Disclaimer: I do not own the Dark Knight Rises or the rest of the Nolanverse Batman and I make no money off this work.
The characters Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle, John Blake, Alfred Pennyworth, Jim Gordon, Jen, Talia al Ghul, and Bane as used in this story come from the Dark Knight Rises movie. The characters Sam and Doc belong to me, so please don't use them in your stories. But feel free to draw them and send me a copy.
This story is a set after the Bat and the fusion reactor core blew up in the bay, and contains spoilers for the movie.
The bastard. Selina's fingers manipulated the lock picks automatically and left her mind free to run on the same track it had been running on for the past few days. The man she had mocked as a parasite, the man who gave Gotham everything he had, the man she had betrayed, the man who forgave her and trusted her to follow his path, the man she saved, the man who got past her claws and walls, the man she kissed without any ulterior motive, the man who died so a city might live.
Calling him the bastard was the trick to keeping her tears at bay.
The massive doors swung open silently. She didn't bother keeping her footsteps quiet on the marble floors. The old family retainer who inherited whatever was left hadn't returned to town yet. The executors of the will trusted the security system she had shut down first thing. Tomorrow, they would pack up everything in this American palace and sell it to pay for what was stolen from Bru-the bastard.
And she had felt sorry for him, despite him not believing her. She had always had a soft spot for the weak. Poverty is a bitch that chews you up, spits you out, and then comes back for seconds. He wouldn't last, not with a permanent depression in his tongue for a silver spoon.
She staggered against the stairwell banister as the wave of misery crashed over her. Oh Bast, how wrong she had been about him, about anarchy making everything better, about so much. The bastard should have stuck around to help her with this and be a self-righteous jackass to her face since he was right.
He wasn't right about guns. Selina straightened with that thought and continued up the stairs. She went through the east drawing room to the parlor beyond. The vultures were coming tomorrow, but she'd be damned if they would take the pearls he said looked beautiful on her to pay for what Bane and that League of Shadows bitch had stolen from him.
She lifted the sheet covering the sideboard out of her way and opened the wooden door in front of the safe. The titanium alloy gleamed in the moonlight. She crouched in front of the safe and began her manipulations. The bastard hadn't even changed the combination! That had to be the most arrogant display of presumption; just because he caught her nearly red-handed didn't mean she would never hit his house again! She plucked out the black leather jewelry box and shut the safe. The box was too light. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at the empty black satin inside.
"You could just let me give them to you."
She screamed just as strongly as she had when the arrow had whizzed past her head. And she never screamed in costume. The bastard stood behind her in the shaft of moonlight from the window but without the bow. She stalked toward him, put extra sway into her strut, and saw his breathing deepen. Not a ghost then. His smirk didn't change as she closed in on him. Bruises dotted his arms where Bane's blows got past his armor. "You died," her voice was more breathless than she liked. "I cried," oh that admission shouldn't have been said. "You bastard!" She swung at him.
Bruce caught her wrist before her palm connected with his cheek. "I managed to fix the autopilot." He shrugged. "But it was too good a chance to pass up."
"You bastard!" Selina tugged, but his grip didn't let go. "Why are you still here? You pulled off the best clean slate in history."
The smirk finally slipped from his face. "You cried?"
"I have feelings, Bruce! And you made me care." She tugged harder to free her hand, but wasn't pissed off enough to make him let her go.
He pulled her to his chest and wrapped his left arm around her back to keep her flush against him. His lips crashed against hers.
No nuclear bomb and thirty million lives hanging on their actions this time. Her free hand snaked behind his head and tangled her fingers into his hair. Her lips parted and he deepened the kiss as she pressed her body closer. His loose pants didn't hide his erection. He let go of her wrist and wrapped his arm around her to cup her ass. She wrapped her freed arm around his shoulders.
Their lips parted, but their arms didn't move. "Selina," he murmured.
"That isn't your wallet." She said with a smirk.
He cleared his throat. "You want to know why I'm here?"
"It's a start."
Bruce released her, but took her hand, and steered them into the darker recesses of the manor house. "I suppose you could call it changing the locks. The manor will fill up with children and can't have anyone getting hurt where they shouldn't be."
"I'm good with locks."
"Are you volunteering to help me?"
"With more than just the obvious." Her eyebrows rose over her mask as they entered a bedroom. The room faced the rear of the mansion with heavy curtains over the windows, so she felt better for missing the small fire in the hearth. A small rolling suitcase lay open near the fireplace and waited for more clothes to be crammed into it. A larger hardback suitcase and a black leather duffel bag sat next to the door.
"The obvious?" He stopped in the middle of the bedroom.
Selina trailed her hand up his muscular arm, over his shoulder, and cupped his jaw. "I doubt the locks you're worried about are in your bedroom."
He looked sheepish. "I'm finished in the Manor, except for the packing." He glanced at the open suitcase and then at her sauntering to his bed. "I still have two other steps to protect my legacy."
She sat down on the bed. "Isn't that what a will is for?" She reached down and unzipped her right boot.
"Batman can't leave a will." He stepped between her knees. He tugged the boot off her foot and picked up her left foot. "And Bruce Wayne's will can't mention Batman." He pulled down the zipper and dragged one finger against her calf in its wake. She shivered with pleasure at the sensation. "Will you help me hand out those gifts?"
"You are generous to a fault and hide it so well." He jerked her second boot off before looking at her again. "I'll help you." She wrapped her legs around his hips and pulled him closer. "If just to make sure you don't blow yourself up again."
He shifted even closer and tilted her head up. "Do I frighten you?"
"I may not have a clever moniker for the press, but I wear a mask too." She gestured to the mask on her face. "You don't scare me, Bruce."
"I think you're the first. Thank you." His mouth descended on hers again. She wrapped her arms around his torso and he pulled back in pain. "Sorry."
Of course, he would apologize for being injured. She didn't unlock her legs and tugged on his T-shirt. Bruce pulled it over his head and she hissed at the bloody bandage on his side. "What happened?"
"Miranda," he shook his head, "Talia al Ghul got me with a knife while I was fighting Bane."
Selina hissed again. The bandage rested over his ribs. "Your lung?" She hadn't tasted blood in his mouth.
"She was trying for it, but the armor is hard to get through for that reason." She pulled at the tape and frowned at how easily it came up. "It's awkward to put a Band-Aid there."
She let his hips go. "First aid kit?" He strode through an adjacent door and returned with an old-fashioned medical bag rather than a plastic tackle box. She wondered what happened to the old family retainer who ran the manor before, Pennyworth. Obviously, he had left Team Bat before Bane took over, and it was just as obvious Bruce wasn't ready to talk about that. She cleaned the wound and taped the edges together with butterfly tape and medical glue. "You need stitches."
"My face plastered all over the news will ruin my plans."
"And an infection won't?" She taped the gauze over the wound. "I know a guy who won't care if you show up in a ski mask."
"A mob doctor."
Selina leaned in closer and nipped his arm. "Don't be so judgmental. Once all the mob families were rooted out, he helped women turning tricks and street kids. But that'll hold you together for tonight." She patted his side near the dressing.
"Good." He dropped the closed medical bag onto the floor and pounced. She eagerly wrapped her arms and legs around him again. His hands paused at the clasp of her mask until she nibbled on his ear. He pulled back to set it carefully on the bedside table and she appreciated the gentleness. Those goggles were expensive. He considered her. "I'm not going to end up drugged like your boyfriend the Congressman, am I?"
She groaned. "I need to claw up my supplier. That dose wasn't supposed to last that long." She squeezed his hips with her thighs. "And it was only business with a little bit of payback; why bring it up now?"
"The last woman I slept with turned out to be a genocidal fanatic who wanted personal revenge on me and to destroy my city. I should be more careful."
"You have a thing for bad girls." She leaned back on her hands before pulling the zipper of her catsuit down to her cleavage. "I better not reform completely."
There was a challenge-accepted gleam in his eye, but he didn't comment as he leaned down and nibbled his way down her neck. The conversation moved onto more serious matters: instructions on removing her catsuit and protection and pleasure spots. He did try to reintroduce the subject after as they lay curled together. "You've never hidden who you are."
"I use up all my subtlety breaking into places I'm not supposed to go in. Bruce, how much sleep have you gotten this week?" She didn't like the level of exhaustion now present in his voice.
"Not enough." Guy speak for I didn't bother to count while rushing to save my city.
She rubbed his chest as she snuggled more into his uninjured side. "Go to sleep. I'll wake us up with enough time to vanish from here." After her permission, he dropped off without a fight. He had been through hell, even before he returned for the fight now called the War for Gotham. She hoped her presence would be enough to keep his demons at bay.
She knew she was cranky from not enough sleep when Bruce's insistence on carrying the massive hardback suitcase-granted on his uninjured side-pissed her off. What happened to her its-your-funeral attitude? It probably blew up when she opened up the tunnel for people to flee Gotham. Or maybe when Bane's soldiers dragged his body out of the sewer arena. She tried not to dwell on that and watched his shirt for bloodstains as they headed down the back stairs of Wayne Manor.
They loaded the suitcases into a nondescript cargo van Bruce had parked in the garage. It was already loaded with a massive spotlight. She closed the door once the van rolled out and went to the side where she had left the Bat motorbike.
Now it was his turn to get pissy. "You brought the Batpod out here." He leaned out of the window so she could get the full weight of his glare.
"What, you thought I hitchhiked all the way out here?" She swung her leg over the seat.
"It has to go back to the garage."
"Of course, you think I've been parking this on the street? In my neighborhood?"
He was undergoing a density shift that was fascinating to watch. Even without the cowl, you could see why no one thought they were the same person before. "Blake might need it, so it's going back."
She couldn't remember why Blake sounded familiar and she put that riddle aside to enjoy the speed machine one last time. It was close enough to dawn that the curfew patrols were headed back to City Hall, so they weren't intercepted going downtown. By the time Bruce caught up with her, she was locking down the hidden garage. She climbed into the passenger seat with an exaggerated pout. "You gave it to me and now you want to take it back to give it to someone else. That's not fair."
"I didn't give it to you. You needed it for the mission." He glanced at her before focusing his attention on the street.
"And when I said I would keep on going once the tunnel was clear, you didn't say anything like bring the Batpod back, I have to give it to someone else."
He looked at her with the same flabbergasted expression he had under the cowl when she told him she had that situation at Daggett's under control. "It won't fit in a suitcase, Selina."
