Title: Visiting Hours
Author: DC Luder
Rating: T for described peril and suggested adult themes
Summary: Bed rest doesn't always involve resting.
Infringements: Batman and all recognizable characters are property of DC Comics, not DC Luder.
Author's Note: This is exactly why I shouldn't drink Southern Comfort in proximity of a laptop... Post-Hush cuteness below!
"Lead me not into temptation—I can find the way myself."
Rita Mae Brown
Years ago, Bane had shattered my spine over his knee.
Miraculously, the spinal cord had not been severed, but had rather swollen to the point of causing paralysis below the injury. I had spent nearly a year in a wheelchair, risking further damage by using a pair of walking canes. The tenacity I had thrived on for so long had resulted in pushing myself to a point that Alfred had quit so that he wouldn't have to watch my self-destruction finally realized.
In the end, Dr. Shondra Kinsolving had healed my back with the touch of her fingertips before lapsing into a emotionally crippled, childhood state of mind. No science or biology could explain the event, thus making it the single supernatural experience that I could honestly appreciate. Months of vigorous training of both mind and body had prepared me to forcibly take the cowl from the man I had willingly given it to.
Although there had been no scarring on the spinal cord, the vertebrae that had been fractured had occasionally been irritated by direct blows or falls. Regular chiropractic work, massage and hydrotherapy had helped ease minor pains but more severe flare-ups required bed rest and anti-inflammatories. Although it had always been common for me to ignore demands of proper rest and recovery, any damage befalling my back had been treated with the utmost precaution.
I had been unable afford to lose the gift Shondra had given me, especially since she had been unable to provide it once more…
Following a two-week hunt for Garfield Lynn, including a number of encounters with his new and improved Firefly suit, I was caught in a massive explosion on the north pier. Luckily, the ship repair building was uninhabited and I was the only one injured. The force of the blast sent me flying through a window, landing thirty feet away onto the dock.
Instinctively, I managed to tuck and roll upon impact, but I misjudged the space around my landing. After colliding into a massive wooden piling, I slammed back first into the boat that was tied to it. I lost consciousness for the fraction of a second it took me to fall into the icy water, numbing cold doing nothing to hide the sudden pain in my back.
Garfield Lynn had escaped.
Millions in property destruction, at the least.
And every move I made brought a growl to my lips.
Each fact making the call for help to Alfred that much more difficult.
With Nightwing in Bludhaven, it was pointless to call him. Contacting Oracle would have lead her to sending Batgirl and Robin to my side when I wanted them to cover the city. Sending them after Lynn would have been reckless, considering he was euphoric from not only defeating me but also from his successful arson endeavor. I was willing to give him one night to celebrate so that I would be able to recuperate.
One night had been far too optimistic.
After contacting Alfred and appraising him of the situation, I radioed the Mobile to my location and managed to get into the driver's seat without catastrophe. Setting it on auto to the Cave, I raised Robin on the comm. link, informing him that I wanted him to cover the docks after the firefighters killed the blaze.
When he asked where I was headed, I closed the connection.
Meditation and focused breathing alleviated a majority of the pain, combined with the heated back of the driver's seat. Upon arriving to the Cave, I regretted making the trek at all considering I was a little stiff but nothing else. That was until I tried to stand up.
Thankfully, Alfred was at the Mobile and ready to help me over to the medical bay. Through my growls, I picked up on his chide remarks on how he would have brought over a wheelchair or gurney but he wanted to evaluate my gait and balance.
I told him to shut the hell up.
Like clockwork, he responded, "Very good, sir."
Through a clenched jaw, I removed my gloves, cowl, cape, tunic and body armor before gently sitting on the gurney. In addition to whatever I had done to my back, I suffered a number of burns and lacerations that Alfred was quick to tend to. Bleeding staunched and burns salved, I cautiously reclined face down on the mattress, biting it as bony fingers began poking and probing.
"Substantial fasciculation, Master Bruce… and the bruising is already rather extensive… I would have to say, considering you were able to walk as well as you did, not to mention rotate your arms and bend at the waist to remove your guise… you have suffered a considerable lower lumbar strain."
Not what I wanted to hear.
I spent the remainder of that night in the Cave, lying on my side while alternating heating pads and ice packs on my back. Alfred summoned Leslie, against my wishes, and after she agreed with his diagnosis, she started me on naproxen to help reduce inflammation and allow for a valid attempt at sleep.
After dry swallowing the meds, I asked what her prognosis was.
"Nothing that rest won't solve… Three days in bed… another week or so of light activity and rest… then two weeks of moderate activity… not that you intend to wait that long."
Exhaling slowly while my back succumbed to another bout of spasms, I replied, "Two days in bed… I can do that."
"It's not a barter system, Bruce."
"Lynn's still out there, I don't have a choice."
