SPIFFY DISCLAIMER THINGIE!

Ah do not own The Batman, Ra's Al Ghul, nor any other people depicted in this story! DC comics does! fume fume This is a work of fanfiction done for moi's own enjoyment and not intended to infringe upon copyrights held by DC comics or any others! So don't sue moi! eeeppp

Rated PG-17 for mature themes and frank m/m sexual references! So, if'n that sort of thing squicks ya'll, then best skedaddle!

Thanks go to Dark Lady for sponsoring the contest which sparked the creation of this fic! What a grand idea!:):) Villain slash! But, far as Ah'm concerned, any excuse to write nekkid Bruce is a good one! snicker snarf other unlady-like noises

Thanks also to Alice who set the original plot bunny hopping a long time ago in an e-mail exchange:):) Bless ya'll Sugah:):)

"The Rubayyat Of Omar Khayyam" is used without permission:):)

Rubayyat

A Villainous Tale by Dannell Lites

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

~Rubayyat Of Omar Khayyam~

I never knew what hit me. A blast of bright light and then ... nothing. It's not often I'm caught by surprise like that. I have no excuse. Spiraling down, down into the waiting, comforting darkness I seemed to hear my own voice mocking me.

'You need to be more careful, Clark. Invulnerable heroes like you rely too much on their invulnerability. It won't always save you."

I can yet recall Clark's small smile. 'You're right, Bruce,' he agreed. 'I'll do that.' I distinctly remember his blue eyes sparkling with soft mirth. 'You do the same,' he advised. It's a flaw. A potentially serious one in my opinion. But not just for invulnerable heroes, apparently. For overconfident ones, as well. I managed to keep myself from frowning, though just barely.

I'm not a man who likes to make mistakes. I'm not a man who can *afford* to make mistakes. I have no convenient superpowers to fall back upon. My 'court of last resort' is lodged firmly within my skull and when I don't use it quickly enough, I'm always at risk. It's the most agile part of my body, or so I've been told by some. It has to be..Clark was right, of course. If' I'd been watching my back as I should have, not counting on my own odd kind of invulnerability (some call it luck -- I call it preparation) to shield me, this would never have happened. I can be a great fool. I didn't watch my back; didn't shield myself as I should have. Now, I suspected, I was about to pay the price. I woke up slowly, a shaft of bright light piercing my eyes.

A draft of cool, refreshing breeze washes across my wakening body, and the softness cradling me is enticing. So very, very enticing ... Instinctively, I curl into plump pillows and the silken sheets caress my weary, abused body like a lover. I hurt. Everywhere. A hand strokes my cheek and a voice, low and vibrant murmurs in my ear, then recedes like the calm waters of a sea. A strangely familiar voice; its accent , its tone...

"Ta-Talia?" I whisper.

"Sleep, now, Detective. Sleep."

And I do.

There is the sweet scent of fruitful incense to greet me this time when I come back to myself. Sandalwood, I think. Or could it be? Frankincense? Spikenard? Even myrrh? Carefully, I do not stir. I give no sign of my returning wits to betray me. I lie very still and not even the rhythm of my breathing changes. The bedding beneath me is soft, smoothest silk that flutters slightly in the cool breeze that flows over me. I am naked. I know that at once. I can feel it. I store the information away; data be to used later. My body is unclothed, yes. But my cowl is in place, shielding me from all harm and the damning knowledge of men. So I'm not really naked after all, am I?

My ears bring me the soft pad of slippered feet upon the deep pile of Kapistan rugs, their vivid patterns of interlacing geometric designs woven so skillfully into the cloth, that grace the floor. I wait.

"You can sit up now, Detective. The drugs have had time to wear off by now. You forget how well I know you."

That voice.

No, not Talia. Never Talia. But, under the circumstances, it's easy to see how I might have confused the two, isn't it?

"Ra's." My throat is bone dry and scratchy but I manage that much and still sound like myself.

I lever myself up, leaning against the plush cushions for support. For a moment my head spins and I close my eyes. Standing up will have to wait. I don't trust myself just now. And it wouldn't be wise to display any sort of weakness before him just now, I think. A hot shaft of sunlight glints off his high, aristocratic cheekbones for a moment, turning his skin to polished bronze as he turns to a small table. His bare back is broad and strong, the supple muscles coil and flow beneath his flesh like finely forged steel covered in velvet. My mother had a gown the exact shade of his skin. My favorite. I always loved to see my beautiful mother clothed in it. They called the color 'ashes of roses'.

