Title: Far, Far Away…
Author: DC Luder
Summary: After giving her child away, Selina told Bruce that she needed to be alone and he did. They both were wrong.
Infringements: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder.
Author's Note: I've been meaning to get around to writing this story, and it just so happened to fit in the Bludhaven challenge for Helena Wayne's Birthday!
A/N 2: Yeah for binge authoring on a long lunch break!
"If we deny love that is given to us, if we refuse to give love because we fear pain or loss, then our lives will be empty, our loss greater."
"Please, Bruce, I just want to be alone."
Rain was pelting down on the large windows of the small meeting room, in sync with the tears streaming down Selina's face. I wanted nothing more than take her into my arms and promise that everything was going to be all right. As she handed Helena over to the adoption agent, I found myself resting my hands on Selina's shoulders, offering what support I could at the worst moment of her life…
When she asked me to leave, I wanted to ignore her, knowing that she wasn't in the right state of mind to be alone. I had lost a child, albeit entirely different circumstances, and I had wanted to be left alone when that was the last thing I had needed,
After a moment, I nodded quietly, letting my hands fall from her shoulders. As I left the room, I glanced back once to see her back quivering in silent sobs.
It was her choice.
Just as it had been to give Helena away…
She had come to the Cave the week before, finally confessing to killing Black Mask although his body had been cold for over a year. I had called her out on using it as a cover for why she had sought me out that afternoon. When I had finally looked up at her from my workbench, Selina had nodded, although her gaze was directed at her daughter as she played with Tim.
When she had found her words, I should have been shocked, but I had seen it coming…
Selina, like myself, had wanted to protect the innocent. Her young daughter was the most innocent life she had ever encountered and although she loved Helena, she couldn't stand the thought of what length she would go to protect her. It wasn't that she wasn't willing to take the lives of those who would dare come after her child, that was an unquestioned certainty. But to put Helena through that, denying her the chance to grow up as a normal child and live happily ever after…
Decision made, she had asked for my help, one last time. I had already faked the deaths of her alter ego and child but the final favor would have gone a step further. This would have brought Bruce Wayne into the picture, using his resources in order to find a safe place for Helena to live, far, far away from Gotham and her mother and her-.
After taking Helena from Tim's care, Selina had explained her decision even though she hadn't been asked. I had quietly listened to her convictions, detecting the forced even tone laced in her words. As she had paused at the glass case holding Jason's costume, I had realized she had been talking to herself as much as she had been to me.
Before heading up the granite steps, she had added, "Face it, Bruce… the world you and I live in? It's not a safe place for kids."
There was nothing I would deny Selina.
If it was what Selina wanted, then so be it.
The next morning, I had paid a visit to my attorney's office, unannounced and with no appointment on the books. My personal litigator, Rachel Green, had fought the near impossible battle to clear my name after being arrested for the murder of Vesper Fairchild. Despite all the evidence and the fact that I had been unwilling to provide an accountable alibi, she had accepted the case and fought for me until the victorious end.
Never once asking if the evidence had been right, that I had killed my former girlfriend.
She had always been someone I could trust, one of the few.
When I had stepped into her office, she had grinned, rising from her spacious glass desk in order to embrace me warmly. I had brought her a chai tea and she had thanked me profusely. After a few minutes of civil chatting, she had gotten down to business and asked what was on my mind.
I had explained, "A very close friend of mine needs to place her daughter through adoption…"
"How close of a friend?" Rachel had asked.
"Close… she has a bit of a rough past, more enemies than friends… she feels it's for the best interest of the child if she was in a safer environment."
"I see… And I agree with her, Gotham is the worst place to raise a child… Why my two boys are in boarding school…" she had sighed before leaning back in the chair, "How old is the child?"
"She's nearly a year old."
Rachel had nodded while skimming through her agenda book, "Okay… well, it's actually very easy to surrender a child to social services… younger they are, the easier they are to place… often in better homes…"
"No… this … is different. I… She needs it so that no one will ever be able to trace the child back to her mother. Ever."
That had piqued Rachel's interest, "I see… Well, I can bury any part of anyone's past, Bruce, certainly I can do the same for their future. I'll work on it personally. No need for paralegals to get their gossip fix on your behalf."
"I appreciate it, Rachel."
"I know you do… your check book might not."
