PART #: Part 2/12
ALL DISCLAIMERS etc in Part 1
Dick softly jostled me awake. "Buffy? We're in Metropolis. I can carry you to the car if you want me to..."
"No," I said sleepily. "I'll walk it."
I stood and stretched and took Dick's hand as we walked off the plane and across the tarmac to Alfred and the waiting limo.
"Goodevening Master Dick, Miss Buffy. I trust the flight was pleasant."
"Don't remember," I said, stepping into the car.
"Is Miss Buffy unwell?"
"No. Just overworked," I said, sliding across the seat to make room for Dick. We were quiet as the car drove across the tarmac and into Metropolis.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"To the apartment."
"My dad's apartment is in the other direction." I may not know Metropolis very well but I know that you have to go the *other* way to get to the apartment.
"Bruce has an apartment in Metropolis. You're staying with us."
"He could have told me," I pouted.
Dick shrugged. "Side-effect of being Batman. He expects everyone to just do as they're told."
"Hmph." I frowned, crossed my arms and sat back in my seat. "I have words for him."
Dick chuckled. "Alfred and I tried to warn him."
"But he never listens. I get it. Alfred?"
"Do you have any ideas for what we could give Bruce for Christmas? I was thinking maybe we could make him something special."
"I discovered some photos in Master Bruce's study two days ago Miss. Judging by the dust accumulated on the box, they have been in hiding for some years."
"A photo album. We could put a sort of timeline together and write comments to go with some of the photos..."
"A very good idea Miss. Perhaps include a family tree?"
"Excellent. I'll need Willow's help. Are Babs and Cass in Metropolis as well? I trust you'll help us Alfred?"
"Of course Miss. Miss Barbara and Miss Cassandra are indeed in Metropolis and I will suggest Miss Willow joining us to Master Bruce."
"Yay. Happy Buffy, but I'm still going to tell Bruce a thing or two."
"Are you ready? 'Cause here we are."
The limo was parked by the hotel valets, which allowed Alfred to ride the elevator up with us. Dick slid a key into a panel before pushing the button for whichever floor we were going to. Up and up and up. "What floor is Bruce's apartment on?" And still we went up.
"It's the penthouse, on the 35th floor," Dick smiled.
"Figures." The lift finally stopped and we stepped out. "Wow!" Talk about luxury. Everything was cream and burgundy blends and plush with a capital 'P'. Fat, over stuffed fluffy cushions sat on fat, over-stuffed cream and burgundy brocade sofas and armchairs; thickest-pile cream carpet; heavy, textured curtains; dark polished woods. "Being independently wealthy must be nice."
Tim laughed and launched himself over the sofa to hug me. "It's pretty cool huh?"
I nodded vigorously. "Oh yeah. Isn't your dad rich too?"
Tim nodded sadly.
"I don't see my dad much either," I said softly, hugging him again, "But I have Giles and we both have Bruce who I have 8 or 9 wise words for."
Bruce had walked into the room from a hallway, looked at me and my raised eyebrow and said, "Uh oh."
"Uh huh. I won't be ordered around by either Bruce Wayne or the Batman. If you would like me to do something, ask. Don't just make the decision for me."
"I'm sorry. I..."
"Forgot my manners? Forgot I'm not wearing my cape and cowl? Forgot that I don't scare Buffy? Forgot that it's polite to ask?" I suggested.
He had the decency to blush and look apologetically embarrassed. "I'm sorry," he said again. "Buffy, would you like to stay here with us?"
"You bet," I said, bouncing into a seat on a sofa, "But I'm hungry and sleepy. What time is it?"
"Ten forty-five Miss."
"Why aren't you swinging through town like a kevlar coated Tarzan Bruce?"
"Because just as Gotham is Batman's domain, Metropolis is mine."
"Hey Supes. How's life for you on this giant ball of fun we call earth?"
"Not as quiet as I'd like. Ready for tomorrow?"
"As I'll ever be but the real question is, are you all ready for me?" I grinned over my shoulder at the superhuman on the balcony.
"As prepared as we can be for hurricane Buffy," he smiled. "Behave Grayson, or someone other than the Bat will be on your case." Dick gave him his best 'who me?' look of innocence.
"And if you decide to brush up on your peeping tom technique I may have to call Spike for a demon rampage on Metropolis," I warned. Superman paled, then glared. "And don't give me that 'Don't threaten me' look. You know me well enough to know that it won't work. Besides, it's not a threat." I grinned and said, "It's a promise."
"Miss Buffy? I have prepared a light supper for yourself and Master Dick."
"You are so sweet Alfred. Thank you. Later Blueboy."
"Does *anything* intimidate her?"
"I have yet to see it," Bruce answered Superman as I walked away, following Alfred to the kitchen.
"Chocolate chip pancakes? Alfred, *you* are my hero." Alfred smiled and handed me a glass of cola. I sat at the round table between Tim and Dick. The empty chair opposite me was soon filled by Bruce. He drank the coffee Alfred put in front of him slowly as he watched me, shovelling the pancakes as quickly as Tim and Dick. So I was hungry. Sue me!
"What?" I asked just before putting another forkful of pancake into my mouth.
"It's good to have you with us again Buffy."
"Thanks," I beamed. "It's nice being with you all, even if it is a little unexpected."
He smiled. "Ok. So I should have asked *before* you got here but here you are and everyone is happy. Right?"
We all nodded.
"Happy but sleepy. Bedtime for Buffy."
"You shouldn't sleep on a full stomach Miss."
"Don't worry Alfred. I have about 2 hours worth of study, training and meditation to do, though I might just do the study and meditation in what's left of tonight."
"Very good Miss." Alfred nodded his approval.
"I'm bed bound," Tim said, standing up and saying his goodnights.
"Me too. When you share a room with him you have to get to sleep before he does 'cause he snores."
"Do not!!" Tim called out from the adjoining room.
Dick rolled his eyes. "Night Bruce, Alfred. G'night Buffy." Kiss beside my lips. "Sweet dreams beautiful." He smiled when I blushed.
"Night Dick. Dream happy," I smiled. I stared at the empty glass of cola for a few seconds lost in non-thoughts.
"Buffy?" Bruce's quiet voice got my attention.
I looked up at his thoughtful expression and decided bed could wait. He looked like he needed to talk. "What's wrong?"
"What for?" Ok. Now I'm confused.
"For showing me that duty and life can co-exist."
"Well it's not as easy as I make it look you know," I said, hinting at a smile.
"I know, but... I wasn't always like this you know, so completely dedicated. Once upon a time Batman did smile, even in the cowl. But... things happened and it seemed to get *more* serious."
"Did someone get hurt?" Barbara had already brought me up to speed on Bat history 101. I knew about Dick being fired as Robin and about the boy who was the second Robin, Jason, dying, essentially at the hands of the Joker. I knew about what the Joker did to Barbara to try to break her father. I knew about Bane breaking Bruce's back and the man, Jean-Paul Valley aka Azrael who wore the mantle of the Bat during Bruce's recovery, and how badly that had gone. But I'll let him tell me what he wants me to know.
"I'm sure Barbara has already told you everything... I tried to keep them safe, distanced, but it didn't work. They wouldn't stay away and they got hurt. Even Tim's mother... I couldn't save her."
"You can't *do* everything for everyone Bruce, but most importantly you can't take their freedom away from them, from any of us. We will love you no matter how hard you fight us, and you can't tell me you don't love each of us like family or that there is anyone else you would rather have as your back-up in any situation."
"No. No, there isn't." He was quiet for a while. "You make Dick very happy," he said finally.
"He makes me very happy but we weren't talking about Dick and I." Alfred smothered a chuckle too late.
Bruce glared at Alfred, who hastily retreated from the small kitchen. "You are so full of happiness and life. I... You help me remember how I felt when Dick first came into my life. Every moment was exciting and new. Somewhere in the last ten years the version of Batman that prowls the streets became the only person I was when I wasn't being that hideous façade playboy called Bruce. I don't want to be that person all the time."
"You don't have to be." I reached across the table and took one of his clenched fists in my hands. "I know you know how to separate these lives. But what can I do to help?"
"I don't really know. I'm not used to sharing feelings. I don't know what I'm asking or even what I'm trying to say. Having a woman in the house is unusual," he smiled.
"You mean a woman who stays don't you?" I asked, a wicked grin on my face. His reputation as a playboy is…impressive. Though how much of it is truth I don't know, and I'm not sure I want to know.
His smile turned self-depreciating. "Something like that. You've turned our worlds on their heads you know Buffy? All of us, even Clark. We do this because we believe in justice. You do it because of a birthright and chance. All of our reasons, excuses and reasonings are called into question by your existence. You don't wear a costume. You don't have a secret identity and you don't go out of your way to protect your identity... But you take your duty seriously."
"As seriously as the Bat does. You have to decide where to draw the lines, which character in which situations."
"I know. I think meeting with Lex Luthor makes me realise what I could be and what I'm not."
"And makes you wonder what you are. There is a person in my life that does the same to me, or is that *for* me? Anyway, I know what you mean."
"You should get some sleep. You have a busy day tomorrow."
"Alright but you should sleep too. Oh, and I don't know which room is mine, where my luggage is or where the bathroom is."
Alfred magically reappeared. "Your luggage is in your room Miss. Please follow me for your room."
"Goodnight Bruce. Don't think it to death. Just relax and let the answers find you." I followed Alfred through the main room and down the corridor Bruce had first appeared out of. Alfred told me that Bruce's bedroom was at the end of the hall and Tim and Dick were in the room to my left, the bathroom was to my right. I thanked him and said goodnight. I assumed the doorway between Bruce and the bathroom was Alfred's room.
I didn't study or meditate. I got straight into bed, falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.