Title: Hot Summer's Night: Blue Diamond Fever
Author: DC Luder
Summary: During NML, he saved her from certain death and she thanked him with a concussion and a hasty exit. Eight months later, she's found a way to make amends. Sequel to Cold Winter's Night.
Rating: T for violence and mild adult themes
Infringements: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder.
Author's Note: My sincerest apologies for once again falling off of the face of the Earth. While I catch up on the Series of Three, I humbly offer this to you.
A/N 2: References made to Catwoman Volume 2 #72 and assorted NML fun.
"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it."
The first of August was the start of Gotham City's eighth month as a shining new city.
As a result of the year of erosion known as No Man's Land, the metropolis had all but vanished beneath earthquake rubble and the aftermath of endless gang activity. After realizing their error, the government had welcomed us back to civilization with open, and relatively forced, arms. Billions of dollars worth of materials and thousands of construction workers had been brought in from private and federal sources to resurrect Gotham's corpse. It had seemed impossible, but within a few months, the skyline towered over freshly paved streets, the MTA train systems were put back together and civilization brought the pulse back to the streets I had always loved.
Having lived in Gotham before, during and after the earthquake, it had still been an adjustment to seeing its sleeker self. The new skyscrapers had worked their way up to the heavens once more, although with more modern designs and features. The streets and avenues had been revitalized with black pavement and sharp contrasting markers, signs and crosswalks. The parks that had been ruptured and overgrown were treated with loving and detailed landscaping. Everything starting over, starting anew.
Every day, it seemed as if life was in fast forward, racing along back to normalcy.
However, Gotham wasn't Gotham without a dark cloud looming over it.
When No Man's Land had been declared, rather than transporting the hundreds of Arkham inmates to neighboring facilities, the guards had unlocked the doors before abandoning their posts. The time Gotham had spent on her own and cut off from civilization had been bad enough, let alone the added chaos of the criminally insane running free. The struggle to simply survive had put some of their heinous efforts at bay, but it hadn't taken long for hostages to turn to body counts.
My kind of crime had always been of the pillage variety, not the stabbing, filleting and killing kind.
By the time the city was reunited with the United States, the interim police force and masked vigilantes had managed to put away most of the heavy hitters and second class inmates. Even still, unspeakable acts had occurred and gone unpunished, innocents turned guilty, all for the gain of power and the need to survive. A few of the nobodies had hightailed it out of the city at first chance, some had no doubt perished amidst the gang violence or rampant disease and starvation. Whoever had remained had gone into hiding, waiting for the opportune moment to pluck the ripest fruit.
Not that I wasn't doing the same thing.
There had been a silver lining in the dark cloud…
When things had taken a turn for the worse following the earthquake, I had made my decision and left Gotham. It hadn't been the first time I had turned my back on the city I loved, but it had still been painful. Taking my most valuable belongings and my collection of passports with me, I had found myself a new home in Manhattan. I had spent my days perusing museums, sampling fine cuisine and preparing to get back to "work". Granted, the Big Apple was no Gotham, but it was about as close I was going to get.
All it really lacked was that something special. A tall, dark and handsome something dressed like a bat…
I had nearly put Gotham behind me when I had made a curious find while trying to steal an emerald the size of my fist. Regrettably, the gem had been a fake, turning out to be a device activated upon my attempted theft. My mouth had gaped when it delivered a message in the computerized tone of Oracle, "The Boss needs you to meet him in Gotham. You should be at Robinson Central Station's main lobby in twelve hours. If you don't show it will be assumed that you couldn't get in."
In the midst of his battles in the wreckage of Gotham, he had managed to track me down, had planted a fake gem that he knew I would go after and then had brazenly commanded for me to return. I would not have believed it to be possible, but there it had sat, securely in its display waiting for me. It had been fruitless to dwell on the matter for any significant amount of time as he was the world's greatest detective, there was no hiding from him.
He knew everything. He knew me. And he knew I would be unable to resist such a boldly placed challenge.
The challenge he had left for me had started an itch. The itch had evolved into an undeniable urge to sneak up on him in the middle of No Man's Land. That urge had turned into an burning desire to clock him in his square jaw for ruining my fun, for making me follow his order and for tugging at my ego.
