Harley woke to light kisses up her back, soft lips moving up her spine, kissing every mark they'd left the night before, and every mark their rival had made. The room was dark, a halo of light on the horizon, coming like the imminent end of their time together. Dick's hand trailed down the curves of her waist, lingering on the bruises that the Joker had left on her hips. Dick sighed softly against her skin. She lay on her stomach with him beside her, and she could feel the heat of his naked body against hers under the scarlet sheets.
"Mmm," she sighed, "good morning to you too." She blinked slowly, turning and smiling up at him. Dick wrapped his arms around her waist, kissing her slowly. He savored the sleepy morning taste, and then smiled at her.
"Hi," he breathed, a thumb stroking her hip.
"Hi," she yawned and stretched. She winced. Her body was sore and tender, and she was still exhausted. "How'd ya sleep?" She smiled and scooted closer to him. Dick wrapped his arm tighter around her waist, burying his face in her hair.
"Sleep? What's that?" he mused, laughing softly.
"It's the other thing you're supposed ta do in a bed," she teased, kissing his shoulder. Dick thought for a moment.
"No, I don't want to do that," he decided, laughing as he kissed her head with a smile. Harley giggled and rested her head on his shoulder.
"It's what gives ya energy for the other thing," she whispered. Her hand lazily traced patterns around the bandages on his chest. Dick sighed slowly, closing his eyes.
"Why can't we just stay like this forever?" Dick asked, his chest rising and falling gently with his breathing.
"Cuz someone got it into their head ta try and save the world," Harley answered, laughing.
"Ugh. Damn him," Dick shook his head, his Nightwing mask watching over them from the bedside table.
"Well it is a turn on," she admitted with a smile and kissed his cheek.
"That's news to me," he grinned. It was so warm and dark in the room, the chilly wind blocked out by the windows. Oscar put his paws up on the bed, looking at the two of them over the blankets. Harley giggled. She stretched over and scratched his head.
"How are you?" She smiled at the dog. He stepped down and took a running jump up onto the bed, crawling up by Harley's side and curling into a ball. Dick laughed.
"Too bad you can't keep him," he smiled, stroking Harley's hair slowly.
"I know. I'm gonna miss him." She pulled him into her arms and covered him in kisses as he squirmed. Dick laughed and watched her, before glancing out the windows. He sighed slowly.
"We can't keep meeting on my patrol days," he smiled a little.
"Oh." Her face fell. She let Oscar go and he scrambled over to Dick. "Okay."
"No, of course I'll still come to see you," his arm around her shoulder pulled her closer, and he kissed her head. "We just need to start doing it on my break days. The day before I usually come. Good news is, there's only two days instead of three between now and the time that I get to see you again," he smiled, kissing her happily. The sky was growing lighter outside.
"Well now you're just gettin' greedy," Harley teased before giving him another kiss. Oscar squirmed under the blankets, and she giggled and nudged the dog out of the way. Dick smiled against her lips, pulling her closer. How she ever thought he only wanted her for sex was beyond him; in this moment, with the sun rising behind them and the blankets warm around their bodies, he wanted nothing more than to stay like that. He could lay with her forever, laughing and talking softly. He loved simply being in her presence. Of course, he couldn't say all that. Couldn't even tell her he loved her. Dick suddenly kissed Harley passionately, cupping her face with one hand and holding her close. She sighed into the kiss, her hand grabbing onto his arm.
"Ya know, you're more effective than any alarm clock I've ever owned." She bit his bottom lip as she giggled. Dick laughed and closed his eyes, resting his forehead against hers.
"And I think you're a better incentive to get up for than a day job," he laughed again and kissed her nose.
"Stop it," she pretended to shove his arm, "you're makin' me blush." Dick chuckled, his lips brushing hers.
"I… I love you," he said carefully, his eyes glancing between hers. Harley looked down at her hands.
"I know," she sighed, closing her eyes and rolling onto her back. Dick watched her, his head propped up on his hand.
"I don't expect you to reciprocate it, you know," he said quietly. "I only want you to know that I care about you. And if you ever need anything, you can come to me," he traced a bruise on her wrist with his thumb and then kissed her hand.
"But you're not supposed to care about me," she mumbled.
"You keep saying that and I still can't figure out what it means," he put a hand on her cheek and turned her face to look at him. "Why am I not supposed to care about you? Who told you that?"
"No!" Harley sat up. "You weren't supposed ta get feelings for me. We're on opposite sides. I was just supposed to get information from ya for Pete's sake, not… You weren't supposed to be crazy enough to fall in love with me. We're not…" She rubbed her eyes in frustration. "You weren't supposed ta get feelings for me because… because if you care about me I can hurt you."
"I know that," Dick smiled a little. "Don't you think I'm allowed to take that risk if I want to? And don't you think you take that risk as well?" he breathed, shaking his head. "Believe me, I didn't think I was crazy enough to fall for you, either."
"Then it's all your fault." Harley dropped her hands, giving him a small smile. "You're obviously the crazy one here."
"I'll take the blame," he chuckled, taking her hand before looking out the windows. Dick sighed. "I've got to go soon, hot stuff," he smiled at Harley again before running his free hand through his hair.
"Gotta go save the world, Wonder Boy?" she teased. She layed back down beside him, curling up next to him.
"Gotta go save the world," he agreed, smiling a little.
"Well then I'll try not to mess it up too much in the meantime." She tucked her head under his chin. Dick smiled again, pressing his lips to her head. He never wanted this to end. Holding her for a moment longer, Dick sighed and stood up, tucking her into the blankets. Oscar squirmed into her arms and settled under the blankets again, and Dick smiled before heading to the bathroom for his clothes.
"Pie!" Harley called after him. "I also really miss pie! But I guess that's probably just because 'a the whole wanting cake thing."
"You think?" he shouted back, pulling his pants on before looking around for his shirt. He walked out into the bedroom with a smile, pulling his boots on. Harley was wearing his mask and giggled when she saw him.
"Whadoya think? Does it hide my identity?"
"Um…" Dick laughed, eying her still half hidden torso buried in the blankets. "You look like a real hero. Where's the rest of the costume?" he smiled, pulling his shirt over his head.
"Like I could afford that," she laughed. She touched around the mask. "Wow this is fancy schmansy."