"So we need suitcases." She leaned back in the seat with a contented smile. "You were planning on warning me so I could pack, right?"
He muttered something under his breath, but she ignored his grumbles. His inner predator was resting still. Things wouldn't be dangerous unless it woke up.
They relocated to her apartment, the one he had found to ask her for help. The sunlight crept in past the blinds and curtains despite how well she sealed the cracks. Bruce ignored her while he dug into his small suitcase. She left his search, changed into a bathrobe, and hid her costume. He sat on his heels staring blurry-eyed at the box of hair dye in his hand. He held a battery-powered clipper in the other hand. "What now?"
He blinked up at her. "I should be disguised before you call your medical friend. May I borrow your shower?"
Selina shook her head. "You can't get that stab wound wet." She plucked the hair dye and the clippers from his hands and moved a chair to the patch of linoleum in front of the kitchen cabinets with her foot. "Take off your shirt and have a seat."
He followed her directions while she looked for the towel Jen had ruined bleaching her hair. She growled at the bloody gauze. "The police reports and new stories call you the Cat because you're a cat burglar," he said. "Or do they know you sound like one too?"
"We're going to chalk that up to blood loss and move on, okay?" She readied the mixture and slid on the provided plastic gloves before tilting his head back. He closed his eyes with a sigh as she worked the dye into his hair. "Now is a good time to tell me why Batman and Bruce Wayne have to stay dead."
He sighed again, but this one was filled with armoring up. "The League of Shadows. They targeted Gotham a long time ago and then they targeted me."
"Gordon arrested all the ones who survived the battle. The military is supposed to take them on terrorism grounds, but the date of the exchange is being kept hush-hush."
"That's what happened the last time they attacked with the fear toxin in the Narrows." He leaned into the massage she gave his scalp. "Ra's al Ghul said they were thousands of years old, ready to step in to destroy a civilization that had reached the pinnacle of decadence. I don't know if I believe him that they sacked Rome, but they have a bad habit of coming back. Three attacks on Gotham in my lifetime."
"So they're just like cockroaches and they know who you are." Her stomach sank the same way it had when Bane had announced Batman's identity.
"Ra's al Ghul trained me. Thought I'd be his tool to take down Gotham."
"He didn't know you very well, did he?"
Bruce smiled slightly. "Not about that, no."
She used the edge of the towel to wipe the hair dye off his forehead. "How many of them are out there?"
"I don't know." He opened his hazel eyes, but they were focused on something far away. "Better assume they have a worldwide presence and funding from something or somewhere. Gordon and Blake will protect Gotham, the world knows Batman is dead, and those who knew Bruce Wayne are convinced he's dead too."
"So they're safe while we're hunting the cockroaches."
His eyes focused on her. "You don't have-"
"Finish that sentence, and Doc will have more than just your stab wound to deal with." She moved in front of the chair and leaned over him so her face filled his vision. "I'm in so get used to someone watching your back."
"It will be dangerous."
"Unlike the women the tabloids have had you dating, I don't need to be wrapped in bubble wrap and protected." She leaned closer and breathed directly into his ear. "But if you have any other suggestions for bubble wrap, I'm all ears." A shudder went through him and his hands grabbed her thighs. She turned her head and he surged to meet her lips. She pulled back from the kiss first. "Later Handsome, after you're fixed up."
"I've never had a partner before," he admitted as he let her go.
"Me either. Time to wash the goop out of your hair and see how much you get to keep."
He bent over the kitchen sink without complaint, but it must be excruciating. She rinsed the hair dye out with the sprayer as fast as she could. He dropped back in the chair exhausted. She cupped his jaw and tilted his head to check his vitals. "I frightened Rachel to another man, even though I saved her life. Twice."
She rubbed her thumb against his jaw. "You don't scare me, not even with your horrible dating record. And I saved your butt, remember?"
He inhaled deeply. "I'm serious about no guns."
"I figured, but I'm willing to make Bane the only exception to my no killing rule." Footsteps clumped down the stairs outside. "Don't move." She poked her head out of the apartment door.
Sam's broad face broke into a grin when he rounded the landing and saw her. "I got the job, Miss Kyle!"
"Morning, Sam, that's great."
"Yeah, your tip about the construction crews paid off. Even Wayne Enterprises started one."
With all the destruction Gotham City suffered during the occupation and War, someone would have suggested it to the perpetually-unemployed man. She just happened to be the first and she hoped he wouldn't be too gushy with gratitude. "I'm glad you got hired. Can you get a message to Doc? I have a friend here who was stabbed."
Sam's face fell. "Jen?"
"Not Jen, he's another friend."
"Okay. I'll tell Doc to swing by." Sam continued down the stairs and she returned to her apartment.
"Jen was the blonde who tried to get my wallet?" Bruce lowered the towel from around his head.
"Good-looking man in an Armani suit; of course she tried to take your wallet." The black hair was a striking difference, but at that length it highlighted the intensity of his hazel eyes. She took over toweling it dry.
"Does she need help?"
Selina grinned. "You really are a dark knight, aren't you? Saving the fair damsel. Well, that fair damsel doesn't need rescuing. She wants to be with the guy she's with, he won't pimp her out, and he knows I'll scramble his bird brains if anything happens to her."