Given that I had been enjoying my little place in Manhattan, I had not taken any thought to chart out my inevitable return to Gotham. There had been all of the time in the world to do so, especially since at the time No Man's Land seemed to be delaying any hopes of rebuilding. But with a twelve hour deadline, there had not been a moment to spare for coming up with a plan, let along putting it into action.
The flight to the Gotham County airport, the only surviving air strip after the earthquake, had been in the luxury of first class. Even still, I had been edgy and tense despite the complimentary champagne and plush leather seats. A flight attendant had asked if I was all right but I had warded him off by claiming to be a nervous flier. He had reassured me with a warm smile that we would safely land and that he would be nearby if I had needed anything. I should have asked him if he would have been willing to help me avoid land and water mines while crossing the Gotham River but I had held my tongue.
Once on the ground, I had collected my baggage, locked up some of my belongings in a locker and then rented a car under the name Ivana Katz. It hadn't been long after that I was racing up the interstate, closing in on Gotham City. The tension had grown to a relatively unbearable level, causing me to switch radio stations sporadically while speeding down the left lane without mercy. For those fifteen minutes, my mind had been solely focused on all that could go right and wrong while breaking into No Man's Land. It had been as I entered the former city limits that the rational mind gave in to memories, signaled just as the city skyline was no where in view.
A year earlier, Wayne, Hart and Citibank Towers would have been competing with one another to reach the clouds. The bridges would have been bustling with traffic, angry honks from commuters, dump trucks and taxis alike. Train cars packed full would have been leaving and entering the city on an endless loop. During the day, the city would have been cast in a slight haze, at night basked in an electric glow.
It had been dusk. And there had been nothing.
The interstate had offered detours back towards civilization, with all exits towards Gotham cut off with cement barricades topped with razor wire. It had taken an additional forty minutes to work my way through detours, turnarounds and backed up exits before I had made it to my destination. Namely, the on-ramp for what had once been the Westward Bridge.
With no human eyes even remotely nearby, I had changed into my guise, the suit greeting me like an old friend. With the added degree of difficulty, I had brought along a waterproof backpack of climbing gear, basic medical kit along with dehydrated food and water sterilizing tablets. Even though survivors had carried on during my absence, I had doubted they would be willing to share their limited supplies with a little old cat thief.
Regrettably, the safest way in had been through the river. A river marked with mines, bodies that had long since passed the stage of being a floater and of course decades of pollution. Outfitted with flippers, goggles and an oxygen re-breather, I had jumped into the murky abyss. The smell itself had been enough cause me to gag, but I had put my frustration to practical use, keen on doing anything to beat his challenge of meeting him within twelve hours.
Crawl stroking through liquid hell just to wipe that half-smirk off of his face with my claws…
Reaching the other side, I had enjoyed a momentary break sitting atop of a vacant and disabled dump truck. In the twenty minutes I had spent catching my breath, I had studied the barren patch of street and tattered buildings that had previously made up the Hudson Circle. Once upon a time, it had been known as "Hell's Circle" given its infamous traffic nightmares any given hour of the day. The only sign of life I had bore witness to was a pair of pigeons fighting over some miniscule bit of garbage.
The victor took to the skies, leaving the loser alone on the barren street.
I had made it into Gotham in one piece, smelly and disgusting, but intact. Next on the agenda had been to try to get to Robinson Central Station without falling prey to the terrain or what lurked in its crevices. Coming back to the city had naturally roused ancient memories, both good and bad. Seeing my home in ruin had been all too painful to bare initially, forcing me to emotionally vacate long before physically leaving it all behind.
My favorite perches were no longer in existence, the diamond district was buried beneath hundreds of tons of collapsed buildings and the eerie silence was as unnerving as the lack of activity. Darkness had always been a comfortable cloak but I had fond myself welcoming the daylight, even if my guise had me sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb.