"Infrared, night vision, and a camera that feeds to the Batcave," Dick smiled, reaching for the side of the mask where the buttons were, changing the settings.
"Well you people don't skimp over there at Wayne Tower do you?" She switched the mask back to normal and grabbed his hand, pulling him down and kissing him. Dick smiled into her kiss, holding her close as the sunlight hit them over the Gotham horizon. "Ya know this mask might be fun the next time we play after dark," Harley whispered against his lips. Dick smiled and laughed a little, his eyes still closed happily.
"Two days, gorgeous. See you in two days," he kissed her again, pressing his comm into his ear. Harley pulled the mask off and held it up to him.
"You gonna come and get it?" she taunted. Dick laughed and chased after her, making a grab for the mask.
"Come on, Harls, I've got to go-"
"Nope." She hid the mask behind her back. "You gotta earn it."
"And how do I do that?" he laughed, grinning.
"Well then you wouldn't have earned it." She beamed up at him. Dick narrowed his eyes, suddenly lunging at her, but instead of make a grab for the mask, he caught her face in his hands and kissed her enthusiastically. The intensity made her heart skip a beat.
"Drop it," he commanded, his breath a whisper against her lips as he still held her face, grinning. Harley tossed the mask into the bed.
"You gonna tell me ta sit? Stay? Rub my belly?" she murmured, wrapping her arms around his neck. Dick laughed and kissed her slowly, his comm crackling in his ear.
"Playtime's over, I wanna go home," Selina whined. Dick savored the kiss for a moment longer before pressing his comm.
"Coming," he sighed, picking up his mask.
"See ya later hero." Harley kissed his nose. "Try not ta shoot anyone I like while you're savin' the city."
"And try not to cause too much trouble while I'm away," Dick chuckled, buckling his utility belt on. He smiled at her. "See you later then."
"Bye." She gave him another quick kiss before giggling. "With you gone, I can actually wash my hair," she teased, and scampered off the bed. "Don't forget Oscar," she reminded as she headed to the bathroom, waving goodbye. Dick watched her go and then scooped up the dog, jumping over the balcony railing. The dog yipped loudly in terror as they fell, and Dick fired his grappling hook to support the fall. He hit the ground running, jogging towards Midtown.
"Good morning everyone. How is the hell on earth we live in today?" he asked into the comm.
"Wow, you're always chipper once you get some," Jason told him. "Not all of us got to skip our patrols."
"And you're always bitter when you don't get any," Dick muttered irritably. "Transferring to supply run- Damian, will you take Oscar for me?" he asked, stroking the dog's head.
"Sure. Heading to break," Damian replied. "Batman?"
"May I go speak with my recruit?" Damian asked calmly, waiting for the inevitable barrage of questions from his siblings.
"A new recruit?" Jason demanded.
"What the hell does that even mean?" Steph asked. "How do you even find a new recruit?"
"She's a potential asset," Damian replied sharply.
"'She!?'" Dick cried, beaming.
"Oh. My. Gosh!" Steph burst into laughter.
"Dude, way to go," Jason couldn't help breaking down into laughter too.
"Nothing more than a potential asset!" Damian defended, trying his hardest not to snap.
"Bruce," Jason said seriously, "have you met this girl? Is she good enough for our little Robin?"
"Damian, go ahead. I want a full assessment before you bring her to the tower. I want you to be absolutely certain," Bruce ignored Jason. "And Red Hood. Aliases over comms."
"As of this shift change conversation I am officially on break, so go ahead and yell at me but at least I wait until after my patrol to ignore the rules. Isn't that right, Richard?
"Bite me, shellhead," Dick muttered.
"I don't think you understand how my mask works."
"Red Hood, if you're on break, shouldn't you get off the comms?" Kate asked.
"And I'll have you know that I'm only seeing Harley on my breaks now, so there," Dick interrupted to add, handing the dog off to Damian, who took it with him into the tower.
"Yes, I'm sure that will help father sleep at night," Damian muttered.
"Well then at least someone will," Jason interrupted, "because I doubt Dick will be sleeping if he's seeing Harley on his break days."
"Hey, we sleep!" Dick defended.
"Why," Steph commented.
"Why would we sleep?" Dick suddenly grinned. "Because we're exhausted."
"Ugh," Damian joined the various noises of resentment. "Listen to yourself. You sound like Father. 'We.' You say 'we.' Like you're a married couple."
"I do not say that," Dick said hesitantly, trying to think about his wording.
"You say 'we,'" Steph agreed.
"Now does this 'we' include the Joker?" Jason asked. Damian's steps hesitated as he walked up the stairs and the Steph sucked in a breath.
"Damn you, Jason," Dick snapped, trying not to sound hurt.
"Aliases," Bruce insisted in exasperation.
"It's the part all of us are worried about," he shrugged, "and the part you want to ignore."
"I'm figuring it out, okay?" he defended again, hiding the uncertainty in his voice. Damian smirked.
"I'm sure that will work," he laughed shortly, unlocking his door as he reached his room. He sighed and dropped onto the bed with Titus jumping up beside him.
"Not that this conversation doesn't make me feel super comfortable," Jason deadpanned, "I am on break. So I don't have to talk to you losers anymore. Have fun on your patrols. And/or worrying about your crazy girlfriends."
"Have fun with your crazy girlfriend," Damian retorted, hastily changing his clothes and putting his mask back on.
"Hey at least I have a girlfriend," Jason defended. "And I'm actually pretty proud of the fact that Papa Bat doesn't approve."
"Red Hood," Bruce warned.
"Okay, okay. I'm off comms."
"Good," Damian muttered, whistling for Titus to follow him as he walked out of his room. When he reached the basement garage levels he whistled shortly at Titus, and the dog leapt into the sidecar of the motorcycle. Damian smiled to himself and sped off.
Moments later he arrived at Jane's ramshackle home in Downtown Gotham, parking his bike. He glanced down at Titus with a smile.
"Stay," he commanded, and then ruffled his hands over the dog's ears. "Who's my good boy," he grinned, kissing his head, allowing himself this momentary happiness before he stood and walked to Jane's front door, knocking briskly. It took a long time, but he heard the lock turn and the door cracked open. After a second, she opened it fully and found Robin by the door in his mask and a black hoodie over a worn gray t-shirt and jeans. He smiled a little, the action pulling at the scar over the right of his lips.
