A few grunts echoed in an alley, but no one heard it, it was covered by the city’s sounds. Grunts made out of pain, by battered and hardly conscious thugs; but no one paid attentions. Well, no one except for the one responsible for this.
Walking away slowly, the dark-haired boy just looked at one of the thugs. Sonny Gilzean…Bruce remembered how that low-life beat him once. Oh, it didn’t matter much to him, in the end, he had put Sonny K.O. on the ground, and back then…Back then he wanted to experience physical pain, to test his limits. But tonight, it had been different. Tonight he wanted a let-out. And when he had crossed Sonny’s path, it had been a given opportunity. He had put him KO twice in the past, but Sonny wasn’t the kind to learn. Maybe third time the charm?
‘Come on, you have to pay to go through my street,’ the boy had told him. Bruce just titled his head. They were three, he could perfectly handle it. ‘Or what?’
Now, Sonny was unconscious, his face bruised and bleeding profusely and he was pretty sure his shoulder was damaged. His ‘friends’ weren’t doing any better. Bruce only had bloody knuckles and very few bruises from the fight. He felt better, alive and a bit better. The adrenaline from the fight, the danger of being alone in those streets and confronting several guys who could have just sent him to hospital or to the morgue…That was thrilling! For a moment, he had just been himself, alive, here, breathing and pulsing. For a moment, he had forgotten his anger and sadness. Selina…Once again, she just rejected him. He never knew what to do with her. He remembered one girl he briefly dated, it didn’t last, and he had been a bit bored, but it had seemed so simple with her! She would tell him she liked him, she would kiss him, hold hands, and when she wanted to stop, she just told him simply. Why couldn’t Selina just let things be simple? Why couldn’t she just tell him whether or not she wanted him around? She kept coming back and leaving…He was feeling tired of this!
His fists were sore but it didn’t matter. He had a strange feeling, suddenly, as if something was gripping his back. He huffed slightly at this. He wouldn’t mind beating other jerks like this, and maybe the person following him would do. The simple thought made him feel better again.
He decided he would find an open space, where he would see the person clearly. He wanted to know who could be behind him, on his trail. What if they were armed? He had a knife, but it wouldn’t do much against a gun. He also had a small light grenade, something he had designed along with Lucius Fox. It wouldn’t provide an harmful explosion, but when it would be thrown, a blinding light would appear. He had taken it just in case, better not go through the most dangerous streets of Gotham without a few cards in his sleeves. Still walking as if he suspected nothing, he looked up at the moon. Gotham tended to have a cloudy sky, but today had been a beautiful day, and this night was beautiful, with the full moon shining…
Maybe he could find a way to trap his stalker. He just had to turn in the corner of the street, hid against the wall and jump on whoever was following when they would reach him. He was walking silently, they would probably not notice the sound of footsteps vanishing. He listened carefully to the person, they weren’t far, not very close, but not far. He knew he should have put a stop to it, but there was something quite…Thrilling, once again. He felt like he had twisted the situation and was hunting his predator. But this couldn’t last eternally.
He took the turn and pinned his back against the wall, waiting for his stalker to come. The footsteps grew closer and closer. Was it someone who decided to rob him? Or some perverse? When the shadow finally emerged, Bruce seized their shirt and made them swirl to have them pinned against the brick wall. He heard a brief yelp. A gun was suddenly pressed against his belly. His eyes widened. Bruce was stunned, but not because of the weapon.
“Bad idea, Brucie.”
Here, Jerome Valeska was smiling crazily at him! Shit…They just looked at each other for a short moment. Jerome…The Valeska twins had became his biggest antagonists over time. First there had been Jerome, who put chaos through the city and who tried to kill him twice. Then Jeremiah; the ‘innocent’ brother, the one who was terrorized by his brother and looked down because of him. Bruce had felt sorry for him and became his friend…Until he discovered Jeremiah was actually Jerome’s accomplice since the beginning.
Pressing the gun against the boy’s belly a bit more, Jerome was beaming. “So good to see you, it always promise a great…”
“What is it you want?”
“Always so straightforward! You never take the time to enjoy our fun!”
“I never had any taste for your fun.”
The redhead sighed theatrically. “Fine! I want you to come with me; follow me, or I shoot that cute little couple over there.” Bruce looked to see a couple walking, probably going home. He couldn’t take that risk. He would find another way to escape. “Alright.”
Jerome smiled delightfully and linked their arms as if they were a couple or something. Bruce rolled his eyes at this. He should have been more careful!
“I recognize my little hero, here! So feisty, and always ready to risk himself!”
