I don't own Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, or any of the characters or plots found within the movies. Eleanor Black, her family and backstory, and all the plot points that are not from the movie are mine. The fic is rated for language and violence. It is a rewrite and reorganization of my two previous Nolan-verse fics "Superhero's Confidante" and "Chances Are." It will go through all three movies in the trilogy and feature time from before and after as well.
In the Shadow of the Bat
Four months after leaving Gotham.
Two weeks since the reappearance of Batman in Gotham.
Florence was beautiful—all gold and green and laughter and by far my favourite place we'd visited on our whirlwind, alibi-establishing tour of Europe. It helped that the Wayne house—a massive apartment devouring the top two floors of an old building along the river—was beautiful and comfortable and every bit as elegant as their holdings in Gotham had been. The food was to die for and the people were largely friendly and welcoming, especially those Bruce and I saw every day or every few days as we moved through the routine we'd fallen into during the two-ish weeks we'd been in the city.
Currently, we were sitting at a different café than the one we usually frequented, drinking tea and coffee and nibbling on a variety of pastries. Okay, I was nibbling on pastries. Bruce had eaten his breakfast and then settled in with a book, content to let time drift on. I was wearing a white sundress that was nearly gauzy in its construction and my recently-cut hair moved in the mild breeze, the ends gently brushing my shoudlers.
I should have been comfortable, but we were at that specific café with a purpose in mind, and I was getting impatient.
What else was new?
"Are you sure this is the right place? We've been here for almost an hour and he hasn't shown up."
"This is the right place," Bruce assured me as he tilted his mug of coffee to his lips.
He watched me look around over the rim of the cup, his eyes betraying his amusement at my impatience. He'd found all my newly acquired quirks amusing. I did my best to ignore it.
"Have you checked the Gotham news yet today?"
I frowned deeply at him, acutely aware of the ploy to distract me. He had also become quite adept at manipulating my habits to avoid outbursts, which were also becoming more common. I was not as good at ignoring his manipulations, but I did my best. Sometimes, my best was just giving in.
I pulled my tablet from my purse, my fingers moving deftly across the screen as I brought up the websites of the various Gotham City newspapers. I shot Bruce an indignant look over the table. He brushed it off with a chuckle.
I may or may not have lifted my hand in an obscene gesture in response before turning my attention to the news.
Unsurprisingly, all of the websites I frequented featured a story about the return of Batman on their front pages.
Bruce had been right about Blake—he'd picked up the cape and cowl with very little hesitation and seemed well-suited to the role. The reading of Bruce's will had taken place about a month after the funeral, and Blake had been left a duffel bag full of climbing equipment and a GPS with pre-programed coordinates that led straight to the waterfall with an entrance to the cave concealed behind the rushing water. Now Blake was following in Bruce's footsteps and everyone in Gotham was shocked, to say the least, to see their hero returned.
It wasn't any secret that it wasn't the same man under the cowl however, which was creating a whole new level of buzz around the vigilante. Blake was smaller than Bruce and he moved differently, less like an ethereal creature and more grounded. He favoured the gadgets when Bruce had been more about his martial arts skills, and the criminals Blake brought to justice tended to be in a bit better shape than they had been once Bruce had finished with them. The papers loved to speculate on who was beneath the cowl now, but without confirmation on the previous Batman's identity and therefore his acquaintances, there was no way to be sure, and there wasn't even somewhere to start looking, so the suggestions the newspapers made tended towards the insane.
Like Harvey Dent, returned from the grave.
I wish I was kidding.
Some sources had proposed that Bruce Wayne—assumed dead until about a week ago—had been behind the original mask of Batman, since they had both perished in the No Man's Land without a trace. But when Bruce had turned up in Europe, oblivious to the resolution of Gotham's conflict, and with a paper trail claiming he'd been travelling since just before Bane had shown up, those rumours pretty much ceased. That he was travelling with me—someone whose presence had never been confirmed in Gotham during the time of the occupation—only cemented his stance. The news about our sojourn throughout Europe was spreading as well, and the journalists loved to guess at just who I was to Bruce.