From the inside pocket of my dress coat, I had retrieved a large, plain envelope and handed it to her, "My check book will never have to know."
After a ten minutes of breaking down the logistics of the next few days, Rachel rose from her desk to show me out. Before opening the door for me, she had looked up with a frown on her face, "Bruce… I know you are a good person… always with the best intentions but… being a dad isn't so bad."
I had tried to interject, "I-."
"I know, not my place to say… it's not the right time, the right woman or the right circumstances, I don't need to know why you're doing this, I just want to make sure you know why."
After a breath, I had answered, "I know… Thank you, Rachel."
Although I had been expected at work, I had found myself driving into the East End, passing by Selina's building. Having already shed her guise as Irena Dubrovna, she was in a temporary apartment under another pseudonym. One she would be vacating after Helena left her care…
I should have dropped in to tell her what was set in motion and the tentative plan Rachel had conjured for the week. At the very least, I should have made an appearance at Wayne Enterprises, but found myself avoiding both and driving back to Bristol. On the way, I had called my assistant, Melinda, and told her I was going to be gone until next Monday for personal reasons. Rather than try and garner any information, she had replied, "Sure thing Bruce… if you need anything, let me know."
I had needed the ability to turn back time but I wasn't sure she was capable of finding it, despite her resourcefulness.
Walking through the service entrance at half-passed eleven Monday morning, I had rouses suspicions from Alfred. He had been in the kitchen putting away a bounty of produce and groceries, stopping at the sight of me. I had intended on bypassing him entirely but having been caught I had to undergo his interrogation.
"Master Bruce, is everything all right?"
"I'm fine… taking the week off."
"That may be the worst case of the Mondays to date, sir." Leaving the groceries, he had started to pour me a cup of coffee but I had declined. After he turned his attention back to me, Alfred had said, "Well then… there is obviously something amiss…"
I should have never stopped in the kitchen considering that staring down Alfred had never been one of my strong suits.
Although I had meant to paraphrase recent events, I found myself pouring out every detail. He had been involved in the fake murders of Irena Dubrovna and her child as he had been waiting in a park nearby with Helena whilst "the Revolutionary" blew them up. From there, he had not made mention of Selina and child aside from sly comments about the lengths I had gone to help her. I had found myself divulging every word from her visit the day before and the plan Rachel Green was putting into effect to find the perfect family. Somehow, fact had turned to forecast as I started to admit my concerns about Selina actually being able to live without Helena.
When I had finished, Alfred had cleared his throat before commenting, "Master Bruce… Although your children are not biologically yours, you share the same, undying bond with them that Ms. Selina shares with her own child. The difference being that your children are grown, able to defend themselves, their youths cut short by tragedy… Ms. Selina has this single opportunity to sacrifice her own happiness for that of her child, so that one day, Ms. Helena can have the life that every mother and every father wish for their children… A happy one."
I had nothing to say to that.
Alfred had continued putting the groceries away as he stated, "Ms. Selina is a strong, independent woman… but you are correct in worrying for her, sir… she will need you, more than she will be able to realize."
With the week to myself, I had intended on doing whatever I could to make things easier for Selina. I had attended and arranged all of the meetings with Rachel, making it so that Selina never had to set foot inside of an office. My intentions had strictly been that not even myself would know where Helena went, although I had felt that afterwards I wouldn't be able to resist locating her. I had personally taken on the East End during patrols, persuading even the lowest of scum to behave themselves.
I even had Alfred drop by twice that week to make dinner and to sit for Helena.
But it hadn't felt like it was enough.
When I had first learned of Helena's birth, I had been hit with a load of emotions, leading to turmoil. Elation and anxiety battled with concern and doubt. I had decided that I wasn't going to openly ask who the father was, leaving the responsibility on Selina's shoulders. For weeks, I paid late night visits, occasionally slipping into the apartment to chat briefly with Selina but mostly to watch Helena sleep. I had tried to keep an open mind to it, and yet I couldn't help but calculate dates, making them fit the timeline I wanted…
Over a month had gone by before she had admitted that Sam Bradley Jr. was the father.
For the most part, nothing had changed and I had been certain that nothing would. Selina would always be close to me, and the same went for her child. Sam had been brutally murdered, long before Helena was born, but the fact that she had lost him to violence and crime had been a bonding factor. Anyone close to me shared that common denominator.
Although I had wanted nothing more than to run a DNA test, I was unable to bring myself to do it, knowing Selina would never forgive me. I had nearly lost her twice in recent years, I wasn't about to risk it a third time. It wouldn't change anything between us, therefore there had been no point in doing it, betraying what trust she had in me. Instead, I had carried on, visiting just as often and helping in anyway I could.
But now she was leaving…
Apart from brief phone calls and two late night visits, I had found myself avoiding Selina that week. I had justified it as a way of allowing her to spend as much time with Helena as possible but in the end I knew it had been for more selfish reasons. I had never been able to say goodbye to allies and acquaintances, let alone to a smiling infant…
Thanks to Rachel's superior work and mastery of the law, she had been able to arrange for the adoption to take place that Saturday as opposed to the following Monday. It was good news for the family, of which had cleared thorough private investigations with Rachel's top people. When she had asked if I wanted to meet them, I had denied, telling her I would arrange for a meeting room to be available for Saturday afternoon.
The timeline altered, I had decided that a personal visit would have been more appropriate than telling her the news over the phone. Calling to let her know I was going to drop by Friday midday, I had been greeted with, "Hello?"
"Selina, it's me."
"Hey, stranger… you'll have to thank Alfred for me, last night was divine… Stuffed manicotti and crème brulee, man is a culinary god…"
"I'll be sure to let him know." I had hesitated and when I had proceeded, the words coming out of my lips had not matched those in my head, "I was thinking, if you weren't busy… we could do lunch… then meet at Wayne Enterprises."
"Why, what's up?"
After a deep breath, I had explained, "Just… need to go over a few things."
There was a long pause on the other side before she had said, "Okay… well, actually we just ate… I guess, I'll meet you there… in an hour?"
I had just finished torturing myself in the Cave's training bay and had needed a shower and change of clothes. "Fine. I'll be in the lobby."
Cold, calculated and completely devoid of humanity, I had referred to her preparing to give her child away as "things".
"Idiot," I had growled at myself.
She and Helena had beat us there. As I passed through the revolving doors, I had spotted Selina helping her daughter walk around the decorative fountain in the lobby, pointing out the colorful fish that lived in it. Hoping to not be seen and forced to attend to whatever responsibilities I had neglected for the week, I had walked over and greeted her with a quick smile.
"She loves fish… I have it as a screensaver on my laptop and she could sit and stare at it for hours," Selina had commented.
I had looked down to see Helena had turned and was looking up at us, a smile lighting up her chubby face. Although bile had risen in my throat, I had smiled back.
Leaving her to carry her daughter, I had taken the carseat and shoulder bag from Selina. Taking the private elevator and tipping the guard to stay quiet about me being in the building, we bypassed the executive floor and gone straight to the penthouse. Letting Helena explore the main open room, I had found myself skipping pleasantries and getting down to business.
"My attorney has everything set for tomorrow afternoon."
Selina's eyebrows had jumped, "Tomorrow?"
I had nodded slowly, "I'll arrange a conference room downstairs, office will be closed so no prying eyes… If two works for you…?"
Without a word, Selina had walked over and picked Helena up, hugging her close, "I… I mean, I guess."
As she had pressed her face into Helena' pink cat hat, I had gone about explaining how the family adopting Helena would replace the names on her birth certificate, completely exonerating Selina and Sam as the parents. From there, all of the medical records to date would be altered so that they belonged to the new family and their physician. In addition, tax reports already filed for that year would be changed to reflect that the family had another dependent.
"It will be as if she had always been with them, that she hadn't been adopted."
Selina had nodded slowly, obviously overwhelmed with the finality of a mere week's efforts.
After assuring her that no one would ever be able to trace Helena back to her, Selina had seemed more upset than relieved. I had offered her to sit down but she had shaken her head, "No… It's just a lot, you know…"
"Selina, if you have doubts…"
"No," she had shot back, "No. This is for her, not for me."
Helena had apparently grown tired of being smothered and had started to fuss, grabbing at Selina's coat and asking, "Mama, mama?"
"Okay, sweetie… let's go home… get you down for a nap." She had then looked to me, "Bruce… I can't thank you enough… for doing this… for me."
"For her," I had offered a final weak smile.
Making our way back downstairs, she had denied a ride and opted to take a cab. After kissing my cheek, she had promised to call me later that night and said I had been welcome to drop by during patrols. The first cab that pulled up, I put the carseat in before paying the driver twice what his maximum fare would be to get them home, along with a warning, "Drive safe."
