Title: She Amused Him
Fandom: Justice League
Characters: Dinah (Black Canary), Bruce (Batman), Ollie (Green Arrow), Barbara (Oracle), Dick (Nightwing)
Thank you, Djinn, for the beta.
Dinah walked through the Watchtower, heading to the conference room, wondering if anyone would notice if she skipped this week's Justice League meeting. It wasn't as if she hadn't done it before--many times before--she just didn't like the idea of Ollie being the reason for her playing hooky. She'd have to deal with the soft, embarrassed looks she was sure to get when word got out. And word always got out quickly around here. But that didn't stop her from hoping he'd have the good sense not to show up. Who was she kidding? This was Ollie, and even though she'd found him in the arms of another woman only hours ago, that had never stopped him from still wanting her.
She straightened, her stride more determined. This time was different. She'd said that the last time, too, and the last. But this time she meant it. She would no longer be the poster girl for dysfunctional relationships. She still had her pride, after all, and she was counting on it to help her through this mess she called a romantic life.
Damn, why had she believed him when he'd promised he'd changed? Again.
But not anymore.
Something wet rolled down her cheek, and she wiped at the offending tear with the back of her hand. She was through crying over this man, over something she knew he couldn't give her--the only thing she'd every wanted: devotion. She knew she had his love, it just wasn't enough. Not anymore. Not ever, really.
She rounded a corner to find teammates gathered outside the conference room, talking and laughing as if they didn't have a care in the world. She stopped before she reached them, before they saw her, and tried to compose the emotional volcano she feared would erupt at a moment's notice. She was determined not to fall apart.
"I need to talk to you about a case, Dinah. I could use your expertise in Gotham."
She nearly jumped out of her skin, but then remembered she was in friendly territory where bats didn't have to scare the crap out of people. Although, she was positively certain Bruce enjoyed terrifying both friend and foe alike.
She turned and faced him with a grin she knew wouldn't fool anyone let alone the world's greatest detective. "Anytime, Bats. You know that."
Then she felt herself stiffen, unable to control the emotions suddenly bubbling to the surface when Ollie rounded the corner. He smiled at her, making a beeline to where she stood. She expected nothing less from him.
Ollie patted Bruce on the back with gusto. "Hey, Bats." Then he leaned closer to her, apparently for a kiss. "Pretty bird."
Dinah turned her head before his lips could reach hers. Hadn't he gotten the message last night? But then again, she'd never been good at ending their relationship permanently.
"I guess you're still mad." Ollie ran a hand through his hair and had the good sense to look somewhat sheepish.
"Not that I have any reason to be, right, Ollie?" She knew she sounded bitter, but at this point in the game, could she really blame Ollie? It was her own damn fault for believing him. She turned to Bruce. "I'll talk to you after the meeting about that job." Then she walked away.
Dinah landed on the rooftop Bruce had told her to meet him at, but he was nowhere to be seen. Not really an odd occurrence considering Bruce's penchant for dramatic entrances. She decided to stroll over to the edge, taking in the sights that only Gotham could offer, and waited. It didn't take long for her mind to begin to wander. A mind she'd kept occupied by keeping herself too busy to think about much of anything, let alone Ollie.
"Dammit, Dinah, the world does not revolve around one Oliver Queen." She began to pace, hoping the activity would distract her. She was determined to stay strong.
Even though she knew to expect a freaky stealth appearance from Bruce, she found herself startled nonetheless. She pointed her finger, poking his chest. "I know you derive some sick satisfaction out of scaring everyone, Bruce, but could you please give it a rest?" She took a breath, flipped her hair from her face. "Now, what's this job about?"
Bruce stood still, silent, like he was waiting for something.
Dinah turned and checked around her personal vicinity. "What?"
"You usually start things with a joke. I was waiting for the punch line."
"Are you actually complaining that I want to get down to business?"
Bruce gave that half smirk/grin/whatever that no one knew the meaning behind. It usually scared the crap out of Roy, but it made Superman laugh out loud. She decided in this case, Bruce was just amused.
