From the Ashes [JLU, C]

Discussion in 'World's Finest Writer's Corner' started by SilverKnight, Apr 29, 2010.

  1. SilverKnight

    SilverKnight Sigh.

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    A/N: God help me, I decided to start writing a fic that isn't some piddling one shot. Let's see if I can make it up to three chapters before I get bored with it. <.<

    From the Ashes
    By: SilverKnight

    So, this is what Harley Quinn had been up to these past four years.

    Batman frowned as he stared down at the two year old child, tucked safely beneath an oversized blue quilt. His shadow seemed more imposing than normal, spilling thickly over the tiny bed and its oblivious occupant. The boy – Timothy Marshal Dennis, his birth certificate said – shifted, absently rubbing at his nose with his hand; he was peaceful, untroubled. His frown deepened into an angry scowl, unable to head off the memories of Arkham before they surfaced.

    Timothy.

    She had named her son Timothy.

    It had been nearly four years since Tim had gone missing; four years since the single worst night of his adult life. No one would ever know how badly the Joker's actions had scarred him; how he had felt such a dark, satisfying, torturous
    glee over seeing Tim murder him with his own weapon. The murderous rage which had all but overtaken him receded into a cold, tinny revulsion that cloyed at his insides. He had wanted the Joker dead, and his wish had been granted. Broken laughing echoed dismally in the dimly lit room, and he could have rent himself in two, right then and there. It was all his fault.

    The Joker succeeded in the mental and emotional raping of two people that night – Tim, and himself.

    Tim was young and strong; he would recover and leave the mansion shortly thereafter, determined to live his life without his assistance. “If I can't earn my keep by being Robin, then there's no point in me being here,” were his last words to him. Not even a goodbye. Not even a smile. Not even eye-contact.
    (Another night his heart had been dashed upon the rocks; it was for the best, though. It was always for the best.)

    He was not Tim. He would shut himself in and run himself ragged; a small, treacherous voice praying for an adversary that would simply prove too strong. He would take Barbara as his lover – or, rather, Barbara would see him at his weakest and pounce on the opportunity to 'help him'. He would pour all of his festering pain and desire into their brief relationship, fairly overwhelming even her nurturing instincts and forcing her to escape back into normalcy. (Telling her he had made a terrible mistake in succumbing to guilt, for it had never been love – not the way she had fantasized – was irrelevant.)

    Four years was not long enough. A lifetime would never be long enough.

    And here he was, gazing down at a slumbering, blissfully unaware toddler named Timothy.

    Clearly, he wasn't the only one who felt guilty.

    01.
    Old Wounds

    Sweet dreams, Timmy – “

    Batman inclined his head to the left, slightly, serving only to get her cleanly in his sights.

    Harley – or Marie King-Dennis, as she currently went – stood stock still in the cracked doorway, silhouetted by a nearby hall lamp. For the briefest of moments, the years of simmering fury intensified to a needle point in his mind, and he dallied with the thought of killing her. It would be quick, it would be easy, and they both knew she deserved it.

    Timothy yawned, smacking his lips together as he clutched his worn brown teddy bear.

    A small, helpless child, deprived of a mother? Inwardly, he recoiled in horror at himself.

    Outwardly, his eyes only narrowed. “Hello, Harley.”

    She blanched, gaze skittering around the room in panic. Several times, the toddler became her focus; he took a small, but noticeable, step back from the bed, cape draped around himself. The panic slowly morphed into wary amazement, and hesitantly, she moved to stand protectively in front of her child. She was so close to him that she had to arch her upper body back a few inches over the bed to avoid touching him. “What do you want?”

    He leaned forward, just to force her further back. “Answers.”

    She managed a defiant stance despite being bent at an awkward angle. “Yeah, well, you're out of luck. I don't know where the Joker is.”

    He consciously stilled his hands from lashing out at her. “I wasn't looking for the Joker.”

    Her brows knit together in confusion. “You caught him?”

    “He's dead.”

    She blinked. Blinked again. Then, a tremor ran through her body, blue eyes wide and filled with the kind of stark terror that he saw from those who assumed they were about to die. “N-no...”

    Batman didn't bother correcting her, a sickly, malevolent part of him enjoying the fear his presence was instilling in her. He wanted her to suffer – he wanted her to feel the misery he knew, night after night, with the terrible knowledge that nothing he did could ever make it right again. He saw fat, bulbous tears form in her eyes, and felt disgust coat his tongue. Whether it was over her blubbering or his own blackened soul, he couldn't be sure.

    He supposed it didn't matter. “I know about the money.”

    Those same tears rolled down her face as she squinted incredulously at him, anxiety steadily eating at her resolve to protect her toddler son. Timothy. “What money?”

    His hand, snake-fast, fisted into the front of her blouse, yanking her forward with a startled gasp. “I would advise you not to lie to me right now.” She whimpered. His grip tightened. “The money that you're sending to a...mutual friend.”

    He felt her throat against his fingers as she gulped, her lips quivering with terror as she managed out, “I'm only t-trying to help – “

    He hit her.

    Her head snapped to the side with a pained yelp, her arms shooting up to claw at his wrist as she choked out meaningless apologies through a swollen lip. Growling, he lifted her off her feet, his other hand catching her flailing arms in an iron grip, intent on –

    “Mama?”

    A pair of two year old eyes stared quizzically up at him.

    His name was Timothy.

    He dropped Harley like she was made of molten lava and backed up to the window, not noticing how she crumpled to the ground in a heap. Not noticing how she curled into a ball, her hands over her injured face, and wept openly. Not noticing how her husband, awakened from the sounds of her struggle, rushed in to cradle her in his arms. All he noticed were Timothy's eyes swelling with tears, his innocent mind unable to comprehend what just happened, but knowing that his Mommy was hurt, and that he should be frightened.

    Batman fled.

    ---

    Superman was worried.

