Most of this was written at the tail end of last week and after work at the weekend. Since then, I've kind of lost my stride, so I figured I might as well post what I have available so far, and see if feedback gratifies me into continuing.
Anyway, this installment is dedicated to rushin_doll
, for reasons he'll recognise.
I was going to move out of my mother's house at the very definite time of 'any day now'. The living situation had been a temporary situation since I got back from Japan, just until I found my feet and got a place of my own, but it stretched out. My inheritance from Dad had been used to buy the florists shop from Mom, and that money had gone into paying off her mortgage. So between us we had a lot of property and not a lot of debt, but no actual cash, therefore moving out stayed on the backburner, to be used by either of us as ammunition everytime we fought, which was often. Without Dad's mediating influence, there wasn't a lot to keep the twin tempers of the Lance women from feeding off each other everytime one of them flared up. Quite a lot of the time, we wanted to kill each other. Fortunately, most of the time we got on like any mother and grown up daughter living together.
"I don't know why they keep inviting me to these socials," Mom said one evening, tossing an invitation to a GCPD-run ball to the table. It might have been throwing it aside unwanted, except it landed opposite my pasta bowl. Make of that what you will, but remember Mom wasn't very good at doing things my accident. "I'm hardly a police widow. Your father wasn't on the force for decades before he died."
"I think they want to acknowledge the things he did," I suggested sleepily. I'm been out all night chasing Tigress and hadn't had much sleep before opening the store. Now it was food and coffee to stop me from falling asleep before sunset. "It's a gesture."
"Mmmmm," Mom said non-committally. Then, proving any suspicions that she was building up to something, she added, oh-so-casual, "you want to go with me?"
"No," I said without even thinking. "I don't wanna go and be told by a bunch of cops I hardly know that I've grown into a beautiful young woman, just like her mother. You wouldn't want to subject me to that, would you?"
"You might have fun," Mom continued. "Meet new people. There'll be plenty of young men there."
To be fair to my Mom, she didn't do this a lot. She was far more likely to drop heavy handed hints about how to run special offers in the store, or that I was incorporating too much from other disciplines in my Judo, than to try and set me up with guys. Men were hardly mentioned at all, really, since the disastrous marriage that had sent me to Japan instead of finishing college.
"Not interested," I repeated. Mom made a show of throwing the invitation in the trash: if I wasn't going, she implied, she wouldn't either.
"Fine," she said, dropping that, but continuing in the next breath; "I don't know why, though. You can't just rely on a customer having a crush like your father did."
"I'm not interested, Mom," I repeated, "because I'm seeing someone."
"Seeing someone?" Mom repeated, and I don't think she knew whether she should be excited or wary. I don't blame her. "A man?"
"Yes, Mom," I said slowly. "With a man."
"What's his name?" she asked straight away, and I realised I didn't know how to answer that. The JLA has a 'no secret identities between us' policy, but that doesn't extend to families, even ones who are JSA alumni. Saying I couldn't tell her that led her to ask how I knew him, and from there to the realisation that I was talking about a League member.
"Oh, Dinah," she said, pursing her lips. "Dating in the League? Do you want to be that woman?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well," Mom said, "Working as you do, surrounded by all those nice young men, it can be very tempting."
"Tempting to do what? Date one?"
"If you want to call it dating. You're an attractive woman, Dinah," she pointed out. "Especially in the costume. I should know, I designed it. And I know the kind of attention one gets in it."
I don't remember standing up, but I was by this point. "You mean 'don't be that woman who sleeps around the League'."
"Well," she protests, "think about it! You want your teammates to take you seriously, don't you?"
"Mom!" I snapped. "This is a date. With my boyfriend. I have not been 'sleeping around the League', and I don't intend to. I'm not you!"
That was below the belt. Mom had one affair, once, with a Justice Society member. It had been before I was born, but I'd only found out about it recently, and it still hurt. Anyway, as so often happened, my outburst had broken my coffee mug and pasta bowl. Mom marched out of the kitchen, and I cleaned up, shaking in anger.
Following that, of course, I dealt with the situation in the time honoured usual way any teenage costumed crime fighter deals with a parental fight: I went out looking for bad guys to beat up. This being Gotham, they weren't hard to find.
I took my motorbike out around Robinson Park, and was soon rewarded with a pair of thugs on skateboards in the middle of a skate-by purse snatching of an old lady. It was so textbook storybook cliche I was actually smiling as I handed the purse back to her. This being Gotham, of course, things didn't end there, and she was interrupted in her thanks by the sound of a horrified scream just outside the park. I took my leave and investigated as quickly as I could.
