Disclaimer: Batman and all other recognisable characters are the property of DC Comics, with the movie rights belonging to Warner Brothers. The original characters are of my creation and thus, they belong to me.
Author's Notes: So, here it is - this is the sequel to my other Batman story, Smoke and Mirrors. This will be a story in its own right, but if you haven't read Smoke you might want to check it out, because it will bring some of the events in this story into context. The first couple of chapters are a little bit different from Smoke, somewhat lighter in tone, but I can assure you that Gotham hasn't become a much better place to live in the time that has passed between the two stories, so things will quickly get more complicated. For all those who read Smoke, I hope you also enjoy this story, and for everyone reading this - please review. I desperately want to know what you think about my story, both the good and the bad, and I'm not scared of constructive critisism. Finally, I'd just like to say; I hope you enjoy.
The first rays of the spring sun were just then coming through the sheer curtains as he opened his eyes. His mind had been awake for a while already, but for the first moments of awareness it had chosen to just listen to the comfortable, lazy silence surrounding him. The only sound audible except for that of a city slowly waking far below was that of a soft but steady breathing that was not his own.
She lay curled up beside him, her face half obscured by the sheets and her dark hair spread out in a tousled halo around her, and she looked about as relaxed and peaceful as he felt. The past couple of months had been surprisingly good to him, and for a large part he attributed that to her presence. He hadn't really planned to let her interfere with his life to the extent she had done, but after their first couple of casual dates he discovered that he really didn't mind having her around the penthouse at all, in fact he rather enjoyed it. It gave him a brief taste of peace and normality, as he had never experienced it before. And after the business with the Riddler, Batman was wise to keep his head down. He knew of at least two police officers who would love to get a chance to take aim at him again, and he'd rather not give them that opportunity.
Luckily for him, Gotham had been rather quiet since Edward Nashton was caught, and although all his sense told him that it would not last, he was grateful for the pause.
The woman beside him stirred, and his attention turned back to her. She probably had no idea what effect she had on him. He certainly hadn't told her…he didn't see the point in mentioning that ever since he had gotten involved with her his nightmares had all but vanished. That would mean having to explain what caused them in the first place, and he wasn't quite ready to do that yet. He didn't know if he would ever be, but as long as their relationship could remain casual, he wouldn't have to worry. A part of him wished that he could have been honest with her, but the other, prevailing part knew that his secret would have to remain, despite the feelings he harbored for this extraordinary woman.
"What time is it?"
The sound of her sleepy voice murmuring the question halfway into her pillow brought his thoughts back to the present, and he turned towards her to kiss the part of her cheek that wasn't obscured by her pillow or her hair.
He paused, and almost absentmindedly lifted his hand to brush a lock of hair away from her face, before he continued softly;
"Go back to sleep."
She didn't argue, probably because she hadn't been entirely awake to begin with, and when he pulled the covers around her she gave a content little sigh and curled up closer to him. He kissed her forehead, and paused for a moment to watch her face as she drifted off into peaceful sleep before closing his eyes to join her.
Hours later, when the sun was high in the sky, he woke again, this time to a slender fingers pulling softly through his hair, and a pair of deep brown eyes looking at him. When she saw him open his eyes, she smiled.
"Good morning. Sleep well?"
"Fair enough," he replied with a half shrug, before returning the question.
"Just fine," she said happily while she sat up and brushed her hair away from her face with one hand.
"You sound happy." He remarked, letting his voice turn it into a question. Truth to be told, Connie Tate usually managed to sound happy whenever she was, which was often, the same way she managed to sound angry when she was, which was much less common.
"I am happy." She replied, managing to make it sound as if being happy was the most natural thing in the world.
"Well, let's see…" She began, slumping back onto the bed in an exaggerated fashion, making the pillows bounce around the mattress.