"I've learned to appreciate your humor," he said.
"What? Nightwing not filling his quip quota for you?"
"Let's just say he lacks your style."
She grinned. "I wouldn't tell Dick that."
Bruce smirked/grinned/whatever again, but in what seemed like an instant, it was gone, replaced with his usual, stoic look. "I'm sorry about Ollie."
Her hands suddenly tightened into fists. "Don't you dare feel sorry for me."
Pity from Bruce was the last thing she needed--or wanted. He probably thought she'd go back to Ollie, too. But, he'd soon realize that this bird had flown the coop for the last time.
Bruce turned to leave. "Go home, Canary."
"Go home? I thought we had a job to do?"
"I mention Ollie and you nearly fall to pieces. I need you focused."
"Do you actually think I can't do whatever little job you throw my way?"
"This isn't a little job."
"I'm focused," she said through gritted teeth.
"I've been able to catch you off guard twice--once at the Watchtower and again here tonight."
"You sneak up on everyone. Even Supes. Do you want to tell him he can't do a job?"
"It's usually not as easy as you've allowed it to be. Go home." He fired a line to a neighboring building and was gone before she could think of a retort. She was usually a lot quicker on the witty retorts. Damn Ollie for doing this to her again.
But she'd let him.
Dinah kicked at a tiny pebble from the gravel roof, lifted her head to the dark, misty sky, and cried in the sonic cry that had made her a hero. But this time, it was a cry of pure frustration and pain that escaped her lips.
Dinah sat at a spare desk at Barbara's secret Oracle lair, the side of her face resting atop the surface, drumming her fingers to a rhythm stuck in her head.
At least she wasn't thinking about Ollie.
She winced. No matter what she did to keep herself from thinking of him, it wasn't working. Bruce was right not to want to work with her.
But she desperately needed a distraction. "So, there's not even a really, really, really lame job a useless Canary could do?"
Barbara sighed. Dinah knew she was pressing Barbara's patience, but she was her best friend, and what were best friend's for it not to help you through the tough times?
"You're not useless and my answer is the same it was the last five times you asked. No."
"Needn't get so testy about it."
Barbara rolled her eyes then got back to work, typing on the keyboard with such speed that it made Dinah dizzy. So Dinah turned her eyes back to the gray surface her face laid upon and began drumming her fingers again, humming a few notes to the current jingle from some local convenience store she'd never been to.
Barbara cleared her throat, but Dinah didn't want to lose the only distraction available to her at the moment, the jingle a solid presence for nearly six hours, seven minutes now.
Barbara cleared her throat again. Louder.
Dinah ignored her friend's apparent phlegm-filled throat.
Dinah looked up and wondered why Barbara sounded so…cranky. It wasn't the first word that crossed her mind, but Barbara was a friend. "What?"
Barbara took a breath, closed her eyes, and seemed to be counting.
Dinah sat upright in the chair and sighed, hating that she seemed to be getting on everyone's nerves. "I'm sorry I'm such a pain."
"You are a pain, but you're hurting, so I forgive you."
"I need to work, Babs. You've got nothing?"
Barbara looked away and Dinah stood.
"What is it?" Dinah asked.
"Bruce grounded you."
"What? He can't do that."
"Actually, he can. His standing at the Justice League gives him the authority to make the call."
"What we do isn't Justice League business and you know it. He talked you into it, didn't he?"
"You just need a little time, Dinah. When you're more focused--"
Dinah lifted her hand to stop Barbara from saying more. "He's right." She threw her hands in the air. "There, I said it. Bruce is right."
"Painful, isn't it?"
"Very." She stood, grabbed her things, and wondered if Bruce ever got tired of being right most of the time. "By the way, where is Bruce?"
"Watchtower. What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to give him a piece of my mind."
"But you just said he was right?"
"Like I said, I need a distraction, and baiting Batman is always fun."
