30/30 - May I Have This Dance?
Disclaimers and other information in "Opening Credits"
Bruce Wayne stared at the woman on the swings, kicking her legs, rising higher and higher. She was lovely, slender and pale, with a mane of light brown hair that fell in ringlets down her back. Her features were lovely, and her laughter was that of a child.
Smiling, Bruce walked to the swings and took a place behind her. She dragged her bare feet on the earth to stop the swing. Bruce's hand touched the space between her shoulders, steadying her. She twisted her head around and looked at him with warm green eyes. Her smile was mischievous.
Bruce smirked and bent to kiss her. "The meeting ran over."
She laughed and turned away from him. "I suppose I could forgive you if you'd give me a push."
He placed his hands on her back, felt the subtle shift of muscle over bone. She leaned back into his touch, legs rising in front of her. Her mass of brown hair brushed his hands and she was looking at him upside down, grinning with childish glee. Bruce couldn't resist bending forward and kissing her nose. It was slightly upturned, a little crooked.
Adorable, he thought and saw her eyes crinkle with amusement.
He did, gently, just enough to get the swing moving. She worked her hips, her legs, to gain momentum. Back and forth she went, her gauzy white dress flowing around her. Bruce pushed her, content to stand and watch her rise higher and higher. She laughed, urging him on.
Bruce grinned and pushed harder. "Careful, or you'll go all the way around."
Her laughter tickled his ears and she was falling back, a pale phantasm riding the night breeze. Bruce pushed her again and she flew up and simply . . . vanished.
He blinked and caught the empty swing. The chain creaked beneath his hand, still warm from where she had gripped it. Slender white arms wrapped around his waist. He felt her rest her cheek against his back. She was warm and smelt like baby powder. For a moment, he stood there, while she hugged him.
Releasing the swing, Bruce touched her hand. The skin was flawless, soft as silk. He traced the curve of her wrist with his thumb.
"What's the matter?"
Her grip on him tightened. "What makes you think anything is the matter?" Her voice was soft and sleepy.
Bruce turned in her embrace. She smiled up at him and lay her head against his chest. He stroked her hair, kissed the top of her head. "I know you," Bruce said quietly. "Something is bothering you."
She shifted in his arms. Her grip on him tightened. "It's nothing."
He hugged her back, bent his head to inhale the sweet scent of her. "It's something. Tell me?"
"I . . . miss her."
"Her?" Bruce asked gently. She looked up at him and her eyes were glittering. He frowned and stroked her cheek. "I've never seen you like this before."
She moved away from him, one hand resting lightly on his chest, above his heart. "Her name was Taryn Connor."
Bruce took her hand, clasped it between his own. "She was very pretty."
"Yes, I know."
Something in her voice made Bruce wary. "J'onn?"
"Taryn wasn't like the others. She was . . . me."
He reached for her, but his fingers slid through dress and flesh as if they were vapor.
"I made her up," said the woman. Her head was bent, her hair falling around her face like a veil. Bruce couldn't see her expression, and her body language gave nothing away.
"She just showed up at party one night, about twenty-five years ago. No one there knew her, but she was fun and easy to talk to and she liked to dance."
"Taryn sounds . . . very nice."
"She was. Everyone said so."
"What happened to her?" Asked Bruce. "Did she move away and live happily ever after?"
"No. She was at a party at the country club and there was a fire. Eleven people died. She was one of them."
"Oh." Bruce blinked, peered at the spectral woman standing in front of him. In the dark, he could see the merry-go-round through her. "Why?"
"Why did Taryn have to die? There were other survivors."
"Because she couldn't live," whispered the woman. "Not after what happened, not after running away."
Bruce stepped forward and spoke very softly. "But here she is."
"I know," whispered the ghost. "Someone suggested a date at a swing set and . . . there she was. Back from the grave."
"Welcome back, Taryn," murmured Bruce. He held out his hand. "Would you like to dance?"
For just a moment, he thought she would vanish entirely, but then her fingers closed around his. He could feel her trembling. Gently, Bruce drew her toward him. By the moonlight, he could see her eyes, shining with unshed tears.
"There's no music," Taryn said softly.
Bruce drew her close, wrapped his arms around her. "That's strange. I could swear I hear music."
He began to softly hum. She pressed her face into his chest and let him lead her in a slow, quiet waltz around the merry-go-round.