by Immortalwildcat, Dan Swanson, Philip-Todd Franklin, Starsky Hutch 76 and Bejammin2000
Morning sunshine spilled through a skylight and across a silk-sheeted waterbed, where a woman lay sprawled in a tangle of sheets. The woman’s long black hair lay across the pillow, obscuring her face. Hearing faint sounds from elsewhere in the townhouse, she stirred.
“Sonia, who are you talking to? I told you not to bother Bat until he wakes up.”
“I’m not bothering Bat. I’m talking with my new friend,” came the response from down the hall.”
This got a reaction from the dark-haired woman. In one fluid motion, she was up and out of bed, wrapping a robe around her slender body as she hurried to the door with a grace that made her rush look like a relaxed stroll.
“What friend? I know the alarms were set. There’s no way anybody could have gotten in.” Helena Wayne stopped in the doorway to her foster daughter’s room. The twelve-year-old Sonia Alcana was seated cross-legged on her bed as her visitor floated over her desk. “Dear God in Heaven, what are you doing here?” asked Helena.
“Why, I just got wind of the good news, Hel, and popped in to offer my assistance!” replied the diminutive man dressed in gray pyjamas with an ill-fitting cape and cowl.
“Your assistance? With what?”
“Why, with Robin’s wedding, of course!” replied Bat-Mite.
Helena was incredibly dismayed, but she had long learned to hide her reactions from Bat-Mite. His feelings were sometimes easily hurt, and even though he was never malicious, he had so much power that he sometimes could do tremendous damage accidentally.
“Mite, it is really great to see you!” She didn’t have to pretend to be enthusiastic; she really did like the little fellow. But knowing that he was here to help was a little scary. She had seen some of his helpful plans go awry. She doubted that she could get him to go away, now that he was here, but maybe she could do some proactive damage control. “I see you’ve already met Sonia. Thanks for being so quiet while I slept. How would you like some breakfast? I remember how much you like my pancakes.”
Sonia had had prior experience with Helena’s pancakes as well, and if Bat-Mite really liked them, well, he was pretty weird. Of course, he looked weird and dressed weird and floated in the air, so she guessed it wasn’t that surprising that he might actually like Helena’s cooking. But she wasn’t interested. “I think I’ll stay here and watch TV.” Helena was relieved — it was what she had been hoping for. She wanted to talk to the imp alone.
“Yum! I’ll help!” he said, disappearing with a pop. When Helena reached the kitchen, he popped back in and handed her a bag. “My favorite toppings: chopped carrots and onions! Make sure you use a lot of garlic! That’s my all-time fav-o-rite!” Helena shuddered, but if Bat-Mite was occupied with eating, he ought to be safe, at least for a while.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot!” he yipped and popped out again. Seconds later, he was back with a poof! He had a bottle in hand. “Pure maple syrup from my favorite farm in New Hampshire! I left them a golden nugget as payment, like this one.” He waved his hand, and a piece of gold the size of his fist (about as large as a horse chestnut) popped into existence on the table. “Do you think that’s enough?”
“I’m sure it is, Mite, I’m sure it is,” she responded bemusedly. And she set to work. Within minutes, the batter was mixed and the cakes were frying on the griddle. Bat-Mite wanted to help, but Helena firmly reminded him that she was the cook, and if he wanted Helena-cakes he could just wait.
And soon enough, she plopped a plate of pancakes, topped with carrot slices and caramelized onions, down on the table. He floated over to his place, poured on a bunch of maple syrup, and dug in. “Mmmm, good!”
Meanwhile, Bat Lash wandered in from the living room, drawn by the smell of the pancakes. He stopped in astonishment at the meal on the table, which was rapidly disappearing. But he couldn’t see Bat-Mite. Before he could say anything, Bat-Mite spoke up, but Bat Lash couldn’t hear him. Bat Lash was astonished to hear Helena talking to empty air.