"You had Barbara ground me?" She stomped into the observatory of the Watchtower, knowing Bruce would be there doing whatever he did when he was there. She really wasn't sure she wanted to know. Knowing things about what the bat family was up to might keep you awake at night.
He never looked up from whatever he was tinkering with. Looked like some sort of new bat gadget to her. Probably using some of the Watchtower's alien technology to his advantage. "You're too distracted to be on the job. Barbara agreed."
She suddenly had an idea and wondered why she hadn't thought of it before. "Then help me focus, Bruce. Teach me one of your voodoo mind meld thingies to help me forget."
He did that grin thing and she grinned, too. She liked that she seemed to amuse him. She had the feeling not many people did.
"Meditation is not voodoo. And it won't help you to forget," he said.
She leaned against the desk, facing him, tried to see exactly what he was working on, but it was all Greek to her. "Then what good is it, anyway?"
"To help you focus. Remember?"
"Then you'll help me?" If anyone could help her through this it was Bruce. His knowledge of eastern meditation was phenomenal.
"You already know how to meditate."
"You've been taught by the best, Bruce. Please teach me."
She guessed he was thinking about it since he didn't answer right away. At least he didn't just say no.
Then he started to tinker with his toy again. "Meet me in the bat-cave at seven sharp."
"Tonight?" Not that she had any plans for tonight, or tomorrow night, or the night after that, but she didn't expect him to say yes, let alone schedule a time this soon.
He turned to look at her and she smiled.
"I'll be there, Bruce. Seven sharp." It was the first time since she'd left Ollie that she was actually looking forward to something.
She arrived at the cave at seven-fifteen, finding Bruce working out on the rings. She stood and watched, mesmerized by his grace and style, not to mention all those muscles. She knew there had to be a magnificent body under all that armor he wore.
Bruce dismounted, making it look easy, but she knew from experience it was anything but. She moved closer.
"You're late," he said, grabbing a bottled water and taking a long pull from it.
She looked at the nonexistent watch on her wrist. "Am I? My watch must be slow."
"If you're not going to take this seriously, then go home." He turned away, heading to the martial arts mat.
She gazed appreciatively for a moment, wondering if he'd always worked out in only the bottom tights portion of his uniform. She shook off the thought. She was here for his help, although he definitely was giving her the distraction she sought. Following him, she grabbed his arm, turning him to face her. "I'm sorry. I had an unexpected visitor I couldn't shake off to make it here in time. It won't happen again.
"How is Ollie?" Bruce grabbed a towel and tossed it over his shoulder. She was silent, confused at the question, something Bruce must have picked up on since he continued, "Your unexpected visitor?"
She sighed, nodded slowly as if she was guilty of something.
"And you threw him out."
"Now how did you know that?"
"Because you're here." Bruce sat on the mat, legs crossed. "Ready?"
She sat facing him in the same manner and smiled. "You bet."
The Watchtower had never been her favorite place to eat, except on Wednesdays. Wednesdays was lasagna night, and the lasagna here was to die for. She took a bite, closed her eyes, and enjoyed the meal she'd missed out on for a while now. She'd never realized it before, but she'd seemed to have lost a little of herself in her relationship with Ollie. She vowed to rediscover the simple things that used to make her happy.
Then she looked up and saw Ollie heading her way. He sat down next to her. "May I join you?"
"No." She took another bite but the flavor was somehow lost.
"I miss you, pretty bird."
She put down her fork and sighed. "I know."
"If it means anything, I'm sorry."
"You're always sorry, Ollie."
He took her hand. "Can't we--"
She shrugged from his grasp, and Ollie looked as surprised as she'd ever seen him. He evidently wasn't expecting her to turn him away again. He probably figured he'd given her enough time to calm down, but Dinah had used that time to her advantage this go around. She'd used it to get over him. "No. Just, no."
"I can't lose you."
"You should have thought of that before…" She closed her eyes and took a breath. She'd promised herself she wouldn't do this with him again. This vicious cycle had to end and it was up to her to end it, although the emotions that welled up in her would make it difficult. She choked back a sob but managed somehow to whisper, "I was lost a long time ago, Ollie--to you and to me, too. But I'm coming back strong. And I won't lose myself again. Not for you. Not for anyone. Capisce?"
