?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Fic: By Any Other Name 3/3



Bruce Wayne had been serious about the personal assistant spiel he’d spun her mother, Terri quickly figured out. She drove him to doctor’s appointments and board meetings and charity events, and once to the cemetery where he spent a very long time brooding at his parents’ grave. She was expecting her mother to make a fuss over the amount of time she spent with Wayne, but Mary McGinnis had apparently decided that the old man was someone she could trust with her daughter. She didn’t even blink when he scheduled an overnight visit to New York City, a visit that meant that Terri left school at noon so that she could accompany him on the plane. In what was probably a gracious gesture from Wayne, she was allowed to finish up her homework in the time it took to take off from Gotham and arrive in New York.

Despite the fact that this little journey was scheduled as a charity event, Wayne managed to work in some of her training. She refreshed her memories of the martial arts classes she had taken when they got to the hotel on Friday night under his watchful eye, adjusting to his verbal corrections while biting back smartass comments. He drilled her in observation over dinner, asking her to note and remember the other patrons of the restaurant and deduce the circumstances of each one.

On Saturday morning there was a tiny actress in her fifties who arrived before Terri had managed much more than coffee. Wayne disappeared back into his room with a pot of tea and a stack of paperwork while the two of them sat at a piano and Terri practiced manipulating her voice so that she could sound older and hopefully male when she needed to do so. She stayed for three hours, running scales and octaves and breathing techniques until Terri was ready to declare a vow of silence as Batman rather than do this again, before her husband showed up to walk her down to the theatre. “Remember to keep practicing,” she said as she walked out the door. “Whatever you’re trying to do, it will absolutely destroy your voice if you’re not properly trained and warmed up.”

Terri nodded and smiled until the door was closed and then went to see her boss. “Tell me I won’t have to do that ever again.”

Wayne raised one eyebrow and pushed up from the chair. “You’ll have to keep up the training and practice, but one lesson should be enough. Why do you ask?”

“Because that woman freaked me out,” she told him frankly.

“She’s very dedicated to her craft,” Wayne said, his delivery a perfect deadpan. “Most performers are like that, but they can be useful for things like this. I learned many of my earliest tricks from a stage magician.”

“I already know how to pick locks with paperclips,” Terri pointed out. “I was kind of worried that she was going to knock me out and chain me to the piano until I got it right.”

The old man shrugged as if such concerns were unimportant. “Moving on. We’ve got the performing arts fundraiser this evening. What do you remember about it?”

“The money goes to All Stars Project, Inc. which recruits underprivileged children in the poorer parts of New York and has them audition for various productions, as well as teaching them how to handle the sound boards and theater equipment,” she recited, standing up and stretching before going into a handstand. She’d never really gone for gymnastics before this surprised job, but Wayne had made sure she learned very quickly and she had a knack for it. She wouldn’t be making it to the Olympics or anything, but she was surprisingly good at the floor exercises. Tumbling came in handy when it came to avoiding projectiles. “The people at this thing will have paid through the nose for the chance to be here, there will be dinner and a few people will perform, and then there’ll be an auction of various movie memorabilia so that they can bid on the junk.”

Wayne nodded. “And?”

“And there’s always a chance that someone will try to steal one of the knickknacks, or something from the folks that are hosting the thing.” Terri dropped out of the handstand into a roll and then stood up. “I need to keep an eye out for that and stop it from happening without getting caught or noticed.”

“Good.” There was the barest hint of a smile from the man, subtle but there if you knew what to look for. “You’re learning.”

“Despite what my teachers seem to think, I do pay attention sometimes.” It had been one of the first lectures, when he had laid out exactly what she had to do if she was going to become Batman. The suit was an unbelievably cool piece of technology, but in the end it was just another tool. Wayne worked hard to impress on her that it was the person inside the suit that mattered, and that most of her job as Batman could be done without it. He had then started a regimen of training to prove it.

“Speaking of teachers, you will be seeing Ms. Berry again. She’s worked with this charity for years and she’s performing tonight.” The restrained expression of sadistic pleasure on his face made her groan.

“I was hoping I was done.”

“You’re never done when it comes to this kind of thing,” he promised, the words ominous. “There’s no such thing as too much training and you should never let a contact go to waste.”