Returning to Bristol, I had opted to ignore Alfred's inquiries and headed directly into the Cave. After setting up camp in the lab, I had taken a seat on one of the stools and sighed. After reaching into my pants pocket, I had retrieved one of Helena's pacifiers I had taken out of the diaper bag and set it on a sterile tray.
At that point, there had been nothing left to lose.
Tim had arrived for pre-patrol work just after four in the afternoon. I had ignored him as he went to the training by, leaving me to focus on refilling my utility belt and changing memory cards on the surveillance equipment. He had joined me in the costume vault an hour later, sweaty, red-faced and curious, "So, still going to pillage the East End tonight?"
I had nodded, hanging the belt back on its rack, "I need you to tour Village, see if you can get anything on the underground prescription ring.
"Sure… anything else?"
I had looked to him, another innocent that would never lead a normal life.
After shaking my head, I had replied, "No. I'll meet you at midnight."
"All right… looks like it's going to rain tonight…" he had sighed, "Knew I should have gotten my haircut yesterday…"
I would have offered him to ride down with me in the Mobile. Or rather I should have.
Leaving for the city earlier than normal, I had done my best to focus on the work at hand. Breaking into a wine distributor that was a cover for the Tudeski gang, stopping a youth fight club gone haywire, helping top floor dwellers of a burning apartment building escape among the other run of the mill crimes had made for an eventful night. At midnight, I contacted Robin only to find out that he was still working in the Village after having a bit of a busy night himself.
"I'm moving into the East End now," I had informed him.
"All right. Good luck."
Thanks to a week of brutalizing the less than savory residents of the borough, there had been no sign of foul play at hand. Despite the drizzle, I had made my way on foot to Selina's apartment, taking mess than adequate shelter on the fire escape outside her bedroom window. Peering inside the dimly lit room, I had found her fast asleep in bed with Helena in her arms, the television flickering softly.
Removing my dripping cape and boots, I had opened and stepped through the window before quietly crossing the hardwood floor. Shutting the television off, I had carefully draped a thin quilt over them, frowning as they slept instead of smiling. Neither of them stirred as I made my exit as quietly and discreetly as I had entered.
Selina had wanted to protect her child more than anything and at that moment she was.
I had spent the remainder of the night with Robin, not only garnering evidence about an ring importing drugs from Mexico, but had managed to also apprehend a dozen of the group's members. By the time GCPD had picked them up and I had dropped off evidence at headquarters, it had been approaching three in the morning. With the rain coming down in sheets, I had told Robin to leave his cycle behind and ride back with me.
On the way, he had asked if what he had heard was true, that Selina was giving Helena up.
I had told him yes but offered no other details.
Upon arriving at the Cave, Alfred had been ready with hot coffee and grilled Rueben sandwiches. Tim had grabbed taken a sandwich with him to the costume vault, no doubt finishing it before getting into the shower. I had accepted the coffee but chose to head to the lab before shedding my guise.
With modified equipment, intended for the use in criminal investigation, the laboratory was outfitted with a broad spectrum of tools and devices. I was able to reconfigure latent fingerprints off of unusual surfaces, reconstruct crime scenes with holograms and piece together the most minute of fibers in order to trace it back to its source. Although meant to input DNA samples for means of placing them with records on file in the crays, I had cultured the pacifier in hopes of getting an accurate genetic profile on Helena.
It was a simple enough process, using the DNA sample and cutting it into fragments with enzymes which then fall into place in a gel matrix. Electric currents dragged the fragments across the surface of the gel based on size before being transferred to a nylon membrane before finally be exposed to a DNA probe. The result was a printed film that once developed, revealed black bands where the probes bound to the fragmented DNA strands. The process is repeated with different probes in order to identify each fragment in order to provide the most accurate result.
Until that day, I had only used the equipment to identify blood, saliva and semen on criminals and victims.
Not an innocent young child.
In the case of determining whether or not the subject was related to another individual, half of the film would match the mother while the remaining half would match that of the father.
Standing in the lab, soaking wet, exhausted and emotionally drained, I had found myself unable to take the printed film from the tray, already exposed and ready to evaluate. Instead, I shut off all of the equipment and the lights, draining my coffee before returning to the main tier.