Bruce Wayne might not have been rich anymore—though the banks were working on getting Bruce whatever money he was owed after the whole ordeal—but that didn't mean he wasn't still interesting. People didn't return from the dead every day, not even in Gotham City.
Most of the stories about Batman were from the previous day—with Florence six hours ahead of Gotham, the current day's stories hadn't been uploaded yet—and were discussing the various candidates for the man under the cowl. One was detailing the story of a woman who had been saved by Batman, and another was lamenting the reappearance of a vigilante in Gotham. The last seemed the only dissenter to Batman's reappearance and the citizens had rallied behind their masked hero, despite it being someone else.
Bruce's vision of Batman as an eternal symbol was coming to pass. It didn't matter that this wasn't the same man who had been instrumental in stopping Bane—the people knew Batman was there to help and protect. Maybe it wouldn't last. Actually, I was sure it wouldn't—there was something about a vigilante in a big cape with pointy ears and a growling voice that made people nervous—but I would enjoy it while it did.
"More evidence that Blake was a wise choice as your successor," I said as I sipped at my second cup of tea. "Remind me never to doubt any of your plans again."
"Ellie, you wouldn't be you if you didn't doubt my plans."
"True. Hey," I said, shifting around a bit, looking for a more comfortable position in which to sit, "we've made the news again too. I guess news of our return from the dead is starting to spread. We're on like, page eight or something like that though. We're slipping." I brought up the story about us and passed Bruce the tablet with a smirk. "I can't wait to see what happens when this becomes more apparent," I added, one hand dropping to the slight bump of my stomach, blissfully kept concealed by the cut of my dress. "I guess they'll finally know who I am to you."
Bruce finished scanning the article and then looked up, one eyebrow slightly raised. "I'm more concerned with what will happen when your mother finds out."
I laughed. "I'm pretty sure you'll be safe. I'm the one she'll be mad at for concealing such vital information. She's wanted grandkids for years and now that she's going to have one, I withhold the information? She's still mad at me for not telling her why she had to pretend I was still missing and presumed dead."
"I think the good news might be enough to get her to forgive you."
Bruce looked like he might say something else, but whatever words there were got lost as his eyes went distant, focusing somewhere over my shoulder and across the river.
I was pretty sure I knew what I would find when I looked, but that didn't keep the excitement, and a little apprehension, from bubbling up inside. It didn't keep the smile from spreading over my face when I finally did turn around, either.
It had been far too long since I'd seen Alfred, or even spoken to him for that matter, especially since there'd been a time when we spoke every day. As for Bruce… well, I could hardly imagine what he was feeling right then. His last encounter with the man who had raised him to adulthood, who had helped him turn the caves under Wayne Manor into the Batcave, who had helped to bring Batman to life, had been an argument—one of the worst I'd ever seen them have. When I looked back at Bruce though, he had a small but brilliant smile on his face, and his eyes were shining with happiness and relief.
From the half-shocked, half-happy look on Alfred's face, he felt the same way.
The former butler dropped some money on the table he'd been sitting at, tucked his newspaper under his arm, and crossed the narrow bridge to our side of the river. His eyes barely left us as he moved, and it was clear from his expression that he didn't entirely believe what he was seeing. Bruce and I rose to our feet as he approached, and, for a moment, the three of us stood there, Bruce and me looking at Alfred, and Alfred looking at us. It felt almost surreal for the three of us to be that close together again.
My eyes began to itch with unshed tears and I did my best to keep them from falling.
"I missed you Alfred," I said, breaking the silence and stepping forward to hug him.
"And I you, Eleanor." The former butler hugged me tighter than I think he ever had; I could almost feel how much he had missed Bruce and me in the press of his arms around my shoulders. "I'm so glad you both are alive and well. The last six months… they've been nearly unbearable." His voice cracked a little over the words. It wasn't hard to image that he'd been dwelling on the worst possible scenarios for a long time.
