The presentation seems to be going the usual way. Sophie is drinking her coffee, leaning back in the chair and watching the screen from under half-closed lids, Eliot is picking at a scab on his forehead and Parker is… well, being Parker, watching the screen like a hawk, or like a kitten that's about to pounce, with Parker you never are really sure.
And then Hardison clicks to the next slide. "Of course, now the company had been bought by the Wayne Enterprises," he says slowly and pointedly, and all the others suddenly sit up, the focus of their attention shifting and narrowing.
"No," Sophie says. Eliot nods once, sharply, and Parker does a rather good impression of one of those boggling-head-dolls, agreeing completely.
"We're not dealing with Wayne Enterprises. We're not," she stresses, and calls up her best nonchalant face, which might have worked, if Nate met her five minutes ago.
It's a party like any other she had attended; pretty girls in short dresses, talking suits, and champagne that appears as if by magic the moment your glass is even close to empty.
The host is pleasantly drunk, even though he had some drinking to do to catch up with his guests, considering his rather late start; Wayne had arrived so fashionably late it was next year's fashion. But by now he probably went through at least three bottles of champagne on his own, and therefore is in the perfect state of mind for this conversation.
"All we need now is one more sponsor and the building is as good as built. And it will be majestic, tall and powerful," she says, smiling. Appealing to the obvious phallic imagery is not below her, mostly because it works nine out of ten times.
"It does sound wonderful, Miss Deveraux," Wayne says and she doesn't blink, her face doesn't change at all, but she rises her eyebrows in a studied surprise.
Wayne's smile doesn't fade, it's guileless and perfectly polite and Sophie thinks damn him, damn him to hell, billionaire playboys are not supposed to do their homework and look her up.
But he seems completely sober now, and that's not what billionaire playboys do either; and they don't confront her calmly and in a composed manner if they ever find out, no, they make a scene. So, why Wayne doesn't?
"If you look there, Miss Deveraux," he starts, taking her arm. "You can see my friend, the commissioner, having an abysmally wretched time of the small talk he's having. I could make his evening so much more interesting, but to be honest, I find his boredom quite amusing and don't mind it continuing."
She can take a hint. She can take a hint if it's almost spelled out for her in a rather condescending manner, too. "Mr. Wayne," she says politely, stepping away.
"Good day, Miss Deveraux."
"He knew me. I have no idea how, the con was going perfectly, and just when I was about to close the deal…" she falls silent under Nate's curious gaze. "Nevermind."
"Who knew you?"
"No one. It wasn't me, anyway. And it wasn't in Gotham, I've never been there."
"Well I was," Eliot mutters. "Once. And I'm never going there again. This town is fucking scary."
Nate blinks. Hardison points his thumb at Eliot. "If he thinks it's scary…"
It's true that dark alleys often contain something, or someone, dangerous.
Usually that someone is Eliot, so he doesn't complain.
But in Gotham… Two hours after his arrival he walks into a dark alley, not even looking for trouble all that much, just taking a shortcut to the trouble he knew was waiting for him in the docks, because he made an appointment with it.
So, he steps into a dark alley, and there's a giant bat beating up some thug and demanding information.
I mean, really, you hear stories…
The worst part, though, the worst part is the way the bat spins on his heel, the way his fist waits before striking. It's precise, it's efficient, it's fucking familiar.
Eliot turns on his heel and walks away.
"That's it? That's your scary story? Two guys fighting, one of them in a Halloween costume?"
Nate, it seems, is not impressed. Eliot gives him a look, absently picking at the gash on his forehead. "One, it was the goddamn Batman. And two, I know that style."
"You picked up the style from the way he turned?" Hardison inquires, even though he probably should know better by now.
"It's a very distinctive style," Eliot mutters irritably. He doesn't say: I was in Tibet once. He doesn't say: there were those fucking ninjas. He doesn't say: I've met a guy once who could crush someone's skull with his two fingers, and then I saw his picture in the paper and it was one of the richest men in the world. He doesn't say any of that. "I'm not going to Gotham."
Parker nods. "And it's Wayne Enterprises. I met Bruce Wayne once, he's creepy."
Hardison's eyes grow really, really wide. He points his thumb at Parker, looking at Nate in fascination. "And if she thinks…"
"I get it, Hardison," Nate mutters.
The perimeter detectors had been easy to get around. The window alarm was a little bit tricky, but doable. Motion detectors, nothing new. Pressure sensors, easy. She doesn't make a sound, she knows that. She's effortless and efficient and effing fantastic, so there.
"Some cat burglars have the decency to call before they drop in," he says and she almost drops the painting she's been removing from the wall.
"Well, not call, as such. More like, vaguely threaten me at parties. Or maybe just dropping vague double entendres, I'm not that sure."
"What?" she repeats. Yes, he's still standing there, talking, looking at her with a complete lack of surprise. Probably called the cops by now and is trying to stall for time, but she's smarter than that.
How the hell did he walk right up to her without her hearing? Those shiny shoes he has don't look stealthy at all!
"Oh, where are my manners," he says, extending his hand. "Bruce Wayne," he waits a moment and they both look down at the painting she'd holding, as she's still suspended half a meter above the floor. "Nevermind."
"I'll be going now," she says slowly and he nods.
"It was nice meeting you. Feel free to keep the painting, it's rather lovely. Not the best representation of that period, but I like the colours."
The painting is black on black, with some gray thrown in, and she doesn't really know what is it supposed to portray, except that it slightly looks like something with wings. She couldn't care less, but it's worth two million, so she loves it.
She also drops it like a hot potato, just for Wayne to catch it easily. "Miss," he nods at her as she ascends as fast as the line allows her.
"So, okay, he's stealthy ninja quiet and has a weird taste in art. So what?" Hardison asks and gets a pointed look from Parker, who leans in and speaks in a voice that's even creepier than usual.
"Two days later, the painting was waiting for me in my apartment! He knew where I lived!"
"What did you do?" Sophie asks eagerly.
"What do you think? Moved! To Cuba."
"Wasn't that a little, I don't know, extreme?" Nate asks, getting looks from the three of them. "Fine, I'll grant you that Bruce Wayne seems rather… strange…"
"Eccentric," Nate insists. "But…" he pauses and looks at Harrison. "You didn't have a run-in with Wayne, why are you against Gotham?
"You kidding? That's Oracle territory. You don't go into her territory without getting her permission."
"So? Get the permission, whoever or whatever she is."
"Get the- Get the permission? Listen to yourself. You don't ask for permission, you sit down, shut up, and worship. She's a legend."
Nate shakes his head and doesn't ask.
"Fine. You all duck and cover, I'm going to check this out myself."
They just look at him silently for a very long moment.
"Sweet, anyone for a game of D&D?"
"I'm not playing anything with you," Eliot mutters and they're off, arguing.
Nate looks through the files himself. How hard can that be?
Nate walks into the office three days later, staring darkly into his coffee cup.
"Hey, Nate. How was Gotham?" Sophie asks, and he gives her his best blank look.
"How was what? I have no idea what you're talking about."
She doesn't even laugh that much.
The other three do it for her.