She doesn't cry.
Not as a rule, and not that day. And she doesn't cry half a day later - when the adrenaline drops, and she's ridden the massive motorbike far enough to be running on empty, and far enough to finally feel safe to stop and check the news, as if there were news worth checking.
She is still dressed for a fight, a fight to the death that suddenly seems surreal among the bland and unaffected, the citizens living several states beyond the potential blast radius - and she can feel dumbfounded gazes on her, as she stands in her skintights in a Flying-effing-J truck stop, tearing through the newspapers to see if any of them had something besides a front-page obituary for a sacrificial hero. There would be some late-breaking update, some something, surely - but there is nothing, and she turns to the first ogling schmuck on her left, and asks sweetly to borrow his smartphone, grabbing it from him maybe just a moment before he stammers a "yes".
There is no news online of a survival. She hurls the phone back at the bewildered mouth-breather and storms down the aisle of the minimart, her boots denting half-moons into the linoleum, terrible fluorescent lighting making her eyes squint.
Selina Kyle buys a sweatshirt. And a styrofoam cup of bad coffee, and three energy bars, and a full tank of gas. As if she ever needed anything more than enough to keep going and the means to escape.
She drives on and off for hours, days.
In an all-night diner in the Rust Belt, she sits alone in a six-person booth, and thinks over and over again that she is fond of being alive, and her decisions have done well by that objective. Even in this half abandoned ruin of a metropolis, she's sitting with her back to a wall. If the main entrance is blocked, her exits are to the right, through the swinging door and out through the kitchen, or to the left - straight through the plate-glass, if it comes down to it. Boom.
It ought to sound like fun.
Her fork clanks as she stabs angrily at a plate of awful hashbrowns, and she tells herself that she has always had to hold her own, so nothing is different now. She has lost nothing, and no one. The thought that she could have trusted a billionaire with a hero complex to share the load of self-preservation - the idea that someone could have actually had her back and she could have looked out for his - it seems like something so naive and far away that she must have believed it as a kid, and not just three days ago. The idea of someone that she could trust, of someone existing who was competent enough to lean on, is a kind of relief she cannot even imagine.
Half an hour later she is walking down empty streets toward the deserted parking garage where she'd stashed the bike; a few levels of parking installed opportunistically into the gutted core of some old 13-story building - years ago, probably, before the garage itself was abandoned too. No jobs downtown for people to drive to everyday, anymore. This part of the country is almost more grim than the besieged Gotham was; broken windows on empty skyscrapers like black eyes on old dreams. Neighbors burn condemned buildings to the ground here, rather than let squatters take up residence. It feels hollow and defeated. She doesn't feel out of place.
She climbs nine flights of stairs in the garage, and traces her path across the cavernous parking level with a small flashlight, until she sees the monster of a bike, still there in the corner. A red glint of light flashes off the wall and instinct takes over as she swiftly dives to one side, rolling and waiting for the gunfire to begin, calculating the quickest path to a weapon - but the silence pounds in her ears and after a few minutes it's clear she's alone. Slowly, she raises the flashlight, and the red shine returns.
It's some decorative bit of glass embedded in the wall; it is not the laser sight on a sniper rifle. She can't remember the last time she was spooked without perfectly good reason.
The bike has headlights that she's been warned were a couple thousand lumens too bright for city streets. She flips them on full strength for the first time, flooding the empty parking garage with light - and she realizes from the arched ceiling and the ravaged gilding on the walls that the building they'd eviscerated to make this garage had once been a theater.
It feels like a desecrated cathedral. It feels like a place to mourn the dead.
The concrete floor touches the walls on all sides but one, and she walks to the edge of the open side, looking down into a shadowy level two stories below, of shattered tiles and staircases that must have once been the lobby. There's no railing and she stands with her toes on the edge, forcing herself to balance. Balance requires control, and she's always been able to command herself to unfeel anything on demand.
She kissed him once to buy herself time to pick his pocket, and once to buy herself another nine and a half seconds of knowing him.
A shiver runs through her and abruptly she pushes it all down. She does not think about his lost life. She cannot think about how he was a person and now he's gone, and where his breath and thoughts went. Sadness is weakness. She got out of Gotham, and she's ok, because she has to be ok. Breakdowns are a luxury for people with shoulders to cry on.
The weaponized bike gets too much attention on the interstates, and she trades it in at a criminally low price to a wide-eyed used car dealer in exchange for a cheap Kawasaki. She returns to the road with significantly less horsepower and a much more comfortable anonymity.
In a midwestern suburb she hunts down an internet cafe that has clearly seen better days - but the dingy beige PC is new enough, just barely, to have the USB port to import the clean slate software. She watches as the progress bar shows database after database being wiped free of her sins, her identity being returned to that of a law-abiding newborn, and even though it's probably bullshit, probably just an animation on the screen instead of actual change, actual salvation... she lets the program finish, even if she doesn't let herself believe. And then she keeps moving.
A day later and she's in the desert; dry air and a landscape like the surface of the moon, and it feels like something harsh she deserves, or maybe something so harsh that it deserves her.
