A/N: Hey guys, thanks for all of the support and reviews and what not. This will be a relatively fluffy chapter, but I promise the next several chapters will be darker and with much more Cat and Bat. I have it all planned out now so things are back on track. :] So enjoy the next chapter of The Highest Cost and read and review. ^_^
Chapter Seven- Falling
Selina didn't really know what was going to happen, but there was a small part of her that was very excited. She finished what work she could, but ended up going home early anyways. Though she was unable to leave without a smirk and a teasing "Have fun Miss Kyle," from Kathryn. Selina glanced at her, rolled her eyes and rearranged that packages she was carrying. She glanced at the roses on her desk and made the snap decision to leave them as, what she was hoping would be, a good memento on Monday morning. She drove home, still on autopilot much as she had been for the whole week but for a much more pleasant reason. She made it back to her apartment around five, finding that he had not only left roses at her work but at her apartment as well. With the simple message of:
La Luna Oscura, 8 pm.
This time, Selina felt herself smile, laugh and shake her head. She hadn't almost forgotten what it was like to be wanted and she decided that it was something she missed. However, she would never admit it to anyone but herself. She turned away from the flowers and set her armful of packages down on the bed, unzipping the garment bag once again to look over the dress. It was beautiful. She ran her fingers through her hair, took a deep breath and nodded.
"Okay, Isis," she murmured to the cat sitting primly in the middle of her pillows "I guess I don't have a whole lot of choice." The cat mewed at her and Selina leaned forward scratching the cat behind the ears garnering a purr before Selina started getting ready.
Almost three hours later, a three hours that had been both the some of the longest and the shortest of her life, Selina was zipping up the back of her dress and glancing herself in the mirror. She looked put together: red lips, french twist, a dress that looked like it was made for her and the perfect drop necklace and earrings to compliment it. She was impressed with Bruce's choices. She had no idea if he had actually picked them, but they were wonderful. As she was slipping her feet into her new shoes and grabbing her purse there was a knock at the door. Her brows knit together in confusion and she moved across the room to the door, slightly concerned. It was rare for people to come to her apartment. She was even more taken aback when she opened it and was met with the kind face of Alfred.
"Good evening Miss Kyle," he said. Selina chuckled a bit.
"Hello Alfred." Apparently Bruce really didn't quite want to give her the choice he made it seem like he wanted to give her; either that or he always knew she was going to come along.
"I'm here to take you to your dinner reservation," he explained unnecessarily "Though I was told explicitly that if you were to say 'No' not to push, Master Wayne just wanted to make sure a beautiful young woman such as yourself didn't have to stand on the corner hailing a cab, and based on your attire it seems you've made your choice." Selina smiled and nodded.
"I have in fact, and it would have probably been impossible for me to catch a cab right now anyway, so thank you." Alfred smiled good-naturedly and tilted his head in a slight nod before offering her the crook of his arm. She took it and beginning to walk downstairs with the him, unable to stop from letting out another giggle and a shake of the head. She knew there was a part of her that would always think Bruce was trying to buy her affection with grand gestures but, at least for the evening, she made a conscious effort to put that mentality aside.
"Miss Kyle," she heard Alfred say after a few moments, unhooking his arm from hers and opening the car door for her. She looked at him and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek in a rare moment of sentimentality.
"Thank you Alfred." He once again gave her his normal smile, nodded and closed the door behind her and soon they were off. Selina fell silent watched the city roll by, not unaware of the fact that Alfred kept glancing back at her in the rear view mirror. She, however, didn't comment on it.
Ten or fifteen minutes later, they arrived outside the front of La Luna Oscura and, before she could do it for herself, Alfred was opening her door for her.
"You certainly are fast for someone of you age," she commented, her voice light and joking. Once more she earned polite nod.
"It comes with the territory, Miss Kyle, you have to be on your toes to work for Master Wayne," he replied. She nodded.
"Understood," she smiled, "Thank you Alfred." She began to turn away towards the entrance of the restaurant but she was stopped by a gentle hand on her shoulder. She turned again, meeting Alfred's gaze, unable to hide the slight surprise she felt.
"No, Miss Kyle, thank you."
"For bringing him back." With that Alfred turned and returned to the car without another word, leaving a slightly befuddled, albeit flattered, Selina behind him.