His jet black eyes, like a yawning abyss, pierce me when he turns to me again. He smiles. "You must be thirsty if I recall those particular drugs as well as I think." He holds the finely crafted goblet, hewn in the shape of a demon's head out to me in invitation. From the polished inside, the deep ruby red of the drink within reflects itself in murmuring liquid tones like dying sunlight on the sea. Irrationally, I wonder if he's ever seen the sea. Foolish. Of course he has. He must have seen the look in my eye, too, as I espied the drink in his proffering hand. A look of impatience grips him for a brief moment, but his voice is pleasing and calm when he chuckles, as though at the antics of a small child.

"No need to worry, Detective," he assures me. "I've no need to drug you any further. Nor desire to do so. It's quite safe." With that, he sips from my intended cup, a tiny smile of amusement tippling the corners of his wide mouth, pleasantly arching his full lips. "Quite tasty, actually." is his judgment.

He's right. Like a desert born hawk soaring aloft on the burning winds of a sirocco, a hot, dry wind from the south, he alights, perching on the frontiers of the bed where I lay, watching me drink. I force myself to go slowly, affording him no clue to just how thirsty I am. Tart and sweet, the beverage is cool and soothing to my abused throat. I think I can be forgiven the small sigh of pleasure that escapes me. Very refreshing. Some sort of fruit juice, I imagine. I'm not sure why that should surprise me. Ra's Al Ghul is a devout Moslem, after all, and Allah forbids alcohol to His Servants.

"What need do you have of me, then, Ra's?" I inquire softly. "What do you want with me?"

"To talk," he says. "Only to talk, Detective ... Don't you think that it's past time that we did?"

My hands tighten their grip on the silver goblet until my knuckles whiten and the many, small scars, eroded by time, now, stand out in stark blood red contrast. "We have nothing to talk about, Ra's." My lips twitch, distorting themselves into an ugly sneer and my voice is deep with ringing finality.

One elegant, sculptured eyebrow lifts itself skyward in ironic merriment. "Have we not? In the past we have talked of many things, you and I, my young friend."

I glance away in disgust. "Talia? How many times are we going to have this conversation, I wonder? You know my answer to *that* by now. How many other men, I wonder, have you tempted with her beauty since you gave her to Bane?" For an unguarded moment my heart pounds and I fear he may see the pain living in my eyes. Talia... lovely Talia ... so loyal, so torn ... so damned.

Damned by her love for the man facing me. Her father.

A lot like me, actually; damned by my love of justice. Justice, and a city full of frightened innocent people who don't know me. Who fear me. Quite a life I've made for myself, isn't it?

Ra's nodded, but just as swiftly shook his silvered head in denial. "Rest easy, Detective. I've not brought you here this time to discuss my daughter. I'm not a fool. I should like to offer you other ... inducements ... and see what comes of that."

Beneath my concealing cowl my eyes narrowed in quick suspicion. "What ... 'other inducements'?" I demanded.

The hand he lay satin soft upon my naked hip was answer enough, but he spoke anyway.

"Me," he murmured.

I'm not an easy man to surprise, it must be admitted. But he managed. My eyes widened and, God help me, I think I paled. Against my will it seemed, my body tensed. I meant to fling him across the room, out onto the golden sands stretching to the blazing horizon. I swear I did. Then his hand moved languidly up my thigh, tracing lazy, sensuous circles in the flesh there. I swallowed and told myself that it was the taste of bile on my tongue and not the sharp, metallic flavor of my own passion raising in my throat. I bit my tongue and the pain of it kept me from moaning.

My body made the decision for me, as it often does. With a deep gust of indrawn breath it began, muscle by joyous muscle, to relax and accept the pleasure I was given. Perhaps ... perhaps that was best. After all, if I didn't at least pretend to cooperate, then I was doomed never to know what scheme Ra's might have in mind.

There had to be a scheme, didn't there?

His answering laughter was low, melodic, as if the thing he'd just tasted (my incredulity) was delicious beyond words. "Did you really think, Detective, that in all my six hundred years of life, I've known only women?" he smiled.

Struck dumb, I had no words to answer him and so I could only stare. Gently, he took my hand in his, entwining his long, elegant fingers with mine, stroking my palm, feather soft, tracing the life line there. It is a short one. Several people have remarked upon its brevity. Zatanna frowned when first she saw it. Then she brightened. "But you have the deepest heart line I've ever seen, Batman," she breathed, awestruck. "It's like a fissure, the Grand Canyon, running across your hand!"

Ra's traced the length of each of my short, blunt fingers and I shivered, snatching my hand from his grasp. He fetched it back, studying it intently for a moment. I sat very still. "You have a workman's hands, Detective," he tells me. "The hands of a skilled craftsman and hard laborer." The Demon covered my unsteady hand with his own more slender, supple one in comparison, smiling. "My mother once told me that I had the hands of an artist or a great lover."

