Walk on Water

Interlude I:

Adhesion

by Kysra

Arella knew she wouldn't get far, nude as she was. Death had eradicated any measure of modesty she had exhibited while alive; however, she knew the world she had been born into, and time was running too fast and too short to risk being picked up and locked up for indecent exposure. (Nevermind that she looked as if she had suffered a severely botched gender-changing operation. She still had breasts and buttocks, and that was enough to land her behind bars).

Though she couldn't smell, feel, or appreciate it in her current state, she huffed a frustrated breath that fluffed her bangs as her eyes darted about, studying the little house in the middle of nowhere she had come across as she edged along the woodsy border. The trek from cave to outside world had been long and arduous; but her spirit guide – unsurprisingly in the form of a dove – had been more than adept at leading the way.

It had taken well over a day for her to reach civilization, and though she was exhausted (rebirth into a death ridden body composed of sacrificed birds would do that), the woman-formerly-known-as-Angella-Roth pushed onward, carefully planning what she could do to help her child while figuring on how best to go about accomplishing those tasks.

Unfortunately, clothing had become something of a necessity as she poised to enter arenas of human interaction; and having no money or other prospects, Arella resigned herself to the realization that – barring a miraculous encounter with some over-charitable entity – she would be forced to steal.

Forgive me, Father, for I will sin . . .

The house was a humble brick affair with a sliding glass door opening toward the expansive back yard. There was a swing set, rusted with age and disuse, perched midway between the house and herself; and there seemed no sign that anyone was currently home.

Sighing, she looked to the dove balanced on the top of her hand. "What do you think? There's a clothes line just there . . . " At least she wouldn't have to break an entering. The bird cooed before nuzzling at her knuckles and taking off toward the strung up articles.

She soon followed, stepping gingerly to keep from tripping over her feet or anything else. Deprived of human senses, she couldn't feel depth, cold, hot, or sensation – just the pressure of something touching her skin. Also, she was technically blind, though her soul could 'see' the life force of surrounding organic matter and detect dark matter . . . or non-organic matter. Given those conditions, it was difficult to move among the world without fumbling violently.

Relying on her tiny messenger and guide, Arella found the line and hastily donned ill-fitting underwear, shirt, and trousers. She would leave off the socks – there were no shoes on the line or near it – as she didn't know how they would interfere with her already handicapped senses.

Confident she had not been spied, she took a quick glance around to better estimate her position then set off purposefully to the North.

Trigon had enticed Slade to resurrect her for no other reason than to grant them a door into Raven's heart; but neither had taken into account that Arella was no longer subject anyone's whimsy – demon-god or otherwise – and had her own agenda.

They had expected her to seek out and lead them to their target, but she would instead look for aid. They had wanted her to take an Easterly route, yet she had turned North. They had planned on Arella marching on to Jump City; however, her chosen destination was a place more familiar.

She would go to Gotham City, and there find a Knight to her Queen.

- WoW -

Gotham City, three days later

The sun was high and the wind tugged and pulled at her loose hair as she ran along sidewalks that had seen better days. She was in the old neighborhood, a complex of apartment buildings, vendor carts, trinket shops, and dark alleys better avoided.

Arella had entered the city two days previous and begun her search for the elusive Batman, immediately burying herself in the library, rifling and scanning through microfilm and more recent newspaper articles to learn of the events she had missed and track the movements of the Batman to better understand how he always ended up in the right place at the right time.

Completing that (apparently, heightened spiritual awareness held more gifts than she had previously estimated), she had taken to the streets, sticking close to her former haunts and bedding places discovered while a homeless teen and carefully remaining as distant as possibly from her parents' house.

Unfortunately, the patch of road near St.Christopher's Cathedral where she was once attacked and saved by an angel in black no longer existed, demolished with the church in favor of some urban development scheme. The other places – warehouses, underground safe houses, and even the Church of Trigon were either no longer inhabited or no longer there.

