I wait for you, the sadist. (Cage, Dir en Grey)
"Have you read Misery?"
"I'm aware of the irony," Bruce said, "but no, I haven't."
Edward had a strange look on his face - totally incomprehensible, really, with his eyes and lips telling two completely different stories at the same time - when he gave a small, exasperated sigh at that response. Bruce figured it wasn't anything to do with his lack of literary knowledge at all, but that was hardly a wild assumption when he was watching Edward from across the room boredly scraping the rust off of the ankle chain with the back of his fingernail.
It was thin, old, but not the sort of thing you could break easily despite its small, compact size, spilling out from the concrete wall of the bunker - every word made it sound worse, Bruce thought, so he was trying to keep it simple and not bother putting a label on the less-than-ideal situation - and rattling against the same concrete floor as Edward constantly fiddled with it, as if bored, and stuck his fingers in-between the chain links. More than anything, Bruce knew it was secure.
Secure. Key word. Secure, secure, secure.
His skin looked paler than usual, wrapped in greyish metal, and was getting paler and paler by each day. It was incomprehensible how his white skin had gotten even whiter, almost translucent, to the point that Bruce could see the map of his blue veins beneath the thin layer of flesh - of course, not so incomprehensible that it didn't have an obvious explanation. You take a human and put them underground, they'll get pale. A simple and easily understood course of events.
From Bruce's observation, said person will also leave marks in the concrete previously thought impossible from the obsessive scratching and, on the very first day, trash the entire place - at least the parts that he could reach with the chain's restriction on his movement - by throwing cans of food at the walls and beating at the thick, bomb-proof iron door.
The place was made to withstand a nuclear winter. It was probably a little more elaborate than the average bomb shelter, but it was perpetually stuck in the eighties when it was last tended to. The calendars were out of date. Everything was collecting dust. There was a fat stack of cassette tapes chosen for their potential to enrich the humanity of tomorrow - English For Beginners, Classic American Literature, The Godfather (I, II, and III, naturally), a few children's programmes - and even more books, most dog-eared and previously read, that Bruce had assumed would peak Edward's interest.
He was wrong, of course. Edward was miles away, in a world of his own, and spent most days doing absolutely nothing, Bruce presumed. He couldn't watch Edward or the time, let alone be with him in person, and so he settled for biweekly visits where he would offer food, sometimes conversation, and the same ultimatum that he'd given Edward what seemed to be a million times before.
"Prove to me that you've reformed or I'll leave you here to starve to death, alone and terrified, with nobody to kill you but yourself."
The actual request was totally nebulous, even to Bruce himself, who had no comprehension of what he was looking for when he asked for reformation. Real, tangible change was basically immeasurable and completely redundant when he was dealing with a liar who would, quite probably, say absolutely anything to get out bondage. Actually, his being a liar was totally irrelevant - anybody, no matter how strict their moral code was, would say anything for their own life. It was human instinct. You could be basically suicidal and still try to fight for your own freedom when it came down to it.
Besides, it was a humiliating way to die, completely forgotten and unloved by anybody in the end. Bruce had thought about killing him with his bare hands - shooting him or strangling him to death - but he couldn't, not even if he knew that logically it would be more humane than cementing the entrance to the Wayne bunker shut and letting him wither away. He would be alright for a while, of course, but soon enough the water tank would run out and he would find himself with nothing left to eat and slowly, surely, feeling the palpable consequences of his own actions, he would starve to death. Maybe he would chew his own hand off and try to bleed to death or cut his own throat, but Edward was basically too self-obsessed to try to kill himself.
"Your family weren't big fans of commies, then?"
Bruce furrowed his brow. He gestured vaguely at Edward for the man to hold out his hands. Obligingly, Edward's bony, knobbly fingers and the sickly skin around them pressed against the palms of Bruce's hands as he carefully secured the handcuffs around his thinning wrists. The inside of Edward's wrists were so white that it was like staring straight at death itself - he was halfway to becoming a cadaver, with sinking cheeks and glasses that slid down his face more often, but Bruce was trying, more or less, to keep him well-fed.
"What do you mean?"
Edward's conjoined wrists fell to the floor with a rattle from the handcuffs.
"I mean," he said, "why build a bunker for a nuclear war?"
"Paranoia, I would assume," Bruce said.
Once he'd put on the handcuffs, he walked back to the entrance where he'd placed the paper bag of KFC. It was a stupid request that Edward had given him last time Bruce visited, but to Bruce it was just fried chicken. He would make sure to get rid of all the bones when he left, just in case Edward had some bright idea about digging his way out with a wishbone.
"And you're not paranoid?"
Bruce opened up the box of chicken. There were grainy mashed potatoes and a gloopy, gelatinous gravy on the side that had congealed throughout the journey. Without responding to Edward's question, he held up the chicken to Edward's dry mouth and let him take a large bite of the meat.
