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Let's Dance

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"Sooo... we've been trapped in here by ghosts," Flash asked for confirmation.

Superman sighed. "Eyup." He crossed his arms over his chest. Magic and ghosts. Electric ghosts and he'd be triple useless.

"Frouffy dance ghosts," Green Lantern added, also for confirmation.

"Ballerinas," Wonder Woman corrected, watching the figures.

"How long will we have to watch this, exactly?" asked Black Canary.

"From the look of things?" Zatanna said. "Pretty much forever." She nudged a desiccated corpse sitting in the audience with her foot, wrinkled her nose and stuck out her tongue.

"They're stuck," Batman said. They turned to look at him, standing in the darkest shadow of an already dark theater. "They get to where Siegfried is supposed to come in, and then they reset to the beginning of Act Four."

"How do you know these things?" Flash asked.

"Knowing things is kind of his whole deal," Black Canary pointed out.

"So what do we do?" Green Lantern asked. "Look for the missing guy?"

"We can't leave the theater," Zatanna reminded him.

Green Lantern shrugged. "Maybe he's under the floorboards."

"The ghost," Black Canary asked. "Maybe the ghost is under the floorboards?"

"I meant the body, obviously."

"I think if the body were under the floorboards, the ghost would be in here with the rest of them," Zatanna said apologetically. "Ghost rules."

"I'm not convinced ghosts actually have rules," Superman said, watching the dancers go back to their starting positions. "That's just what they want us to think."

"I don't hear anyone else coming up with any ideas," Green Lantern said.

"I'm not even sure why we brought you," Flash said. "You can't punch a ghost. It doesn't matter how big and green your fist is."

"You're one to talk," Green Lantern shot back. "What are you going to do? Run in circles real fast and disorient the ghosts?"

"I am here for morale," Flash explained, "because unlike some people, I am a joy to be around."

"It's true," Zatanna agreed. "He's delightful."

"Thank you, Zee," Flash said, putting a flat hand near his mouth and then bringing it forward, ending the gesture with both hands curled into a little heart. She responded predictably: with fingerguns and a wink.

"Could you try being less cute for a minute?" Black Canary suggested.

"I've tried," Zatanna said, "but the effort only makes me cuter."

"Can't you throw some magic at this?" Green Lantern asked. "Ghosts are a magic sort of a thing."

"Oh, man, why didn't I think of that?" Zatanna asked, no less perky and only probably sarcastic. She turned around to face the stage, and cupped her hands around her mouth. "kcuF ffo!" she called toward the apparitions.

Nothing happened.

Zatanna turned back around, hands on her hips. "Well, I'm spent."

"Cuffo is my favorite spell," Black Canary sighed.

"It's a good spell," Zatanna agreed.

"I'm hearing a lot of sarcasm directed at the only guy working on getting us out of here," Green Lantern said.

"No fighting," Superman ordered. "That's what the ghosts want. If we don't stick together we're playing right into their creepy, spectral hands."

The Flash's face scrunched in vague confusion, looking Superman over. "Who hurt you?"

"A ghost."

"I think they're waiting for another dancer," Wonder Woman said. She'd been watching the apparitions dance, freeze, reset; so had Batman.

"Are you suggesting one of us has to be a ballerina?" Black Canary asked.

"Ballerino," Batman corrected.

"Well don't look at me," said Flash, who no one had been looking at. "All I know's the Nutcracker."

Green Lantern looked him over. "You're kidding."

"When would I have learned Swan Lake?"

"I meant why do you know how to do ballet at all?"

"I had a friend who took ballet and I wanted to be supportive."

"So you took ballet, too?" Zatanna asked.

"No, teaching helped her learn so she'd just show me whatever they'd done that day."

"Which means you learned the girl parts of the Nutcracker," Black Canary pointed out.

"... yes. Yes it does."

"None of this solves our Siegfried problem," Green Lantern said.

They all watched as the dancers reset to the same phantom loop of music. No one said anything.

