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Gotham's Dead End Bar

Step 1: Be a serial reincarnator. Step 2: End up in Gotham with Death of the Endless. Step 3: Open a neutral-ground bar for heroes and villains. Step 4: ??? Step 5: Profit. Don't go into this story expecting something serious or (grim)dark. This isn't that kind of story and that's not what I'm trying to do here. This is a story about a bartender telling crazy stories about his time in the multiverse to the villains and heroes of DC. It's practically crack, about two steps removed from a fix-it fic. There is a plot (eventually, the beginning chapters are pretty slice-of-life heavy) but it's never going to be some grand tale of tragedy. In the same lane, don't expect the same Batman/Bat Family that you might be used to. No paranoiax10, dark, and gritty 'Batman can't be/have fun!' Batman. My Batman is more in line with the 'Batdad' concept or the animated series Batman. Also, this is kind of an AU. Not in any major way but some of the story might not match up perfectly with the DC canon continuity. I'm going for a static DC universe. So characters and their backstories are set but I'll be avoiding the major plot points of the comics (Dark Multiverse, Infinite Frontier, etc.) Pat reon.com/dryskies_btb for early chapters. 370k words are already available there.

Daddy · Anime & Comics
Not enough ratings
66 Chs

23: Excalibur

The staring match of the century took place in the Dead End — Bat Mom vs. The Flash. The kids were just thankful for the respite from their familial embarrassment via group hugs. Well, except for Damian. He was a good kid and seemed to genuinely enjoy the show of affection from his mother.

Alice was just as glad for the interruption as Barbara and Jason were though. Harley and I had to break the hug as we descended into near-hysterical laughter at the situation. Didi's laughter was more subdued but she seemed to be enjoying the ridiculous situation as much as me and Harley.

Talia's glare could have scorched steel. Even as the fastest man alive, Flash wasn't spared at all. He shifted awkwardly on his feet but he couldn't look away for long. There was just something about Bat Mom that demanded attention.

Maybe it was her piercing brown eyes — so dark that they were intimidating. So far, I'd seen them quite warm despite their darkness. Like dark chocolate with a hint of coffee and sea salt. Now, they looked like darkly stained wood. Specifically, darkly stained wood that was used in some kind of instrument of war.

The Daughter of the Demon certainly lived up to her name. I'm sure she was a formidable weapon in her own right. But her character was deeper than just that. As shown by how motherly she could be with those she considered her children. She didn't seem to show it in the most traditional way but Talia genuinely loved the Bat Kids. And for Flash to interrupt one of the few times when she was openly showing that affection was a recipe for disaster.

Oh, I doubt she could actually touch Flash. And I was sure he knew that too. But the threat alone was enough to make him uncomfortable. It wasn't about causing real harm, it was about making her displeasure known.

"Uh, Talia…?" Flash said slowly, raising his hands in a placating gesture. "I'm sure this is just a big misunderstanding. I didn't mean to interrupt anything. Promise."

Her eyes narrowed even more than they already were, her glare cutting even deeper, "I'm sure you didn't, Sultan of Speed. It would be unwise to make an enemy out of me."

"Not least because I just know Bruce would give me THAT look…" He chuckled nervously to himself.

Talia smirked at that, "Indeed. Now, will you apologize for ruining the rare moment I was enjoying with my children?"

Flash nodded so fast his head blurred, "Oh, God, yes! I'm sorry, Talia. I was just excited about finding the door and I moved faster than I realized. I'll, uh, be more careful in the future."

Satisfied, Talia allowed a small smile onto her face, "Very good, Barry. I suppose I shall allow this interruption to slide. Now, for more important things… How is Iris?"

"She's well," Flash chuckled. "It still kind of weirds me out that the wives all know each other."

"We all share something in common," Talia deadpanned. "Troublesome loved ones."

Flash paused, "… Yeah, it's hard to argue with that one."