"I'm sorry Alfred, so sorry." I kissed his cheek and hugged him again, tears pressing at the back of my eyes and my control about to unravel.
"As much as I don't like it, you did what you had to do. You both did."
I stepped back and Bruce took my place, though the embrace between the two men was almost hesitant, both unsure of what the other would say or do in the face of the tension left from their fight, and from the six months they'd both had to think about what they'd said. Bruce closed his eyes and tightened his arms around Alfred though, and I could have sworn I heard an apology whispered from his lips. Actually, I was pretty sure he apologized, and I was pretty sure Alfred did as well, because Bruce was smiling as he stepped back, and there were happy tears in Alfred's eyes. He was looking at Bruce with pride and love and joy.
My vision wavered with the sight—it was something I hadn't been sure I'd see again—and tears trickled down my cheeks. "God damn hormones," I mumbled, wiping at the sudden torrent with the heels of my hands. Alfred's pale eyes went wide with understanding and I cursed again, balling my hands into fists as I dropped them back to my sides. "That was so not how we were going to tell you."
But Bruce was chuckling and Alfred's laughter followed shortly after. "I suspect not."
Five months after leaving Gotham.
One month and two weeks since the reappearance of Batman in Gotham.
"Looks like Blake is settling into his new role well."
I nodded almost absently.
It was true that Blake was flourishing as Batman, spreading the name farther, and increasing the already favourable public opinion. I was still waiting for the bottom to fall out and for people to start fearing or hating Batman again. Maybe it would never happen. Maybe it would take something big like the appearance of another masked villain. I hoped it wouldn't happen, but I knew better.
"Ellie, are you okay?"
I nodded again, and finally managed to pull my eyes off the television screen where we'd been watching a global news channel, currently focusing on Gotham. "I thought I saw something in that last clip of Batman; someone else fighting with him."
Bruce's brows knit together and he picked up the remote, pressing the button to rewind the broadcast. He leaned forward as he watched, a look on his face I hadn't seen since the last time we were deep into hunting someone or something. It was a look that reminded me of hours spent in the cave and the bunker, and it brought a fond smile to my face, an expression that Bruce missed when he made a thoughtful noise and paused the feed.
I turned my attention back to the television screen and found my suspicions confirmed. A figure was posed mid-kick behind Batman, taking out another of the thugs connected to the car theft ring Gotham's hero had busted. Someone else had been fighting with Batman. A woman.
"Huh," I said.
"That's all you have to say on the matter? She's likely following in your footsteps."
"We can't know that for sure."
The corners of Bruce's mouth turned down in a thoughtful expression; he'd become a lot more open about showing what he felt on his face since leaving Gotham. Not all at once. I'd seen the transformation over the past months, watching more pieces of Bruce appear on his face. It was jarring at times, when I was so used to a stoic face listening or watching or speaking, but I liked it.
"I thought you'd be more excited if this happened," he said. He pressed play and we both focused on the woman, holding her own in the background. "I wonder why they're not mentioning her in the story."
"Probably waiting for some concrete information. Or they haven't noticed. Either one." I climbed out of the chair I'd sunk into and headed for the kitchen, one hand resting on my stomach, as it so often did when I was ambulatory. "And I will be excited, when there's something concrete to be excited about. Right now, it's just a woman in a purple hoodie beating up some assholes."
Bruce came up behind me as I was staring into the depths of the refrigerator and put his arms around me, arms resting gently on the small bump of my belly. "Do you miss it?"
I sighed heavily and leaned back into him a bit. "Do you?"
He kissed my temple and I knew what he would say before he opened his mouth. "Sometimes."
"Me too, sometimes." I turned in the circle of his arms, the fridge door shutting behind me, and pressed my face into his chest. I closed my eyes and remembered a thousand other embraces, a thousand other moments that had felt like this one, a thousand moments in another lifetime. "Sometimes I think about what it would be like to go back, to help Blake, and then I think he might not want our help."
