Another side project I've been working on while I ponder over Phoenix. So enjoy! ^^ This kind of sits in my The Cold Universe. Basically, oneshot fun:D Thanks to whisperslove and soccerrox4 for being so kind as to favourite my story. To the Guest reader: thanks for checking out my story, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Perfect Stranger

10.06pm, Wayne Manor, Gotham City.

So here he was, with no intention of actually dancing, stuck at one of Bruce's stupid charity gala parties. Needless to say, he'd actually much rather be out there with the rest of them, swirling into the snow-filled night, kicking the butt of crime. It was warm inside, though he felt a chill of resentment flood through his bones, and wondered silently why Bruce had to pick him of all available people, namely Damian and Tim. Fine, maybe Damian might be 'too young', but Tim was practically the CEO of the company already. However, Bruce had said he needed to "at least show the public that you aren't dead, Dick." And what could he do but agree?

He could, though, fight back in more way than one. For instance, he had refused to 'play nice' and mingle with the high-class Gothamites, instead hanging in a corner and refusing to answer any questions, should they be asked by nosy reporters. Even here, the gazes of the starstruck women in their party frills tailed him like hungry dogs.

He tugged at the stiff collar of his expensive tux, lips pulled into a frown as he stood there by the bar rather awkwardly, ordered a drink and pretended to sip every time someone came close; cursed himself - he should have gotten used to this by now. Damn his lack of attending parties. Or damn his luck for having to attend this one. The reporters swarmed like flies over the elite of Gotham, and out of the corner of his eye he could see Bruce smiling and laughing and just letting them prop him up further. Easy for him. He shot a smouldering glare at Bruce, one that would surely have burned through the lapel of his Armani.

But it didn't, and he resigned himself to people-watching.

The ongoing party was chock-full of disgusting - of laughing and flirting and even groping when they thought nobody was watching. It was like watching gladiator games packed into a ball, with all the high-class ladies all silently fighting over Bruce, invisibly pushing and shoving and tripping over their thousand-dollar high heels, throwing spears of words and nets of remarks, impaling and stabbing. Bruce was totally at ease in the centre of this throng, this mad wild grappling mess of lipstick and makeup and sweet whispered words, letting them play it out before him, deciding among themselves which one of them would be the lucky girl.

The lady that, in a couple more hours, would be upstairs writhing and screaming and stark naked. According to the ladies, Bruce had a way of making you 'feel loved.' That, he supposed, came from practice, years and years of it, and knowing Kama Sutra back-to-front.

And him? Legend had it that he was just as good as Bruce; that his invitations were 'Private Only'. That was a load of crap. He tried his best to maintain his innocence and virginity in front of all the reporters, especially Vicki Vale, but he knew that she was dying to get a good scoop out of him. That she'd do anything to prove he was getting down and dirty. But Bruce had said that a girlfriend was a liability, and if any news that he was 'attached' got out, people could use that against him.

Somehow, the rumours still spread, and his apparent 'innocent play' made him even more sought after than ever before. To have him as a prize - yes, every woman's dream. He could still hear the whispers, excited giggling that followed him like he was the Pied Piper.

"Reckon he's already been laid."

"Wonder who the lucky girl is."

"Or boy."

He tried to shut out the noises, the susurrus that whined like drones around his head, keeping that mysterious, serene smile plastered firmly to his face like the mask that he would've been wearing right now, if not for this stupid party. Inside, he was angry. Very angry. Angry at Bruce for doing this to him, for dragging him into this of misery, and at the same time frustrated with all the stupid etiquette and dinner talk.

And then she came to him, making an appearance about ten metres away, smoothly blending in with the crowd, champagne glass in hand. They both knew it was apple juice - it was their little secret. He froze when he saw her - she wasn't supposed to be here. He could tell it was her, even through the rings that she wore on her fingers to disguise her exotic skin, flaming hair, and pupilless eyes.

Bruce would kill her though, if he found out. And him.

"Hey." Soft crooning in his ear, and he turned in her direction as she reached his side, and circled him slightly, observing him from all angles. He maintained that she was a friend, after all, they had never had any romantic activity - save for that kiss, the first time they had met. Besides, Bruce had said that she was... fine as a friend, and he preferred to keep it that way. What choice did Dick have? He wasn't even sure that she knew he considered her as - more than a friend, and that hte only reason they had never gone any further was Bruce.

