Just a cute little one-shot I thought would be sweet. Told in 3rd person, but somewhat through Ace's point of view- so it might be difficult at first to recognize who's who… I'll identify characters at the end, just in case the first read-through still proves a bit hard to follow. All you really need to know at this point is that Ace is Bruce Wayne's solid black Great Dane; these days, he's mostly been a guard dog at the manor- other times y'all might know him as the Bat Dog. Not that this Bat Dog in DC comics has always been a Great Dane, 'cuz he's been identified as other breeds plenty of times before. I just prefer the Great Dane since the dog reminds me a lot of Batman: Tall… powerful… kind of scary and magnificent to look at, at the same time… Plus, when in a silhouette, the pointy ears that stand straight up on the dog's head kinda resemble the bat-ears on Bruce's cowl to me.

Anyway, hope you guys have fun meeting my version of Ace- the Batman's Great Dane- in this fan-fic! :-)

A New Friend

He looked at the thing confusedly. His master had brought in many strange instruments to add to his collection over the years and allowed in many strange guests, but this… Never did he ever see something like this in his master's home. The thing apparently belonged to the next eldest member of the pack, his master's first cub- who was just a boy when Ace was adopted into the pack; two more cubs had been adopted since and, like this first one, they've grown up, too.

Ace was happy to see his master's first cub arrive for another visit, and he was even more thrilled to see the cub's new mate had come along, as well. At first, she had been a rather odd creature to behold. Something about her appeared distinctly feline and for a time, Ace had thought she might be of some relation to the other cat lady that his master called Selina, but no. This one was a lot friendlier towards him. And so warm, too- it wasn't long before he was curling up against her leg by the sofa to nap, instead of on the rug by the fireplace. However, when the first cub and his mate walked through the doors this time, there was a new third member to their group…

… Thus this strange object in question was carefully being lowered onto the large carpet, where Ace had been lounging, placed directly in front of him. The thing had a soapy, powdery smell to it, along with something subtler beneath the skin that somehow reminded him of the first cub and his mate. It did have a dark patch of fur on its head, like said cub. And it also had feline-looking eyes, like said cub's mate. It just sat there and blinked at him for a moment, and then suddenly curled the edges of its mouth upwards as it unleashed the oddest cry (more of a squeal, really) that almost sounded like the howls of other pups he'd occasionally encountered during days on the streets. As the thing released this cry, it placed its front paws on the ground and started crawling towards him.

Ace looked up at his master, who was watching from where he sat on the sofa. The corners of his mouth curled upwards in a similar way- and so had the first cub's, his mate's; even the slender and elderly one, who Ace assumed was once pack leader to his master, also had the edges of his lips curved up the slightest bit. All of their shoulders were shaking in a way that Ace was somewhat familiar with. He saw this combination of body language a lot when his master hosted another one of his (oh, what was that word again?)… Parties…? Anyway, the gesture happened at quite a number of times during those events; the same occurred when Ace watched his master and one of the other cubs play around with the round bouncy thing, and when either of them used a smaller version of this round thing to play with him. Still, as he watched all the lip curling and shaking of shoulders, Ace didn't know how such a reaction would help him know what was going on.

His observation was interrupted when the thing crawling towards him had finally made it close enough to reach out and touch Ace's wet nose.

… Well not really touch it, per-say- more like practically shove a tiny paw into one of Ace's nostrils…

Ace's master made a rumbling sound (somewhere between his chest and throat) that he rarely ever made, while his mouth remained closed with his lips curled up and the shoulders began shaking again. Simultaneous to this, the master's first cub quickly leaned over and lifted the little thing away, removing said thing's paw from Ace's nose as the dog huffed the soapy powdery smell out of his nostril and rapidly shook his head.

"No, Mar'i," said the first cub to the little thing he now held on his lap, where he and his mate were sitting close by on another sofa that faced Ace's master.

Ace recognized that first syllable in the cub's complex species dialect. No was a familiar term the master often elicited to him whenever he wanted Ace to stop what he was doing at the moment. Was this thing being trained by the master's first cub to eventually take a position in the pack that'd be similar to Ace's? And the last sound he heard the cub say- Mar'i- what could it mean?

Perhaps it was what the little thing's been called. After all, most times when the master had told Ace no, this was usually followed by him saying the dog's name.

Although, knowing the thing's name as of now still did not fully explain what kind of creature this Mar'i was supposed to be.

A lot of Mar'i's physical features certainly resembled the master's first cub as well as the first cub's mate, which Ace took better note of since he now had a good look at the three of them so close together. Mar'i was definitely within the same species, then; but why wasn't Mar'i vocalizing like those of the master's kind…? And why was such a living being so much smaller, compared to others from its species?

The smallest version that Ace might recall seeing, outta all his years of interacting with the master's kind, was actually the day he'd met his master's first cub. Again, the first cub was just a boy back then- short in stature and rather lanky next to the master, as the kid's height during those days did not even surpass half the length of his guardian's spine. Ace could not understand what sort of creature the boy was when he first met him, either; it was by observing the relationship as it developed over time between his master and said boy when Ace finally began to understand that the boy was merely the equivalent of a cub among his master's species. Thus, Ace eventually came to register the boy as his master's first cub. Other cubs raised by the master had been small, too, but not quite as short as the first cub had been. Ace was able to watch all of them grow bigger and stronger like their guardian, his master, while their movements gradually became less clumsy (including when they sparred or played) - soon enough, their voices were also changing (sounding deeper, more mature) and even their dialect started to resemble the master's… Wait a minute.

