I'm late at work! Not because I feel compelled to finish a particular job (though I have been working as well), but because I didn't trust myself to write Chiraptora at home this evening, and I wanted to get this installment posted.
I'm not proofreading or self-editing or asking anyone to beta anything as I write these; I'm just sticking words onto the screen and walking away; it's more likely to get me doing things and it's easier just to recruit you lot as my en-masse editing crowd. Which is why you'll see me announce things like this: Chapter One
has had the first paragraph rephrased to get rid of Debi's run on sentence of Doom, and I added a footnote about lesbianism.
So on to today's part. When we last left our heroes, Dinah had told Oliver Queen where to stuff his arrows and confirmed her decision to stay with Bruce.
I was the first to discover this, but I'm definitely not the only one for which it holds true: dating in the Justice League is a lot like dating in High School. Not that I did a lot of dating in High School, but I knew people who did. The only other (and slightly more accurate) comparison I could come up with would be pure speculation, because I've never once worked in an office. Still, that's what it was; dating at work, and as it works out there's no actual dating
in the sense of going on dates. First you're spending most of your time working closely together, then you're spending most of your time trying to work directly next to each other under mounting tension while you count the minutes to stolen alone time together.
Our first kiss was in the same place as our first attempt at the same. Bruce showed up twenty minutes early to take over monitor duty from me (I later found out he'd swapped with Clark just to have the opportunity to do so) and for the first few moments after he arrived, stood at the window in front of my chair, looking down at Earth. Eventually, I poked him in the back with my heel and asked him what he was thinking.
"Do you really want to?" he asked eventually. "Not just saying that to get Green Arrow off your back?"
It was rather strange seeing him so unsure about another thing, and encouraging in that way. So I stood up, placing my hand on his shoulder to join him in looking out.
"Bruce, I wouldn't use a person just to hurt another like that, trust me. I like you
, is that so hard to believe?"
"We hardly know each other," he said, and I fancied he was almost ruing his own intense secrecy. Certainly, I was only beginning to know him; all I knew is I liked what I did know.
"So let's get to know each other," I said. "Assuming you want to, and I'm not just second choice after Wonder Woman turned you down."
He never was very good at taking a joke, and this time I received a sharp, wary look for my efforts. Which concerns I hope I managed to allay with a charming smile.
"But, one thing," I added, and when his silence invited me to elaborate, I pulled my gloves off and slid my hands to his face, under the mask the covered the full top half of his head, including his eyes.
It would have been a very smooth romantic gesture if his costume wasn't so damn elaborate. I think I almost choked him a little before he loosened the bottom of his cowl to enable me to slide the whole thing back, exposing his face. In retaliation, he then reached behind my head and pulled off the blonde wig I wore, letting it drop to the floor. Then, with the Earth looming large in the window beside us, we stopped talking for a few minutes.
This being the kind of memoir it is, I expect I should probably take some time here to describe the kind of kisser Bruce was. It's not the kind of thing I'd have talked about at the time; my only real girlfriend was Diana, and somehow our respective love lives never came up.Hawkgirl at the time was practically an aunt to me, and the only other woman I saw was my Mom, so girl-talk was something I'd have to learn later, and even with everything else I'm sharing, I don't know how comfortable I am with that kind of detail.There'll be other details later, I promise.
It was good. Right from the start it was good. Bruce was the perfect combination of passionate and considerate, strong and gentle, and once I had his mask off, there was a vulnerability there that years and years of training himself to be hard would never fully erase. It was more obvious then, I'm sure. But as I'd get to know him better over the years, I'd still be able to see it, no matter how hard he'd try to hide it.
Right there, though, I was just happy to have found it.
I don't think either of us really planned on announcing our affair to the rest of the League. I wasn't sure if anything would come on it, and Bruce is about as far from a publicly affectionate man as you can get. Our intentions on the matter didn't much matter, however, because Ollie chose to let everyone know how much of a sport he was and how much he supported Bruce and myself as a fledgling couple. I think everyone was a bit surprised; not at me but at Bruce being one half of the first official Justice League relationship, but the general attitude was one of approval, especially from people like Clark, who knew him better than he knew me, and thought something like this would be good for him. I thought so too; who doesn't go into a relationship thinking they can 'fix' all the problems in the life of their new lover? It wasn't the cleverest idea I've ever had, and I won't presume to say I succeeded, but I've always been optimistic to the point of stupidity.