"Master? Immortal One?" Fine timbred and melodious, the voice wafted from behind a discreet and concealing beaded curtain and, frowning, Ra's turned to answer it, a bit put out if I wasn't mistaken.

"Shall I sing for you, Oh Master of Assassins?"

Ra's nodded, then waved his hand in impatient dismissal. "Yes," he instructed. "Sing, Ahmed. By all means sing."

"To hear is to obey, effendi," the rich voice of Ahmed replied. "With what shall I grace your ears, this e'ven? The Zohar? 'The Brightness'?"

Ra's considered for a moment and then smiled as if suddenly privy to a secret that he alone knew. "No, Ahmed," he said, "raise your splendid voice in songs of love and desire. Paens to beauty and passion. I wish to speak of love, Ahmed."

"So let it be written," agreed Ahmed, quietly. "So let it be done."

A breath, a pause, and then loveliness emerged from that secluded, shadowed corner of this great, sumptuous tent.

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, --
and ThouBeside me singing in the Wilderness --
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

"Shall I tell you my name?" the Immortal wanted to know, his fingers trifling through the fine hairs of my chest. I froze.

"No!" I gasped. "I don't want to know your name!"

The heat of his taut body engulfed me in waves, warming me in places I had not known were chill. Like the dying of the Ice Age, I began to melt, filling the empty places within me with the seas of desire. He seemed sad when he answered.

"Perhaps you are right, Detective. A name is a powerful thing. A name opens up plethora of ... possibilities. It lends one power over the one named, doesn't it? You are wiser than your tender years. In my mind, I have had many names for you. But perhaps my daughter is wisest of all. Talia is bolder than I," he murmured, smiling against my burning flesh. "She names you Habibi ... 'Beloved'."

I moaned, then. I could not stop it. Before God, I could not. Ra's smiled and rewarded me with yet more pleasure. I glimpsed his eyes, now. Dreamy and unfocused, almost as if he weren't really there. I speak many languages, of necessity. The German folk, the ancient Teutons, called that look 'tiefzeiverloren' - 'lost in the mists of time'. And so he was.

"We Arabs are an ancient people," Ra's said. "Do you know us well? I wish you to. We studied and named the stars before you men of the West scarcely knew they were more than blinking lights in the vast Bowl of the Night. We were mathematicians and alchemists. And philosophers. In the Moorish town of Cordoba there were three miles of public lighting in the streets before your Gotham was even dreamt of . And irrigated gardens where lovers wandered to rival the splendor of vanished Babylon."

My hands grasped the gossamer silk of the sheets. Oh God ... don't let me ... please don't let me ...

But I did. The first of many times. God must have been busy just then, I decided. Afterwards he lay his head on my chest, listening to the sound of my thundering heart.

"No Bedouin loves the desert," he sighed. "We love the sweetness of ripe dates, the cool shade of the evening. It is our nature. And I? I long for the vanished gardens of Cordoba ... "

He lay still for a moment and I gathered myself. For precisely what I did not let myself think upon. Finally, the Demon stirred, running his hands through my disheveled, sweat slick hair, still tousled with his passion. "And we are merciful in victory, Detective," he husked in my ear. He tasted of cinnamon and cloves.

"Mercy?" I could not keep the anger from my voice, try as I might. "From *you*?"

His thumb softly outlined the shape of my lips. "Oh, yes," was his claim. "Have I not shown you mercy many times, honored enemy? And have you so soon forgotten Saladin, the Brave? Your Richard Couer de Lion never did, I assure you. Do you think there was a night like this for them? I like to fancy so. Your ancestors fought in those wars, Knight. As did I."

There was nothing I could say to that.

He pressed his lips to the hollow of my throat and his agile tongue teased my bobbing adam's apple as it worked itself in silence. Then he kissed my eyes. "With you, Detective, mercy is a passion. A thing to be worshipped and admired. With me ... 'tis merely good manners. Passions fade with time, as I above all men may testify. But good manners? You must be the judge of which is the stronger motivation."

His hands whispered down my body once more, leaving desire and guilt in their skillful wake.

"Such a beautiful body," the Demon smiled, the splash of silver hair sparkling at his temples dancing in the flickering candlelight. "It would be almost a pity to ... mar ... it." Deep inside I shudder. My breath escapes my body in great heavy throated gasps as if fleeing in the face of a stronger enemy. I can't breath. But I can feel. I can feel every brush of his hand, every touch of his lips.