"Oh," she was clearly surprised, "you came back."
"Of course I did. I made you an offer I should follow up on," he said calmly, smiling again.
"Ooo what'd you offer her?" Steph asked over comms.
"He sounds like he's smiling," Cass added.
"Um, right." Jane looked past Damian to the street before refocusing on him. "Come in."
"He's in!" Steph cheered. "Score."
Damian ignored the comm in his ear, pulling his headphones off around his neck and stepping through the door.
"Have you thought more about said offer?" Damian asked, his eyes adjusting to the dark interior as he turned to look at her. She looked like she'd only just woken up after a nearly sleepless night.
"I still kinda didn't think you were completely serious," she admitted and ran a hand through her messy hair. The house looked clean but unlived in. It was a house big enough for a family, and she was alone.
"I… Thought I made myself quite clear," he chuckled a little.
"Who even talks like that," Dick muttered over comms.
"He sounds so awkward," Steph whispered.
"Yeah I guess I just… couldn't figure out why you'd want to ask me in the first place," Jane finally answered.
"Medical expertise," Damian responded. "You have an impressive medical repertoire for someone so young, and I believe you would be a good addition to our… Team," he said the word slowly, not sure if it was the right one.
"Yeah that's the reason," Steph snorted.
"Oh well…" Jane trailed off in confusion. "How do you even know about my medical experience?"
"You intrigued me when I met you, with your mother," he confessed, looking down. "I did some digging after that. Our computers aren't what they used to be, but I found enough. You are very talented."
"Look at our little stalker," Steph laughed.
"Thank you… I guess."
Damian scrutinized Jane. He couldn't get a read on her, curls falling into her impassive brown eyes. He couldn't tell if she was going to take the chance he was giving her, turn it down, or if she'd considered it at all. He suddenly realized he'd been staring, and averted his eyes for a moment.
"I don't want to be forward, but have you considered it? Do you have any questions for me?" he asked.
"This is embarrassing," Dick muttered, laughing a little.
"Why are you being nice to me?" Jane asked. She crossed her arms, looking down.
"I…" Damian reached to his comm, keeping his frustration internalized.
"This will be good," Selina whispered over comms, and a flush crept over Damian's cheeks.
"I wanted to extend an offer for a second chance in Gotham," he confessed. "It's a… trend with the family I belong to. We take in the people we… see fit," he breathed. Her unwavering, sharp gaze took the words out of the air, out of his mouth and he couldn't find them again. It reminded him of his father.
"But why me? Why…" Jane trailed off when there was a knock at the door. Her face went pale as she turned toward the door. Damian didn't move.
"Do you need to get that?" he asked calmly. Jane hesitated.
"Open up!" someone called from outside. Jane sighed and headed to the door. She cracked it open.
"Can I help you?" she asked dryly. Four men stood on the front stoop. Their clothes were dirty and worn from use and their hands calloused; they were clearly workers. One stood a little ahead of the others, and he glared her down.
"What are you still doing here?" he demanded.
"Well I live here," Jane replied in a bored voice, "but I'm sure you have a lovely house of your own you can shove off to." She tried to shut the door, but he reached out and caught it.
"Very funny little girl. It's bad enough all you freeloaders come to our city with your various diseases, but then you and your family bring Infected into our sewers." He pushed the door open. Jane tried to keep her face impassive, but her jaw clenched and her eyes narrowed and she couldn't help taking a step back. "We told you we didn't want you here."
"Hey," Damian barked, coming calmly around the corner. His nose turned up, he crossed his arms over his chest. "You will step back now," he said evenly, watching them. The men looked him up and down before they registered the mask.
"I'm fine," Jane hissed at Damian. Her face was flushed; she was embarrassed he was here for this.
"What are you doing here?" the first man demanded.
"Making sure new citizens of Gotham are comfortable," he held his composure. "And your intention, sir?"
"Her father is the reason the city is in the mess it's in," the man accused.
"There is no one to blame," Damian said calmly. "The Infected in the sewer system are being controlled. It is time for you to leave now."
"Oh snap," Steph whispered, "I'd be running if I was them."
"But… That's… She's…" the man stuttered. "The rest of her family died too. How do we know she doesn't have some disease she's spreading?"
"She was cleared to enter the city. Do you think Batman would make a mistake like that?" Damian asked, more power to his voice now as he tried to control his irritation. He whistled shrilly and Titus leapt out of the sidecar on the street, growling, just to emphasize his point. He hated to admit it, but Dick and Jason were right. Name dropping was incredibly effective.
"See," Dick said over comms. "Told you it works. Say 'Batman' and people get too scared to question you, just watch."
"It's even a good tool when handling you boys," Selina added sternly. There was a collective groan over the line. The men looked at each other and backed hesitantly out the door. Jane slammed it on the last one before turning on Damian.
"I can handle my own problems," she snapped.
"Oh my God she's perfect for him," Steph squealed.
"Which is why I want to recruit you," he fired right back and then tried to reconstruct his cool composure.
"For what?" Jane asked, crossing her arms. "You keep saying you want to recruit me, whatever the hell that means, but what for? What would I even be doing?"
Damian resisted the urge to rub his temples in frustration. This was like talking to his brothers. He liked this girl. She had potential. He couldn't let her seeming obliviousness to the obvious get to him the way it did with the majority of people. "I'm offering you a chance to make a real difference. We'll train you to defend yourself, to fight, build on your medical experience. You'll help us maintain this city, doing specialized jobs, whether that is gathering food outside the boundaries, keeping the citizens safe, or working on a cure to the Infection." Damian hesitated. "With your medical expertise, you'd more than likely work there. You could work to know how cure your brother."
"Manipulative little bastard," Selina muttered.
"Okay, so that's what I'd be doing. Fine. But it still doesn't make any sense." She looked like she was trying just as hard as him not to be annoyed. "You come in here saying you're recruiting me because of my experience, which I say is spotty at best, like this isn't the biggest chance in the lifetime that could ever be offered to someone. Then you tell me I'd be training in things I have absolutely no experience in, but might end up doing what you used as the reason for initially offering me this opportunity. Can you see my confusion here? I'm a no one who just got to Gotham and has no family left, and has a questionable family history in fact. There are hundreds of other people in this town with probably just as much to offer as me, but you're here… and standing there like I'm ridiculous because I'm not immediately swept away by your offer. You're asking me to make the biggest decision of my life based off of a hunch you have and pretending it's no more important than picking out what I want for breakfast."