He smiled as he chewed, specks of flesh between his sharp teeth, and reminded Bruce that no matter what he did - no matter how many warnings or ultimatums that he gave Edward - he couldn't get to him. Despite how insecure he was, Edward was so firmly rooted in his ideas that there was nothing that could get in his way, not even a slow, humiliating, lonely death to complete his slow, humiliating, lonely life.
"Thank you," Edward said, sounding ungrateful. "Can I have a cigarette?"
"Since when did you smoke?"
"I don't, but if I'm going to die at some point, I'd like to try it."
"No. You can't. There's no ventilation and it'd smell like cigarettes for weeks."
Edward shrugged as Bruce spooned a globule of wet, sort of sticky, mashed potato into his mouth. He was so ill-looking that he had become pretty, almost like a girl, with hair growing past his neck and eyes that swallowed his face like two big, black abysses that promised oblivion and certain death. His mouth was small and shy, his cheeks more defined from the lack of food, and his glasses looked odd on a face that was no longer soft and round.
He didn't need to chew. He just swallowed obligingly.
"I can think of worse things," said Edward.
Bruce bit his lip. "I don't want to make you uncomfortable, Edward."
"I'm in some gross, dingy bunker beneath Bruce Wayne's mega-mansion and I'm supposed to just sit here and feel bad about myself? Who are you? Who do you think you are, the Bat?"
"No." Bruce wasn't sure he could even call himself that anymore. It felt wrong, like the suit had loosened around his body. "No, I don't, but I do want to help this city no matter what."
"So do I."
"No, you want to flood the city and ruin the lives of millions. Our goals are hardly comparable."
Edward gave him a knowing look, but he kept it to himself as he chewed thoughtfully on the fried chicken that Bruce gave him. From that point onwards, he fed Edward in relative silence and watched him bite, chew, then swallow hard. His face was blank and emotionless as if he really couldn't care less about the situation at hand - to him, Bruce was an inconvenience, not a threat. He'd clearly settled on the idea that if he truly, wholeheartedly wanted Edward dead, he would've killed him already. The preamble cemented in Edward's mind that, at the very least, Bruce was unsure about what the future would hold.
He gave him books and junk food and water and a fairly decent waste disposal system for the eighties. He asked about Edward's life. He seemed sympathetic, though detached, but firm in his convictions that what Edward had done - try to kill him, that was - was wrong. Regardless of how morally incorrect Edward was, though, there was something deeply depraved - but not entirely unequal - about the method of punishment that Bruce had chosen. Moreover, the sheer fact that he had given him a goal that was not unachievable but extremely, ridiculously difficult was proof enough that even Bruce didn't know whether or not he wanted Edward dead.
"This isn't about the city," Edward said, "this is about your ego, right? You're too special to die."
"I know it is. No need to lie. What's truth between friends?"
"We're not friends."
Edward leaned into him and smiled toothily. "We're not?"
"No, we're not."
"Right," he said, almost in a whisper, "then why do you keep having sex with me?"
It wasn't proper sex, Bruce had decided, because he didn't care that Edward was a guy, so it couldn't be gay, and they were both royally fucked-up in equal measure, at each other's throats even when they weren't. Edward was a virgin who needed braces and a haircut. Bruce was a brooding, lonely billionaire with no friends to speak of. When they collided, like a car crash and its blooming, rosebud-like tangle of metal, it was a natural consequence.
Besides, no proper, decent person would be turned on by needles, but Edward was all types of screwy - he needed a psychiatrist, not a gun license - and he had been blinking up at Bruce with those big, beautiful, crystalline green eyes as his left eye was washed out with yellowish iodine and Bruce was breathing so hot and heavy that Edward could almost taste it. The sensation was odd, but Bruce was kind enough to numb him before attempting any makeshift injections.
When the needle touched the jelly-like surface of his eye, tears pricked up in Edward's eyes as Bruce's firm hand held his face still and pressed his cheeks close into a pout.
The fact that Edward got a hard-on from that was, Bruce thought, a simple consequence of not having been touched sexually in any meaningful way before. His body was raging with hormones still and desperate, itching for some sexual contact - Bruce was just a vessel. He was fine with this. He had been fine for a long, long time, tolerating the discomfort as much as he possibly could, and nothing changed in that moment as he felt Edward's erection.
"Done," said Bruce. He had a lot of stray medical equipment laying around. The needle clattered down into a metal tray. "Edward?"
Edward's breathing was short and stiff.
Airing on the side of it not being real sex, there was never any - anal stuff involved, mostly because that intimidated Bruce and involved a whole song and dance getting it all sorted. What turned him on about Edward was the sheer stupidity of it, the flush of emotions all at once, and prolonging that would probably flush all the mutual attraction there was down the toilet. They were asking for pleasure first, not a whole bunch of questions, and Bruce was sure he wasn't gay.
Edward was less sure, but still would have called himself straight. It was like prison sex; you do it because you can, because there's nothing else, and you can close your eyes and pretend there's nothing weird or abnormal about the head of your dick down a man's throat.
