Actions

Work Header

Trial and Error

Chapter Text

Damp bricks lined the alleyway, stacked one upon another. Danielle tilted her head back, limp strands of hair clinging to her shoulders and worn hoodie pulled tight around her neck. She heaved a great sigh, wiping her eyes and standing, ignoring the stiff ache in her back.

She took in her surroundings, trash scattered on the ground, bits of glass, a chain fence and a large dumpster. Luckily, the dumpster seemed abandoned, cause if it weren’t, she was sure she’d be smelling it already. Dani bit her lip and shrugged. This would do. It would have to. All she really needed a quiet place to rest, and sure the alleyway was looking more and more disgusting by the second, but it was the best she could find.

She leaned over to dig through the contents of her backpack- purple spider themed, courtesy of Sam- and pulled out a sleeping bag. After a moment of cursing and struggling, she had it unrolled and tucked neatly into the corner, behind the dumpster, between the fence, and completely out of sight. The ground seemed drier here, sheltered by the overhang of the building. She lay on top of the chilled fabric and closed her eyes.

She had been traveling the world, as she’d been doing for the past year. She hadn’t planned to land in Gotham at all, but she started to run out of steam right as she was passing by. She’d only be here a night, anyway. Not like anything that drastic could happen in one night. Dani had fallen into a routine, arrive somewhere in the morning, explore, take off late afternoon, sleep and repeat.

Her stomach rumbled, interrupting her thoughts. She curled into a ball and bit her lip. She had seen a 24-hour grocery store down the street. She could swipe an apple or something and nobody would ever know, but it would feel so wrong. Dangit, she had gotten Danny’s moral compass after all.

Danny. The last time she had seen him was when she had flown by Amity Park, and stopped in for a quick visit. Danny had loaded her up with ecto weapons, a thermos and some food. She had, as per usual, flown dramatically into the sunset after that, with no intention of stopping in Gotham.

Ever.

She’d heard the stories. The clowns, the bats, all of it. Sure, just being in the city itself promised the kind of adventure that Dani craved, but damnit, she valued her life too much.

Not bothering to get into the sleeping bag, she closed her eyes and willed sleep to take her. Dani had just drifted off when she heard pounding footsteps. Her eyes started to glow and she shot up into a sitting position. As she watched, a lanky man wearing ripped jeans and a ragged scarf skidded to a stop, leaning over to catch his breath, hands on his knees. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped when his gaze settled upon the alley way’s fence.

“Where do you think you’re goin'?” In the mouth of the alleyway stood a man, easily over six feet in height, covered in tattoos and buff as fuck. The lanky man sucked in a breath, eyes widening comically.

“Listen, man, I’m sorry! I’ll have the money to you tomorrow! I swea-“ the smaller man cried. He was cut off by the other man pulling a gun. Dani covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a gasp and scrambled up, pushing herself flush against the cold wall and hoping the shadows would hide her. She couldn’t transform, as the light would draw too much attention… Could she transform while invisible? Alright, totally not the time to wonder, but something to tuck away for later.

“I’ve already given you a chance” The man with the gun grunted, leveling it with the other man’s head, right between his eyes. He smirked, pulled the trigger and- missed. Danielle had barreled into his side as he shot, successfully destroying his aim. The man reacted just as she thought he would, turning the gun to her.

“What the fuck?” He muttered, frowning when he caught sight of the ghost girl.

“This ain’t no time to be playin’ hero, girlie. Scram. Get outta here before I change my mind.”

“Like I’m gonna listen to you” Dani snorted. “Listen, why don’t you put down the gun? I’m sure you two can kiss and make up.”

The man scoffed, lifting the gun up, and pointing it right between Dani’s eyes. Oops.

“Three.” The man said, ghosting his finger over the trigger. Danielle crossed her arms.

“Two.” He said, now touching the trigger, and Dani went intangible.

“One.” He said, but hesitated, and that was all the invitation she needed. She dropped low, swiping her let out and hooking her foot behind his knees. As he fell, her hand shot up and whacked the gun away. It sailed into the wall and bounced behind a stack of boxes. Dani raised her hand to swing- one good super strength infused punch oughta knock him out- but was snagged around the wrist, a black glove clamped tight. Dani paused.

“Stop.” The voice behind her commanded, sending a chill down Dani’s spine. She gritted her teeth and attempted to yank her arm free. No use. Danielle have one last tug, surprised when the grip gave way. Slowly she turned herself around, and came face to face with the Dark Knight himself.

Well... looks she’d be getting that adventure after all.

Chapter Text

She stared, blue eyes wide and unblinking and lips parted in silent awe. No fucking way. The Batman. She took a step back, her eyes tracing from his bat-symbol upwards, into the unnerving whites of his cowl.

 

Batman flipped open a pouch on his belt and withdrew a small can, never breaking eye contact. He sprayed the downed man, rendering him unconscious. Batman glared at the man in the back of the alley. He squeaked, and pressed himself against the wall. Batman simply pointed to the opening of the alleyway and stepped aside. That was all the invitation the scared man needed. Dani didn’t think she’d ever seen someone run so fast in her entire life. She wanted to laugh, but then Batman opened his mouth, and all of the mirth was gone.

 

“Where’s your guardian?”

 

Whatever Dani was expecting, it wasn’t that. Something more along the lines of ‘scram before I decide to spray you too’ would’ve better matched to her idea of Batman. Or maybe an angry grunt.

 

Dani shuffled her feet, and said “they’re, uh” she fumbled over her lie. “They’re… down the street! They sent me to get, uh, milk?”

 

Smooth.

 

“At this hour?” He asked. Batman’s expression didn’t waver and Dani could only grimace.

 

“Yes?” She replied, wincing at her questioning tone, and kinda hoping the ground would open up and swallow her. Batman looked at her discarded sleeping bag and backpack, and back at her.

 

“Unlikely.” He stated. The ghost girl could only give a nervous smile in response.

 

“Worth a shot, right?” She joked, hoping to lighten the tense atmosphere. Batman only crossed his arms and fixed her with a defiant stare. Dani tried not to, she really did, but she couldn’t help it. She crumbled under the glare, ducking her head like a child being scolded.

 

Being swallowed into the ground was beginning to look more and more appealing by the second.   

 

Danielle didn’t know what to do. She could always turn invisible, run away, but then what? Batman would know she had powers, and he’d probably go looking for her. He’d tell the Justice League, and then they’d always be keeping an ear to the ground for her, and she’d never feel safe again. If they found out who she was, what she was… She shuddered at the thought.

 

“Do you have anywhere safe you can return?” The Bat asked. Danielle only shrugged and focused on grinding apart a soggy cigarette with the toe of her converse. There was no way she’d be going back to Danny. Not for a while, at least. She had just flown dramatically into the sunset for the second time, and couldn’t deal with the embarrassment of returning so soon. Plus, she was only passing through. If she could just convince Batman to let her go on her merry way-

 

“I’ll be gone soon.” She mumbled, voicing her thoughts. The Halfa tucked some hair behind her ear- a nervous habit- and shifted her weight from one foot to the other.

 

“To where?” He asked, voice deep. Danielle scowled, and in a moment of impulse said “Why do you care? Don’t you have like, twenty other kids to yell at or something?”

 

And without missing a beat, Batman replied “I’ll have time for that later. Right now, we need to get you sorted out.”

 

“Sorted out?” She asked, incredulously. “I don’t need to be sorted out. Just leave me alone. It’s not like there aren’t a million other street rats out here without parents or whatever. Why me? Don’t you like, eat children for breakfast or something?” Batman’s mouth twitched for just a moment, and then set firm, decision made. He reached into his utility belt, and pulled out a small slip of paper with a number neatly printed on it.

 

“If you want a place to stay, I have someone who can help. Call this number when you’re ready.” He said, extending the paper out to her.

 

“I don’t need your help.” Dani seethed but snatched the card anyway. His eyes met hers, and for just for a moment he softened.

 

“You don’t have to live like this.” He said, stepping forward and putting a hand on her shoulder. “The decision is yours.” His hand lingered for a moment, then dropped to his side. He glanced at something above and behind her, and his body tensed.

 

“I have to go.” He said, voice sharp and not warm at all like it had been just seconds before. He glanced at her once more.

 

“Don’t be afraid to take a risk. It may be the best thing you’ve ever done.” He said, and then he was gone. The ghost girl simply stared at the card in her hand.

 

“Huh.”

 


 

 

A few blocks away, Batman stood next to the bat-signal, waiting for Gordon to give him details on the latest danger. Before the police commissioner could say anything, a black and blue figure dropped down behind him.



“OMG, B, tell me you did not just try to adopt another orphan.” He gwaffed, humor evident in his eyes. “Agent A’s gonna kill you.” He said, covering his mouth to stifle his laughter. The Commissioner sighed, and at that moment Bruce Wayne knew he was in for a long night.

Chapter Text

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.