"Look, Dana, I'm sorry, I know I broke our date, again, I just—" Terry looked at her with that apologetic-nothing-to-hide look that so often got her to give him yet another chance. But this time Dana was having none of it.
"Just had something more important to do? For the fifty millionth time?" She shook her head and turned away. "I don't know why I've put up with you this long, McGinnis."
"Dana, I—ugh. Fine." Terry turned and stormed away.
For a moment, Dana was tempted to go after him, but she crossed her arms and refused to watch him leave. It didn't matter how much fun they'd had in the past before Terry had met Mr. Wayne. It didn't matter how sweet he could be when he actually showed for a date. She did not need to put up with this, and she'd been stood up way too many times. Oh, Terry usually had an excuse. He had to babysit Matt, or he was grounded, or he actually was doing his homework for once, or the always popular, "Wayne needed me." And Terry's boss' needs were far more important than his girlfriend's needs, of course.
She'd even occasionally wondered if there was another woman. She wanted to trust that Terry wouldn't do that to her, but there had been that Melanie girl last time they'd almost broken up, and Terry really was a hard man to trust. He spent a lot of time with Max. She'd wondered about that, but even if she wasn't sure she could trust Terry, Max wouldn't stand for that.
A shadow passed over her, and Dana looked up just in time to see the Batplane pass over her. Now there was a man who took his responsibilities seriously. Not that it was fair to compare Terry McGinnis to Batman.
Or was it? Dana had seen Batman in action. His moves had always seemed vaguely familiar. And though she'd seen Batman at the school more than a few times, she'd never seen him at the same time she'd seen Terry.
No, it was ridiculous and coincidental. Still, it would explain all the disappearances. But there was no way.
Dana shook her head and shrugged her coat closer around her shoulders. It was getting cold out. She had better things to worry about than fantasize about Terry actually having a good reason to always be gone.
"I hope you're happy," Terry said, storming into the Batcave. "Dana and I broke up. Because this stupid job keeps me from ever having an evening off for an actual date."
Bruce raised an eyebrow. "Again? Alert the presses."
"You're not taking this seriously!" Terry all but shouted, throwing his backpack with the costume in it to the ground. "Look, you might have grown up all old and alone, and that might even be what you wanted, but not me! I actually intend to have a life outside the cowl!"
Bruce watched him impassively. "Are you done?"
"Because Mad Stan is threatening to blow up the courthouse."
Terry groaned. "Again?"
"Yes." Bruce turned around in his chair. "So you can keep whining about your love life, or you can go save lives. You're choice."
Terry scowled at him for another moment, then picked up his costume. "Fine. Whatever."
"Seriously, I don't see why you didn't just dump the guy sooner," Chelsea said, looking at her nails.
Dana ran the nailbrush over her big toenail and frowned. Truth be told, she wasn't sure why she hadn't done it earlier either. Love, maybe.
"I mean, c'mon," Chelsea nudged her with her newly minty green colored toes. "I don't know which was worse, before when he used to get into fights every five minutes or now, when he thinks working for some old guy's more important than you, you know?"
"Believe me, I know," Dana was beginning to think she should have gone to someone else for her girl time. Chelsea was nice enough, but she wasn't that bright.
Chelsea gave her a smile and nodded. "So much better off without him, you know?"
"Yeah," Dana said dully. Her phone rang and she glanced at it. Terry. Chelsea saw it too. She reached over the bed and took the phone from her.
"Don't pick it up now. He has to work a lot harder than that if he wants you back. And you probably shouldn't take him back at all." Dana considered taking the phone back, but she wasn't sure she could talk to him without screaming right now anyway. Chelsea hit the ignore button and tossed the phone back to her. "To be honest, we were all wondering when you'd finally leave the jerk. I mean, he was totally stringing you along, you know?"
"Yeah, great." Dana sighed and frowned at her purple toenails. "I'm thinking of seeing if he wants to get back together."
Chelsea let out a high pitched squeal. "I knew you two could work it out!" She bounced across the bed and hugged Dana tightly. "You two are, like, meant to be, you know what I'm saying?"
"…yeah." Dana gave her a hesitant smile. She had to call Max.
"I really can't talk right now, Matt," Terry said as he piloted the Batmobile through the sky. He had to get to the courthouse as soon as possible. He should be using the five minute commute to talk to Dana, but no. Little brothers. Sheesh.
"C'mon, Terry," Matt whined in his commlink. It was wired to his phone, which was useful when his family decided they needed to talk right away. "You're never home and we never talk. You're always with Bruce Wayne or Dana."
"I'm busy. Wayne has me—"
"Blah, blah, blah, Wayne always has you doing stuff. When are you gonna do stuff for me, huh?"
"When you're paying me, twip." Terry rolled his eyes. "Stop complaining. I'll see you in the morning."
"If you even come home," Matt grumbled. "Dana doesn't pay you."
"Dana doesn't have to, and you don't need to worry about that. We broke up." Terry scowled. He was itching for something to hit.
"Ha ha, Terry got dumped."
