Chapter 20

Barb had never cried so hard, or so much in her life. Whether it was over Bruce, or being Batgirl she wasn't sure; some combination of both, no doubt. She could leave Gotham, start her own operation. The thought held a lot of appeal. Even though Gotham was her home, a home she fought to protect as fiercely as the Batman, there were other cities in need of a hero. Other cities where she could live and fight by her own rules. By the evening of the next day Barb had sent out resumes to libraries in New York, Washington D.C., Maryland, California, and Massachusetts. By evening of the fifth day after she quit she'd had a job offer in Maryland and had accepted. By the beginning of the next week she was boxing up her apartment and making sketches of new costume ideas. Her dad was sad but couldn't argue with his daughter taking a high paying job, even if it was hours away.

Bruce found her the next night, sitting on the floor of her bare apartment looking through a photo album. He saw the bittersweet look on her face as she stared at the picture of her mother in her hand, and was through her window, his presence announced by the rustling of her porch door in its tracks and the sudden draft in her living room.

Barb looked up, still seated on the floor, her lips pressed in a thin line. She said nothing, gave nothing away; Bruce could face killers, monsters, and assassins-standing here in front of this woman who looked back at him with cold detachment put a chill in his bones he'd never felt before.

"You're leaving." Stupid thing to say. Not what he planned on opening with, but she always seemed to screw up his plans.

"I'm surprised you noticed," she said looking back down at the mess of photos covering her wooden floor.

"You're father was," he paused looking for the word, "distracted the other night. He told me his daughter was moving to another state. You can imagine my surprise."

"I told you I quit," she said evenly. "Didn't think anything else mattered."

Barb stood in one smooth movement, the muscles in her thighs rolling beneath her skin as she rose. She turned her back on him, heading towards her bedroom, her dismissal apparent.

"I want…" he trailed off, suddenly unsure.

At his voice Barb stopped, her shoulders tightening.

"I want to try," he finished.

She stood so absolutely still that Bruce began to move towards her, worried, before her voice stopped him.

"You want to try what?" He felt something inside him wince at her voice. She was so cold; this couldn't be Barbara, not his Barbara.

"I want to try," he dropped his eyes from her back to the floor, incredibly uncomfortable with this admission. "I want to try being with you."

Her shoulders started shaking after a moment, and he wondered if she was laughing at him, but her voice sounded broken when she talked.

"You want to try being with me," she mocked. "So I should give up the best job of my life, give up on the possibility of having my own crime fighting career, give up on moving and stay. I should drop everything and stay so that you can try being with me."

His face went stoic behind the mask as he withdrew into himself. She spun, facing him and he saw the tears coursing down her cheeks. How had he not realized he was hurting her this much? How had he not known?

Because you didn't want to, a vicious voice in his head taunted him.

"Did you know I hadn't cried since my mother," she stopped, stifling a sob, "until you. It never even occurred to me that I could cry this much! But look, a couple nights with you and I'm a regular weeping Wendy!"

Her arms fell to her side, and her head sagged down; her body curled in on itself like someone had deflated her. Bruce took another step forward closing the distance between them, wishing he could just fix it.

"I don't know how to do this Barbara," he told her softly. "I don't know how to have anything with you. I've cut that part of my life out."

"Then why are you here?" She didn't whine or ask it plaintively. It was a simple question. One he wasn't sure he had an answer to.

"I don't," he stopped, looking away from her. "I thought I should tell you I care about you. I thought you deserved to know that."

"Bruce," she said reaching up and cupping his strong jaw in her hand, "if you wanted me to stay. If you wanted to…to try I would. But I can't just…just be some mistake that you make every now and again. I have to, to at least give this a shot." Dropping her hand she spun back around, but he grabbed her arms before she could walk away from him.

"I want to try," he said so softly she wasn't sure she heard it correctly.

"What?" she asked tentatively, looking over her shoulder. He spun her around to face him, slipping his gloved hand into her hair.

"I want to try," he told her again. "It probably won't work. You'll get tired of me, I'll push you away. We'll probably fight for a week or two and give up on it, but I want to try. I wasn't-I didn't work right this week."