"Surrender, Detective," he entreats me, his voice husky and low. "We can be extremely *pleasant* to one another ... Wouldn't you like that?" His hand whispers down my thighs and his lips tease my chest. I gasp and my back arches. Ra's' smile is warm and very ... pleasant. Just as he promised. The Demon's Head is a man of his word.

But, then, he always was, wasn't he?

And, like an echo of his Master came the sensual voice of Ahmed, singing.

AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night

Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caugh
The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light.

How can he do this to me? Again and again. Take me, move me, make me moan for his touch? Damn him! Am I so ... so ... lacking ... that even he may do these things to me? Am I so lonel - ?

No! I will not give him this victory. I'll fight! I swear it. If I don't then I'm as weak as he believes me and I cannot endure that.

But ...

Even as I lay panting and spent, perishing of humiliation and despair, I long for the feel of those skilled hands ... those elegant speaking hands. My body cries out for them. Them ... and more .. What would my family think, to see me now? Ra's gives me no chance to speak, though. Urgent, demanding his lips cover mine and I can taste my essence in his mouth, on his lips and skilled tongue. Would Dick be ashamed of me; as blighted by this as I am myself? Or would he only think me a hypocrite?

'Love is worth waiting for, Dick," I told my son with a smile and I cringe now at the traitorous sound of my own voice ringing accusingly in my ears. Louder even than the sound of my pounding heart, my racing, burning blood.

'You'll find someone when the time is right,' I promised a confused Tim 'Patience.'

All this seems so ... unreal ... If it were a dream, even a nightmare... Why can't I wake up? And it must be a dream .. a night mare ... It must! I can't be doing this willingly .. I can't be allowing this; enjoying this ... I cannot. I hate him. I hate ... this need ... this weakness he's found nestled deep within me; a growing cancer brought bursting to the surface, like an artesian well blossoming succulent and fruit like in the desert sereness.

My cursed needy body is my downfall. But then it always was, wasn't it? It was never a match for my will.

"Such control, of soul and body..." the ancient man whispers. "So strong ... so envious and ... curious... Control is a blessing ... and a curse, is it not, Detective?" His hands trail over my chest. I have no answers.

I squeeze my eyes tightly shut to block out the sight of the naked desire I see on my face, reflected in his eyes. Oh God, no; not again, please, please ... Ah! Ah!

And, always, the voice of Ahmed filled my senses as surely as the Demon.

Ah, fill the Cup: -- what boots it to repeat

How Time is slipping underneath our Feet:
Unborn Tomorrow, and dead Yesterday,
Why fret about them if Today be sweet!

My back arches into his caress and I betray myself again . The world seems to implode upon itself. I never knew it could be like this. So intense. Not since the first time with Hideyoshi have I abandoned myself like this Trembling, I lay in his arms and Ra's holds me with gentle hands.

"Such a sweet lover; like the caress of honeyed wine upon the tongue." he croons in my ear. "So willing .. so sensitive. I can't imagine what overcame me that I could ever wish to damage such beauty..."

"Then, why do it?" I gasp.

"Why?" He looks devastated for an instant and kisses my cheek almost chastely. "Because you left me no choice," he mourns. "I wonder if I shall weep when it is done? When you leave me. I expect so. I've a soft heart, I'm told. Such ... plentiful beauty ... You shame me, Detective. Once, such beauty was mine. Women desired me and men called me 'Hileh' ... beautiful."

Tenderly he brushed the hair from my brow and inhales the scent of it. He smells of candle wax and parchment and dry, ancient desert winds.

I feel his body stir, his flesh rise, and I tell myself that I am not glad of it.

Again came the scent of candle wax, parchment, and ancient dust wafting from his smooth, dark skin. ... All these things ... and blood. The odor of old, dried blood clings to his hands and my skin wants to crawl when he touches me How many innocents has he killed? He strokes me again and I grit my teeth. He holds me close to the warmth of his body. Is my ... need ... so obvious? So ... transparent? Have I been so careless? It is not pleasant to think so. Nothing about him surprises me, though. Nothing. Not anymore. If it ever did.

"We are kismet, Destiny," he insisted, entwining his fingers in my hair. His lips are soft. "So alike," he murmurs. "So very much alike ..."

I clutch his hands in my hair. "We're nothing alike!" I cry. "Have you so soon forgotten the Grail?" I accused. "You'd have killed me for that!"

"As you would have killed me to deny it to me, Detective. See how very alike we are?" His voice does not rise or waver, but, nonetheless, he is not calm. Serenity has deserted him. His eyes seethe and flash obsidian fire. Have I done that? Yes, yes, I have. Pleasant to think so. Then I am not alone in my exposure, my weakness, am I? In my need.

