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Night of the Hornet

Chapter 9: Once Stung

Disclaimer: Still don't own the Hornet. Still don't own the Bat. Own a nice G4 that deserves better than to be used to write fan-fic.

Slash: All talk, no action. OK, lots of action. And maybe a little *action*..

Cold night. North wind. I'm flat in some brush just down from McNiders Point, just past the highway curve. Place smells of trash. Central City needs a better anti-littering program. Someone was getting a ticket when I got home.

I can see the bridge. Bromley has made the meet. But the place is lit like a drunk on New Year's Eve. Batman has checked the hills. No snipers left. She's here alone. As she agreed. We think.

Not that she came alone. The Ford parked just off the road brought two bruisers. Local 'talent". No talent. Kato took them down without our help. Gas gun works. They'll wake up sometime tomorrow. Sweet dreams.

Hard approach. Lights and concrete. Better for us if she'd taken cover near the ruins, but the car's dead center on the slab. Possible by air. Not Kato's skill.

Batman appears at my side. "All set"

"Holy..How are we going to make that. She'll have him made before he's in rifle range - much less gas gun."

"With this." Batman carefully hands me a bulbous pistol-like device. "When she walks away from the car, aim at the lights."

I wasn't even certain how to hold it, and it showed.

"Its an anti-light generator. Xenotech - out of Opal City."

" I though Starman had...whatever...a 'cosmic rod'"

"This is from Phantom Lady."

That gets my respect. She was one of the first to "don the gaudy rags of justice and battle the dark forces of crime" or however that goes. Make a note to reread 'Behind the Mask'. OK. Sites. barrel, trigger. I test the weight. This is an energy weapon. It shouldn't throw. Just centered aim. When she moves. "She just gave it to you?"

"To Kato. She worked with them during the war. She remembers them fondly. She remembers Bromley too."

Not so fondly, I would guess. Bromley was big on campaigns for 'morality'. 'Dirty' movies. 'Wild' bars. Public dancing. Phantom Lady was...remembered for more then her fighting. Hell, I had one of her posters as a kid. Probably still in print. If she was the first to start she was also one of the first to pack it in. Right after Mr. Terrific. The minute the war was over - guess she didn't fit the 'New America'. Hippolyta the virgin Wonder Woman, OK. Liberty Belle the newlywed - perfect. The hard living, hard fighting Phantom Lady. Not quite PC. Never knew where she went. Didn't even know she was from Opal City. Secret identities are like that. Seems now Batman knew her. Maybe we could get together after this mission.

No hint to the spread on this thing. Figure I need a clean hit. Snipers stance. Bridge spots first. Headlights second.

Batman vanishes. He'll cover Kato.

Even at this distance I can see Bromley is wired. Likely coked. Guess she is fifty years out of practice also. Well, forty at any rate. Having to steel herself for murder one. On her own, not likely she'll take her hand from the car.

Sudden crack from the woods. Not loud, but loud enough. Bromley pats her waist. Amateur. Now we know where she's carrying. She hesitates, but looks over her back. Gives it a thought. Grabs the heavy flashlight and walks around the car to check it out. Five Feet. Ten. Showtime!

The dark-gun is a beauty. Narrow spread. No kick. Takes the bridge lights in a series of three, then the car half a second later. No damage. Just instant dark. I have got to see if I can get one of these.

I was worried she'd panic and fire wild, but she holds it together. Just. Ten seconds for the lights to come back. When they do, Kato is standing between her and the car.

"You." She was expecting someone else? Probably short for 'you bastard', but why make things worse.

She damn near has a stroke when he reaches back and snags her briefcase full of cash. Nice heavy bag. The full amount. We know that because Earl saw her count it out. Bet she also planned to take it home.

"All of it, I hope?" The smile in his voice makes it that much more of a threat.

"Fifty thousand." She spits the words. "Will that do you?"

"For tonight." She truly misses the meaning in his voice. "For tonight this is enough. But we will deal again in the future."

That does it. She totally loses it. No stealth. No aim. Just pull and rapid fire. Eight straight. Full clip.