    Contrary to popular belief, it was something he did quite often – when one had the world to protect, possessing a care-free, wholesome attitude wasn't as effortless as many would assume. Of course, many also assumed that he didn't have a secret identity, either.

    He heard the guttural rumbling of the Batmobile three and a half miles before it pulled in, but he gave Bruce the benefit of actually pulling up before he acknowledged his appearance. The hatch slid back with a mechanical hiss, but to his surprise, Batman didn't move from his seat. Instead, the Caped Crusader simply stared ahead of him, hands still gripping the steering wheel, and ordered, “Leave.”

    “In a minute,” he replied cordially, starting towards the sleek black vehicle.

    Now.”

    He shook his head amiably. “Nope.”

    Wordlessly, Batman slid out of the cockpit and away from the car in one fluid movement, choosing to take the high road and deny his existence. He stalked to the Batcomputer with a practiced ease, measured and steady, and yet, Clark couldn't shake the feeling something was off. Well, that wasn't really true – he knew something was off. After Bruce's resignation from the League, he'd cut off all ties to everyone; even his previous wards. For a man who claimed to be such a stalwart loner, he went to strangely great lengths to ensure that he was, at least, kept apprised of those he cared for. A sudden apathy towards his loved ones was unlike him.

    Clark knew Bruce could vanish without a trace, if he wanted to. Everyone knew. But it hurt to see him actually do it.

    “You look terrible, Bruce.” He was ignored, as he thought he would be. Floating across the Cave silently, he touched down next to Bruce and crossed his arms over his broad chest. “Aren't you going to ask me why I'm here?”

    Batman flattened his hands against the sleek metal console, leaning onto his arms and glaring at the empty computer screen in front of them. Ordinarily when Batman ignored him, he would go about his nightly business while doing so. The reporter in Clark noted this behavior, and decided to make use of it.

    “So,” he began conversationally, “how's Tim?”

    Batman stiffened. Oddly, he didn't whip his head around to peel away Clark's skin with his eyes alone, the way he was normally wont to do when anyone broached the subject of his 'Bat-family'. Instead, the Dark Knight merely sat down at his high-backed computer chair, and began typing. Judging by the reports he was accessing, all dated from years ago, it appeared to be little more than busy work. Something to keep his hands occupied.

    He then spied that there was a smattering of blood across Bruce's left gauntlet. It was a paltry amount, comparatively, but he logged the information, anyway. And Bruce's heart rate was becoming elevated. Quickly.

    He pressed the issue. “Haven't seen him around here, lately.”

    “You haven't been here, lately,” Bruce growled, fingers clattering across the keys.

    He frowned. Stubborn for all the wrong reasons. “Have you tried talking with him?”

    “He screens his calls,” came the clinical reply.

    Superman furrowed his brow, leaning one hand on the computer while resting the other on his hip. “I doubt something like that would ever really stop you. Why don't you want to talk to him?”

    “This is none of your business,” Batman snapped, fingers jamming against the keys with a renewed fervor. Clark couldn't help but wonder what the keyboard ever did to him.

    He glanced around the solemn, quiet Cave, feeling the unnatural chill soak into his body. He almost never got cold. “Where's Barbara?”

    Click, click, click. “She moved on.”

    He sighed and shook his head. He'd danced around the issue for years, out of respect for Bruce and his extended family. He'd let the man rebuff his every attempt at assistance, let him pull further and further away from everything he cared about. Now, looking upon the man that he'd called his best friend, a brother in arms, he was assaulted by an overwhelming surge of guilt. “Bruce, you don't have to hide away from everyone.”

    “I'm not hiding.”

    “So, what do you call this, then?” He motioned to the computer with a thick hand.

    Bruce swiveled his chair and began typing on another, smaller keyboard. “Working.”

    He arched a brow, unconvinced. “On ten year old solved cases? Don't sidestep the issue.”

    “There's no issue to sidestep, Kent,” Batman grunted, returning back to the main keyboard, the clacking echoing dismally through the Cave. “What do you want?”

    “To help,” he answered, concern lacing his voice.

    The clicking stopped.

    Bruce's bloodied left hand twitched. “Then leave.”

    “What if I said the League needed your help?”

    The typing resumed. “Do they?”

    “They could always use it,” he replied jovially with a shrug. Internally, he was fighting back a twinge of desperation. This wasn't going as well as he'd hoped. Truthfully, he wondered why that surprised him at all.

    “You're wasting my time,” Batman hissed as he stood, cape swirling dramatically behind him.

    Clark tried not to scowl. It proved to be difficult, given the company. “Mr. Terrific has gotten word of a big shipment of illegal goods heading into Gotham tomorrow night,” he explained. That would get his attention. “I thought you'd like to know.”

    “I already do.” Damn. He should've known. “And I'll handle it.”

    “Bruce – “

    “Gotham is my city,” he interrupted, his tone brooking no argument. Clark had officially worn out his welcome. “I can protect it myself.”

    “But who's going to protect you?” Superman rebuked sharply, anxiety for his long-time friend bubbling to the surface.

    “I don't need protection, Kent,” Bruce argued, tugging at a printed read-out. They looked to be schematics, but for the life of him, Clark couldn't remember when Bruce had brought that up on the screen. “In case you haven't noticed, I've been doing this for years.”

    “Decades.” He was rewarded with a sideways glare. “I'm not one to meddle, but – “

    Bruce turned back to his print-out. “You're incapable of not meddling, Clark.”

    Clark. First name basis. Maybe he was getting somewhere. He smiled, a perpetually boyish thing, even in the dankness and malaise of the Batcave. “I'm good at it, what can I say?” He took a risk and closed the distance, putting a hand on the man's shoulder. He felt the tightly-corded muscles go taut under his fingertips. “Bruce, listen to me. I know you're going to say no, but just...hear me out, please.” Thus far, Bruce hadn't forcibly removed his hand, so hopefully... “I'd like for you to rejoin the Justice League.”