Damian stared at her, taking a deep breath. "Um, Jane. I understand your confusion." He paused to sit down on the couch, hoping she would join him. "The truth is, my… Family. We take in people like you. People who have nothing left. People we… See something in." He watched her, gauging her reaction.
"You know you could just say you feel bad for me," she told him, "instead of beating around the bush."
"I like her," Steph added again.
"I feel bad for you. And I like you," Damian stared at her evenly. "You have something they don't."
"Is it pretty eyes?" Steph asked. "Or is it something else? Her winning personality? I've got a feeling it's more shallow than that, huh Robin?" she teased.
"Motivation. And determination. This situation we're all in seems to suck the life out of everyone. You're different."
Jane sat down on the couch and tucked her knees up under her chin, wrapping her arms around her legs. "That brother comment was a low blow by the way."
"It's true," he said quietly. "My brother is Infected, too. I believe I told you." He looked at the carpet, sighing quietly. "I do my job every day thinking of him. We used to fight. A lot. Now, if I could tell him…" Damian blinked slowly and looked at her. "It's a motivation. Something to think about and persevere. I've never been a 'greater good' person until now. And I see that in you." The comms were silent.
"You're such a suck up," she told him with a small smile. She glanced back at the empty house. "If I agree to this," she stared at him, "I have one condition."
"Name it," he said quietly.
"No more using the term recruit. I will punch the next person who says it in the face," she warned.
"Fine. Jane," he smiled a little, considering saying it one more time. "Do you have things you would like to pack?" She thought about all stuff her family had brought with them to Gotham, all the stuff they'd carried with them to their final destination. The only possessions they'd had in the world and the only things she had left of them.
"Nope. Nothing." They'd all made it together, but she was alone now. She didn't want to be crushed by the memories. Damian watched her.
"Then are you ready to come to the tower? I can give you a tour," he smiled a little again. He never smiled broadly, and she got the impression that it may hurt, with the scar running from the corner of his mouth to his nose, and down his chin. The scarred tissue pulled a bit when he moved his mouth.
"Is that your job? Enlistment and tour guide?" She stood up and stretched.
"No, I do a variety of jobs. Mainly covering for my respective family members when they want to spend time slacking off," he led the way to the door. The sun was fully up now, and when he opened it, a wave of heat hit them.
"Hey," Dick muttered.
"It's Nightwing and Red Hood that cause problems, and occasionally my father," Damian smirked.
"Ha!" Dick cried.
"Robin." They both turned to see Batman waiting for them.
"Are you here to yell at him for the covering your ass statement?" Jane asked. Damian looked spooked, but he quickly recovered.
"Father," he acknowledged, turning his nose up a bit.
"How often are people turned against you like that?" Bruce asked of Jane, and she blinked in surprise.
"Well a lot more often since my father became a modern day Charles Manson."
"But there was hostility before?" he pressed.
"No more than the usual hatred of the refugees," she shrugged. Batman grit his teeth. He'd been afraid of that. "I must say, I'm a little disappointed that Batman didn't know about it." Damian watched him carefully.
"I'm taking her with me back to the tower," Damian said slowly. Bruce nodded.
"She is your recruit," he agreed. Jane swung back and landed a right hook squarely on his jaw. Damian stared on in shocked silence.
"What just happened?" Steph demanded. Bruce glared down at Jane.
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "I really am. But I thought I made my one request very clear, and I know you've all be listening to his comm," she gestured to Damian, "because his eyes kinda unfocus whenever he's listening to someone talk on it. Not to mention, you wouldn't be here if you hadn't overheard the fiaco at the door, so..." Jane trailed off, trying to look like she didn't massively regret what she'd just done.
"Did she just punch Batman?!" Steph cried.
"Sorry," Jane added again quickly. Bruce stared at her a moment longer and ran a hand across his jaw.
"It's good to know you'll follow through on your word." He turned toward Damian. "Once you're back at the tower, turn your comm off to keep the lines clear while you're on break. And make sure you get everything settled before your Arkham shift."
"Yes sir," Damian nodded, turning quickly and guiding Jane toward his motorbike.
"Marry that girl, Damian," Dick said seriously.
"Shut up Nightwing," he muttered, and then stopped by the bike, muting his comm. "That was… Bold," he commented, getting on. Titus stared at her from the sidecar, wagging his tail.
"Well I could say that it was rude for you to have other people listening in on our conversation without telling me," she counted. "How many of you are there anyway?"
"Seven, in full active duty. Nine if you count Batgirl, who remains in the laboratories working on a cure, and Poison Ivy, who occasionally assists in food production. Get on," he gestured to the back of the bike, turning it on. "Though there were only about five listening in." Titus barked happily and Robin shushed him. Jane patted the dog's head before getting on the bike. She wrapped her arms around Robin's waist.
"Aren't you supposed to have helmets for this? Safety first and all that."
"I… to be honest, I have never thought about it," he confessed, starting down the street. He didn't drive very fast, anyway, at the risk of hurting Titus loose in the sidecar. They barely broke thirty all the way to Wayne Tower. Her arms around his waist was a strange sensation, and he couldn't figure out why it made him feel sort of ill.
"I was teasing you," she told him. She put her lips close to his ear as she talked so he could hear her over the wind and the bike. "You guys really don't seem like the safety first kind of people."
"I believe you'll be surprised at the amount of rules and regulations we have to keep each other safe," he commented, turning his head a bit. Her lips touched his cheek for a moment, and he flushed a bit pink under his mask. You're not Grayson. Get ahold of yourself, Damian Wayne. Even if her punching his overbearingly nosy father in the face, damn near rescuing him as if it wasn't the other way around, was the sexiest thing he'd ever seen, it didn't mean he would develop feelings for her.
"Yeah but rules and regulations aside, you all jump off buildings and attack people in the dark." She leaned back as she laughed. "I've definitely heard of safer things."