The rest of the day was caught up in actual work. Wayne was working on something that had to do with Wayne-Powers and it generated an enormous amount of paperwork and data files. Terri was the one responsible for keeping track of it all and hauling it from one location to the next and it kept her surprisingly busy. She managed to squeeze in a tiny bit of homework that she hadn’t managed to finish on the plane when Wayne went to ‘meditate,’ something that usually resulted in him sleeping for an hour or so.

That evening’s fundraiser was black tie and she hadn’t been able to talk her way out of a dress despite the fact that she wasn’t technically a guest, so as it got close to the starting time Terri reluctantly went to change. She’d gone out with Chelsea, a little reluctantly, and found something that would fit the criteria as well as offer maximum coverage. Wayne had picked up the tab without a murmur, pointing out that this garment would be part of her work wardrobe. Hopefully nothing would happen to it and she would be spared the shopping experience for a second time. Adding to the indignity of the situation was the fact that she’d also had to style her short hair and wear heels.

Terri had gathered that most of the people who came to this thing with assistants expected those assistants to help remember names of the various people they would encounter, but she knew that Wayne’s steel-trap mind wouldn’t need that kind of help. Instead, she would be the one memorizing names and faces and potential allies and weaknesses and pretending to assist him while he sipped a glass of ginger ale and smiled.

Every once in a while he displayed genuine interest in one of the other rich people, differentiated from his other interactions by a slight difference in his tone of voice. Terri made sure to pay closer attention when that happened, since she had a feeling that meant that she’d see that person again once this was all over. Once when she stepped away for a circuit of the room and a glance at the swag that they would be auctioning off later that evening she came back to find her boss in an actual conversation with a man in his sixties. He was smiling, the expression somewhere between the sharp smirk of Batman and the bland gesture of Bruce Wayne, and as she handed him a fresh ginger ale he introduced them. “Theresa McGinnis, meet Richard Castle.”

The man held out a hand and she shook it by rote. “Nice to meet you,” he said. “I’ve heard, well, pretty much nothing at all about you, but Bruce says you’ve just started working for him.”

“A few weeks ago,” she agreed, still a little dazed that she was meeting her boyfriend’s favorite author.

“I’m sure he keeps you on your toes,” Mr. Castle said, shooting a glance over at her boss. “This one’s got his hand in everything.”

“I’ve noticed that,” she admitted.

“All right,” Mr. Wayne interrupted. “Quit terrorizing my assistant. Where’s the lovely Kate this evening?”

“Work. Alexis is here, though. Somewhere.”

“I’m surprised she could find the time.”

“This one’s a favorite. My mother used to bring her along for fundraisers promoting the arts all of the time.” The man raised his eyebrows, his expression gleeful. “If I remember correctly, that’s where she met you.”

“Your mother was a lovely woman. She was just a little . . .”

“Predatory?” Mr. Castle suggested.

“Intense,” Wayne allowed before changing the subject. “Rachel Berry is performing tonight. Have you ever had a chance to meet her?”

“No, but I’ve met her husband. He works out of Kate’s precinct.” His cell phone made a noise and the author frowned. “Sorry, I have to take this.”

Wayne nodded and the other man walked away. Terri leaned in once he was gone. “You know Richard Castle?”

“I know a lot of people.”

“Do you think I could get an autograph for Daniel?”

“Rick loves signing things. You shouldn’t have a problem. Right now, though, you should be doing your job.”

“Right. Sorry.” She didn’t know why she was this flustered, but right now the only thing that could top this would be a surprise visit from Wonder Woman. “There’s a guy in his sixties hovering around the auction table. Seems kind of shifty.”

“That’s Caffrey. He’s not your concern. What else?”

“The woman in the light blue dress.”

“Elaborate.”

“She’s walking around the floor, but she doesn’t actually interact with anyone. She’s also carrying around a glass that she isn’t actually drinking from, probably to help her fit in, and she always comes back to that spot near the door. She’s waiting for something.”

“Good. Any indication of what she’s after?”

Terri kept her expression the same bland, neutral mask her boss was wearing. “I don’t think she’s here for any of the stuff connected with the auction. She’s using the party to get access to the house, maybe to the guests.”

“So what should you do about that?”

