Chapter 33

The halls of the Orbiting Watchtower were blissfully empty, as J'onn had promised they would be. It had been a long time since Bruce had visited the Tower, since he had decided he no longer wanted to be a part of the League.

Only J'onn was aware of his presence. He wore the suit, just in case he did stumble upon someone. As the Martian had assured him, though, the observation bay was empty as well.

A shallowly breathing Connie was in his arms. Looking at her pale face he swallowed hard. She didn't have long at all, he thought.

She was blissfully numb from the epidural. Pain was not a problem for her at the moment and she doubted it ever would be again.

Kneeling on the floor just in front of the massive windows, he cradled her gently to him. "Connie…"

She opened her eyes ever so slightly but the simple movement felt like it took all her energy.

"Look," he pointed out the window.

He was rewarded with a gasp. "Oh my god…"

"I couldn't make the sun rise faster, but I could give you the next best thing."

The Tower was in position so that the Earth was rising just over the Sun. It was the most beautiful thing Connie had ever seen.

He brushed the tears off her cheek as she stared, enraptured, at the Earth from Space.

"How…" She was too weak to finish her sentence.

"I used to know this place," he whispered.

"The League?"

Nodding, he pulled her closer. "Yes, the League."

They sat in silence for a moment until he felt her breathing slow even further. Swallowing, he closed his eyes and tried to imagine the right to thing to say.

"What do you want to name her?" It had taken her nearly a minute to work up the energy to form a full sentence.

Swallowing the lump in his throat, he looked down at her. "What do you want?"

She smiled. "My mother's name…Caroline…Carly…"

"Carly," he repeated. "That's perfect."

Staring into the abyss of space, with the entire Earth before her she suddenly felt at peace. She was so small, she thought, in the scheme of things. The Earth would continue to rotate, her daughter would live. Bruce would live. She could die happy.

The only thing he could think to say escaped his lips before he could stop the words. "I love you," he whispered. He could feel a hot mist behind his eyes and he fought to keep control of himself. He had to be strong for her.

She reached up and clasped his exposed chin with her hand. The pressure felt like that of a feather to him. Leaning down he gently captured her lips, kissing her with the lightest of touches.

Smiling, she turned back to the scene in front of her. "No…you don't…"

He swallowed hard and closed his eyes as he felt a single tear roll down his cheek.

"But thanks for saying it…"

Opening his eyes he looked down into the deep brown orbs that had so engaged him. Even now he saw understanding and acceptance. With her final words spoken she leaned her head against his chest and took her last breath.

When he felt and saw her chest stop moving he felt as though he was going to break in half. It felt like a long time before he managed to pick himself and her up from the floor.

Carrying her silently back to the transporter room he avoided J'onn's eyes. Without a word or a thought he was transported back to the cave. He moved with robotic remembered motions. Setting her on the medical table he changed from his suit back into his street clothes.

Lifting her in his arms he took her upstairs and laid her on his bed before calling Leslie. He sat next to Connie, waiting for Leslie to come and pronounce her dead. He wasn't sure if minutes or days had passed when she arrived.

Leslie said a few words and signed a piece of paper. The men who had followed her gently removed the body, leaving Bruce alone.

A warm hand was on his shoulder and when he turned he saw Alfred, his face strained but oddly calm.

"She's gone," was all Bruce could say.

Nodding. Alfred sat next to Bruce on the bed. He had tried to be a pillar of strength for his charge but at the moment all he wanted to do was weep. "Is the child well?"

Looking up suddenly, Bruce realized he didn't have a good answer to that question, anything could have happened in the time since they left the hospital. "She was in the NICU. I have…I have to go."

Standing, he took himself downstairs and outside and to the car without any conscious thought. He hadn't even thought of the baby.

Tim was standing by the door and automatically followed Bruce out. Bruce didn't argue when Tim said he would drive.

Sitting next to an incubator, a part of Bruce's mind wondered how he had come to be there. Most of him didn't care. Looking at the tiny pink creature in the incubator, he took a deep breath. She didn't look like a squid at all, he thought.

Putting his head in his hands he asked himself, for possibly the millionth time, when his life had spiraled so far out of control.