“And where are we going?”
“Dunno.” He laughed at Bruce’s confused face. “I don’t know, I just wanted to walk with you a bit. You think I’m gonna kill you?”
“You would have done it already. Or maybe you’re preparing something special. But either way, nothing guarantee you’ll be able to do it.”
Jerome giggled. “You do have that nasty habit of putting up a fight. And, yeah, maybe I’ll want to kill you on the way, but not for now. You know, I was bored before I passed by that alley and saw you fighting this vermin. I couldn’t see your face, but I had a feeling it was you. And I was right!”
“So you decided to stalk me?”
“Yeah. It’s a beautiful night after all, and spending some time with a handsome young man is a nice perspective.” Bruce huffed at this, Jerome couldn’t help, he was so good to tease! “But, enough talking about me, what are you doing here?”
“That’s none of your concern, what about you?”
“You say it first.”
Bruce shrugged: “Just looking for someone.” Jerome tsked: “Don’t lie. I know when people lie. No, you aren’t looking for anything or anyone. Tell me, sincerely, what you’re doing here. Come on, there is no judgment from me, absolutely none.” Bruce didn’t answer anything.
“You know what I think? You want some thrill. You wanted to find problems, and you wanted a fight! That’s why you came in such a street: you hoped someone would try to hurt you.” Bruce was still silent. Jerome knew he got it right. “You know how I know it? Anyone else would have called the police, or took refuge into some bar, or some shit like that. There aren’t many people who would have just trapped their stalker against a wall. Just like the time in the mirror house, when you bait me into going there to fight me. You could have just gone to a cop, they were all over the place but no, you decided to fight me yourself.” He pressed himself against the young boy a bit more. “I’m not blaming you. A good fight can be really entertaining.”
Maybe it was his current state, being heart-broken but at the same time thrilled to fight, but Bruce didn’t feel like lying to Jerome. Anyway it was true, and it’s not like Bruce could convince him otherwise. “Fine. Got me. You wanted the same, right? I mean, you have no followers with you right now, no eccentric outfit, just one gun and you said you were bored. You’re probably preparing something but it won’t be for now. I’d say you have to wait, and you hate that.”
“Ha, not bad. There is one thing you didn’t guess, though.”
“I also wanted to enjoy the night, under such a lovely moon. Full moon always makes me giddy!”
“A paperclip on a rice cake would make you giddy, Jerome.” The redhead laughed once more, he wasn’t completely wrong. It didn’t take much to spark his enthusiasm. He looked up and suddenly made a howling sound, like a wolf would. Bruce jumped in surprise and looked at him with wide eyes: “what was that?!” The redhead laughed. “Ever saw the clip Thriller?”
“From Michael Jackson? Yeah, didn’t think you would like that kind of music.”
“Mostly that song, I’m not a fan of the rest, but that guy had style, he knew how to perform, I must acknowledge that. You ain’t a big fan, though, am I right? Emo music would be your style.”
This was obviously a mockery, Bruce rolled his eyes once more, that was something he was used to do with Jerome, now. “Actually no, emo music bores me. And what about you, you listen to carnival compilation all day?”
“Nah, that’s just for shows! I’m sometimes nostalgic of the circus atmosphere, not the people living in there, but the general thing.”
“Why are we even discussing music?”
“Why not? Oh yeah! I remember! I was speaking about Thriller because the whole atmosphere right now reminded me of that, kind of. A little couple walking through dark streets, a howl in the night…”
“Couple? What kind of drugs did you take?”
“Come on! You’re what? Seventeen? I’m twenty-one, so it’s legal. We’re both handsome and half of Gotham seem to be LGBT; So we could be a couple.”
“Yeah, I’ll pass.” He surely didn’t feel that lonely. He could feel Jerome’s gaze on him and strangely he wasn’t that surprised. He would always give him weird nicknames and all, and sometimes the way he just looked at him…Whatever, there was no way he would let that happen one day!
“Your loss. Anyway, there was something which did remind me of it.”
“Are you gonna dance around me like in the clip? Or do you expect me to do it?”
This surprised Jerome: so Bruce had some humor in him? Too bad he didn’t let it express more often! “I’m not sure I want to see you dance, Bruce; it would be a disaster. Now, dancing around you would be fun, but nah, I’m just gonna hold you tight. It’s sad Jeremiah isn’t here, he would have enjoyed it. But I’m glad to have you for myself for once!”
“Great! Now, where are we going, seriously?”
