**Disclaimer: The opening quote is taken, verbatim, from this article in the Guardian, an English newspaper. I had actually prepared this chapter a few weeks ago but felt quite underwhelmed by the--to me--frivolity of it all. I rewrote ninety-five percent of it and this is the--hopefully better--result. The business with Terry and Melanie on the floor was inspired by events in Mad Men's season two, episode ten, "The Inheritance." As for the second part, I've been toying with this idea regarding Kick for a long, long time and finally got it down. A bit of forewarning, there is some mild-grade incest. If it can be such. Rest assured he was, and continues(d) to be, unawares. It is not, in any way, graphic but if you're as squeamish as I usually am, I would skip everything after the first Hughes' stanza and just wait for the next update. That said, the excerpts are from Langston Hughes' poem "Cross," and I'm fairly certain his short story "Father and Son" had an effect too though this is noticeably less violent. So, references to adult situations lie therein.** *** "Twenty years ago he was extremely dangerous," Blier says, recalling the young Depardieu. ‘We literally had to follow him at night to stop him getting into punch-ups. He would deliberately go into the most dangerous areas, looking for trouble. Even now when he arrives at the door, I think, Chr*st, where are the valuables?’" *** The low thunk fell heavy in the bottom of the wastepaper basket, softened by last Easter’s sawdust. Melanie reached into the elaborate heart-shaped box at the end table in her sitting room and grasped a few more chocolates between delicate fingertips. Where once they’d nimbly snatched baubles and diamonds, they now lazily tossed candies, not exactly savoring the way dust kicked up in the corner. Terrence had sent her candy and flowers Valentine’s Day and every day that followed for a week. She’d ignored him, even when she went to the manor to see Ms. Selina about building up the land surrounding the farmhouse. She was considering purchasing the house outright and hosting the Bristol Hunt Club. Ms. Selina wasn’t exactly thrilled with what she considered “blood-thirsty pursuits,” but Melanie had ridden steadily since girlhood and was eager to introduce June to the sporting set as soon as possible. The small girl was already having her lessons but wasn’t yet old enough to compete in her mother’s eyes. Mr. Bruce was indulgent as always merely advising Melanie to submit the receipts to the downtown office; he would take care of the rest. Mrs. Wayne had, after all, been an avid horsewoman and while Bruce did not often ride in his day, he was more than capable as a field polo player at Columbia though he’d given it up when it interfered with his…studies. He’d even gone so far as to suggest Foxcroft over Westover once June reached the designated age to go away to school, but only if she showed…passion. Melanie finished out one box of candy and after tasting the choice pieces, she began to smash the centers out of each, squeezing them between her thumb and index fingers and shutting the box back. Kitty and June were on the rug before the hearth coloring, or at least in Kitty’s case, attempting to color. Melanie smiled, seeing that everything on the paper was an orange scribble of varying size. June was drawing a picture of the farmhouse. Melanie craned her neck outward and cocked her head, “Darling, why don’t you color the ground?” “Because snow is white Mama,” her daughter answered perfunctorily. “I see.” “What time is Daddy coming?” Melanie glanced at the clock on the wall, “Not for another three hours. That means you’ll be coloring for a little while longer, then you’ll have your nap and your bath and you’ll dress for dinner.” “Mama? What does daddy do in the city?” Melanie smirked though she did not mean it, “He works for Grandfather.” “At Grandfather’s building?” “Yes.” She lay down the purple crayon she’d been using to outline the cobblestones leading up to the front door, “I miss daddy. I wish he would stay here.” Melanie sighed, “I wouldn’t want to get your hopes up my heart. Daddy is quite…dedicated to his job. But he loves you. Don’t lose sight of that.” “Yes Mama.” Kitty gurgled and took up a green crayon and held it out to her mother, “Da!” Melanie got down to join them, “You want to draw daddy?” Kitty merely exclaimed once more, “Da! Da!” “Alright, let’s draw him.” “Won’t be necessary, he’s here in the flesh.” Melanie gave a start and turned, watching as June, squealing with delight, scrambled into her father’s arms there at the door and Kitty toddled toward him as fast as she could. He scooped them both up and hugged them. Melanie dropped the crayon and stood, “I didn’t expect you so soon.” Terrence, wary of their daughters’ presence, nodded, “I