"I'll change. For you, I'd do anything," he said softly, reverently even, with a tinge of begging. He'd never begged her before. But the words were too familiar.
"You've said that before, remember?"
"You'll be back. I'll show you I've changed and you'll come back to me."
Dinah shook her head. "Don't do this, Ollie. Please. Just let me go."
Ollie seemed startled at her determination to move on--without him. "I really made a mess of things. But we had fun, too, right?"
She nodded. They did have fun, but the fun had become so clouded with the bad that she barely remembered those times. Ollie seemed to remember, though. Maybe that's why he'd always come back to her.
"Is this what you really want?" he asked, and she knew this was the end of it all for them. He'd leave her alone after today.
He stood, moved slowly as if she'd somehow change her mind before he could turn and walk out of the room--like she'd always done before. But she said nothing, so he left, but not before looking back at her. She wondered if that was a bad sign. People always told her to never look back. And now that she thought about it, Ollie had always looked back.
She didn't want to look back anymore. And she found herself pleasantly surprised when Bruce approached her table, tray of food in hand.
"May I join you?" he asked.
"Sit down, Bats, and tell me what you're doing here when I understand you have the best cook in the world working for you."
"I'll tell Alfred you said so. You're sure to get something baked out of it."
"Really?" Although she'd never actually eaten any of Alfred's meals, she'd heard enough about them from Barbara, and even Superman, to know they were to die for.
"I'll make sure of it."
She grinned. "You didn't answer my question."
"Alfred's vacationing in London."
"And I take it, you don't cook?"
He shook his head. "I'm not allowed in the kitchen. I had to promise to either eat out or have it sent in no farther than the dining room."
Bruce shrugged. "I've given him reason to worry."
Dinah leaned in closer. "You can tell me."
Bruce shook his head.
"That bad, huh?" she asked.
"It was a long time ago, but he hasn't forgotten."
She pointed her fork at him and raised an eyebrow. "I hope you know that this is prime blackmail material. The Batman can't cook."
Bruce shrugged. "No one would believe you."
"You're probably right." She watched him dig into his lasagna and take a bite. "Pretty good, huh?"
He seemed surprised. "Not bad." He took a drink of water, set it back on the table, then looked at her. "You all right?"
She took a sip of her drink and paused, thinking about the question. Was she all right? "Yeah. I think so."
He grinned and she saw the warmth in it. It was nice. "Good."
"It is good, isn't it?" She took another bite. "So, what's on the menu for tomorrow night?"
"Why don't you tell me? You seem to eat here more than I do."
She waved her hands in front of her. "Oh no. You do not want to come back here tomorrow. It's meatloaf night."
She made a face to show how bad it was. "Not even remotely good." Although Flash certainly enjoyed it. But then again, Flash would eat anything.
"Then I have a bit of a dilemma."
"I hate eating alone."
"Hmm. I see your problem. Not." She sat back in her chair, arms folded. "Are you trying to tell me you can't get a date?"
"Let's just say I've had enough of the social scene to last a lifetime. Or at least until it's time to garner needed press to secure my identity as a first-rate playboy fop."
The words seemed to hit her hard, the word playboy definitely not sitting well. "Are you actually complaining? I'm not likely to believe you, you know." She tried not to sound harsh, bitter, but she knew she failed miserably.
He took another bite of his lasagna and seemed to take it in stride. Bruce never riled easily. "I'm not Ollie, Dinah."
He wasn't. She knew better, but he was an easy target at the moment.
She let out a breath. "No. You're not. But Bruce Wayne is."
"Bruce Wayne is an act. I thought you knew that."