Of course, it doesn't work. As planned. She carefully checked the ammo. I carefully disabled the pin.

Four clicks before she notices something's is wrong.

Rage city and no telling what she'll do. He's got the gas-gun but I don't trust it. Time to ring down this show.

Two second warning buzz and I take out the lights again. When they come back Kato's gone.

I stay in place until Batman and Kato signal me. Then I pull back. Carefully. Mostly not to jolt the gun. I love this thing, and I do not want the Phantom Lady pissed at me. I'm not worried about being made.

I catch up with at the road, hopping into the back of an unremarkable Buick with local plates. Earl's work. We stash the suits and roll on looking like civilians. When we cross he bridge I risk a glance down. Claudia's still there, pounding the roof of her car. She is absolutely going to crack.

Kato suggests that she may have bugged the cash. No prob. I pick the lock and throw the whole thing out the window on our way home. It bounces a few times before it pops. That's fifty thou. that will never be seen again. Just think of it as an urban myth being born.

The hanger is dark when we drive in. A faint light from the monitor, but nothing to attract notice. Airport runs more then that in ambient light. I take Earls post so he can shake down the car. Just in case. Bromley's still on the road, but she's moving fast. Batman hooks in to Oracle. Slim chance of anything new, but his energy needs an outlet. Bruce won't be Bruce until we're locked down for the day.

Key card message. She's home. I actually feel relief when Bromly clears the gates. We're picking up from her security cameras. I can track her after the garage. She looks bad. The adrenalin has burned off, along with whatever else she had. Damn near ready to Jones. Security should be in there. Yeah. Like they'd risk their jobs. No way she'd want to be seen like this.

Off camera for a minute. Crossing the yard. I hear one of her men call out a challenge. Can't make out the words. She must answer, because he backs off.

Pick her up again at the library. Better resolution here. Bat cameras. She looks worse now than she did in black and white.

Pulls a packet out of the top drawer. Mirror and straw. She's dusting. Thought so. The hit brings her back a little. Plus a shot from the bourbon bottle on her desk. Southern lady to the end.

I lean back, figuring she's set to fry her brains for a while. Almost miss her reaching for the phone. I click to tap. Who the hell is she calling at this time of night? What's that in her hand?

Holy....demon dialer. No way I'll hear the number but the computer... Ouch. Fancy scrambler. I shunt the signal to Oracle. Long shot, but maybe her rig can decode it. No chance that I'll be able to pick up that call.

"Webley-Fosberry recommended you."

Shit. The good news is, I know who she's calling. The bad news is, I know who she's calling.

"Senator Claudia Bromley." A pause while she listens. "Coast City. As soon as possible. Now. Tonight" She seems to relax. "Fine. No problem." That's bad. " A Mister K*A*T*O that's last name Kato, first name I*K*A*N*O Ikano. I'm sending a file." More hum on the line. Transmission. " I don't care if he's one hundred and seventy." Another pause. "Not dead enough." That must have got a laugh. "If I knew where he was, do you think I'd be asking you?" Whatever she hears makes her straighten in her seat. "I know what I saw. He was in Nevada three days ago and he's here in Central City now." She's hyped now and it shows. "No. Not Wayne. The cop if you want to." Response must not make her happy, cause she reached for the bottle. "Screw that. That's what I pay you for." She takes a long pull. "Look, I don't give a shit..... Just find the mother and whack him." And another. " What the..."

The line goes dead. Hell. Half of that conversation is enough for me. I route a copy to Alfred. Priority One. Didn't sound like she's headed for Gotham, but better safe and all that. He'll secure the house. Just in case. I wave Batman over. He has to hear this. From the sound, I don't think Vic took the job, but...."

Other than that, tonights pretty much routine. Except this time Earl cooked. Chicken stew. Earl's a great mechanic, but sort of a basic cook. Doesn't matter. It's what I need.

Much discussion, but it comes down to this. The next time Bromley sees Kato she is definitely going to crack. Just totally lose it. Which was the idea but still makes me nervous. I mean, I deal with enough crazy people already. Two Face. Joker. Poison Ivy. The vagrants down on the Spur. And we're making one more.