"You have it covered, okay."
Instead of answering him, she set the clippers and turned them on.
Selina left one-inch of hair all over Bruce's head and he continued to grumble how it had never been this short since he was born. She pushed him into the bed while she cleaned away the evidence. "You don't look like Bruce Wayne from TV now." He would probably remind people of someone familiar, but his acting better shove that familiarity out of their heads. She left him analyzing his new look with a hand-held mirror to take the trash out.
Doc met her on the stairs. "You found a new patient for me, Selina?"
"He's in my place." The lights flickered on around them on the stairwell. "Heard anything on the blackouts ending?"
"Not yet. The landline phones are supposed to be up by the end of the week." The older man limped up the stairs. "No telling how long it will take for them to replace the cell towers those convicts and mercenaries destroyed." He reached her door first and moved through it. "What did you do to yourself, young man?"
She shut the door while the bald black man bent over Bruce. "Got myself stabbed," Bruce answered.
"And haven't stopped moving yet. When was this dressing put on?"
"Last night," Selina answered as she leaned against the outer door.
Doc hummed under his breath and set his medical bag on the bed. "When did you last eat?"
Bruce blinked at him. "Knew I forgot something."
"Damnit." She squeezed past Doc and opened one of the MRE packs on the counter. "You should've said you were hungry."
"I haven't been hungry for days," Bruce protested.
Doc chuckled as he pulled out his equipment. "Get me some towels and then you can cook for him. Never thought I'd hear that phrase concerning Selina Kyle."
She dropped the towels on Bruce's face and turned back to the kitchen. He pulled them off. "Don't step on her tail. I have to stay here with her."
"Up on your side." Doc folded the towels on both sides of Bruce's body before peeling off the make-shift bandage Selina had put on. "Well, somebody was trying their damnedest to kill you."
"You'd be surprised how often that happens." Bruce grunted as Doc injected him with a painkiller.
"Not after counting your scars. Did you flush out the wound?"
"Yes, and it's been bleeding off and on since."
Selina hovered between cooking the MRE and standing ready to help hold Bruce down. But Bruce held himself down just fine while Doc sewed the flesh together.
Doc issued final instructions while he washed up at the kitchen sink. "Stay flat on your back for the next few days." He didn't turn around to face the bed. "Don't scowl at me or be a stubborn idiot. Stay in bed, eat, and sleep for a couple of days. Then you're free for normal activities-not running the Gotham 10k." He turned around while drying his hands, but Bruce wiped his scowl into an expression of resigned boredom.
Doc pulled a small vial of pills out of his briefcase and handed them to Selina. "Here are some painkillers, but if he stays off his feet, he shouldn't need them. And if he doesn't stay off his feet, you're under doctor's orders to tie him down to the bed."
Bruce held out his hand. "Thanks, Doc." Doc reached over the bed, shook his hand, and blinked as the watch slapped into it. "That should cover the bill."
Doc's shock didn't wear off, even as he pocketed the heavy watch. "Let me know if you need me to take the sutures out."
"Thanks, Doc." Selina shut the door behind the stunned man. "Cover the bill?"
"We won't be here in a week to pay it."
So they had a timetable, but right now she was too tired to coax it out of him. She helped him sit up and passed him a bowl of what passed for beef stew in the military.
Bruce's muttering woke Selina. "Deshi basara, deshi basara," he repeated. She glanced at the clock. It wasn't even noon yet. She shifted to give him more room in her double bed.
"Basara!" He jerked upward and then inhaled with pain as his stitches contracted. His arms wrapped around her as they collided. He was breathing so hard he was almost panting.
She twisted so he could see her face. "Bruce? You okay?"
"Selina? Is that you?" His arms tightened.
"It's me. You're in Gotham." She kissed his cheek. "It's safe now."
He relaxed back on the pillow. "What time is it?"
"Time for more sleep. We're night people, after all." He closed his eyes with a sigh, but didn't relax his hold on her. She rested her head on his chest.
The electricity was still on when they woke up again in the late afternoon. "Are you up for a job?" Bruce glanced up from her laptop that he was trying to connect to the Internet. "I want to get Blake's bequest in place before we tackle police headquarters."
Selina stretched out on the foot of the bed. There was that familiar name again. "I think I can trust you not to break yourself while I'm gone. Who is Blake and what is he getting besides the keys to the Batpod?"
"The black duffel and its contents over in the corner." He jerked his thumb to point at the bag he hadn't opened since bringing it and the hardback suitcase up the stairs. "I thought leaving it in a public locker and giving him the key was the easiest method to get it to him."
"Give him the key, Mister Dead-to-the-world?"
"Leave it where he couldn't miss it." Selina grinned at his answer and peeled off her T-shirt for a blouse suitable for going out. Bruce ignored the laptop to watch her change and went back to her first question. "R. John Blake, a Gotham City police officer who reached detective status before the terrorist attack. I sent him to lead people out of the city and he ended up resigning from the force."
Detective Blake, she paused in buttoning up her purple silk blouse. "He's the one who arrested me before I could get out of Gotham! Put me in Blackgate after I couldn't tell him what happened to you. Should I be concerned about this bromance?"
"They put you in Blackgate?"
