Disclaimer: DC owns. I'm just borrowing. I don't pay DC, and nobody pays me, and I don't get sued. Anything else?
Thanks to Jules and Debbie for the beta!
"Easy, now, it's going to be okay." Nightwing keeps his voice and hands steady, belying the pounding of his heart.
The six-year-old girl stares at him. Above the handkerchief gag, her brown eyes are open so wide that they seem devoid of eyelids.
"Okay, Belinda. I'm going to take that out of your mouth as soon as I can, but I've got to get you out of here first, okay?" He glances at the timer on the bomb that rests on her lap. The device is fastened securely around her waist by a length of electrical cord. He has three minutes to get her free, give or take a few seconds. He can do this. "Attagirl," he says as she nods. "Relax."
He needs to take his own advice. He can't allow his fury to make him careless. But when he gets his hands on the lowlife who could leave a child in this state, it's going to take every ounce of self-restraint he has not to tear the scumbag limb from limb. Later, he reminds himself. For now, he needs to stay calm and concentrate on the task at hand.
Nightwing realizes that the little girl is trembling. He draws a deep breath. "I know," says gently. "The costume makes me look really scary, but I promise I'm not one of the bad guys." No point in his agonizing over which wires to cut when he can simply stop the timer. "If I'd known it was a problem, I would've worn my old suit. That one was all red and green and yellow. It was like dressing up like a Christmas tree."
He chuckles. The brown eyes crinkle at the corners. Her pupils contract as her breathing steadies. "Yeah," he continues as he carefully detaches the detonator from the plastique. "Everyone else laughed too. Until I kicked their butts, anyway."
Belinda's eyes fly open, again.
"Oh. Right," he sighs. "I said a bad word, didn't I? Sorry." He pulls out her gag. "Better?"
She grimaces, turns her face away from him, and spits.
"Here." Now that he's deactivated the bomb, he can afford the time to pass her his canteen. "That thing must've tasted awful." He smiles. "Go on, drink. It's just water."
She does. "Did you really look like a Christmas tree?" She asks.
He thinks about the gaudily-colored outfit, complete with pixie boots. "Well… more like an elf, actually," he admits. His smile matches hers. "Okay, Belinda. You're doing fine. I just need you to relax for another minute so I can get behind the chair and untie you.
She nods. A moment later, the remnants of the electrical wire fall away. "Are you going to take me back to Mommy and Daddy now?" She asks.
Nightwing pauses. "Well, that depends. See, if I take you home, we'll have to swing over the rooftops. Some people find that a little scary. But in a couple of minutes, the police are going to be here and they can drive you back instead."
Belinda thinks her options over for a moment. Then, she walks over to Nightwing and slips her hand into his. "I want to go home now," she says calmly.
He hoists her into his arms. "You got it, kid." He pauses a beat. "We're going to be pretty high up, but don't get nervous," he reassures her. "I won't drop you."
Brown eyes meet blue. "I know," she says confidently. "You're one of the good guys."