Crazy people are always dangerous. Hard to predict. The Senator's actively tried to shoot Kato twice. I figure she means it. Next time she might have a working gun. Of course, that's what the kevlar for. But it's not perfect. One head shot can ruin your whole day.

More to the point, I am not happy with Bromley out on the road. She's already drinking, and this stress isn't going to make her sober. Just luck that she got home tonight with no accidents. Maybe it's my cop side showing. I don't want to put her out on the road again.

Batman seems surprised, but agrees. The final blow-up is moved onto the estate.

He calls two day's break while we get our players in place. And to give Bromley time to get nervous. Haunt her every night and it gets routine.

Bruce and Earl vanish into the machine shop with Phantom Lady's pistol. Just can't resist the puzzle.

I have a few puzzles myself. Not that I normally pry, but... What am I supposed to do. Watch Oprah? Will Donahue do 'Superhero's and the sidekicks who love them?'. I learned the hard way that sometimes you have to ask.

"Ikano. Can I ask you a personal question? Monitor's on, but I turn it down. She's not moving.

"Ask? Of course. " Meaning he may not answer. That's fair.

"I thought you said you meet Britt Reed in College?"

"And you wonder why an engineer with an MBA would work as a valet?"

"Why? No." I mean, Bruce has Alfred Penneysworth. " You've met Alfred?" Sort of a question.

"I have had the honor." He understands.

"I just don't see how you got away with it."

"This was the thirties. And the Depression. Assumptions were.....different. I do not say an engineering career would have been impossible - not even for a 'pansy' Korean - but no one wondered at....lesser choices. Most would have said I was lucky to have a 'good job'."

"And none of your college friends wondered?" Hey, I still get calls from Bruce's friends who wonder why I'm a cop. One of the reason I hate 'society' parties. I spend them turning down 'better jobs'.

"I had no 'college friends' as you mean them." What? They guy may be a bit weird, but he's not sociopathic. Even Bruce made a few friends. "I was not a 'college student' - I was a cook."

That got my attention.

"I do have the degrees. How to explain...."After a moment. " City College prided itself on being a 'progressive' institution. Which means they talked socialism and felt good while keeping all their old prejudices. And they were as short of money for their grand designs as all such institutions tend to be. Being 'progressive', they of course believed in unions and workers rights and all such things. Being short on cash, they paid almost nothing. But they made us 'students'. We could take classes if there were still seats left after enrollment. Students, of course, work for low wages and no benefits."

That attracted many young people who hoped for a better life. Myself among them. Of course, it is hard to do well without books or tools, and to graduate would take many years. Few succeeded. But it made the Dean feel 'egalitarian'. I was accustomed to work and patience. And I could make extra money in the fight clubs, so I could buy books. That is how I earned the Engineering degree. Also it was useful to fix the lawn mowers."

"That is how Britt learned of me. One of his friends had lost money betting against me. My opponent was slow, not difficult, but much larger. That impresses the ignorant. Most profitable odds. His friend complained of 'unfairness', but Britt only wished to learn my methods. I told him I had too much work already, and no time for more. So.....He hired me."

"His father did not questions matters. It seems strange to you, but not at the time. Many rich students had their servants. I could no longer attend classes, of course. I no longer worked for the school. It did not matter. I had Britt. I would have served him forever. Then, his father died. Britt inherited, but the Board had control of the paper until he turned 21. So we stayed at the school. He said I should be a student full time. Some wondered at that, but most praised his 'charity'. It was, as you now say, politically correct to advance a 'backwards race'. Thus the MBA. More useful to a publisher than machine tools. And when he graduated, I went with him."

"And you were....lovers? All along?"

"Almost from the first."

"And it never got in the way of ..... your work?"

"His work." Emphatic tone there. "That shocks you?. It was always Britt's work. The gangsters could have the city. Or the country, for all I cared." He considered a bit. "Not the bomb, of course. We had seen what such could do. No human could want such a thing in any hands." His vehemence seemed to shock even him. "But rackets and corruption and vice. These were his worries."

"And the 'work'. That never hurt your relationship."