Barb felt something in her chest go thud as she looked up at him. She reached up, pushing the cowl back off of his face. Digging her hands into his hair she yanked his head down, smashing her lips to his. Bruce's arms went around her, tightening and pulling her to him. His body molded around hers and a growl tore out of his throat as his tongue delved into her mouth. Ripping her mouth away, her breath tore out of her as he began kissing her neck.

"Bruce," she panted. "Bruce wait…"

He nipped at her neck, soothing the nips with his tongue.

"Bruce," she tried again. "We need…to talk."

"After," he growled. He caught her ear, his tongue licking the edge and his grumble of approval tickling her, as her knees gave out in his arms.

"Oh-okay," she got out, and then she was lost.

His mouth was magic on her body. She lost her t-shirt and her jeans before she managed to pull his gloves off, let alone his costume.

"Off," she panted, "off." He gave her a purely male smile as she tugged futilely at his top.

"Not yet," he said against her stomach. She fought him, in as much as she pushed on his shoulders as he moved down her body.

"I want," she begged, "to feel you."

"You will." When he tugged her underwear off and kissed her, Barb's backed bowed off the floor and she said nothing else for a long time.

He was relentless. The cape pooled around their bodies; he was a dark shadow caught between her legs. When her feet kicked on the floor, his lips creating a vacuum around her, she screamed his name as her body exploded.

He whipped off his clothes then, the cape, top, boots, belt, and pants strewn across her empty floor on top of the forgotten photographs. When his body came back down, pressing hers into the floor, Barb lifted her legs around his hips, her tongue tasting herself on him.

He pushed into her, their movements frantic. Barb dug her nails into his ass, urging him to move faster and harder; she didn't want soft and slow. They could go soft and slow next time. Right now she wanted to feel him in every part of her. He pounded her into the floor and she came again, her muscles contracting around him and urging him on to his own. His neck corded, his jaw clenching above her as a groan pushed through his lips.

They lay on the floor of her apartment, bodies still together breathing each other as the world stopped spinning around them. Bruce pushed himself off of her, rolling over to lay next to her on the floor as she waited for her pulse to slow.

"We never seem to get the condom on," Barb said into the silence.

"You're on the pill."

She raised her head up and looked at him, aghast. "How can you possibly know that?"

"You take it every night after patrol."

"And if you were wrong?" she challenged.

"I found an empty month's package in the trash two years ago."

"You're so sure of yourself?"

"You would have stopped me the first time if you weren't." He sounded so smug, she couldn't resist rolling over and teasing him.

With her arm and leg draped across him she put her chin on his chest and looked up at him seriously.

"Is now a good time to tell you, I went off the pill six months ago, and am late this month?"

"You're lying," he said easily, eyes closed as he relaxed on her floor.

"You can't know that," she said incredulously.

"Your heart rate hasn't gone up. You would be nervous if you were talking to me about possible pregnancy."

He was so relaxed, so sure of himself. She smacked him on the forehead. He didn't react or say no; that would have been too satisfying. Instead he cocked one eye open and looked at her quizzically.

"What was that for?"

"For always being right," she told him, laying her heard down on his chest.

They laid on the floor quietly for another while before Bruce spoke.

"Do you think we'll ever make it to a bed?" his voice rumbled under her cheek.

"Well," she said carefully, "if you stop trying to break up with me we've got a shot."

"So," he paused for a moment, staring up at the ceiling. "I guess this means we're what-dating?"

"That," she turned her head looking back up at him. "That sounds weird. Let's just say we're having sex without feeling guilty about it, and only with each other."

"Just sex then?"

How surreal was this? Barb thought. Laying on the floor of her apartment discussing relationship parameters with Bruce. Not a possibility she had planned for.

"Well, I suppose if you'd talk to me without barking orders or ordering me to quit, that'd be okay too."

He gave her a small grin, the first she'd ever seen.

"I'll try. Now come here."

"Hm," Barb said, as she climbed on top of him. "Some orders are okay I guess."

A/N: So that's the story kids. Maybe there will be more someday. The Joker's still at large (isn't he always?) and it's not like Bruce is easy to be with, but this is a good stopping point for the new year, and this thing is a whole lot longer than I ever thought it would be (that's what she said). I hope it's been enjoyable, and I hope all of you will write Bruce/Babs stories so I can read them! J