Tim had been recounting his night's efforts as I approached, interrupted when Alfred had called out to me, "Sir, you just missed Ms. Selina's telephone call."
"What?" I had asked, finally pulling the cowl back.
"Not a moment ago, sir. She asked that you call her back as soon as possible."
As soon as possible. I had stripped in the costume vault, endured a scouring hot shower and went upstairs the master bedroom before reaching for the phone. She had answered on the third ring and I apologized for waking her.
"No, sorry, I had it on silent… went to be too early, now I'm wide awake at four in the morning." She had sighed before continuing, "Why didn't you wake me?"
I had taken a seat on the bed before answering, "Didn't want to interrupt your…"
"Last night together," she had finished for me.
Silence had fallen between us, one that she decided to break, "Come down in the morning… we'll have brunch seeing how we missed lunch yesterday."
"Brunch it is."
Tired as I had been, I had been unable to fall asleep, the wheel viciously turning in my head. When Alfred had come to wake me a little after nine, bearing a newspaper depicting the caped crusaders' exploits, I had already showered and shaved. Stepping out of the small room that acted as my closet, I told him I had plans for the day.
"I had expected you to still be in bed, relishing in yours and Master Tim's victory."
"No rest for the weary, Alfred," I had sighed while laying out a clean suit on the edge of the bed. Given the fact that the rain was still falling from dark clouds and the reason I was up four hours earlier than necessary, I had chosen a black Hickey Freeman suit and a slate blue shirt and storm cloud blue tie. I could have gone casual for the day but the suit acted as a lien of defense, just as the guise of Batman had.
Alfred had tended to the master bedroom while I had dressed, making the bed, collecting odds and ends to launder and adjusting the pillows on the couch and chaise. Finally, he had been unable to control himself, as he had finally said, "Give her my best, sir."
I had looked to him, righting my tie under the my collar, "I will."
"And the child."
To that, I had only nodded.
Traffic had been brutal going in to the city, shoppers and tourists battling the weather. I had found the additional time on the road to be calming, not alarming. My thoughts had seemed to stray from the day's purpose, keeping busy by replaying the events from the night before. I had finally made it to Selina's a little after eleven, walking into the apartment to the sound of laughter and the smell of cooking.
They were in the kitchen, Selina at the stove making pancakes while Helena sat at her feet, pretending to stir in a large, empty white bowl. At the sight of me, Selina forced a smile but Helena's had been real. She had been quick to climb to her feet, wobble over to me and hand over the bowl.
Selina had commented, "I think that means Thank You."
We shared a silent meal at the small kitchen table, mainly watching Helena play with her food and avoiding awkward glances from one another. I had done my best to seem interested in eating when my stomach waned with every bite. Afterwards, Selina had taken Helena to the nursery, claiming, "She's been up since five-thirty, if she doesn't sleep now, she's going to be a monster this afternoon…"
Alone, I had wandered into the living room and taken a seat on the sofa, waking the slumbering black feline that had been on the armrest. It had glared it me momentarily before leaping to the floor and padding off. Having already removed my suit coat at brunch, I had opted to loosen my tie and undo the top button, risking the break in the façade for better air flow.
Returning, Selina had joined me without saying a word, leaning against my arm and settling her head on my shoulder. As I had debated whether or not to wrap an arm around her back, she had sat up and looked to me, "Bruce… I want thank you… again. For everything."
"It's my job."
"This is above and beyond the call of vigilante duty, Bruce."
I had nodded but remained silent.
She had proceeded, "Everything you've ever done for me is above and beyond… And in return, I seem to keep letting you down."
"What are talking about?"
Selina had gently touched my hand before saying, "Every time you look at her, something happens to your eyes. Same thing that happens every time I look at her… it's love. I don't know why, but I never thought you have any part in her life, especially after I told you about Sam… and yet, you love her as much as if she was…"
"Selina," I had stopped her, "I care for her, just as I care for you. Nothing will ever change that."
"Nothing?" she had smiled sadly.
Kissing her brow, I had replied, "Nothing."
We had spent another ten minutes sitting on the couch, listening to Helena as she rambled to herself down the hall. When all had gone silent, I had asked when she wanted to head downtown. Surprisingly enough, Selina had replied that she wanted to go alone with Helena.
"No offense, Bruce… I just… need some alone time. With her."