The area's all been converted in to apartments now, but at the time there was a small industrial area still remaining by the park - although many of the factories were closed even then. It was this area that the scream had erupted, and I arrived on the scene just in time to see a workman fleeing in terror. I intercepted him, and managed to get out of him that he'd been attacked by the ghost of a tiger, before the Bat saved him. He pointed wildly, and fled, so I wasted vital minutes trying to pinpoint the abandonned factory he'd pointed at.
I found it when I could hear the rising growl of what sounded like a big cat.
The door was locked - from inside, it looked like - but a window on the second floor had been broken. I never bothered with zip lines and crampons, preferring to rely on my own athletic ability, but that rarely let me down, even in fishnets and heels. A drainpipe and a fire escape took me up there, and I was able to see the situation.
A few feet beyond the smashed window, on a rafter that arched over the shop floor, a figure crouched, a long orange cape obscuring most of its form, as the wearer looked down at the floor below it - on what appeared to be Batman and a white tiger circling each other like some sort of gladiatorial event.
It didn't matter to me who was down there, except to assure me that he was probably able to handle himself for a few rounds. I was more interested in the man who looked like he'd set the whole thing up. From the back, his outfit looked a lot like Bruce's - except in yellow and gold, and the way he was crouching, poised, put me in mind of something else entirely.
"Hey," said I, stepping onto the same rafter. "don't you need to be in a toga for this sort of thing?"
He jumped a little in surprise, but spun to face me with a curious expression that soon melted into a feral smile. "Look at this. The Cat and the Canary."
If this had been a later time in my career, I'd probably have a comeback. I certainly thought of a few since, but since most of them involved me refering to Mel Blanc cartoons, it's probably best I didn't. Instead, we went straight into the fighting.
This was Thomas Blake - Catman. He dressed like a bizarre mockery of Batman. His strange contrivances weren't in the higher end of Bruce's usual adversaries - the Batman vs Tiger set up was particularly pathetic, I thought - but his hand to hand skills were surprising. He rolled with the first few throws I tried, took every punch I threw, and his speed in combat bordered on the metahuman. He also was much more at home on the high factory rafters than I was - leaping agilely out of my way and never seeming to stumble.
Which is all to give me an excuse for what happened next, when I placed one foot wrong and let him get too close. Blades in his fists flashed out suddenly and I was aware of my torso flashed in pain. I was sent flying into the factory, but recovered my flight, landing on the factory floor on my feet, albeit with an impact that felt like being hit with a hot brand in the gut. Laying my hand over my midsection, I glanced down to see blood shining against the leather. My opponent followed deftly, triumph shining in his eyes.
"Canary!" Batman was flagging, himself; I was up against a skilled metahuman, but he was going hand to hand with a tiger, and still seemed to be holding up. He was soon behind me though, so we crouched back to back to take stock.
We'd probably be OK against either, but there was one obvious solution to me. "Swap!" I said, and rolled backwards, through his cape and under his own arching body as he leapt back and over me, leaving us both facing the other's opponent.
From then the fight was over. I huddled over my wound, took a deep breath despite the pain, and chirped.
I have an unfair advantage over any animal, really. My cry doesn't just go sonic; when I want it to, it goes ultrasonic, and as in this case, usually results in whatever beast has been set on me, recoiling in distress and pain before bolting. Bringing down the cat also brought down the man - he abandoned his fight with Batman to rush to his pet's aid, but neither of us bothered to follow up the fight - my cry takes up a lot of energy, and a lot of effort for precision work like that, and I was still bleeding freely through the slashes in my midsection. As for Bruce - he was now the only thing keeping me upright.
"They'll go home," he says. "The tiger was his and it escaped. The only person he was interesting in hurting tonight was me."
"Got a freely bleeding wound that says you're wrong," I pointed out.
He wasn't looking at me, but out of the building, towards my parked bike. "You need medical attention."
"I know a place..." I started, although how I was going to explain how Dr. McNider would be up for an emergency appointment in the middle of the night, I didn't elaborate.
Bruce pulled my hand away to look at the injuries - the leather of my suit had been sliced through, and the skin beneath was covered in blood, but the cuts were still thin and blood was all there was. "I can do it," he told me, which surprised me, but I wasn't about to argue. "I'll come back for your bike."
It wasn't the first time I'd ever been in his car, but it was the first time I'd ever been in it while holding a compress to my stomach, and the first time I'd ever rode in it out of the centre of Gotham, through a tunnel and emerging in his hideout - the famous Batcave. Injured I might have been, but I still had the presence of mind to be impressed. A series of natural limestone caves, reinforced and cleaned out and built in for a massive detective centre that was bigger than my entire house - the size of the Justice League satellite. A huge replica of a U.S. Penny sat against one wall and a massive Joker playing card hung from the roof, but even then the whole thing was dominated by the massive screen of the computer.