Then Batman sighed. It was the kind of sigh that filled his entire chest past capacity and then emptied it to nothing. "What are the chances of us all losing our memories after this."

"Pretty low," Zatanna said.

"How sure are you."

"I'd say a solid eighty-four percent."

"Hm."

"None of us are going to make fun of you if you save us with the power of dance," Superman said. He did not make eye contact when he said it. Or even look in Batman's direction.

"I'm not agreeing to that," Green Lantern said.

"I'll only make fun of you behind your back," said Flash, as if that were a compromise. "You'll never know."

"I don't think that's going to work," Zatanna said.

"Knowing things is kind of his whole deal," Black Canary agreed.

Batman held up five fingers, but it was only obvious that this was what he was doing when he began ticking off items. "Volleyball in Cabo, the library at Gotham Academy, the Eggplant Debacle, Joe's missing sweater, the Iguana Talk."

"I was never planning to say anything," Green Lantern said.

"My other power? Silence." This was not Black Canary's other power.

"I'm too young to die," Flash said.

"There's six of us," Superman observed. "Why were there only five blackmail topics?"

Batman looked at Wonder Woman. Superman looked at Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman smiled.

"Ah."

"You're not going to wear that, are you?" Wonder Woman asked Batman, tapping her chin thoughtfully. "You look like the villain."

"Ghosts are pretty easy to confuse when it comes to that kind of thing," Zatanna said.

"Don't make excuses for them," said Superman.

"Is there a word for being racist, but against ghosts?" wondered Flash.

Batman was pulling his gloves off. Wonder Woman held out her hands to take them from him—to be helpful, of course.

Putting them on was not to be helpful, and just seemed fun.

"Are you taking your mask off?" Green Lantern asked as Batman unhooked his cape.

"Do we finally get to learn his secret identity?" Flash gasped.

"That's assuming you recognize him," said Zatanna.

"Yeah," Black Canary said, "if you took your mask off you'd just be some guy, I wouldn't know who you were."

"I don't think you can dance in those boots," Wonder Woman said.

"If I—I have taken off my mask," Flash said. "You know my secret identity."

"I feel like I'd remember that."

Batman must have agreed about the boots, since he started taking them off, but he didn't seem happy about it.

"We've met multiple times."

"Not ringing any bells."

"I've met your dad."

"That's weird. Why would you be hanging out with my dad? I don't even know you."

"You were there!"

Batman pulled off his cowl.

"You're shitting me," Green Lantern said.

"You wear a second mask under the bat mask?" Flash asked.

Featureless glass eyes continued to obscure his features. In the smaller, domino-style mask tied around his head, they were actually creepier. "Do you not."

"Why would I wear two masks?" Flash asked, though Batman was already stalking toward the stage. Being able to see the irritation in his limbs made it more intimidating than when he wore the cape.

"In case of meddling kids," Black Canary said.

"Are you suggesting Batman is actually Old Man Jenkins?"

"You can do it, Old Man Jenkins!" Zatanna called toward the stage. "We believe in you!"

Bruce had to wait for the black spectre of Von Rothbart to leave the stage in order to make his entrance. For once, the music continued to play; the dancers remained in their positions.

"You're the ballerina," Green Lantern said. "Is he doing okay?"

"It all looks fine so far," Flash shrugged.

"Do you think it's like video game rules and every time he messes up he'll have to start over from the beginning?" asked Zatanna.

"God, I hope not," Superman said.

"Sssshhh." Wonder Woman was still wearing Batman's gloves. She'd resisted the cowl, but the likelihood of her trying on his cape increased by the second.

Batman's arms followed those of a gossamer Odette in a cold embrace. Superman shuddered.

"I don't understand what's happening," Green Lantern complained.

"You missed three-quarters of the ballet," Black Canary said, trying to keep her voice down.

"Don't say it like it's my fault."

"Sssssshhh."

The shimmering fog of Odette spun with Batman's hands on her waist.

"Ghosts don't lose their balance," Superman huffed. "There's no reason for him to be touching that ghost."

"Maybe the ghost likes it," Zatanna suggested.

"A perv ghost," Black Canary added. Superman shuddered again.

"He's trying tell her he loves her and apologize for getting her mixed up with another girl," Flash explained to Green Lantern.

"Oof. That never goes well." Batman dropped to one knee; Odette pranced away. "See? She's not buying it."

"No, no. Look, she's coming back now."

Again Batman dropped to one knee, and again she pranced away.

"She's just toying with him now!" Green Lantern said, disgusted. "That's only going to get worse now that she knows she can get away with it, he should get out of there while he still can."

"If he does that, it'll be his fault when she's trapped as a swan forever."

"Maybe he should have thought of that before he stuck his dick in a duck."

Everyone but Superman groaned and recoiled from Green Lantern. Superman just shook his head. Wonder Woman had given up on shushing anyone, and had just moved closer to the stage instead. Odette curled backward on Batman's arm as he dipped her low to the stage.

"It's true love, it's romantic."

"He's just chasing her around like a jackass."

Batman lifted Odette into the air, and the assembled women all gasped in delight.

Superman may also have looked a little delighted.

"Am I missing something?" Green Lantern asked. "I mean..." He mimed lifting someone by the waist. "I can lift air, too."

"Yet somehow he still makes it look easier than you do."

"Barry, I swear to—"

"Don't use my real name in front of the ghosts!"

"What? What would they even—shadow ghosts!" Green Lantern's attention was immediately taken by dancers made of darkness and the returning Von Rothbart phantom. He cupped his hands around his mouth. "Kick his ass!"

"Did you just heckle Swan Lake?" Superman asked.

"Ghost Swan Lake."

"Point."

"This is the saddest fight I've ever seen."

"It's ballet," Flash said, "not MMA."

"I would watch the heck out of MMA ballet."

"So would I, actually," Wonder Woman said, looking over her shoulder at them.

"Oh!" Zatanna pointed to be sure Wonder Woman didn't miss it. "He's carrying her!"

"He's right, though," Flash admitted. "He is just carrying a ghost."

"Romantically."

"Does that make a difference?"

"Yes," said the women and Superman.

"Wait, is she dead now?" Green Lantern asked as Batman draped Odette over the floor. "What the hell, I only looked away for a second."

"I'm sorry to be the one to have to tell you this," Zatanna said, "but she's been dead this whole time."

"Obviously the ghost is dead, I meant in the show. Is the ghost pretending to be a dead woman?"

"She doesn't have to pretend."

"Kick his ass!" Flash shouted toward the stage, just in time for Batman to dramatically tear away part of Von Rothbart's wing.

"Oh, I see how it is. He'll do it when you say it."

"That's when it's supposed to happen, it had nothing to do with me."

"Uh-huh."

Wonder Woman shushed them with such ferocity that it was almost a hiss, and they quieted. The music was triumphant as Batman lifted Odette from the stage, pulled her into an embrace.

Then the dancers disappeared, dissolved into a nothingness that glittered in the air. The music was gone, the lights went out, moonlight streamed in from outside.

Wonder Woman was the first to clap.

Batman didn't bow.

He walked off the stage, didn't jump and just let himself drop, as stiff as he'd been fluid a moment before.

"How are you feeling?" Diana asked, offering him his gloves back.

"Cold," he bit out between grit teeth. Spectral cold, the chill of death, sucking out all the warmth of life.

"mraW, tub ni eht yzoc yaw ekil a teknalb hserf tuo fo eht reyrd."

Batman relaxed, but only as much as he ever relaxed. "Thank you, Zatanna."

She put a hand to her forehead in a mock salute. "Least I could do, Mr. Jenkins."

"My name isn't Old Man Jenkins."

"I do not care, Mr. Jenkins."

"Gotham Academy library."

"Yes, sir, Mr. Batman sir."