know you usually like to go out to the stables when I get in. I wanted to make sure I caught you. We…need to talk.” She watched him survey the room, taking in the wastepaper basket of discarded roses and candies. His jaw hitched and he turned his attention to the girls, bouncing them in his arms and kissing their necks, eliciting giggles. “I’ve brought presents from grandpa,” he forced a smile, “they’re in the nursery.” Melanie made a face, “Not the…” Terrence shook his head, “No. I took those back, I brought the Steiff, just one little one each.” June got down and took her sister in her arms, “Come on Kitty!” He watched them off, “Be careful Junie, walk slowly and let Kitty down.” “Qui papa,” she called back and they were gone. Terrence slung his bag down and took up the top flap, “I’ve something for you too.” He pulled out a Steiff novelty Fozzie Bear, “I know you loved the Muppet Show as a kid, if only because you only saw it three or four times.” She sucked in her breath and took it gingerly in her hands, “I love it.” “Maybe it won’t end up in the trash then.” She hugged it for good measure, honestly liking it very much but not necessarily him. Not right now, “Where shall we talk?” He scratched behind his ear and she gave him a once-over. Hers and Mr. Bruce’s combined efforts to get him to dress “as a gentleman should” had mostly paid off. His hair was neatly shorn, there was no stubble at his chin and though he disliked neckties most of the time, he did find sweaters an acceptable alternative. While Mr. Bruce did require his executives to dress for the boardroom, his own son rarely stepped foot inside of one, happy to leave those duties to Andy and to a greater extent, the Yes Men. However, as a sort of birthday present to his father, Terrence had managed to lure Lucius Fox’s youngest grandson Anthony back from Foxtech. This too had the advantage of freeing up more daytime for his nightly duties. Terrence sat down on her sofa and rested his chin atop his fist, “Max wrote, she’s coming home from Asia finally. Maybe we can have dinner, introduce her to Tony.” Melanie shrugged, “He’s black, she’s black, so naturally…” “That’s not what I mean at all. They’re both crazy about the latest technological advancements. And he’s looking for new R and D technicians. Max, aside from her sojourn, would be a perfect candidate. And if they…hit it off, what harm could it do?” “She’s been out of the country for nearly eight years. I thought merely a year outside of engineering was enough to render someone obsolete.” “Outside of studying Buddhism she’s actually been integral to introducing modern water irrigation and utilitarian techniques to the outlying Asian public. Some of those villages she saw still used ground wells for goodness’ sake. She’s on her proverbial game.” “Then I take it the war has given her incentive to come home?” He nodded, “The monastery was bombed, she wrote they’d built a shelter in the vegetable garden but not everyone made it in. She said…there were arms and legs strewn about the cabbage. She wrote she’ll need to talk to someone when she gets back, take a load off.” Melanie made a face, “You’re so…how can you be so…calm?” “She’s alive.” Melanie didn’t press the issue, “I think I’ll have my bath while the girls are preoccupied.” He shifted in his seat, “Oh yea?” “What is it? Do you want to join me?” “I thought we were talking?” “All I hear is small talk…I’m a bit impatient so this waiting for the big talk bores me.” He frowned and followed her insistent form out and next door to her bedroom. He sat in the chair in her bathroom and didn’t leave when she summoned her maid. She looked perturbed, “What? Are you staying?” “Yes.” Melanie dismissed her girl in French and Terrence didn’t enjoy the wary look the girl gave him as she left. He got up and started the water for her and stood waiting, watching as she undressed. He ignored the faint arousal that reddened his neck and tried to concentrate, “When I was outside, I almost knocked. And I asked myself ‘are you really knocking on your own door McGinnis?’” Melanie didn’t respond, she busied herself with adding the bath soap and he let his eyes roam her curves. She was naturally of the French mind where exercise was concerned and preferred meaningful pursuits over “torturing” herself aboard a machine. Thus she was slim and still petite but no longer particularly toned. The contrasted form in his memory stuck out momentarily but he forgot it as she stepped into the footed tub and her breasts swayed with the effort. He sank onto the toilet lid and stared at the tiled floor, blinking bloodshot, exhausted. The worst possible administrative decision he could name was instituting that citywide blackout and curfew. In Gotham City that was like standing on a street