“Well, I don’t like having you under gun threat all night. I’d rather show you a place I’m very fond of. You should follow me, you might see and learn things which will interest you.”
“Why would you show me such a place?”
“Why not? Bruce, since how long have we been playing that game? Four years? It seems like you don’t know me. I’m bringing you there because it seems fun to do it…Actually you know what? I’m gonna keep you under the threat of a gun, that way you won’t get away to call the police on my ass.”
He brought the young man before a building which looked as normal as any other. There was a big guy at the entrance. When he saw Jerome he bowed his head slightly, looking almost submissive. He was twice bigger than Jerome, and yet he was scared of him! They descended stairs and they started to hear loud music. It was Metal, just like Bruce liked, it was aggressive, punchy, the kind which would shake your bones and send shiver into your whole body, the one which would make you out of our mind and arouse you. He didn’t say anything about it, though, because Jerome seemed to enjoy that as well, and he didn’t want to let him know they liked the same kind of music.
The atmosphere inside…Some were dressed in a really weird way, and it was obvious this was a dangerous place, between the fights, the ones who looked stoned or even unconscious and the general atmosphere. You could feel you could easily become a prey. Yet Bruce wasn’t about to be scared so easily. In fact, he was guilty to feel some excitement being in there. A lot of people greeted Jerome and looked at Bruce questioningly. Some of those guys were followers, others were just thugs coming to have fun. “You can drink alcohol here, no one gives a shit about your age.”
“Yeah, not sure this is a good idea when you have a gun pointed at me.”
“Come on, we never drank together.”
“That’s because you tried to kill me every time we met.”
“I know, baby, I can be a bit rough with you,” Jerome sighed theatrically.
“Seriously, just shut up.”
Jerome was about to say something else when he spotted something and dragged Bruce to the bar. Bruce recognized Jeri, he had already met her, he guessed she had to relocate her ‘business’. She was behind the counter, talking to someone, and Bruce recognized Jeremiah. Oh hell, not both twins! The young man was looking at his phone, obviously entirely focused.
“Hey, Jerome! Hi, Bruce! Long time no see,” she said enthusiastically. Jeremiah rose his head at the mention of the two names and Jeri went on: “What do you wanna drink?”
“Three shots of vodka.”
Completely forgetting his work, Jeremiah solely watched Bruce. Jerome turned to his brother, smiling proudly: “Look at that, Miah! I found a stray!”
“I think it has a home, should we give it back to his owner?”
“Very funny! Is it why you brought me here? For some stupid jokes with your brother?”
“I didn’t even know he was here, promise! Weren’t you going to work at home?” Jerome asked
“Why should I stay home alone all night? I wanted some company, and it seems like I wasn’t the only one.”
He looked at Bruce arrogantly but fondly as well. “I wasn’t expecting my best friend to be here. What are you up to this time?”
“Ex-best friend. And your brother deduced I was just having fun beating thugs in the streets.”
“Well I wouldn’t judge you, I guess it’s a hobby like another when it comes to people like us,” Jeremiah replied while taking his own drink. “Though I will rather drive them mad or shoot them, but everyone has their own method.”
“Making them explodes with bombs and grenades is the best way to do it!” Jerome claimed while taking his drink and handing Bruce his. “Come on, Bruce. Let’s play a little game while drinking. What do you think about it, Jeremiah?”
“I don’t know about Jeremiah, but I’ll pass,” Bruce declared before the other twin could say anything. “Which one of you came up with this plan?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because I want to know which one of you I’ll have to thank for the next mess we’ll have to fix.” His real intention was to get a hint, he would have a better understanding of the future events thing if he knew which one of the brothers came up with those.
Jeremiah shrugged at this. “A drinking game with you could have been fun…But for now, I think we’ll just keep you with us for some times, we can’t have you leave and tell everything about what you just saw.”
“Wohoo! How about we lock him in the basement? You’ll like it Bruce, it’s full of tools!”
Jeremiah nodded and his smirk showed he loved the idea. He was already looking at Bruce as if he was dessert and the boy didn’t like that one bit. But then, that was something he could use…Approaching Jeremiah slowly, he looked at him defiantly. “You think you can do that? You two are hardly able to do anything but run whenever you don’t have a gun pointed at me, or a bomb to threaten me. So don’t try to act like threats.”
This made the two furious obviously. Jeremiah’s anger was cold but Jerome was boiling. He gripped Bruce by the arm and made them face each other: “You think we’re scared? Obviously, you haven’t learned your lesson, Bruce.”
He leaned closely toward Jerome, leaving only a small distance between them, standing tall and looking straight into his eyes. He even leaned his lips slightly and for a second, it seemed to everyone around they were about to kiss. He could see how it was enticing Jerome. “Teach me again.”
One of the redhead’s hands circled Bruce’s neck: “With pleasure.”
He put his gun back in his holster and everything went fast. Bruce immediately grabbed the closest glass and smashed it against his head. He ran toward the exit before anyone could react. Both Jerome and Jeremiah recovered from their first stun and went after him.
Running through the club, they took the same exit as him. At first, they didn’t see him, and they were about to try to look out for him when Jeremiah yelped and brutally fell as a form jumped on him. Bruce punched him right in the jaw and went right on his feet as Jerome lunged toward him. The bouncer rushed to them, but Jeremiah drew out his gun.
“Stay out of this!”
Jerome and Bruce were gripping at each other and exchanging blows, Jeremiah rushed into the fight. Bruce elbowed Jerome in the chest but didn’t dodge a kick in the side from Jeremiah. With swift cat-like steps, he took enough distance to see both of them coming. For a short instant, a tense silence settled. Thrill was almost palpable.
“So you didn’t run,” Jeremiah panted while sweeping blood away from his chin.
“Did you seriously think I would? I just wanted this to stay between us.”
Jerome chuckled darkly, the sound coming almost languorous. “Just like I said…You want a thrill.”
When they lunged at one another, dodging and throwing blows, Jeremiah strangely felt as if they were both dancing. Bruce was a fierce opponent, but the twins weren’t as easy to beat as Sonny and his thugs. They were sneaky and swift; none of them would be taken down easily.
Bruce punched Jerome and Jeremiah grabbed his wrist. He tried to bend it behind the boy’s arm, but Bruce pulled on his arm strongly. Jeremiah didn’t release him but pulled the young man toward him instead and tried to hit him but Bruce seized his arm. They realized now they were pinned against each other, and holding their wrists. They could feel each other breath. Jeremiah suddenly went and tried to bit his neck and his teeth brushed the skin before Bruce pushed and kicked him away. Jerome came back at him.
They heard some of the club clients coming out. They gathered around them, making a human ring around their fight. Jerome smirked hugely, the blood leaking on his chin making him. “Well, that isn’t going well for your privacy wants, Bruce!”
The boy knew he couldn’t win that fight. Even if he beat them, the ones around would jump on him, and he was clearly outnumbered. He didn’t thought he would use it tonight, but it didn’t matter. He threw himself at Jerome and acted as if he was about to punch him. The man dodged easily but Bruce just plunged toward a piece of broken cement. He threw it at the only light of the street.
Several yells of surprise echoed as the light broke and everything was plunged in darkness. Then, Jerome’s laugh echoed, like the cackle of a hyena. “Oh, Bruce, do you seriously imagine that will….”
Blinding light assaulted them.
After the almost complete darkness, this felt like their eyes were burning! Screams and yelps of pain could be heard throughout the street.
The roof! Of course, he went through the fire-escape! He started to run after him and Jeremiah took out his gun and fired once in the air, stunning all the cultists and clients.
“Stay away from this, it’s between us!”
He then followed his brother, and they tried to look everywhere for the young man, but in the end, they had to admit the obvious: he escaped. Jerome let out a frustrated growl. The kid disappeared thanks to a trick, yes, but he had also been swift as hell! He had been able to defeat them, and thanks to only a few tricks!
Jeremiah couldn’t help but giggle at his twin’s reaction. He put a hand on Jerome’s shoulder and shrugged. “What’s the matter? Don’t you enjoy a challenge?”
He took deep breath, his twin’s words soothing him a bit. Yes, all in all, this had been very entertaining, he had to admit it. It would have been boring otherwise. He supposed this was worth failing. But there was still frustration stinging.
“Still wish we got him in our room.”
“Don’t worry, he’ll come back to us. That’s how our game works. He knows we’re preparing something and he’ll never be able to stay back. And then, maybe we’ll finally be able to get him.”
“Yeah…Is it me, or you’re starting to enjoy this more and more? You’re becoming less and less serious about all that stuff.”
“The more it goes, the more I see the futility of all this. All those mobsters, they just go round and round for money, power, stuff they hardly enjoy in the end. So why should I do like them? You know what I like? Creating and destroying and that whole game we have.”
“We’re the same, the three of us…Looking for a thrill and nothing else.”
Jerome looked up at the moon once again and howled once more. At his surprise Jeremiah joined him. The twins howled up at the moon, hoping that wherever he was, Bruce could hear.