"I do know that. But knowing and feeling are two different things." Even with the cowl on she swore she saw a twinge of something cross his face as he looked down and slowly tossed his food around with a fork. She wondered if Bruce really cared what she thought of him. He hadn't seemed to before when she'd confronted him about Barbara not all that long ago, and asked that he apologize for something he'd said. He'd never given her an indication that what she'd told him even minutely penetrated that tough exterior of his. Until tonight.
She placed her hand on top of his and out of the corner of her eye, she saw the attention that that one little act seemed to wield from the surrounding tables. She ignored them. "I'm sorry, Bruce. Old habits die hard, I guess."
"I'm not entitled to take out my personal issues on friends."
He looked up and grinned. "Make it up to me?"
She sat back again and laughed. "How?"
"You giving me my wings back?"
"Be at the Manor at six tomorrow. And the attire is formal."
She smiled. "The job's at a party?"
"A charity gala."
She squealed and noticed Bruce trying to keep his lips from spreading any further than they already were. She stood and started to walk away.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
Dinah entered the ballroom on the arm of Bruce Wayne, and into the same glitz and glamour she'd gotten used to when she'd attended these things with Ollie. She didn't know if she liked this particular similarity Bruce and Ollie shared--this life of aristocracy. But Bruce had been right about one thing: he wasn't Ollie.
She leaned closer to him. "So what's on the agenda for tonight?"
He moved close to her ear and whispered, "There's no agenda." His breath was hot against her skin, making her shiver. And, she chose to ignore what that Armani tux was doing to other parts of her body. She didn't think she'd ever seen him looking so good, and that said a lot given her penchant for men in tights.
"So this is a wait-and-see thing?" She looked around the room. "Who exactly are we waiting to see?"
Bruce grabbed two flutes of champagne from a passing waiter and handed one to her. He took a sip. "No one."
"No one? Then what are we supposed to do?"
Bruce took her glass, placed it next to his on a table, and held out his hand. "Dance?"
She broke into a huge grin, playing the part but actually excited at the prospect of having fun, too. She let him lead her to the dance floor. His hand settled on the bare small of her back--her dress leaving little to the imagination from behind--and she shivered again, his hand large and comforting. She hadn't felt like this in a long time. Not since what's-his-face.
"It may be helpful to know a few details of the mission. It might come in handy, don't you think?"
"It's a wait and see thing, remember?" He smiled, winked, and pulled her closer, leading her around the dance floor with ease and grace. To her surprise, it didn't take long for her to forget the mission and everything else, enjoying the company of this strong, silent man who held her close. Even if it was only an under-cover gig, Dinah was having fun.
Dinah kicked off her shoes and threw herself onto her bed. "You should've been there, Babs. The food alone was worth the price of this dress."
"I take it you had a good time?"
"I had a fantastic time. Who knew Bruce could be so much fun?"
Barbara giggled. "He is Bruce Wayne."
"Yeah, but I mean the real Bruce. You know?"
Barbara sighed. "I know. We don't get to see much of him."
"Well he's fun." Dinah jumped off the bed and headed to the kitchen.
Dinah opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottled water. "What I've yet to piece together is the reason for being there. You know how he can get about keeping things under his hat, even if you're working for him."
"Tell me about it. But isn't it enough you had a good time?"
Dinah took a sip of water, deep in thought. "Maybe he was keeping an eye on a suspect and needed me for his cover."
"Or maybe he just wanted to be with you?"
"Or maybe he's laying the ground work for something bigger. Like an undercover assignment."
"Or maybe he likes you?" Barbara's voice grew louder, breaking through Dinah's thought process.
Dinah frowned. "That couldn't be it."
"Because…" Dinah tried to think of a reason.
"See, can't think of one reason."
"He's a man, Dinah. When you take away the cape and mask and issues that could fill volumes, he's just a man who wants what any of us want. Love. He just doesn't like to admit it."
"Why didn't he just ask me out on a date?"
"Maybe he's testing the water to see if you're ready. Are you ready?"
"I…don't know." It was an honest answer, but why was her stomach all aflutter at the thought of dating Bruce? Then it hit Dinah. "How do you know?"