Making my way to Robinson Central had proven to be more difficult than navigating the river of a million horrors. The news had reported on how the gangs were practically feral, fervently protecting heir territories with a battery of weaponry that had seemed to be medieval compared to the semi-automatics that had once empowered the criminals of Gotham. I had no interest in proving the media right or wrong and simply focused on moving quickly and quietly.
Thankfully, the only turf war I had come across had been the birds.
After ten and a half hours of living hell, I had finally stepped into the former crossties of Gotham, the building as silent as an empty church. As expected, he had been ready and waiting, wasting no time in getting to the point. I had used my anger at his challenge to fuel my efforts, but upon finally seeing him inn the flesh, it had all but dissipated. He had looked haggard, jaw dark with stubble, eyes painfully tired, even beneath the cowl's lenses. I had listened intently as he said he needed me to steal information that would be vital to saving Gotham.
Curiosity damned, I had asked, "Why not get them yourself?"
My anger had returned tenfold when he had replied, "They're in Manhattan."
I had laughed for a moment before immediately lunging at him, vowing to kill him for making me fight my way back into Gotham only to have to do it all over again. While evading my assaults, he had defended his actions, claiming that he had been unable to risk anyone learning about the discs he had needed and that he had wanted to be sure that I had been capable of getting through the barricades.
Still enraged, I had lashed out at him with the whip, shocked when he held his arm out to be ensnared by the tail, grabbing on and dragging me to him. What had been even more surprising had been when he had gripped me by the forearms, saying that he needed me before leaning forward and kissing me.
I had never been able to stay mad at him for long.
Deciding to be a good girl, I had played along. I had left Gotham mere hours after arriving, booked a hotel room near the airport simply to shower off the sludge and then found the next flight back to JFK. It had been my only mission in life, obtaining the information he had asked for, something he had only asked of me.
And then, like a good little kitty, I had returned home, back through the barricades, the murky river, and the tattered streets. Upon delivering the discs, I had told Batman that I intended to make the most out of returning to Gotham. He had in turn promised to hunt me down if he caught me stealing anything. There had been the most minute playful hint to his voice, something that had me grinning while walking out on him.
Even with Gotham in ruins, there had been the promise of some fun.
Unfortunately, it had not come to pass as expected. He had been entirely too busy fighting the gangs, battling with the Arkham inmates and even with the former GCPD to play a game of Bat and Cat. I had treated myself to a few gems that I had been able to unearth from the rubble in the museums, but most everything of true value had been destroyed or not worth risking life and limb crawling through unstable debris. In fact, the next time I had actually spent time with him had been the night we had both jumped into an icy reservoir to save two young women from drowning.
I had joked, while nearly succumbing to severe hypothermia, that being good never paid as well as being bad.
Despite the fact that he had been nearly as frigid as I had been, Batman had managed to carry me to one of his bunkers, bringing life back to my body with warm IV fluids and thermal blankets. He had tended to me before worrying about his own health, cranking the heat in the cramped quarters before disrobing and crawling into the narrow bed, rubbing my arms and legs to bring me out of near lethal shock. Most of the night had been a painful blur, but I had a distinct recollection of falling asleep in his arms.
Upon waking in utter darkness hours later, I had taken advantage of the situation, using our nude states and lowered inhibitions to seduce him. It had been an opportunity that would have never presented itself again, something I had dreamt of for years and yet something I had never thought of actually coming true. We had teased and taunted one another for so long, a physically and painfully tense courtship that had never climaxed.
That was until that cold winter's night.
Although I had wanted nothing more than to stay with him in those pre-dawn hours, I had bailed. I had taken advantage of his post-coitus reduced defenses to render him unconscious, slamming his brow directly into the metal frame of the bed. I had taken a moment to check his vitals and position him so that he wouldn't fall onto the floor. Still in the dark, I had collected the damp remnants of my costume and donned them hastily. With a pillowcase in hand, I had felt my way over to the small storage shelf, taking all of the bottled water and food rations along with the medical supplies.
Before leaving, I had returned bedside and kissed his cheek, "Thanks for everything, stud."
I had also scrawled a message on the frost covered door, telling him that next time I would bring my whip if he brought the cuffs. An apology of sorts.
