30/30 - Going to the Dogs
by Darklady and Chicago
Disclaimers and other information in "Opening Credits"
"This is different." She turned the machine out so Bruce could see the square of text marked out by the turquoise highlighter.
"A dog show?" The tone carried not only the obvious question, but several others. Such as... `what the hell are you up to now' and `what response will get me out of this'. Not to mention a bit of `how the hell did I let myself get talked into this game in the first place'.
"The Coast City Grand National All-Breeds Show." An edge of pout tinted the rose petal lips. Not serious - or taken so by either party - but still a message that the suggestion was not merely a artifact of J'onn's strange humor. Or rather that - while it very well might be - the chances were still dangerously high that they were in fact headed to Coast City.
Bruce summoned his inner tactician - considered the odds - and surrendered. "As long as you don't plan on going as a dog." After all how much trouble could a bunch of pups be? And if it got dull? Since its restoration, Coast City had reclaimed it's reputation as one America's most romantic cities. He was sure he and... whoever.. could find some way to... amuse themselves.
Her thoughts were interrupted as a pair of arms snaked around her waist and a chin lowered onto her shoulder. "Looks like that dog spent more time in front of the mirror this morning than you did," Bruce remarked.
Desiree elbowed him in the ribs good-naturedly. "Beauty is not effortless," she pointed out.
Bruce's lips brushed the space behind her ear. "It is for you," he whispered. "Can we go now?"
Desiree pulled out of his arms and shook her head at him. "Bruce, we've barely been here half an hour."
Bruce shrugged. "How long does it take to look at a bunch of dogs?"
She crossed her arms over her chest and gave him a look, earning a sigh from him.
"Fine, we'll look at more dogs." He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and began leading her away from the Bichon Frise breeder. "But at least let's look at something other than an old lady dog."
One of the women Desiree had been eavesdropping on earlier gave Bruce a hostile look, and Desiree leaned into him a little in a half shielding gesture. Not that Bruce noticed; he was heading toward the part of the show arena where most of the Doberman and Rottweiler breeders were.
Not that he wanted to be there, either.
Desiree read his feeling easily and stopped, halting them both. Bruce gave her an inquiring look.
"You're having a miserable time, aren't you?" Desiree asked.
Bruce started to shrug, then seemed to realize the futility of pretending to be at best indifferent. "I'm not enjoying it," he confessed. "I keep thinking I'll realize why you were so keen to do this..."
Desiree reached out and took his hand, giving it a squeeze, then led him to the nearest breeder display. One of the handlers there was working with an Australian Terrier, and Desiree nodded in that direction. "Watch the dog," she remarked, noting the alertness with which it responded to its handler. "And look at the human, the bond of trust that just radiates there."
Bruce followed Desiree's gaze and obediently watched for a moment. "J'onn," he protested quietly, "I don't need dogs to teach me about trust."
Desiree shook her head. "That's not the point, Bruce. Didn't you ever have - well, want - a dog?"
"No," Bruce answered flatly. "When would I have time for one? Alfred wouldn't-"
"Never?" Desiree pushed.
Bruce turned and began walking, forcing Desiree to take a couple of quick steps to catch up with him.
"Bruce?" She reached out to halt him again, and he allowed her to.
"I never did want a dog," he reiterated.
Bruce glanced around the spacious convention center. "Can we go outside?"
Desiree caught his arm and began to steer him towards the nearest exit. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "I never got a sense from you that dogs -"
"No, it's not like that. They don't -" Bruce sighed as Desiree pushed open the exit door and led him out onto a grassy lawn which looked out over the ocean.
"Explain," she urged, spying a stone bench and heading toward it.
He waited until they were seated to begin speaking again. "Dick wanted a dog, back when he was a boy."
A surprised expression crossed Desiree's face. "And you said no? I'm surprised -"
"I didn't say no," Bruce corrected, and Desiree noticed that his watch had loosened and was trailing down his hand to tangle in his fingers. Bruce watched Ace play for a moment with a hint of a smile, then turned his gaze out toward the view of the ocean. "It wasn't long after Dick had come to live with me, when he was really just beginning his training as Robin. He missed all the animals at the circus."