"It's Sunday. There is an extremely good-looking guy in bed with me. I'm in a freaking penthouse, and not any penthouse at that, but the most freakishly huge penthouse known to mankind. Not to mention I had a very good time last night…"
A wide grin spread across her face at the memory, and he couldn't resist leaning in to kiss her. He wished the hours they had together could last forever, but he knew that they wouldn't. It was Sunday morning, which meant that breakfast would last long and he would savor every minute of her company, but after that the magic of their meeting would slowly fade as she hesitantly, but determined as always, would prepare to leave and go back to her normal life. And he, with equal hesitation and determination, would go back to his…
Half an hour later they were having breakfast in one of the smaller living areas adjacent to the master bedroom, and Bruce watched Connie, wearing one of his shirts, as she put generous amounts of butter and marmalade on a piece of toast. He also watched as she, in a moment of distraction, dropped the knife she was holding and let out a squeal of surprise but quickly caught it in mid-air and put it carefully down on her plate. As she licked marmalade from her fingers the squeal turned into a charming little laugh, and he couldn't help but chuckle. Connie could be quite clumsy, but she could also be just as quick to react to rectify her own mishaps, as evident by the quick catch of the knife he had just witnessed. It was another thing he liked about her, in a strange way it gave her a sort of casual elegance. Her reactions, like her demeanor in most situations, were seemingly effortless, as if her body was in tune with her general state of mind. He wondered if he was the only one who saw the beauty in that.
They were both silent for a while, and she had almost finished her piece of toast when he asked;
Bruce hesitated for a moment before continuing. He already had a pretty good idea about how she would react to what he was about to say.
"The completion party for the Manor is next weekend…"
Their eyes met, and he already saw the resistance building up in her gaze. She shook her head gently, and turned her face away from him for a moment, seemingly looking out over the city, before turning her attention back to him again.
"No, Bruce. We've talked about this… I don't want to be one of your women."
"You don't want to be seen with me." Since it was only supposed to sound like a confirmation of something he already knew, he was slightly surprised at the bitterness that hid just below the surface in those words. He hadn't meant for it to sound that way, he knew why Connie was reluctant, and to a certain extent he understood her. The press would see her as just another piece of arm-candy to notorious playboy Bruce Wayne, and for a woman like Connie, who wasn't thrilled with the press to begin with, a label such as that would be a clear insult.
He wanted her to attend the party at the newly rebuilt Wayne Manor, just as he wanted to be able to take her out to dinner on occasion, but so far she had denied all that kind of invitations flat out. And if her reluctance had been the only obstacle he probably could have persuaded her otherwise, but there was another thing also standing in the way, beside the secret he kept from her; his image. An image he had created to keep all the curious eyes in the world firmly away from discovering the true nature of Bruce Wayne, now caused him trouble with one woman who had come to mean something to him, and even now when he sort of wanted to, he could not let that image go. He had to keep one mask firmly in place to cover another, and there was only so much room for maneuvering in between the two.
"You would rather sneak around in secrecy?" He asked her, incredulously.
Connie simply shrugged and replied;
"At least then it's my secret, and no one else's."
It made sense when she said it like that, but he still couldn't resist one last attempt at getting her to change her mind.
"Think about it." He urged her, and when he saw that the look in her eyes was still skeptical, he added with a smiled that seemed to almost effortlessly creep into the corners of his mouth and spread wide across his lips;
The effect was almost instantaneous, and she bit her lip in a vain effort not to give away the fact that his persuasion was dangerously close to working on her.
"Okay," she said silently, all the while not quite daring to look back at him, appearing suddenly shy. But then she seemed to shrug it off, and their eyes met again. The look in her eyes now was mild, almost submissive, but her voice carried a bit more volume when she said;
"Okay…I'll think about it."
Some hours later he watched her as she stepped into the elevator, and only the quick glance she threw him over her shoulder gave away anything about what the two of them had shared the night before and earlier that morning. Apart from that one, brief glance, all the magic was gone.