Our chairs on the round meeting table gravitated next to each other. Our monitor duty times would overlap, so turning up early or leaving late would afford us alone time. It was all between work; when something called us to action, when we were in active meetings or fighting together there was no acknowledgment of any special interest or letting what we had cloud what we did. To go back to the school analogy: we did everything in the hallways between class.
We didn't jump into bed straight away - the heat was there but we both pulled back fro that a little. Partly because I was determined that this was going to last longer than my marriage, and so drawing out the physical aspect would keep it at a more reliable pace, and partly because there seemed on his part to be a need to keep it steady. So like high school kids we stayed with long, drawn out kissing-and-talking sessions where we could get them. And just like in school, there was the risk of being caught, and even though everyone knew, I'm not ashamed now to admit that I did get a certain level of excitement in trying to figure out what we could get away with in the satellite itself. Sometimes we were alone up there, sometimes we were just a few rooms away from someone, but the knowledge that someone could walk in on us at any time was exciting, and that excitement did tempt me to try and push, more than once.
On one occasion when we were already pushing the limit of our experience with each other, he stopped me abruptly, pushing me away with a definite finality. We were in the main meeting room, having remained after a meeting while Superman took monitor duty, and I was sitting on the table, just in front of Batman's own chair, wig around my butt and my boots kicked into the far corner.
"Stop, Dinah." It wasn't an order, and it wasn't in anything like his Bat voice, but it wasn't going to be argued with. So of course, I tried.
"Why? Don't say you don't want to, because I had the counter evidence to that
in my hand a second ago."
"Not here," he said. "Not with Clark in the next room."
"Bruce? Is your costume lead lined?" Knowing him as I was beginning to, I wouldn't have been surprised. But his frown told me no. "Then I'm pretty sure we're not going to show him anything he hasn't seen before. It's not like he's going to walk in unexpectedly."
I pushed myself off the table and towards him, but he stepped away, moving deftly even with half his costume off.
"No, Dinah," he repeated.
After a second's defiance, I relented. "Why not, really?" I asked.
The answer surprised me. "I just think the first time we do this, it should be in a bed."
"Why, Mister Wayne," I told him, smiling once again, "I do believe you're a romantic." And as we hadn't quite made it to each other's beds yet, that's as far as we went, for the time.
If you look up the newspapers of the time, you won't find anything to the effect that Black Canary and Batman were a couple, any more than you won't see a break in the society pages covering Bruce Wayne's endless string of models and actresses in order to have a relationship with a nobody florist. Our secret identities were far from compatible, and the last thing we wanted was to advertise a special interest between our publicpersonas, especially given the calibre of Bruce's enemies in particular.
With him, more than there's ever been with me, there was "Bruce Wayne", the publicly indifferent and careless playboy, and there was the caped crusader, Gotham's protector against the darkest of her criminal element. Neither were of any interest to me; I existed in the crack between them, in the space where Bruce Wayne the actual person, lived, for all that he hid from the outside world.
If that seems like the short straw, then you have to understand I grew up in that crack, I lived there. From Junior High onwards I always knew at least one boy who had a picture in his locker or on a ring binder of the Black Canary; the J.S.A's own GirlGladiatrix, the definitive combination of glamourous pinup and dangerous heroine. And then there was Mrs. Lance, who picked me up from school and (occasionally) made it to my choir recitals, her brunette hair scraped into a severe bun, always neatly turned out and sternly polite to my teachers and friends, even though they always remarked on how stressed she seemed to be under the weight of running her own business.
And then there was my Mom, known only to a small group of people including me, Dad and my uncles of the J.S.A. Who spent a small fortune on cortisone shampoo because of the scalp problems she got from wearing a wig half the time. Whose Achilles tendons were so short she sewed cushions into the heels of her house slippers just to be comfortable. Who taught me the principles of Judo from the moment I first sat up under my own weight and who was so proud of being the first woman to achieve the level ofJudan in the history of the rank system that she kept her belt displayed in a prominent place on the wall of the cupboard in which she kept her wigs, where she'd see it every time she changed. I'd complain endlessly about how unfair it was I had to keep this woman a secret from the rest of the world, but on some level, I liked it. She was my Mom, and my secret.
That's how it was with Bruce, for the longest time. My own private boyfriend that was exclusively mine, because the rest of the world saw the Playboy or the costumed detective and thought that was enough.