"True," Damian pulled the bike into the garage below the building and Titus jumped out, running around the sidecar to wait for Damian and Jane to get off. "Welcome to the club."
"Oh so now it's a club?" She got off the bike and watched Titus. She ran her fingers through her hair to try and tame it after the wind. "Is there a secret handshake I need to learn? A secret knock? Code word?"
"Nope. Just said rules. And the lay of the land." Damian smiled. "Come on. Vehicles stay down here. Elevator's this way." He started walking, his massive Great Dane leaping around him and wagging his tail. "My apologies, Jane- this is Titus," he rubbed the dog's head, and his tongue lolled out happily. "Say hello," he commanded and then whistled a short burst. Titus barked at her, his tail smacking Damian's leg. Jane beamed at the dog.
"Hi." She scratched behind Titus's ear. "Is he one of the six on active duty?" she teased. "Wait. His full name isn't Titus Andronicus is it?"
"It… is, yes. You've read it?" Damian asked, unable to keep the surprise out of his voice, glad that his mask hid the admiration in his eyes.
"My mom had a thing for Shakespearean tragedies," she shrugged. "I got King Lear instead of Cat in the Hat as a bedtime story."
"Our mothers would have gotten along," he muttered, opening the elevator doors and stepping on. Titus walked next to Jane as she followed, and Damian looked down at the dog sitting beside her feet. "Traitor," he smiled a little, his scar pulling a bit. Titus wagged his tail against the floor and Damian glanced at her. "So tell me a bit more about yourself."
"Why me?" She lazily pet Titus's head. "I mean you've clearly done your research on me, so shouldn't it be my turn to gather information?"
"I told you why I chose you," he glanced at her, pressing a button to the labs. "Fire away."
"Well first, why the dog?" She smiled down at Titus. "And how long have you had him?"
"I've had him for five years now," Damian looked down at him and genuinely smiled this time. "My father bought him for me when I was… Having trouble settling in, coming to him after growing up with my mother." The elevator buttons clicked down as they descended.
"That's the second time you mentioned your mother in a negative way. Care to elaborate?" Jane leaned against the elevator wall.
"My full name is Al Ghul," he shifted a bit uncomfortably. He wasn't normally okay with sharing this much personal information, but he wanted her to like him. The name didn't come as a surprise; his dark skin had hinted at a different ethnic background. "My mother was Talia Al Ghul, and I was the heir to the League of Assassins. I was trained as such from birth. I was raised to be a weapon. The woman had about as much maternal instinct as a black widow spider," he said matter of factly. The elevator doors opened onto the hall to the labs.
"So your mother was an assassin and Batman's your father. Suddenly my family doesn't seem that crazy anymore."
"Wait till you meet the rest of them," Damian raised one dark eyebrow behind his mask. They started down the hall and he stopped in front of the door, showing her the passcode to unlock it. "Ok. This is our almost state-of-the-art laboratory area. Gotham's brightest minds work here, developing a cure; collaborating with Star Labs in Central City to try to stay up to date. They have come up with a decay inhibitor, stopping the degenerative effects of the Infection."
A few men and women in lab coats worked around the glass tables and scientific equipment, the room quiet except for their voices and the hum of machines. Jane glanced around at everything, constantly moving her head to see everything.
"I think… this is a little out of my league." She looked at Damian. "I was taught practical medicine. Everything in here looks like it requires at least two doctorates in a scientific field. Why am I here again?"
"You'll be fine," he assured her quietly. "Batgirl and Dr. Thompkins will find a place for you." He walked to the back of the labs, where Batgirl sat at her desk, a graying brunette woman standing beside it. Batgirl looked up as he approached.
"Robin!" she grinned. "And you must be Jane. News of your heroics has already swept through the family like wildfire," she laughed, extending a hand, red hair tumbling over her shoulders from her pointy eared cowl. "We've all wanted to deck Bats. Only a couple have lived to tell the tale," she grinned.
"Thanks I guess. I thought he could handle it." She rocked back on her heels as she studied them all. She was shortest by a good couple inches if her wild mane of hair wasn't counted. "I'm going to take a stab in the dark and say you're Batgirl. So you must be Dr. Thompkins." She inclined her head toward her. "I've heard of your work."
"I can't imagine how, but thank you," she smiled, still quite beautiful despite her aged features and tired eyes. Dark graying hair was pulled back away from her face. "From what Robin has mentioned you seem quite experienced. Welcome to the cause." Robin looked down and cleared his throat a bit, Titus sitting at attention by his side.
"My mother was a small town family practitioner and insisted on keeping up on new medical studies from Metropolis, Central City, Gotham, and so on. Your name was just one of several on new practices and articles." She shrugged and looked around.
"Well. Its great to meet you, Jane," Batgirl smiled again, and then waved as Damian led her out to continue their tour.
He showed her the dining areas, where they kept the food, how they distributed the scavenged resources, the makeshift training area and locker rooms on one floor, and anything else he thought she might need to know. They stepped onto the elevator again.
"So, anymore questions?" he asked. She'd been quiet for most of the tour, and he still couldn't get a read on her.
"Two." She focused on Titus again, scratching under his collar. "What's the schedule around here? And where am I sleeping?"
"The schedule is complicated. Generally we have two people patrolling the city along with the GCPD, handling domestic affairs, two in Uptown, watching the criminals and Infected in Arkham City, and two heading small parties that leave the city to find food and supplies. Then who remains is on break, to do what they want. Most of the time that's sleep. The schedule gets complicated when people switch for shifts; maybe someone wants to spend time with their girlfriend so they'll trade shifts. It gets a bit scrambled when things like that happen." Damian talked stiffly, like he wasn't used to speaking so casually. In truth his speech had changed more to match his brothers' vernaculars in the past couple of years, but it still felt awkward, and Jane could sense it in his speech. "I will show you the medical floor, and then your room. We all sleep on the top floors," he pointed at buttons on the elevator as he spoke. "Batman and Catwoman live in the penthouse at the top of the building. The rest of us live in rooms adapted from the executive offices in the floors below."
"Then I bet there was no shortage of desks." Jane nudged Titus who bumped her back, and Jane giggled as she stumbled. Damian smiled a little, watching them.
"I don't understand," he said slowly, just realizing what she said. "What do you mean? Of course there were a lot of desks…" Jane grinned at him.