corner with a sign announcing what time you’re liable to go to bed as well as your address, just in case any thieves might want to stop by. He flattened his hand against his forehead, cold and sweated out and not having really slept for what felt like the past two and a half years. But that hadn’t stopped him from boarding the commercial train and riding two hours out. He’d promised to spend the day with his girls and that was what he fully intended to do. Melanie watched him, noting the fatigue and feeling…tenderness for him. She sighed, already regretting the decision, “Take off your clothes and get in.” He looked at her, startled. “Yes, quickly, quickly.” He stood wearily, the gentle, happy façade he’d worn for their daughters having completely melted away. He looked skeptical, coolly aware of the lack of intimacy between them for the better part of the last year or more. They carried on amicably enough in front of their daughters, celebrating holidays and birthdays together. If and when he stayed at the house, they shared her bedroom but he slept on the floor. One previous weekend, however, he’d grasped her hand in the dark and coaxed her down into his arms. One or two merciless carpet burns and several hours later, he awoke to find the spot next to him empty and Melanie dressed for the day at the breakfast table. And true to form they did not talk about it. Now he shed his clothing and stepped into the hot water, wincing but enjoying the warmth nonetheless. Melanie scooted forward so that he could sit behind and after he was settled, she lay back into his arms. There was a fresh long scar encircling his elbow and she traced the red skin with her forefinger. They soaped and then reclined and he smelled lavender at the nape of her neck. He shut his eyes and let his head rest on her shoulder, “How long can this go on?” Melanie was massaging his right calve, “I suppose I ought to tell you, I’m not leaving you.” “No? You crossed the county line to get away from me.” “If I wanted to be away from you I would go to some dreadfully cliché little island. I’m sure Mr. Bruce knows plenty of places for me to get into trouble and lose myself in drink.” “That’s not funny. And don’t…don’t talk about him. Not when we’re…naked.” She laughed to herself, “Alright,” and started up his other leg. He watched her hands moving. Theirs was an unusually large bathtub and, as such, he could see everything she was doing if he simply leaned from one side to the other. In the dear, dim past he’d watched her bring herself satisfaction here and the thought now encouraged his manhood. He blushed and coughed, “So, that’s all you have to say. That you’re not leaving me?” “You are a very good man, in a general sense. You’ve not been whoring around without me. You’ve provided for me and our babies and you—in the words of my brother—tried to make me decent. And so, these last few months or so, I’ve had reason to wonder whether these faults lay with me instead.” He waited to see where she was going with this. That first part was certainly true, he’d waited patiently for her anger to lessen and in the meantime, as a precaution, he’d avoided any and all dinner invitations where Chelsea Cunningham might be expected to make an appearance. Not that there were no women in his periphery but certainly none who’d made such an overt overture. Chelsea had been ladylike but she had indeed anticipated climbing into his bed at some point and had even admitted as much to Melanie. He personally found this European frankness unnerving and chose to ignore it altogether. Melanie had been kind enough not to mention it since. She picked a piece of sock fuzz from beneath his toe and released it into the water, very much aware of what was going on in his nether regions but determined to say her piece, “You’ve got to understand something. I love you Terry. That isn’t going to change. But I…the Batman has never been of much use to me. To be honest, I rather wish you’d never told me.” “How can you say that?” his voice was small. Melanie sighed and leaned back fully once more, “I hate him. I have hated him for years. I thought I’d matured, that the feeling had lessened. I was able to understand that my father, and even my mother, were the ones who’d been wrong, not Batman. But when you revealed yourself to me…well, I may have been a thief but I’ll be damned if I was ever dishonest. Not to you. “To find out that…that you were the Batman all along, and that you knew and had the gall to sleep with me, to impregnate me, to not give a damn…now I’m just not sure whether the love I have for you will…survive.” He folded his hands together atop his head and felt his eyes stinging, felt the fatigue sinking back into his bones. He’d been a fool to imagine that she’d ever be for him what Selina had