The orchestra swelled as the music started in earnest in one of the ritzy ballrooms that were scattered around the City with impunity. To the majority of the assembled crowd, the well known and highly photographed bourgeois of the Gotham nightlight, it was a must attend fundraiser for some charity or another. It was must attend, not because members of the Justice League promised to be in attendance, but because of the host.
Wayne Enterprises was the cornerstone of the Gotham party scene, and had been for decades. The prodigal son of that organization, Bruce Wayne, recently returned from some time abroad, shouldered the mantle of Chief Party Aficionado with gusto and purpose. To drink with Bruce Wayne was to drink with a pro. The ladies flocked to the parties to snag the country's most eligible bachelor, and the men attended to pick up the multitude of women who couldn't score an invite back to vaunted Wayne Manor.
But there were other perks to a Wayne Enterprises soiree; the booze was top notch, the food exquisite, and attendance to one of those parties made sure that your name was on Page 6 for months afterwards. To go to Wayne Gala was a guarantee that you had arrived. And everyone there knew that and acted accordingly.
Except for a few people, that is.
Green Lantern, Black Canary, and the Flash had more humble origins, and while their new found fame and acclaim got them the invite, it did not get them the innate knowledge of how to navigate the shark invested waters of social climbing. And while Diana, new member of the Justice League, was a princess and had some training in this particular area, the fact that she had been raised in a country with no men and no outside contact. That meant no parties.
Green Arrow, with his more moneyed background was a solid choice for a guide, but he had begged off this particular meeting due to some "unfinished business in Arizona." Whatever that meant. Superman and Manhunter "volunteered" to stand watch, "just in case," but the four very uncomfortable leaguers were now beginning to think that the two aliens took the one available out for this nightmare.
They didn't bother to ask Batman. One, because Armani didn't make a suit with a cowl. Two, because he operated in a way so that the majority of the people thought he was an urban legend. The flash bulbs outside would have ended that assumption. And three, no one wanted to contemplate what "small talk with Batman" would be like.
So the four leaguers, who between them had enough power to level the city, stood quaking in their boots before people decked out in $14,000 gowns drinking $80 whiskey.
"So do you talk sports with these people," asked the Flash as the elite moved around them.
"They probably own the teams, so yeah" responded the Green Lantern turning the phrase into a question.
"Why do the men insist on staring at me so," asked Wonder Woman to her sister in arms, the Black Canary.
"Because you are wearing a glorified swim suit, are gorgeous and can bench an oil tanker," responded Black Canary. "For most men, it is a fascinating combination."
"The other men on the team do not ogle me so."
"Well the guys on the team aren't like most men."
"Well the Batman does not ogle me either, and he is just a normal man."
"There is very little that Batman does that bears any resemblance to the average mortal man."
A bald, older gentleman approached the group with a tray of champagne flutes balanced atop. "Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Alfred, and I am Master Wayne's gentleman. If you require anything, please do not hesitate to ask."
"Thank you Alfred," responded the Flash. "Any suggestions on how to mingle? It seems that the crowd is a little stand offish right now, and, to be honest, this is not the sort of crowd we run with."
Alfred smiled benignly as he took in the assemblage. "Your costumes aside, you are no different than anyone here. Most of these people are highly successful in their fields and so are you. Granted, those fields are very different than yours. Some of these people will not be your pace, some will. In this, this party is no different than any you have ever attended. But do not worry. I am sure that after some refreshment, the multitude will approach you. Be open and honest. And be prepared from some unusual propositions."
Green Lantern chuckled. The old guy was alright. "Well if anyone would know about unusual propositions, it would be your boss. Where is he, by the way?"
"Bruce Wayne likes to make an entrance," answered a broad shouldered, bespectled man dressed in a baggy tux. "It would not be a Wayne function if he didn't. Name is Clark Kent, Daily Planet. Good evening Alfred."
"Good evening Master Kent."
"Kent, huh," responded Black Canary. "Long way from Metropolis. Don't you cover Superman?"
"On occasion," responded the reporter. "But I go where the story is. Mr. Wayne invited me to this function, and given the difficulty for most reporters to get into these parties, my boss pretty much ordered me down here. Couldn't pass it up. I was hoping to get a few words from you before the party started in earnest."
Alfred nodded, and continued to circulate as Green Lantern whispered as the rest of the leaguers gathered around "what are you doing here Clark? I thought that you were going to be on duty?"
"That was the plan, but I meant what I said. I got the invite, and Perry heard, and he forced me to come here. I plan on leaving early though."
"Are we seriously doing this interview," asked the Flash, "or can you give us some of that prize winning treatment."