    “No.” The word was stolid, absolute.

    “Bruce, we need you,” he pleaded, infusing the slightest measure of his unimaginable power into the gesture.

    “Gotham needs me. The League can handle itself.”

    “I'm not just talking about the League.” That garnered his attention; his head turned, slowly, over his shoulder to stare at the Man of Steel. The order to elaborate was clear. “You've cut off ties with everyone, it's...” He fumbled for the right way to say it, before he surmised there wasn't a right way. “Diana, Wally, and the others...they're worried about you.” He paused. “I'm worried about you.”

    Batman remained silent for several seconds, his gaze appraising, if not accusatory. Finally, he spoke, his voice unreadable, “I appreciate your concern, Clark, but I'm fine. If I needed your help, I'd have asked you for it.”

    “You didn't last time,” Clark countered, regretting his words the moment the tumbled from his mouth.

    Bruce's eyes went cold. He felt his skin crawl underneath the confines of his suit as Batman harshly shrugged his hand off. Quietly, with an iron-tight control that only served to enhance the danger of it, he said, “I trust you know the way out.”

    He scowled as the dark figure stalked off, a mixture of anger and sadness churning in his gut as he relented – again – and let his best friend walk further into the darkness. “Yeah. I do.”

    To be continued...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2012
  2. klammed

    klammed the fool.

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    Oh, hell o_O Bruce is in a bad way.

    I wonder if Harley knew she was inadvertently funding the Joker, and I wonder if little Timmy's reaction could vaguely explain why a generation later his daughters were two bit punk gangsters. Nice that it's titled Old Wounds - I was distinctly reminded of that scene with Connor from said TNBA episode.

    “You're incapable of not meddling, Clark.” <- I do quite like that line. Very much liking your characterisation of Clark, and the kind of brusque banter that went on between them.

    Please don't get bored with this. :crying:
     
  3. SilverKnight

    SilverKnight Sigh.

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    Yeah, Bruce is a wreck, and everyone admits it except for him. Being part and parcel to a murder--not matter how justified--is probably eating him alive.

    You know, I hadn't thought about that. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and say she probably wasn't privy to all of Joker's sick designs--she just wanted a little Joker Jr. to settle down with. Twisted, but insanity does that. As far as little Timmy, he's two; I doubt he'd ever have any long-lasting memories of his mother's...um, altercation.

    Thanks! And I'll try not to. I need to write it, because GS is threatening to stab me with a spatula if I keep bugging her about plot points without actually writing them down.

    ...Well, okay, she hasn't yet, but I'm sure she will eventually. <.<
     
  4. klammed

    klammed the fool.

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    :D will be watching. And this is so bad, but for the longest time when I first came on the forums I thought GS was a guy. (note to mods: I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I don't always check a user's profile immediately! *crumbles*)
     
  5. SilverKnight

    SilverKnight Sigh.

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    Many assumed the exact same thing about me, so I doubt you'd be hurting her feelings, or mine.

    In fact, when people assume I'm a guy, I find it hilarious. Another notch on the SK belt.
     
  6. klammed

    klammed the fool.

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    You and me both, come to think of it. I get the 'dude' thing online often enough, then the blokes try to back track and I'm thinking " 'dude' is a pretty gender neutral term by now." But this is getting OT. :p
     
  7. The Guitar Slayer

    The Guitar Slayer 1965 to Eternity

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    Yeah, I'm a chick. I chose a gender ambiguous name just to make life interesting, hehe. And I'm happy to see this posted -- I really want to see your vision animated, so to speak :D

    And I still have a sharpened spatula leftover when redDragon killed Andrea Beaumont in the Bats RPG. Watch out. :evil:
     
  8. SilentBat18

    SilentBat18 Hmm, so, yeah

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    Well, i'm gonna squeeze in here to leave my review real quick. Bruce seems very angsty, melodramatic, self loathing, and conflicted AND I'M LOVING IT! I'm so torn though, i want him to have a happy ending, but i know its nowhere is sight at this point. can't wait for more!

    BTW, i can't believe i'm admiting this, but i'm one of those folks who mistook you girls for guys once upon a time... of course, that was a moment before opening profile pages.
     
  9. SilverKnight

    SilverKnight Sigh.

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    Thanks! Hopefully, he'll get his happy ending eventually. :D

    >adds notch to the belt<

    ^^v
     
  10. The_NewCatwoman

    The_NewCatwoman Oh you've got to be kidding me

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    *raises hand sheepishly* Oy, I totally thought klammed was a guy...so I'll join the club now.

    Anyhow, I'm sure you don't need me to gush and tell you how awesome this is SK. I've been majorly burnt out myself lately. And when all of my finals this semester turned out to be papers...I just gave in. So now I can take a break and slobber all over your story for a while in lieu of glancing at my own. And I said it last time, I'll say it again: I always appreciate your willingness to brutalize Bruce. I can't for the life of me embrace the (truly) dark side, at least, not without some sort of silver lining. Sure my story is filled with blue-blooded in-fighting, father-issues and more than one snow day, but your stor(y)(ies) ha(s)(ve) /angst/. I bow before you.

    Anxiously awaiting more,

    tNC

    P.S. Please forgive my rambling, I seem to have worked myself into a bit of exhaustion and caught a mother of a cold. My first day home, as in actually in my pajamas, and I'm loopy on cough syrup and sleep. :D So I gush incoherently where my manners used to be.
     
  11. SilverKnight

    SilverKnight Sigh.

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    Well, it's good to know that my claim to fame is torturing the **** out of the characters I write. Still, if you enjoy it, that means you're just as whacked as me. :p

    Anywho, holy crap, I actually wrote another chapter! Go me! >.O;

    ***

    Diana of Themyscira absently ran a long finger around the rim of her iced mocha, gazing down at the Earth; a sapphire gem in a sea of stars. Her life before leaving her beloved home was a...peaceful one – it was quiet, and content. She had her mother, she had her sisters, and that was all she had needed. Her journey into Man's World was, to put it mildly, a shock – the world outside of her island was filthy; dirty, corrupt, and heavily favoring those with the lack of scruples to trounce upon the weak to achieve their goals. Though she would never admit it, her first few weeks in that strange new world was nothing short of terrifying.

    But Amazons did not succumb to fear. They overcame it.

    Though the trials she faced her numerous, and not without personal sacrifice, she stood now, seven years later, a beacon for her people – for all people. Injustice and oppression would not be permitted to hold sway on Man's World or any other, so long as she could lift her sword and wield it for those who couldn't do so themselves.

    She distractedly tapped her fingernails against the nearly-empty cup, her azure eyes wandering to the cluster of satellite readings in front of her. Organized supervillain activity had tapered off in the past six months, but that still didn't stop individuals from trying to take advantage of a decaying situation. Southeast Asia was getting hit hard with a pandemic, fast acting, and fast spreading. China, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar all issued nationwide quarantines. Neighboring countries, and the world at large, issued safety warnings for anyone who traveled; they even went so far as to deny their own people entry back into their homeland, if they believed to be within a hundred miles of an affected zone. A logical choice, but she sympathized with those displaced, never the less.

    Panic was beginning to take root among the populace of Man's World. And anywhere panic went, mayhem surely followed.

    02.
    Trial by Fire

    Diana felt a gust of wind rustle her hair, and smiled over her shoulder, flashing brilliant white teeth. “Hello, Flash.”

    “Heya, Wondy!” he waved in greeting, grinning wide. “Sight-seeing?”

    “Just catching my breath,” she replied, taking a sip of her mocha. “It's been pretty hectic lately.”

    The Scarlet Speedster nodded, pivoting on his heel to casually rest his hip against the sophisticated array. “I'll bet. I think I've seen you more in the news than in person the past couple of months.”

    She nodded. “That's probably because you have. I admit, I've almost been wishing for some villain to try his hand at world domination. It would certainly provide more excitement than diplomatic functions.”

    “Hey, be careful what you wish for,” Flash mock warned, smirk still on his lips. “'Cause if someone tries to take over the world, that means we all have to chip in, and personally? Explaining to Linda why I missed our anniversary would really suck.”

    “But, wouldn't she know why?” she asked, curious.

    He shook his head despairingly. “Relationship 101, Di – if you miss your anniversary, you're automatically in the dog house.”

    She cocked her head to the side in minor confusion. “Why would she want you to sleep there?”

    Wally beamed, leaning down to wrap his arms around her in a squeezing hug. “I have so missed you!” He glanced up at the nearby clock and made a point of doing a double-take. “Whoops, almost eight, gotta run! See ya, Wondy!” She raised a hand as he zoomed off, a blur of red, and shook her head. That man could make Superman dizzy.

    A figure walked through the door Flash just exited, large hands balled into fists at his sides. The smile left her face. Speaking of which. “You talked to him?”

    Superman frowned as he came to a halt behind her. “I talked at him,” he clarified, his baritone laced with frustration. “He didn't seem interested in anything I had to say.”

    She sighed wearily, kneading a temple with her left hand. “Stubborn man,” she muttered under her breath. “How did he look?”

    Kal's frown deepened. “Like a walking corpse.” He raked a hand through his thick black hair, expression pinched. “I'm really concerned about him. Even after he left, he didn't look that...worn out.” His eyes caught hers, and she struggled not to be taken aback by the sheer amount of distress in them. “There's something wrong, Diana. I know it. And he won't say anything.”

    Her aristocratic features hardened. Depositing the remainder of her mocha into a nearby wastebin, she stood, ready for battle. “Maybe to you, he won't,” she challenged, ready to stalk off to the teleporter and give that obstinate, self-righteous man a lesson in humility. He couldn't serve any purpose if he was floundering about in the Underworld.

    Before she could manage two steps, Superman rested a hand on her shoulder, halting her. “Diana, don't. Going charging down there demanding an answer is only going to make him clam up even more.”

    Her fingers hooked around the golden, glowing lasso on her hip. “Then I'll have to make sure he opens up.”

    A klaxon cut off whatever reply Superman had in mind. Argument forgotten, the heroes rushed out of the sterile, computer-lined room, even as Mr. Terrific called. “Superman, Wonder Woman, meet me on the bridge.”

    Wonder Woman's lips stretched into a small, ironic grin. “Careful what you wish for.”

    “Huh?” Superman grunted.

    She shook her head. “Nothing. Let's go.”

    ---

    Mr. Terrific heard the elevator doors slide open with a hiss and shifted his posture to acknowledge them. His fingers worked over the controls with efficiency as he brought up a view of Hong Kong, flames dancing across the flickering hologram. “Volcana and Firefly,” he explained, hitting a switch and bringing up a digitized blue-print of the damaged area. “They appeared approximately twenty-five minutes ago and have been laying waste to downtown Hong Kong.”

    “Hong Kong,” Diana echoed, brows furrowed. “Isn't that one of the cities the Chinese government has put under strong quarantine?”

    “Which is why they called us,” Mr. Terrific answered, enlarging the display of the wrecked cityscape miles below them.

    Superman nodded. “Right. Let's go.”

    Both Superman and Diana were halfway to the transporter when he called out, “Superman, wait!”

    The Man of Steel stopped, hovering in mid-air with a questioning gaze. Despite himself, Holt couldn't help but think that Superman was as close to a God as he would ever believe to exist. “We don't know the exact nature of the infection; moreover, if it would affect metahumans.”

    “Your idea?” Superman asked.

    He merely pointed at the technicians waiting just outside the soft blue glow of the transport pad. The two followed his gaze and saw what the blue-clad techs were holding in their grasps.

    ---

    Diana frowned when the world materialized in front of her, gawking at the thick yellow Hazmat suit that covered her. “This won't exactly inspire confidence to the locals.”

    “Better that than the alternative,” Superman replied with a shrug, gaze sharp and focused. “Remember what Mr. Terrific said. We can't afford to break containment on these suits; we don't know if the toxin is airborne or not. Play it safe.”

    She took in her surroundings, assessing the situation. In the sub-half hour that the two firebirds had to themselves, they had all but decimated a sizable portion of Hong Kong's financial district. Jets of flame shot out from windows and doorways, heavy columns of smoke engulfing the buildings and choking the bright blue sky into a sulfurous yellow. The air, even through the breathing apparatus built into the suit, stank of soot and ash. “Tell that to them.”

    Kal turned to the right, launching himself into the air. “This way!”

    ---

    Garfield Lynns loved hot women.

    Volcana casually stepped through a floor-length window, glass crunching under her heels as her hips swayed in all the right ways. Stopping short of a sealed door, she rose one elegant hand and pressed it against the reinforced steel. In the span of seconds, it sizzled and melted like butter, molten metal pooling on the ground and igniting the scratchy red carpet.

    He felt the heat across his armored feet and legs as he walked through their newest blaze, gazing lovingly into its hypnotic dance as though it held the secrets of the universe. For him, it did. The future was written in those flickering colors, he just needed a big enough flame to see the whole picture. And who better to paint that picture for him than the Queen of Fire herself?

    She glanced over her shoulder, past that long mane of wild red hair, and blew him a kiss. “Are you coming?”

    A pyromaniac and assertive. It didn't get hotter than that.

    ---

    It was eerie how deserted everything was. Superman streaked through the streets, barren save for the destruction Volcana and Firefly had wrought. If he remembered his time zones right, it should have been about 10 o'clock in the morning – this place should have been booming. Aside from the crackling of flames, the silence in downtown Hong Kong was downright deafening.

    He stopped at a bank: Chen Republic Holdings. He was momentarily surprised that it was written in English, before he remembered Hong Kong's rather conflicted history. Noting the broken glass – and the melted safe near the back of the building – he concluded they had reached their destination.

    “They're in here,” he stated, flying inside.

    Diana followed shortly behind, flanking him.

    ---

    Claire Selton used to adore rubies. Maybe it had been growing up watching the Wizard of Oz, or from the necklace her father had given her as a birthday present, but she was always fascinated by them. Their color, their luminosity, the way they glinted so perfectly in the sunlight. Staring at the veritable treasure trove of jewels nestled within a safe-deposit box – opened courtesy of Firefly – Volcana felt like a child again. “Beautiful,” she whispered, holding a ruby up to let it catch the ambient light from the fire outside. “Isn't it?”

    “It's amazing,” Firefly responded, crouched next to her. His attention, though, seemed more focused on the rest of the contents of the box. Volcana didn't care. She indulged in her nostalgia, watching as the ruby glittered in the warm red hues. So perfect.

    A shadow fell across the jewel, killing its spark.

    She whirled around, red eyes wide. Superman and Wonder Woman stood silhouetted against the wall of fire she'd created, effectively blocking their way out. “A little far from home, aren't you?”

    So, Superman decided to pay his respects, did he? She could use the challenge. “Hey, lover-boy,” she cooed at her partner in crime, “up for a double date?”

    She heard the grin in his voice as he hefted his flamethrower. “Always.”

    ---

    Diana ducked another fireball, twisting her torso to allow a column of flame to sail harmlessly past her. As she dropped her altitude, Volcana smiled, all fangs, and sped down towards her. She easily blocked a right cross and countered with an elbow to the villainess' jaw. “There are other places to attack.”

    Volcana reeled, plummeting fifty feet before righting herself mid-air, wiping at her mouth. “Yeah, but other places aren't abandoned.”

    She charged.

    ---

    Superman easily sidestepped his flamethrower's spray, appearing unimpressed. Firefly frowned. Well, this wasn't going to work. He decided to try his hand at aerial combat, and took to the sky.

    “This place is a hot zone,” Superman stated, giving chase. “The entire city's been quarantined.”

    “So I heard,” he huffed, weaving around and through plumes of smoke. Superman was invulnerable, but that suit he wore wasn't. If he could just get him close enough to a fire... “I figure I'm doing these guys a favor.” He wheeled around and fired his weapon again. The Man of Steel dove under the haphazardly aimed shot, the ball of flame instead colliding with a building behind him. The steel blackened upon impact, the plexiglass windows melting with a hiss.

    That seemed to annoy him. “By destroying everything?”

    “By purging it,” Firefly answered, his voice eerily calm. Fire destroyed germs, after all. Fire destroyed weakness. He was performing a civil service, though he was sure the vaunted League would never see it that way.

    Firefly careened around a smoldering building, hoping to lose his pursuer in the billowing smoke. Naturally, then, he was surprised when the jet pack was forcibly torn from his back with one monumentally powerful hand while his beloved flamethrower was crushed with another. He shrieked, clamoring to hold onto his demolished weapon with both hands – now the only thing keeping him airborne – as he gaped at the two-hundred foot drop that awaited him if Superman suddenly decided to play for keeps.

    He put on a brave face. “It doesn't matter what you do to me, Volcana's already turned Wonder Woman to ash!”

    Inconveniently, Wonder Woman chose this time to dive past them both, a flailing Volcana held in what appeared to be a headlock, as she slammed them both into a concrete roof.

    Superman raised an eyebrow at him through the sealed blue visor. “You were saying?”

    ---

    Snared within the unbreakable Lasso of Truth, the two firebirds remained semi-conscious at Diana's feet. Surveying the damage, she pressed a finger against the communicator in her ear. “Wonder Woman to Watchtower. We've got Firefly and Volcana subdued, but we could use some help putting out these fires. Do you know the ETA of emergency personnel arriving on the scene?”

    Static crackled over the transmission. “Negative, Wonder Woman. No emergency personnel is en route.”