After a moment or two, she shook herself out of it and walked towards the restaurant. As she approached the doors, she off-handedly noticed that there wasn't anyone in restaurant, least not that she could see. She was almost worried for a moment, concerned that he wasn't going to be there yet again and that this was all a show, but she remembered Alfred's words. Bruce wouldn't run again, right? She shook her head, feeling the contentment she had felt all evening falter a little bit. Suddenly, she wasn't sure if the butterflies in her stomach were from excitement or fear. It had been a long time, maybe never, since she had let a man get this close. Selina was a confident, powerful woman but she had no idea how or if she could function in a relationship. She bit her lip and steeled herself with a deep breath, trying to prepare for anything that would happen. However, even with her attempts to prepare, the breath was stolen from her when she opened the door of the restaurant
It was, in fact, empty but every ledge was covered in flickering candles. The majority of the tables had been pushed to the side, leaving only one by a dance floor in the center of the room. A string quartet on a raised platform began playing when she entered the room. And roses, the same kind that were in her office and her apartment, were placed strategically through the room. Everything was beautiful. It was clear he had spared no expense trying to prove to her that she was more than just a distraction to him, and she was, quite possibly, slowly beginning to believe it.
She was still taking it in when she felt someone arrive at her side and place their hand on the, thanks to the dress, bare small of her back and a cool glass was pressed into her hand. Selina felt as though a shock travelled up her spine at the touch causing her heart to race again, but her eyes were still fixated on the scene before her. It was only his voice that turned her attention, finally, to Bruce.
"So I assume I did well then?" he questioned in a teasing manner. In an attempt to cover her surprise, something that she might be unable to do by this point, she mentally shook herself out of whatever haze she was in. She took a sip from the glass in her hand to buy herself some time, surprised to find that it was her favorite red wine. Part of her vaguely wondered how he knew all of these things about her. However, she was overall so taken aback that the voice in her head asking those questions was, for the moment, silenced. She instead opted to do her best to revive the part of her that was her standard, sarcastic self.
"Yes, if you like that whole grand romantic gesture thing," she drawled finally able to turn towards him. She found that she, once more, had to take a sip of her wine to recover. He looked wonderful as per usual. It was the same expensive suit as always but this time, with a slightly shiny black pinstripe pattern on a matte black background. He had also ditched the bow tie for the something more standard and, as usual, he carried himself with the same posture: one hand in his pocket and one on his drink, and that devilish smirk. Had she not been more practiced in controlling herself, she would have kissed him then and there.
"And do you like the 'whole grand romantic gesture thing', Selina?" he questioned, moving closer. His voice dropped a level and turned to a tone that made her feel like she was the only person in the world. She could smell his cologne and felt dizzy. She couldn't recover quickly enough, and could almost feel his smirk before that jolt ran through her again as he gently push a strand of her hair back.
Oh, he was good…very good.
It was just what Selina needed to break free of his seductive cocoon, a reminder that he knew what he was doing and that she could never allow herself to be that easy. She smirked, turned her back to him, and drew away before turning to regard him again. She lifted the glass of wine to her lips and stood without taking a sip and supporting her elbow with her other hand. She was pleased to see that Bruce looked taken aback, though he, too, was trying to hide it.
"It's wonderful Bruce, but you're going to have to do more to prove yourself to me," she remarked "I'm not one of those empty-headed models you usually go for." Bruce nodded
"Of course you're not. I don't usually work this hard for the models. They're content with a ride in a fast car and being photographed with someone powerful, but you…" he moved forward and took her purse and the glass of wine from her, placing them on the last remaining table with his own drink, "You are much more complicated than that."
He placed a hand on her waist and took her free hand in his, pressing his body closer to her as she heard the quartet seamlessly moved into a waltz. They were either very practiced or very good at reading the room. Not that it was that hard. "You have intelligence, and beauty, and power of your own. You don't need me to jumpstart a career or gain publicity." He pushed her out into a spin "So tell me Selina…" he pulled her back in so her back was flat against his chest, his arms tightly around her as he pressed his lips to her ear "what made you come tonight?" When she didn't immediately reply, he spun her out again and resumed a more standard position as he continued leading her around the floor.
Selina's heart was racing but she refused to show it. If she could outwit Batman she could win whatever this was with Bruce. She closed a small amount of distance between the two of them, buying time. She was rewarded with an almost imperceptible tension in Bruce's arms that was not due to the dancing. It showed her she was getting into his mind and she loved every second of it.
"Well, it's not as though you gave me much of a choice Mr. Wayne," she teased, moving even closer and feeling the same tension "Between the dress, the jewelry, the shoes, the flowers and the sending your butler to come get me, it would've been just rude to not show." He chuckled, spinning her again and pulling her closer; she vaguely registered the tempo of the music change to something more complex, something more sensual, something that if, she wasn't mistaken, was at least a version of tango. He was challenging her.
"I told Alfred that if you said 'No', not to push," he responded "But you're here. You're wearing the dress and the jewelry and the shoes, so clearly I did something right. Either that or you really do want to be here. Something tells me that if you were still angry you just wouldn't have shown."
"Oh, I'm still angry," she responded though her tone was sultry "But I'm not an unreasonable woman, maybe you do deserve to explain, besides…" he pushed her out almost forcefully into a spin and immediately brought her back dipping her low to the ground but, instead of pulling her back up as the dance would generally dictate, he kept her there, leaving her in a vulnerable position, able to fall or be dropped. And while his arms didn't shake, he stared at her with something she couldn't quite read in the dim light that made her feel even more vulnerable.
There was lust, as always, but there was something different, something deeper. She felt the witty comment die on her tongue and all she could hear was the pounding of her heart in her ears and all she could see was his face, yet at the same time she felt as though she was watching everything from the ceiling. There was a moment of clarity in her mind. She didn't know if he felt it too, but, for possibly the first time, she saw him as more than just the billionaire playboy philanthropist. She saw him as the boy who lost his parents at a young age. She saw him as a man who had lost a woman he loved to horrible circumstances and she recognized in him the same thing she wouldn't want to admit that she saw in herself: someone who was truly vulnerable underneath a meticulously maintained defense of power in all its forms.
She didn't know how long it was but eventually he snapped her back up and against his chest. There was a pregnant pause between the two of them where all she could hear was the beating of her heart and she swore underneath her fingers on his chest, she could feel his heart beating with the same pounding.
"…besides" she began again, pulling away slightly, not sure if he had felt the same intensity as her but needing to regain her power nonetheless "I-I haven't had a chance to go grocery shopping, so there was no food in my apartment, and I'm hungry. I don't find the point in turning down a free meal." There was another pause but, quickly enough, she was rewarded with laugh as Bruce, mercifully, didn't push anything. He let her go and pulled away, retrieving her glass of wine from the table and passing it to her again.
"Well, it would be rude for me to keep a lady waiting if she's hungry," he responded. He glanced back at her and received a smirk that clearly stated it certainly would be rude. "Let's eat then, shall we?"
It was a wonderful meal, full of Selina's favorites from the restaurant. Bruce and her made small talk for the majority of the meal until dessert came. Another one of Selina's favorites: dark chocolate cake with raspberries paired with, of course, the finest champagne. In spite of the way Selina had felt before, whatever that had been, Selina decided it was time to get to the point of the conversation. She needed to hear him say what he was thinking. She was trained to trust her instincts but with him she wasn't entirely sure how to go about doing it.
"Tell me Mr. Wayne," she began "How exactly do you know all of these things about me?"
"I have my ways."
That made Selina tense and grit her teeth. She put down the champagne flute with such force it echoed throughout the room.
"Always the mysterious responses, Bruce," she said, dropping the flirtatiousness. "How am I supposed to believe what you want me to believe when you're constantly keeping me in the dark?"
Bruce sighed, he knew this was going to happen this evening, he had just truly hoped it wouldn't. He took a sip of champagne while Selina waited impatiently. She knew she looked childish. She twitched the foot of her crossed leg under the table and crossed her arms around herself.
"Because you are Selina," he replied simply "How can you not see that?"
"Because—" she started before she fell silent. Why did she not see that? Why was she so hell-bent on the idea that she would never be different than the other girls? From what she had seen he had truly loved Rachel and if she was determined to split the two types of women he had been seen with into two categories: empty-headed models and Rachel Dawes, why couldn't she believe she was in the same league with Rachel? She logically knew was better than the models, but, on an emotional level, she couldn't seem to believe him.
She took a sip of the champagne, dropping her arms from around herself in doing so and ceasing her fidgeting. She knew she was stalling for time and that it was obvious, but she didn't care. She felt a warm hand cover hers on the table which brought her back to the present moment but she found that was still unable to find her voice.
"Selina," he began again looking into her eyes and squeezing her hand. She glanced down at them then back up at him "I know it's hard to trust me, I haven't given you a whole lot to go off of, but I know you care about me, and I care about you too. So you have to be able to believe me when I say, I don't tell you because it would endanger you. When I disappeared, after the parole hearing, I traveled and I made a few enemies and if you knew everything or if they found out about you they would hurt you to get to me," it wasn't a total lie but maybe it would content her "You have to trust me."
Selina didn't completely believe him, but then again, when did she ever believe anyone one-hundred percent? He made her happy and she hadn't been happy in a long time. Maybe it was okay to be kept in the dark a little bit when she had such a shining white light to look to. She looked back down at their hands she felt herself lace her fingers through his as she was momentarily transported back to the feeling of mutual vulnerability between them, but knowing that they could protect each other. That was a rare feeling and maybe, just maybe that feeling, for however long they were to last, was worth the fall.
A thousand thoughts passed through her mind before she just said: