Hope Is the Thing With Leather
a Batman Beyond drabble series
by Merlin Missy
Copyright 2006
PG-13

DC and Warner Brothers own the characters and situations. Part of the R 'Verse but only tangentially.

For June, because I promised.

Summary: They've been dancing around this unnamed space for years. Terry/Max


They've been dancing around this unnamed space for years.

Terry thinks he's in charge, acts like he's in charge, orders Max around like he's in charge, but then he'll step back in the middle of research or a fight, and he'll tilt his head just so.

"What do you think?" he'll ask, like he's reading a script.

At first, she thought it was the old man grumbling in his ear, but part of her hopes it's the young man Terry occasionally remembers that he is.

So she tells him what she thinks and he does it, no questions asked.

Interesting.


Terry and Dana are on another "break," which means he's lied to her too many times and she needs some space to decide whether he's worth keeping around.

She used to invite Max over so they could bitch about him over Bob and Terry's. She doesn't do that anymore. Not since she noticed Max was covering for him, was lying to her too.

Max thinks this is how it starts. First, you lie to your friends. Then, you don't have any other friends except the few people crazy enough to dress up like you. After that, there's nothing but bats.


The Princess isn't nearly as annoying as Max wishes she was. Max wants to snark in her head about cold fish, or better still, get in a good snide remark about royalty. Instead, Aquagirl is down to earth, at least for someone who was born hundreds of fathoms beneath the sea.

Someone new in the Cave means changes in protocols, in routines. Max finds herself on patrols alone, comes back to find the two of them in their own world.

Max wants to hate her.

When Terry comes alone with a few terse words of explanation, she hides her relief.


This shouldn't be happening. She's in control of her own emotions enough to realize this is a terrible idea.

She's a substitute for Dana, for Melanie, for Merina, even though Terry always remembers to call her by her name. Names. He's hurting and he just wants someone warm and alive.

It means his mouth is on her neck, sucking where she's still sweat-slick from her cowl. It means his hands massage her waist before he reaches for the catch of her belt and the fasteners on her suit.

It means he's here with her.

It has to be enough.


She doesn't do poorly in her classes, not by anyone else's standards, but she's noticing. Too many late nights (but all her nights have been late ever since she learned his secret). Too many bad meals, cooked by a man who'd been waited on hand and foot until he was almost fifty. Too many excuses.

She's sore from the fights, from the sudden accelerations and decelerations in her suit, from Terry's hands too hard on her. What sleep she gets has been slivered down by the sex they're really both too tired to have so often.

Something's going to give.


The coffee at this place is terrible. Max drinks it anyway.

"Must be a tradition," said the Commissioner. "Goddamn stupid one, if you ask me."

"Not that you're bitter."

"No."

It should be strange, sitting here with the first Batgirl. In a few hours Max will be patrolling the city using Gordon's old name. Thank God Gordon hasn't started talking about her sex life with the old man, because Max can't deal with thoughts of naked Bruce.

"So. What do you want?"

"I haven't decided," said Max.

"Decide soon, or he'll decide. He'll use you up, and then ... "

"I know."


The DA in Bl├╝dhaven has an infectious smile, a phrase that Max previously associated with meaning "avoid this person like the plague." Grayson puts her at her ease, just like Gordon said he would. The interview is a breeze, and afterwards he sits back in his chair. "So. How's Bruce?"

He's made it clear she'll get the job based on her own merits, not on "family" connections. She believes him, though that's probably because she wants to more than any other reason.

He's got an employment contract already written, awaiting her signature.

She'll sign in blood if she has to.


"Don't go," Terry says.

She's finishing up with the notes she intends to leave, where to find files, how to fix the things she's helped develop. Matt's double-majoring in business and engineering; in between classes, he's already taken over most of the repairs and new designs. It makes her feel less guilty for leaving. A little.

The old man hasn't tried to stop her. Deep in his soul, Terry doesn't want to stop her either. She knows him.

"I'll miss you," she says, and kisses him on the cheek, and leaves before she stays forever.

And it is enough.


The End