By now, Harley and I had basically regained control of ourselves. The tail end of Talia and Flash's exchange made Harley burst back out into frantic laughter.

"W-Wait-! Hahahaha~! You're telling me the Justice League has a Wives' Club~?" She finally managed to get out words between her gales of giggles.

Flash joined her in laughter, "I know, right? It seems surreal but it even includes some of the more villainous love interests like Talia and Catwoman."

"Oh, man, that's rich~!" Harley exclaimed, clutching her sides. "What a mental picture~! Miss Superman, Miss Flash, Miss Bat, and Bat Mom having glasses of wine while the hubbies are off fighting crime~!"

"It's a healthy coping mechanism," Talia explained matter-of-factly. "It allows us loved ones to share our worries and seek support from each other while our idiots are off doing necessary but worrying things. Finding someone else who understands the troubles of being a superwife is certainly rather rare."

"That does sound quite nice," Didi considered. "Even if my Sean doesn't tend to go off saving the world, I think I would enjoy those meetings."

"You're more than free to join us next time, Lady Death. I don't think the others will mind but I'll ask just in case," Talia offered.

Didi smiled softly, "Thank you, Talia. And call me Didi."

"If you insist…" Talia said it remarkably calmly but I suspected she was rather pleased by the invitation of familiarity.

Didi turned her smile to me in a question and I shrugged, "You're right in saying I have no plans for saving the world. I've had more than enough of that sort of quest. But I don't see why my lack of heroic ambitions should stop you from a bit of girl time."

Flash blurred into a seat at the bar, "So it's true?"

I nodded, "All of it. Except for the stuff that isn't. That stuff is obviously completely false… What are you talking about again?"

He laughed at my bit, "Well, I just came from a meeting with some of the Justice League about you and this bar. Batman and Zatanna have complied quite the interesting reports."

"Ah," I nodded again, more clearly as he clarified. "Yeah, that's probably all true."

A grin crossed his face, "Even the one about the Crimson Fucker and the Catholic Church?"

I matched the expression, grinning just as widely, "Oh, that one was probably understated, if anything. I don't think it's possible to capture the insanity of that reality with just words, even for me."

By now, a steady stream of customers were coming into the bar. Most of them weren't my regulars yet. And certainly, none were from cities other than Gotham via my expansion efforts. Other than Flash, who seemed to have an unprecedented advantage when it came to searching for the doors I'd hidden.

The mundane Gothamites glanced at us at the bar. But as Gothamites, they were remarkably good at minding their own business. They just placed orders into thin air — as my customers had grown accustomed to — and the causality fuckery of the Dead End took care of serving them.

The few villains who'd come in so far made their way to the bar as per usual. Some of the regular mooks and goons joined them. Their curiosity was more obvious than the other customers but again, they were Gothamites and their business was still firmly minded.

The two exceptions were Riddler and Catwoman. Riddler came over and said a general greeting before settling in next to Klarion. Klarion took the slight interruption as an opportunity to make his proposal to Didi.

"Lady Didi? A moment of your and Miss Alice's time, please? I have an arrangement I wish to talk to you two about."

Catwoman came into the bar and paused when she saw Talia. Even from the front door, the grin that stretched across her lips was plainly visible. She immediately began stalking toward Talia, all swaying hips and a Chesire grin. If she had a tail, I'm sure it would have been raised high in anticipation.

Talia appeared ignorant, not seeming to notice Catwoman's 'hunt' at all. I had doubts as to how true that really was. Doubts that were soon proven correct as Catwoman got into Talia's range. In an instant, a sharp blade was pressed up against Catwoman's throat.

Still, Catwoman's Chesire grin didn't waver an inch and she purred, "Save it for the bedroom, Talia Darling~"

Talia's reply was as firm and as sharp as her knife, "You will not tempt me tonight, lioness."

"Oh, you always say the most delightful things~" Catwoman chuckled throatily.