Ace kept on staring at the first cub and his mate, studying how they interacted with the little thing called Mar'i. The full grown cub held his squirming bundle still while the mate reached into a carrier made out of some soft material- an object Ace believed was often classified as a bag- and she pulled out a smaller (though harder looking) carrier that had thin wet cloths inside. These cloths smelled a bit like the soapy powdery scent on Mar'i's flesh, he'd noticed, and the first cub's mate took one of them in order to supposedly wipe off any of Ace's doggy snot left on the little tike's paw. Apparently fascinated with the smell from the wipe, Mar'i tried to have a taste of said cleaned paw, but was stopped by the first cub.

"No, Mar'i," he'd uttered those words again.

Ace, then, heard the master speak for the first time since he and his visitors had entered the room. "Is she always putting her hands in places they shouldn't be?"

"She's a baby, Bruce," the cub responded.

His mate also spoke for the first time during this visit. "It is perfectly normal for a growing infant to cultivate the natural curiosity of discovering new things for the senses—" she flexed a limb at one end of her paw (a finger, if Ace remembered the phrase correctly), extending it toward Mar'i, who took it in the tiny free paw that wasn't still being held by the first cub. "So many things to touch and taste and smell," the mate continued, as she used her other paw to place the wet cloth carrier-thing back inside the- uuum… oh, right (!)- bag while removing something else from within a pouch located on the outside.

The object was hardly as long as the finger of the first cub's mate- the same limb Mar'i kept clinging to- yet it was wider than said finger and had an odd shape to it; with a solid base that made a flat (though ever-so-slightly curved) surface, which was attached to a much rounder non-flat shape on one side while the other side of this flat surface connected to a different material (smooth and flexible) with a similarly round edge where it was bent by just a little bit. The latter detail of the object, as in the smooth flexible material at one end that was different from the remaining solid part(s), somehow looked familiar to Ace. It wasn't until the first cub's mate placed that same end of the object in Mar'i's mouth when Ace had officially registered what it reminded him of. As Mar'i proceeded to suckle on the item, Ace vaguely recalled how pups in his species nursed from their mothers.

All of these interactions he saw between the first cub, his mate and Mar'i… The way in which the couple handled the little one so attentively… The way that the cub hovered and spoke toward the tike in almost a protective manner, not too unlike how Ace had seen the master occasionally treat him before as a boy… The way that the cub's mate cooed and cared to said bundle, with the cleaning and the pacifying… Such gestures could only be signs that led to a single explanation of what this Mar'i was.

"A typical baby's curiosity is one thing," Ace heard his master speak once more. "It may be an entirely different matter with a hybrid child sired by a world-class acrobat and an extraterrestrial warrior-princess."

Ace also heard the slender elderly member of his master's household sigh from somewhere behind him. "Really, master Bruce," but Ace scarcely paid him any attention as his sight now stayed locked on Mar'i, processing the epiphany he'd just made.

Perhaps… perhaps cubs like the master's did not have to start off as small as Ace had first seen them. Maybe cubs in that particular species could be born a lot smaller still. Ace knew now that what his master raised were likely juveniles at the most. This one, though- this Mar'i- was the real deal.

She was a true cub.

She was the brand new cub of the master's first and his mate.

The party drew silent when Ace suddenly rose on all fours, walking closer to the sofa that the master's first cub and his mate had remained seated. The child, Mar'i, was leaning contentedly on the crook of her father's arm as she kept suckling on her pacifier while watching the dog. Her tiny hands clasped and unclasped with the mother's fingers; however, once Ace was within reaching distance (standing directly in front of the family-of-three), Mar'i stretched an arm out towards him again. This time, he let her lightly touch the top of his nose and she let out an excited little hmph noise with the passy still in her mouth. Everyone smiled at the exchange, unbeknownst to the two new comrades. That lip-curling, shoulder-shaking thing called laughter came a moment later, when Ace (practically out of instinct) stepped closer to lick Mar'i's tiny nose- causing her to joyfully react (and take their proximity as an opportunity) by using both arms to wrap around his big snout and pull him into her little embrace.

Then, when her heavy forehead clumsily bopped against his so that they were staring at each other eye-to-eye, a fierce sense of devotion filled up in Ace like it did many other times at meeting a new member to his master's pack. With Mar'i, though, she'd be the first cub that the dog ever developed a devotion to from the very beginning.

… This was going to be fun…

The one always referred to as 'the first cub' and/or something like 'the master's cub' is, of course, Nightwing/Dick Grayson with his wife (Starfire/Kori) as 'his mate'… And then 'the (little) thing,' 'little one,' 'the bundle,' or 'the tike' all are in reference to Dick and Kori's daughter, Mar'i- while Bruce is 'the master' and the 'elderly slender' person is Alfred. Hope that clarifies everything!

So did y'all like Ace and his new friend? Please like or leave a comment if you wanna see more one-shots about him and Mar'i. ;-)