"Girlfriend's a liability, Dick."

"They'd go after her if they knew she was with you..."

"Selina's not a girlfriend."

That, he supposed, was true. The feisty jewel thief came and went as she pleased.

"Babs? I thought you outgrew that stage, Dick."

They were friends; Bruce was just looking to humiliate him some more. It wasn't that he didn't love Babs, sure she made a great surrogate sis and all, but... Their relationship had been a thing of the past. A memory too painful to go back on...

"And how are you faring on a wonderful night like this?" He couldn't help but smile despite himself, the sound of her voice washed over his overloaded synapses like a balm.

He sighed, ran a hand through his ebony locks. "Tease. You know I hate parties. And you're not supposed to be here."

"Would you rather I leave?" She turned away from him, presumably to disappear into the crowd, but he caught her elbow. "Stay. Please." He hated how he was reduced to begging; that he was practically the son of the richest man in Gotham and here he was, desperate for her company. For company aside from theirs.

He looked around at all the women in their low-cut, wispy little things that barely qualified as dresses, that covered only the essentials and left the rest to no-one's imagination. Then back at her, with her none-too-modest, but all the same conservative sleeveless lilac number that hugged her curve from the waist up, then flared at her hips, falling in a wreath of silken material that shimmered with a glassy sheen that spoke of riches fit for a princess. But it was unadorned, and so was she, with not a gem or trinket to paint over her beauty. She smelled of lavender and catnip.

And then it hit him; flooded to him, the perfect idea. She stared at him, mildly amused by the expression on his face, and then he spoke.

"I need a favour."

"Name it." Her smile was smirkish.

He bowed, slightly mocking, and offered his hand to her, waiting for her response. She looked... surprised, and at first he was convinced she'd turn him down, but then she took his hand, and whirled him out onto the dance floor. Starlight flashed in her veiled eyes as the music changed - a fast tango - and they... danced. There was no other word for it, this pure expression of beauty and grace that seemed to last for much longer than the three minutes it did. When it was over, she pulled him aside, much to the annoyance and inevitable attention of all the other women, surreptitiously ogle him out of the corner of their heavily made-up peepers.

"That was wonderful," she murmured, gazing up at him, her expression a little unfocused, her bright eyes glittering and alight with kindled passion. "Thank you for all this, Dick."

He took one last look at the women, taking a moment to enjoy their looks of unparalleled vexation. "One more favour."

"Anything," she replied, fully smiling now, her slender hand upon his shoulder.

A quick glance at Bruce revealed his attention-induced oblivion, and so he smiled, the barest of smiles, and placed his lips upon hers. It was a chaste kiss, intended only for the eyes of the now openly staring women, and through his peripheral vision he could just about see the first of the steam that curled up in wisps out of the tops of their heads. A rush of something - he didn't know what- came over him, and he deepened the kiss.

If Bruce were looking now, he would probably - screw Bruce. He let go of her to take a breath, and then kissed her some more. He meant it- not just to make all the women Chemo-coloured, but in defiance of the boundaries of their simple, forced friendship. Time to show her what she really meant to him.

When he finally took a breath, letting go of her, he discovered that she was smiling.

"I must go now."

"It was nice, having you here," he whispered against her ear, and her catlike eyes twinkled. she turned, melted into the elite of Gotham, and was gone in an instant.

He looked back at all the women, caught each of their laser-tipped eyes with a barely disguised grin.

Maybe parties weren't so bad, after all.

7.00am, Wayne Manor, Gotham City.

Bruce Wayne stared uncomprehendingly at the front page of the Gotham Gazette, on which was splashed the headline. Then he turned to face the young man sitting beside him.

"And how are you going to explain this?"

Silence. Tim and Damian stared, craning their necks to get a good view.

He took a look at the paper, a grin spreading across his face.


If anything, he could've known without looking that it had been her. That woman would die to get a scoop on the colour of his underwear.

He looked back up, meeting the eyes of his adoptive father with a chuckle.

"I really don't know, Bruce. But let's just say that now, I absolutely love parties."