Gotham's air feels icy cold against Selina's cheeks and reeks of smog and ashy, cigarette smoke.
Once inside her decently insulated place—for crashing and eating, a month tops before any doped up, raving jackasses wanna break in—Selina basks in the source of heat wafting from a nearby cooking pot.
"What are we having?" she asks, looking down and emptying her pockets. One platinum watch, and three wallets. It's not a great haul, but it ain't bad. The credit cards will be useless when their owners report their stolen accounts, but there's at least four hundred and seventy in cash.
Bruce stirs the pot, eyeing her. His lips twitch upwards.
"Chicken noodle soup," he says.
Selina's eyes roll a little. "Sounds boring—didn't you steal anything good?" She discovers her switch-blade on the tabletop and grabs it up, frowning. "What was the point of letting you borrow my knife if—"
"I told you I didn't need it," Bruce reminds her. For a thirteen-year-old boy, he has far too much patience. He's such a weirdo, Selina tells herself, lifting her chin and crossing her arms. "Mrs. Kane in the apartment below us let me borrow some of her spices. I promised I would return them tomorrow."
It shouldn't feel normal to have Bruce in her everyday life, but here he is—volunteering to live on the streets with her, wanting to understand Gotham's dark, slimy underbelly. Bruce freakin' Wayne, the boy billionaire. He's dressed in jeans with visible holes on them and sleeping in rags covering a dusty, hard floor.
(She wouldn't volunteer for something stupid like that.)
"Wow, you are learning so much," Selina announces dully, leaning onto the tabletop, and setting her chin to her palm. Either he doesn't notice her obvious sarcasm or chooses to ignore it, because Bruce turns down the cooker's burner and holds up a full spoonful of chicken soup.
He cups a hand underneath the spoon, gesturing out to her. "Here, try it," Bruce insists, smiling a little again.
If this had been last year, he would have shrank under one of her doubtful, guarded looks. But he must be getting used to her too. Selina takes her dear, sweet time getting up, taking the stirring spoon from him. There's no way in hell she's letting him feed her like a baby.
She sips on Bruce's soup, losing her skepticism instantly, eyes widening.
"Mm—what the heck—that's good."
There's a hint of smugness in Bruce's expression. Selina is quick to catch it and instead of feeling any annoyance, she smiles too. "I added black pepper and garlic powder in the broth, and a pinch of celery salt," he says, nodding. Selina wipes her mouth off with the back of her gloved hand.
"If being a thief doesn't work out for you, I hear the soup kitchens are hiring," she says, roughly patting his shoulder. It's a joke mostly. He's not leaving her side now. She's not letting anything happen to him.
This is the second time this week Bruce has cooked for her, and she's deadass surprised he even knows how to turn on the burner. (Doesn't Alfred do all his cooking…? Why have a butler then?)
After eating a hot meal, Selina burrows down into a nest of thin, raggy blankets, fiddling around with an expensive-looking necklace she plans to sell off in the Flea. Her fingertips bat occasionally against the heavy, teardrop shaped diamond. It looks like Bruce is already fast asleep.
Sleepiness doesn't come for her.
It's not that Selina isn't used to the groan of the water pipes above, or the distant, angry shouting outside the windows or tires squealing below. A restless energy bundles up in her chest, and she grumbles, pushing off the blankets and heading for the unlocked window.
It's too damn cold, but she needs to be somewhere for an hour. Running on the rooftops, or blending into a crowd with her thoughts. Bruce doesn't need to be woken up for this.
Selina crawls down onto the fire escape's winding stairs, without rattling the slickened, wet steel holding her weight, leaping into the alleyway. The low, neon glow of street-signs hits her face. She pulls up her hood and marches past a group of laughing, drunk teenagers.
Eventually, she scales up another building, crouching up on a ledge and observing the street below. More groups of people walking home and off a charter bus. The blacktop glitters like diamonds.
Selina's eyes glimpse a young woman running on the sidewalk, fearfully glancing over her shoulder.
As soon as she turns down the alley on the other side of the building, never stopping her running pace, Selina watches in mounting wariness as a young man hurries after her, a hand deep in his coat pocket.
God, really—it's none of her business, Selina reasons. Nope. She's already got Gotham's Golden Boy to look after—Selina's not babysitting every idiot who winds up on her street corner. But it doesn't stop Selina from hopping onto the next ledge, peering down curiously.
It's too far to hear if it's an argument or not.
Selina deepens her crouching position, hands gripping onto the rooftop ledge. That's when the man brandish out a revolver, screaming out something intelligible as the young woman flinches terrified, but no longer running. Shit. Selina clenches her jaw, disgust and her own fear twisting her stomach.
No. No, no—this is not her PROBLEM. She shouldn't even be here. It's time to leave.
Bruce is probably awake by now and wondering—
Selina closes her eyes, blocking out the young woman's face.
It's not hers. Bruce's face appears behind her eyelids, dark eyes filling with gleaming, unshed tears, his chest heaving and a paralyzing terror rooting him in place as the gunman aims at Bruce's forehead.
Selina's fingers claw against the rooftop's ledge, before she inhales sharply and hurries down the end of the alley, closer to the man's back. To hell with this, she's not getting shot at. But maybe she can help the young woman escape a bullet. It's what she can do, right?
With a little careful maneuvering, Selina drops quietly towards the entrance of the alleyway.
Neither of them, thankfully, notice her as Selina fishes out her taser, sneaking up behind the yelling man and jabbing him in the back. He goes out like a light, twitching on the way down.
Selina faces the young woman scrambling for the revolver, glowering, "What were you thi—?"
A bullet embeds into the man's neck, and then another, as the young woman grits her teeth, firing repeatedly into his head and shrieking high-pitched. Selina jumps back, out of the path of the noisy gunshots, blinking and shell-shocked. Dark red blood wells, puddling into the alleyway.
"Get the hell out here, or you're next," the young woman says now eerily calm, motioning with the revolver.
Despite all her instincts, Selina finds herself lost in a fog, opening her mouth.
The answer comes into another bullet, this time flying over Selina's left shoulder. Hot, pressured air grazes over the outside of her ear, and Selina retreats, her legs finally working.
As hard and fast as her legs can carry her, she heads back towards the apartment, panting and climbing up the fire escape. No longer mindful about the wet, creaking steel being noisy.
She thrusts open a window, body shaking.
"You're back," Bruce says with some confusion, rubbing his gloved hands, already having sat up from his own nest of blankets. "I thought you would h—Selina?" he asks, eyebrows furrowing as she presses herself against the wall, covering up her face with both hands, head thudding backwards.
When there's no reply, except for Selina's heavy, choked breathing, Bruce gets onto his feet. She knows he's probably wearing that stupid concerned look—the one he always gets around her.
"I can't do it," Selina mutters, dragging her fingernails down her cheeks and wiping under her leaking nose. "I'm not you and I never will be, Bruce," she adds bitingly, loathing how her eyes feel stingy and moist.
That doesn't explain a damn thing—but to her relief, Bruce only nods again.
"I know," he murmurs, stepping in front of her. "You don't have to be." It's exactly the stupid words out of him she wants to hear, and Selina thuds her head again, swallowing hard around the lump in her throat.
Bruce's arms embrace her, guiding her away from the wall. She hugs him back fiercely, shaking harder but refusing to acknowledge she's crying.
Maybe they—she—can do this. Maybe.
Gotham isn't mine. I CANNOT RESIST THE SIREN CALL OF MY BATCAT OTP. Still so hyped that they're getting married in comic canon. I ended up typing this out in Emily's (glove23) askbox on Tumblr in the wee hours, and decided to post it for her! Hope you all enjoy it too! Thoughts/comments are very welcome!