The road beyond the motorcycle's windshield is flat and open; she accelerates into the the dusty red eternity stretching out toward the horizon, hot air wavering up from the asphalt, wind whipping past her ears… and when the siren begins to blare behind her, it seems like the inevitable caught up at last. It feels almost like relief, and she is strangely calm as she decides for some reason to slow down and pull over. She takes a few deep breaths as the cop walks up to the motorbike, ready for him to be responding to an all points bulletin for a known thief crossing state lines... but he just asks for her license and registration.
And in a desert in the middle of nowhere, Selina Kyle is let off the hook for a speeding ticket, on account of it being her first and only offense. "Slow down and drive safe now, ok miss?" the cop says kindly.
For the next couple of miles, she can barely drive a straight line.
Something unfurls in her, a sense of a lifetime of dead ends suddenly unblocked, and it's overwhelming; she has no destination but every mile she travels feels like a tangible distance between herself and who's she's been. She makes it as far west as the ocean, and then she switches to air travel and the cities start to go quickly, after that. Taipei. Jakarta. Karachi. Each time she tries to feel liberated but instead she is restless, unsatisfied, outright unhappy - but surely this is a feeling that can simply be outrun. She's in Johannesburg when the letter is slipped under her door.
White envelope. White paper. Laser printer.
You said you were adaptable.
Meet me in Florence?
…She does not cry. And as a rule, she also doesn't walk into fucking traps.
And so she goes instead to Bogotá, where she holes up in a high rise hotel with triple deadbolts on the steel door, and drinks the minibar dry while weighing her options. Sitting on the floor of the hotel room at 4am, her back to the wall once again, chest aching worse than any ribs she's ever broken, she presses her head into her hands and fights the urge to hope.
She kissed him once to show him she was wicked, and once to show him she wished that she wasn't.
The most dangerous option is that the letter is real. None of the other options are even interesting.
Two days later Selina gets on a plane for the continent, and upon clearing customs at Fiumicino and making her way to the Termini station in Rome, the sense of dread that has been vaguely thrumming in the back of her mind comes surging to the forefront, full-blown, every bit of electricity in her brain crackling around a single word: run.
The letters on the station's split-flap board rattle as they flip from one row to the next, and amid the clatter of the rows of destinations changing, she strides straight past the north-bound train to Florence, boarding a south-eastern train instead.
Her better judgement seems to have kicked in, because she doesn't know what the hell she's doing in Italy at all; the letter is obviously a trap, and the handsome fool is dead, and even putting her heel to the throat of some bastard who's invoking his memory won't be particularly satisfying. She rests her head against the window of the train, curls her feet up atop her bag in the next seat, and tries to hold her shoulders hard and strong, not letting them shake.
Naples is the end of the line, as far south as this particular train can go without plunging into the sea, and when the engine finally pulls into the station, she is once again angry instead of lost. She finds a passable hotel, books a single night and then paces, unable to sleep, understanding for the first time the desire to trash a hotel room.
Jetlag. Good sense lag. What she needs is to punch holes in the wall. What she needs is to get out of here.
Sometime around 5am, she finally gives in and gets the hell out of the room, dropping out the window to the ground ten feet below, and storming up the Corso Umberto, kicking every piece of garbage that lies in her path. The road bends, and turns steeply up the hill, and she keeps walking, undaunted, and the burn as she draws air into her lungs is the first relief she's had in days. The city is dead in the early hour, few cars on the road and no other people in sight, and at each intersection she chooses the street that leads further uphill, until eventually she's standing in front of what a sign proclaims to be the Castel Sant'Elmo, some ancient fortress turned heritage building. It doesn't open for another four hours.
The gate takes her maybe thirty seconds to scale.
Inside, she finds the stairs and keeps going up at every chance, needing an edge, and eventually she's on the top level, overlooking the city from a perch on the parapet, and she tries again to find her balance, tries to breathe, tries to unfeel, and utterly fails.
She stands on the 40-foot wall of the rampart looking over the roofs of old buildings and the sea beyond and the view gets gradually blurry. It feels like a tidal wave of her own emotions is washing over her, and that she is accepting the truth at last: that letter cannot possibly be real, that he is dead, that she lost him, that there was something to lose, and that she is sick with fucking grief and flailing at every turn. She closes her eyes, and takes a long, ragged breath.
"I said to meet me in Florence," comes a male voice from behind her that almost sounds amused.
This is a new fandom for me, but that last line popped in my head and I built the story around it, because after seeing TDKR I was captivated by Selina's character and I couldn't shake the impression that there was no way this girl would just go hearts and flowers and swooning off to Florence - at least, not without a bit of a fight, first. :-)
Of course - that garage in the shell of the theater is real, and still in use. Google "Detroit theater parking garage," or see:
Stay tuned for the next chapter, and for readers of my POTO story Volée, don't worry; Evasive Maneuvers is a two-parter and then I'll get back to working on Chapter 7 for the other couple I've got working out their issues while running ragged around the globe. (They do say write what you know.)
Feedback is very, very, welcome, especially as Selina and Bruce are new to me and I'm just working out how they think. I like these characters; this particular story will be all grit and grief, but I'm already wondering how they'd do in another story with a bit more glam...