been for Bruce. After all, Selina’s family had destroyed itself; Terry had personally corralled Pieter Walker and tossed him into the paddy wagon, “I’m…I’m…you’re right Mel. I’m sorry. You don’t know what being Batman’s meant to me. It’s allowed me to help people, to try to redeem myself.” He took a deep breath, “I’ve had to learn a lot about class since I’ve…since I took the name Wayne. And I do still get the whispers, the haughty stares. I could give less than a damn now. And though I’ve resented it like hell, my old man’s done more for this city in and out of the cowl then I could ever hope to. I was a low punk. A gutless, sniveling wimp who could’ve sworn the world had it out for me. I was beneath contempt and I’ll have to live with the consequences my whole life.” Melanie’s voice softened, “I know. I do know Terry, that’s…the part I love. That’s the only thing that’s made putting this all together bearable. I know it wasn’t malice on your part, but we were dirt poor for a moment there. Now Jacky…” Terrence’s brow flattened, “I don’t like thinking about what your brother does, it bothers me.” Melanie took up her washcloth and began to rinse the soap off, shaking her head, “You don’t understand. In some ways Jacky’s, shall we say, of a feminine mind, and I don’t mean because he’s gay. I mean that, for women, sometimes you just have to do things to take care of yourself. In that respect he’s very practical and lucky. He’s with a man who adores him and he feels the same way. If he can live with it, so can I. And…what Queenie doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” He waited a long beat before asking, “But…Isn’t the guy married?” “I don’t concern myself with what isn’t my business,” she said in such a way as to let him know the matter was closed. “I see. Well, then, when will you know? I mean, about whether or not you love me anymore?” She sighed, saddened, “I didn’t mean it that way; I don’t know what I mean to say. Only that I’ve got to get through it once more and it’s…difficult. But, if I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t be in your house and I wouldn’t have carried your children. And they are your children, not the Batman’s. If this is going to work then you can’t bring him home to me, he will not darken any of our doorsteps. You can do what you need to do but I don’t want to hear or see him.” “I…I don’t know what to say.” She shushed him, turning around to kiss the corner of his mouth, “Then don’t say anything.” *** My old man’s a white old man And my old mother’s black. If ever I cursed my white old man I take my curses back *** *1981* The old man paced and smoked and Kick thought of smoking too, feeling the outline of a baggy in his back pocket. Grandfather was agitated, debating silently to himself. Kick just wished he’d get the yelling or the berating or even the beating over with, whatever was the matter. He knew Mrs. Coleman, the housekeeper, had written some emotional little letter concerning his conduct with her daughter. He knew Phillip had received said letter Wednesday and had his old friend Teddy Eubanks drag the boy from his dormitory the previous night. He knew he was going to get the proverbial it, be it a tongue lashing or worse. He might have guessed as much. Her name was Delilah Coleman, a Spellman graduate, eleven years older than he and home to Chicago to visit her mother. She was interviewing for a position at Johnsons Publishing this coming Tuesday. She was smart and charming and beautiful and, maybe regrettably, a colored girl, thus any designs or long term plans wouldn’t be a consideration. She’d babysat him as a little boy and now he was tall and striking and had lost that stutter. He was home for the weekend, ostensibly to rotate his laundry. In reality he’d wanted to see how she turned out and wasn’t surprised. She was…positively graceful, a halo of hair about her head arranged in an afro, comfortable in mohair and silk, always skirted. He hated women in pantsuits. He wasn’t trying to be vulgar nor was he trying to lead her on. When he’d tried to kiss her in the den she’d laughed at him outright. This did not deter him in the least and she’d called him, not unaffectionate, little boy blue. Sunday night he’d gone to her room and locked the door. He was standing in his shorts and a tee shirt, raised like a flag. She seemed reluctant at first, then beckoned him close. They smoked a joint and she asked how old he was now. Nineteen. Just a kid. Maybe. There was no one in the house but her mother, asleep and unaware in the attic bedroom. He made her and she gave in. In the morning he caught his flight back to Connecticut, she took the train back into the city. Phillip stopped and leaned, casually for him, against his desk, “You don’t know what you’ve done