“Hey, Hel, who’s this wimp? Are you guys shacked up?” Mite’s squeaky voice said, showing disapproval.
“It’s none of your business, but we are not shacked up!”
Bat Lash’s expression showed sadness at how firmly Helena said that; he thought he had been making some headway. “Who are you talking to, ‘Lena?” he asked.
“Lena? He calls you Lena? What is he, your husband? I hope not! I’ll turn him into a toad! Not that it would be much of a change — he’s kind of a toad anyway, isn’t he?” Bat-Mite obviously rather had a crush on Helena himself.
“No, he’s not my husband, and if you turn him into a toad, I’ll turn you into dog food!”
Bat Lash didn’t know whether he should be alarmed or pleased, because Helena seemed to be defending him now. But from whom? “Lena, what’s going on? Who are you talking to?”
“Bat-Mite, you show yourself right now, or I won’t talk to you for a week!”
Suddenly, Bat Lash’s eyes got big, as he now saw a very big, mean-looking guy in a Batman outfit sitting at the table. Of course, Helena wasn’t seeing the same thing Bat Lash was. Bat quickly donned his Maverick persona; it looked like there might be a showdown, and Mav was better suited for it than Bat Lash was. “Bat Lash, meet Bat-Mite.”
“Pleased to meet ya, partner!” Maverick said, sticking out his hand. Helena saw Bat-Mite float up and shake it.
“Nice name, Bat!” said Bat-Mite. “Are you a cowboy?”
“Thanks, Bat! Nope, I’m a Riverboat gambler,” said Mav with a grin. “And how ’bout y’all? A prizefighter? Nice outfit, by the way! Batman fan?”
Bat-Mite was a little nervous. He didn’t want Helena to know about the deception he was practicing on Bat Lash, and the more Lash talked about him, the more he might give away. “I was a good friend of Batman’s for a long time before his death. And Robin, too, of course.” Even Maverick could hear the pain in his squeaky voice as he talked about Batman. “You might say I’m a magician.”
Mav had already figured this out. But he had been hanging around with Helena long enough that he wasn’t surprised by her odd acquaintances.
“Say, Helena, those pancakes look pretty good. Got any more?”
Helena shuddered and handed him a plate. He loaded up on the carrots and onions and poured on a generous helping of syrup — then he started eating with as much relish as Bat-Mite had shown. Helena looked at him like he was crazy, but Bat-Mite had a big smile.
Mav noticed the gold nugget sitting on the table. “Hey, where’d that come from?”
“That’s mine,” said Bat-Mite, reaching out and picking it up.
“So, Bat-Mite, ever play any poker?”
Helena shook her head. If these two ever got to be friends, she could see global disaster looming. Bat-Mite shook his head, and Mav reached into his pocket and pulled out a deck of cards. He never could resist the lure of a gold nugget.
Within a couple of days of arriving, Winforth had been able to contact a large cleaning crew and had the old manor house cleaned from top to bottom and restocked for their stay in Gotham City for however long his mistress Melody Jones desired it.
The whole time the cleaning took place, Melody had stayed locked up within her dad’s study, the only room in the whole house she refused to let anyone but Winforth enter. She’d quickly had him remove a long couch from the room and replace it with a table, which she had covered with many different beakers and chemical compounds. To one side she had placed all the notes that her late father had given her in Egypt only moments before she’d had Winforth kill him. A small smile crossed her face as she remembered the shocked look upon his face as her father died.
“That was the most fulfilling thing I have ever done before,” the red-headed woman had once said about the incident.
After all the cleaning was done, Winforth slowly approached the study and — waiting until the count of four — knocked upon the wooden door before speaking out. “Madam, the cleaners and other staff have been sent away. Shall I enter now?” He waited silently for her to reply.
Melody continued to look over the many notes for a few more seconds, nearly understanding what her father had described about the second of four different potions he had located while on an archeology dig in Egypt. After a moment she replied, “Yes, please enter, Winforth. I have other things still for you to perform.” She smiled at the wonders and many riches that stood before her within the notes upon the table.