Damian effectively cut through the tension between — as Harley called them — Bat Mom and Miss Bat, "Selina. Please save your seductions of Mother for a more private setting."

"Of course, my little tomcat. My apologies," Catwoman backed down but the smile she directed at Talia promised more for later. "It's only about half as fun without your father anyway."

"I did not need to know that," Damian said, his tone deadly flat.

Jason's voice was just as dead, "No one did."

"Ugh, seriously…" Barbara grimaced.

Flash watched the exchanges taking place between the Bat Family with amusement, "You know, this place really seems to be my speed."

"High praise coming from you," I joked.

He grinned, "Nice. I think I'll stick around for a while-…"

A crackle came from the earpiece of Flash's signature hood, interrupting him. He winced, "Hold that thought."

I didn't bother straining myself to eavesdrop as he answered the call. It really wasn't any of my business or concern. Maybe the Gotham pragmatism was contagious. His mood switched from casually joking around to decently serious.

"Right, I'm on it," Flash confirmed to whoever he was talking to — likely the person on duty at the Watchtower — before turning to me. "Back in a jiff!"

Like his namesake, he was out the door in a flash. I felt the front door connect to the door I'd put down in Central City as he left. It didn't even have a chance to close before he blurred back into the bar. Only now, he brought a guest with him.

"Cool if I sit on him here?" Flash asked.

I looked at the villain he'd brought with him and shrugged, "Fine with me."

"Hello~!" Harley waved excitedly, not bothering to hold back her giggles.

Captain Cold whipped his head around frantically, "What the fuck, Flash?! This is a bar, not the fuckin' slammer!"

Flash smirked, "I realize that. Guess it's your lucky day, Cold. You can have a few drinks before I take you in. Normally, I'd be sure to ask before taking someone out to a place like this but you started something right in the middle of a conversation I was enjoying."

"I, uh… huh?" Captain Cold's confusion was damn near palpable.

"Welcome to the Dead End, Captain," I greeted. "Something on the rocks for you, I suspect?"

"That, uh… huh?"

Flash sat back down at the bar, pulling Captain Cold into the seat next to him. He slapped him on the back and explained, "This is Mr. Barkeep. Eldritch bartender extraordinaire. He runs a bar in Gotham where heroes and villains can come without having to worry about trouble with each other."

"You took me all the way to Gotham?" Captain Cold asked, still reeling.

Flash just smirked, "Not quite."

"I'm so fucking confused right now," Captain Cold mumbled to himself. "Is that the fucking JOKER in the mirror?!"

"What's left of him, at least," I confirmed. "Just ignore him. Everyone does these days."

"Joker~?" Harley grinned wickedly wide. "More like No-ker~!"

Jason let out a relieved sigh, "God, I don't think I'll ever get used to that. Honestly, this is still better than that bastard deserved."

Talia nodded, "Indeed. The clown's fate was long overdue. I only wish I could have extracted a more… personal punishment for what he did to my Jason. Lady Didi's sentence is fitting but I would have methodically taken the clown apart and made him put himself back together like a puzzle. Over and over again. Until even he could not laugh…"

"God, Bat Mom fucking rocks…" Harley said with stars in her eyes.

"She does have her good points," Jason chuckled.

"Don't I know it~" Catwoman purred.

Damian produced a spray bottle from his utility belt, "Down, Selina. I already warned you once."

"Good, Dāmi," Talia praised her son with obvious pride. "Save your Mother from this feline temptress."

"Gladly, Mother."

He spritzed Catwoman. She hissed at him. Actually hissed. Damian didn't falter. He spritzed her again. She covered her face and laughed.

"I yield! I yield! You win, little lion, you win!"

Damian's reply was utterly dead, played as straight as he possibly could. Which — with Damian — was pretty damn straight, "I am victorious. Surrender your lewd and horny ways, Selina."

Barbara smirked, "Seems like you've got a future as a big cat tamer, Damian."

Jason joined her, "Oh, Dick is going to be so jealous."

"Hmm," Damian hummed thoughtfully. "Because of the circus?"

Jason paused, "… Yes. Because of the circus. No other reason he would be jealous of your proficiency with 'taming' women even at your young age. No reason at all."

Barbara punched him on the arm, "Real smooth, idiot."

The Bat Family seemed lost in their own little world and the rest of us could only watch. Once you got enough of them together in one place, they seemed to reach critical mass. The effects were certainly entertaining to witness though.

Captain Cold was staring with his mouth gaping open, "What. The. Fuck…?"

Flash wasn't much better off. At least he wasn't gaping at them though, "Yeah, this is a bit unusual even for me."

"What… is this place?"

"The Dead End," I answered with a chuckle.

"And the heroes are only half of the show," Riddler added. "Wait until you hear even one of Mr. Barkeep's stories."

Flash perked up at that, "That's actually why I'm here. I heard some pretty unbelievable things from Batman. I just had to come to confirm them for myself."

"… Why do I feel like I'm going to need more than one drink tonight?" Captain Cold asked, partially to himself.

"Because you've always been a smart cookie, Cold," Flash chuckled. "Seriously. Joker? He's just the tip of the iceberg from what Batman's report on this place said."

"But what a tip he is~!" Harley whooped a cackling jeer.

"Are we sure he's safe in there? What if someone like Mirror Master comes along?" Captain Cold looked to me for reassurance.

"I don't think that'll be a problem," I smirked.

"Yeah, if his tech can overpower Death of the Endless, I think we'll have bigger problems on our hands. Namely, existence itself going a bit… fucky," Flash joked.

Captain Cold's face went completely blank, "Who? I'm sorry, I could have sworn you just said something ridiculous and reality-altering."

Smiling, Didi gave him a little wave, "Hello, Leonard. You can call me Didi." She chuckled, "Perhaps I should start wearing that on a little name tag. I feel like I'm saying it enough these days."

"Nice to. Meet you, Didi…" He said robotically.

"Rejoice, mortal!" Alice jumped into the conversation, one hand on her hip and the other held dramatically high. "Lady Death — my mother! — Has taken it upon herself to placate your worries about the fool clown!"

If it was possible for Captain Cold's expression to get any blanker, it did at Alice's theatrical declaration. His mind was either blue-screening or — more appropriately — 'frozen'.

Alice quickly broke down into giggles, losing grip on her performance, "You should see your freaking face~!"

"Don't worry," Klarion reassured Captain Cold. "Others have certainly reacted to that information more poorly. At least she didn't immediately suck out your soul like she did for Faust. Poor stupid Faust…" He shook his head faux-solemnly before perking back up instantly, "And at least you aren't meeting both Didi and her sister at the same time."

Captain Cold reacted in whispered horror, "Death has a sister…?"

"Oh, yes," Klarion nodded. Though it didn't show in his voice, he was obviously enjoying this very much, "Lady Delirium can be a toss of the coin. Either the best or the worst of the Endless. Not like Didi. Didi's consistently second-best, at least. Often first."

Captain Cold slowly turned to Flash, his face as white as snow, "Where? The fuck. Did you? Fucking! Take me, Flash?!"

"Oh, it's not that bad," Flash waved before pausing slightly. "… I think." He chuckled, "Anyway, no need to get your mittens in a twist. You're either dead now or you're dead later, as I understand it. Meeting Didi doesn't change anything."

Didi smiled softly, "That's a good way to put it, yes. I'm in no rush to claim souls or anything of the like. Certainly, not so much that I'd cut a life short myself. I have plenty of time. You'll all join me eventually."

Flash shuddered minutely at her pleasant tone and ominous words but he played it off remarkably well with a smirk, "See? Nothing to worry about."

"Nothing to… Nothing to worry about?!" Captain Cold repeated frantically.

Suddenly, he stilled, seeming to go from denial to anger straight through bargaining and depression at a pace that would make Flash jealous. He settled quite well on acceptance, turning to speak to me with an almost disturbing calmness to his voice.