“Keep an eye on her and wait for her to make a move. Follow her when that happens. Stop her from actually committing a crime.” Terri kept a sharp eye on her target. She was determined not to screw this up. It was hard not to ignore the fact that this was a trial run for her future as Batman.

“And how will you do that?”

“I’ll have to improvise when it happens. We don’t know enough about her and what she might want.”

He gave an approving nod, though the motion was subtle enough that most people wouldn’t have recognized it. “I can give you a hint about when she’ll probably make her play. Ms. Berry is getting ready to perform and that’s usually all the distraction any thief could ask for.”

Terri didn’t really have a chance to ask what that meant because at that moment the noise of the crowd died down and her petite music teacher stepped up to the microphone. As the woman began to make a speech about growing up in a small town in Ohio and how much the school music programs had meant to her, Terri edged away from her boss and towards her mark.

The people were all turned to the front of the room, but Mr. Wayne had been hanging out around the edges so she managed to slip away without causing any major distractions. Ms. Berry wasn’t using a microphone, but her voice carried all the way to the back of the room without much effort. That alone made Terri want to schedule a second lesson with the woman despite how terrifying she had been, because that was a useful skill. She’d have to bring it up to Mr. Wayne once this was over.

There was a note from the piano, being played by a guy Terri’s age who was probably a part of the program they were pushing tonight, and the actress began to sing.

Terri was an incredibly focused individual and she’d heard the woman sing scales at her lesson earlier that day, so she was able to keep on the trail. The majority of the crowd pressed forward slightly as she sang, their attention solely at the front of the room. Even the catering staff paused as they refreshed the platters of food and drinks. As Mr. Wayne had pointed out, it was a most effective distraction.

The woman in blue was moving when Terri stepped out of the herd, making her way back towards the staging area set up by the caterers. It was a good choice for an exit point, not as busy as the kitchen but still filled with people coming and going. It was going to be hard to follow her without being noticed, though her dark gray dress would probably help. Terri paused to kick off the low heels she’d picked up for this event. She wasn’t practiced enough to do most things in heels, since she’d managed to never wear them before tonight. Besides, they would make noise. She would be much more stealthy without them.

Following the potential thief was much easier in bare feet and her dark, flowing dress allowed her to blend into the shadows even better than she had hoped. She had picked it for maximum coverage and ease of movement, but this was a nice bonus. Hopefully she’d be able to use it next time Wayne went to one of these things, since she knew he’d forego any suggestion that she wear pants instead.

The woman slipped the light blue dress over her head once they got past the populated areas, revealing tight black clothing. The shine of her new dress immediately dimmed, because this looked like preparation for climbing into ventilation ducts and there was no way she could handle that in the dress.

Her target draped the dress over a chair and stalked down a dark, empty hallway, her movements making almost no noise. Terri matched the motions, keeping the woman in sight but doing her best to stay out of sight. Wayne hadn’t really practiced anything like this with her, but she had her instincts and a natural inclination to walk softly and that would hopefully be enough.

When the woman ducked into one of the rooms, Terri paused just outside of the open doorway, pressed against the wall next to the frame. No suit, no gadgets, so she would have to do this the old-fashioned way. She slid to the right enough to expose one eye to the room and watched as the woman opened the window and set up a rope on a pulley. Damn it, she was bringing in reinforcements. That would make things more dangerous than Terri had really wanted for her first outing, especially considering she wasn’t wearing a enhanced suit or anything even remotely close to being protective gear. They were three floors up by now, maybe a little more given the elevation of the house, which was probably why they were using the back side of the house and a window that was high enough to not have an alarm. This would be a good time to call for back-up if such a thing was possible or available.

She watched as three more black-clad figures came into the room. None of them seemed to be carrying weapons, but that didn’t mean much. It wasn’t that difficult to conceal something small and deadly, and a place like this was sure to be full of things that could be used as a weapon in the right circumstances. At least she knew that whatever they were trying to do, they were trying to accomplish it without garnering attention. She could use that particular piece of information somehow. The last one through the window was taller than the others and a little ungainly, and Terri watched as the person tripped over the edge of the windowsill when stepping into the room. Probably didn’t have any kind of fighting skill, but the woman who seemed to be running things wouldn’t have brought someone along that didn’t have something special to contribute.