A soft laugh vibrated through Bruce's chest. "I think it's good that he find his own way. Besides, I'm not entirely sure either of us could take a backseat and let him run the show."
"You're probably right, as usual." I lifted my head and kissed Bruce quickly, before turning back to the fridge to grab the jug of ice water and pour myself a glass. "Do you remember that time I went after the Batman imposter on my own?"
"Did you ever think I'd end up putting on my own mask and fighting crime?"
"Not then, I didn't." Bruce leaned against the counter and folded his arms over his chest. "I don't think it was until you started taking your martial arts and archery seriously that I thought you might step out of the cave, so to speak." His expression softened as he met my eyes. "I am proud of what you did. It was completely unexpected. I never saw footage of you or heard of your actions in the bits of news Bane had me watch."
"And if you had?"
He thought about his reply for a second, a smile curling one corner of his mouth up. "I might have been shocked at first, but really, I probably shouldn't have been surprised. I shouldn't have been surprised anyway, but I was."
I grinned up at him and then gestured at the TV. "Let's hope the new girl, if she is following in my footsteps, can surprise the hell out of a few people."
I took a sip of water and then headed back into the living room, reasserting my claim on the biggest armchair in the apartment. Bruce settled on the end of the couch closest to me and changed the channel to someone else, something less gloomy than the news. I thought it was a crime drama, but I wasn't paying very close attention; I couldn't have even told you whether the program was in English or Italian. My mind was still back in Gotham.
Alfred had returned to the city to tie up a few loose ends before he came to live with us again. We'd told him he didn't have to, that he had more than earned the right to go off and live his own life, but he told us he wanted to stay, wanted to see the next generation of the Wayne family he'd served and loved for so long. We were, of course, ecstatic to have him. He was passing on the truth of mine and Bruce's resurrection to Lucius, Gordon, and Blake, as well as stopping in to stay hi to Sarah and Aaron, and my parents. My thoughts didn't rest long with them though. I would see most of them soon enough, when they came for the wedding ceremony my mother insisted Bruce and I have.
Blake and Gordon probably wouldn't come—I couldn't ask them to leave Gotham, not now, when Blake was at the beginning of his sojourn as Batman, and Gordon was regaining the respect he'd once held among the GCPD—and I wondered how they were doing. I made a mental note to call them soon to find out, to catch up on what had happened to them in the past few months. I also wondered about Selina. If anyone knew where she'd ended up after the explosion. Had she left Gotham? There weren't any reports of burglaries that could be confirmed as her, and Bruce and I didn't have the technology to track the pearl necklace anymore. It seemed a lifetime ago when Selina had stolen those pearls and knocked Bruce into action after so many years; a lifetime ago that her and I had stood in her apartment and gazed out at the flaming bat symbol on the bridge. I had never really connected with Selina, but we'd done some work together during the No Man's Land, and Bruce's assumption about her had been correct—she was a lot more honourable than she seemed at first glance. I thought that maybe, under different circumstances, we could have been friends, but I didn't see those circumstances coming about any time soon. I would have to content myself with wishing her well.
"What are you thinking about now?" Bruce asked, drawing me from my reverie.
"I was just wondering where Selina was and how everyone else back in Gotham is doing. This is the longest I've ever been away and watching the news and you and I talking about it… I'm just missing the city more than usual right now."
"We could go back."
An abrupt laugh escaped, more from amusement at the idea, than from the actual suggestion; I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about returning. "Bruce, if we went back, we'd never leave again."
Six months after leaving Gotham.
Five months and two weeks since the reappearance of Batman in Gotham.
"I'm so happy for you honey! It was a beautiful ceremony, if I do say so myself, and you know you can call us if you need any help with the baby—I still can't believe you waited so long to tell me!"
I smiled at my mother, indulging her self-congratulatory statement about my wedding that she and Sarah had planned, and hugged her again. She kissed my cheek and squeezed as tight as she dared. "I know Mom, and again, I'm sorry." She started to pull back from the embrace and I hugged her tighter, spurred by one of the sudden bursts of emotion I was learning to deal with. "I missed you."
She put a hand on either side of my face and kissed both my cheeks and my nose, just like she used to do when I was little and had had a bad dream. "I missed you too, baby girl." Another smile took over her features, lines appearing at the corners of her eyes and mouth. "You'll call if you need anything."
I laughed and nodded. "I will. I love you."
Satisfied, she moved her attentions to Bruce, and my Dad stepped up, hugging me significantly tighter that Mom had. He too, kissed my cheek, and I could tell he was smiling.
"I'm proud of you," he said quietly.
I looked up at him as she stepped back, mouth and brows twisted in confusion. "For what? I don't think I've exactly done anything lately to be proud of."
He put a hand on either shoulder and gave me a very fatherly expression, his blue-green eyes shining. The small smile he gave me brought a similar expression to my face. "Honey, I am proud of you for finally settling down, and for finally taking care of yourself. I'm proud of what you did before that mess in Gotham, when you tried to get us and others to safety, and I am proud of what you did during the occupation." The last was said in a quieter voice, one that probably only I could hear.
I blanched, but he said nothing else about it, just pulled me into another hug. I hadn't even considered what would happen if my parents figured out who the masked woman in Gotham was—and I mean, I probably would have been more shocked if they hadn't recognized me. Since Mom hadn't said anything, I assumed she didn't know, and I didn't think Dad would tell her. She'd just worry retroactively. I returned the second hug and forced my mind onto other things.
"I love you, Dad."
"Love you too, hon." He kissed my forehead as he stepped back. "I'll do my best to keep your mother from interfering too much with the baby, but I'm not making any promises."
"I heard that Liam!"
Dad and I laughed and then he headed for the car, waiting to take him and Mom to their hotel for the night. Sarah and Aaron had already returned to their hotel; they were travelling with their five month old daughter, Angela, and didn't have the stamina to stay up too late. I'd gotten an earful from Sarah about missing Angela's birth, but she'd forgiven me after I let her and Aaron bombard me with tips about raising and child and still getting shit done—Sarah's words exactly.
"I suppose you're heading back to Gotham soon?" I asked Lucius, as he disengaged from the conversation he was having with Alfred and Bruce.
"In a couple of days. Thought I'd see a bit of the city first," he added with a smile. "That young man is handling himself quite well, and I am quite enjoying my continued partnership with Batman. That reminds me—Mr. Blake sends his congratulations on the wedding and for the baby, and would like you to know he wasn't pleased about being kept out of the plan."
"I can't say as I'm surprised. I think you and Gordon were the only two who accepted it as necessary."
"Doesn't mean we were happy about it."
I gave Lucius an apologetic look and hugged him. It felt a little strange to hug my former boss, but I didn't think it mattered. "I am glad you came, Lucius."
"Wouldn't have missed it."
Shortly after that, Alfred head back to the house with the gifts our friends and family had brought even though we'd told them not to, and Bruce and I were on our way to the hotel where we'd be staying for our wedding night. It seemed kind of silly, considering all we'd been through and how long we'd been together, but I wasn't going to say no.
I leaned my head on Bruce's shoulder in the car ride over, thinking about the ceremony in the park near the river, and how it had almost felt like a dream, Bruce and I standing there in front of those closest to us and promising each other something I'd known for years—that, though we'd interrupt each other and push buttons and pick at old wounds, we'd be together for the rest of our lives. I'd half expected to wake up while I said my vows, and find myself lying in an alley, Bane still holding Gotham hostage, and having hit my head far too hard on the pavement.
But Bruce and I had exchanged rings and then Bruce had kissed me and I'd known it wasn't a dream. The thought had made me laugh in joy then and it did the same in the car.
