By Amos Whirly
The cave was dark and dank like it always was as he climbed out of the Batmobile. The door slid shut behind him, and he pulled his mask off. His thick black hair immediately fell wildly about his face, and he shook it out of his eyes with a snort.
"Slow night?" a dark voice queried, echoing from the shadows.
"Nothing," he answered, taking the steps two at a time until he reached the main level. "I've never seen it so slow."
Nineteen-year-old Terry McGinnis popped his neck as he approached the computer where aged Bruce Wayne sat, tapping absently on the keyboard and staring at the screen.
Ace, Wayne's Great Dane, perked up his ears at Terry's approach and uttered a pleased sound when the teenager scratched them.
"Not even a Joker," Terry mused.
"Why don't you go home early then?"
Terry glanced at his employer blankly, not certain if he had heard correctly. "Did you say what I think you said?"
Wayne leveled a steely glance in his direction. "Go home, McGinnis. You've earned a night off."
"Are you feeling well? Doc put you on some kind of new medication?"
Wayne shot him another withering look, and Terry held up his hands. "Okay, okay! Geez."
"I'm assuming you have homework."
It was Terry's turn for an acidic glare. "Are you kidding? Homework on a Friday night?"
Wayne grumbled something inaudible at the computer screen. Terry quickly shed his suit and changed into street clothes.
"Are you sure about this?" Terry asked, coming to stand beside Wayne's chair.
"If you don't want the night off, I can come up with something for you to do."
"Uh, no, that's okay," he answered hurriedly. "It's just—"
"If you aren't going to do homework, then you're probably going to go to Dana's house."
"She moved back in with her father, right?"
Wayne sighed heavily. "What's she on about now?"
"Yeah, Bruce, nothing. It's weird."
Wayne narrowed his faded blue eyes.
"It's—It's like she totally supports anything I do," Terry exploded, pounding his fist on the top of the chair. "She doesn't get mad at me anymore, even when the phone rings. She doesn't threaten to walk after I stand her up. She's just been – awesome."
"So what?" Terry glared at him.
"There's a problem?"
"Something's wrong, Wayne," Terry leaned on the computer panel, crossing his arms and obviously thinking hard. "She's never acted like this before."
"Terry, I'm failing to see the issue here."
"She's acting all nice because she's going out with someone else."
Wayne sighed again.
"That's the only explanation I can think of," Terry hung his head. "She's finally had it up to here with me, and she's gonna' walk."
Wayne merely shook his head.
"And it's my fault."
Wayne turned to glare at him pointedly.
"You think I should talk to her."
Wayne did not answer.
"Well, I don't want to," Terry crossed his arms again and looked away. "I don't care what you say, Bruce."
Wayne leaned back in his chair and twined his fingers together, still focusing sharply on his young friend's face.
Terry's expression turned from petulantance to obstinance to disgust. "Fine!" he huffed. "I'll go talk to her." He grabbed his backpack and stomped up the stairs toward the Manor's main floor.
"I'll call you if something comes up," Wayne's deep voice echoed in the Batcave.
"You always do," Terry grumbled as the door shut behind him.
Wayne watched him go, the barest hint of a smile quirking his mouth.
She did not move when the doorbell rang. Instead, she chewed harder on the end of her pen and focused with all her mental capacity on the chemistry problem laughing at her from the data pad.
Black eyes intent on the problem, she did not notice when her boyfriend, Terry McGinnis, came up the stairs to her room.
She jumped in surprise as he flopped on the bed next to her.
"Terry!" she gasped.
"Hey, Dana," he nudged her with his broad shoulder. "Is the data pad going to bite you or something?"
"It's this stupid chemistry lesson! I don't get it."
"Let me see," he took the data pad from her. "You have Daniels, don't you?"
"Yes, and he's a nightmare," Dana sighed dramatically, leaning her head against Terry's arm and smiling at the warmth of his muscles. "The other kids in class are certain he's a wacko. He threatened us with a painful death if we don't pull our grades up."
"Ter, come on," Dana giggled. "Teachers can't do that."
"What's your grade so far?"
"Probably a D."
"And you're not worried?"
"I would be, if Daniels really was a wack-job. He's just a weirdo."