"Don't worry, you'll sound gracious and heroic."
"I still can't believe that you would walk around like an ordinary man," Diana interjected. "It seems unnatural, denying yourself like that."
Clark just rolled his eyes as the music died down and the conversations died down. There, standing at the door, solo as usual, stood Bruce Wayne in his element. Armani tuxedo, broad shoulders, and piercing blue eyes, he stood with a drink in his hand and a smile plastered on his face. Clark moved away from the league, a secret smile on his face. A waiter approached and asked verbally "champagne," while telepathically asking "you are going to enjoy this, aren't you?"
Eyebrow quirked at his Martian friend, he smirked and responded telepathically "Bruce the Fop versus the Justice League? Versus Diana?!?! I am supposedly a Boy Scout, not a saint. I wouldn't care if they had Kryptonite place settings, there is no way I am missing this."
"Thank you, ladies and gentlemen for joining me on this beautiful night. And thank you, Justice League for joining us, in an effort to bring in more money for the Wayne Medical clinic, located near Crime Alley. Because of our efforts, those among us who need medical care won't just get a bandaid and a tylenol, but the best care that money can buy.
"Every year we have to try to top the last party, and every year it gets more difficult. With the world's finest heroes joining us this year, I don't know how we are going to top this. But please, enjoy the food, the band, and of course, the liquor. Now let's have some fun."
The crowd applauded politely, as Bruce made his way down the stairs and finished his drink with a shot. Alfred seamlessly took the empty drink and replaced it with a full one. Bruce was shaking hands, sharing jokes, and kissing beautiful ladies on the cheek. It took fifteen minutes until Bruce made his way to the Justice League, a gaggle of admirers behind him.
"Well, well…the mighty Justice League. Missing your alien counterparts I see, but I suppose that can't be helped. So…how do you like the party," Wayne asked while delicately holding the Black Canary's hand to his lips just a little too long.
Black Canary withdrew her hand, a little creeped out, a little attracted to billionaire playboy. "Well thank you for inviting us. Anything we can do to help."
"I am confused by this," asked Wonder Woman, gazing over the crowd. "You seek to raise money for the less fortunate, but you spend excessive fund to throw the party and in what you are wearing. Would it not be more effective to use all of the money you are spending on the party and put it towards the charity."
"Well my dear," Bruce began grandly, not subtly looking at her cleavage, "if we all looked like you we wouldn't have to spend all this money on clothes. But actually, I have been meaning to ask you about your home. An island filled with women," Bruce began, his eyes glazing over and looking at her dreamily. "What's that like? And please, spare no details."
Flash, Green Lantern, and Black Canary simultaneously choked on their drinks, while Clark Kent and the mysterious waiter began to blush. "That would be one point for the Fop," Clark thought to his Martian compatriot.
Diana clenched her fists slowly, while Commissioner Gordon hastily made his way over, possibly to save Gotham's benefactor. "Bruce," he called out. "I just wanted to thank you again for letting Barbara babysit tonight. She appreciates the opportunity."
"Not at all, Commissioner," Bruce replied, while somehow staring at both Black Canary's fishnets and Wonder Woman's eagle. "Dick loves Barbara. Although if he were here, I am sure he would want me to say that she is just 'alright.'"
Gordon laughed knowingly, and patted Bruce on the shoulder. "Fair enough. Lucius wanted me to pass along that he needs a word."
"Ah yes, Lucius. Well duty calls. Gentleman. Ladies," Bruce said with a leer.
"That…that man makes me miss Themyscira."
"Oh, I dunno," replied Gordon. "You don't know the man like I do. Although I understand why you all, especially you ladies, would think less of him."
"Now don't give me wrong, Bruce Wayne is not a genius. But he is not stupid like the papers make him out to be. At least in that he knows what he knows, and knows what he doesn't know. Lucius Fox is the C.E.O of Wayne Corporation, and he is one of the smartest and trust worthy guys I have ever met. Alfred is the one who runs all of these parties, which runs seamlessly without fail. There are scores of talented people that follow him. And that has to say something about the man."
"Who is Dick," asked the Flash quietly. He had his suspicions and his mind recalled the blonde haired boy his girlfriend introduced him to a few days back.
Gordon looked a little uncomfortable. "Dick is…Bruce's ward. Dick was a performer whose parents were killed during a performance." At this the League members eyes, who were starting to drift over the crowd, shot back to the commissioner. "Bruce was in the crowd and he saw what happened. The boy had no family, so Bruce took him in."
"That Bruce Wayne," Black Canary asked incredulously.
Gordon looked more uncomfortable as it seemed he was having an internal argument. "Bruce has a history. Its not a secret, at the time it made all of the papers. Bruce's parents were killed. Shot in front of him. I think that Bruce saw a little of himself in Dick."
The leaguers regarded Bruce with a little more respect, one leaguer more so than the others. The others were adventurers, but Barry Allen was still a cop. Not a detective. He didn't walk a beat. But the police scientist still had basic skills. Between this conversation, what Superman has said when Batman first came up, and other little tidbits Barry had picked up, Barry started having suspicions. One would have to be a genius and ferociously dedicated to pull off this type of game.
"I think Barry knows," J'onn thought to Clark, as he passed out the Champagne.
"You owe me $10," Clark replied.
"The night is still young, Bruce will throw Barry off the scent. In fact," J'onn thought with a smile. "I think we are about to see Bruce the Fop's second act."
"Ladies and gentlemen," Bruce slurred as he approached the stage. "A thought occurred to me. As the gorgeous Amazon reminded me, while we have been extremely generous, there is still so much more that we can do. Its just a matter of finding the right motivation. And then it struck me. We have such a rare opportunity here with the Justice League and we have so many rich and beautiful people here. So, if our guests would be so willing, how about a good old fashioned auction."
Bruce smiled fiendishly at the crowd, which cheered enthusiastically, minus six. The four costumed heroes eyes bulged. Clark, for the second time tonight, in what should have been a physical impossibility for him, choked on his beverage. J'onn rolled his eyes, and telepathically suggested "So. You want to double down on the bet."
"Shut up. Thank god I didn't show up in my work clothes tonight."
"Thank goodness Bruce is on our side."
"Whatever makes you think he is on our side," asked Superman. "Sometimes I wonder if he just lets us fight with him."
As the four heroes marched to the stage, as if to a firing squad, Bruce egged the crowd on, swaying on his feet.
The Flash, the designated leader of the group, now regretting the title, approached the microphone.
"Mr. Wayne, while I appreciate your enthusiasm and…entrepreneurial spirit, I am sure that no one would be really interested…"
"Nonsense," exclaimed Bruce, draping his arm around the Crimson Speedster's shoulders. "You are the Justice League. Everyone here would love to spend some quality time with died in the wool heroes." The stench of alcohol pored from Bruce's mouth and Barry reconsidered his view on the whole Bruce is Batman theory.
"Pay up," though J'onn to Clark.
"Damn it," Superman responded.
"Please ladies and gentlemen," Bruce addressed the crowd and the Leaguers in one gesture. "Think of the children! Come on. Lets give the League a hand."
And it was there and then, in front of high society and flashing lights, that the Justice League did something it had never done before. Bruce Wayne, businessman, drunkard, and fool, got the Justice League to surrender.
One hour, and $2.5 million later, heads hanging low, the four Leaguers walked off the stage.
"I thought slavery was outlawed in the country," Wonder Woman grumbled as she strode off the stage.
"For charity, evidently, the constitution doesn't apply," grumbled the Green Lantern.
"You are just upset that you didn't get the highest bid," Black Canary shot back.
"Well you didn't have to dance for them," complained Green Lantern.
"Well, when in Rome."
"But we are in Gotham City," responded a confused Wonder Woman, still not grasping American idioms.
"GL, can I crash on your couch later this week," asked the Flash in hushed tones.
"Sure…but why," asked Hal Jordan, keeping his voice down as well.
"Well, when Iris finds out about this, I don't want to even be in Central City."
Bruce Wayne sauntered over, a lady on either arm. "Thank you so much for doing this. I hope you had as much fun as I did. I need to head out and tuck these ladies in."
As the billionaire walked away, Green Lantern had a thought and said "Hey. You are an available bachelor. Why didn't you put yourself up for auction?"
Bruce turned back, and said, "Wouldn't have gone with the theme. I am not a superhero."
As the Gothamite walked away, Flash changed his mind. "I bet you he is the Joker."
A half hour later, after ditching the ladies due to a "stomach issue," Bruce strolled into the Manor. With any luck, he could get a loop around the city before daybreak.
"Really sir," Alfred said, following Wayne to the batcave, "while I understand the need to keep up appearances, if you could not gargle the $80 bourbon in exchange for a lesser vintage, I would appreciate it."
"Bruce Wayne only drinks the best. Best to cover all bases."
"Of course sir. Was it really necessary to have the auction? I shudder to think what Ms. Sontag will do to poor Master Allen."
Bruce Wayne stopped cold in his tracks and looked at Alfred. "Batman may keep the League out of Gotham for now. But Gotham high society? That's downright terrifying. One date, and those four won't even fly over the city."
"You have quite the devious mind, sir."