"You're absolutely right." She glanced back at the numbers ticking up on the elevator. "Why does any building need this many floors?"
"It used to be an executive building housing a multi billion dollar international company…" he trailed off. "You were being sarcastic again, weren't you," he muttered, chuckling as he looked down at his shoes.
"A little," she admitted with a smile. "But remember I did grow up in a small town. There was nothing over two stories above ground."
"I suppose that makes sense," he shrugged, and they stepped out onto the medical floors. He'd abandoned his jacket somewhere along the tour, in a loose fit gray t-shirt that hung off of his muscular frame. He looked like he never left the gym.
"Now what?" Jane looked around before back at him. "Time to get to work? Or…?"
"No, I'm on break. You'll be shadowing me for a while, accompanying me on my shifts. So you can spend some time with me, if you'd like, or I can take you to your room until I retrieve you for patrol tomorrow."
"Well I've been on break for about a month. So show me what you got?" She scratched Titus's head and his tongue lolled out. Damian scowled at the dog, suppressing a smile.
"I spend the majority of my time in the rec rooms," he shrugged, pressing the button as they got back on the elevator, and it descended again.
"Shocker," Jane grinned. She leaned against the elevator wall again. "Yet you don't take the stairs."
"Stairways are for emergency procedures only," he smirked. "And I wanted you to be able to keep up."
"Ouch," Jane laughed. "You wound me. I'm wounded."
"Then prove me wrong." The elevator doors opened onto what must have been a floor full of cubicles, now folded and shoved aside. Workout equipment was placed around the room in no organization at all. Titus ran out into the vast space, and Robin smiled. "You're going to have to learn to fight. Do you have any experience?"
"Well there was that one time I punched Batman in the face, but other than that not really." She shrugged. "Just your basic not dying on the way to Gotham stuff."
"Good. Then let's start with the basics."
Harley pushed the door of the elevator open and yawned. She shuffled into the living room and tossed her jacket onto the couch. She considered just dropping onto it and taking a nap there but kicked her shoes off with a groan and headed to the bedroom. Everywhere was sore from the day spent with Dick and the time she'd spend with Joker before that; not that she regretted any of it. She smiled to herself as she pushed the bedroom door open and fell gratefully onto the bed.
"Harley! Come in here please!" Came Joker's voice from the office. She sighed and pushed herself back up.
"Coming!" She rubbed her hands across her eyes as she trekked back into the living room. Her muscles had that weak loose feeling like she'd spent the day at the gym, and she rubbed her hand along her leg, her bruises were throbbing. She knocked on the office door. "Puddin?" Maybe whatever he needed wouldn't take that long and she could take her nap; she hadn't gotten nearly enough sleep before Dick woke her up. She headed in, closing the door behind her.
"What did you find out," he asked, not looking up from his desk.
"Well the Bats found Penguin in the sewers." She leaned lazily against the wall. Joker burst into laughter, slamming a hand on the table.
"So that's what happened to that poor bastard!" he cried, laughing.
"Yeah but they shot him," Harley muttered.
"Ugh. Of course they did. And? Is that all?" he pressed.
"I think they're having a problem with more zombies in the sewers. They're worried about it," she yawned.
"Is that really it," he glared at her, rising out of his chair a bit.
"Um…" Harley tried to think. They'd been attacked by the two Infected and before that Selina had visited. If he didn't know she was still alive, Harley didn't want him trying to kill her again.
"Oh well," Joker sighed. "If you have nothing to offer, then get out of my sight." She grabbed the end of one pigtail and started playing with it as she headed back to the door, head down. Her hand was on the handle when she froze.
"They stopped the zombies from decaying," she blurted out as it popped into her mind. She'd completely forgotten about the inhibitor Dick had injected himself with.
"They what? What does that mean, Harley?" He stood, watching her in the doorway, his fingers pressed to the desk as if holding down a paper in a troublesome breeze.
"They…" She hesitated. Dick probably hadn't told her about it until they actually needed it because of this reason. She was about to betray him to Joker. "... might've made an inhibitor to stop someone from decaying once they're Infected. I'm not sure if it works. Shouldn't one 'a your spies have said something about it if it worked?"
"Not if the Bats haven't said anything about it," he grinned, standing slowly. "This is perfect. You did wonderfully, doll."
"Thanks Puddin." She bit her lip and played with the tip of her pigtail.
"Truly brilliant," he praised. "I want it. Their inhibitor- I want it." Any trace of a smile slid off her face.
"You want it? But… we can't just walk into Gotham and ask them to share."
"Not ask them, no," he slid into his seat again, pressing his fingertips together. Harley cocked her head as she studied him.
"You have a plan, don't ya?"
"Nearly, Doll. When do you see him again?" he asked, not looking up.
"Couple days," she shrugged, "if that's alright with you," she added, watching him carefully.
"A little soon," he muttered, and then nodded, "but I think it will work," he grinned, chuckling darkly.
"Okey dokey, Puddin." Harley yawned again and moved back toward the door.
"Harley-doll, I have one last question- where is your old jester costume?" He smiled thoughtfully, pulling a notebook out.
"Oh, um," she stuttered in surprise, "in the closet. Why?"
"Good. Just curious," he shrugged and then waved her away.
"All righty then." Harley hesitated before shaking her head and heading back to the bedroom. She fell across the bed, not even bothering with the covers.
"Harley!" Joker cried, coming into the room after her. "How was Nightwing? Tense? Angry?" He grinned, watching her.
"He was maybe tense." Harley reluctantly propped herself up on her elbows. "Zombies from Arkham isn't exactly a good thing for them, but he was mostly tired. Other than that he was fine."
"Damn. Well I'm not doing anything at the moment," he sat down on the bed with a sly smile. "Care to entertain me?"
"Oh." Harley sat up beside him. "I thought you were plannin' something. And was he supposed ta be angry?"
"Of course," Joker shrugged. "I'll just have to try harder."
"You're trying to make him mad? Why?"
"Because tormenting the Bats is what we do!" He laughed and then looked at her darkly. "Or have you forgotten?"
"No, but he's not Batman." She shrugged and yawned again, laying back down.
"Bad enough the little brats steal my spotlight, now they steal my girl-" he sniffed, smoothing his hair back with a hand. "I ought to wipe the little smears off of the planet." Harley giggled.
