Chapter 1: Revelations
Sarah knocked at the door of the Kelly mansion, looking around her a bit sadly. This place was always so haunted. Fitting, for the man who now inhabited it, but it hadn’t always been this way.
The door opened, and Kloppman’s face relaxed into a smile when he saw her. “Miss Sarah. Always good to see you.”
Sarah smiled at the butler. “It’s good to see you, too, Kloppman. I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you as well. You know you are always welcome here, Miss Sarah.”
Sarah’s smile faded. “I’m not so sure about that, but it doesn’t matter. Hopefully I’ll be here more often from now on, and David, too.”
Kloppman’s eyes sharpened; he knew her well enough to know when she was planning something. “I think that would be a wise idea, Miss Sarah.”
“How is he?” Sarah asked softly.
“He’s been better, Miss Sarah. He’s been worse, too, but the rumors about this … Joker, as he calls himself, have been eating at Master Kelly. The Kelly Enterprises board is nervous, not so much about the company itself but about the state of Gotham, and they have a right to be. It’s been wearing on him, trying to keep them calm.”
Sarah nodded. Kloppman was good, she had to admit that, but of course he always had been. There was no one who protected Jack better than Kloppman. He had just given her every valid reason for Jack Kelly, CEO, to be anxious and exhausted over The Joker, without saying anything that would make anyone think that his employer was also Batman.
Kloppman had to know - no one else was in a position to help Jack so thoroughly and discreetly - but he didn’t know that she knew.
However, if she succeeded, it wouldn’t stay that way for long, and he would have more secrets to keep. (She wouldn’t be at all surprised if he already suspected; he was smarter than almost anyone she knew in this place, and that was saying something.)
“Come this way,” Kloppman gestured, and Sarah followed him back into the house, through the foyer and living room and past the dining room to Jack’s study. Kloppman knocked, then opened the door to Jack’s summons.
“Miss Sarah to see you, sir.”
Jack looked up in surprise from his laptop and the piles of papers on his desk. Kloppman hadn’t been exaggerating, Sarah noted; he looked exhausted.
Hardly surprising, given his night job.
“Sarah, I’m so sorry, but this isn’t really a good time,” he said, rubbing a hand over his face.
“I’m not giving you a choice, Cowboy,” Sarah said with a little smile. “We need to talk. And Kloppman is on my side.”
Jack looked from Sarah’s determined face to his butler, who merely arched a brow at him. He sighed.
“All right. I’d much rather leave this mess and talk to you anyway,” he admitted, smiling back at her.
Kloppman nodded at them both, satisfied, and went out, closing the door behind him.
Jack looked at her expectantly, and Sarah didn’t waste time. “I know your secret, Jack. And it’s about time that you knew mine, and Davey’s. You need help, and I’ve let this go on far too long.”
Jack kept his face as smooth as marble, but Sarah saw the brief flicker of shock in his eyes before it disappeared. He snorted. “Sarah, I’m a CEO and the resident playboy and sob story of Gotham. I don’t think there’s a secret I have that hasn’t been splashed all over the tabloids.”
“Oh, so the fact that you’re Batman is an open secret?” Sarah said lightly, and Jack jerked, covering it quickly with a laugh.
“The Batman? Sarah, have you lost your mind?”
“Oh, trust me, Jack, I haven’t lost it,” Sarah said quietly. She walked over to him, where he sat in his desk chair, and laid a hand on his bicep. “I know that if I do this,” and she pressed just hard enough that she knew it would hurt, would make him wince, and it did; she saw the fingers on his opposite hand tighten and turn white around the chair arm, “it pains you, because I saw the footage of that fight you were in last night. Not even your armor could completely protect you from the full force of a car hitting your shoulder. You’re still human.”
Jack looked at her, then, and the fear in his eyes broke her heart. “Sarah. You shouldn’t know this; do you have any idea what could happen to you because of it? What any of these criminals could do to you, if you know who I am? If they know that you’re important to me?”
Sarah leaned in and kissed him softly. “Thank you for admitting it,” she murmured. “I wasn’t sure if the old Jack was in there anymore.” She straightened up and went around the desk so that she was facing him. “And that brings us to my secret. And Davey’s.”
“Christ, Davey,” Jack muttered. “Does he know, too?”
“Yes,” Sarah said bluntly. “He’s been dying to have words with you, but I thought this approach might be better. You two can fight about it afterward.”
Jack threw up his hands in a gesture of helpless resignation, and his lips twitched in the barest hint of a smile. “So you’re finally going to tell me why you’ve both looked the same for two decades and change? I mean, you’re both pretty good at hiding it, but not that good.”
Sarah reached over the desk and cupped his cheek. “Yes. And we’ve both always appreciated that you’ve never asked.”
Jack turned his head and kissed the base of her palm. “You two and Alfred have been the most important people in my life since my parents died. Until … all of this, Davey was my best friend. And you …” he trailed off. “I figured it was need-to-know.”
“Well, you need to know now,” Sarah said firmly. “Before now, really. You need help, Jack. Commissioner Larkin and DA Denton are good people, but they can’t fight in the streets with you.”
Jack raised an eyebrow at her. “And you can?”
Sarah took a breath and tugged at the belt of her trench coat, letting it slide off her shoulders and to the floor. Her red and gold armor with its blue skirt gleamed, and Sarah felt the weight of her secret slide off of her with her coat. It felt so good to tell Jack, to finally have him know after so long. The fact that Jack had tried to stay away from her and Davey after becoming Batman had made it easier to hide who she was, what they were doing, but his absence and the lie by omission hadn’t hurt any less.
Jack gaped at her. “You.”
Sarah smiled at him, a giddy smile of relief and joy. “Me.”
“Well, no wonder you were so careful about hiding your face!” Jack exclaimed, gesturing around his eyes.
“Oh, look who’s talking,” Sarah teased him. She had fitted Antiope’s headdress with an eye mask - right here, right now, it was less risky if her features were hidden, and no one could match Sarah Jacobs’ face with the distinctive armor of Wonder Woman. She and Jack had caught sight of each other on the streets, each fighting for Gotham in their own way, but she had been very, very careful not to get too close, and apparently even Jack had not recognized her through the armor and the mask.
Jack shook his head, looking dazed. “Sarah,” he breathed “I can’t believe you … are her.” He stood up and came around the desk, touching the gauntlet on her wrist in awe. “And can Davey … do what you can do?”
“He can,” Sarah affirmed, “but up to now he’s been using his abilities in more subtle ways. Unlike you and I, he’s pretty good at staying under the radar,” she laughed. “But we’ve both been thinking that it’s time he suits up, and he’s reached the point where he’s not going to give you a choice about it. Neither am I. The three of us have always made an amazing team, and you need all the help you can get to deal with this Joker creature, whoever and whatever he is. It’s time to go on offense.”
Jack nodded, taking her hands. “I don’t - I don’t know how to ask this, but - what are you? Why do you always look the same?”
Sarah tightened her hands around his. “We’re Amazons. The only children of Zeus and Hippolyta.”
Chapter 2: Confrontations
David has his long-awaited word with Jack, and lays down some ground rules.
“You,” David said, stepping into the foyer of Kelly Manor, “are an idiot.”
“Nice to see you too, Davey,” Jack said dryly.
“Don’t ‘Davey’ me,” David said hotly. “What the hell did you think you were doing? Did you even think through what it would mean? Or did you just rush in, without any thought to the consequences? Most importantly, what putting yourself out there and getting your ass kicked seven days a week could do to you? What it would mean to the people who care about you?”
“There aren’t too many of those left,” Jack said, his tone still infuriatingly sarcastic.
David took the two steps needed to reach him and punched him squarely in the jaw. He had learned to moderate his force over the years when he was fighting humans, but he knew very well how much it took to actually hurt them, and he used the knowledge. Jack doubled over, staying on his feet but only just.
“We are left,” David said, his chest heaving with anger. “We are left, and Kloppman, and Fox. You don’t get to decide that your life is worth sacrificing.”
Jack straightened up, wincing as he tenderly felt his cheek, which was bleeding a bit and already beginning to bloom with an ugly bruise. “It’s been a while since somebody landed a hit that solid. Feel better?”
“No,” David said, and this time he stepped forward and wrapped Jack in a bone-crushing hug. Jack startled, but then relaxed, hugging his best friend back hard, and David’s heart hurt, knowing how tactile Jack had once been.
“You’re an idiot,” David repeated softly in his ear, “and Sarah and I are going to make sure you don’t kill yourself with your own stupidity. No arguments.”
Jack nodded into his shoulder, and David let him go. They exchanged tentative smiles, and Sarah, who had been leaning against the wall during the entire exchange, came forward.
“I told you he wanted to have words,” she said, smirking at Jack.
“You weren’t kidding,” Jack acknowledged.
“You deserved them,” Davey said, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Yeah, probably,” Jack agreed. He looked back and forth between Sarah and David, clearly assessing them given the new information he now possessed. “So, Amazons? I have to admit I’m having a hard time absorbing that, Davey. Sarah explained yesterday, but it’s still making my head spin a little. I’m a crime fighter with a lot of resources, not a god.”
“Look, Jack,” David said, touching his arm, “we’re still the same people you’ve known for twenty-some years. We’re still your friends, your chosen family. There’s just - more to us than you thought.”
“That’s the understatement of the century,” Jack said. “And are you? Really? Because being immortal and associating with gods doesn’t really add up with the investigative television reporter and producer I thought I knew. Not to mention the two people who kept me in one piece after Mom and Dad died.”
Jack’s voice had gone sharp and defensive by the end, and David exchanged a look with Sarah. She put a careful hand on Jack’s shoulder.
“Why do you suppose we stayed?” she asked. “You saw us, Jack Kelly. Not what we can do, not the power we hold. Us. We started off wanting to help a grieving boy who needed friends - and then we found we needed you just as much as you needed us.”
“You’re our family, Jack,” David added quietly. “That doesn’t change. And if it helps, we haven’t been home - to our original home, Themyscira - for about a century now. You are the closest thing we’ve had to a home in a long time.”
“We don’t even know if we can go back,” Sarah admitted sadly. “Not that it matters, as long as you need us.”
Jack reached out both his arms, and David and Sarah willingly stepped into them. He clung to the two of them for a long few minutes.
“Don’t disappear on me, okay?” he said eventually, his voice choked. “I don’t think I could take it.”
“You make the same promise,” David said fiercely. “No disappearing. No self-sacrifice. We do this together.”
“Good,” Sarah answered. Her voice shifted from gentle to no-nonsense as she stepped back. “Let’s show you what Davey and I can do, and then let’s talk about a way to cut the Joker’s feet out from under him.”
Jack grinned, and in that smile David saw the feral nature of the caped crusader his friend had become.
“Bring it on,” he said, jerking his head and leading them farther into the house.
Chapter 3: Sparring
The three friends do some training, and take each other's measure.
Jack was still reeling from the revelations of the last twenty-four hours, but he wasn’t so overwhelmed that he couldn’t appreciate the looks of shock on Davey and Sarah’s faces when they first entered the Bat Cave. Kelly Manor was essentially a fortress underneath, now, and anyone who didn’t know what they were looking for would have no idea how to enter the lower levels. Even then, they had to make it past multiple layers of security and confusing dead ends. Jack hadn’t taken any chances.
Davey surveyed the numerous vehicles, the state-of-the-art computer and surveillance system, the multiple bat suits and racks full of equipment, the sheer rocks walls and rocks-and-water floor of the cave that Jack used for training, and stared at his best friend. “You really have been busy.”
“I never waste a minute, Dave; you know that,” Jack joked.
A slow smile grew on Sarah’s face as she made the same survey. “It’s perfect. No one could possibly hear us down here, certainly not over the water.”
“Not unless we cause an earthquake,” Davey quipped.
“Is that possible?” Jack asked incredulously.
“It’s possible, but we’ll go easy,” Sarah said with a grin. “Come on, Davey, let’s show Jack what the Joker will be up against.”
And his two best friends proceeded to the cave floor, stripped down to their armor, and put on a display of their skills that made every hair on Jack’s body stand on end. David and Sarah were grappling, practicing, testing their strength, skills, and agility against each other – and he could still tell that they were holding back, despite hits that made the floor vibrate, their use of rocks and water as projectiles (and how did they make them move?), swordplay that was ferocious, and acrobatic disarming that was definitely winding them. They were still only training. They were pushing each other, and hard, but they weren’t unleashing the full extent of their power on each other. It left Jack both exhilarated and terrified to think about what they were truly capable of.
When they finally broke apart, panting, David looked over at him. “Come on. Suit.”
Jack raised his hands, shaking his head. “I am not anywhere near your level, suit or no suit.”
“We know how to moderate our strength, Jack,” Sarah explained. “The point isn’t to see whether you can match that. You can’t, and we wouldn’t ask you to. The point is to see if we can read each other in a fight. If we know your moves and you know ours, we’re going to work together much more effectively. You’re still highly skilled, and we need to know how your skills fit with ours.”
Jack nodded, exhaling slowly. “Okay. You’re right. I’m used to fighting solo, and this isn’t that.”
“Exactly,” David agreed.
It didn’t take Jack long to get into uniform as Batman, and when he strode out to where Sarah and Davey stood, Sarah approached him first. She had put down her sword, and only held her shield.
“Don’t adapt to us. You’re not going to hurt us, in all likelihood, and we won’t break,” she reminded him. “Let us adapt to you.”
“I’ll try,” Jack said, and he meant it. He would, but it was going to be strange trying to fight Sara and Davey, even in a sparring scenario.
Sarah didn’t give him a choice, however. She came at him with a barrage of kicks and punches that left him parrying instinctively, blocking and retreating and protecting himself in whatever way he could. After he got a feel for her rhythm and style, he began striking back, trying to land blows, take Sarah off her feet, make her lose her shield – and he was successful several times, which made them both proud. He could see the approval in Sarah’s smile as she backed off to let David into the fray.
Davey was, if anything, even more ruthless than Sarah had been in forcing Jack to use every bit of skill he had. Jack had a feeling that part of it was Davey taking out some of his frustration with Jack by using it to fight – and that was fine. Jack knew David would never intentionally hurt him, even if he was pushing Jack to his limits. The rest of it, Jack suspected, was David getting a sense of how Jack fought, and how long he could hold his own. Jack might not have been a god, but by human standards he was an excellent fighter, and he set about proving it with a kind of fierce joy that surprised him. It felt amazing to spar with David and Sarah, and he knew that it would feel even better when they fought as a trio against a common enemy. As much as he worried about them, he knew that he could trust them unequivocally, and that made all the difference in the world when you were fighting for your life and the lives of those around you.
When he and Davey finally called a halt, he was drenched, and he pulled his hood and mask off with a sigh of relief.
“That was incredible, Jack,” David said sincerely.
“I’ll take the compliment, coming from you,” Jack said.
“I mean it. You’ve gotten yourself to a whole different level of speed and skill,” David said. “I’m sure you’ve had to, given all the fighting you’ve been doing, but it’s impressive nonetheless.”
“Thanks, Davey,” Jack replied, clapping him on the back. “I know you mean it, or you wouldn’t say so.”
“We should do two-on-one,” Sarah said, coming forward again. “Me and Jack against you, Davey, and you and Jack against me. It would be good to get a feel for working in pairs, too.”
“I agree, but maybe tomorrow,” David said. “Let’s take a break from the sparring and Jack, if you would fill us in on what you know about the Joker and his operations, that will give us a place to start with dismantling his gang.”
“I don’t know much,” Jack said in frustration. “Nobody does. I’ll tell you what Alfred and I have been able to find, though. And I have a meeting I want to arrange for tonight, if you two are willing.”
“A meeting with whom?” Sarah asked.
“With Commissioner Larkin and DA Denton,” Jack said. “They don’t know who Batman is, and they don’t have to know who you two are either, but they do need to know that they have additional help and that you aren’t enemies. If we’re doing this, we’re going to need all hands on deck.”
Chapter 4: The Interloper
An intruder makes the meeting with the Commissioner and the DA a little more complicated.
The three friends, in superhero guise, gathered that evening atop the Gotham City Police Department, facing a skeptical Commissioner Larkin and DA Bryan Denton.
Jack and Kloppman, between them, had altered one of Jack’s suits to fit David, though Jack promised it was only a temporary fix.
“We’ll make something that’s a little more you,” he said with a grin. “Maybe match Sarah’s colors a little bit. This will work for now, though, and make sure that Denton and Larkin don’t recognize you.”
David had agreed, and so the two men stood in similar dark armour, while Sarah wore her distinctive Wonder Woman costume.
“I suppose I should thank you for arranging this meeting, though I’ve learned never to take anything you do at face value,” Commissioner Larkin said with humor, addressing Jack. Her bright teeth flashed a smile at him in the dim light, though David could see that her eyes were sharp, taking in everything she could about Batman’s two companions.
“Thank you, Commissioner,” Jack said, in the harsh rasp that David still hadn’t gotten used to. “DA Denton, it’s good to see you again.”
“And you,” Denton said cheerfully, “though I must admit that I’m much more delighted to be meeting your friend.” He approached Sarah, extending a hand, and Sarah put out her own hand with a smile. Denton shook it firmly.
“I’m pleased to meet you, Wonder Woman. You’ve been creating quite the sensation, fighting on the streets of Gotham.”
“Much like Batman, I am doing my best to defend the citizens of Gotham, District Attorney,” Sarah said. “You and Commissioner Larkin do the same, in your own way.”
“We do,” Denton acknowledged. “And who’s your friend?” he asked, gesturing to David.
“Her brother,” David replied promptly. “And someone else who would like to help Gotham be a haven for the innocent, instead of a hiding place for the guilty. You can call me Robin.”
“Is that right? And why haven’t we seen you before now?” Denton asked keenly.
David had to give him credit. Underneath the affable exterior was a quick mind, someone who was always on the lookout for deception.
David smiled, trying to put him more at ease. “Let’s say I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’m more useful in the fray, rather than behind the scenes.”
“My brother has been a great help to me in doing reconnaissance, sir,” Sarah added. “He generally prefers not to fight, but he has just as much skill as I, and with the threats the Joker is posing to Gotham, we felt more defenders were necessary.”
Denton’s expression darkened. “Well, that is certainly true. We can’t get a handle on who this man is or what he’s planning, or even if he is a man. Whatever he is, he seems to be doing an excellent job of taking over organized crime.”
Commissioner Larkin cleared her throat, bringing everyone’s attention back to her. “Batman, do I understand that you are willing to vouch for these . . . friends of yours?” she questioned.
“Absolutely,” Jack answered. “I trust them implicitly.”
David inclined his head. “We would be honored to help, Commissioner.”
“But that doesn’t extend to taking orders from me,” Larkin said shrewdly.
“No,” Jack said, and now his voice was hard. “Absolutely not.”
“You could do more good in the light of day, Batman, than you do in the dark,” the commissioner reproved him.
Jack laughed, a brief, mirthless wheeze of sound that was somehow terrifying even to David, who knew it was at least partly theatrical. “No, I couldn’t. I operate on fear, and sometimes on plain brutality, and I bring you the information and the criminals you need. You don’t ask and I don’t tell, Commissioner. That is how this has always worked, and those rules don’t change. You and the DA are the public face of law and order that Gotham needs. You are trusted by the public, and I am feared by the criminals. Rather nice symmetry, if you think about it.”
Commissioner Larkin pursed her lips, clearly not pleased with his answer, but she didn’t say anything further.
“We are happy to defend Gotham whenever we can, Commissioner Larkin,” Sarah said, stepping forward. “But Batman’s greatest asset, thus far, has been his ability to exist in the shadows and the dark, to stay invisible and anonymous. In fact, it might help him even more if - Robin and I are rounding up criminals in the daytime. It says to the public that justice will prevail in Gotham always, that Batman is not Gotham’s only ally."
“That was the reason for this meeting,” Jack broke in. “To hopefully make clear to you both that Robin and Wonder Woman can be trusted. The three of us will work together to bring down the Joker. That much I can promise you.”
Denton and Larkin looked at each other, clearly holding a conversation with their eyes, before Denton nodded. “You’ve never failed us before,” he said slowly, “and having more information is only going to help us. We’re counting on your word about your friends - though we’ve already seen some of what you can do, and certainly appreciate it,” he added to Sarah, giving her another smile. “If you all can at least find out who the Joker is and what he wants, that would be a start.”
“We’ll do our best,” David said solemnly, and the DA nodded at him in approval.
“You’ll fail,” said a new female voice, causing everyone in the group to jump and shift to a defensive stance. A lithe figure uncurled itself from behind the Bat-signal and sauntered forward.
“No one knows who he is, or what he wants, and frankly I think the latter might change by the day,” the woman said.
The commissioner had immediately pointed her firearm at the intruder, and David had his sword at the ready, as did Sarah, but David couldn’t see any immediate threats. She was clad in a skintight black jumpsuit that made her almost invisible in the dark, with a tight, hooded mask that was somewhere between the ones he and Jack wore and Sarah’s lighter face mask. She appeared to be unarmed, except for a utility belt around her hips.
“Ms. Kyle,” Denton said, his tone deceptively mild. “The Gotham P. D. has been looking for you.”
The woman gave him a sultry smirk. “And now I found you first. Quite the little crew you have assembled here.”
“I’m sorry, who are you?” David demanded.
Ms. Kyle, as Denton had called her, studied him, amusement in her eyes that left David unsettled. “Well, since the DA was so ungentlemanly and spoiled my fun, I suppose there’s no reason for you not to know.” She pulled off her hood, revealing a mane of coppery, curly red hair that fell down her back. “Katherine Kyle, professional thief and cat burglar. Catwoman, to Gotham’s criminal world.”
“Rumor has it you were part of the Gotham City Bank Robbery,” Jack said, speaking for the first time since Katherine’s appearance. “How is it you’re still alive, Ms. Kyle? No one else is.”
Katherine’s expression turned contemptuous, which somehow unsettled David even more than her amusement. “I've spent my life learning how to disappear,” she said coldly. “Much like you, I would imagine.”
“And what is it that you want, Ms. Kyle?” Commissioner Larkin said, her tone harsh and her gun still pointed straight at the criminal. “Since you were so fortunate as to elude both us and the Joker, I find it rather suspicious that you have shown up here and interrupted what was supposed to be a very private meeting.”
“Oh, please,” Katherine said disdainfully. “Climbing up here was child's play.”
David had had enough. “Why are you here?” he snapped, taking several steps forward and crossing his arms. “Start talking, or I’m sure the DA and Commissioner will be happy to arrest you.”
“My, short-tempered, aren’t we?” Katherine purred at him. “I can’t tell you what the Joker wants or who he is, but I can tell you his next target and how he’s getting his money. For a suitable price, of course.”
“Which would be?” Commissioner Larkin said pointedly.
“I want my record wiped clean,” Kyle said firmly. “I want my freedom.”
“With a rap sheet as long as yours?” Larkin scoffed. “You would have to give us the world.”
Denton had been studying Catwoman while she talked, and now he spoke again. “If you tell us what you know, and help us catch the Joker, we’ll consider it. Only if you give full cooperation to everyone on this roof, mind you,” he stressed. “And the information you give us will have to prove to be worth it.”
For a split second, David caught what might have been relief in Katherine’s eyes, before her face became serene and triumphant again. She smiled.
“Well, then, let’s get to work,” she said. “After all, it’s going to take all of us to keep the Joker from killing Gotham’s greatest hero.”
The hairs on David’s neck rose, and everyone’s eyes went to Jack.
“That’s right, Batman,” Katherine said airily. “The Joker’s next target is you .”