Bruce couldn't breathe, but he wasn't the one sucking dick. Edward's mouth was warm and fairly welcoming - he didn't bitten his cock off, which was nice - and he seemed curious to explore, lick around, without thinking of the potential consequences. Bruce wondered if he was the first guy that Edward had ever wanted to suck off; if so, he felt almost special. He felt honoured - maybe - to be the first guy to enjoy the soft, velvety interior of Edward's cheeks and the tight press of his throat. What made it better, if it wasn't already good enough, was how into it Edward was. His eyes were sparkling below Bruce, twinkling like paradise, and he was letting him - no, wanting him - in the back of his throat.
Bruce was thinking, thinking, thinking all throughout the blowjob - thinking of touching Edward's hair but not wanting to be too sentimental or gay, thinking of Edward's body, thinking of girls that he could project onto Edward or how he could tell himself that Edward was basically a girl because of how little testosterone he seemed to possess - until he wasn't, when his mind went white and he couldn't think of anything else but how good he felt, from his fuzzy head to his twitching toes.
He'd had a blowjob before, but not like that one. It was all the raw feeling, the pinched nerves, that made Edward so passionate and interested in his cock - a rare quality when it came to blowjobs - and Bruce so receptive to his mouth, whining and grunting throughout when he was usually stone cold silent in the bedroom. He pulled out before he came and, wrists still handcuffed together, let Edward trace his cold hands across the shaft, two at a time, and jerk him off so kindly, so warmly despite the temperature, that when he came with a moan and a splatter across Edward's face he couldn't do anything but stay frozen with his softening cock sticking out of his pants and a blissed-out expression on his face.
There were tears caught in Edward's eyelashes like a spider's web after rain. The sticky beads of cum across his nose glistened in the fluorescent ceiling lights of the bunker.
"Does your eye hurt?" asked Bruce.
Edward licked his lips. He winced when he tasted cum, but tried to play it off as though the acrid, bitter flavour didn't disgust him.
"Not really," he said, lying, but so convincingly that Bruce shrugged it off and began doing up his belt.
"What’s white, sticky, and better to spit than to swallow?" Edward asked.
"Please kill yourself," Bruce replied.
Bruce, of course, did not want Edward to die.
At some point, Bruce stopped caring about the ultimatum and was glad, selfishly so, that he had Edward all to himself in the bunker. He was distantly aware of how dark of a secret it was to keep a person locked away, but he comforted himself with the idea that Edward had nobody to miss him. He had nobody to leave behind, nobody to remember him, and nobody but Bruce to love him.
It wasn't love, nor was it gay, but it was someplace in-between that had no logical explanation outside of being some sort of fucked-up psychosexual desire.
Bruce wondered if Edward missed the grey, bruised sky of Gotham. He wondered if he missed rain across his skin, smoke in his eyes, or sun pooling in his collarbones during the summer. He wondered if Edward would ever change. He wondered if their connection was entirely meaningless to him - if he let Edward go, would he look back and say that what they had felt for each other was just a façade? If it was just some long, elaborate game of charades, Edward had done a pretty good job of convincing Bruce that the spark in his chest could eventually burst into a full flame.
He also sucked dick well, with a strange technique that Bruce had no idea where he learned, and eagerly, taking it like a real champ, open to praise and compliments and hands in his hair like a puppy searching for approval from its master. The whole dynamic scared Bruce a little, of being so responsible for another person, but the veil lifted when Bruce was trying desperately to wipe come from Edward's face and failing, only making it stickier and harder to remove. There was something in Edward, a real zest for life, and maybe it had taken a little danger, a little mortal threat, to realise that he did care after all.
At least, that was what Bruce told himself.
"I read that book," Bruce said. He had a bag in his hang from a convenience store that Edward's eyes kept on darting to, back and forth between his face and the rustling plastic. "I don't really like Stephen King. I think he's overrated."
"And a sexual pervert."
"Overrated and a sexual pervert," Edward repeated.
Bruce sat down cross-legged on the floor on front of Edward and began removing the items from the plastic bag. An egg sandwich, which Edward liked, and a diet soda on the side, as well as a packet of Gitanes and a blue lighter to match.
"You might want to eat the sandwich before you smoke the cigarettes," Bruce advised.
Edward reached for the packet without handcuffs. His fingernails needed trimming. Bruce imagined peeling Edward down by the bathtub and grooming him - massaging shampoo into his tired scalp, conditioning his hair, trimming his nails, shaving his body hair until he had beautiful, pale, girlish legs, plucking his eyebrows...But no, he liked seeing Edward manly just as much, the pale shadow of facial hair across his chin and the sharpness of his body. He liked Edward as he was, as he could be, and as he never would be - his, belonging to Bruce, just like a beautiful Chinese vase or a lakeside property in the summer. His value would only increase.
If he died, Bruce thought, his value would hold true.
"Serge Gainsbourg smoked them," Bruce said.
Edward shrugged. "And John Lennon."
"Does he matter to you?"
"No," said Edward earnestly, "the only man who matters to me is Bruce Wayne."