Just as she had all week…
"Of course," I had nodded before making a move to rise.
She had stopped me by placing a hand on my shoulder, "You don't have to go, Bruce."
I had stayed, sitting on the couch with her as she reclined, settling her head in my lap. While she dozed, I had let my mind drift, trying to focus it on pertinent issues but found it taking its our course. Selina had been right, there was something about looking at or holding Helena that changed me, softened me. Aside from my work, I had very few encounters with young children and often found it uncomfortable to be around them.
Helena had been different.
Even after I had learned of her parentage, I couldn't help but think about the possibilities. The What-If's as Dick had called them. What if she had been my child, where would that have taken Selina and I? It was easy to think that it wouldn't have changed who we were but theories were meant to be tested. She obviously had wanted me in her life after becoming a mother or else she would have sent me away each time I had visited them. What if we had taken our staggered relationship in a new level? What if I had taken the responsibility to protect Helena, taking the burden from Selina?
What if I had looked at the film instead of ignoring it?
I had been startled as Selina woke, sitting up quickly before looking to me, asking for the time. Surprisingly enough, it was already approaching one in the afternoon. When I had told her, a panicked look came over her face briefly before she said she was going to shower and change. I offered to stay and watch Helena but Selina had said it was fine for me to leave, that she would be sleeping right up until they left.
As I had risen to my feet, she had sighed, "Maybe she'll think it was all a dream…"
The hour that lapse between leaving Selina and seeing her arrive at Wayne Enterprises had seemed like minutes. Rachel had arranged it that the adoption agent and the new family waited adjacent to the small conference room that was already set up. I had been waiting idly for them to arrive, staring out at the rainy skyline and fiddling with my phone and watch alternately. At three of two, the door had opened and Selina passed through, still wearing a drenched raincoat.
It had painful to see her in a less than perfect state. Her long hair was loose, tangled and wet, her face pale and free from makeup. As requested, she had not brought any of Helena's personal belongings, dressing her daughter in a small blue raincoat as well as her pink cat hat.
Holding tightly to Helena, Selina had looked up at me with a quivering lip.
Before I could have said anything, she had nodded, "Okay."
I had crossed the room, knocked on the other door and stepped back as the agent entered the room. Closing the door behind her, I had resumed my position beside Selina, uncertain of what to say or do. The agent had introduced herself as Marie but Selina had ignored her, hugging and kissing a sleepy Helena.
"G-goodbye, honey. I love you," she had finally said, planting a final kiss on Helena's brow.
Confused at the sight of her emotional mother, the child had responded with big, worried eyes and "Mama?"
Marie had spoken softly, "They're just in the other room, if you want to meet them."
Looking down at Helena as she kept repeating Mama, Selina had replied, "No."
As Marie took the young girl into her arms, I had finally put my hands on Selina, outwardly holding it together but the quivering in her shoulders said otherwise. I could have said the same for myself, my throat growing tighter with the passing of every second.
Talking just loud enough to be heard, Selina had continued, "I can't know who they are." She had paused before adding, "No one can."
"Mama?" Helena had managed one more time before Marie closed the door behind them.
It had been ten minutes since I left Selina alone in the conference room.
I found myself in my office, staring out once more into the drizzle layering midtown. When a knock sounded at my door, I turned, expecting to see Selina walking in. Instead, it had been Rachel, pulling on her raincoat, "Miserable out there, isn't it?"
"Well, everything worked perfectly. They love her. Nice, well-off family, stay at home mom-."
I cut her off, "Rachel, I trust you."
"Where's your friend?"
The vision of Selina reaching out to her daughter flashed in my mind before I replied, "She needed a few minutes alone."
Rachel nodded, adjusting the lapel of her coat, "I bet… listen, earlier this week, I shouldn't have assumed it was your baby… I'm sorry."
"Honest mistake," I offered.
"It's just… hard to imagine there is still a chivalrous enough guy to go out on a limb like that, for just a friend." Rachel nodded briefly before making her way into the corridor.
A moment later, I decided to follow her, turning left instead of right, returning to the conference room. Selina was gone, the lights already turned off. Of course, I mused, she wouldn't have stayed, she wouldn't have waited for me. Heading back down the corridor towards the elevators, I was surprised to see a small group of people beating me there, including Marie. Pausing, I spotted Helena softly crying in the arms of a smiling brunette, seemingly ignoring the quiet, calm words and back rubbing meant to soothe her.
No one can…
I had already betrayed Selina twice that week. First, taking the DNA culture from the pacifier and second, learning everything I could about Mr. and Mrs. Darryl Howard from Lake Placid, NY. The lived in a spacious four bedroom house a pleasant, affluent neighborhood within a school district that was one of the top in the state. He was an engineer for a local steel company and she was a prematurely retired school teacher. They both had living parents, sisters and brothers, lots of nieces and nephews, an extended family tree that Selina and I had never known.
A family tree that was about to grow by one more branch.
The wife had been deemed incapable of conceiving a child and they had been looking to adopt for over a year, leaving her job in order to commit fully to preparing themselves to welcome home a child. Although they had wanted a baby, they had agreed that they would accept whatever child was deemed right for them. During a brief meeting held the day before at Rachel's office, they had been presented with a grant and trust fund for Helena and her future formal education, courtesy of the Wayne Foundation.
Along with a personal note from Bruce Wayne himself, thanking them for the selfless act of adopting a child.
I watched as they boarded the elevator, completely oblivious to my presence as they we family was completely infatuated with their new baby girl. Helena, who had been looking around, calling for her mother still, caught a glimpse of me and reached out with a tiny hand. As she squirmed in her new mother's arms, she said, "Bamuh… Mama… Bamuh!"
She hadn't been saying thank you. She had been saying my-.
The doors closed and a what was left of my soul shattered.
After making it to the parking garage, I sped across midtown, wanting nothing more than to forget the last year and all that it brought and taken from me. Calling Selina's cell, I wasn't surprised when it went straight to voicemail. Alfred said she wouldn't realize how much she would need me, but what was interesting was how much I found myself needing her.
I made it to her apartment just as the rain started to turn into a cold pelting downpour. When I buzzed up to her on the intercom, I received no reply. Knowing calling her again was fruitless, I raced up the slippery steps to the tenth floor, not even bothering to look inside before opening the window. Touring the rooms, I called out her name, uneasy when she was no where to be found.
Reaching the kitchen, I spotted a scrap of purple paper on the table where we had been eating mere hours earlier.
B: I just need some time. I know you'll understand. S
Crumpling the note in a fist, I backtracked to the bedroom before making a long, cold descent to the pavement below. The ride home was insufferable in wet clothes, adding to my agitation. Having already gone down a similar dark path, I had no intention of letting Selina follow it as well.
Reaching the manor, I was almost relieved to find that Alfred was off running errands. As I stepped into the master bedroom, I stripped the wet suit off and proceeded to climb into the shower, letting the hot water do its best to wash away my sins. I convinced myself that my first order of business was to burn the pacifier and the test results and to completely erase any related data from the crays.
Then, I would be able to find Selina.
Opting for jeans and a shirt, I raced back downstairs and to the study without even bothering to see if Alfred had returned. Once in the lab of the Cave, I retrieved the incriminating evidence and dropped them into a stainless steel garbage can. Looking for a match in a utility drawer, I heard footsteps approaching followed by, "Back so soon, sir?"
"Ah, well, I will gladly prepare you a late lunch, I believe Master Tim intended on dropping by within the hour to-."
"Where are the matches?"
"I need matches… never mind," I growled while crossing the lab and retrieving a small blow torch. Before igniting, I looked up to see Alfred's face grave with concern, "What?"
"Do you believe burning the test results will change anything, sir." when I simply stared at him, he had sighed, "You have always longed for the truth, in any matter. In this case, you doubt Ms. Selina nearly as much as yourself. My question to you, Master Bruce, is that will you ever trust her… if you don't know for certain."
Alfred knew everything.
"It doesn't matter, Alfred. She's gone. I'll never see her again."
"Which was the intention of this dismal day, I'm sure. But by proceeding as you are-."
I blamed on the lack of sleep, emotional upheaval and the fact that he was always right. No matter what the reason, I had snapped at him, "I betrayed her by doing this, she is the one who should question her trust in me, not the other way around, Alfred!" I shook my head, "Alfred, you have no idea what I've been through these last few months…"
"I very well do, sir. I've had to see it on your face every single day. Hear it in your voice after every encounter with Ms. Selina and her child. It is uncertainty that has been plaguing you, sir."
