Title: En Haut
Author: Betty
Recipient: K (cliokat@obsessivetendencies.net) lj: smartlikejustin
Featured character: Lady Shiva
Summary: "If your life has become a burden to you, look to someone else to relieve you of it. My art is not fit for such as you."

She approves of luxury, but despises these soft creatures who think they've earned it by their wit, incapable of seeing that everything they have has been given to them. At the top of the tower, a servant waits, with a book, proud of his subordination to the wealth of this city.

"If madame will tell me her name so that I may find her reservation?" He lacks the intelligence of a sheep, which knows when it is faced by its natural enemy, and returns her level gaze with a sneer.

"If your life has become a burden to you, look to someone else to relieve you of it. My art is not fit for such as you."

"I beg your pardon?"

Shiva is about to tell him that it would have been wise to do so earlier, when she hears a familiar voice, and a half forgotten name.

"Sandra! Unforgivable of me to have kept you waiting, I know."

The expression of Maitre d' goes from condescension to obsequiousness. "Mr. Wayne! Welcome to the En Haut." Then he turns his fawning face back to her. "Sorry for the confusion, Madame, if I had understood you were with Mr. Wayne, of course-"

The Batman interrupts him. "Listen, I've been dodging your city's press all day. If someone from The Planet shows up, I'm not here, all right?"

"Mr. Wayne, the En Haut is scrupulous with the privacy of–"

The Batman interrupts him again. "Good man," and presses a bill into his hand. Shiva derives some amusement from watching the man's outraged honour struggle with his natural tendency to show his belly. Of course, cowardice wins, and he pockets the money.

"Shall we?" says the Batman, sweeping his arm to indicate the field of linen draped tables. Very well, she will. The presence of the Batman will not keep her from her quarry, and perhaps something interesting will happen.

Another peon comes and offers them their choice of tables. The restaurant is fairly empty, in the lull after lunch, and she chooses a table with a view of the city and the door. The Batman lets her choose her seat first, and she chooses the view of the door, so that his back is to it. "What a charming view," he says, when he sits across from her. The peon holding her chair sets down menus, and departs.

He lays down his mask then. "What brings you to Metropolis, Shiva?"

She picks up the dull silver knife on the table, and tests its weight. How should she answer this? It is tempting to lie: tell him that she plans to kill the President. But she has tried many times to awaken him, and that will not be sufficient. He would use his crippled art to curb her, and she would let him live, in the hope that one day he will be worthy of her. Once an amusing way to pass time, but it has grown tedious.

But perhaps... "I have heard that your little bird was killed in your own city. I had a certain fondness for that bird. If you allow it, I will make a present to you of the death of the one who killed him." She smiles. "You must be tired of losing them. I understand this is the second one you have lost."

Oh she has him now, she is certain. She can see a terrible joy blooming inside him like some poisonous flower. His eyes are lit, and this is the man she would like to kill or be killed by. But no. Even as she watches she can see him viciously uproot that flower and salt the ground it was sown in. It is like watching life pour out of him.

Why does he choose this? To live only half alive would be unbearable for her.

He is clenching one hand on the edge of the table, and he makes no effort to hide it. "A ...kind offer, Shiva, but you are mistaken."

"I had not thought it possible that a man could lie to me while in such pain. Yet you say I am mistaken?"

With his back to the door, the Batman cannot see the prostitute approaching, but her idiot heels are all the warning anyone with ears would need. The Batman has his mask back on before she is half-way across the room.

"Brucie! How wonderful to see you in Metropolis!"

"Sharon!" the Batman mocks her, standing and taking her hand to kiss it.

"Sher," the whore corrects him. "But why didn't I know you were here? We would have invited you to our soiree tonight!"

"I'm here on business. It's duller than you could imagine, but my board of directors insist I be present for the signing."

The whore tries to look as if she cares. "But who is your lovely companion? Have I met her?"

"Ah... Sharon, this is Sandra."

Shiva shows her teeth in the woman's direction.

"A pleasure to meet you, Sandra. I do hope we'll be seeing you quite often. Sadly, I never seem to get to know Bruce's friends."

"Unfortunate. Closer knowledge of 'Bruce's' friends would be beneficial," she idly opines. The slut is stupid, but not too dim to be aware she is being warned.

"Why, Bruce, what a charming girl. You simply must bring her to our soiree tonight. Everyone will be eager to meet her before she disappears, as your girls seem to do."

The woman is moving into Shiva's space, so close that she could kill her with the folded linen napkin without standing up. She has to remind herself that it would not suit her purpose at all, although perhaps– But no. The Batman moves to block her even as the thought forms, standing between them.

