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Trial and Error

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Bruce knows what he’s doing, he really does. He isn’t going to be adopting any girls from any alleyways anytime soon, no matter what Dick seems to think. Though it was an impulsive decision to give her the number- a direct line to his personal cell phone- he doesn’t regret it. As he restocks his utility belt later that night, he contemplates on his next steps.

She has no place to go, and that he’s positive of. He often tended to leave orphans alone if they were part of a group, whether it be misfits like themselves or an occasional place to hide out. They had family they could rely on, by blood or bond. It was the children who had nobody, who were starved for the attention and closeness a family could give. That he worried about. Alone, they were more likely to get caught and thrown in an orphanage, or if that was full at the time, juvie. He didn’t want any child to have an experience like his oldest had.

Bruce finishes packing the last of his batarangs into his belt, hangs it up neatly beside his costume and stands up, wincing at the pain in his ribs. That night there had been a particularly nasty breakout at Arkham, and Bruce was left to pick up the pieces. He was lucky that Dick was in town for a few days, lest he’d still be on the streets rounding up criminals. Even if he had teased Bruce obnoxiously about his orphan collection, he had appreciated the time with Dick. Not that he’d ever tell him.

Soft footfalls break Bruce out of his thoughts. Tim Drake-Wayne sluggishly takes the last steps of the staircase into the cave. He has a cup of coffee in one hand, and a tray of sandwiches in the other.

“Alfie said to bring these down to you.” He explains as he sets the plate down on the nearest surface. Tim then collapses into the rolly chair next to him, takes a big gulp of his coffee, twisted around to face the large monitor and begins typing. Bruce sighs.

“No.,” he says, and Tim only hunches his shoulders and speeds up the repetitive tap tap tap on the keyboard. Bruce steps forward, taking the cup and flipping off the monitor in one fluid motion, eliciting a squawk of protest from Tim. He uses his foot to spin the chair around so the young hero is facing him.

“Bed,” Bruce says, crossing his arms and drawing himself up as big as he dares. Tim grumbles, and weakly tries to turn the chair back, but gives up after only a moments struggle, exhaustion clear in his eyes.

“C’mon Bruce, you don’t understand . I locked onto this new energy signature- ecto, maybe- and I think I can finally get a location on it. If I can just fire up a few of the energy monitors around the city then maybe I ca-” Bruce puts his hand on Tim’s head, tangling his fingers in the cowl-flattened mess.

“The signature will still be there tomorrow.” He offers, knowing full well he’ll be staying up late tracking despite his reassurances.

“Go to bed, chum. I can handle it.” Tim opens his mouth to protest, but thinks better of it, instead, pushing into the hand on his head for a moment of comfort, then reluctantly pulling himself up with all the enthusiasm of a zombie. He steals one of Bruce’s tea sandwiches on his way out and shoves it into his mouth.

“Night, Bruce.” He mumbles around a mouthful of bread as he begins to sluggishly haul himself up the stairs.

“Goodnight, Tim.” Bruce replies, flipping the monitor back on and settling down for a long night of work.

 


 

 

Dani kicks her feet up in the lounge of a small cafe, nursing a hot chocolate to combat the bite of the fall air. She rests her head on the cushion behind her and considers her options. While Dani loves traveling and exploring, she’s getting tired. Not the physical kind of tired that a good nap could fix, but the kind that sits heavy in your bones and weighs you down. The nagging need for something solid in your life. Something that wouldn’t change. Something constant.

She knew that if she went back to Danny then his secret would be blown. He’d probably take her in in heartbeat, but then what? She couldn’t live there without his parents knowing.

She takes the card out from her pocket and studies it, turning it over and over in her hands and rubbing the edges until they started to thin and fray.

It couldn’t hurt. She technically didn’t exist, so running wouldn’t be hard if the situation got dangerous. Not like they could lock her up, either. Maybe… maybe she’d give it a chance. If she hated it or it was some kind of trap she could run. No biggie. Right?

Dani shoves the card back into her pocket. She stands, cracks her neck and leaves the cafe, waving to the pink-haired barista as she does so. With a flick of her wrists, her hood is securely over her head and warming her ears. She steps out into the midday traffic, expertly weaving and dodging people not paying attention as if she were a character in a video game, eyes on their phone or the ground ahead of them. She keeps an eye out for one of the public call phones that were typically stationed around these kinds of cities. She quietly cheers when she spots one and makes her way over. Quickly digging out a few coins from the deep dark depths of her pocket, she deposits them and takes a deep breath.

Every key she punches seems to beep louder than the last.

The phone begins to ring, and Dani cradles it awkwardly to her face, yanking at one of her hoodie strings in anticipation. After a few tense rings, the line clicks, and a deep voice rumbles through the speaker.

“Hello?”

Oh crap. She never decided what she was going to say when the person on the other end picked up. Danielle silently curses and smacks herself in the forehead. This was gonna be a trainwreck .

“Hello?” The voice repeats, a little more hesitant. Dani snaps to attention, clearing her throat and gathering her courage.

“Hi! Um, I was given this number? I was uh- I was told to call if I needed a place to stay?” There was a moment of silence, and Dani feels a pang of ice cold anxiety grip her chest.

“I’m sorry, I knew this was a bad idea. It was probably a joke, I’ll just-”

“No, wait!” The voice says, cutting her off. “I gave someone my information” the voice continues “so he could give it to people who needed help. My name is Bruce.” The ghost girl lets out a nervous laugh full of relief.

“I’m Dani- with an i.” She says. “I guess- I guess this is the right number then?” The voice on the other end gives a warm chuckle.

“I’d say. Where are you? Would you like to meet up? I can send someone to get you, or we can meet in public if that would make you feel more comfortable?” The voice- Bruce, Dani reminds herself- is comforting. A nice contrast to the barks of the angry Gothamites mulling about behind her.

Dani bites her lip and mulls over the offer over for a moment. Didn’t parents usually teach their kids not to get in cars with strangers? Stranger danger and all that? And wasn’t it kinda weird that he sending someone to get her? Well, she had her intangibility. If this was a kidnapping, she’d be fine. Not like they could really do anything to her, anyway. Half ghost and all that jazz.

“You can pick me up?” She asks. “If that’s okay.” She hurriedly tacks on, not wanting to come off as rude. The voice on the other line chuckles in a warm kind of way, and some of the unknown tension escapes her body.

“I think that would be fine. I’ll send someone to pick you up. Can you tell me where you are?” He asks, and Dani tosses a glance over her shoulder, scanning the buildings for a unique sign. If she says something like Starbucks, he’ll never find her.  

“Right across from the Gotham Book Shop. I’ve got a red hat on.” The voice on the other end hums in thought.  

“Just stay where you are, alright?” Bruce suggests, and Dani blows some air from between her lips.

“Yeah, that’ll work.”

“Great, Alfred will be over in a few minutes. Sit tight.” Dani glances at the ground and wrinkles her nose.

“Yeah, I think I’ll skip out on the sitting part.” She says, just a trace of humor evident in her voice. The man on the other end lets out an amused almost-snort and Dani can visualize the head shake that was sure to accompany it.

“I’ll see you soon.” He says once he recovers.

“See ya.” Dani says with a smile on her face and a feeling that this just might work out.