Disclaimer: I don’t own Batman or BTVS, if I did there’d be more capes in both!
By: Cousin Mary
Stretched out on the roof of the Finger Street Chicken To-Go, Buffy peered at the street below through a pair of Andrew’s ridiculous glowy green binoculars. Six days without a Sůlfrhrogn sighting. A subway terminal had been all but crushed the day before, so she knew it was still around. Not that she could find it.
Buffy felt her phone vibrate and rolled on her side to fish it out.
“Hello?” She said, bringing the binoculars up for an off-kilter sweep. Seriously, was one little slime trail too much to ask?
“Bru-“ Her eyes widened, she checked the display, no, it was okay. “Bruce, hi.”
“Hi, yourself.” There was a smile in his voice. “What are you doing tonight?”
“Right now I’m staring at garbage cans.” She blew some hair out of her eyes and gave the alley another courtesy glance. She’d seen Bruce twice since the whole I-may-or-may-not-have-blown-your-secret-identity funfest. They’d patrolled, and he’d come over for pizza. She hadn’t seen him in three days though.
“Garbage cans, huh? Any chance I could talk you into taking a break?”
“You can be pretty persuasive,” Buffy allowed. “What do you have in mind?”
“Sure, I could eat. Want me to head over?”
“No, I meant…” He trailed off, clearing his throat. “I thought we could go out.”
Buffy sat up. “Out? As in out to a restaurant, out?”
“Well, yeah. That is to say, if you-"
“Of course I want to,” Buffy interrupted, scrambling back from the ledge and grinning like mad. “Where? What time? I’ll need to go home and change first.”
He chuckled. “How’s nine sound?”
“That works,” Buffy agreed, that gave her nearly an hour. “Where are we going? Not Italian, okay? ‘Cause Dawnie’s been on this carb frenzy thing for basketball and if I have to face another plate of spaghetti, I might cry.”
“Not Italian.” he paused. “The Azure?”
“Mmm,” Buffy hummed in agreement. “I’ve been there, it’s nice.”
“I remember,” he said softly. “Your hair was down.”
“Uh, yeah.” Buffy felt herself go pink.
“Wear it down tonight?”
She nodded, not that he couldn’t see her. Words were- she managed a noise that was vaguely affirmative.
It took her 27 minutes to get back to her apartment. 27 excruciatingly long minutes that joined forces to steal most of her getting ready time. When she finally did get home, she raced through the front room, past her startled sister and Andrew, and dove head first into her closet.
“Dawnie! Where’s my red sweater dress?! The one with the belt!”
Still in her practice uniform, Dawn trailed in absently gnawing a breadstick. “I thought you said it was too tight?”
“It’s not tight, it’s just too tight for the office.” She made a face. “Anyway, it’s not for work. Bruce is taking me out.”
“Out out?” Dawn’s eyes widened.
“To the Azure.” Buffy beamed.
Dawn snickered. “Are you going to get the snails this time?”
“Don’t even joke about that.” Buffy shuddered. “Besides, Bruce’s got to know his way around a French menu, right? He wouldn’t-"
“You know, he might like snails. Somebody has to, otherwise they wouldn’t sell them,” her sister pointed out with what could only be described as evil glee.
“Does he look like a snail guy to you?”
“How does somebody look
like a snail guy?” Dawn queried, stroking her chin. “And really, we didn’t think he was a bat guy and look how that turned out.”
Buffy stifled a laugh. “He doesn’t eat bats. He just sorta dresses up as one.”
“And a guy like that wouldn’t eat snails because…” Dawn trailed off with a quirked a brow.
The Slayer rolled her eyes.
“Mark my words,” Dawn leaned against the doorjamb, “snails
Buffy gave her a look. “You done?”
Dawn sighed theatrically. “I suppose.”
“All right then, where is my dress? I swear I unpacked it.”
“I’ll get it. It’s in my room,” Dawn told her, disappearing across the hall.
“Of course it is,” Buffy huffed, heading to her dresser to root around for a pair of stocking before picking up her jewelry box. “Hey, where are my garnet earrings?”
“Have those too!” Dawn yelled back. “Just a sec!”
Buffy sighed and tugged off her jeans.
“What’s going on?” Andrew asked, wandering in.
“Move.” Dawn pushed him aside and tossed the missing dress onto the bed. “Bruce is taking her some place nice so we have to get her ready.”
“It’s not a big a deal,” Buffy argued, pulling off her sweatshirt.
“Well, this will be your first official date,” Andrew reasoned. “Movie night here doesn’t count.”
“It kinda counts,” Buffy countered.
“No, it doesn’t,” Dawn shot back, handing her a camisole and slip.
Right, Hanes Her Way probably wasn’t going to cut it under her too tight dress.
“What time’s he supposed to be here?”
“Nine.” Buffy glanced at the clock and bit back a groan, 8:56.
Dawn and Andrew exchanged a look.
“I’ll stall,” he promised, heading back to the front room.
“He’s not going to send up a fake bat-signal is he?” Buffy asked, only half joking. She tugged the dress over her head. It wasn’t that
“Nah, he’s got some new gadget he’s working on.” Dawn shrugged. “It’ll be like show-and-tell. Bruce won’t even notice you’re running late.”
“I’m not running late.”
“I still need to curl your hair,” her sister argued, ushering Buffy into their tiny bathroom and plugging in the iron.
“You don’t have-"
There was a knock at the door and the sisters fell quiet as church mice.
“Hey, Bruce. She’s just about ready. And wow, don’t you look nice? Say, do you want to see my new design? I think I’m really on to something. Here, let me show you...” Andrew’s voice faded, presumably as he led Bruce to his wall o’ gadgets.
“See?” Dawn nudged Buffy with her elbow. “He’s all over it. Your boyfriend’s such a geek.”
“He is not,” she whispered back.
Out front, Bruce was asking about ‘power couplings.’
“So, you want regular curls or ringlets?”
Buffy faced the mirror and smiled. “Ringlets, please.”
When they walked into the Azure, the Maitre D’ nearly fell over. Like literally stumbled over his own feet. It gave Buffy pause as she realized that, for Bruce, it wasn’t an unusual reaction. He was after all, Bruce Wayne
. Although, that being said, she had to admit that Bruce looked amazing in his own right. Even just standing there, one hand in the pocket of his charcoal gray suit, his black shirt open at the throat. Definitely stumble worthy.
“I’d like a table,” Bruce announced, his tone somehow both bored and flirty. He looked around the room casually before pointing. “That one there.”
“Of course, Mr. Wayne,” the Maitre D’ agreed with a nervous giggle that reminded Buffy of the time Andrew thought he saw Leonard Nimoy at Costco. “Right this way.”
All eyes were on them as they crossed the room. Well, mostly on Bruce. He didn’t seem to mind though, or actually notice. Meanwhile, Buffy felt every stare. It was like the Sunnydale High talent show all over again. The table Bruce had chosen was slightly to the right of center, equal distance from both the kitchen and fire doors. Once they were seated, the Maitre D’ hovered for a moment too long before promising to send over their server.
Bruce smiled warmly. “You look beautiful. I thought candlelight would suit you.”
“Um, thanks.” Buffy blushed, toying with the edge of the tablecloth. The Maitre D’ hadn’t left them any menus and she didn’t know what to do with her hands. She smiled at Bruce, feeling awkward and self-conscious. She was racking her brain for something to talk about, only everything seemed to lead back to tactics, weapons or Icelandic blob monsters. None of which were restaurant safe topics. She glanced up and frowned. “Does that look brighter to you?”
“The chandelier,” Buffy explained. He seemed confused, which made sense, what with her babbling about light fixtures and all. “It seems, uh, brighter than last time.”
“Oh, uh.” He peered up, as if gauging the light ratio. “Possibly? Can’t say I noticed.”
Buffy bit her lip, she so sucked at small talk. Not one to admit defeat, she tried again. “How’s work? Wayne Enterprises, not, uh, I mean, work, it’s going well?”
“Work’s good.” Bruce’s eyes twinkled. “The stock’s up.”
“That’s nice.” She nodded lamely. She picked her water up; there was something green and corkscrewed floating with the ice. “Huh, what do you think that is?”
“Cucumber, ma’am. If you’d prefer, I can bring something else. Lemon?”
Buffy nearly jumped, she’d known someone was behind her, she’d just assumed it was another diner… not someone waiting to be acknowledged. She set down her glass and turned. “No, it’s just different. Um, we didn’t get any menus.”
The waiter’s eyes shot to Bruce even as he faced her. “The chef is preparing a special menu for Mr. Wayne and you, ma’am.”
“Oh.” Buffy looked to Bruce, who was somehow lounging in his straight backed chair. He wiggled his eyebrows, it was an expression she’d never seen from him before.
“Could we at least see a wine list?” Bruce asked dryly.
The waiter paled, fumbling for the list he’d apparently been carrying under his arm. “Of course, Mr. Wayne. May I help you make a selection?”
“No, no, this is fine.” Bruce flipped open the list and scanned it quickly. “We’ll start with the ’99 La Mondotte.”
“Ex-excellent choice, Mr. Wayne.” The waiter nodded before taking off towards the kitchen.
“Did you call ahead?” Buffy asked, at Bruce’s questioning look, she clarified, “the menu. They know what you want?”
“Oh, that.” Bruce shook his head. “The chef will prepare something to go with the wine.”
“So they just…” she trailed off, impressed and a little embarrassed that people were going through so much trouble. Was this what it was like to be Bruce Wayne? Was this his normal? Suddenly, a thought occurred to her. “There won’t be snails, right?”