"Dick and I have known Bruce for a long time. Let's just say Bruce has been less than his gloomy self these past few weeks. Ever since you've been going over to the cave for those meditation lessons."
Dinah still wasn't convinced, and Barbara must have seen it in the expression on her face.
"What about on the Watchtower? Has he been acting any differently?" Barbara asked
Dinah thought back. "Come to think of it, I've been running into him more than I have since joining the League."
"Well, what do you know?" Dinah needed time to process all of this. Bruce liked her? She smiled.
After much thought, and a few pints of mocha ice cream, Dinah had decided that maybe she was ready for something--although she wasn't ready to call it a relationship just yet--with Bruce. He'd already made his move, apparently testing her interest, so here she was, standing at the security desk in the lobby of Wayne Enterprises, ready to let Bruce know where she stood. But she also came with terms. She was not willing to make the same mistakes she'd made with Ollie. And if Bruce wasn't scared off, something she knew could happen given what she was about to ask of him, then maybe her current state of nervousness would be worth it.
"I'm here to see Bruce Wayne," she told the guard, who juggled the busy phones like someone who'd had this job for a while.
"Is his office expecting you?"
"No. It's a surprise, actually. You see, Bruce and I are friends--" The guard picked up a ringing phone, and Dinah was grateful for the interruption--she rambled insistently when she was nervous.
"Name?" he asked, giving her his full attention again, but apparently uncaring that she was there to surprise Bruce. Dinah wondered if the guard had dealt with others like her--women who were here to surprise Bruce for lunch. She didn't like that thought very much.
He picked up the phone again, and Dinah assumed he was calling Bruce's secretary or receptionist or whoever would make the decision to allow her beyond this point. By now someone was probably asking Bruce who the hell was Dinah Lance and what was she doing here without an appointment? She knew how secretaries could get when a wrench was thrown in their schedule. Not that it really mattered to her one way or the other. And why was it taking so long? Maybe this was a bad idea.
"Ms. Lance?" The guard handed her some sort of badge with the word VISITOR stamped across it. She clipped it to her blouse, the blue one she chose because she thought Bruce might like it. Not that she knew what he liked--she just looked damn good in it. "Take those elevators to the twelfth floor. The receptionist is expecting you."
"Thank you." She took a breath. There was no turning back now. Bruce was sure to know she was on her way up to his office.
With each passing floor, her thoughts turned over and over in her mind as she practiced what she would say to Bruce. Hey Bruce, I like you. Can we go steady? She groanedWould he even want to be exclusive with her? She hadn't even told him she liked him yet. But she wasn't about to dip one toe into the water without this. She'd lay her cards on the table and the rest was up to him. They could go as slow as each of them was willing after that, but exclusivity was a deal breaker. She just hoped Bruce understood.
The elevator doors opened and she looked up to see Bruce waiting for her, grinning. There was no quizzical look on his face, he seemed genuinely pleased to see her.
He took her hand. "This is a nice surprise."
She felt the heat rise to her face and hoped she wouldn't make a complete fool of herself. "I should've called first. I know you don't usually like surprises. But I've been thinking, a lot actually, and I thought this might be a good idea. Dropping by, that is." The ability to shut her mouth was beyond her control.
"You're a very nice surprise."
"I am?" She smiled as he wrapped her arm through his, leading her past several large desks that lined the way. The executive suite was opulent yet professional, and a part of Bruce's world she'd never seen. It was so different from what she knew of him. She just hoped she would get the chance to know more of this man.
They entered his office and he closed the door. "Can I get you something? The bar is stocked with everything from fifty year-old scotch to Gatorade."
"No, I'm fine." And she was suddenly at a loss for words.
She moved over to the sofa that was against the wall, steering clear of the very large desk. She didn't want him hiding behind it. She wanted things out in the open, clear cut. But that seemed the least of her worries as he sat down next to her, close enough for his leg to brush against hers and settle there. The signals he was sending could garner the attention of the National Guard, and they were distracting. Now it was her turn to show him she was interested, too.