boy.” Kick slouched into the couch cushions, “Okay.” “Sit up.” He sat up. Frowning, maybe curious, he saw his grandfather’s hands trembling. Grandfather wasn’t the easily…unsettled sort. What could he have done? Phillip brought a cigaretted hand to his brow, smoke trailing from his nostrils, reddened and coarse cheeked. He hadn’t eaten, bathed, dressed or shaved yet. It was seven in the morning, late for the old man, and the boy had barely slept himself. Phillip took a deep breath, “I don’t want you to see Delilah Coleman again.” “Oh,” the young man’s shoulders fell, amused, maybe disappointed, “You got me up to tell me how low Negroes are?” Phillip didn’t react, not sharply, not as Kick may have expected him to, “She’s…she’s too old for you.” “I didn’t have anything like carrying on in mind.” Now Phillip scowled, “Then perhaps, and this may not be a stretch, she’s too good for you.” Kick’s brow curled, “Come again?” Phillip’s thoughts were hidden completely behind that hand, “She’s a good girl. You don’t seduce the help, not in your mother’s house. That should be…common sense.” “Why? Too close to home?” Phillip stared at him, trying to figure whether that flippant, defiant attitude was a product of Anne’s family, the Van Ransts. But he knew better, he himself had been a dedicated thorn in Solomon’s side. He did not want to be too honest; his own…affairs…were just that. And true, Kirk couldn’t have known that Delilah was…is, Phillip corrected himself, his half-cousin. He could guess why the boy was taken with her; she’d inherited Cake’s beauty as well as her father’s intelligence. But she oughtn’t to trifle with young Kirk’s feelings, whatever they were; she was far too old for silly nonsense like this. Phillip had kept abreast of her activities, provided for her education, and supplied her with contacts once she’d decided to go the liberated woman route instead of marrying. He’d visited the Coleman household every year at Good Friday when she was a little girl, showering her with presents and dresses. He’d done the same for Jack as a boy, encouraging him to rise within the Negro social sphere. Jack had been every bit as capable as Philly or Kirky were but for that small racial handicap. Phillip had offered to put him through Yale, reminding him of Levi Jackson, but Cake had refused to let him go, worried he might be tempted to pass for white given his complexion and all the advantages that came with the Eastern establishment. She did not want her son to get any ideas about being more than he was, her history with Phillip notwithstanding. He thought she was ridiculous but was not in any position to argue. The boy went to Howard instead. When Jack had been killed…Phillip had hidden his grief well enough to attend to Judith, carrying on as he had been. He winced at the memory and put it away. But Delilah didn’t know who uncle Phillip was to her and he’d always intended to let it stay that way. Now, things were complicated. Phillip lit a fresh cigarette and sat down behind his desk, “Perhaps you ought to spend the summer here. You’re too…lacking in supervision. And you clearly don’t feel much compulsion to respect the bounds of your household.” “I’ve told you, I’m going to St. Louis to stay with Peter Farnsworth’s family till July.” Phillip didn’t seem to be listening, “This is my fault. I’ve let you get too out of hand. You don’t see Bruce running around, throwing himself at every girl as though he was a Bonobo chimp.” This time Kick scowled and muttered something under his breath that sounded quite near to an obscenity. “Speak up boy.” “I didn’t say anything.” “That’s what I thought…I anticipated your feeling shall we say reluctant to join me here, so I took the liberty of writing your father’s good friend Mr. Faraday.” Kick’s eyebrows perked, “King?” Phillip nodded, “You’ll have the weekend after the semester ends to yourself, then you’ll spend a week here before flying out to London to join Mr. Faraday. I’ve arranged for you to visit Cambridge for the summer, you’ll take a few courses and stay with Mr. Faraday and his wife. I’ve already informed Mr. and Mrs. Farnsworth. It goes without saying Kirk that I expect a good report. If I’ve any inkling you’ve looked at Mrs. Faraday one second too long, you’ll be on the first flight back here.” Kick’s voice was light, stunned…maybe delighted, “I…I would never do that to him. He’s…” Phillip waved his hand, “I know, I know.” Kick seemed to waver, unable to project his usual aura of imperturbability. “You may go. But I won’t say it again, don’t look at or speak to Delilah. Otherwise, I’ll have something for which you’re long overdue.” The young man stood, “Yes…sir.” *** My old man died in a fine big house. My ma died in a shack. I wonder where I’m gonna die, Being neither white nor black?