She hesitated before looking to Alfred, "Fine… two days. But at least a week before you start jumping from sky scrapers."
I agreed to her terms, uncertain if I would be able to follow through.
Sleep found me a little after two in the morning but was regrettably cut short at the sound of a cycle roaring into the Cave. Looking up from the raised gurney, I watched as Tim leapt from the bike, ripping his helmet and mask off before calling out Alfred's name. Since I had already sent him upstairs for the night, I decided to save Tim the hassle, "Over here."
"What the hell happened out there?" he asked as he jogged over, "They needed four hours to kill those fires---," his eyes scored over my infirm form, "Are you all right?"
"I will be in two days…" After catching him up to speed, I proceeded, "It's the fifth waterfront fire he's started, no doubt the reflection on the water heightens the experience for him."
"A third of Gotham is on the water," Tim muttered to himself, trying not to stare at me.
In one of his early years as Robin, he had spent a great deal of effort investigating Firefly while I had been trying to hunt down the Arkham inmates Bane had released. He had uncovered the fact that many of the sites of attack were related to experiences endured as a child. Those that weren't, he seemed to attack in order to acquire supplies, fuel and the occasional distraction for a getaway.
Although I had the utmost face in my young partner, I had no intention of him ending up on a gurney, as well.
Tim stepped closer, "That part of the pier had a number of fuel tanks, one of which contained propane… probably for his flamethrower… How did you track him there?"
"He was at the carousel near the boardwalk. I was there on a hunch… chased him down to the commercial pier, cornered him in the repair building and then…"
"Kapooie," Tim finished. He then added, "Don't worry, I'll find him."
Without another word, he about-faced, retrieved his helmet and stopped at the lab before returning to my line of sight. As he held up a small metallic orb, I fought back a smirk. For several years, I had been trying to harness some of the technology Victor Fries had developed for the greater good. With Tim's assistance, I had finally managed to form golf ball sized capsules that exploded on impact, covering the target in a liquid that froze when exposed to oxygen.
Alfred had said it was perverse to use one criminal's endeavors against another.
I had simply reasoned that there was no better way to fight fire than with ice.
Still in the preliminary testing stage, I had yet to use them in the field, especially since the range and degree of freezing that resulted had been resistant to calibration. With the Firefly suit, there was no telling what havoc the ice would wreck on the wiring, thus preventing me from utilizing the capsules. There was no need to warn Tim of the possible ramifications, as he had been the first to suggest them.
After he departed on the cycle, I waited fifteen minutes to be sure that Alfred wasn't going to check in on me. With the foreseeable coast in the clear, I carefully rose from the gurney and began taking slow, methodical steps towards the computer bay, heating pad in hand. There was no reason I couldn't sit upright, resting and treating my back, while working.
As I set a hand on the single chair before the display screen, I heard a distant cough and realized I was very wrong.
"I was just---," I began to explain my current position.
"--- preparing to move upstairs to the master bedroom to prevent any distractions from deterring your speedy recovery," Alfred finished. After I growled incoherently, he inquired, "What was that, Master Bruce?"
Taking the elevator, I followed Alfred down the dim corridor to my bedroom, which unsurprisingly was already outfitted with carafe of ice water, glass and several bottles of medication in addition to turned down covers, extra pillows and a fresh ice pack. After slowly and painfully settling into bed, he asked if there was anything else he could do for me.
I had replied softly, "Wake me in two days."
Despite the late hour that I had finally been able to fall asleep, I found myself waking at half passed eleven the next morning. Generally, when injured, I woke to Alfred changing an IV bag or administering medications through a catheter. In rare and more serious instances, I would wake to find Dick or Tim dozing in a nearby chair, waiting for me to return the land of the living. More often than not, Leslie would be on guard, seeing to it that I remained horizontal to prevent further harm to my body.
In all my years as Batman, I had never woken to the ruffling of a down comforter and the sound of purring in my ear.
"What are you doing?" I croaked.
"Heard through the cyber grapevine that you had a bit of a tumble last night…"
Eyes still closed, I gently reached under the heavy blankets to withdraw the used ice pack, "Bit of a tumble is an understatement."
"Poor thing," a set of warm hands began tracing the bruises and bumps of my battered back.
Withholding numerous winces, I slowly turned lay on my right side, giving my left side time to rest and provide more adequate blood flow to my extremities, "You're going to get me into trouble."
"Please, you get yourself into trouble well enough on your own."
The fingers began touring my abdomen, moving to gently scratch my pectorals. I was about to explain that I was in actual pain when the covers were pulled over my head, followed swiftly by a pair of soft lips finding mine. All the naproxen and NSAIDs in the world paled at the medicinal circulatory benefits of incisors taking my lower lip captive.