"Mr. Barkeep? Vodka, please. All of the vodka. And yes, on the rocks. I'd drink it straight from the bottle but I don't want to be rude."

I chuckled at his sudden civility, "Sure thing, bud."

Flash shrugged, "I suppose letting you drink is the least I can do since I'll be taking you in after this."

Captain Cold glared at him, "Damn fucking right. Just try and stop me. I was having a perfectly normal day — just doing some crime and-…"

Klarion and Harley interrupted with a shared grin and perfectly synched joking minds, "And chilling~?"

"Shut up," Captain Cold said without even looking at the Witch-Boy or Jester. "Then after you stop me like usual, you take me to THIS. GODDAMN. IMPOSSIBLE. FUCKING. PLACE!"

"Watch it, Bub," Flash said in amusement more than warning. "I can still drop you off in the drunk tank when I take you in."

"Even that place would make more sense than this fuckin' bar…" Captain Cold grumbled.

"I don't know," I considered casually. "I quite like my impossible bar. Nothing like an impossibly good drink, impossibly good company, and a few impossible stories to make you appreciate the possible things in life."

Riddler raised his glass, "Hear hear! We quite like it as well, even if some of your stories can be a bit worrisome, Sean."

"More like boggle the mind and make me want to tear my hair out when I'm writing up the reports," Barbara deadpanned.

"You wouldn't trade me for the world," I smirked at her.

"No comment," She shot right back, acting unphased despite the slight color that crept up her cheeks.

Talia sighed, "No, my child, not like that. You must declare your love from the rooftops. Make your intentions clear and chase them without shame. That's how I swayed and wore down your father."

"Batman isn't my dad, Talia," Barbara groaned. "I have an actual, blood-related father that I love very much, thank you."

"And?" Talia raised an eyebrow. "What's wrong with having two fathers? One is your work father and the other is your slightly less work-related father."

Damian nodded, "Truly, you are the luckiest among us, Carrot. It's deplorable."

"Hello?! Paralyzed up until recently, here?! Does ANYONE remember that?!" Barbara threw her hands up in exasperation.

Jason patted her shoulder commiseratingly, "It's okay, Babs. No one seems to remember I was dead either."

"Get over yourself. No one likes a braggart," Damian's reply was flat and cutting.

Everyone else at the bar watched the Bat Family's bickering with varied reactions, mostly tinted with amusement. Flash was clutching his sides in laughter. Harley was right there with him. Klarion chuckled with mirth so thick it was palpable. Captain Cold just stared at them with a far-off look in his eyes.

Riddler was perhaps the most amused without losing himself to laughter, "They certainly are a very unique family."

Recovering from his giggle fit, Flash changed the subject, "Speaking-… Heh. Speaking of impossible stories, I'd really like to hear a few of those for myself, Mr. Barkeep."

"Got anything specific in mind?" I asked. "Hell, just name something and I'll probably have a story for it."

Behind his merry mask, Flash's eyes grew calculating. He scanned the wall of trophies behind me. Eventually, he hummed.

"You seem to have quite the collection of swords back there. Any stories for them?"

"Oh, that?" I smirked. "That's just my Excalibur collection."

My simply ridiculous statement brought him up short. He looked like he was moments away from doing a comedic face fault into the bartop. Even the Bat Family stopped their familiar bickering to stare at me.

"Sure," Captain Cold nodded, accepting my claim remarkably well. "Why not? Just perhaps the most legendary sword of all time. Just multiple versions of it. Just a confirmation that the myths and legends of Camelot might just be real. Why not? Why. Not…?"

Ah, perhaps he didn't accept it as well as he appeared to. As he trailed off, he reached blindly for the glass in front of him. Using the Dead End's domain, I shifted space a bit so he didn't make a mess. No one seemed to notice that casual impossibility, at least.

He threw the tumbler back, swallowing it all in a single, unflinching gulp. It seemed to help.

"So walk me through how that's possible, please. I was under the impression that there was only one Excalibur."

I waved my hand so-so, "Kind of. Legends can be silly like that. Even in a given reality, there can be multiple swords with the name. Take this Excalibur, for example."

With a casual wave of my hand, I summoned one of my Excaliburs forward to float above the bartop as if it were held in an invisible weapon stand. Magic and myth poured off the sword like great ocean waves. It was a beautiful blade, simple and artful in its elegance. Nothing about it was particularly fancy or elaborate. It was just a perfectly crafted masterpiece of magical forging. The very essence of a Sword.

Wonder and veneration were thick in the air, radiating from everyone who laid eyes on the sword. Just the sight of it was enough to capture anyone's attention. My audience was nearly struck speechless. Damian found words first, aptly putting the awe into words.

"Want."

Talia wasn't far behind her son, "A masterpiece…"

"It's… beautiful. Masterful. Practically godly. I-I've never… This weapon is perfection. Everything a sword was and is meant to be," Klarion muttered in breathless awe.

"Holy shit…" Alice was physically reeling from the magic of Excalibur. "Just looking at it is a rush."

"This is the real Excalibur?" Flash asked, less affected than those who were sensitive to magic.

"Yes and no," I hummed. "Yes, it is Excalibur. No, it isn't quite real. It's… well, not a copy. That description would be entirely too basic.

"It's an echo. Not diminished from its truth, just… muted. The same goes for all of the trophies I have back there. They're perfect recreations of things I've encountered, owned, or conquered but they don't hold quite the same metaphysical weight as the true versions would in their original reality."

"How does that even-…" Flash began to ask.

Klarion interrupted, rubbing his temples, "Don't. Just… Don't. I'm getting a headache even just thinking about the sheer power, prowess, and impossibility at work here."

"So that's one Excalibur…" Captain Cold said cautiously.

I smirked, "Actually, it's seven."

As I said that, the sword began to split into the seven other swords that made up the True Excalibur, each sword different from the last.

I named them as they appeared, "Excalibur Destruction. Excalibur Mimic. Excalibur Rapidly. Excalibur Nightmare. Excalibur Transparency. Excalibur Blessing. And Excalibur Ruler. This is what I meant when I said multiple swords can bear the name Excalibur at the same time."

The seven Excaliburs floated tip-down over the bar. I'm sure they made for quite an intimidating sight. If anything, the awe in my audience had only increased.

"Anyway, the story behind these Excaliburs isn't very interesting," I shrugged. "They were separated like this for a long time until they were finally reunited by a high school girl who became a Devil after she found out God was dead."

"Cool," Alice grinned wickedly at my short recounting of Xenovia's tale.

"I'm SORRY, WHAT?!?!"

Smirking to myself, I didn't answer the chorus of horrified exclamations, "Moving right along."

"Goddamn it, Sean," Barbara groaned.

"Yeah, that was a bit much even for me," Jason added.

Grinning at their expense, I called forward another Excalibur, this one wrapped in Invisible Air, "This Excalibur is my personal favorite. Mostly because of the one who wielded it."

"Cool~!" Harley chimed. "King Arthur story~!"

"I actually think you'll really like this one, Harley," I chuckled. "Let me introduce you to King Arthur — the wielder of Excalibur: Sword of Promised Victory."

With a bit of casual effort, a little figurine of Artoria Pendragon formed on the bartop, just as I remembered her. Golden-blonde hair. Green eyes. A womanly figure perfectly streamlined for combat. Even in figurine form, you could tell how diminutive this King Arthur was. Frozen in time with a determined expression on her face, she held her Excalibur out before her. Its true glory was partially revealed with the sword's famous Invisible Air sheath just beginning to unwind.

"Meet Artoria Pendragon, King of Knights. AKA Saber. AKA the Red Dragon. AKA the Once and Future King of Britain."

The reactions were about what I expected. Even the goons and mooks watching from the sidelines got in on the fun. Quite a lot of blank faces. An ecstatic grin from Harley. A soft smile from Didi. And of course, plenty of…

"Uhhhhhh…"

"King…?"

"That… doesn't seem right."

"Interesting. This king seems to have breasts," Damian observed flatly, very much stating the obvious.

"I freakin' love her~!" Harley squealed with glee. "She's so tiny and adorable and fierce~! Go off, Girl-boss~!"

"Ah, yes, what makes a king?" Klarion mused, setting himself up for a hammy monologue. "Merely a gender? Or is it something more? Perhaps-…"

I cut him off unapologetically, "What made Artoria king was her everything. She was honest. She was courageous. She had will undying. She was everything a king should strive to be. In a way, it was enough. In another, it was far from such."

My audience listened to me describe Artoria, enraptured. I don't think Harley's eyes could shine any brighter. Despite herself, Alice couldn't help but be struck just as interested. Even the Bat Family listened intently. The men — Flash, Klarion, Riddler, Captain Cold, and numerous mooks and goons — leaned forward to hear more about the King of Knights.

"In the end, Artoria was struck down by her son. Her own flesh and blood. As if frozen in time on the Hill of Camlann, she stared down at her final battlefield, forced to constantly confront her dead subjects, those who'd fought for and against her."

As I spoke of Mordred, another figurine formed on the bartop, this one of her likeness. Wearing the same face as her 'father', Artoria's 'son' scowled out at the audience. Her appearance brought some cause for pause.

"Uh…"

"I think I'm seeing a pattern here."

Smirking but undeterred, I continued, "But that wouldn't be the end of her story. In her final moments, Artoria sold herself to the will of the planet, offering her services as something called a 'Counter Guardian' to act against those who would threaten the balance. In return, she asked to be able to seek the Holy Grail and save her nation.

"And so, over and over again throughout history, Artoria was summoned to fight for the Grail. She was given no rest. No quarter. Forced to constantly war with others' ambitions and even herself. She took on different forms, different classes, and even different histories. But at the core of it all, there was always… Artoria."

Artoria's figurine animated itself, spinning as if dancing. As it did, her form and outfit changed. Her standard blue armored dress. A much more casual dress. A well-tailored suit. The black outfit of her Saber Alter. The white of her Saber Lily. The more endowed beauty of her Lancer form. The Lion King and Goddess Rhongomyniad. And finally, back to her original Blue Saber form.

"After what must have felt like an eternity of fighting, Artoria gave up on her quest for the Holy Grail. She recognized that her dream was just that. A dream. She accepted her death and at once, found two ends. In her original time, Artoria threw Excalibur back to the Lady of the Lake. Her body was carried to Avalon — the utopia that exists nowhere in this world.

"In another time, another place, a Reverse Side of the World, Artoria found another dream worth waiting for. Her final master in her final Grail War was an imperfect man. Just like her, he gave himself as a Counter Guardian. Until his end, neither would find peace. Neither would find the dream they shared.

"He was more sword than man. She was more king than woman. But in Shirou, Artoria found something special. Something worth waiting for. She was his sheath and he was hers.

"Yet their times were still horribly misaligned. For them to meet again, two miracles had to happen. One of them had to wait continuously. Forever. And the other had to search endlessly. Forever. It was just a dream, one that shouldn't have been there when they opened their eyes."

"Oh, nooooo~…" Harley wiped tears from her eyes with a whimpering sniffle.

"What?! That's it? Where's the happy ending?!" Alice demanded, tears of her own threatening to fall from her eyes.

"Sometimes there aren't happy endings, little one," Didi soothed.

"Ain't that the truth," Flash shook his head.

"There wouldn't have been a happy ending. There SHOULDN'T have been one. But I was there to give the two a push in the right direction," I said, smiling softly.