"Oh, I whisk them away to my harem. There's no mystery. Are you here with Max?"

"I'm supposed to be meeting him here, but the silly creature is always late."

"I can't complain," lies the Batman, "but isn't that him now?"

The whore doesn't look very pleased. "Why, so it is. Let me bring him over here to meet you... Sandy, was it?"

The Batman quickly turns her around with a hand on her elbow. "Now, Sher, are you quite determined to have Max charm Sandra away from me? You know I'm smitten with her. Do me a favour, and keep him too distracted to give me competition."

The woman gives a pout that she doubtless believes is attractive. "Oh, I see how it is, no time for your old friends now."

"Well, I'll be seeing you at your soiree tonight, won't I?"

The cow looks pleased. "I hope we'll see Sandy there, too."

"Doubtless," responds the Batman, with his mask slipping a little.

The whore seems a little uncertain, "Well, I'll leave you two lovebirds alone then. See you tonight!"

The Batman watches her totter off, and when she's out of earshot, sits down. "Now, you were about to tell me what you're doing in this city."

"I think you were about to tell me how it was possible that I had been lied to." Shiva watches the whore tittering and gesturing with her companion. Really, does the Batman honestly see a need to prevent the death of even such as those?

"If we're exchanging information, certainly."

"Very well."

"Your informant was misinformed. The boy you knew is well. He had heard of the death of another who was using the same name." That is certainly an interesting reaction. The Batman's face is under control, but the rest of his body is pain. It's fascinating.

"With your blessing?"

Very tightly. "Yes."

She shivers, and prods for more. "To lose someone who you were... teaching... is unfortunate."

"Yes." But he's controlling himself now.

"Perhaps you were mistaken in giving your blessing."

"Yes."

No, there's nothing left there. A shame. "I am in this city searching for information."

"Not a death?"

"I cannot say where the information will lead me."

"In that case, I'm curious to know what could hold your attention"

When the waiter comes to take their order, she contemplates this. The Batman orders Canard sauvage au dix épices, and she orders Suprême de Géline du pays de Racan cuit sur l'os. The Batman allows the waiter to recommend the wine, but asks for tonic and two tylenol for himself, and then the waiter leaves.

By then she has decided. "You are perhaps aware that I once fought at Richard Dragon's side."

"Yes."

"A brilliant fighter. I came to know him through the death of my sister."

"Carolyn. I understand she was killed by a someone calling himself "the Swiss," actually a Belgian working for the weapons dealer Guano Cravat."

"Yes. I see that you are informed." She pauses. She doesn't believe in wasting time on regret, or grief, but the past is sometimes... difficult. "I had done some... work for Cravat in the past, so I believed he knew me too well to betray me. I was wrong." She gives the Batman a smile like a knife. "I was young."

"He informed you that your sister's death was at the hand of Dragon, and offered to help you with your revenge. When you met Dragon, you discovered you were being used."

"I did not enjoy that. I had an opportunity to kill Cravat, but circumstances intervened."

"Dragon?"

"Circumstances." She idly looks at her reflection in the glass of water. "I later looked to remedy my lapse, but discovered that Cravat had died. I was disappointed. However, I have recently learned that Cravat may yet be alive. I had hoped to meet a certain person who had information about business dealings with a weapons contractor, who I suspect to be Cravat."

The Batman leans back in his chair, teasing her with his exposed throat. He is trying to decide if he should tell her something he believes she does not know. She waits patiently.

"If... you are willing to settle the matter using my methods, I have some information that would be useful to you."

"And if not?"

The Batman shrugs infinitesimally. "This isn't my city."

A waiter returns, and Shiva only realizes that something is amiss when Batman replaces his mask and simpers at her.

"Lois, what a charming outfit! I didn't realize you were a sommelier."

The waiter is snarling in a most unprofessional manner, and she is gripping the towel that ought to be slung over her arm as if she plans to use it to garrote the Batman. He looks unconcerned.

"You prep school son-of-a-bitch. I spent months waiting for this interview, and you decide at the last minute to cancel, because you have a date?"

The Batman looks blank. "Cancel? Lois, I haven't cancelled. I've been waiting here for twenty minutes. But don't worry about me, I've been talking with Sandra. Sandra, this is-"

"Lois-Lane-Daily-Planet-Bruce don't try that on me. The Maitre D' wouldn't let me in. I had to ransack an employee locker to get in here, and I'm going to have your reactions on the change of leadership at Wayne Enterprises if I have to conduct this interview at knife point."

Lois Lane's voice climbs rather sharply on her last words, but the Batman seems completely unconcerned by her threat. Which is only the reaction of a sane man. Her posture is wrong, and it is impossible that she could land more than one blow, or that that blow would be lethal.

"Leadership change?" says the Batman, in a way that makes even her, who knows it's the mask talking, want to smack him. His eyes go wide at something behind her, and though Shiva knows that anything that could provoke a reaction from him is urgent, she has only begun to slew herself around in her chair to look behind her back when the Batman is already launching himself horizontally across the room, catching Lois Lane around the waist and pulling her with him, almost to the far wall.

The Batman's reaction having already told her all she needs to know about what's coming, Shiva has abandoned the attempt to look behind her, and launches herself after him.

At that moment, the panorama window crunches into shards. Shiva rolls, catches herself on her knee, and looks to see what has caused the interruption of her lunch. As she turns, a bright tumbling mass flies through the window and across the room to slam against the granite pillar ornamenting the entrance to the bistro.

She comes to her feet, noticing the Batman doing the same in the corner of her vision. The thing that came through the window separates itself into Superman, and an outsized insect, which reminds her a little bit of the Preying Mantis.

"Everyone evacuate please!" says Superman.

"Wow, Superman!" says the Batman.

Shiva looks for a vantage point from which to watch.

"After you take care of the bug, Superman, can you autograph the flatware for me?" asks the Batman.

"Miss Lane, will you escort your guest to safety?" Superman doesn't break his concentration on the insect to ask. Which is wise, Shiva notes, as the insect strikes out with its second right leg. The articulation of the creature is strange, so that before it strikes, it looks as if it's withdrawing. Interesting.

"Superman, (Can I call you S-man?) When you're done here, do you want to come to a party I'm going to tonight? You'd be a really big hit." The Batman dodges a chunk of flying masonry sliced out of the wall by the insect.

"You're fucking kidding me," says Lois Lane.

Diners are scattering, and pushing to the edges of the room. Some of the are fleeing through the kitchen, but others have been trapped on the far side, and are cowering in the corner.

The trollop is only just beginning to realize what has happened and is clinging to her dinner companion to who looks rather annoyed, and is trying to tug her towards the relative safety of the margins of the room.

"Ms. Lane," says Superman tersely, and then gets knocked across the room by the insect's tail, bowling through tables and chairs which go flying. The whore and her companion are knocked to one side, sliding across the polished floor before fetching up against the wall. She doesn't look very refined with her tail-bone higher than her head, halfway up the wall.

"Come on!" says Lois Lane, grabbing the Batman's wrist and tugging him after her. "The door's clear now."

"But-"

Another chunk of masonry flies across the room, smashing into the wall a few yards away. Shards fly every which way, and one smacks an evacuating elderly man in the knee. The man cries out and falls.

Lois gives the Batman a shove. "Help him up! Or are those just for show?"

The Batman helps the man to his feet, and pulls one of his arms across his shoulders to support him.

"C'mon! Everybody's going!" And everyone is. With the door clear, individuals and couples are nervously sliding out the door, and running towards the exit. The Batman pretends to struggle under the weight of the man, and follows her out the door.

Shiva walks up to the whore, keeping an eye on Superman and the insect, and bracing herself, hauls the woman's companion who is trying to untangle himself, up by his waistband.

"Sher! Sher, we've got to get out of here.." Superman has managed to get his arms around the creature's tail, and swings him around himself like a slingshot, letting go so that it flies out the window. "Well. I guess there's no rush then." He turns around, straightening his suit and offers her his hand. "Maxwell Rausch." Superman flies out the window after the creature, and Shiva gently reaches out and breaks Maxwell's neck.

The prostitute is too stupid to realize what Shiva's done until Maxwell crumples, his neck at an impossible angle. Shiva steps away from the body, in case this takes too long and he voids himself.

"Max? Max? Oh god." She looks stupidly from Maxwell to Shiva, "Max? Did you– You– That was you!! You killed Max! Oh, my god, you stupid bitch, you killed Max! What did he do to you!? What– " The whore suddenly realizes that it is unwise to antagonise Shiva, and stops bleating.

"He did absolutely nothing to me. I killed him to get your attention. You, on the other hand, have been consorting with the man who killed my sister. I think you should tell me about your company's dealings with Arceh Technologies."

The whore is shaking like a terrified sheep, and stinks of fear, but Shiva waits until she has told her everything she knows before she kills her, and leaves.

It's a good day. She has discovered that the Batman's little bird is well, which pleases her. She has come closer to finding the man behind her sister's murder. She watched Superman fight, which was an education. And she has done a favour for the Batman, who she rather likes. She's certain he didn't want to go to the soiree. On the other hand, she didn't get to try her grouse, but perhaps she'll return to this restaurant next time she's in Metropolis.