Terri pulled back into the shadows as the quartet headed for the door that would bring them back into the main house, trusting in the gloom, her stillness, and the dark fabric of her dress to keep her hidden. They all passed her without a second glance and she was able to breathe again once they’d all moved on. She slipped back into the room and released the rope from the pulley, hopefully disabling their escape plan, before following them on bare feet down the carpeted hall. There was no telling what these people had planned, but Terri was still willing to bet that theft was involved somehow. You didn’t go to this much trouble to stay unnoticed if you weren’t planning on leaving with things that didn’t belong to you.

They started getting closer to the more populated areas of the house, making Terri a little more nervous. Her suspects would be more on guard as the chances of actually running into someone increased. Ms. Berry was still singing, though she’d moved on to a different song, and the sound of her voice lessened the worry of being heard as it echoed down the halls. How someone that small made that much noise was probably one of the world’s larger mysteries.

When the singing ended and the people in the next room broke into applause, the interlopers paused and ducked through a doorway. Terri whispered a curse under her breath and looked for her own hiding spot. This would be a lot easier without the dress. At least she’d had the foresight to ditch the shoes.

Someone else started speaking, the person’s voice high-pitched but effective at cutting through the murmuring that had followed the applause. They were starting the auction. That should provide some noise for cover, if she could just figure out what they were here to steal. Whatever it was, it was big enough to need four people to get it out. The quartet was either here to steal a lot of small things, or one or two very large pieces. Statues didn’t make sense; they were far too heavy and too easy to damage. Jewelry would have been on one of the upper floors and would be a one or two person job. There was really no reason to be down here unless they were planning on robbing the auction. Lack of large, threatening weapons suggested otherwise. Maybe some other kind of overpriced art? It wasn’t all bulky and fragile.

They moved out under her watchful eye once the auction started picking up in volume, their movements still quiet and stealthy. She was starting to worry about whatever they were up to. If they were here to steal something, they should have gotten it by now and been on their way. A quiet theft like that worked best when you got in and out quickly, and these people were lingering.

Terri kept on their trail until they stopped in another empty room, this one dangerously close to the action in the ballroom. The original woman detoured away for a moment and reappeared while still slipping the dress on, smoothing it on over her black outfit, and walked back into the room. That simple motion made the other actions click into place, and suddenly Terri had a very good idea of what they were after.

“Guests aren’t supposed to be back here,” a gruff male voice said, and Terri looked up to see one of tonight’s hired security guards staring at her with suspicion. She didn’t exactly fit the expected guest profile, after all, even if she was dressed up.

She bit her lip for a moment. This would have to be done very carefully, and while she’d seen Chelsea successfully pull this at least a dozen times, she’d never had occasion to try it. Chelsea had also spent most of her life practicing on her dad before her friend had unleashed it on the outside world, and it didn’t work every single time. If she oversold it, the guard would become far more suspicious at her presence.

She let her shoulders slope slightly, dropping her knees a little so that she could look up at him. That one was a recent addition that she’d made after studying her friend. Appearing smaller and more fragile was key. “I’m sorry, sir,” Terri said, keeping her voice excited and earnest. “I’m trying to find someplace a little quiet so I can call my mother and let her know when I’ll be home.”

It didn’t do any good to try and look sweet and innocent. People could always tell when you were trying, because the only reason you would be trying to look sweet and innocent would be if you were neither of those things. Bumping up the sex appeal was just was bad and could take the conversation places you didn’t want to go. Instead she aimed for earnest and slightly overwhelmed. The mention of her mother added just the right touch of naivety. Chelsea usually tossed in her daddy, but that made Terri uncomfortable.

She could see the moment the guard melted by his body language. “Right at the end of the hall,” he told her. “Don’t take long.”

Considering that she didn’t even have her phone on hand, that wouldn’t be a problem. She took the opportunity to double-check the location of the other three on her way and spent approximately thirty seconds adjusting her dress in case she would have to fight before heading back into the ballroom. Her shoes were still somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen, but the hem of her dress fell to the floor and no one looked twice.

Wayne was still on the outskirts of the crowd, watching the auction with supposed avid interest. “Report?”

“She’s got a crew of three to back her up and I’m pretty sure they’re here to kidnap someone.” It was the only conclusion that truly made sense.