But before she could, he grabbed her hand, then turned her face to him with the other one. And for the life of her she didn't know why she was suddenly crying. But when she looked at Bruce, he made her feel that he understood.
He touched the side of her face with the palm of his hand, wiping at the tears with his thumb, and moved closer, his face mere inches from hers. But he stopped, and she realized he was waiting for her to close the distance--to pace this thing they seemed to be starting between them. She touched his lips with her fingers, then with her lips, soft and slow. It would have to be slow--for now.
Bruce seemed to agree since he didn't deepen the kiss, didn't pressure her for more. He looked at her. "So?"
She took a breath. This was it. "I'm a one-man woman, Bruce."
"You're the only woman I want, Dinah."
It was what she wanted to hear, but was it enough? "Are you sure? Because, I won't settle for less."
"You should never have to settle. Not you." He kissed her again, but she pulled away to look at him.
"Just answer something for me?"
"Why now? We've known each other for a while, and in all that time--"
"You were with Ollie." Bruce shrugged. "There's a time for everything, I've learned."
Bruce surprised her. She had no idea how he'd felt. She smiled. "Lunch?"
He stood and took her hand. "Lunch."
But before they reached the door, it opened and a man walked in holding a stack of papers. "I'm sorry, Bruce. I didn't know you had someone in here."
"It's lunch time Lucius, I'm sure those can wait," Bruce said, pointing at the documents. "Besides, I have a date."
Lucius grinned and held his hand out toward Dinah.
"Lucius, this is Dinah Lance. My girlfriend," Bruce said, and Lucuis seemed surprised, but genuinely happy, at Bruce's revelation.
So was Dinah. She smiled widely. She was going steady with Bruce Wayne.
Her brain was supplying her with ideas she had a hard time dealing with at the moment. This wasn't catching the man you're supposed to be involved with, with another woman, but the feelings felt the same. "I just don't understand it. Things were going so well. I thought we had a chance. But now…" Now he was pushing her away, angry at something or someone and he refused to discuss it with her, or anyone else as far as she knew.
"I thought this year would be different somehow. Now that you were in the picture." Barbara rolled to the kitchen table and handed Dinah a cup of tea.
"Dinah, do you know what today is?" Dick took another offered cup of tea.
"It's also the anniversary of their death."
Dinah felt as if all the wind were knocked from her. "This is THE anniversary? When his parents died?" She shook her head. Suddenly a lot of things made sense. "Why didn't he just tell me?"
"Talking about anything personal is akin to torture for Bruce. You know that." Barbara joined them at the table. "And this time of year, it only gets worse. Last year he locked himself in the cave for days."
Dinah knew of Bruce's history, but he'd never talked about it before--not with her, at any rate. And she never thought to realize that he might still carry that night with him. "Maybe I should give him what he wants and stay away. At least for a little while."
"No," Dick said, turning to her with what looked like steely determination. "No matter what he says or how hard he pushes, the last thing he wants is to be alone. You have to trust me on that one."
"He seemed pretty convincing to me, Dick."
"You ever take psyche classes in college?" At her nod, Dick continued, "It's classic fear of abandonment."
She thought about it, not that she'd paid much attention in that particular class, taught by the ever dreary Mr. McMillam. But she knew enough to know that Dick was probably right. "He won't talk to me, Dick. How do I get into that big, bat heart of his if he won't let me in?"
Dick and Barbara shared knowing grins.
"What?" Dinah asked.
"You're already in, Dinah. Don't you know that?" Dick leaned back in his chair, and Barbara grinned from ear to ear.
"I am?" Dinah asked, her mood suddenly brighter.
"You were in almost from the beginning. So now, just be there. And no matter how hard he pushes, don't leave, because he really doesn't want you to."
"Is this from experience?"
Dick took another sip of his tea. "Yep. Pretty much."
"I knew something was wrong. I just assumed he didn't want me anymore."
"Maybe because you keep expecting him to be like Ollie," Barbara said.