“Wha-what?” Bruce’s eyes widened as he fought a smile.
“They were-” Buffy began. “I mean, last time there were snails on the menu. They aren’t-"
Bruce chuckled. “I doubt there will be any snails.”
“But, you can’t say for sure,” Buffy clarified.
“You know, if they’re prepared right…” He began, trailing off.
“Oh God, that’s good,” Buffy moaned, scrapping the last bit of tomates confit off her fork and into her mouth. Their mystery meal had been excellent and, thankfully, mollusk-free. Moreover, this latest version of Bruce was sort of charming. He was less intense, and maybe a little flighty, yet, at the same time, he was fun and naughty in a way that made Buffy feel as if she’d stepped into a fast-talking 1930’s comedy. They were like Nick and Nora, only with fewer jazz clubs and more vampires. “What do thinks for dessert?”
“Are you implying that I’m not sweet enough for you?” He winked, looking as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
“You’re plenty sweet.” Buffy grinned. “Still, what’s the point of going to a fancy French restaurant if you’re not going to have something decadently sinful?”
“Any decadent sin in particular?”
“A few come to mind,” she acknowledged with a slow nod. “Most with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.”
“Hmm,” he hummed knowingly, giving her a look that was practically indecent.
Buffy bit her lip. How did he keep doing that? A few well-chosen words and a smile and he had her blushing like a teenager every time.
“Speaking of treats,” he began, grinning wickedly. “Christmas is coming up, any thoughts as to what you want?”
“It’s not that
close.” Buffy looked down, hating to point out the obvious. “We might not even still be-"
Bruce reached across the table and took her hands. “We will.”
She looked up, he sounded so sure
, it was almost overwhelming. He was taking this seriously, and that was good. She wanted serious, right? She took a steadying breath before smiling brightly. “In that case, I guess what I really want is a manatee.”
“A manatee?” His lips quirked.
“You know, a sea cow.” She took her hands back so she could gesture widely. “When I was eight I wanted a manatee more than anything. They’re clouds with whiskers.”
“You’d need a place to keep it.” Bruce’s brows dropped, as if he were actually considering it.
Visions of aquariums flashed through her head and Buffy balked. “Don’t you dare.”
“Well, they are
clouds with whiskers.” Bruce shrugged helplessly. “And if you don’t want one...”
She caught the tip of her tongue between her teeth and grinned. “They could be your new corporate mascot.”
“The Majestic Sea Cow,” Bruce intoned, nodding. “It has a certain elegance.”
Toying with her empty wine glass, she giggled. “If you-"
“Well, well, if it isn’t Bruce Wayne.”
Buffy’s head snapped up. Somehow a tall, skinny blonde in a power suit had snuck up on them.
“Ms. Vale.” Bruce’s bored, flirty voice was back in effect. He sat back with a less than amused expression.
The woman looked between her and Bruce a few times with a smile that reminded Buffy of a used car salesman. She showed a lot of teeth.
“My goodness, where are my manners? Vicki Vale, Gotham Magazine.”
“You’re a reporter.” Buffy blinked.
“Call my office to set up an interview, Ms. Vale,” Bruce drawled. “Now is hardly the time.”
“Oh, come on Brucey, you’ve been out of sight for weeks. Give a girl a break.” As Bruce’s smile was almost hostile, Vicki turned her attention to Buffy. “And you are?”
“I wouldn’t answer that,” Bruce affected a pout, “unless you want
to be in the papers tomorrow.”
“Um, no,” Buffy said, turning to the reporter. “Go ahead and put me down for ‘no comment.’”
Vicki’s eyes narrowed. She looked back to Bruce then, her head tilted in speculation. “She must be special, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so protective.”
Buffy watched from across the table as Bruce’s jaw clenched. “Maybe we should-"
“Don’t bother.” Vicki gave them both a jaunty wave and a fake smile. “I was just leaving.”
Bruce closed his eyes as she walked away. “I’m sorry about that.”
“It’s not really your fault.” She shrugged. “But, uh, I’m ready to go if you are.”
Bruce nodded, taking care of the check before leading her out of the restaurant. His idling black Jaguar was waiting for them on the curb and Buffy waited as he tipped the twenty-something valet a fifty, flashing him a bright smile.
“Th-thanks! Have a good night, Mr. Wayne.”
“Always do,” Bruce shot back, sweeping Buffy into the car before climbing behind the wheel. He was a study of ease, no line perfectly straight, all laid-back smiles and sparkling eyes. He revved the car’s engine and took off down the street.
“I take it Vicki’s on the Bruce Beat?” Buffy asked. He gave her a look and she shrugged. “That’s what Danny calls it. I guess it’s a pretty big deal. Sells papers.”
After a long moment, he nodded. “I suppose it does.”