The seventeen years that had passed since her life and death in Azarath suddenly weighed heavily upon her heart as she wondered after the people who had inhabited those places. Where were they? What were they doing? Were they still alive?

Shaking her head to clear those distracting thoughts, she dodged an elderly couple pushing a junk-filled supermarket cart and passed her former high school which had become a mess of graffiti and loitering kids, trash dusting the small grass bare lawn fronting the façade. It made her sad, slowed her tireless gait. Her happiest memories had been born in this place, and now it was a mere shadow of its former self.

People flashed before and around her like speeding ghosts, mere impressions of flying emotions and dark secrets. She wondered if this was what it had been like for Raven every moment of her life and suddenly had a new appreciation for the raw strength her daughter possessed. To at once feel and block these intense, powerful feelings from every stranger, every friend and somehow retain sanity . . . Such an amazing girl, her Raven.

Smiling wryly, Arella slowed to a near-jog (making the extra effort to pant tiredly to keep the intelligent observer from suspecting something amiss) as she reached the city center, running her hand along the side of a concrete building, senses whirling in search of something.

Her pale, little gray friend, swooped down from seemingly nowhere to alight on her shoulder, fluttering his wings and showering her head with feathers. "I could use some help right about now. Every second lost was a step closer to the end of this world." Dear Lord, a little divine intervention would be greatly appreciated right about now. Just a sign, any sign that I'm getting closer . . .

As she approached Main Street, three city blocks from the true city center – Wayne Enterprises Corporate Tower - she noted a passing limo, a large entourage of police that surrounded it, and an equally large line of assorted media vehicles racing to keep up. A sign.Thank you, God.

They were traveling toward Wayne Tower, and she would be there to meet whatever clue awaited her there.

- WoW -

Through no fault of her own, nearly five hours had lapsed before Arella stood before the stately grand entrance of Wayne Enterprises; and even then she was on the wrong side of the street.

She forced a sigh, absently petting the equally upset bird on her shoulder. The world had not changed all that much from when she was young and alive. The misguided still roamed with guns in their pockets and money-lust in their hearts as those filled with grace followed behind to clear the mess and council the victimized.

A man had been gunned down in full daylight seconds before she reached the second intersection of an estimated ten. The 'Walk" signal had appeared and suddenly a great shot rang out above the sounds of the busy boulevard and a thousand voices. A scream broke and an area was cleared as cell phones were pressed to ringing ears by trembling hands.

And though she had been tempted to walk away and keep along her business as other inevitably did, her spirit guide butted his head against her cheek as if to reprimand. When she had been alone on the streets, she could have easily been in such a position – shot and quivering with the last moments of life, wishing only for comfort that would not come.

Overcome with sympathy and slightly frustrated by the confused cries of the fearful bystanders, Arella descended on the wounded man, patting his hand and smoothing his thin hair while softly singing the only lullaby she knew. He wasn't fully dead when he hit the ground; but it had only taken a few moments for his heart to stop. With his last breath, he squeezed her hand and closed his eyes, looking for all the world asleep and at peace. She had smiled then, as a pidgeon – stout and peckish – approached through the throng to bite at the man's tie then fly away, disappearing into the graying sky line.

The man's passage soon freed her senses to become attuned to the surrounding space. The killer had not gotten far. She 'saw' him calmly walking, merging with the crowd; and as the police and paramedics descended onto the scene, she shouldered in to describe and name the murderer to the police.

Soon enough, she was pushed aside to make room so that the authorities could perform a cursory investigation and the paramedics could bag and prepare the body for transport to the morgue. Standing aside, watching the last of the scene, Arella said a final good-bye and a heartfelt blessing, seeing in the dead man, a little of herself, then left the area altogether.

She had nary taken ten steps when she realized the side of her leg was drenched in blood., and though her purpose did not include impressing others, Arella understood that social niceties had to be observed, otherwise more time would be wasted. She didn't have the luxury.