Dinah looked at her friend's concerned face and had to admit Barbara was right. "And he's not."
"No. He's not," Dick said. "I'm not saying he won't ever drive you up the wall, he will. But contrary to outward appearances, Bruce feels things deeply. Especially when he's in love."
"Uh huh." Dick grinned and took another sip of his tea.
She wondered if Dick and Barbara could read her feelings as well as they seemed to read Bruce's. She stood, grabbed her things, and walked out of Barbara's apartment without another word. She had to see Bruce.
She found him in the cave in almost the same position she'd left him at several hours before, entering data into his case files. He seemed so composed, cold--too cold. She'd learned quickly that this was his method of covering the emotional turmoil that lay just beneath the surface. Dick had been right; Bruce felt things deeply.
He turned slightly toward her, and she wondered if he thought she'd come back at all. But if he had, he didn't show it as he returned to his work at the computer, his back straight and proud, his key strokes deliberate. Everything about him seemed to exude disinterest in her presence. Good thing she didn't believe him.
She sat in the chair next to him, plopped her feet up on the desk. "Whatcha' doing?"
"What do you want, Canary?" His eyes were intent on the screen in front of him when he spoke, his voice even.
"Ah. We're back to you calling me Canary, are we?" She tried to not let it bother her. She knew the reason behind it. Dick was right, classic abandonment issues. Maybe she should have paid closer attention in class, become a shrink, even. She had the feeling it would've come in handy. However, at the moment, she needed Bruce's attention, and it was currently being shared with a great big bat-computer. "You ever play computer games with that thing?"
"The bat-computer is not a toy." He sounded annoyed, but at least he answered her. He'd probably had this argument before with Dick and Tim.
She grinned. "What about online dating?"
He was silent, behaved as though he didn't hear her.
"No. I suppose not," she said. He was Bruce Wayne, after all. "Do you…chat?"
He turned and faced her with a sigh.
"All right. I should have known better. The Batman does not chat." She sat back in the chair and folded her arms, pouting.
He turned back to the computer. She read what he typed, data from his latest bout with the Joker. She shivered at a particularly graphic description. Bruce was thorough, no matter how sick and twisted the case. She would be eager to forget the gory details, but Bruce would make sure to remember them. It was what made him so great at what he did. But she wondered if the cost to him personally was too high.
Dinah suddenly realized how important it was to show him that there could be a future of joy and laughter, not just the tragic circumstances that his mission sometimes led him to--or the tragedy Bruce had seen in his own life.
"Did you hear about the blonde who goes into a nearby store and asks a clerk if she can buy the TV in the corner? The clerk looks at her and says that he doesn't serve blondes, so she goes back home and dyes her hair black." She looked to see if Bruce was listening, but he didn't seem to be as his fingers flew across the keyboard at an amazing rate. But Dinah wasn't deterred. "The next day she returns to the store and asks the same thing, and again, the clerk says he doesn't serve blondes. Frustrated, the blonde goes home and dyes her hair yet again, to a shade of red. Sure that a clerk would sell her the TV this time, she returns and asks for a different clerk." He still hadn't looked at her, but his typing pace slowed. He was listening. She was sure of it. "To her astonishment, this clerk also says that she doesn't serve blondes. The blonde asks the clerk, 'How in the world do you know I am a blonde?'" Bruce stopped typing all together and turned slightly, evidently waiting for the punch line. There was suddenly a lump the size of Pittsburgh stuck in Dinah's throat and she could feel the sting of tears as they welled in her eyes. "The clerk looks at her disgustedly and says, 'That's not a TV -- it's a microwave!'"
She saw it before she heard it, his shoulders shaking slightly, then the soft chuckle that was more of a deep rumbling with that baritone voice of his. It was music to her ears.
She jumped from her chair to his, plopping onto his lap and planting kisses all over his face. He grabbed her face with both hands and held it steady, looking into her eyes. He smiled at her, then pulled her close and kissed her with such passion it made her heart skip a beat.
For the first time, Dinah felt she had a future with this man.