Terry gritted his teeth. "You're dead as soon as I get home."
"MOOOM!" Matt shouted, mouth away from the phone. "Terry's threatening me again!"
Screams. The courthouse was approaching quickly.
"Got to go, Wayne's shouting at me to get off the phone. Bye." Perfect timing. He hung up quickly.
Finally. He'd never been so happy to hear the dulcet tones of Mad Stan ranting about bureaucracy.
"The boy loves you, Dana," Max said, brandishing a spoonful of mint-chocolate chip ice cream. "Sure, he's busy, but he's got a good work ethic. That's good, right?"
"I know you like him, Max, but I just don't know." Dana prodded her ice cream with her spoon. "Whenever I'm with him and he's really there, it's like, great. And I really feel like he's something special and meant to be and all that stuff. But then I get stood up for the third time in a week and I think I'm just imagining things. You're his best friend. Do you think there's more to him than meets the eye?"
Max snorted. "Definitely. He's a good kid, Dana. You know it. And you guys make a great couple."
"Yeah, I've been getting that a lot." Dana bit her lip. "I don't know. A big part of me just wants to take him back no matter what the cost. Another part of me thinks I'm just setting myself up to get hurt."
Max leaned back and crossed her arms. "So what do you want me to do about it?"
"I don't know." Dana pushed away her ice cream. She'd barely touched it. "I guess I should talk to him."
"Probably more useful than talking to me," Max said.
"Yeah, okay." Dana sighed and checked the clock on her phone. "Oh my gosh, it's almost 1. I didn't realize it had gotten so late!"
Max shrugged and grinned a little. "Time flies when you're having intense heart-to-hearts about vagrant boyfriends."
"He'll probably be home by now. I can go talk to him—"
"Wait!" Max said quickly. "You can just wait until tomorrow, right? I mean, he's probably asleep or something!"
"Yeah, right, Terry go to bed on time." Dana pulled out her phone and dialed Terry's number.
No answer. "He didn't pick up. Do you think he's mad at me?" she asked, glancing at Max.
"Doubt it. He probably blames himself."
As he should, Dana thought, but she just hung up.
Max watched her and reached across to squeeze her hand. "He should be calling you anyway. Not the other way around."
"He did. But yeah." Dana gave her a small smile and hung up. "It's just, knowing him, he won't try again for a while."
"Oh, he will." Max had a dangerous gleam in her eye. "Just leave it to me."
Terry was sore, tired, and ready to call it a night. Of course he'd come back to the Batmobile to find his cell phone completely filled with messages and missed calls. Dana had called him, but hadn't left a message. Max had left about eight messages.
"You shouldn't bring your personal life on the job," Bruce commented.
"I didn't," Terry said.
"Well, it seems to have followed you."
Terry just buckled his seatbelt and took off. "You need anything else or can I just go home?"
Bruce was quiet for a moment. "Go home, Terry. Get some sleep."
"Yeah, I'll see you tomorrow." Terry lifted his finger to press the voicemail button.
"Don't forget to send the Batmobile back to the cave," Bruce added.
"I know! You don't need to remind me!" Terry glowered.
"Good." Bruce's voice was almost amused.
Terry rolled his eyes and pressed play. Apparently he had to call Dana or else. Thanks, Max. Like he wouldn't have figured that one out on his own.
Okay, maybe he wouldn't have. Dana hadn't sounded like she wanted to talk earlier.
Whatever. It could wait until morning. He jumped out of the Batmobile and hit the autopilot switch. There was a good spot to change pretty close by, then it was a short walk back to his house. He could just go to sleep and not think about all of this stuff until he woke up.
Or he could stay out a little longer. There was a gang of Jokerz dead ahead. Terry huffed out an annoyed breath and started the jets in his boots. No time to waste. He could take out these dregs blindfolded.
He flew forward and grabbed the back of the closest Jokerz' bright green coat, then lifted him up and tossed him across the street.
Then he caught a glimpse of their intended victim and his breath caught in his throat.
Dana knew how dangerous Gotham streets could be at night, and she wasn't stupid. She wouldn't have been out at all if her talk with Max hadn't gone on so late. Still, it was only a few blocks from Max's house to hers, and the streets had been a lot quieter since Batman showed up. She figured she could make it without too much trouble. The fact that her route passed right by Terry's house didn't factor into the decision at all. Really.
Just her luck there'd be Jokerz in the neighborhood.
"I don't want trouble," she said, hand going to her purse protectively. She had a taser in there just in case.
The leader grinned manically. "Hey, the girl made a joke! Think she should be one of us, boys?" The Jokerz laughed uproariously. "Look, we're just lookin' for a few laughs. And you look like you can provide."
"Keep back!" Dana said, backing away.
"Yeah, I don't think so." The Jokerz giggled madly as they approached her. Dana could feel her heart beating faster. There had to be a way for her to get out of this, something to keep them from attacking her.
Something like Batman. He threw one of the guys across the street, and Dana felt relief wash over her. Not that she was safe yet. She yanked her taser out of her bag and zapped the guy closest to her.
