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All At Once

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This story is No. 1 in the series "Midnight City". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: John needs help with the gift Mr. Wayne has given him. Wayne points him the right direction. Maybe.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
DC Universe > BatmanVashtiFR1312,052252,0201 Jan 131 Jan 13Yes
Title: All At Once
Series: Midnight City
Fandom: BtVS/The Dark Knight Rises
Character(s): John Blake, Bruce Wayne, Xander Harris, OC Slayer, Selina Kyle
Rating: PG
Summary: John needs help with the gift Mr. Wayne has given him. Wayne points him the right direction. Maybe.
Warning: This fic contains spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises. If you haven't seen it, DO NOT read this story.
Length: ~1940 words
Disclaimer: Only the words are mine, and that’s probably up for philosophical debate.
Notes: Written for August 2012 fic-a-thon. It almost killed me, but it was a blast! This dips into comic book territory for the Buffyverse b/c that's what worked best for the story. But I haven't gotten very far into the comics so if it feels like it's been painted with broad strokes...yeah...

§§§

The cave was a fantastic and strange find. If it had been given to him by anyone other than Bruce Wayne, or if Bruce Wayne were anyone other than the Batman, John would have had to question the sanity of the giver. Although, to tell the truth, there weren’t that many people in or around Gotham who could afford to give anyone a cave, even if it were on the edge of their property.

The floor rising beneath his feet was a shock. One that his usually quick reflexes almost hadn’t reacted to in time to keep him from falling. A boy living in on the streets in the roughest parts of Gotham didn’t make it long if he couldn’t think on his feet. But even the most nimble was sometimes caught flat-footed.

Then a screen began to warm and glow from deeper within the cave as John watched, transfixed. A glass case flicked on as if a switch had been flipped.

A switch. Him. He’d done this. Somehow... How? Why? What was Wayne getting at?

The questions swirled, circling and spinning, but never touching the fixed point that he wasn’t yet ready to grasp hold of.

"Hello, John."

He stared at the screen, now fully warm, fully active, full of a familiar face that should be dead, a shining hank of dark brown hair flicking and moving in the corner of the display, as if the person it belonged to was speaking to someone also out of sight.

"I see you got my package..." Wayne smiled and the thing that had been sitting heavy on John’s chest tightened. "...and that you followed the instructions."

For the first time, John really saw how Wayne had been going gray before he died. He knew from his research and police records that Wayne would have been 40 years old on his next birthday. Even here, in this video, smiling (before a war?) he looked older. Or maybe, in an age of miracle everything, it was simply strange to see a man who looked every inch his age. As much as John had known that Wayne wore a mask, the very one he saw in the mirror every day, he now saw how much more it had hidden.

"I’m sorry I can’t be there to train you myself. It’s better this way. For both of us. I can’t go back into the dark for a third time, and you don’t need my demons for your fuel. But it would be wrong of me to send you out there with nothing more than a bullet-proof vest and a nightstick. And you are going to go out there, aren’t you, John?" he said with a sort of sad lift to his lips. His eyes, dark and clear, were shadowed beneath his brows despite the bright sunny day. (When had he taped this?)

John found himself giving the video a sharp nod, Wayne seeming to nod in return—one warrior to another.

"I do, however, have a contact that might be willing to take you on. The only thing is..." Wayne smiled, a real smile as he turned his head away, shaking it. He faced the camera again. "Before I became...him, I did a lot of traveling in the Far East. I met a man in Tibet who knew something about demons and having to tame them away from friends and family who couldn’t understand. He knew I wasn’t ready to listen to him yet, so he gave me a name and said when I was ready to be strong, I should find his friends. Maybe— That’s not important.

"I looked them up for you..."

(When?) When, John wonders, would Wayne have had time to contact anyone long enough to set up a training for him?

"...but for obvious reasons you’ll have to contact them yourself."

"Bruce, is this is your idea of a ‘brief word?’ Because the way you’re going we’ll be ate for the opera. I hate to waste tickets I actually paid for, so please give your little officer friend whatever it is you called him for and hang up."

"If I didn’t know better, I’d say you and Selina have some history, Officer Blake."

John’s jaw had to be somewhere near his navel, his heart trying to climb out his throat.

"My mother used to tell me not to let my mouth hang open lest something fly in."

"You’re alive."

Wayne’s smile widened. "For the first time in a long time."

"Tick tick tick tick, Bruce."

"But not for much longer if I don’t finish up here. There’ll be time later--"

"Yes, later. After the opera, or Alfred and I are going without you."

Smiling still (such a strange expression on Wayne’s face that John can’t seem to pick his jaw up from his chest) Wayne turns to follow Selina with his eyes before looking into the camera again. Now his eyes were down, looking at something unseen. John guessed a keyboard. A breeze lifted Wayne’s hair and sent it floating.

"I’ve sent you the information I have," Wayne said, looking up and pushing hair out of his eyes. "I didn’t do as good a job of keeping up with it or my initial contact as I should have. I didn’t think I’d ever need to. As I said, unfortunately, that means you’ll have to make the introductions yourself. My impression of them is that they’ll agree to help you if explain your situation."

"Explain—"

Wayne nodded. "Hero, new to the business, getting by on street smarts, and desperate need of training against the forces of evil and their regular need to cause mayhem." Gaze turning quizzical, he said, "You don’t have a problem with strong female figures, do you?"

If John were honest, he had some trouble with authority, period, but gender had never mattered on way or the other. "Not particularly."

"Got a problem if one of them wipes the floor with you?"

"So long as she’ll teach me how she did it."

Wayne nodded again. "Remember that. It’ll probably be a good motto to live by for a while." His lips turned up in a small, closed-mouth smile. "Good luck, John. Don’t forget, always be careful to wear a mask."

"Wait!" he shouted, the sound bouncing and ringing in the cave loud enough to make Wayne wince. "That’s it? Dial a number, say I need help, and try not to let my ego get bruised when I get beat up by a girl?"

Wayne shrugged. "Basically. Like I said, I haven’t been keeping up with this particular contact. Ah, one thing that might help. Tell them Oz sent you."

Shaking his head, John blinked. "What, the Great and Powerful?"

"No, you idiot! Just do what someone tells you for once so I can see Tosca!"

John smirked. "Are you sure that was a good idea?"

Laughing, Wayne killed the connection.

Crossing the narrow, damp catwalk to the glowing computer screen, John felt the thing that had been sitting on his chest ease. Information glowed cold and unrepentant before him. The date stamps—date created and date modified—were almost a decade apart, with the most recent date occurring just before Gotham’s occupation. The rest of the computer area was dull, its features almost indistinguishable in the near-black of the cave. Until he rested his hand on the console.

Pushing aside more questions and a fervent wish for an owner’s manual, he found what passed for a mouse and clicked on the first phone number.

The automated operator was sorry to inform him that the number no longer existed. Was he sure he had dialed correctly?

The second number rang to nowhere.

The third number was for someplace in Europe. He considered it, then skipped to the alternate on the West Coast. Someone picked up promptly after two rings. "Good morning, Wolfram & Hart, Las Vegas branch," a pleasant female voice said. "How may I direct your call?"

"Um, I’m...looking for someone named Buffy Ann Summers?"

"Here?!"

"Wrong number?"

"Ha!"

But since he had her on the phone... "You wouldn’t happen to know how to reach her, would you?"

"Even if I did," she said, both pleasantness and shock replaced with something that had John reaching for his hip, "whyever would I tell you?"

"Never mind then. Thank you. For your help." Some instinct had him hanging up before she could reply.

So it was back to the number in Europe. John let it ring longer than he might have otherwise, not sure what time it would be wherever he was calling.

The line picked up, but instead of a disembodied voice, a young, golden-skinned woman with a short boyish haircut, wearing a tank top and something short enough to show a lot of thigh filled the left half of the screen. "Um, hey? Can I help you?"

"I hope so. I’m looking for a Buffy Ann Summ--"

"XANDER!"

"No, I’m pretty sure the person I’m looking for goes by the name Buffy. Or did." He glanced at the open file on the right side of the screen. "My contact information is old."

"How do you know Buffy?" There was a sudden hardness to her that brought back Wayne’s words. His first instinct was to ruffle the young woman’s hair. Was this ‘strong female authority type’ Wayne was warning him about? This could be a problem.

"Um, I don’t. I know someone who knows Ms. Summers."

"Who?"

"Guy named Oz." At the hesitation in her stance, he added, "I met him a few years back in Tibet. More than a few years." It wasn’t exactly true, but if it got him what he needed...

"XANDER!!" But the young woman’s stance had softened considerably.

A tall, man slid into view, standing at right-angles to the camera. "What? What’s wrong? You’ve got phone duty. Are the big bads calling in Apocalypses now? ‘Cause that would really make our lives a lot easier if they were."

"No. This guy. He’s looking for Buffy and he knows Oz."


The man turned, revealing a battle-hardened face and an eye-patch that didn’t match his lighthearted tone. Until he spoke to John. "How’d you meet Oz and why’re you looking for Buffy."

"I met Oz in Tibet. I was trying to fight my demons on my own, but when Oz offered to help I wasn’t ready to listen," John said, appropriating Wayne’s story as his own. It was close enough. "He told me when I was ready to be strong I should find a girl named Buffy and have her teach me how."

"How long ago was this?"

"A while."

"Then how’d you get this number?"

"Serious detective work. I promise it wasn’t easy to find," or so John assumed.

The man, Xander, studied him for a while. "You’ve gotta understand, buddy, Buffy doesn’t just take on trainees. That’s not how we work here. Especially not dudes."

"But I need help, and right now you’re the best option I’ve got."

"Sorry, buddy, but we can’t help you."

"You have to."

Xander’s stance tightened, the resolve that had gotten him through whatever had cost him his eye coming to the fore. "We don’t have to do anything. Sarah, term--"

"You don’t understand," John interjected. "It’s not just for me. This city needs me to protect them. And I need Buffy to show me how."

"What kind of Chosen One are you that an entire city’s resting on your shoulders?"

John stepped out of the way of the camera, knowing that the prowler, his prowler, was within its line of sight. "I’m Batman."

Fin[ite]

The End

You have reached the end of "All At Once". This story is complete.

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