“And any of the people here tonight would make a decent ransom,” Wayne finished. “They’re in place?”

She nodded. “I think the woman is going to try to get the person alone and then they’ll do a snatch and dash. It’s what I would do.”

“You disabled their exit?”

“Their potential exit. Place this big, they’re bound to have multiple exits planned out. I’m just going to keep my eye on her until she goes to make the grab.”

“And how are you planning on stopping her once that happens?”

Terri shrugged. “Improvise?”

“Try again. You have a good idea what she’s after now.”

“Come on, trust me. I’ll think of something.”

Wayne frowned and sipped his drink. “Be careful. I’d hate to let all of this work go to waste.”

She wasn’t sure if he meant the work for tonight’s little party, or the training she’d received in general, but she nodded. Message received. Breaking away from Wayne, she headed back to shadow the woman in blue. She was standing next to Richard Castle now, not really engaging with him but making an occasional comment, and Terri tensed up when the target rested her hand on the man’s arm.

Whatever she was selling, Castle wasn’t buying it. He stepped away and dropped his arm so that she was no longer touching him, the motions casual. He continued talking, his body language still fairly open, but it was clear that Richard Castle was absolutely not interested.

It presented an interesting problem. If Mr. Castle was the specific target of their potential kidnapping, all she would have to do to keep it from happening would be to stick with him and inform him of what was going on when she had the chance. He would be aware of the danger, go to the police, and the bad guys would get caught the next time they made a move. The issue with this plan was that if they weren’t after the writer specifically they’d just move on to someone else.

After a moment of deliberation, Terri moved to the older man’s side. “Mr. Castle?” she said, her voice soft and questioning. “Mr. Wayne was hoping to get a chance to speak with you.”

The look in the man’s faded blue eyes was grateful. “Of course. Lead the way.”

He followed her away, the woman in blue staying put with a frustrated expression on her face. “Thanks for the save,” he said once they were safely out of earshot. “I get the feeling she wanted to eat me alive and I’m just not up for that kind of thing anymore.”

“No problem.” Terri moved through the fringes of the crowd with ease. The auction was still going on and it was a very effective attention-grabber. “Mr. Wayne does want to speak with you, by the way.”

“I wouldn’t mind hanging out with Bruce for a while. Maybe he’ll protect me from the maneaters.”

She gave an unladylike snort of laughter. It was hard not to like Richard Castle. “I think you might have bigger problems,” she told him quietly as they arrived at Wayne’s side.

“Oh?” The man perked up at that idea. “Like what?”

“I think the chick in blue is planning something a little more involved than a little golddigging.”

“Ms. McGinnis believes that they’re planning a kidnapping,” Wayne said. He saved the smug expression this time, no doubt planning to use it on Terri later when he explains how he saved her from her own lack of imagination. “She’s most likely correct. You do seem to attract that kind of trouble, Rick.”

“All right, one, I haven’t been kidnapped in at least a decade, two, I was only ever kidnapped when it was connected to the work I was doing with the police, and three, she’s in high school. How would she know anything about kidnapping a guy?”

“Rick, do you really think I hired her for her note-taking skills?” Wayne leaned on the cane, his gruff voice suddenly much quieter. Terri straightened up and slid into a pose that she learned in her first martial arts class.

Mr. Castle raised his eyebrows. “You hired a teenaged girl to be your bodyguard?” He smiled, crowding in a little closer to them both. “That’s brilliant! Who would ever look at her and think bodyguard?”

Wayne huffed a sigh. “It will probably work better if you don’t talk about it so loudly in a public place.”

“Oh, right, sorry. So what did you see?”

“She’s here with a team,” Terri said, keeping her voice low. “I don’t know if she’s after you specifically, or if she’s just fishing. Until I figure it out I’m going to keep an eye on her, and you two need to stay safe.”

“Do you need someone to play bait? Because I am fantastic as bait.”

Terri glanced at Wayne, trying to somehow communicate ‘is this guy serious?’ without saying anything. Wayne tilted his head and nodded ever so slightly. “That could work. I was thinking that we need to practically catch them in the act, since so far all they’ve really done is climb through a window and wander around looking menacing in all-black clothes.”

“Have you called the police?” the writer asked, and Terri shook her head while carefully not looking at her boss.