For what little had remained of No Man's Land, I had managed to avoid him. Again, he had bigger problems to worry about, like the Joker kidnapping babies, cops killing other cops and Lex Luthor trying to claim Gotham for his own. Revenge for a little theft and mild head trauma had no room on his busy schedule of saving every life he could.
But that was all in the past.
Gotham was well on her way back to her new-old self. The streets were alive with actual people and not with leery-eyed ghosts of the human race. Lights, horn honks and the chatter of trains on tracks brought the feel of the city as much as the new buildings. With one of my former penthouses having been in a building owned by Wayne's real estate holdings, I wasn't in a government sub-leased condo. I spent Gotham's first year back in civilization doing most of the repairs myself, finally seeking out a contractor to get the electricity to work in the left side of my home.
But I was home.
I was even more at home when August first came to pass, marking the grand re-opening of the Museum of Natural History. The loss of priceless exhibits had countless of personal collectors and other facilities offering items on loan. Given my nature, I loathed the animal displays and dinosaurs were of no interest to me. However, the mineral science exhibit had caught my interest, especially after I learned that the Blue Diamond necklace was going to be on display for the month of August.
Nine rare blue diamonds that clocked out at nearly six carats were fixed in to a necklace made up of two hundred and forty-three colorless diamonds. It had been crafted as a "consolation" gift from the South African diamond magnate Thomas Cullinan to his wife. He had promised to find her the largest diamond in the world, but when he had unearthed the over three-thousand carat Cullinan Diamond at the turn of the last century, he had given it to England's King Edward VII.
As an apology, he had devised the Blue Diamond necklace and given it to her.
After both had passed, it had gone from one family member to another before finally finding its way to the National Gem Gallery, which had donated ten exhibits to the Natural History Museum's Mineralogy wing. I had helped myself to a few treasures during No Man's Land, but it had been some time since I had actually put my skills to the test. And with twenty-five million dollars worth of shiny sitting in a display case, I simply couldn't resist.
With all of the modifications put into the reconstruction of the museum, I was forced to alter my typical approach. Simple motion sensors had been upgraded to pressure detectors on the floors, doors and windows. Ventilation systems were now outfitted with audio monitoring microphones, eager to pick up the sound of someone moving through on their hands and knees. Even though the exhibits themselves were cushioned by juicy insurance policies, each display had visual and thermographic cameras studying them and their surroundings, along with armed guards.
I attended the opening gala, decked out in my own diamond necklace and low-dipping black Vera Wang gown. The guards on duty for the event were scheduled to remain overnight, keeping the millions of dollars worth of gems safe from the likes of me. I chatted up each of them, learning that all four were formerly from Blackgate, taking on better paying and less dangerous work at their wives' requests.
Despite their obedience, each treated themselves to a gander down my cleavage.
I allowed it, as it left them oblivious to the fact that it allowed me to place trackers on all of them.
Rather than backtrack home only to return to the museum, I lingered late at the gathering, acting tipsy and causing two of the guards to squabble over who would call me a cab. Reggie won over Thomas, more than happy to guide me to the main entrance, promising to help me get home safe. Halfway there, I grabbed him by the tie, latched my lips onto his and forced him to back-peddle into the woman's bathroom. Even for a former Blackgate guard, he was easily caught off guard and unable to regroup before my next onslaught.
Namely a tranquilizer to his awfully firm buttocks.
When he collapsed to the white tiled floor, I bent over and retrieved the tracer from his lapel, "Nighty night, Reggie."
Dragging him into an empty stall, I used his own cuffs to secure him to the toilet, even though I would be long gone with the necklace before he came to. Upon arriving earlier that evening, I had hid my gear bag in the empty garbage can of the stall marked Out of Service. While the handsome guard snored softly, I retrieved the bag and shut the door in order to conceal his limp form. I changed quickly from the gown to my leggings, boots and fitted tunic, letting my handheld warm up and zero in on the remaining three guards.
Cowl in place, I packed my previous wardrobe in the small gear bag before securing it around my shoulders.
Before leaving, I glanced at myself in the mirror and smiled.
It was going to be a good night.
Next: Don't Be Gentle