"I wanted it for Talia's sake. To make her as immortal as I." Sadness spread like oil upon water across his smooth stony face.

I smiled at the memory. I could not help myself. I had never loved her, never desired her more than at that moment. "But she spurned you Ra's," I reminded him, not bothering to suppress the undertone of dark glee staining my voice. "Told you to keep your immortality. She's spent her life seeing every day what the length of your years has done to you, Demon. And she doesn't want to spend her days as you do, searching for purpose, an excuse for your longevity only to find it in the bleeding bodies of other men."

He actually flinched. He drew back his hand and, for a brief instant, I thought he might hit me. Good! That, I could understand; deal with. That was familiar and clear cut. Not like -

Not like the rest of this evening at all.

I gazed up into the Eternity that dwells within his hooded black eyes. And I understood him, then, as never before. Understood why Talia fled from his offer of Immortality. And why she could never bring herself to leave him. Not even for me. Six hundred years of life. More, perhaps. Six hundred years of time stretching endlessly into the future. To see everyone and everything you've ever loved die, made dust on the winds of Time. To be so alone ...

I almost cried out, then. So he knew what it was like, too. This consuming, grinding loneliness. Was this, at last, the thing that had always bound us together? Something so simple as that?

Slowly, he lowered his hand and I could not help but frown. He stared at me for many moments and I refused to allow myself to look away, to cower from the blistering heat of that midnight gaze. He turned his back before he spoke again.

"But I know what you did with it, Detective," he whispered. "And what it cost you. I watched you give the Cup Of The Christ to the Kryptonian. Did your pride hurt when you did it? To admit that it was not within your power to protect it as you ought? As your ancestors did?" He spun on his heel, catching me unaware, stroking his chin in contemplation. "And why him, I wonder?" I sat very still. Then, his eyes lit up with sudden inspiration and I knew that I was lost.

"Is he your lover?" the Demon asked. I watched something dark and cruel and envious pass through his eyes for the briefest of moments.

Jealousy?

I fluttered not so much as a single eyelash; still I did not bother to answer. Which was, of course, answer enough as far a Ra's was concerned. Fine. Let him think what he liked.

His face stormed over with the blinding speed of a howling desert sand storm, his eyes seemed to catch fire, blazing with his wrath. For a moment I thought he meant to kill me. His hands, those hands that had brought me such pleasure and guilt, plunged for the knife at his hip. As a child, I was once caught in the midst of a sudden lightening storm. I took shelter under a tree and covered my ears against the onslaught as the storm raged about me, at the mercy of elemental forces beyond my ken or control. This was a lot like that. And I wondered how many men's last sight had been that face ... that smooth aristocratic face.

The voice of Ahmed began a new verse.

"Enough!" the Immortal one spat, teeth gritted like iron. "Cease your prattling, fool!"

Like a closing portcullis, Ra's Al Ghul, the Demon's Head, turned on his heel, then, and left me.

Alone.

As I had always sworn I wished to be.

I was home, safe in my huddling place deep beneath the earth, for nearly a week when the package arrived.

Alfred brought it down to me laying on a silver dish. Sometimes my surrogate father's heightened sense of drama can be startlingly appropriate. Expressionless, he held it out for my inspection. I studied it carefully. A small glass vial, sun purpled and etched with the sign of the Demon's head. Alfred's eyes met mine.

"It came with a note, sir," he said quietly.

My hand did not shake when I reached for the paper.

No, not then ...

I read Arabic script fluently, but this was in an ancient dialect; it took me a moment or two to translate it. Unrolling the fine burnished vellum, I studied the precise flowing words, my mouth dry as the desert that birthed the hand that had penned this.

Detective

A last gift for you, if you wish. After all these centuries my Lazarus Pits are almost a part of me, now. Their alchemy permeates every cell of my body. I never needed the Grail to make Talia immortal, after all. Only something of myself; some smallest part of me.

Did I not tell you that I would cry when you left me? Here are my tears.

Taste my sorrow.

Join me.

It was unsigned, of course. Graced only by the Seal Of the Demon from his signet ring, captured in blood red wax.

I clutched my small vial of salt tears that Ra's had bequeathed me with a trembling hand, regarding it with fear. My God. Such a simple thing. How strong was I? With a taste I could live forever. My feet carried me to the stainless steel sink. With a single flick of my finger I unstoppered the tiny etched glass vial and watched Immortality, the burden of numberless unchanging days, flow down the drain.

Echoing through the labyrinth of my mind, I heard still another verse of the "Rubayyat Of Omar Khayyam". The one that Ahmed didn't sing.

Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears Today of past

Regrets and future Fears --Tomorrow? --
Why, Tomorrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.

The End