“She sorta acted like she knew you.”
Not knowing what else to say, Buffy fought the urge to fidget in her butter-soft leather seat. Bruce’s playboy demeanor was falling away and in its place was, well, that was the question wasn’t it? She licked her lips nervously, at a loss how to salvage their night.
“Vale’s smart. If anyone’s going to uncover my identity, it’ll be her. She’s been close.”
Buffy nodded lamely, torn between genuine concern and an irrational twinge of something else. “Did, uh, you and her ever, you know, hooked up? I mean, not to pry or anything, it just sounds like there’s some history there.”
“It’s purely professional. I give her headlines and she reinforces Bruce Wayne’s reputation,” he told her matter-of-factly.
Buffy grimaced, it always weirded her out when Bruce referred to himself in the third person. She looked out the window, noticing for the first time that he’d pulled off the connector. “Where are we going?”
“I want to show you something,” he explained, angling towards the docks.
“All right.” Buffy looked out across the sea of concrete and storage containers. What could he possibly want to show her out here? He drove past oil drums and chain link, eventually pulling to a stop in front of a high, razor wire topped gate. Wayne Enterprise: No Trespassing. “Are we going in there?”
“Yes, we are,” Bruce told her with wink. He left the car running as he dashed out to unlocked the gate; when he climbed back behind the wheel, he stole a kiss. “You’ll like this, I promise.”
Buffy had to smile. “If you say so.”
Bruce rolled through the gate and parked next to a nondescript storage container. As they climbed out of the car, Buffy found herself staring up at the enormous crane looming overhead. It was the size of an office block, huge and black in the night. Buffy pulled her wrap tighter, the crane did not
look at all like Glory’s tower. It was a solid, well built piece of machinery. She shivered, looking over to where Bruce was busy with another padlock.
Finally, he got the lock open. He looked back at her and smiled almost shyly, holding out his hand. “It’s, uh, in here.”
Buffy eyed the oversized shipping crate and took his hand. “You always take me to the nicest places.”
He shot her a lopsided grin before leading her inside.
It was empty. Which was sort of a let down. “Where-"
“Over here.” Bruce walked with her to the far end of the unlit container. He still had her hand and used her fingers to tap something into a cleverly concealed key pad.
Buffy felt the floor shift and suddenly they were moving down a long shaft. She frowned. They were on the docks, were they going under water? She looked to Bruce. “This is safe, right?”
“I hope so.” He grinned.
“You’re so…” Buffy began, only to trail off. They’d stopped in a vast, low ceilinged space that stretched out impossibly far in every direction. And, the whole thing was lit up white. “Wow.”
Bruce laughed, tugging her forward. The Batmobile was parked off to one side, along with something Andrew would probably call a ‘Batcycle,’ or possibly a ‘Motorbat.’ Buffy craned her neck, trying to take everything in, there were computer terminals, an entire lab set up, even a firing range. She wasn’t normally much of a tech girl, however, she had to admit Bruce’s hideout was pretty dang cool.
He stopped next to a computer and looked at her. She watched him lick his lips. “Buffy...”
“Bruce,” She answered, grinning.
He made a face, but at least he seemed to relax a little. He flipped a few switches on the console, which brought a caged box-like thing up through the floor. Inside, was his suit. Bruce smiled at her again before crossing over to the cage, swinging open its door. “Now, before you say no, hear me out.”
Buffy raised an brow. “What am I not saying no to?”
And then he pulled out his suit, only it wasn’t his
Her eyes widened.
“It’s made of hardened kevlar plates on tri-weave fibers. I’ve been working to scale down the existing design, the coolant system’s been tricky though. This suit’s lighter and more maneuverable than the set I wear, but I thought you’d want-"
Buffy’s hand crept to her mouth. She couldn’t help it, she started to giggle.
Bruce’s head snapped up. “You don’t like it.”
“No, no, it isn’t that,” Buffy began.
“I know you’ve been fighting vampires since you were fifteen,” Bruce explained, “but, there are close to a million registered
handguns Gotham City and it kills me that you don’t wear any kind of protection.”
Buffy nodded, stepping closer to the suit.
“There aren’t any bats,” Bruce pointed out wryly.
“Aw, so no cape?” She giggled, flicking one of the black plates with her fingernail. She smiled up at him in wonder. “You got me body armor.”
“As my first gift.” Bruce gave a strained chuckle, his cheeks coloring. “I should have got you something more appropriate, jewelry. I just thought-"
“Shh.” Buffy put her fingers to his lips. “This is perfect. I love it.”
“No, you don’t.” He smiled ruefully.
“As a matter of fact I-”
Bruce raised his eyebrows.
“Okay, yeah, it’s kind of hideous,” Buffy allowed, rising up on her toes for a kiss. “But, I love you
He sighed, giving the suit one last considering look. “Would it help if it were pink?”
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