes were. “God, we should have been celebrating, not fighting.”
“He tried to kill us,” Tim reminded him. His arm slid off Dick’s shoulders to settle around his waist. His brother didn’t protest.
“I know,” the man agreed. “But didn’t he have reason? Can you imagine how he must have felt to have gone through all that only to come back to a world that didn’t seem to notice that he wasn’t in it?” Dick’s expression was intense and pleading. “Bruce was a wreck, sure, but he got rid of everything, Tim. A week after his death, it was like Jason never even existed.”
“He was coping in his own way,” Tim defended mildly. He might have pressed the issue if the man hadn’t been so close to cracking again. If he thought it might help. But no amount of arguing over the Angel of Death was going to answer either of their prayers tonight.
“Bruce doesn’t deal with emotions,” Dick said bitterly. Then he sighed and sat back. Tim moved with him, his arm still in place and both of them acted like it was entirely natural.
“He should be here,” his older brother murmured. “But I don’t…I can’t call him. I don’t know what I’d say. I don’t know if he could deal with Jason’s death again.”
“Is it that bad?” Tim asked, his voice low. He watched Dick’s face for the signs that would answer more truthfully than words. He nodded, mostly to himself, when they manifested.
“I’ll call Bruce,” he said quietly. For a moment, he didn’t move his arm and Dick didn’t lean forward to allow it. Then they both shifted together, choreographed and fluid, pulling apart.
“Thanks,” Dick murmured with something closer to a smile. Tim nodded again and stood, tugging his phone out of his pocket.
“I’ll be right back,” he said as he walked the three steps to the door. The look Dick gave him was reason enough to punch in the number for Bruce Wayne’s personal line. As he stepped over the threshold and into the cold November evening, Tim sighed. He stared at the screen of his phone.
He would call and Bruce wouldn’t answer. Because Tim was certain Batman already knew and there was nothing the man could accomplish sitting in an uncomfortable plastic chair in the emergency room of Gotham General.
He stared at the blue screen of his phone until it faded to black. The door behind him slid open with a rush of air and Tim turned to see the man from the waiting room fumbling with a cigarette. They shared a brief, awkward glance. Tim snapped his phone closed and tucked it into his pocket.
“I’m sorry about your wife,” he whispered sincerely. The man looked up, his eyes red. He nodded with difficulty.
“Thanks,” he said hoarsely. “Doctor says there might still be a chance.”
“Yeah,” the guy conceded, his jaw set. “She’s gonna pull through. She’s always been tough like that.” He took a fierce drag on his cigarette, blowing smoke in the opposite direction.
“Who are you here for?” he asked at last.
Tim stared at the thick, gunmetal clouds that crowded the treeline and wondered if they were in for rain or snow. Thought of all the things that had brought him to that moment. About how he wouldn’t have become Robin if Jason hadn’t died. How he wouldn’t have fallen so hard for Dick if he hadn’t been Robin. About how he wouldn’t know the meaning of family if it hadn’t been for all of those things.
And then, when his thoughts became too fast, Tim simply emptied his mind and watched the storm gather.
The guy was halfway through his smoke when he finally answered.