SUMMARY: Crane finds himself in the company of a nosy and persistent child and he's not exactly happy about it.
Inspired by a scene, or rather a glare from the movie Disco Pigs. In this movie, the character of Pig (Cillian Murphy) sees a baby in a pram and the child is smiling and giggling at him, while Pig is looking at it (I didn't catch the baby's gender) as if it were a pile of something dirty. It made me think of Crane in the company of a kid.:) Enjoy!
"That is his desideratum, therefore there may be no mistakes, is this understood?"
Crane snapped his cell phone shut, shoved it into the inner breast pocket of his coat and sighed in annoyance, his breath creating a smoky web in the crisp winter air. He had associates, but he still had to supervise the entire operation himself and very often, he had to do everything himself.
"Imbeciles," he muttered to himself.
They had only initiated Ra's al Ghul's project. Crane's formula was ready and the blue flowers were growing to life in the hotbeds in the Narrows, safe and secreted from the eyes of any possible curious passers-by. But every day, something went wrong and Crane was becoming impatient. He didn't do impatient – as well as gardening. What did he care about the amount of fertilizers for the blue flowers? Did he look like Martha Stewart? Certainly not. That was why he hired two gardeners in the first place, but those moronic goons still called him about flowers. Flowers! He did not go through twelve years of academic education to become a psychiatrist just to advise someone on flowers! The nerve of some people!
He wanted to begin with his experiments. He was looking forward to that, but as of yet his scientific soul was still parched and the drink that could satiate it was temporarily out of his reach. Crane was contemplating on those things as he was waiting for the next train on his way to work. He was the only person on the platform at such an early hour on that fine bleak day and he most definitely preferred solitude to company.
"Sir, what's a desideritatum?"
Crane's eyes widened a little in surprise as a small voice sliced through his thoughts and shattered the pleasant isolation of the train station. He turned his head to his right, towards the origin of the voice. He saw a boy standing next to him, reaching just to his elbow. The small human was definitely not anywhere in sight before; his arrival, annoyingly and disturbingly silent, must have been very recent. Or so Crane hoped. No one could ever hear his private conversations. He eyed the boy warily, taking a quick look at his appearance.
The child was attired in appropriate winter clothes typical of a little boy such as the small human in question was: a Santa hat, a matching red scarf and red mittens (very jovial, to be sure, mimicking the Christmas spirit), a red parka with the image of Spider-Man gracing its front, corduroy pants – surprisingly not red, but black – and black winter boots, all in place. The child's brown eyes seemed to be magnified by rather large spectacles that could be labelled as nerdy, and his face was bathing in freckles. A typical child of the male gender, indeed. His yellow school bag was slightly too big for him and it looked too heavy for a child to carry, but the small human seemed to bear his burden quite well.
There was no sign of his parents nearby. Who would leave such a small child to roam around a city like Gotham, all alone? Crane checked himself. No, no, why would he care? He was not a caring person by far. Alone or not, the child lacked basic manners.
"You should not listen to other people's phone conversations," Crane replied with a blank expression on his face.
The boy winced a little. Good, Crane thought. He would not be bothered by the child anymore. He turned his head to his left, away from the nosy boy.
"I'm sorry, sir," the boy said and Crane looked at him again, feeling slightly frustrated by yet another interruption. He wanted to think in peace. He hoped to quiet the boy with a friendly reply. He did not do friendly either, unless it served a higher purpose and the higher purpose was peace, accompanied by quiet.
"That is alright." He forced himself to make his voice sound warm and he even smiled briefly.
Then, he looked away again. He looked at his wristwatch. The train was late, as always. Suddenly, he felt someone tugging at his coat sleeve and he looked down at the boy in disbelief. The pip-squeak was annoyingly persistent.
"Sir, may I ask you a question, please?" the boy spoke with perfect politeness.
Crane nodded curtly, hoping that his answer to whatever question the boy wanted to ask would finally satisfy the small human. The child reminded him of why he never wanted to have children. The very thought of having a child made him shudder.
"What is desiredatum?"
The child was after the meaning of the word Crane had used in the phone conversation? How irregular. Strangely, Crane was intrigued. He decided to indulge the boy with a reply. An actual presence of a thinking brain in a human skull that wanted to learn was always welcome, even in a child. The world was surely teeming with imbeciles and it was terrible to have to endure it every day.
"It is desideratum," he stressed.
"De-si-de-ra-tum," the boy repeated slowly and with much concentration, his eyebrows wrinkling furiously.
"Yes, correct. Now, a desideratum is something that one desires." He added a simpler explanation. "Something you want."
The boy narrowed his eyes in contemplation.
"The word sounds strange," he said.
"It comes from Latin," Crane felt compelled to explain. "Its plural is, therefore, desiderata."
"Thank you, sir," the boy smiled, showing a row of slightly crooked teeth.
Crane nodded in response, certain that his conversation with the child reached its desired end.
"You're so smart," the boy continued and Crane stared at him. The child was unbelievable. He wished the boy's abstract thinking had already developed, so that he would be able to take a hint and stop bothering the adult stranger.
"Thank you," he replied sternly.
"I thought my grandma is smart because she reads so much," the boy blabbered on, much to Crane's dismay, "but she doesn't use big words much. I love big words. I love to learn them, so I can confuse George at school with them. I have a word-of-the-day calendar and today I learned what farrago means. I will use it with George. George is mean to everybody. My grandma says that George is a bully," the boy concluded seriously, another frown stretching across his forehead, and Crane wondered whether the child had the time to breathe in between the sentences.