I ignored that - I had a computer once, to do the accounts at the store. We disagreed strongly and I reverted back to handwritten ledgers. It was the scale of the place that took my breath away. That and the injury under my diaphragm.
"Alfred," said Bruce, "meet the Black Canary. She's taken a few knife wounds to the torso, but there's no severe damage.
"Pleased to meet you, Miss Canary." He was tall, thin, British, and carried himself with perfect decorum. "I often hoped the Master would bring home a respectable young woman."
"Bruce," said I, half jumping onto the table, and half letting him lift me. "You have a butler."
"Yes," he confirms. "I was aware of that. Stay still, he also happens to be an unparalleled genius with a needle."
"Although, I never dreamed my tailoring talents would be so frequently used in the surgical arena," was quickly added.
"For the record," I insisted on pointing out, while Bruce lent me his cape for protection against the indignity of having my costume cut away, "I saved his life."
"I never doubted it, Miss."
He really was a skilled surgeon, and it took minutes to sew up my gaping wounds - the cuts were deep, and grazed my ribs in places, but thanks in part to my speed in moving back, and the thickness of the leather of my outfit. I hurt, but it wasn't going to last long. Still, there wasn't any question of me going home to my Mom's that night.
"I'm almost reluctant to ask," Alfred said, "but shall I prepare a guest room for the lady?"
Bruce didn't answer straight away, but I caught the furtive glance towards me.
"Don't you dare, Alfred," I said. And that was decided.
The butler made a gracious - and swift - exit, leaving Bruce to escort me upstairs, which he did by scooping me up inside his cape, and carrying me across the threshold between the Batcave and Wayne Manor. I'd have minded, but it was preferable to walking.
"I can't believe how big this place is," I remarked as the journey to the bedroom extended. I might have sounded like an impressionable girl, but the most money I'd ever been in contact with was Ted's boxing proceeds, and he wasn't in the same league.
"Why sound so surprised?" he asked. "I am Bruce Wayne."
"I know that," I replied. "It's just... I guess I have this disconnect between Bruce Wayne: Billionaire and Bruce Wayne, my strange and deep boyfriend who I fool about with on the Justice League Satellite."
He stopped, his shoulder leaning on the large heavy oak door which led to his bedroom. "if we go through here," he warned, "we won't be fooling about, anymore."
I grinned, and with my spare hand - that wasn't supporting myself around his shoulders - I pushed my wig to the floor. "Bruce, I went to all this effort to end up half naked in your room. If you don't take me in there and ravish me right now, I can guarantee we won't be fooling about ever again."
He took the warning in the spirit it was taken, and we proved that it takes more than a fight with one man and a cat to tire Justice Leaguers out for very long.
1. On Earth zero, Dinah jr moved out of Gotham and when Ollie dragged her along on that road trip of doom he went on, eventually settling in Star City for a while before they both moved to Seattle post-Crisis. On this Earth - which I will probably number some day, although I want to call it Earth-i - she had no such impetus and is staying in Gotham.
2. Dinah sr's personality is part Golden Age Black Canary, part J.L.A.: Year One, sprinkled a little bit with my own mother, because I wanted to add actual person in there and distinguish her from her daughter.
5. The Catman altercation is adapted from Detective Comics #612, with a less Catwoman and more Canary. At this point in his career, Blake is a third rate Batman villain, but he's still going to become the formidable anti-hero now found in Secret Six.
6. The Mechanical Dinosaur is not in the Batcave, yet, because Bruce is still as early in his career as Dinah. On Earth-One, it originated from a Batman-Batgirl adventure on Dinosaur Island. It may come up later.
7. Writing Alfred gives me an unparalleled delight. I'm as worried about his voice being IC as I am Bruce's, but he's worlds of fun to write, even if I'm doing it wrong.
8. The class disconnect between Dinah and Bruce may be a recurring theme; On Earth-Zero, moeny was a sticking point with her: she had issues with Ollie's frivolous attitude while she tried to make ends meet, then later one of the things Oracle rescues her from is crippling debt/ Golden Age Larry Lance - her father - was also terrible with money and sponged off Dinah Drake - her mother. Money or the lack of it is, at this point in her life, a sticking point, and Bruce being surrounded by it gets a notice.
9. This was originally going to be a pre-planned date, affording me the oppotunity to show the strong friendship between Dinah and Green Lantern when she's not just his best friend's girl. However, I'm a fan of post-triage hook-ups, and wanted to use Dinah's impetuousness to overcome Bruce's meticulous planning in this case.
Next: if I ever get it finished: that awkward breakfast-with-the-family moment.