Slowly Winforth opened the door and entered the study and just as slowly made his way over to stand beside Melody. “Have you had any luck, madam?” he asked of the work she was doing.
They had both already long ago been rewarded from the first of four potions that her father had discovered. It was an anti-aging compound, and though it could make a person young once again and for a time stop the aging process, it alone could not stop it completely.
Softly Melody nodded as she turned to look at her butler, her smile never leaving her face. “Yes, Winforth, I do believe I have. It would seem that this next potion requires the dust of diamonds in a quality that we do not presently have.” Slipping her arms behind her back, she clasped one hand into the other and began to slowly pace the room.
Winforth stood his place silently letting his mistress speak her mind as she always did — in motion and with great drama when excited.
“It would seem that we shall require the use of strong, fit bodies with weak minds, and if memory serves me, Winforth, I do believe you at one time were an associate of some of Gotham’s… shall we say less-than-shining citizens.”
Winforth remembered how in his youth he had fallen in with the wrong crowd of boys, and before he had graduated high school, he had already made his way into the employment of one of Gotham’s most dangerous people alive — the Joker.
“Contact for me some of those whom you once worked with, or failing that, Winforth, the new elements working the underground of Gotham.” Still smiling she continued, “Have them here in a few days, and soon we shall be as hard as diamonds.” As she finished, laughter began to escape her tightly closed lips.
Richard Grayson held the crystal up into the light, studying it. An odd little man who claimed to be a servant of the wizard Merlin himself had recently dropped the jewels off as a wedding gift in gratitude for aid rendered decades ago by Batman and Robin. Since then, the detective in him had been dying to give the gems some serious analysis to find out what they were capable of. Unfortunately, all the preparations for the wedding, not to mention his other duties, were leaving him without the sort of time that they deserved.
“Good Lord,” he suddenly heard Alfred say.
“Is something wrong?” he asked, turning to his butler.
“Forgive me, sir,” Alfred said, composing himself. “Your… cosmetic change simply caught me off guard.”
“Your hair, sir. A bit of the old Grecian Formula before the big day?” Alfred asked, smiling. “I would do the same if I had any hair for such a thing.” He brought his hand up to his balding dome.
“Alfred, what are you–?” He stopped as he saw his reflection in the mirror and let the jewel drop back into the box. His hand went up to the side of his head. The laugh lines around his eyes were still there, but the gray that had begun to appear around his ears in the last few years had definitely vanished.
He let out a sad sigh. Unlike his fellow JSAers, he had actually liked his gray hairs. They had helped him blend in better with the team that had taken far too long to accept him as a peer and equal.
It wasn’t a drastic rejuvenation such as the one that had happened to Ted Grant. In that case, Ted had been able to pass off his youthful looks as the result of years of necessary reconstructive surgery due to injuries sustained throughout his career in boxing.
Dick Grayson, on the other hand, got cracks like, “He’s the Dick Clark of Gotham,” or worse, he was compared to aging pretty-boys like George Hamilton. He was sure that the gossip columns would have a field day with this latest apparent example of his vanity, especially in light of the much-younger woman he was marrying.
This was just a minor aggravation, but he knew it was only a drop in the bucket compared to what the crystals were probably capable of. He slapped the lid back down on the box and turned to Alfred. “Tell Jason if he should choose to study these crystals, he is to do it wearing gloves. I don’t need a partner who wears diapers.” With that, he turned in the direction of the entrance to the Batcave still grumbling to himself.
“I dunno, Bat. This feels really… off,” Sonia complained for what seemed the fifth time today about what was… Well, Bat Lash decided to take the initiative and give her a charm school crash course, emphasis on the crash. She just could’t balance that book on her head. And to make matters worse…
“Come on, if I can do it, I’m sure that you can do it.” The gentleman con had a large book balanced on his head, and his hands were on his hips as he stepped lightly and curtsied every now and then, giving off instructions while he did so. It was at that moment, though, that trouble reared its head.