"I don't know, Dana," he hesitated. "You should tell someone if your teacher's making threats like that."
"Old man Howard at Hamilton Hill always threatened us," Dana rolled her eyes. "Remember? Told me he'd pull my toenails out if I didn't get around the track in a minute flat. But he never made good on it. You know how teachers are, Ter. They just need to get their bluff in."
He did not seem convinced but focused on her assignment. As he scanned over the data pad, trying to figure out what was wrong with her computations, Dana allowed her mind to wander.
She and Terry had been dating since their junior year of high school, and they had remained together even through their first semester as freshmen at Gotham University. Only recently, however, Dana had realized an important aspect of her boyfriend's life – a realization she had decided to keep to herself.
He looks tired, her mind said as she unobtrusively examined the dark circles under his eyes. It must have been a rough night.
She suddenly sat up and began to rub his muscled shoulders. "Gee, Terry, you're all tight!" she exclaimed, leaning forward and snatching the data pad out of his hands. "You don't need to do that. I can figure it out."
"Dana, I don't mind."
"I know you don't," she teased with a kiss on his cheek. "But you've probably had a long day, and the last thing you need to be doing is my homework."
He relented after a moment and sat still while she worked the knots out of his back. He sat patiently until he thought he would go mad. And he reached up and took one of her small hands and brought it to his chest. Instantly, she surrounded him in a warm embrace, her head on his shoulder, her hair smelling of roses and lilies.
"What is it, Dana?" he whispered.
She lifted her head, searching his face. "Nothing. Terry, nothing's wrong."
He moved until he was facing her.
"No, Dana. Something's wrong. Something's—different. I want you to tell me."
"Terry," she took his other hand and gathered them close to her. "There's nothing wrong. I—I've just stopped being so selfish."
"I've stopped being selfish, Terry," she nodded fiercely. "I realized that—" she hesitated, an unreadable expression flashing across her face. "I realized, Terry, that other people need you too. Mr. Wayne needs you." She smiled beautifully, tears suddenly brimming in her ebony eyes. "And you're good enough to help him. So if you can make that kind of sacrifice for him, I can make a sacrifice for you."
"You aren't – angry?"
"Angry?" she laughed aloud.
"I – I thought –"
"That I was getting ready to leave?" she leaned closer to him.
He looked down, a blush spreading across his face.
"I don't blame you for thinking that," she whispered. "The way I've acted in the past – Terry, I was so mean to you."
"Dana, it was totally my fault. I deserved it. I still do. And if you want—"
She laid her fingers against his mouth and leaned close again.
"Shut up, McGinnis," she said and kissed him soundly.
He waited a moment before returning her kiss, still amazed and trying to discern her motives.
Why is she acting like this? his mind kept asking.
When she finally stopped, she laid her forehead against his and smiled again.
"You know what, Ter?"
"I love you."
He blinked for a moment. "Dana." He gazed into her eyes. "I love you too." And he kissed her. Her hands wound into his hair, and he pulled her close against his chest.
And his phone rang.
He wanted to break something.
He flinched, expecting her to be angry. She sat calmly on his lap, smiling still.
"Mr. Wayne is calling."
"Dana, I'm sorry; I—"
She interrupted him with a chaste kiss to the lips. "You go on, Ter. I have to finish my homework."
The phone was still ringing.
"You—You aren't mad?"
"Terry," she chuckled, "you need to answer—"
"You're not mad?"
"No," she said. "And I'm not going to be. I told you. I'm not going to be selfish anymore. But Mr. Wayne will probably be mad, if you don't answer that phone."
He stared at her, dumbfounded.
"Dana, I don't understand."
She stood up and leaned over to look into his piercing blue eyes, whispering, "You don't have to understand, Terry. Just believe me."
Terry searched her face for a moment before he suddenly stood and hit the receive button on the cell phone. "Hang on, Wayne."
He set the phone on the bed, swept Dana into his arms, and kissed her fiercely.
"I'll be back," he whispered, hugging her tightly.
"I'll be waiting."
He kissed her again, grabbed the phone and his pack, and raced down the stairs. Dana watched him go, her smile filled with genuine happiness.
"Just be careful," she breathed, "Batman."