    She and Kal balked. “What?” he exclaimed. “Dozens of buildings are in flames!”

    “The quarantine is absolute, Superman,” Mr. Terrific explained tensely. “All inhabitants of Hong Kong have been ordered to remain at home, indoors until further notice. Disobeying that edict carries a harsh penalty.”

    Her face tightened in utter disbelief. Kal had already taken off to put out the nearest fire. “But what about firefighters? Police officers? Doctors? People will need supplies and medical attention after a while.”

    “According to the reports,” he answered, “there are several authorized stations with Hazmat-ready units for every day needs.”

    “And for non-everyday needs?”

    “You're looking at it, Princess.”

    She couldn't believe it. Given the virulence of the disease, leaving them to their own devices was a veritable death sentence. Just when she thought Man's World couldn't show more depravity to their kin, something always proved her wrong. “Could you contact one of those 'authorized stations' and let them know they have a major situation?”

    More static. “I've contacted the Chinese government with a status update. They said they're gearing up a battalion to take control of the situation. They should be mobile within the hour.”

    “Within the hour?” she barked.

    “Don't shoot the messenger, Diana, I'm doing all I can up here,” he retorted. Mr. Terrific sounded as pleased about the situation as she was.

    “Right,” she replied contritely. “I'll keep you apprised. Wonder Woman out.”

    She tightly secured the duo to a nearby lamp-post, uttering, “Don't even try to escape. You won't like me tracking you down.” With that finished, she gazed at the city around her, lifeless and crumbling, and sent a silent prayer to Hera to watch over these people.

    Somebody had to.



    To be continued...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2012
  12. SilentBat18

    SilentBat18 Hmm, so, yeah

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    hmmm Diana seems a bit ticked off by this, dare i say apathy? This should be interesting. I don't really see her taking this in stride for too long, somethings gotta crack... i can't shake the feeling that maybe Bruce will be responsible for that. anticipating more!
     
  13. klammed

    klammed the fool.

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    tNC : s'all good :D (hope you're better)

    --
    SK:

    Okay. I saw 'Diana of Themyscira' and had to brighten and giggle. I don't know why. This is going to be slightly like a random running commentary as I'm reading this. It has to be (and you have my apologies if and when I stop making sense... or if I never do). Nice with the pandemic thing, especially since I've gone through SARs and Bird Flu and what have you. Singapore centre of commerce and bringing in viruses for yays. I like angry Diana. Nice to see there are still certain things about Man's World that she can still be clueless about. Angry at Bruce? Go Diana rar!

    Using a B-list villain and making him work = brownie points and cookies. Did he appear in JLU? I can't remember anymore. I laughed at Chen Republic Holdings and the ref. to Hong Kong's colonial times, t'was a nice touch :) Nice bit of action as well. What year are we in by the way? Before or after 09? Or is that unimportant.. lol
     
  14. SilverKnight

    SilverKnight Sigh.

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    I don't think it's possible for Diana to be apathetic about anything. If you're referring to her outrage at China essentially writing the city off, oh yes, she's pissed. If you're referring to Bruce being EmoBat, she's also pissed that her friend can't trust them (and thus, is harming another mutual friend in Clark), but moreso is extremely worried about him. Like Clark, she knows something is wrong, but he won't let her help.

    Seeing someone suffer but not trusting you to help them really, really sucks. Speaking from experience.

    Well, I figure if any major disease is going to have a starting place, it'd be China. XD

    Rar, indeed. Diana is protective of her friends. It's in her nature. :D

    Well. I wanted to allude to flames, since the whole 'kill it with fire' idea is popular. That = Firefly and Volcana. I think he had a cameo appearance in JLU, but I can't be sure. Not really important, anyway. XD I was going to name the bank "Huang Republic Holdings", but I thought it best not to steal from you. ;)

    As far as the year...well, you'll find out. ^^

    Thanks! :)
     
  15. klammed

    klammed the fool.

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    Haha, I stole that from the Beyond Gotham skyline :p . Mm, nice with the fire indeed, I was thinking black death and London burning when I read it.

    for the last bit - somehow I knew you'd say that. garn. :anime:
     
  16. SilentBat18

    SilentBat18 Hmm, so, yeah

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    yes, that's what i meant. it would be out of character for her to just shrug and say "meh, oh well, i'll just put out the fires myself." But since she's already been agitated by the two fireballs and worried over Bruce, i don't think her patience can last very long... but that's just my opinion. I've always seen WW as a hard headed woman passionate about justice but with limited patience. i wouldn't be surprised if she goes off on Bruce after he gives her a hard time.
     
  17. SilverKnight

    SilverKnight Sigh.

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    She didn't just shrug it off, though. If you want to get down to it, she probably went tracking down the nearest Hazmat site and demanding that they help. But that's all subtext and not really important to the story. And besides, I liked that ending line better.
     
  18. SilverKnight

    SilverKnight Sigh.

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    Bruce hadn't slept in almost three days. This was nothing new for him.

    A weariness crept into his bones, seeping into the damaged cartilage and scar tissue of his left knee. His muscles had long-since learned the futility of protesting the abuse, but still begged for a respite. He glanced at the chronometer embedded into the computer array with only a vague interest. 00:37. 12:37 AM. He was running late for patrols, but he had to make sure he had every available scrap of information on that shipment before leaping into trouble. After all, there was nobody left to pick up his slack, anymore. He couldn't afford to make a mistake.

    'Any more mistakes,' he corrected himself sharply.

    A pair of bats squabbled angrily among the stalactites. He grit his teeth, glaring through the satellite image of the Gotham Docks as he clenched a hand into a tight fist. He felt the joints pop, relieving much needed pressure. He didn't notice. He seemed to be making more of them, lately; it irritated him intensely. His aborted meeting with Harley Quinn was only the latest, though, he assumed darkly, not the last. Distantly, Batman recalled shaking her hand when she exited Arkham with a clean bill of health. He even recalled her kissing him in gratitude after being escorted back not one (bad) day later –

    Something in him twisted. He didn't remember his leg becoming stiff so quickly four years ago. He didn't remember feeling so suffocated by the silence of the Cave before. He didn't remember a lot of things that were starting to make themselves all too apparent, all too quickly. He had tried, desperately and repeatedly, to pinpoint exactly when things started to change so drastically. Unfortunately, the more time passed, the more convinced he grew of the culprit.

    The Dark Knight had gone and gotten old.

    03.
    Cornered

    The computer warned Bruce of her arrival the moment she stepped foot on – or, in Diana's case, flew over – the Manor grounds. A low, hateful growl bubbled from the base of his ribcage. Stubborn woman. He didn't have the time or patience to deal with another happy-go-lucky, doe-eyed member of the League showing up at his doorstep to try and cheer him up. He detested pity; their attempts to pull him into their sunshine-filled world only served to insult his sensibilities. He found it hard to fathom how those two could not have figured that out about him after knowing him for seven years (in Clark's case, almost ten).

    Idiots.

    Batman rose from the relative comfort of the computer chair, disregarding the pops as his spine realigned itself, and headed for his utility cache. He would need some acid to rot the locks on the cargo units. The telltale clacking of Wonder Woman's heels as she gently landed on the unforgiving Cave ground alerted him to her presence. He examined the contents of the belt pouches while he made every effort to ignore her.

    She didn't give him much of a chance. “What's going on, Bruce?”

    Straight-forward and to the point. He remembered secretly finding it sexy as hell, once. The weight of his own misery fairly squelched that thought before it started. “I don't recall asking for a babysitter.”

    “What happened?” she questioned. “I know you don't like company, but this is beyond just trying to keep your life private. You're running away from everyone. Why?” He bristled at the subtle implication in her tone. “We're your friends, Bruce, we deserve an answer.”

    He loaded a small spray container of sulfuric acid into a pouch on his right side, resisting the urge to take the handful of smoke bombs in his fingers and hurl them at her. “Is that a fact?” he responded, voice cold. His patience for this nonsense had worn so thin, it was practically see-through. His head and shoulders twisted, serpentine, and affixed her with one of the most dangerous, baleful glares she had ever seen.

    Diana gasped when she caught sight of him, perfectly sculpted face slack with shock. “Hera, Bruce,” she breathed, her eyes pained. “You look like you've just escaped from Tartarus.”

    Her compassion only darkened his expression further, going from thunderous to Category-Five-hurricane in the blink of an eye. “You barge into the Batcave, uninvited and unannounced, start prying into my personal life, which is none of your business, accuse me of being a coward, and then say that you deserve an answer?”

    She wilted, just a fraction, under his acidic diatribe. “This isn't just about me, Bruce. And believe or not, this isn't just about you, either.”

    He crossed his arms expectantly over his chest, if only to keep them occupied. Who did she think she was? “Really.”

    Her deep blue eyes flared. He remembered finding that sexy as hell, too. It had been...fun to occasionally prod her, goad her, drag out that fiery spirit in her. He bit back a sudden wave of nausea at the memories. Lifetimes ago.

    “Even if you deny them entry into your life, there are people in the world who still care about you,” she explained. “They don't want to see you suffer needlessly. Shutting everyone out of your life isn't going to suddenly remove you from theirs.” She paused, her gaze almost pleading. “We're all suffering, Bruce. Let us help.”

    He glared at her, full of malice...and, amazingly, felt himself start to waver.Instead, he snarled. “Leave.”

    “I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what's going on,” Diana declared, arms akimbo.

    He grunted, gliding towards the Batmobile. “Suit yourself.”

    “And neither are you,” she challenged boldly, stepping in front of him.

    Bruce's eyes became solid granite. The hell she would. Several unflattering words were on the tip of his tongue, when he felt her fingers, long and elegant, land on his left bicep. His too-empty stomach churned with another, stronger, bout of nausea. He clenched his teeth tightly, taking a slow and steady breath through his nose to relax the acute, reflexive tightening of his throat. Perhaps he should have eaten earlier today. It was a moot point, now. His face burned with the concentration it took to force down the urge to retch. “What's wrong, Bruce? Tell me, please.”

    He replied the only way he knew how. “You're in my way.”

    She sighed, a quiet and long-suffering sound. “Does Alfred know you're exhausting yourself like this?”

    His tired features hardened; a sudden, explosive anger rising like steam from his abdomen. He all but yanked his arm away, shoving past her – past her pedantic, useless, nauseating kindness. “Alfred is resting,” he grated out.

    Undaunted, she followed in the wake of his fluttering cape. He was not in the mood for this. “I didn't know Alfred could rest.” Always perceptive. Damn her. “Is he alright?”

    “He will be.” He had to be.

    She hummed in thought. “Well, I know you don't want a babysitter,” she began, a smile in her voice, “but do you think Alfred could use one?”

    No. “He'll be fine by himself.”

    He reached the Batmobile, flicking the control on his gauntlet that opened the canopy with a small whoosh of air. In his peripheral, he saw Diana cock her head to the side in question, one hand resting on her hip, while the other pressed a finger thoughtfully to her lips. “Is it alright if I ask him?”

    No. “He's asleep. He doesn't like to be disturbed.”

    She arched a brow, amused. He glowered angrily. Yes, the great, uncaring Dark Knight did occasionally show respect for the personal wishes of others. Far more often than he ever let on, in fact. She was doing this on purpose

    “Cranky sleeper?”

    He expelled an exasperated sigh through lightly clamped teeth. He didn't want to talk about this. Not now, not ever, most definitely not with her. “Just trust me, Diana.”

    Her other hand settled back onto her hip as she nodded in deference. The smile on her face became tinged with sadness. “Alright.”

    Sadness for him.

    Damn her.

    Wonder Woman straightened, schooling her features. “I'm not letting this conversation go, Bruce.”

