Disclaimer: see second chapter



Business Dealings

Bruce sat down to his first solid English breakfast in seven years, consuming the eggs and rasher of bacon with gusto. Sejza looked up from her platter of sausages and shook her head at him.

"You're going to be wired, that's already your fourth cup of coffee."

"No, it's my second, the first two were chai."

"Right, like chai doesn't have caffeine. Either way, eat up, we've got a lot to do today." Bruce snorted into his coffee at her tone, it sounded so much like Cardea's stuffy British accent, he had to wonder if she'd been taking lessons. Alfred walked in carrying his own breakfast, the older man had convinced Bruce to use the dining room for his meal, but he hadn't been able to come up with a suitable argument as to why he himself could not eat with his employer.

"Master Wayne-" the British man stopped at the glare he was given, "Master Bruce-Bruce." He let out an audible sigh as the glare stopped. How undecorous, calling his employer by his first name without an honorific! Alfred Pennyworth was nothing if not an impeccable English butler, the need for titles included.

"You've been gone a long time, sir." It was Bruce's turn to sigh now at Alfred's deliberate stressing of the last word. It looked like his attempt was in vain after all.

"What of it, Mr. Pennyworth? Have you told anyone I was coming back?"

Cardea let out a groan for her human at Bruce's tone. So that was how it was going to be. Oh, this could be interesting. The female dæmons shared a glance that seemed to express that phrase common among females no matter what distinction put to separate them, a phrase always started with a sigh. "Men!"

"No, Master Bruce, I just couldn't figure out the legal ramifications of bringing you back from the dead." Alfred suddenly wished he had a camera, the expression on his employer's face was blackmail material, should he ever need it…little did he know the amount of blackmail material he would be introduced to soon. The picture would be chump-change in comparison to what he would get later, if the thought had ever occurred to him. Which, being Alfred Pennyworth, it did not.

Sezja performed the spit-take for her human, swinging her head up to stare at Cardea in shock, much as her human was doing for the Scottie terrier's. Dead?! "Dead?" Bruce's tone was much more mild than the way it had been in his head, that much was for certain.

"You've been gone seven years."

Bruce had a moment of irrational anger that showed when he next spoke; his temper had always been sharp, and his time away had not fully tempered it. "You had me declared dead?"

"Oh," Alfred coughed, taking a bite of his melon, "actually it was Mr. Earle, he's taking the company public. He wanted to liquidate your majority shareholding. Those shares are worth quite a bit of money."

Bruce had to crack a grin at this, already plotting his next plan of attack. It would only slightly tweak his original idea of reintroduction to society, this new information. "Well, it's a good thing I left everything to you, then."

Alfred had to return the smile, "Quite so, sir. And you can borrow the Rolls if you like. Just bring it back with a full tank of gas."


That was how Bruce found himself facing the immaculate desk of Earle's secretary. Sezja grumbled to herself about basic human decency, since she considered that no one had the right to be forced to be that neat. Bruce didn't bother to tell her some people liked it better that way. He himself preferred the "clean but lived in" look.

"Good morning, I'm here to see Mr. Earle." The secretary didn't even bother to look up from her desk, "busy" painting her nails. "Name?"

"Uh…" Bruce shared a look with Sezja; she began muttering about incompetent, flighty song-bird souls. "Bruce Wayne." The secretary's quick look up and subsequent spilled bottle of nail-polish made Sezja shake with stifled laughter. Things had just gotten interesting.

Paul Earle walked out of his office, a frown marring his otherwise self-considered rugged good looks. The damn phone had been ringing for ten minutes straight, why hadn't Jessica picked it up? He was busy trying to arrange a way to get that dead man, Bruce Wayne's shares out from the bitter thumb of the man's old crotchety butler, but the lawyers told him everything was iron clad. Fiddlesticks, there had to be something!

"Jessica, where are you?" He stopped, staring at his secretary's wood-thrush dæmon, who was busy grooming a jaguar, of all creatures. "Why is no one answering the phone?"

Bruce kept his voice low and steady, his hands wrapped around the secretary's-Jessica's-smaller ones. "That's it, keep your eye on the ball, and…" he shifted her hands with his and her hips with his. Golf had always been the game that Princeton boys took dates they wanted to get close to easy; they'd always picked the cute but stupid ones, who couldn't figure out how to swing for the life of them. Bruce was just glad he'd remembered what he'd gotten from watching his friends. The ball sunk easily in the hole on the miniature putting green spread across the office floor. It was only when the ball was in and he had heard her giggle in pleasure, then stiffen at her boss' voice that he let go with a small smile to reassure her.

"It's Wayne Enterprises, Mr. Earle, I'm sure they'll call back." He made sure to inflect his voice with all the joviality and devil-may-care attitude he could, in hopes that this, among things, would throw the older man off guard. The slight stagger from Earle made him worry momentarily about a heart attack, until he looked into the man's eyes, and saw not pain, but fear and surprise. Good, his plan was working.

"Bruce?" The man had to pause, seemingly to collect his thoughts, "You're supposed to be dead."

Bruce just smiled winningly, keeping the sarcasm light. "I'm sorry to disappoint."

Sezja took this moment to stand up, leisurely stretching before walking over to Bruce's side. "The rumors of our death were greatly exaggerated." She smirked as well as a cat could, baring a long, deadly canine as she inwardly sniggered.