"Oh, thank God," Riddler exhaled in relief.

"And who were you during all of this, Sean?" Barbara asked slowly, careful not to show the emotion Artoria's story pulled out of her.

"Me?" I smiled a practically patented closed-eye smile. "I wasn't someone you gave a name to. I suppose you could have called me Magus of Flowers."

Klarion went stiff at that name, "Merlin…"

"Something like that…" The familiar closed-eye smile didn't leave my face. "I gave them their wish. A dream in Avalon where they could meet again. Sword and sheath were reunited. And though they both lost and loved, in the end, they lived happily ever after."

While the emotion from the story was still thick in the air, there were more smiles now that I'd ended it on a happy note. Klarion still looked at me with something between utter awe and terror on his face though. I turned the closed-eye smile onto him and he flinched. Even after I dropped the expression with a chuckle, he didn't relax. Merlin did tend to have that effect on people.

"I enjoy a story with a happy ending," Damian commented plainly.

"Good for Artoria. She deserves it. Sounds like she had to put up with a lot of crap," Captain Cold said just as plainly.

I chuckled, "You have no idea. The Grail Wars could be entire stories to themselves. Don't even get me started on sadistic priests and egomaniac first heroes."

"You'll have to tell us that story sometime," Catwoman grinned.

I sighed, "That'll take the entire night if I want to do it justice."

"Not like you have anything better to do," Barbara snarked.

"I could do you," I shot back.

She turned her head away with a 'hmph' to hide her blush, saying, "Well, I suppose I am 'better'…"

"Good, my child," Talia nodded approvingly. "Get your own 'happily ever after'."

Barbara's blush went nuclear and she sputtered denials. Talia would not be so easily dissuaded.

"Have you challenged your chosen mate to a spar yet?" She prodded.

"T-That-! That wasn't anything more than friendly!"

I smirked, adding fuel to the fire, "I seem to recall you saying it was a date, Babs~"

Talia smiled, "Wonderful. Next, you should try your best to kill your intended. It's a way to show you care."

Barbara hung her head in her hands, "… You give terrible romantic advice, Talia."

"I don't know," I hummed. "I've met a few of my lovers through assassination attempts."

She glared up at me through her fingers, "Nothing about your love life should be taken as the norm!"

I laughed, "Fair point. Still, romantic assassination attempts seem to be quite common."

"That's because they just work," Talia said. "Inordinately well."

As we bickered, the little figurine of Artoria I made and animated sat down on the bar top. She immediately produced a proportionally gigantic bowl of rice and began chowing down. The Mordred figurine crowded her 'father', trying to get at the rice as well.

Equally amused watching us and the figurines, Flash cut in, "You know, there's still one Excalibur up there you haven't shown off yet."

"That one? It's hardly interesting," I waved dismissively. Still, I called it forward, "It's my most mundane Excalibur. Just a regular sword, really. A good sword, but just a sword. It's from an amusing world I spent entirely too much time in. Twas a silly place."

Harley lit up at the last line, "Are you saying what I think you're saying, Gothboy~?"

"No fucking shot…" Klarion muttered to himself.

I smirked, "Strangely enough, I was searching for the Holy Grail in that world as well. It was guarded by a most fearsome beast! Behold! Death! With nasty, big, pointy teeth!"

I waved my hand to the side, directing everyone's attention back to the wall of trophies. There, they all found themselves looking at a specific 'stuffed' rabbit. It was pure white and utterly unassuming in appearance.

"Death?" A mook asked skeptically.

"It doesn't look like much," Flash said, amused.

As he said that, the 'stuffed' rabbit turned its head to glare beady red eyes at him. Everyone at the bar froze.

"Run!" I urged, shouting a desperate warning. "The Killer Beast of Caerbannog awakens!"

"Jesus Fucking Christ!" Flash swore, suddenly blurring into motion. The rabbit leaped from its place on the shelf nearly as fast as he could move and all Hell broke loose in the Dead End.