A loud pounding on the door and muted voices calling my name however…
Moving gingerly to lay on my back, I revealed only my head and my left arm just as the double doors swung open. Tim, clad in wrinkled sweat pants and a black tee shirt barged in followed by Alfred who impeccably dressed in pressed slacks, white collared shirt and a fitted sweater.
"There's a perimeter breach, Bruce," Tim exclaimed, "We've initiated lockdown, so whoever broke in certainly is getting back out."
Manicured nails embedded themselves into my hips and miraculously, I hadn't so much as flinched, "Anything coming up on the monitors?"
Tim answered, his eyes scanning the room, "No, not yet… only one motion sensor was activated."
As the nails moved up to claw at my chest, I suggested, "Perhaps it was a misfire… seems improbable for only one sensor," the nails jabbed at my kidneys and I was unable to hide my reaction, "For only one sensor to be tripped. I would run a diagnostics, perhaps the last thunderstorm lead to some malfunctioning sensors."
Tim's look of confusion was suddenly replaced with a broad smile, "Right… but just to be safe, I should probably check the area where the sensor was activated."
"Of course," I was quick to reply.
Tim looked to Alfred and Alfred announced, "The sensor was the bay window, sir… of your bedroom."
While the nails pinched and tore at my skin, a tongue began dancing across my navel. Taking in air slowly, I commented, "Then it must be a faulty wire… I would have seen someone walk through the wind-ow," I stuttered as the teeth found the inguinal ligament crossing over the front of my pubic bone.
Approaching the bed, Alfred inquired, "Is there something amiss, sir?"
"Just… tender," I answered while my concealed hand stabbed at a pressure point on a thin collar bone. My attempt had been futile as the teeth simply hardened their hold.
"You appear a bit flushed, sir… perhaps you've taken a fever, after all there were a number of open wounds---."
"I'm fine… just need to rest is all."
Alfred's cool palm settled on my brow while his face miraculously remained deadpan, "A bit warm… the room is fairly mild, wouldn't you say, Master Tim?"
"At the moment, no doubt it's on its way to getting warmer…" he snickered as he turned to leave the room.
The teeth released my abdomen, but I felt them smiling against my skin.
I insisted, "Alfred, I'm fine… just.. Need some cold water… to take my medication with."
"Very good, sir… and a hearty breakfast… I can not recall the last time you have enjoyed one."
Tim's hands planted themselves over his mouth to keep his laughter muted. "I'll catch you up later on Firefly, possible lead as to wear he's been storing everything… right now… you need your rest."
Alfred turned to leave as well, but hesitated, turning back to face me with a finger pressed to his chin, "On second thought, Master Bruce, I best remove one of these blankets, I would hate for you to overheat…"
"Not necessary---," I began as I clenched onto the comforter.
Alfred smirked softly, "Please, sir, I insist."
I held my own in the cover tug-of-war for approximately thirteen seconds. Rather than aide in my efforts, the hands that were on my chest lowered themselves in order to stab me in both armpits.
"Ah… there we go, sir, much better… and lemon tea for you, Ms. Kyle?"
"With honey, if you don't mind," Selina grinned as she pushed herself off of me, resting her chin in her hands as her elbows settled on either side of me, "Thank you, Alfred."
"The pleasure is somewhat entirely mine," he offered before ushering himself and Tim out of the room.
"I can't believe you," I growled as I tried to push her off of me entirely.
She resisted by pinching a red laceration that crossed my sternum, forcing me back down, "Right, like you were playing it oh so cool…"
Where I had been in a pair of boxer briefs, she had been far more clothed than I in a sleeveless fitted shirt and a pair of dark leggings. She usually faced the day with perfect form, from her hair down to her toenails but that morning she looked as if she was fresh from a long, hard run with damp curls slipping from her ponytail, reddened cheeks and the faint smell of sweat permeating her perfume.
Two days until I would be able to do the same.
It had been over a year since I had divulged my identity to her. It had been nearly as long since I had ended our formal relationship out of suspicions that she was a pawn in Hush's master plan. Since then, we had either avoided one another entirely or been drawn into intermittent entanglements. With her growing closer into the circle of associates I had relied on for nearly two decades, I had been forced to accept the fact that there was no more avoiding her.
I tried to glare down at her, but she smiled brilliantly before crawling up my torso to plant her lips on mine once more. Doing my best to keep most of my weight to the right and less scathed side, I wrapped my left arm around her back, making sure she had no other tricks up her nonexistent sleeves.
As one of her fingers hooked the elastic band around my waist, a distant cough sounded from the door. We both looked to see Alfred standing at the still open door. Considering he was the closest being I could consider to be my father figure, I felt a twinge of embarrassment course through me.
"Given your state of infirm, Master Bruce, I must insist that visiting hours are only until noon…" Alfred remarked before quietly closing the door behind him.
Selina glanced over at the bedside clock.
When my eyes followed hers, I nodded to see it was twenty of noon.
"We best get visiting," she growled.