Desiree nodded sympathetically. "I can imagine."
"Alfred said something about it to me first, that maybe a pet would fill some of the ache for Dick. I think he knew I wouldn't expect it as something Dick would want, but the warning was enough for me to be ready when Dick asked."
Bruce blinked and looked back down at Ace, running a thumb over the surface of the little zo'ok. "He asked if I would let him have a dog -" a hint of a smile crossed Bruce's features - "even came up with this notion of a Bathound and how great it would be."
Bruce glanced at Desiree. "You didn't honestly think I originally named the car the Batmobile, did you?"
A dimple showed on Desiree's right cheek as she smiled at the image. "So you've been humoring him all this time. Uh huh. But what happened? About the dog."
"I told him to research how much time a dog would take and come back with a proposal."
"You didn't. Bruce, he was -"
"Nine. And yes, I did. I reminded him to factor in his responsibilities in the Cave and to school. I explained that he could not rely on Alfred to take care of feeding and housebreaking and all the other things a dog would require."
"He was ecstatic. He was only half-listening to me in his eagerness to see what was in the family library and write up a list of questions."
Desiree smiled, resting a hand on Bruce's knee. "I can picture that. He still gets that eager look sometimes."
"Yeah, I know." Bruce's tone was heavy.
"He never mentioned it again. He went off to do his research and I think he realized-"
Desiree scooted closer and rested her head on Bruce's shoulder, wrapping on arm around him and stroking her hand over his torso comfortingly. "He realized what you wanted him to realize. That it was a bad idea."
Bruce stared at Ace with the kind of focus that implied he wasn't seeing it at all. "Yeah," he admitted softly. "I felt bad, though. We could've found a way, and it would have made him happy..."
"Oh, Bruce," Desiree breathed, pulling him toward her and letting him pillow his head against her breast. She kissed the top of his head as she held him and stared out over the ocean, wondering how shocked the hero world would be at the all-too-feeling heart of the Bat. He had carried this regret so long...
A little bark sounded, and both Bruce and Desiree started. At their feet, a very small puppy sat and wagged its tail eagerly, barking again.
"What-?" Desiree began.
"Ace?" Bruce asked.
The puppy barked once more, rising up to rest its front paws on Bruce's pants leg and wagging its tail more energetically.
"Ace?" Desiree echoed, staring incredulously at the excited brown eyes of the puppy. "I've never-"
"Down, Ace," Bruce ordered, and the puppy instantly obeyed, returning to its sitting position and still gazing at Bruce adoringly.
Desiree shook her head. "Something new every day," she remarked, reaching down to pet the silky ears of the puppy.
It managed a wriggle without shifting from its position, and Bruce smiled. He slapped his knee a couple of times in a signal, and Ace abruptly leapt up, abandoning puppy form, and twined around Bruce's wrist to again become his watch. "I guess if it can be a furry it makes just as much sense..."
Desiree nodded, conceding the point, tearing her eyes away from the now-watch to meet Bruce's lightened expression. "Are we done with the dog show?" she asked.
"If you still want-"
She shook her head, brushing her fingers through his hair. "No. I think I'd rather go home and watch old movies with my favorite boyfriend and his dog, Spot."
Bruce raised his eyebrow at her. "You've been hanging out in southern California again, haven't you?"
"Duh," Desiree remarked, straightening up and making a half-conscious check of her coiffe. "Where else would a successful print ad designer live?"
"Gotham?" he ventured, leaning in to kiss her cheek.
She turned her head to catch his lips, easily coaxing a warm kiss from him. "Mmm, Mr. Wayne," she purred. "I could be persuaded."
Bruce kissed her again, then pulled back. "Wait. What do you mean 'favorite' boyfriend?"
Desiree laughed and rose to her feet, holding her hand out to him. "Most liked, regarded with special affection," she recited. "I.e. you." She met his lips again as he stood and felt herself swept into the passion of a thorough kiss that left her breathless. "Yeah," she sighed. "Definitely you."