AN: I do not own.
There are nights, like this one, when he is unspeakably grateful that he installed an autopilot in his car. Trying to escape the sewers his legs were shaking so badly he had to lean against the wall for several minutes. Before him the ladder stretched endlessly, impossibly upward. It felt (and feels) like his head was being crushed, throbbing against the confines of his skull, blood making his hair sticky under the cowl where Waylon Jones slammed him into concrete. He managed, haltingly, to make his way to the surface then collapsed face-down on the pavement. He doesn't know how long he stayed there. The world tilts under him when he tries to stand, and when streetlights dim and the road flickers out of sight he resigns himself to remaining on his hands and knees. His cape drags behind him, his breath comes hot between his teeth. Bruce finds himself numbly pulling himself forward with his only thoughts the possibility of getting home, getting to Alfred who will know how to fix this, getting to bed where he doesn't have to think about who's broken out of Arkham or which child has been kidnapped or all the people who are still dependent on him because sometimes he just can't do this.
He pulls himself into the seat. The door closes. His hand trembles as he enters the directions to return. As the motor hums to life and the city blurs in his vision Bruce leans against the window and lets the world melt into nothing.
He didn't expect her to visit.
Alfred has insisted on this vacation. Time to recover from his collection of injuries—a concussion that still leaves him nauseous, bruised ribs from when one of Riddler's thugs got lucky, gashes where Catwoman lashed into him and smiled. The nights are blending together, he can't remember which happened first. For his sanity, for his life, time off has become an absolute necessity. Let the police handle things for a while.
He hates it.
Veronica strides in ahead of Alfred with her too-large sunglasses, shoes clacking over the wooden floor of his living room. Her hair has been done up in a bun today, red and vivid against the houndstooth dress she's chosen for this occasion. She has a grocery bag looped around her wrist. Bruce feels almost self-conscious being caught wearing nothing but his robe and pajama pants.
"Miss Vreeland, sir," says Alfred, and Veronica winces.
"Oh Bruce, how did you even manage that?" she asks, taking a seat beside him where he sits on the couch. Bruce smiles, the billionaire playboy made sheepish.
"You know how it is. One too many glasses of wine, tripping over fountains—which I don't advise, by the way."
She laughs, looping an arm around his waist. "You must have looked ridiculous. Did anyone see?"
"I'm afraid not," says Bruce, his voice dripping with remorse.
"What a waste." She moves to tousle his hair, stops. Bites her lip, getting a dark smudge on her teeth in the process. "But really, I am starting to worry about you. Have you considered toning it down, even a little?"
Now it is his turn to laugh. "How boring would that be? Come on." And with that, he takes a moment to rub his tongue dramatically over his own teeth. Veronica watches, quizzical for a moment before flashing a grin and mimicking the gesture. The lipstick vanishes.
"Thanks," she says, leaning into his shoulder. "But please, as much as I love seeing you getting in trouble this is a little over-the-top. Do try to be more careful, alright?"
"Alright," says Bruce, rolling his eyes with a tremendous sigh. "If you insist."
"You're the best." And with that, Veronica tugs the bag over her knees."I brought you something, you know."
"I noticed." He leans over, carefully. "Ice cream?"
"I thought you could use some. How would you feel about watching some Gray Ghost together?"
Bruce smiles, and finds that he means it. "Why Veronica, I'd be delighted."