It was a hard day for Helena Wayne. She was swamped with work and just tired. And having to take care of Sonia, putting up with Bat’s romantic interests (not that she minded them), Bat-Mite’s so-called help, and the anxiety over the wedding wasn’t making it any easier. All she wanted when she got home was a hot bath. So she entered the door.
There was an awkward moment of silence that followed Helena’s opening of the door as she took in the sight of Bat balancing a book on his head while curtsying. “It’s been a very long day, so I’m not even going to ask,” Helena said, walking right past Bat and Sonia.
Sonia looked at Bat and had a large grin on her face. “Ooh, you’re in trouble.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
At this point, Bat blew a raspberry at Sonia.
“You got that suit on yet?” Bluestreak asked Stretch O’Brien impatiently as he sat on the living room couch next to Maggie O’Brien.
“Hold yer water!” Stretch said. “Just gotta get these boots on. How the heck you guys all manage to make quick changes is beyond me. Spandex just seems to want to bunch and gather in all the wrong places.”
“I’m sure you look scrumptious, sugar doodle,” Maggie said naughtily.
“Heh-heh! I saw some costumes at the store I might want to try out later on you, too,” he responded.
“You two aren’t about to start all that cutesy stuff again, are you?” Bluestreak said. “My system can only take so much sugar.” Maggie gave him a playful shove that made him grin despite himself.
“OK, ready,” Stretch said, leaping out into the living room.
“Bluestreak’s jaw dropped. “What the hell?”
Stretch was clad from head to toe in green: a green bodysuit, green boots, and a green full-headed alligator mask. “I thought I’d call myself the Elong-gator.”
“I think it’s adorable,” Maggie said.
“You’ve been watching too much Captain Carrot!” Bluestreak exclaimed. “I can’t be seen with a guy in a crocodile suit! I’ve got my rep to think of!”
“Alligator. And about your rep,” Stretch said, taking off his mask. “If I’m seen with Bluestreak, people are gonna immediately put two and two together and know it’s me. So you need another suit, too.”
“Wha–?!” Bluestreak exclaimed.
Maggie grabbed the shopping bag that had been sitting by the couch and pulled out another full-headed mask and held it up.
“I thought we could call you Jack Rabbit,” Stretch said, smiling mischievously.
“Dude, ain’t no way I’m wearing a bunny suit!” Bluestreak exclaimed in horror.
“No, really, you don’t need to do anything.”
“I know that. But I want to do something for them. After all, this will be one of the biggest days of his life, and I want to help make it special, you know?”
“I know, but if anything went wrong…” The sentence lay unfinished between them.
“Wrong? What could possibly go wrong?”
Helena Wayne did not respond, other than with a look at the diminutive figure sitting across from her in her kitchen. The look spoke volumes.
“OK, OK, I admit it. Sometimes my help goes a little bit wrong.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault! I can’t help it if I never got past the second lunish cycle at the magic academy!”
“And why was that?”
“Oh, something about if I couldn’t get through the cycle on my third attempt, they weren’t going to try anymore. So you see, it was the academy that gave up, so it wasn’t my fault.”
“And how many of these lunish cycles does it normally take for someone to finish at the magic academy?”
“So, did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t be doing magic?” For the first time in her conversation with Bat-Mite, Helena’s voice rose above its customary mild tone.
“Aw, gee, Hel, how’s an imp supposed to have fun if he can’t do magic?” Bat-Mite floated above his chair, reclining on something only he could sense. “And more to the point, how am I supposed to give Dick and Karen a wedding present without using magic? It’s not like the stores here will accept my Dimensional Express card.”
Helena sighed as she started trying to think of harmless ideas for Bat-Mite. At least, she hoped they would be harmless.