"Or is it plaguing you, Alfred? Maybe you want to know the truth more than I do?"
"I don't believe that is physically possible, sir." After a beat, he concluded, "Do as you must see fit. For yourself. And Ms. Selina."
I had no choice.
I had to…
The remainder of the day had been spent in solitude. It had started in the Cave and then when Tim had arrived to work on the computer, I excused myself upstairs to rest. Just as the night before, I found myself lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, my mind held captive by unrelenting thoughts.
At ten after five, my eyes finally closed.
At ten of six, they ahd opened, Alfred softly rapping on the door and bidding himself in.
"What?" I growled.
"Ms. Selina called, sir… she sounded quite upset."
I sat up quickly, "Where is she?"
"She said she was at her apartment… that you should disregard her note."
For the second time that day, I fought traffic and rain heading into the city and through the East End. Instead of going up the fire escape, Selina buzzed me in, leaving her apartment door unlocked and waiting for me. Removing my coat, I set it over the back of an chaise in the hall before seeking her out.
I found her in Helena's nursery.
From the looks of it, she had been packing up Helena's belonging as well as trying to disassemble the furniture. Apparently, there had been a conflict of interest and the changing table was destroyed, as was part of the crib. Plastic bags of clothes and cardboard boxes of toys were stacked along the far wall.
Without looking up at me, Selina spoke softly, "I was doing okay… until I tried to pack this up."
Instead of looming over her, I chose to sit beside her, understanding immediately why she had lost control. In her lap was the brown stuffed bear I had given to Helena shortly after she had been born. That night, Selina had said we had a lot to talk about. And we never did.
"You think she's okay?" she asked, her face tear stricken.
"Yes," I replied, not adding that I was already aware that they had arrived safe and sound at their house on Wilbur Drive.
"Do you think… she'll remember me?"
I replied, "She may not remember your face, or who you were, but she'll remember your voice, she'll remember what it felt like to be in your arms. You don't forget that, you don't forget the people you love."
"You don't, do you?" she smiled sadly at the teddy bear. After glancing up and over to the packaged goods, she explained, "It's all going to Leslie… she's going to divide it up amongst some of her patients… I was going to give her the furniture for the nursery room they have but not now…"
There was a long pause before she continued, "Bruce… I made a mistake."
"No, no you didn't." Selina looked to me before I proceeded, "This was the best thing you could have done for her. A life free of worry or danger. That's something you could have never given her, no matter how hard you tried."
Selina nodded, fresh tears making their way from puffy eyes, "I know… I… I meant that… I made a mistake… lying to you."
I shook my head, trying to convince the both of us, "Don't. It won't change anything."
"It changes everything, Bruce."
Having destroyed the DNA records, I listened as Selina poured her heart out, telling me she had lied about Sam being the father in order to protect me. That she couldn't have easily put Bruce Wayne's name on the birth certificate without putting my reputation and possibly my identity at risk. How she had wanted to tell me every single day, but knew it would forever change our relationship. Her fears that I would have lost my drive and focus worrying about a daughter and that something would have happened to me.
At one point, she collapsed against me, burying her face into my neck, "I couldn't lose you, Bruce."
My arms finally embraced her, doing what they had wanted to all week long. I kissed her brow while rubbing her back, forcing myself to think back to Helena's eyes as she reached out to me from the elevator.
After a long stretch of her sobs and my whispering words, Selina finally looked up at me, "Do you know where she is?"
There was no point in lying to her. I nodded, "Yes."
"Is she going be okay."
Selina smiled briefly before asking, "You'll watch out for her?"
My throat had grown tight again, leaving me to only nod.
"Then she will be okay."
As Selina pressed her face into my neck once more, I swallowed hard, forcing the lump in my throat back down. After a moment's pause, I rose to my feet, carrying Selina to the bedroom. Once I tucked her in, she reached for my hand, "Please, don't leave me."
Joining her, she pressed her body to mine, entwining our legs and leaving not a single square inch of space between us. I kept rubbing her brow, whispering in her ear and listening to her quiet sobs.
Eventually, sleep took her. When I was certain it was genuine, I allowed the lump to rise back up my throat, forcing the tears to fall from my eyes.
Selina's lips twitched against my skin, a brief smile but it had been real.
I found myself hoping that she was dreaming of Helena.
Happy, safe and never to be a target of our enemies.
In a land, far, far away…