Her head jerked at the voice she last heard from under the cowl. She grinned at his glower, mostly to hide her shock. It would raise his blood pressure more if she told him she stayed in because she felt so guilty over what she did to him, and it offered protection from Bane. "You don't think a hardened criminal like me belongs in Blackgate?" She teased as she finished buttoning her blouse.
"With the worst scum of Gotham? No woman should."
"As sweet as that sentiment is, they left me alone. And I only had to break one pair of hands to get that respect." The glower eased slightly. "So you want me to drop off the bag and then break into the home of a former cop who you've picked out to be the next caped crusader for Gotham City?" She leaned over him, his head between both her hands flat on the wall. "I had no idea you had such a high regard for my talents, Mr. Wayne."
"Funny, I remember saying how good you are right after we first met." The glower was gone. "Do you mind getting intel while you're out?"
"What do you need to know?" She pushed away from him and went for her jacket.
"How to replace the Batsignal on the roof of police headquarters. And it's a two-person job."
"How did you do it before?" Jen had told her about the search light with Batman's symbol that the news called the Batsignal.
"I didn't; Gordon set it up. Least I can do is fix it for him. Any more questions?"
She finished buttoning her jacket and picked up the big purse that held all her gear. "What does the R in R. John Blake stand for?"
He told her and then burst out laughing at her expression. "Catwoman beat by a bird." He laughed harder as she called him a jackass, grabbed the duffel bag, and slammed the door shut. His laughter was rough, not used nearly enough. Well, that shouldn't be a surprise given what she knew of his life. So she didn't begrudge him the laughter at her expense.
And damn if Catwoman didn't have a ring to it.
Dropping off the duffel bag was easy. The only difference was the TSA-lite gatekeeper between the stuff and the people dropping off or picking up the stuff. She signed the information with Blake's real first name because there was no way the male gatekeeper on duty would believe she was a John.
That done and pick-up ticket safely stowed away, she wandered to police headquarters. The Blackgate Boys had destroyed every floor of the building before moving to wrecking court buildings and lawyer offices. The only reason City Hall was in one piece was because Bane and his soldiers had moved in after seizing control. Police headquarters swarmed with construction workers. Gordon must be tired of policing the city divided between City Hall and Blackgate.
She had a corporate job once that involved planting evidence on another firm. The difference was the size between the two jobs. The search light didn't compare to trace amounts of specialized plastic.
The window installers had only finished replacing the broken glass on two sides of the building, so she and Bruce could use any of the four swing stages to get the search light up to the roof, but how to get it over the roof's parapet? She doubted Bruce would go for leaving it in Gordon's office with a giant bow on it, but sliding it in through that window would be easier.
Letting the problem percolate in the back of her mind, she found the foreman. "I'm from Acting Mayor Hill's office and he needs an update on the schedule for FEMA."
"I know you're just doing your job, but Jezus! If they want the building open in less than three months, they need to lift the curfew so my guys can work at night."
She soothed him best she could before she left and headed uptown to City Hall and into the city civil service offices. Nobody bothered rifling through or destroying the records, so she had Blake's home address quicker than the curfew fell. She changed into costume and headed to the roofs.
By the time she reached Blake's window, she had worked out how to move the new search light to the roof, which equaled more stops before going home. Blake's security was a joke for a police officer in this neighborhood. She cut the alarm wire on the window and jimmied open the sash.
The apartment was dark and quiet, but not empty. She crept to the open bedroom door. Blake sprawled across his bed in the sleep of the exhausted. Wasn't anybody sleeping normally in Gotham?
She looked up at Blake's plaster ceiling and then tiptoed back to his combined living room and kitchen. He used his island counter as his office desk, including a roll of Scotch tape. She pierced the pick-up ticket with a glass cutting claw and strung the mono-filament she carried in her belt through the hole.
Sure, she could just tape it to his bathroom mirror and be done with it, but where was the fun in that? She measured off the mono-filament and returned the spool to her belt. She tied the loop and covered the knot with Scotch tape. Blake's furniture was sturdy and plain. She carried a stool from the counter bar to the bedside.
Blake rolled over in his sleep. He flung his arm off his bed. It missed the stool by centimeters.
Selina breathed out. She balanced on the stool, taped the mono-filament to the ceiling so the ticket would smack Birdboy in the face when he sat up, and climbed down. She set the stool back in place before leaving through the window.
She headed up and across the roofs to her apartment. The city under curfew and eighty percent under blackout was so different from what she was used to. During Bane's reign, she had stayed out of costume and off the roofs. It was one thing to see the blaze of stars overhead in the Palisades, you expected that. The blaze of stars behind the unlit shadow of the Gotham Empire Building wasn't.
She added the supplies to the cargo van and double checked that she was the only one to break into it. Her apartment building was dark, but there was a glow of candle light in her window. She moved up the fire escape and through her window. She blinked at the empty bed. "Bruce?"
An arm snaked around her waist and spun her around. She relaxed her reflexes as her body and mind recognized the body pushing hers against the wall. "I was worried Blake cuffed you again." Bruce's hands slid down her sides to her belt.
"I look hideous in orange and don't plan on wearing it ever again." She arched into him.
He kissed her and unhooked her belt. "Any problems?"
"Police headquarters will have to be a close to daytime job with the curfew." She eased off her mask, and then wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "The crew stars about an hour after sunrise." Bruce grunted disapprovingly. "I know, way too early for night people like us."