“They haven’t actually done anything yet,” she emphasized again.

Mr. Castle nodded and pulled out his cell phone. “I’m going to call Beckett anyway. She would want to know what’s happening.”

Terri nodded and turned her attention back to the woman in blue. Now that those two were more or less secure she would be able to figure out if the man was a deliberate target or just a convenient one. Of course, now there was at least the likelihood that she had destroyed her cover, but as long as she was careful in her observations she might be able to get away with it. She still had the benefit of her age and supposed inexperience, which would probably make the bad guys underestimate her. That was and would always be her most useful tool.

The bad guy (girl) in question was still looking a little frustrated. She hadn’t approached anyone else since Terri had removed the writer from her clutches, which probably meant they were going after the man specifically. The guy must be loaded and also considered an easy target, and possibly very well connected. There were at least ten other good options for kidnapping for ransom in the room, all of them oblivious to the possible danger, but she hadn’t so much as glanced their way. That was good, she could use the knowledge that they were specifically after Richard Castle when it came time to catch them.

Unfortunately, it also meant that she would pretty much have to use the man as bait if she wanted to catch them tonight. Otherwise they would just try again, possibly on a night when he wasn’t as aware of the threat. Terri kept one eye on the woman as she circled back around to her boss and his friend. “They’re definitely here for Mr. Castle,” she said softly. “Haven’t even tried for anyone else, and even I’m half-tempted for a couple of these guys.” Mostly the ones who tried for a clandestine grope, because it would feel like a nice piece of revenge, but for all of their sakes she wouldn’t name names.

“You willing to play bait, Rick?” Wayne’s smile wasn’t particularly nice, but the other man either didn’t notice or didn’t care. “Terri?”

She nodded thoughtfully. “Give me a couple of minutes to get things ready before you walk away. You made the call already?”

The writer smiled. “Beckett’s going to have some detectives here in about twenty minutes, and a couple of squad cars on standby. Any specific ideas?”

“Just give ‘em what they want. I’ll be around when she tries to get you alone.” And she would hopefully be able to neutralize whatever they’d brought to the party. She wasn’t crazy about four against one odds, even if she knew that she could probably handle it.

For once, it went exactly like she’d planned it. The team had obviously placed a lot of effort in making this plan and seeing it through despite the obstacles, but they didn’t show much effort for improvisation. Either they didn’t think that they’d been noticed, or they were convinced that it wasn’t a problem. Terri had them neutralized within two minutes once the woman in blue made her move and was seriously disappointed. As a test run for her work as Batman, it wasn’t really enough of a challenge. They pulled this kind of thing in Gotham before breakfast.

Still, as Mr. Castle’s scary police captain wife thanked her for her help, Terri couldn’t help but smile. It was a start.

xxx

It was sometimes hard to ignore the assumptions that people made about her and her job with Mr. Wayne. Terri knew that it must look extremely odd to just about everyone, of course. He was an elderly billionaire, after all, and therefore didn’t need to hire an assistant who was still in high school to help him with his charities and the odd board meeting. She had been ready to be underestimated, welcomed it even, but she hadn’t been prepared for the whispers and rumors and the way people looked down their nose at her when she accompanied him to various functions and meetings.

Wayne simply continued on with his business despite the gossip, ignoring the snide comments about hiring a pretty young girl with no experience to ‘help’ him. Part of the image he was constructing played on that, in fact. The clothing she wore for these events, while always modest and appropriate, were specifically cut and fitted to emphasize her femininity and often tailored and slightly padded to give the subtle illusion of curves that she didn’t really possess. She applied makeup that softened the stark lines of her features, the techniques carefully taught to her by her new boss, who had learned them as just another method of hiding in plain sight.

Daniel thought that the situation was a little strange, but he’d gotten used to putting up with her boatload of quirks and issues by now and Terri was sure that as long as she seemed content with the arrangement, he would overlook the sudden demands on her time. She was aware that, despite the fact that she spent less than thirty minutes a day primping and only owned one dress, her work schedule and family demands made her a high-maintenance girlfriend, probably more than even Chelsea. Terri didn’t have any easy personality by any stretch of the imagination, though she was learning to rein it in for her job. Her boyfriend just absorbed it all, even the way Mr. Wayne would interrupt their sadly infrequent dates with a summons that she always answered.

In public, the only physical contact with Mr. Wayne consisted of her helping him into and out of the car, taking notes during meetings (the notes were never about the meetings themselves, only the people attending them), and handing him various papers when asked. They never exchanged more than a few words on these occasions and those words were exclusively instructions. Later, in the privacy of the cave, he instructed her on everything while she trained, running endless drills and simulations that left her bruised and exhausted. There was a full gym in the house above and Terri spent hours lifting weights and practicing gymnastics and martial arts while her surly mentor did his work and hers on the desk that she’d managed to shove into the room. For the first few weeks they didn’t spend much time down in the Cave, and Terri was itching to get down there and explore. She wasn’t exactly expecting bedtime stories from Wayne, but a little firsthand background research never hurt anyone.

After she’d apparently proven that she wasn’t going to shrink away from hard work or faint like some kind of delicate flower, Wayne took her down through the house and into the Cave. He worked on adjusting the suit for her so that it hid her femininity better than the original and changed the boots so that they actually fit her feet while Terri spent time learning the ins and outs of the computer and the various alerts that were still active around Gotham City. There were a ridiculous number of them, considering that Wayne had presumably quit being Batman years ago. He had more than a handful attached to various businesses that made products that had high weapons potential, some of them Wayne-Powers properties and some of them competitors.

She was brushing up on the various features of the suit when one of these alerts went off. Wayne looked up from his side-project and hobbled over to the computer. “Foxteca,” he told her, his voice its usual gravel. “Go check it out. I’ll be on the comlink.”

Terri couldn’t quite contain the half-smile as she ran for the suit. It was easier to get on now that he’d made the alterations and she was back out in less than a minute, tugging the cowl over her head as she went. “How do I get there?”

“Take the Batmobile.”

An enjoyable shiver crawled up her spine at the thought. While she’d been training in and out of the Batsuit for the last few weeks, she hadn’t quite worked up the nerve to ask about the Batmobile.

She was up and in the hovercraft almost before the words had left Wayne’s mouth. “This is unbearably cool,” she said once she’d cleared the cave.

“Easy gestures. It interfaces with the suit so that it can only be flown by someone with the suit, or remotely from here. You shouldn’t need to work hard to control it.”

The exclamation of joy as she whipped towards Gotham couldn’t quite be contained. Terri could feel her heart beat faster as the speed increased and she couldn’t help but wonder what its limits were.

“Mind not doing that?”

“Sorry.”

“You break it and it comes out of your pay.”

Later, after the shapeshifter and the cave crashing and the, y’know, almost dying, Terri packed up the suit for the first time and headed home on the motorcycle that was now on permanent loan from the Wayne garage. She stopped on a hill just outside the city limits and just looked down at the lights of Gotham. Sure, it had psychotics and mutated shapeshifters and crooked CEO’s, but it was home. Terri smiled as she looked over her city and settled the weight of the backpack a little more evenly across her shoulders. She wouldn’t have it any other way.


Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
pacers98
May. 10th, 2012 08:26 pm (UTC)
THIS WAS AWESOME! I don't even have words right now, but this? This was gold. Well done :)
faithburke
Jun. 20th, 2012 11:32 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it!
tinpra
May. 11th, 2012 10:59 am (UTC)
Overall, I really, really, *really* liked it :D There are some beta issues (if they were at a high end party, Terri should have been wearing hose) and there were scenes I wish you had expanded on (the take of the Blue Dress Mafia), but I tore right through this. Oh how I've been craving some Batman Beyond lately! You have more than filled the bill. :D
faithburke
Jun. 20th, 2012 11:31 pm (UTC)
There is more to come with this story, once big bang season has died down. I'm glad you liked it.

The hose thing didn't even occur to me, although I suppose I could handwave that in the future people just don't bother with that kind of thing. My beta and I had an ongoing discussion/argument over the Blue Dress thing, which is why it is so short.
tinpra
Jun. 21st, 2012 12:12 am (UTC)
There's more! *jumping for joy* :DDDDDD
faithburke
Jun. 21st, 2012 12:27 am (UTC)
I wrote timestamps for most of the Batman Beyond episodes, but they didn't fit with the main story so I held onto them. Need to get the beta to go over them.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )