Maxine had the feeling that her new guardian didn't like her very much at all, which, to be honest, was perfectly alright with her. She wasn't entirely sure that she liked him either. She'd never been entirely sure that she'd liked him in her own time, but they'd had something of a rapport. Here well, his almost nonexistent genial manner would obviously take another forty or fifty years to become almost nonexistent.
It was her fault, really. Terry'd told her (and honestly, she shouldn't have had to be told) that playing around with a JLA Boom Tube would be a bad idea. 'Experimenting'. Right. Terry was also fond of telling her that she was too smart for her own good, something which given her current predicament, she didn't think could possible be very true. Someone as smart as she was supposed to be probably wouldn't have thought playing with time portal was a good idea. Someone as smart as she was supposed to be probably would have made sure the off switch was flipped before taking a screw drive to the thing. Someone as smart as she was supposed to be wouldn't have ended up flying through a time portal in the Batcave.
Let's be honest here; Maxine wouldn't have been in the Batcave if she'd been smart. Maybe, as she would realize later, she would have also realized that not only did the thing specialize in time travel, but dimension-travel as well.
It was the dimension part of things that was really the most surprising.
"Yeah, not so smart, Terry." Maxine liked to think that she could have dealt with just time travel. Time travel was easy. Even Terry'd dealt with time travel. The whole dimension thing though that was new.
"Hey," had been her first words to a young Bruce Wayne, a grin quirking on her lips as she stood in the damp and dark confines of the cave.
The smile had not been returned.
Five months now and the smile still had not been returned. She honestly didn't know how Dick, Jason, and Tim could stand it. Granted, they hadn't appeared yet, so maybe the man of the house learned how to smile by then. She doubted it. She still didn't know why he'd taken her in, whether it was some twisted sense of responsibility or what. Maybe he was just covering his tracks. He'd been ready to throw her out until she'd called him by his name and started babbling out every fact she could about him that no one else should have known. In the end she almost thought that it would have been better to let him throw her out. She was no danger as long as she didn't know who the man behind the mask was, but once she'd let that secret out she'd become a veritable prisoner of the manor.
If 'Bruce Wayne's Ward' equated to prisoner. If one could really be a prisoner living in an ancient manor, having access to everything they could possibly want, and finishing out high school at one of the best private schools in Gotham City.
Well, sometimes she went to school. When the school allowed her in
She'd given him that smile again, that sort of quirk of the lips as she pushed a strand of pink hair out of her face. "It's a lie," she'd said with falsely innocent eyes. "Kind of. I only hacked into the school computers a little. First decade Twenty-first century tech is just so easy."
Bruce hadn't been as amused. She'd gone to her room and stayed there and barely giving Alfred the time of day when he'd stopped by with her dinner on a tray.
Seven months and no smile, but she was learning. She still wasn't as smart at Terry had always made her out to be, but she was getting smarter. It was a new dimension, a new place to learn. Maxine missed her time, she missed her friends, and she missed her computer, but it still shocked her, the things she could do here that she hadn't been able to do at home. She certainly wouldn't have been sitting in a clock tower with a Barbara Gordon of forty years past, 'learning' how to do the hacking she was so apt at getting into trouble for. She liked to think that she was teaching Barbara more than Barbara was teaching her. After all, the computers were ancient compared the ones she'd been using in her own time.
It didn't matter who was teaching who, not really. The point was, she was there and when she got back home (if she ever got back home), she'd have stories to tell for ages.
"He doesn't smile much," she'd mused to Barbara one evening as they'd lounged around the Clocktower. It wasn't the Barbara Gordon she'd known at home and Maxine couldn't bring herself to think of the woman as 'Babs'. Nope, it was still Commissioner Gordon who she had always suspected would have been happier throwing Terry back in juvie.
"He doesn't have much to smile about." They'd fallen back into silence once the truth had been spoken and when they'd spoken again it was the still broken boom tube in front of them that warranted their attention.
A year in and she was sitting in the Chair. That was almost better than a smile.
The Chair was what she'd always called the giant leather chair that sat in front of the main computer in the Cave. Maxine had coveted the chair from nearly the moment she'd seen it covered in the blueish glow from the computer screen. She didn't want to be out in the field, she'd given up on that dream, she wanted the power. The trust that came with it. Not just anyone could sit in that chair.
"The dregs moved over to Bleaker Street." She'd smiled. She always smiled. Maxine couldn't help but smile, even when she was sitting in the Chair. It was a serious chair, but Maxine, with her pink hair and overalls, was not a serious girl.