His hands roamed around her hips. "I'm so tired of that bed."
"I'll have to tuck you in then." She kissed him hard. "After I wear you out."
Selina curled her fingers into the holes of the chain-length gate. Industrial orange light reflected on the water falling and running through the underground space. She strained to see through the dark, ignoring the soldiers surrounding the arena and the rubble. The bald head attached to massive shoulders emerged from the darkness. Bane lumbered toward his soldiers. Her eyes traveled down his tree trunk of an arm to the head he carried with him, a head with pointy ears, a head with no body attached.
She inhaled and jerked away from the scene. She recognized her apartment by the glow of the stove's pilot light. The muscular and scarred arm tightened around her torso. "What's wrong?" Bruce murmured behind her head.
"Bad dream, guess it was my turn. Sorry I woke you up."
"Almost time to get up. Want to talk about it?"
She rolled over in his embrace. "Bane killed you in your first fight." She pressed her face against his chest.
He tucked his other arm around her and rubbed her back. "He didn't want to kill me then. Break me, make me suffer, death would have ended the revenge too early. Now the second fight, I'm glad you interrupted when you did."
"I had to. Letting you think I was a coward still." She shook her head.
"I never thought that." He pressed his lips against her hair. "They took me to a pit in one of those countries that end in -istan that no one remembers the name of because it has changed every other month. In the pit was a prison, Bane gave them orders to keep me alive and to keep the TV on GCN so I didn't miss any of Gotham's destruction."
"They thought that would make you sit in the corner and weep in despair?"
"I didn't break the TV until after they hung the Special Ops team from the bridge. After that I concentrated on healing and getting out. I should have figured out that much quicker. I guess dreams of a beautiful cat burglar distracted me."
"So now you're trying to be charming." The fear and panic of her nightmare had faded, and she felt relieved that he finally told her what had happened to him during that bleak winter.
"Trying?" Bruce rolled them over and propped himself over her. "I am charming; everyone says so."
"Bimbos don't count." She wrapped her legs around him.
"Of course not."
"Neither does anyone you employed."
"There goes the list of people I know."
She grinned. "So we'll have to make you new friends who will tell you the truth."
"There it is," he murmured before kissing her on the lips. It was a gentle kiss, lighting a slow burn inside her. It lit a fire in him too, evidenced by his groan into her mouth. "We have work to do," he added sadly as he pulled back.
Selina laughed but dropped her legs from around him. "As long as you plan on coming back to it."
He shifted off of her. "We will. Did you get everything we need to install the light?"
"Everything but an impact wrench is in the van. We can borrow one of the ones at the site already." She slid out of the bed and padded to her wardrobe. "Everyone working on the site wears jeans. You did pack jeans?"
"Yes, I packed jeans. But you didn't get the keys to the van last night." She laughed and he grunted with a headshake. "Never mind."
He did have a battered outfit of old jeans and a flannel shirt. Her grubby let's-paint-the-apartment outfit matched his and the construction workers she observed yesterday. They parked the van on the backside of the building. She climbed into the back and checked the search light's straps to the cart while Bruce pulled out the ramp. She stowed the scrap plywood piece and rope on the cart before pushing it out.
"We're using the swing stage to get to the roof?" Bruce asked as he grabbed the cart.
"No elevator up to the roof and you are not carrying that up that many flights of stairs." She followed the cart down the ramp.
"Yes, dear." His lip twitched under her glare.
The swing stage jerked them off the ground. Bruce braced the cart while she worked the controls. The bottom of the platform lined up with the top of the parapet. Bruce passed the coil of rope to her and she secured the platform to the building. She slid the plywood into place as a ramp.
They eased the cart and search light down to the roof's concrete-tiled surface. Bruce inhaled deeply as he let go of the cart and dropped onto the roof beside the ramp.
"How are your-?"
"The stitches are fine, Selina." Bruce pushed the cart toward the search light set across from the door down into the building. "Stop worrying."
"You shouldn't even be out of bed yet." The construction crew hadn't bothered to lock the rooftop access. She headed down the stairs to the tool corral on the sixth floor. She found a cordless impact wrench with plenty of power and carried it up to the roof.
Bruce examined the bolts holding the search light to the concrete roof. She put the impact wrench in his outstretched hand. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." She undid the straps around the search light and cart while the impact wrench whirled. Her hand brushed over the angular bat symbol centered on the glass. It matched the symbol on his chest, and she could feel the edges of the metal through the thick work gloves she wore. "Gordon's putting up a statue of Batman."
He looked up from the third bolt. "What? Why?"
"Batman died to save Gotham and Gordon doesn't want them to forget it." He shook his head and started the wrench again. "He picked a good sculptor, specializes in realism."
They used the packing straps to lift the old light off the concrete base, the new light onto the base, and the old light onto the cart. She strapped the old search light to the cart and pushed it toward the ramp while Bruce tightened the bolts again.
He joined her at the ramp onto the swing stage. "This part needs two people and my stitches are still fine." She huffed rather than answer him, and braced the ramp in place with her foot. Once the cart was back on the swing stage, he moved to the controls. "I'll take this down while you put the wrench back."
She nodded and picked up the impact wrench. The swing stage cranked down the side of the building and seemed louder now that she wasn't on it. She set the power tool back inside the corral of them. Bruce said he had two gifts, bequests to leave in Gotham. Both jobs done; it was time to pack.
"What are you doing here?" The foreman of the site yelled behind her. He stood between her and the stairwell. With her hair up and the grubby clothes, he didn't recognize the woman who claimed to be from the acting mayor's office. "Answer me!"
Selina grinned at him before somersaulting backwards to the unglazed window. The rough construction work gloves protected her hands from the debris on the floor. She hopped up into the window. The swing stage on this side of the building was five feet away from her window. The foreman ran toward her. She launched herself out of the window.
Her fingers wrapped around the cable for the swing stage, and her lower half continued until her boots hit the concrete skin of the building. She climbed down as fast as she safely could and sprinted for the cargo van.
"What was that?" Bruce demanded as she jumped in the passenger seat.
"The foreman got here early and cut me off from the stairs." Selina buckled herself into the seat as Bruce drove down the street. "So what's next?"
"Turn in the van and buy plane tickets out of Gotham. Luckily, no one blew up the airport. Do you like Europe?"
"I adore Europe, so many valuable pretties." She chuckled at his expression. "And more importantly, no arrest warrants."
"Will I be able to get you out of Gotham?"
"Gordon said he would expunge my record as long as I didn't steal anything else. So it shouldn't be an issue." She glanced at his frown. "I think he felt guilty that he was the last one standing, but don't quote me on that. I wasn't what one could call a reliable witness at that point." She shrugged away the memory of her near breakdown she had after the explosion. "My purse is back at the apartment."
"I have money for the rental and the tickets."
"I'm pretty sure all those big headlines agreed that you didn't even before the whole world thinks you're dead kick."
Bruce smirked. "Were you in town for the Joker's reign of terror?"
"No, lucky for me."
"While I was busy dealing with him, Coleman Reese, a lawyer at Wayne Enterprises, traced the money and figured out I was Batman. Went public that he knew and the Joker marked him for death before he spoiled the secret."
"You saved the idiot?"
"I did, and Lucius put him somewhere where he couldn't do any harm. But the whole thing plus retrieving Lau from Hong Kong gave Lucius the idea to set up different accounts with different identities and more dummy corporations around the world to hide Batman better." He shook his head. "He was probably trying to tempt me back into the cape, but we never dismantled what he had done, so I have money. Came in handy when I climbed out of that pit."
"Sneaky Bat," Selina grinned.
"Do you like Florence?"
"Italy? Spent most of my time in Rome when I was there. What's so special about Florence?"
"Should make a good base of operations. Not as big as Rome, but it has an airport." That didn't sound like his real reason, but there were worse places in the world to start over and she always wanted to learn more about Renaissance art.
They took the elevated train back to her neighborhood after buying the tickets to Florence for a flight that evening. Bruce's energy level sagged, but he tried to hide it as he leaned against the banister while she unlocked the apartment's door. "You did too much."
"I'll be the laziest bum you ever met once we get to Florence."
"Sure, you promise that now. But we still have to get you to Florence." They headed into the apartment and she nudged him toward the bed with her hip. "Take a nap while I pack."
He sat on the bed. "I'm not in the mood to nap. I'd rather celebrate."
She pulled her suitcase out of her wardrobe, still packed from her Blake-interrupted flight out of Gotham, and kicked off her boots. "Celebrating is fine, but after I pack." She pulled out her gear and began the delicate task of inserting it in the suitcase so not to alarm airport security.
Bruce took off his work boots and lay back on the bed. "Even I know it's impossible to distract a woman from her clothes."
"Would you like a book? I have a copy of Crime and Punishment." She held up the trade paperback in case he didn't believe her.
"You read Dostoevsky?"
"I booked a long flight and it fit my mood better than the rest of the airport bookstore's collection." She considered the sundress she had packed before and retrieved the matching cardigan from the wardrobe.
"Pack the book; it's an eleven hour flight." She nodded and slipped the book into the outer pocket of her suitcase.
Her catsuit went in last. She zipped up her suitcase and rolled it next to Bruce's luggage. "Done." She went to the kitchen counter. "The last MREs are beef ravioli. I've got a nice Cabernet Sauvignon under the bed to go with it."
Bruce chuckled as he bent to look under the bed. "You keep your wine under the bed?"
"Only the really good stuff." She listened to him find the bottle and set it on the table.
His arms wrapped around her waist as his lips grazed the back of her neck. "I'll set the table."
"You know how?"
He opened the upper cabinet where she kept her stemware. "I think Alfred taught me so I'd know when it was done wrong." He pulled down two wine glasses and turned to the table.
She concentrated on the cooking ravioli and frowned at the sides offered in this MRE. Vegetable crackers and beef jerky didn't fit her idea of foods to go with a pasta dish, so she added the toaster pastries and cookies to the plate. At least they fit under a dessert course. Bruce arranged things behind her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a change of his clothes go to the bathroom. That wasn't surprising, but the lit-candle centerpiece on the table was. She set the plates down and sat in the chair he pulled out for her. "You're pulling out the charm again."
"You wanted to come back to it this morning."
"I remember that request was for something else."
"So wine and dine is not the way to go?" He smirked.
"Okay, you talked me into it." She speared a ravioli with her fork and popped it into her mouth.
His smirk melted into a smile before he sampled the wine. "You should have paired this with that beef stew-ish meal."
"Because we would have been celebrating your stitches?"
"I am an awful patient; you might want to consider it."
"What about you considering no more stabbings?"
"The bad guys never fight fair." She giggled and he finally chuckled. "Dogs are worse. There was this one mob boss, Chechen, specialized in drugs and trained his Rottweilers to attack Batman." He pushed up the flannel sleeve and extended his arm across the table to show off the scar.
She traced the scar tissue above his elbow with her finger. The surrounding skin goose-pimpled at her touch. "I've never had a bad run in with guard dogs. You know you can drug them."
"In the middle of a fire fight?"
"Okay, my jobs usually don't involve fire fights." She ran her finger down the inside of his arm to his palm. His fingers curled up around hers, but didn't close over it.
"Most of my fights are." He pulled his hand back across the table.
"I didn't say I couldn't handle a fire fight." She smiled and took another bite of ravioli. "Lots of adventures take a turn for the worse. You know I can take care of myself."
"I know. And I want your help." He poked the toaster pastry with his fork. "But part of me will never like anyone I care about on the front lines."
"You didn't put me on the front lines, I put myself there."
"So I shouldn't make you my one chance at a normal life." He dropped his fork onto his plate.
Selina drained her wine glass. "Normal is overrated. Let's make our own normal."
"Good idea." Bruce stood up and pulled her out of her chair. She pressed against him. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. She tucked her hands into his flannel shirt, and tugged the shirt off his shoulders while her tongue plundered his mouth like a safe.
He let go of her and shrugged off the shirt without ending the kiss. As soon as the shirt was off his arms, she ran her hands back up his muscle-shirt covered back. His hands cupped her head before his fingers stroked down her neck to her shoulders. His lips followed them down her throat.
She dropped her head back while her arms pulled at his shoulders to close the gap between them. His lips grazed her collarbone, and then kissed her skin reveled as he unbuttoned her shirt. She scratched his scalp as he knelt and kissed her stomach.
His lips moved up against as she dropped her shirt on the floor. They stumbled to the bed. "Just a good idea?" Selina knelt on the mattress, snagged the waistband of his jeans, and tugged him closer.
"If I said it was a great one, you'd start purring." His tongue traced the top of her bra on her breasts. "I'd rather give you a different reason to purr."
She shivered when his words hit her moistened skin. "I haven't stopped you." She tugged his muscle shirt out of his jeans and traced the outline of his muscles. Probably won't ever stop you, she added silently as his arms tightened around her. His hands moved up her back and unhooked her bra. She dropped her arms as he pulled it off. "You've practiced that move a lot."
He stilled and looked into her eyes. "You're not cover, Selina. This is," he paused searching for the right word. "This is more. This is real."
"It's nice to hear you say so." She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
He deepened their kiss as he pulled her to his chest. He slid his hands down her back to her butt. "Just nice?" He squeezed.
She rubbed her breasts against his chest and tucked her mouth next to his ear. "Actions speak louder than words. Especially yours. But you should say it occasionally."
"I'll keep that in mind." He let go and pulled the muscle shirt over his head. His kisses ran down her neck, over her breast, and stopped to envelope the nipple.
She arched back and grabbed the back of his head. His left arm wrapped around her to support her back. Her breathy moan released when he sucked on her breast. He moved his head to her other breast despite the hold she had on it.
His right hand trailed around her stomach, down to her jeans, and left tingles across her skin. He unbuttoned her jeans quickly, but couldn't push them off her hips with one free hand.
Selina chuckled and latched onto his waistband with both hands. His jeans fell to the floor once she unfastened his fly. She tugged down his boxers.
Bruce wrapped both arms around her, twisted, and pulled her off the bed. He cut off her squeal by slamming their lips together. She put her feet down on the floor as he let go and sat down on the mattress. He yanked her pants and panties down before pulling her closer to the bed by her hips.
She stepped out of her jeans and underwear and crawled over him as he swung his legs onto the mattress. "Lay back," she straddled his thighs. He shook his head and didn't sit back against the wall either. He tucked his right hand under the pillow for support. "Give your abs a break and enjoy me on top."
He shook his head again. "Close your eyes."
"We need to work on your kink." She rubbed his chest and left her hands on his pecs, but closed her eyes when he sighed exasperatedly.
And she kept them closed as his hands wrapped the beaded cord around her and fumbled with the clasp behind her neck. Her skin tingled recognizing the shape and the weight of the largest pearl that nestled into the hollow of her throat and the rest of the pearls in the necklace. Good thing she left her hair up. Even though he had unclasped them before, now he was all thumbs.
"This was my mother's and I'm giving it to you." His voice next to her ear had a catch in it that hadn't been in it before. "I turned off the tracker." He finally got the clasp to close together and hugged her. "Our own normal." He kissed her cheek. "Partners, Selina."
She pulled back enough to look at his face after that last whisper. He couldn't even say the emotion filling his hazel eyes, but his actions-better thing she had figured that out about him. She ran her hands up his chest and into his hair before she leaned in closer. "I love you too, Bruce." And she sealed that declaration with a kiss.