"Ya know you're cute when you're jealous," she teased, brushing his hair back into his face. Joker irritably swiped it back again.
"I am not. Look at you. Exhausted. We couldn't play if you wanted to," he clicked his tongue in disappointment. Harley's lips pouted.
"He doesn't come up that often. We have all 'a that other time ta play," she taunted.
"All 'a that other time is spent working on the end of the world, Doll," he beamed, leaning over to kiss her. His lips were harsh on hers, not at all like he'd been the other night, and Joker pulled back with a grin. "You reek like him," he sat up, looking down his nose at her.
"I showered," she muttered in defense and grabbed her pigtail again to play with the tip. "I'm sorry I'm… tired if you wanted ta play." She felt bad that he wanted to spend time with her and she was too physically exhausted to be good company. The light from the doorway flashed across his features as he shook his head with a smile.
"But I'm not," he leaned over her again, a hand coming to rest on her hip. "What do you say, Harley? Feel like revving today? Should we go for a spin?" His voice was a purr against her lips, his touch cold and deliberate on her skin. He watched her with a vicious intensity, calculating, sharp; he had a gleam in his eye that'd made her heart burst into desperate flames of longing the first time they'd met in Arkham Asylum all those years ago.
"Puddin," she gasped, "please." She grabbed his hand. "Maybe tomorrow when I'm-"
"-hush, doll," he whispered harshly, grinning again. "This is what you always want, isn't it? Aren't I what you always want? Whenever I'm working, whenever I'm busy?! Well I'm not busy now," he tore his hand away from hers, laughing cruelly as he pulled her top over her head. He was knelt above her, trapping her against the blankets.
"I'm- I'm sorry," she stuttered, trembling. "I just get bored. I don't mean ta… Please." She used her arms to cover her chest, her eyes pleading with him.
"Oh don't be like that," he clicked his tongue, leaning down to smile at her. "You're not bored now, are you?" Joker's voice was a whisper against her skin. "You do love me, don't you?"
"Of course I do," she defended. She reached out hesitantly and brushed his hair out of his face. "I'm just… I can't."
"Excuses," he spat, pulling her shorts down with a smile.
"Mistah J, please," she begged and caught his hands again. She was too sore for this and could see the purple bruises coloring the white skin on her hips. Joker grit his teeth with a grin, laughing down at her.
"Don't you 'Mistah J' me," he hissed, tearing his hands away from her, and then his hands were at her sides, his fingers digging into the bruises. She gasped and her hands balled into fists in the blankets.
"I'm sorry," she breathed. "Please don't."
"Too late for sorry, puddin," he hissed in her ear. "You wanted this." Harley whimpered and turned her head to the side. She closed her eyes and tried to ignore the pain the pressure of his fingers pushing against the bruises caused. She felt the cold steel of his knife on her skin suddenly, trailing up her side, and when she whimpered, his hand was over her mouth. Joker laughed cruelly again. She tried to cry out in pain as his hips pressed hard against hers. "Shh, close your eyes, Doll," he hissed, and she pinched them closed tighter, drifting off to the memory of Dick swooping in to save her.
Jason blinked his eyes open, slowly waking up. He rolled onto his back with a groan, and glanced up to see Ivy. She was sitting cross legged on the foot of the bed gently stroking the petals of one of her plants.
"Did I fall asleep?" Jason asked, rubbing a hand across his eyes.
"No. I put you to sleep," she said simply.
"You…" Jason narrowed his eyes at her. "You drugged me?"
"Well you weren't going to sleep," she gave him a smirk, "and break days are the only chance you have to get some rest."
"So you decided to waste the entire time?"
"Not the entire time," she defended. "Even with all the time you spent messing around on comms instead of starting your break, it was only about half of the time."
"This is the only time I'll be here for days, and you're the one always complaining how bored you are with no one around," he reminded her.
"And you're the one always complaining how tired you are," Ivy retorted. Jason glared at her, and she glared right back.
"Fine," he snapped. "We can't change it now." She grinned and returned her attention to her plant. "What time is it?"
"Almost sunrise." She shrugged. He ran his hand through his hair before propping himself up on his elbows.
"So I was asleep for half a day, and you couldn't find the time to put clothes on?" he asked. She cocked her head, smiling at him through her hair.
"I find this comfortable, as a matter of fact."
"Uh huh," Jason scoffed. "Are you sure it's not to taunt me?"
Her grin widened. "Now why would I do that?"
"Because you're a man eating wolf with green lips," he groaned as he rolled out of bed. Ivy laughed as he went to get a fresh change of clothes from his dresser. "Or rather," he mused as he pulled on a clean pair of pants, "a man eating Venus Flytrap."
"You think the whole plant joke thing is so cute don't you?" she asked.
"No," he stressed, "I think it's adorable." She rolled her eyes.
"City patrol right?"
"Yup." He pulled a plain place shirt over his head. "So I'll be spending half of my time down in the sewers. But maybe Steph'll want to mix schedules up and I can get a break day sooner."
"That's okay. I'll just hang out with Kate on her break."
"You two are close," Jason muttered. He dropped his shoes by the bed and sat down.
"I like her," Ivy shrugged. She prodded the potting soil with her finger.
"She isn't trying to steal you away from me, is she?" Jason teased.
"Yes. You're on to us," she said seriously. "We're having a secret affair."
"Haha," Jason said stiffly.
"We're just friends," Ivy laughed at him. "There's nothing going on." Jason didn't say anything as he laced his boots on. "Are you going to get offended everytime I joke about sleeping with someone?"
"Are you going to sleep with someone?" Jason winced as soon as the words were out of his mouth. "I didn't mean it like that."
"Yes you did." She turned away, taking her plant back to its resting place in front of the window.
"I'm sorry, but can you understand my worry." She turned to glare at him. "Digging myself a deeper hole," he sighed, "I know."
"No I can't understand it," Ivy snapped. "I expect the general lack of trust from everyone else, but we're…" She trailed off, and they both had that uncomfortable look they only got when they talked about their relationship.
"Okay, but look at who you are and your history."
"So," she crossed her arms and glared at him, "I'm not stupid. Even if I think monogamy is stupid, I know you can't be polygamous in a relationship where someone wants to be monogamous." Jason grinned at her despite her withering look.
"Be mad, but you basically just said you're giving up everyone else just to be with me. And that we're in a relationship."
"Okay I'm sorry." He looked down but smiled back up at her again. "Is it because I'm just so much better than all of th-" She let out an exasperated noise and turned away. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry," he laughed. She didn't turn around to face him. "I'm sorry," he repeated seriously.
"You don't trust me," she accused, spinning around to stare him down.
"Of course I do," he defended.
"You just implied that I'm going to cheat on-"
"-I didn't mean it like that," Jason cut her off.
"Yes you did!"
"Shit Ivy!" he swore. "You know I'm not good at this. The sex and the flirting I can do, but this part I suck at. And so do you actually."
"You're an ass."
"Thank you. So I'm sorry if I say stupid shit, you know I do it often enough that it's bound to be about you sometimes. I mean I have made it this long." He paused. "Wow we are bad at this, if it's taken us this long to have this conversation."
"Shut up." Ivy rolled her eyes. She walked back over to him. "You're an ass."
"Thank you," he repeated.
"Stop taking it as a compliment."
"Stop meaning it as a compliment," he grinned. She pushed him down onto the bed, straddling his hips.
"Why are you still talking?"
"Just getting warmed up for comms," he laughed. "I have appearances to keep up." She frowned at him.
"You're ruining our time together," she told him.
"Well you're the one who put me to sleep through half of it," he defended, and she sighed in annoyance.
"You're wasting what time we have left," she whispered against his neck, her breath tickling his skin. Even though she'd given him an antitoxin to make him immune to her lethal touch, he still felt a tingling burn where she touched him. He'd grown used to it, and even liked it. Jason grinned and pushed her over, pressing her down onto the bed.
"We have no time left." He kissed her, letting it last too long before he reluctantly pulled away. He stood up, grabbing his comm and putting it in. He scooped his helmet up under his arm as he head to the door. "See you in a few days."
"Ass," Ivy muttered with a smile.
"Thanks, Sweet Pea." He winked before pulling his helmet on and activating his comm. "Hey losers. Am I late or early?" he asked as strolled to the elevators.
"Late," Selina muttered.
"You're fine, Red Hood," Dick assured him. "Alright, where are we all at? I'm a little groggy, so I'm on city, Batman, Catwoman, go get some rest- Robin, is your recruit- apprentice-? Sorry? Is she joining you?"
"Yes, I'm issuing comm and weaponry now," Damian responded.
"Alright, Jane? Can you hear me? Is your communicator working?" Dick asked.
"Well enough to hear you call me recruit," she replied.
"I missed something didn't I?" Jason asked.
"It was an accident please please don't punch me," he answered.
"Red Hood, this is Robin's trainee, Jane."
"Come on, she'll meet everyone eventually," Selina whined. "Where's Batman?"
"I'm on my way to the tower," he sighed.
"Does everyone get a random nickname but me?" Jane asked.
"I like her already," Jason laughed.
"Codenames were given or chosen a long time ago," Nightwing chuckled. "You can start thinking on one if you want. But I suggest doing it quickly before someone inevitably chooses one for you."
"I was kidding. Besides," they could hear the amusement in Jane's voice, "it couldn't be as bad as Nightwing."
"Oh my God," Dick snapped, and they laughed.
"Batman!" Selina demanded, and Dick groaned.
"Please shut her up already, need I remind you, I'm in charge now and you're all supposed to be working," he chided.
"Oh calm down," Selina purred.
"I'm in the building and heading to the elevator," Bruce updated as he walked over and pressed the button for the elevator. "I'm turning my comm off, but keep each other up to speed, and contact me only in the case of an emergency." He stepped in as the doors opened and hit the button for the top floor. "Or else you'll have to answer to Catwoman."
"Yes sir," Nightwing chirped before Bruce turned his comm off. He watched the numbers on the display tick slowly upward. When the elevator finally stopped, he was already moving forward and pulling his cowl off. He headed straight for the bedroom.
"I'm sorry I'm late. Gordon wanted to discuss the sewer situation."
"Aw. Excuses," Selina whispered, rushing up behind him with her speed, covering his eyes. "Hello my love," she kissed his cheek, and then wrapped herself in his cape, giggling a bit. "I'm getting better at sneaking up on you, you know."
"That's because you cheat." He turned around and pulled the edge of the cape toward him, trapping her against his chest. Selina laughed.
"What is it you told me? It's not cheating, it's using all your resources," she beamed, pulling on his belt. Her dark hair fell in waves around her cheekbones, still damp and sweet smelling from her shower. Makeup was smudged around her light eyes, but there was a bruise on her jaw. Bruce held her chin and tilted her face to the side to look at it. He stroked his thumb over it gently.
"Policeman clipped me on accident with his gun. Saved my life, but I damn near went deaf when he fired right next to me." She shrugged. "Maybe you should come a little closer to tell me how much you love me," she breathed, stroking his cheek.
"You know how much I love you." He kissed her forehead. "And you should tell me when you get clipped by policemen so I can worry too much too."
"That's why I don't tell you, Darling," she smiled up at him, holding his face. "Now come on, Bats. Let's go play," she stepped away and pulled his cape, and he noticed for the first time that she wore a silver sheer nightdress over purple underwear, the clothes hardly covering her. A strap fell off of her shoulder, and the skirt barely brushed the top of her legs. Selina smiled over her shoulder at him.
"Hold on." Bruce caught her arm and pulled her around to face him. "I want to give you this before I forget. You tend to distract me," he chuckled. "I had the boys hunt it down for me a while back." He pulled out a velvet box and cracked it open. Nestled inside was a delicate necklace of white gold and diamonds. "Even I can recognize a Harry Winston, and I would have payed for it if there was anyone to pay but…" He took it out and carefully clasped it around her neck. "Happy anniversary my beautiful wife," he whispered and kissed her cheek. Selina covered her mouth, breathing shakily.
"Bruce, I…" She swallowed hard, closing her eyes to collect herself. She smiled broadly and squeezed his hand, putting up a cool facade as she grabbed his face and kissed his nose. "You know I'm not taking this off," she whispered, beaming. "Now come on. I have a present for you, too."