"But I'm not afraid of George," the boy said proudly. "My grandma says that fear can be big, but I shouldn't be scared because fear is completely hollow on the inside, kind of like Casper. You know, the friendly ghost?"
"That's good," Crane commented stiffly.
"Can I ask you another question?" the child inquired hopefully. "I asked my grandma yesterday," and at that Crane rolled his eyes ever so slightly, getting frustrated by this well of wisdom that the grandma seemed to be, "but she didn't want to tell me because I'm not old enough yet, but I know I am because I know so many big words. But she says I'm still not old enough, though I'm already seven years old, you know. And I really, really wanna know."
"Want to," Crane corrected.
"Want to," the child echoed.
Crane sighed, seeing no other escape than another reply. He realised that the child had no intention of giving up, so he might as well humour him a little. The train would arrive any minute now and save him from the annoying chatterbox. "Alright, then, ask me."
"What's coitus? I really wanted to know, but grandma hid the dictionary from me."
Crane's gaze widened. "How did you come upon this word?"
"I read it one of my grandma's novels, Married to a Rake. She said what a rake was, but she wouldn't tell me what coitus means."
The boy pouted, then eyed Crane hopefully. Crane admired the child for his curious nature and his desire for knowledge, but now he had to find a way to extricate himself from the most embarrassing situation. He should have known the boy was going to ask him something peculiar. It was the way of children. He was so busy with trying to rid himself of the child that he overlooked all the obvious signs.
He knew he should not underestimate the boy. He hated the patronising attitude of adults in his own childhood, but he really did not want to explain to a child what coitus was. At that moment, he would have preferred dealing with a raving schizophrenic than with the boy.
He was speechless and he didn't do speechless, either. Or embarrassed, for that matter. A child left him speechless. That was unbelievable. It had been easier to come up with the complex formula for his toxin than it was handling a curious seven-year-old pip-squeak.
The boy's face fell and Crane wanted to see enthusiasm sparkling in his eyes again. What? He wanted to indulge a child? He could laugh at the bad humour of the situation. He attempted to save himself by changing the subject.
"Aren't you a little young to be walking around without your parents? And didn't your parents teach you to not talk to strangers?"
The child crossed his arms over his chest with determination and began to sulk, looking at Crane with resentment.
"I'll answer your questions if you answer mine, sir," the boy countered, daring him.
Oh, no, the child didn't just do that. Well, no one dared Crane, or exploited him, or tried to illicit answers from him in any way, let alone with pouting and bargaining. The boy was lucky that he was just a child because Crane had his limits. He would never harm a child, but the boy was really testing his patience and the boundaries of his rusty moral compass.
"Well, fine," Crane retorted and turned away. He was appalled to realise that he had just resorted to sulking as well. He turned back to the boy in indignation.
"It is something adults do," Crane said sternly.
"Do you do it, too?" the boy continued and Crane felt the urge to bite the boy's head off, but refrained from such primitive and vulgar thinking and actions. He was also additionally angry because he knew he blushed, only if just a little. A tiny, tiny blush. Well, it was too much, in any case. Crane just didn't blush.
"Have you heard the story about bees and birds?" he asked the boy and realised he made another mistake. He was actually in the process of answering the kid. He was sure that he was trapped in a nightmare and that he hadn't woken up yet.
"And babies come, then?" the boy added and smiled. "Oh, mommy told me the story after I saw her playing in bed with daddy last month. She told me they were playing a game adults like to play and told me the story about birds and bees." The boy giggled. "I'm a little bee!"
Crane sighed out his discomfort. "Well...the game they were playing is called coitus and they should definitely have been more careful with you around. They were irresponsible. But you must not think about it or practice it until you are at least fifteen." Or possibly never, so you don't bring more pip-squeaks like you to the world, Crane added in his mind.
"Is it fun? Do you like to play coitus?" the boy persisted. "And why do I have to wait until I'm fifteen? I like to play and learn new games, and I want to play coitus. What are the rules?"
"Jesus Christ, kid!" Crane cried. He never lost his patience and composure like that, but that kid was just... He could not even find an appropriate word to describe the pest! Oh, a pest, now that was a good word. It was a great word, a perfect one. If the kid was going to say another word, Crane would put himself in a straitjacket all by himself because the child was driving him positively insane. Why did people even procreate? Alright, they had to, but couldn't children be put to sleep until they became adults? He really hated kids.
"Now, that wasn't very nice, sir. My grandma says the Lord's name should never be used in vain and I know what that means, and vain too, and you weren't very nice to me, and to Jesus, especially since it's his birthday soon," the kid snapped and resumed the pouting.
Crane stared at the child in utter disbelief. He was so surprised and pissed off – he allowed himself an instance of vulgarity – that he could not even reply. Again, he was left entirely speechless, because of a child. As the train finally arrived, the kid entered it, but Crane remained on the platform, watching as the train slid away. Like an automaton, he fished out his cell phone and called his secretary.
"Miss Robertson, I am taking a day off," he said, surprising the secretary, as well as himself. He never took a day off, but desperate times called for desperate measures. "And Miss Robertson? Never have children," and saying that, he ended the call.
A/N: Married to a Rake doesn't exist. If it does, it's only a happy coincidence.