So, instead of heading straight for Wayne Tower after the initial setback of random homicide, she used money from the dead man's wallet to first rent a beggar woman's spare rags then buy a new(er) outfit from a nearby Goodwill outlet. There she found a little dress that had seen better days, faded as it was, but it was such a lovely near-violet – so similar to Raven's eyes – that Arella couldn't resist. It fit reasonably well, though the straps kept falling over her arms, and the skirt was so full and light that she felt a bubbling sense of something resembling youth despite her situation and recent brush with death.

Exiting the store wearing her purchase, she was careful to take a few detours in order to chuck the stolen clothes and rags in a lost trash bin that had not been emptied for several weeks from the look of it; and though her feet were still bare and a small amount of absorbed blood still clung to her exposed leg, she felt a little more grounded.

When she finally did arrive in front of Wayne Tower's main entrance, she couldn't stop herself from blinking helplessly at the hubbub erupting as the polished revolving glass doors suddenly exploded with the force of an exiting camera crew before the mogul himself, Bruce Wayne stepped out of the building looking unaffected and steady in the midst of the booming chaos.

However, what held Arella enthralled and still was not the churning crowd or growing traffic jam separating her from the building and the drama, but the swirling colors of Mr. Wayne's aura and the dark edges that pushed inward to his core.

She smiled and touched fingertips to lips, suppressing the desire to laugh in delight. She had found him, the Dark Knight.

- WoW -

Bruce was not a happy man, and the broken ribs currently groaning in protest as he shouldered his way through the throng of reporters, police, and paparazzi were not making things better.

"Mr. Wayne, can you comment –"

"Mr. Wayne, how do you respond –"

"What do you have to say --!"

"Were you aware –"

"Is the rumor true that –"

Issuing random 'no comments' never worked in these situations, so he didn't waste his breath with any sort of non-reply. Instead, he let his silence speak for him. After all, none of their questions were new or relevant. He was – socially and civically – first and foremost a businessman. It was no one's legitimate concern about who he was seeing, when he was getting married, or what his sexual orientation was.

Suppressing the reflex to outright glower at the media personnel and gawking passersby, he pasted on a pleasant smile and descended the short stairs to his waiting limousine, and as he was about to step down into the stretched vehicle, the gut feeling that usually saved his ass during his nightly duties, alerted that someone was watching his movements a little too intently for comfort.

Poised to duck into the back seat, he allowed his eyes to quickly scan the perimeter and when his once over became a twice over, he just . . . stopped. The world seemed to slow as his eyes widened in impossible recognition. Thunder rolled ominously. Fat drops of rain began to fall.

As people-shaped blurs raced for cover, he remained, still and silent and staring, unmindful of the milling reporters and the hush that fell behind him as onlookers tried to see what he was so focused on. There, a woman stood across the the six lane street, her eyes locked on his and her mouth drawn up into a smile. She seemed unaffected by the water as it slashed at the skirt of her faded blue dress and washed through her hair down her shoulders.

She was petite, small, curvaceous, and brunette, hauntingly familiar though the photograph that held his first glimpse of her featured a teenager not the seasoned woman before him.

Angela Roth.

He wondered at the look of her – pale and almost breathless, waiting, though he couldn't fathom what she would be waiting for.

Here, in the day, in the rain, in this Armani suit, he was Bruce Wayne. He had nothing to do with her nor she with him.

. . . However, if she was Raven's mother, then . . .

She would be dead.

His jaw tightened and – silencing his driver's protest – he closed the car door and made his way across sea of stalled vehicles and rushing people, to confront her. The media would no doubt take photos and tomorrow would inevitably make her out to be some sort of sordid affair; but strange things had been going on in Jump City and if this woman was who he believed she was, he may be on the cusp of discovering some useful information. That possibility trumped any instinct in preserving himself from becoming tabloid fodder . . . again.

Her dark hair was matted and soaked by the time he reached her, and he was no less drenched himself. Lightning cracked and struck Wayne Tower, but he didn't notice nor did he particularly care. The woman's smile never wavered but, stranger still, neither did her honey-gold gaze.

"Who are you?" Bruce had to restrain himself from grabbing her arm or shoulders.

She sighed, the breath looking forceful and overly dramatic, as her hand came up to pet the distressed looking dove on her shoulder. "Mr. Wayne. I must say, this is rather unexpected. Of course, I never really thought about the man behind the suit until I saw you just now."

There was something about her tone when she said it, and this time, he did grab her wrist with unnecessary strength, jerking her close. "Who. Are. You." The growl was a shade away from the Batman's voice, his sneer taking it further.

But she did not seem panicked or afraid. Rather, the woman was the very picture of calm with her beguiling rain flooded eyes looking out from a too-pale face. Her skin was frigid beneath his palm, his mind working around the revelations that there was no pulse evident pumping above her thumb and that her pupils remain fixed, not dilating. "I think you know who I am, and people are beginning to stare Mr. Wayne. Perhaps we should talk away from prying eyes?"

Letting her go and remembering himself, Bruce touched the side of her jaw, tilting her face up to his more completely. "Who are you?" This time the inquiry was low, soft, almost seductive; but instead of melting or responding with the same heat, the woman gentled his hand from her face and surprised him with the serious tilt of her mouth, the odd vacant strength of her stare. "Will wonders never cease . . . " She cupped his face between her hands and tilted her head just so, like a little child trying to understand a difficult puzzle. "The mask only hides your face."

- WoW -

She was watching that bird again. This after she had demanded the car slow down so that her pet dove could more easily follow once Bruce had put his foot down that he would not tolerate animals in his limo.

And just as she watched the tiny speck of near-white against the violent dark gray of the storm they had left behind, he watched her out the corner of his eye as the car made its way up the lonely drive to Wayne Manor. "Dead?"

The smile she threw at him was just this side of cutting. "As a door knell."

Bruce resisted the urge to smile back. There was something about her unassuming dry wit that amused him. "How long?"

Angela Roth – no,Arella – looked as if she would be bouncing in her seat had she not been restrained (strangely, she had been insistent on wearing a seat belt). "About four years now . . ." A pause and then, "You believe me? Just like that?"

"I've seen stranger things." And he had. He wondered briefly if it were even possible to surprise him anymore. It was a sobering thought that maybe it wasn't. "I'm more concerned over your identity and what you're doing here."

Again, that crisp, almost blade-sharp grin, "I understand that it's a lot to take in, and I applaud your courage in facing my story head-on. As for my agenda, I'm here to help my daughter, Raven."

"Then what are you doing here with me?" Honestly, now he had ghosts coming to him for advice. When did he become a master of cosmic problem solving?

Arella's smile faltered as if she had sensed his uncharitable thoughts, "I apologize. I never meant to burden you; but I can't do this alone, and you were the first person I thought of to ask for help." It was incessantly odd how her brown eyes – while lackluster and empty – could communicate such a calculating look. "Well, the Batman was the first person I thought of." She took a deep breath that she didn't actually need, and Bruce reflected that he couldn't really blame her for using such a normal physical process as a mechanism of comfort. "I'm not sure if Trigon and Slade are able to trace me through this . . . body they trapped me in, and I don't intend to risk Raven's future unnecessarily. Therefore, I need an agent to communicate with my daughter on my behalf."

"Brave of you." He left the interpretation of his curt comment up to her. As it was, he wasn't entirely sure if he thought her brave for actively seeking him out or a fool for getting mixed up in such a complex web of evil and deceit to begin with.

She snorted, and this time, he couldn't help a crooked half-smile. "Desperate would be more accurate. Trigon inspires it."

Bruce wasn't accustomed to this sort of candor; but he appreciated it just the same, particularly since Arella seemed determined to be honest, open and remarkably lacking in sentimentality. "Tell me about him."

Her hand flew up to her throat as she shifted to stare straight ahead. They were almost to the main house now, and he somehow read in the lines of her face, that she would not speak of this again. Whatever thoughts were whirling in her head, whatever came out of her mouth would remain here between them and the backseat carriage.

"I can't repeat the story now . . . It's too long, but maybe –"

"Just the important things."

Her eyes returned to him and her mouth was slack. He had the vague impression that she was disgusted with him. "I think you'll find in time, Mr. Wayne, that it is allimportant."

There was definitely fire in this woman for all her sweet words and impeccable manners, and Bruce found himself slightly upset by the question of how such a person could become tangled with a devil. "Very well, then. What can you tell me that will convince me to help you?"

"You've met Raven, I presume?"

"Many times."

"What was your first impression of her?"

He didn't quite understand her line of questioning, but resolved to give her the benefit of a doubt. "Vulnerable, innocent but strong. Unfortunately, there was a psychic present at Raven's entrance and introduction who did not share my opinion. She warned that there was evil in Raven. That declaration prevented anyone – including myself – from helping Raven when she asked for it."

Arella's unblinking eyes narrowed and her lips pursed. "The psychic was right."

Bruce hadn't quite expected that. "I must have misunderstood something. You want me to help you help Raven, but you're telling me that Zatana and the Justice League were correct to shun her?"

"I never said I agreed with the end result. You must understand, Trigon – at the moment – doesn't have a corporeal body on this plane; and unfortunately, he wants to subjugate Earth and humanity. The path of least resistance to his goal was to plant his seed here then use the child that sprung from that seed as a doorway to enter. The Azarathians took us away to prevent it from happening; but . . . the jury is still out on whether it was wrong of Raven to return . . . . You see, she does not only hold the power of her father, her body contains his very soul."

Exasperated, Bruce stared at her. "Then how do you suggest I deal with her, exactly?" He was certain Robin would not take kindly to his encroaching on Titans territory let alone the prospect of Raven as a target from friendly fire; but he would do it if such action became their only option.

"My daughter has been told from infancy that she would break under her father's will and bring about the end of all she holds dear. I used to believe that too. I cursed her and even tried to kill her by killing myself before she was born. I've had a lot of time to watch and listen since then; and now I know we were all mistaken."

Losing patience, Bruce frowned deeply. "Mistaken? Is she a threat or isn't she?"

This time, Arella's smile was small and sad, her lashes dipping down over her eyes. "She is the only being that can match his strength. It is up to her friends and you to convince her to use that power. She doesn't have enough confidence yet to realize it herself."

It had been years, but Bruce remembered Raven's face and manner vividly. "No . . . no she doesn't."

"Please. Help me save my girl." She wasn't looking at him but at her hands, folded neatly in her lap and grasping each other tightly.

His expression turned tender, knowing he couldn't, wouldn't refuse. "You'll need somewhere to stay. May I offer one of my spare rooms?"

She didn't move until he had exited the car and opened the door for her. By then she had freed herself from the seatbelt and as she rose out from the vehicle, her arms fit themselves around his neck in a soft embrace. "Thank you," she breathed.

It wasn't until after he greeted Alfred and introduced their guest that Bruce realized something that both shocked and mystified him: She had been warm.

- WoW -

It took all of five minutes for Alfred to become completely 'charmed' by Arella's good manners, and within ten minutes of their introductions, the two had become ripe bosom buddies. It was singularly disconcerting and not a little offensive to Bruce's pride as a man in his prime.

"Ah, good morning, Mr. Wayne." She was all smiles as she set a plate stacked with hot cakes drizzled in syrup before him. He had tried to explain to her that he usually partook of a small breakfast – usually a cold protein drink or nothing at all, but she had given him a manipulative pout and fed him a line about how she had missed out on doing these normal, everyday things for years when she was still alive and would he please have the heart to humor her?

And to be fair, he had not eaten so well in a long time (not for lack of effort on Alfred's part).

A tall glass of milk and a cup of coffee (black with a pinch of sugar – just how he liked it) soon joined the hot cakes before Arella sat opposite him, a cup of steaming tea sitting between her hands. At first, he had been puzzled as to why she even bothered with the brewing and the setting of tea; but he was beginning to understand that Arella was determined to preserve what little human sense she had left to her. She may not be able to taste, drink, or digest, but she could feel warmth and pretend to appreciate the smell.

"Did you rest well?" His grin was a mere hint of the amusement coloring his voice as her expression turned just this side of affronted. After all, the idea that a spirit, no matter how trapped, would need rest was at least somewhat ludicrous. That said trapped spirit had all but abandoned her own bed in favor of bunking in his the three nights she had been staying in his home was becoming a great source of free entertainment.

'Very." She replied, nonplussed, before meeting his eyes in a pointed but vaguely immature off-the-cuff staring contest. "You can't bait me with that sort of innuendo." He grinned more fully this time, enjoying the way she answered with a secret grin of her own.

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about." He took a large bite of the pancakes and immediately relished the taste. "It's a shame you can't enjoy this."

Arella tugged on her hair with one hand, absently feeding the dove perched on her shoulder with the other. "No one is more aware of that than me, Mr. Wayne; but if you don't mind, grant me the small mercy of watching you enjoy it."

His grin faded though hers did not. It had been three days, and he still didn't' know . . . "You're a bird person?"

Alfred guffawed from the vicinity of the den just beyond the open kitchen door as Arella gave him a look that plainly said, I can't believe you just asked me such an asinine question. It was possibly the first time he had ever felt stupid in his entire adult life.

"Do you believe in God, Mr. Wayne?"

"What does that have to do wi-"

"Nevermind. Let us say, for the sake of simplicity, that there was a God, a Higher Power, the Boss of everything Spiritual. He's quite the manager and has set down some very strict rules of engagement where the living, dead and everything between are concerned."

Bruce nodded, a signal for her to continue.

"Now, consider that some outside force interferes by creating a false body and stuffing an unwilling soul into the homunculus. How do you think God would deal with something like that?"

"I imagine a good manager would attempt to put a stop to the violation of his rules by either preventing the capture (after all, isn't God supposed to be omniscient?) or releasing the soul from captivity."

"And if He couldn't do that due to the very rules He had put in place?"

"Then . . . He would attempt to establish some measure of control over the situation or – at the very least – oversee the soul in question."

She nodded, allowing the bird to flit from her shoulder to perch and peck at her knuckles. "In traditional Christianity, doves are a symbol of divine agency. I've always had an affinity for them, and they have always had a special attraction to me. I'm not really sure why; but I digress . . . "

Cupping her tea in pale hands once again, she seemed to stare intently within the tawny depths of her tea. "When Trigon pulled my spirit from God, I didn't go willingly. Unfortunately, everything happened too fast to stop it in time. Once I was locked into this body, there were only two things God could do to make things fall even a little into my favor."

The dove suddenly flew out the open window, Arella's brown eyes following him watchfully. "Free will is a gift and cannot be taken away – a serious miscalculation on Trigon's part, thank goodness; and taking into account Trigon and Slade's aim was to control me and that theycouldn't, the first thing God had to do was make certain that they couldn't trap my spirit permanently.

"I don't understand."

She sighed, and he wondered at how the sound had become so familiar. "Ghosts and poltergeists have one thing in common – they chose to remain. I did not. It was very possible that once Trigon and Slade realized I couldn't, wouldn't be their mindless servant, Trigon could have taken my soul and sent it to some other dimension or – at worst – destroyed it. God would not have been able to reach me then. I would have been the very definition of forsaken."

Rubbing his chin thoughtfully, Bruce mulled over that one. He still wasn't quite sure where she was going with this line of theory (he refused to consider that she might be telling the honest truth), but his eyes seemed drawn to the dove who had returned shortly with a bit of frayed twine carried proudly in his beak.

"So . . . your soul was anchored through . . . a living agent."

She fairly beamed, if that were even possible. "Yes. This little guy is my spirit guide and anchor. He's also my communication line to God."

"If there is a God, and his character is similar to that professed in the Bible, why would you need a medium?"

"This body was made through the needless deaths of innocents. The darkness kneaded into the flesh shadows God's senses."

He smirked slightly. "Poetic."

"Why, thank you." She bowed her head mockingly, the gesture softened with her smile.

There was silence for a few moments as he resumed his breakfast, she gazed into her tea as if it held the answers to the universe, and Alfred's uncharacteristically loud and cheerful whistling filled the space between.

He found himself studying the way her hair fell, long and shimmering in waves of ebony; how her shoulders were straight and set with an almost militaristic sort of strength; and the seemingly practiced grace of her movements, the economy even in the manner she lifted a spoon to swirl the cooling tea.

"Why did you want me to wait?" It had been burning in his mind since the day she arrived. As a seasoned crime fighter, he had been ready to meet the threat head-on, to go straight to Jump and confront Raven despite his initial hesitation to get involved in his adopted son's chosen jurisdiction; however, Arella had stalled him with a cryptic warning, "It's not the right time."

"Ah . . . " The clink and drag of metal against porcelain as she slipped the spoon against the teacup rim seemed to echo. "I seem to remember . . . before I was . . . " She trailed off briefly as she squinted needlessly in his direction, visibly searching for the right word, ". . . resurrected, that the Titans returned home to find Raven had lost control. She was sedated and fell into a coma shortly after."

Coma? And Robin hadn't contacted him? It was completely undignified and slightly appalling but Bruce found himself gaping anyway. Gaping.

"You are gaping, Master Bruce." Alfred swept into the room with his usual calm and poise. "May I offer you another tea, Miss Roth?"

Arella giggled and for a moment, Bruce had to remind himself that she had died at 30 and that it had been seven years since then. "Thank you, Alfred, but I wouldn't want to put you through such senseless trouble." She returned her attention to him, her countenance turning serious. "Raven should be awake again in a few days. More help is coming."

There was something in the way she said it, something in her tone and the strangely tender quiver of her voice. He narrowed his eyes at her. "You're hiding something."

"I'm hiding everything, Mr. Wayne. Unfortunately for you, it's been a horribly rude habit of mine since I was a child." There was a definite hint of challenge in the purse of her lips, the slight rise of her chin.

An answering challenge burned his tongue, but he decided that such a response would only prolong their breakfast and keep him from legitimate business. Besides, he was a detective – one of the best. He would coax out her secrets given time and opportunity.

Pressing a napkin to his mouth, he watched her stand to take her tea to the sink. "Did you have plans today?"

She startled and turned to him, leaning against the dining room counter. "I thought I might spend some time in the garden. You have such lovely grounds here, and I can almost smell the flowers . . . "

He hmmed low in his throat, giving her the once over. She had been wearing that faded blue dress for days, and Alfred had reminded him this morning of a very important engagement tomorrow night. "Would you like to go shopping?"

"Shopping?"

"Shopping. There will be a gala held here tomorrow night. I was wondering if you would accompany me."

Understanding dawned, and she gave him a smile he had never seen before. It was almost shy. "I would love to . . . but we'll have to be careful."

"Understood. And when Raven wakes –"

That shy look evaporated as her mouth hardened with visible determination. "Then, we'll make our move."

To be continued . . .

Notes: This contains spoilers for the Walk on Water prequel 'Dove Gray'.

Arella and Bruce will be back in the forefront for another interlude soon enough as well as their own little segue 'Heaven Scent' which will go more in their VERY PLATONIC relationship within the WoW universe. (blame Emaniahilel)

Doves ARE a symbol of angelic/godly agency and not only in the Christian tradition. You'll see a LOT of bird imagery when Arella's around as a result.

This interlude takes place within and between chapters 3 and 4 of the main WoW timeline.