"What are you doing out here? It's not safe!" Batman growled. As always there was something weird about his voice. It wasn't familiar, exactly, but it wasn't unfamiliar either.
But something about it just pissed Dana off. She wasn't angry at Batman, she was glad he'd showed up, but the entire day had been emotionally draining. "You can blame my dreg of a boyfriend," she snapped. Or ex-boyfriend, maybe. Whatever. "He could have called me or something."
Batman slammed together the heads of the last two Jokerz standing. "He wouldn't have wanted you out like this!"
"He still should have called! Or not been a flake to begin with!"
"Maybe he's just busy." He knelt down and started cuffing the wrists of the unconscious Jokerz.
"Oh, sure. Like Wayne really needs that much attention." Dana crossed her arms and glared.
"Maybe you should trust that he'd be there for you more if he could!" Batman scowled at her.
"Well it's hard to trust—wait." She glanced at him shrewdly. He seemed way more aware of the situation than an anonymous vigilante should be.
He seemed to realize it at the exact same time. "Look, it's late. I should get you home."
Dana shook her head. "No, you can't be."
"Then I'm probably not," he growled. "I can walk you home." Almost as an afterthought, he added, pulling her away from the alley and the Jokerz. "Where do you live?"
Now that she suspected—no, knew that Terry was Batman, everything made sense. The disappearances, the way he was never around in a crisis even though before he'd started working for Wayne he'd always been in the thick of things, the bruises, the devotion to his 'job.' Did Mr. Wayne know? Could Mr. Wayne be the first Batman? Most of this was guesswork, but one thing was clear.
She waited until there was some distance between them and the Jokerz, then stopped and turned towards him. "Terry McGinnis, you have a lot of explaining to do!"
He didn't flinch. "Sorry, who?"
"Don't even think about lying about this to me!" She stormed up to him and glared. A tiny voice at the back of her head suggested she might be wrong, but she was too angry to listen to it. "It makes too much sense, and—oh my god, Max knows, doesn't she? How could you tell her and not me?"
He just stared at her for a moment, then pulled her away from very slowly pulled off his mask.
As she'd suspected, it was Terry.
"It wasn't that I didn't want to tell you," he said, voice normal, not the Batman growl. "But it's dangerous knowledge. I didn't want you to get hurt because of me."
"Oh, that is just—you are so full of crap!" Dana crossed her arms and frowned. "Look, you've already saved me a lot of times. It's Gotham. Of course it's dangerous. But what exactly did you think would happen if I found out?"
"I don't know. But Dana, it's a secret. You can't tell anyone." He reached forward hesitantly and put a hand on her arm.
She shook him off. "You think I don't know that? I wouldn't tell even if you weren't the guy I'm in love with! Hell, even if I didn't know you, I'd keep it a secret! You should know me better than that! You should trust me!"
"Oh, that isn't fair." Now Terry was frowning. "I don't tell anyone. I mean, I can count on one hand the amount of people who know, and not all of them are even alive anymore."
"And how about Max? Does she know?"
"She—" Terry hesitated. For a moment it looked like he was going to lie to her again, but he was smart and thought better of it. "Yeah, she knows. She—"
"You told her and not me?" They couldn't be having an affair. Neither of them would never do that to her. "You've known me so much longer! I mean, what's she got that I don't?"
"The ability to program a computer program to figure out my ID, for one thing," Terry said. "I didn't tell her. I can't tell anyone."
"So you just left me looking like an idiot who kept dating you for years even when you were never, ever there and you had a perfectly good reason but didn't think to let me know?" Dana scowled. "I… really don't even know what to say to you right now. Chelsea was right. I was stupid to stay with you this long."
"No, you weren't. I mean, I'm glad you did." Terry sighed, pushing a hand through his hair. "Look, I worry about you, okay? If you knew, you'd be in danger. People might try to get to me through you, and I would never, ever want that."
"Oh, please. It's not like I'm going to go around yelling about how well I know Batman." Dana raised an eyebrow. "Seriously, the only way they might know I know is if they already know who you are, and in that case I'd be in danger anyway. Isn't it better I know before that happens?"
Terry shook his head. "That's not the only part. I mean, you realize I'm in danger a lot, right? I'm good at what I do, but it's dangerous. I didn't want you to worry."
He was such an idiot sometimes. "And you think it's better I just live without any idea of what's going on?" She shook her head and reached for his hand. "I want to know, Terry. What if you'd been hurt somewhere and I'd never know? You'd just be here one day and gone forever the next." Almost without thinking she stepped closer to him. "Please tell me you'll keep me in the loop."
"I—" Terry sighed. "Yeah, all right. I can try. Will you take me back?"
Dana thought about it for a moment. Her anger was rapidly melting away. There was a good reason for what he'd done. He wasn't just an ass. He did love her. She nodded a little, and Terry leaned down to kiss her. After a very short moment, Dana draped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.
They still had a lot to sort out, but now that Dana knew why he probably vanished so often, she thought she could understand a little better.
No more secrets. No more lies.
They could make it work.