She knew that Bruce had to know that she wasn't a serious girl. The blas attitude about numerous school suspensions, the hair she'd caught him staring at her hair.
She'd given up working on the Boom Tube.
It wasn't going to work. She wasn't getting home. She was doomed to manual hair dye and computers that ran on ridiculously slow processors. Bruce had offered her use of a proto-type someone was working on at the JLA Headquarters. Maxine replied, quite frankly, that she could do without having her molecules accidentally scattered throughout the galaxy, thanks. So? She was stuck.
Maybe, though, it wasn't the worst place to be stuck.
"You're back early." She figured if she smiled, maybe he'd have something to smile about. Of course, in the suit, a smile was even less likely.
He was hurt. Badly. No smiles for her that evening, instead over two hundred pounds of man and Kevlar leaning on her shoulder as they both staggered over to Cave's medical bay. Even she couldn't smile through that, her short frame feeling entirely worn out by the time she had him lying down. Then came peeling the suit off, trying to do that with on hand as she pressed down on newly exposed open wounds with the other. She began to wish she hadn't sent Alfred to bed. She'd planned on being alone to greet him.
With a smile of course.
Instead it was with a grimace and bloody hands that Maxine and Bruce met each other that night. He talked her through the steps of stitches and bandages and by the time she'd finished she'd learned something else: that she never wanted to give stitches again. She told Bruce so as she was putting everything away and helping him sit up.
"You're in the wrong line of work then."
"Gee, thanks." She'd have said more, but she was too busy washing the blood from her arms and hands. Shouldn't that have said enough?
Bruce stood from the med table and Maxine turned to catch sight of his bare skin as he moved his injured right shoulder in small circles and felt softly at the stab wound in his side. "You did a good job." It wasn't grudging at all. If Maxine had learned anything it was that Bruce didn't hand out praise lightly.
"Thanks." Her grin returned full force as she began cleaning off the table. She turned it on him, pushing her hair out of her eyes. Sometimes she regretted letting it grow. It made her look younger and it got in the way.
He didnt smile back, but this time Maxine didn't mind. She'd done a good job.
Last year of high school. She was beginning to suspect Bruce liked her more.
Maxine hated the Dalton School. Maybe that was why she spent as much time suspended from it as she did actually going to it. She just wasn't a preppy person, it wasn't her style. They'd tried to make her dye her hair back to its natural colour. She'd refused. At this point Maxine had no idea how many times she'd been sent home for that reason alone. Luckily, she was smart. It wasn't completely necessary for her to actually be in class.
She'd always been a little bit cocky.
"What can I say?" Maxine trailed behind Bruce as they entered Wayne Manor. "I like my pink hair. You didn't have to leave work."
He didn't reply to that and Maxine just jogged to keep up with his long strides down the hall. They'd been getting along better lately. Odd how that finally happened after a year and a half.
"So, um, got lunch plans?" She grinned, finally falling into step beside her guardian. It was eleven o'clock. The administration at Dalton had only taken a scant three hours to send her home for her coloured locked, ripped stockings, and sneakers.
Bruce turned around to look at Maxine and given the look on his face she expected some sort of rebuke. Instead, he simply stared at her for seconds that seemed like ages as their eyes locked. She smiled at him as his eyes left her face for the briefest of moments.
"Change. I'll have Alfred bring the car around and we'll go for lunch," he finally said. The smile still was not returned, but Max felt as if she'd discovered something better.
Even Bruce Wayne enjoyed a girl in a plaid skirt.
Lunch became a thing.
Sometimes she'd change, sometimes she wouldn't. Really, it depended on her mood.
The society pages went back and forth debating on whether or not Bruce Wayne was romancing his eighteen year old ward. He smiled at her in public, but it wasn't real. Not that the gossip columnists could tell, but Maxine could. Bruce wasn't romancing her. That took a smile. A genuine laugh. She wasn't getting what she was giving. She was giving him plaid, she wanted something back.
Maxine had no idea why he was wining and dining her, but it was working. 'Working'. She had no idea if it was supposed to be 'working'. She had the feeling that the casual lunches were not supposed to make her fall completely for the man paying for everything.
She'd had a crush before. This was different.