    And Bruce wouldn't have expected her to. The lack of sleep left him incapable of arguing any further without compromising her health, his sanity, or the Mission. Besides, he had a job to do, and he needed to focus on doing it. “Fine,” he growled, slipping behind the wheel. “Do what you want. Just stay out of my way.”

    The sound-proof canopy slid overhead, closing him off from the ambiance of the Cave. Never the less, he still managed to make out her reply as it left her lips, reading them through the windshield. “For now.”

    He bared his teeth in barely restrained fury as he peeled out of the Cave. Damn that woman and all who spawned her.

    ---

    The acrid smell of sea salt wafted through the cool September air as Batman stole along the tarmac rooftop. Crouching at the weather-beaten, yellowed concrete edge, he brought a pair of collapsible binoculars to his eyes. Adjusting the magnification, he focused his sights on the cargo ship that was nestled securely within docks. On the outside, the Larimar was the model freighter – all of its cargo boxes were within specified limits, it followed proper docking procedure, and it even had a fresh coat of paint.

    The only problem was, the Larimar wasn't scheduled to arrive for another thirteen hours.

    He counted ten men, scurrying like ants along the deck as they removed their illegal goods with efficiency. No doubt there were several more down below, working the machinery to move the steel-reinforced boxes to the deck for removal. Replacing his binoculars, he stood, a shadow within a shadow, and fired his jumpline.

    ---

    Lenny always got the crap shifts.

    It never failed; when he was working as a bouncer at Booker Kerry's strip joint, he'd get stuck with all the late night winos and pervs. When he struck out into the muscle-for-hire business, he'd find himself working for whack-jobs like the Joker. (He still wasn't sure how he survived that one. If he'd been the religious sort, he'd have kissed some deity's foot.) And now, getting on in years, he settled down to an easy-peasy dock job – with, of course, a little...extracurricular activities when nobody was looking. A little extra money never hurt.

    But, staying up to God knows what time – what was it? After 1 AM now? – when he knew he had to be back in five hours sucked. Knowing that he'd left that sweet number at his apartment, ready to go, when these yahoos called him in didn't help.

    Story of his life. Just when he got a good thing going, someone had to up and ruin it.

    The forklift he was operating jostled from unexpected contact. He grimaced, staring over his shoulder. “Hey, watch it! This thing don't stop on a dime, ya kn – “

    A figure with pointed ears and glowing white eyes stared back.

    Then a gloved hand snapped out.

    He didn't even have the time to mutter, “Figures.”

    ---

    The Dark Knight moved from target to target, swiftly and silently, melting into the darkness that pooled over the decks in the moonless evening. The last member of the crew – a spindly, ratty figure named Kravitz – tore through the catacomb of cargo boxes, blindly shooting into the night behind him. The bullets ricocheted harmlessly off the crates, the contact illuminating his self-made prison for the span of a millisecond before all went dark again. One such explosion of light was enough to give the man a glimpse of a black shadow that lunged for him.

    Kravitz dropped to the ground with a dull thud, gun clattering to the ground in pieces beside him.

    Dragging him to an on-board crane, Batman handcuffed the man around one of the yellow-painted beams. Content that he was secure, he was about to meld back into the night, when a symbol on a nearby cargo box, barely visible, caught his attention. Eyes narrowed, he strode to the thick metal crate, measuring at least ten feet tall and wide, and ran his fingers over the logo emblazoned on the slate-gray box.

    Society of Shadows.

    Without second thought, he plucked that small canister of acid from his side pouch and took it to the latches along the side of the box. Anything involving Ra's Al Ghul's criminal network was bound to be bad news, and he wasn't about to let that lunatic get anywhere near his city. Tearing the remainder of the locks from their now broken hinges, he curled his fingers around the heavy steel door and swung it open with an elongated creak.

    He traded in the acid spray for a flashlight, flicking it on and giving the contents of the container a once-over. Smaller crates were piled haphazardly from end to end, several boxes showing munitions and other expensive – and very illegal – weapons stored within them. “He's gotten sloppy,” he muttered to himself, warily stepping between the narrow space between one row of crates and the next.

    “As have you, Detective.”

    Batman snapped his head up toward the familiar voice as the sound of sharp, metallic scraping reached his ears. He squeezed himself out of the small man-made crevice just in time to watch the massive door behind him slam to a close.



    To be continued...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2012
  19. klammed

    klammed the fool.

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    "I'm tired, Alfred." Aw, that killed me right from the start.
    My goodness, is that Harley's Holiday that you've mentioned? I'd totally forgot that line 'I had a bad day too, once'. Never made The Killing Joke connection till now (and to anyone who hasn't read it, please do. And no, Heath Ledger's portrayal in no way covered the mastery of that story's depiction of the character, but I shouldn't rant)... gotta love Paul Dini's work.

    Loving your Bruce-Diana interaction, and Bruce's internal side commentary going on there as it happens. Very nice.

    And... It's Ra's!!! Cue me happy.
     
  20. SilverKnight

    SilverKnight Sigh.

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    From the very beginning of "I Am the Night". Many thought the episode was overdone--and it was, strictly speaking--but the acting was superb. Poor Batman was going through Hell.

    Never read the Killing Joke, myself--amusingly enough, I'm usually not too big on the comics. XD (Though yeah, I know how important/good that particular story is. No nearby comic shops, so sucks to me; I can survive without having read it.) As far as Heath Ledger is concerned, if there was any issue on the character, it has to do with how the Joker was written. His performance of the material was out and out phenomenal.

    I showed this to a friend, and his first reply was, "Diana's being a pain in the ass." Which was true, but was also the idea entirely. Given that leaving him to his own devices is what led him to this...illustrious state, and she has absolutely zero tolerance for Batman's crap, I could easily see her wearing him down in an argument. Because unlike 95% of the DC universe, she actually argues intelligently with him, and sees right through him.

    Dun dun dunnnn. ;)
     

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