Bruce looked at me curiously before kissing me quickly. "We're here."
He helped me out of the backseat and took our overnight bag from the driver, and then we'd headed inside the impressive building, checked in, and found our way to our floor. The hallway was lit with golden light and lined with thick carpets and I was back to that dream-like feeling, a wide grin on my lips and anticipation bubbling ridiculously in my gut. We stopped in front of the door to our suite and stood, facing each other. Bruce met my grin with a heady look that made me blush.
"After you, Mrs. Wayne," he said, opening the door; I may have been imaging it, but I thought a little bit of Batman's growl may have slipped into his voice.
I smirked as devilishly as I could manage in response and stepped into the lavish hotel room. "Thank you, Mr. Wayne."
Oh my God, it's the end! I am simultaneously very happy and very sad. As you all know, I've been working on this fic for a long time (far too long, I know), and this is the first project of this size that I've finished.
First, my intentions with the epilogue were to set up a situation where it felt like the mythology and world would continue on. Batman's doing his thing in Gotham, Ellie and Bruce are happy in Florence with a baby on the way… You know, good stuff. Also, I wanted to convey that Ellie and Bruce were happy, but that part of their minds would always be back in Gotham with the life they left behind. Neither of them are ever going to be able to fully let go of what they lived through and what they had in Gotham, but they're trying and they're not going to go back to that. I toyed with having them return to Gotham at the end, but that would be counterproductive to them actually moving on. Maybe in a few years, when their kid is older.
And now some more sappy stuff.
I'm so grateful to all of you for sticking around, reviewing, telling me what you think, giving me ideas… It's been a fun ride. You guys are seriously the best, and as… Oh, I don't know why I'm doing this, but I thought some of you might like to know some of the other ideas I toyed with while writing this beast of a fic:
When I was originally planning this fic, Ellie and Bruce never officially ended up together. Bruce and Selina rode off into the Italian sunset and Ellie stayed in Gotham to keep up her position at Blake's side once he took up the cape and cowl.
My initial revision to that was Eleanor helped Blake get people off the island during the final battle and she, like everyone else, thought Batman had died. It wasn't until after Blake was established as the new Batman that she received an e-mail telling her to go to the Wayne house in Florence, where she found Bruce alive and well. Selina had helped him get out of the city and got Eleanor to Florence so Bruce could stay "dead." Naturally, Eleanor freaked out, but she and Bruce got to live happily ever after anyways.
At one point, Ellie was going to die saving Batman's life during the battle at City Hall.
Eleanor's bullet wound to the leg was originally going to take her out of commission for the rest of the No Man's Land. She holed up in Bruce's old apartment downtown and Gordon and Blake kept her apprised of what was going on. It wasn't until Bruce got back that she headed back out into the city. This one went along with #2.
For a long time, Bruce and Ellie weren't going to get together until after the No Man's Land.
There was one version where Ellie did leave Bruce during his years as a shut-in, and went back to work for Lucius. When Bruce came to the office to talk to Lucius, they had a bit of a fight, and Bruce had to convince Ellie to come back to help him. She refused him until she saw him chasing Bane on the news.
One version had Ellie completely changed when Bruce came back to Gotham. Changed to the point of nearly hating him.
Clearly, things changed quite a bit as I wrote the thing. Ellie's been around for a long time. Almost ten years. She started talking to me shortly after I saw Batman Begins in 2005. She's changed a lot since then. Don't believe me? Just read Superhero's Confidante and Chances Are. Beware, they are awful. She may pop up again, but to answer a question I've received a couple of times, I don't think I'll be writing anything else with Bruce and Ellie, at least not for a long while. I want to start focusing more on my original fiction, and any fanfiction I do write from now on will be for different fandoms. The ones I want to write for most are the MCU, Pacific Rim, Star Trek, and X-Men. I love Bruce and Ellie, but I've told their story and now it's time to move on.
Once again, thank you all so, so much. You made struggling through this fic 100% worth it.