Sometimes they caught each other staring. Usually it was in the Cave, the one place where they had no business indulging in that sort of thing. To their credit it was usually when he was coming in for the evening (or morning, if you looked at it that way). He would jump out of the car and Maxine would find herself watching carefully as he pulled off the suit. She couldn't help loving the free show
She did little things when she watched him. Her hair was shoulder length by this point and she'd been straightening it. It got caught up in her fingers as she twirled strands around her fingers. She couldn't help it. Her eyes wandered as she twisted her hair and she knew Bruce's did too. Watching her as she watched him. Her legs were kicked up on a table next to the Chair and she was still wearing her uniform from school that day.
"Good night?" she asked, grinning as she tugged on her hair.
"A quiet one. You?" he responded in kind. She liked to trick herself into think that she'd seen a tiny pull in the corner of his lips
Maxine sat up and her smile grew as she turned back towards the computer. She'd take her eyes away from his body for just the second. Her fingers flew across the keyboard as she pulled up the data she wanted. "I rerouted your connections into the GPD. It should hack faster now and alerts should come in on time they were delayed a few seconds before." She gave a grin and a quick shrug. "I stopped some online bank robbers too. Barbara asked me to."
Bruce liked a girl in plaid, Maxine had discovered before. Tonight, she found, he liked a smart, capable girl in plaid even more.
High school ended, college began, and there was no more plaid. But their conversation had an ease to it these days. Maxine had forgotten about the Boom Tube altogether. It sat in the Cave, broken and useless. She was okay with this. Going back just well, it wasn't a priority these days.
"Almost feels like home," she said during one of their daily lunches. Hair twisted around her finger.
Bruce was watching her again. "Almost? It's Gotham."
"Yeah, but you know what I mean. Home." She bit her lip and looked up at him.
Bruce was rarely caught off guard, but maybe she had this time. He was smiling at her.
"We're home, Maxine."
She'd fallen asleep on the way home from the opera. She'd not wanted to go in the first place and she'd fallen asleep for the first time during intermission. Making it through the second act had been quite the feat. She'd only gone because Bruce had asked her to. Being Bruce Wayne's ward had a broad range of responsibilities, she'd come to figure out over the past two years. Shoving herself into a dress and her feet into high heels so that she could look presentable for the masses was simply one of the many.
She was pretty sure she wouldn't have done it for Terry. She was not a dress and heels kind of girl. But Bruce was special.
She felt weightless when Bruce picked her up from her seat in the limo. He carried her easily from the garage into the manor. She heard Alfred ask if Master Wayne needed help with the young Miss Gibbons, but he refused and Maxine grinned to herself. There was a chance that she tightened the grip of her arms around him, but she wouldn't have admitted it if asked.
He took her upstairs and into her room and set her down gently on the bed.
Maxine knew the feeling of his lips when they brushed across her forehead and then once more on her cheek. She also knew that he was Batman.
He knew good and well that she wasn't really asleep.
She took much too long to call him on it, but at least she did. Maybe it was the fact that they'd been living in the same house for so long and they were so used to just passing each other by. Whatever the reason, Maxine finally realized that she was growing to resent 'just passing him by'. Once it happened, it seemed simple.
It stared with soft, nervous kisses, but with two years of pent up tension it didn't stay that way for very long. Kisses after dinners that were more than just dinners evolved into kisses that were more than just kisses. Light touches that became heavier and possessive as Bruce and Maxine began to finally figure things out between themselves. It took awhile, but that was only to be expected. They had two years to make up for and Bruce was a man whose stamina rivaled most. Not that Maxine had much to compare to. Perhaps that made it better, but then, who really could compare to Batman?
She decided, the moment it happened, that she was most likely going to remember that night forever. Whether she eventually ended up back in her time or not.
"You're staring again," she said. She lay on her side in his bed, facing Bruce and barely covered.
"It's hard not to."
Maxine grinned at that and turned so that she lay next to him and he could wrap her arms around her. He did that well, so protective. She'd never felt safer.
It had gotten to the point where she didn't care so much about the smiles anymore, but still, it was nice when she got one. Even the briefest of ones, as he was prone to giving. She had the feeling that he didn't want her to know he did, because she'd catch the corners of his lips rising only to watch them fall again as soon as she'd seen.
She saw it now. Maxine tilted her head slightly and caught it in the corner of her eye. It was more satisfying than the sex they'd just had.
"No," she murmured to herself not seconds later as she felt hands caressing her body. "No, not even almost."
The hands paused. "What?" Bruce asked.
"Nothing. Don't stop."
Maxine felt as if Bruce took her words to heart. He didn't stop.
It was well past her own time of 2040 when he finally did.