"Not for me." He seemed to consider the matter in depth. "I have sometimes wondered how much Britt Reed knew of my ...tastes...when he approached me. I had been careful in my associations but....He was always perceptive. Already, he had his sources that told him things. Perhaps that was another value to him."

The thought did not seem to bother him.

"Without knowing, how much could he know? Then, such secret were secret indeed." He smiles. These memories were fond."I do not know if he had ...attractions...before. He always called himself my 'virgin bride'. And in the end, It would make no difference. If that was our bargain, then I was glad of it."

"Do you trouble yourself with such things? You and your beloved?"

"Sometimes. The way you see us now, well - things are working out. I think. But were still not...together together. It's like.. You know where I live."

"So you doubt his love?

"It's not the love part that bothers me. I mean, I know Bruce loves me. Even if he didn't love me he'd love me. But sometimes...that's the problem."

"Its..........." How do I say this and not sound - wrong. "I met Bruce really young. Too young. And then I grew up." And he didn't. But that would sound even worse. "We had some problems. Especially with the whole side-kick thing. It got....bad for a while. So I ...left."

"I came back, but I didn't come back. Not like it was." How could I? Robin was someone else.

"And now there's the question of my job. Bruce isn't real tight with the police thing." As in totally opposed. "Part of that is because of Nightwing, and part because he doesn't really trust the concept of police, and part is because he wants me back in Gotham." And being Robin under another name. Or at least Mrs. Bruce Wayne under another name.

"Part of why he wants me back in Gotham is for us, but part of it's for him. He want me running WayneTech, but that's not my thing." But it's not Bruces thing either. It's his burden. If I was a real partner, wouldn't I think of him first? "I never planned to be a cop. I started in the police academy as a cover. Now...... It's getting real to me." Too real. More real then Nightwing. Maybe more real than the Bat. "But to move up as a cop in Bludhaven means I stay in Bludhaven."

"I do understand. But I have no answers. It is easy to give up everything for love. Harder perhaps to stand firm because of ones love. To ask is to risk. Yet.... It is what I did not ask I now regret."

I understand too. I just don't know what to do with the knowledge. But I do know I don't want to spend fifty years of my life missing someone. And I can't spend fifty years being who I'm not. I'll work it out. Somehow.

Bruce is relaxed when he comes back in. Must mean that Earl has a lead on the dark gun. More Bat-toys for the Bat. Put it on my Christmas list.

Near dawn. Time to pack it in. I pass off monitor to Earl, who conspicuously turns back up the sound. Jackass. I tell him I'll pick it up at noon. No answer. Earl talks only to the Bat.

Given his choice, Batman would spend a few more hours going over plans. So I don't give him a choice. Even Kal needs to sleep.

One touch on his shoulder nets me instant attention from Bruce - and a dirty look from Earl. I don't know if he wants Bruce, or just wants Bruces undivided attention. Either way, not a chance.

This is my happy time. The plan is in place and everythings working well. I can feel the enthuiasm in his kiss, the unsuppressed energy as he strokes my back and thighs. A bit if adrenalin left over from tonight to feel the burn, but not so much that the need comes before the love. I roll with him, returning kiss for kiss and tough for touch. Stoking already bright flames until every nerve is on fire. We have time, and space, and hours before the masks return to our lives.

I feel his hard length rise against mine, cocks rubbing together but unconfined. Bright, random bursts of pleasure in a greater joy of hand and lip and tongue. Ready for him, I wrap my legs around his waist and pull him in. His gasp and mine, swallowed by kisses as the velvet heat spreads with me. He reaches for my cock, pressing the aching length against his belly to share every drawn-out thrust. I free one hand to travel the flexing length of his back and settle deep between the twitching globes of his ass. With one long finger I circle, then enter him, matching my stroke to his, echoing the deeper penetration with my own.

No control is perfect. I feel him stiffen, his balls tensing against my cheeks, and as he spills within me I feel my own pleasure come in rolling waves to spray between us.

I roll back, limp but happy. Later one of us will rise for a washcloth. For now, the world is perfect here in his arms.

End Chapter Nine

KKR - 2003

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