Coughing, they lurched from the burning building. Neither one of them had been singed, much less burnt. Nightwing kept one arm wrapped around Selina while he hit the Tumbler's autopilot remote. She sagged against him. "Selina?" The Tumbler rolled around the building, braked in front of them, and slid open the canopy. His rush of adrenaline gathered the woman into his arms and ran her to the passenger side of the Tumbler. No complaints as he secured her to the seat.
He ignored his qualms and checked her vitals. Airway clear, pulse good, she was just out cold. He set a small breathing mask over her nose and mouth. A little oxygen couldn't hurt after the smoke.
Willowwood's four stories burned rapidly now. The snow in the driveway melted from the heat. He sighed and looked over the Tumbler. A green sheet of paper was under the windshield wiper.
Gee, that was funHe bagged the message and let his hands squeeze the wheel as hard as he could. It was nowhere close to as satisfying as punching that smug face would be. The Tumbler roared onto the street before he calmed enough to call Dispatch. "Nightwing reporting a fire in Upper West Hill."
Second to none
Let's do it again
You were better than Wayne.
The dispatcher rattled off the correct street address. "Fire units are already in route."
"I'm positive the building is clear of human life and I'm taking a witness to get medical attention. Nightwing out." The Tumbler shot over the Midtown Bridge; its tires barely touching the pavement.
They were about halfway to East Eighteenth Street Clinic when Selina stirred. She blinked and touched the oxygen mask. "Take it easy," Nightwing told her. "We're almost to Doc Leslie."
"Bruce?" She lifted the mask away. "Is Bruce okay?"
He wasn't surprised her thoughts went there first. "Bruce is fine. I mean he's upset. I had to stop him from getting into the suit. But the Riddler didn't hurt him."
"You stopped him from getting the suit?" She leaned against the seat after he nodded. "Good."
"You're turning down a rescue from Batman for me instead?"
"Batman can't come back from the dead to save me. Not when this Riddler wants under his mask." She closed her eyes and pulled off the oxygen mask. "Stephanie and Jen?"
"Alfred has the Manor on lock down."
Selina dropped into silence and Nightwing didn't question her when he noticed her hands covering her pregnant stomach. She did manage a wan smirk when the canopy slid back and showed the back entrance of the clinic. "You could have taken me to any hospital, you know."
"And I thought you didn't like the press." He helped her out of the Tumbler and made her sit in the wheelchair he found near the door. "Look, Doc Leslie and Bruce will both yell at me if you don't," he said when she frowned at it.
"Yes, we probably will." Leslie yawned as she met them in the hall. "What's wrong?"
"I was given an unknown sedative when I was kidnapped around noon," Selina answered. Leslie gasped, but Selina continued as she sat down in the wheelchair. "The baby's been kicking since I woke up and the kidnapper said he got a reading of 145 with the fetal Doppler. I don't think he was lying."
"Marrying a billionaire comes with its pitfalls," Leslie said as she shook off her shock. "Let's go to the ultrasound room first." Nightwing pushed the wheelchair down the hallway. "Why didn't you have anyone with you?"
"Cause I didn't expect to get kidnapped. Same reason why the bastard is still able to walk right now."
Leslie opened the door ahead of them. "Go find her some food. Kidnappers usually don't feed their victims."
Nightwing left them to the medical stuff and went to the staff break room. Thoughts of what could go wrong with the baby refused to stop popping into his head. Bruce would never forgive him. He found packaged sandwiches and juice boxes in the refrigerator. He put two of each on a meal tray before checking the coffee pot. He poured two mugs and put them on the tray too.
Leslie opened the door of the ultrasound room when he returned with the tray. "Give me that, we're heading down to room five."
He pushed the wheelchair to one of the rooms set aside for longer stays. "Is there a verdict yet?"
Selina's fist bunched the hospital gown she had changed into. "Not yet."
"It won't take long to run a tox screen and you can rest while you wait on Bruce." They got Selina onto the bed; Leslie drew out a vial of blood, and Nightwing texted Bruce. Brought Selina to Doc Leslie. She's okay. Checking on baby. Riddler got away. Leslie noticed the cell phone as she bandaged Selina's puncture. "Bruce is on his way? Good, you eat, young lady." She took one of the coffee mugs from the tray as she pushed the wheeled table over Selina's lap and left with her vial.
Selina opened one of the sandwiches. The rattle of the cuffs still on her wrists reminded her of something as she bit into the bread and chicken. She swallowed and pointed at him. "I am teaching you how to pick a lock before one of Gotham's loony tunes locks you up."
"Bruce will first for letting the Riddler get away." He picked up his mug of coffee but didn't drink. "If I had followed the clues better, you never would have been taken."
She swallowed her second bite before reaching for a juice box. "I will deny to my dying day I ever said this if you repeat it, but you did good work tonight. So what if the Riddler got away? He was ready to run as soon as the fire bomb went off."
"I know but--"
"You figured out his ultimate riddle." She took another bite and all that was left of the sandwich half was the crust.
"I did? Who is Batman?"
She nodded and swallowed. "That asshole said he's been trying to figure it out for eight years and still doesn't know."
He sipped his coffee as the dread in his stomach eased and he considered the implications. "Eight years, he waited until after Harvey Dent died to start looking."
She smirked before biting into the second half of the sandwich. He let her wolf down the sandwiches and fixed her a glass of water without conversation. He'd rather add her statement to the evidence with Bruce and Gordon present. He heard doors banging in the hall. Good thing there weren't any overnight patients. He opened the door. "Bruce, we're in here."
Bruce pushed him out of the way as he barged into the room and skidded to a stop seeing Selina in a hospital gown. Commissioner Gordon leaned against the doorjamb with the pallor of a hung-over man. "Let's get some coffee, Commissioner." Nightwing helped him off the doorjamb and shut the door. "Are you okay?"
"The speeding tickets I could give him." Gordon shook his head.
Selina looked at her husband's wincing eyes and the bobbing of his Adam's apple. Otherwise, he radiated stillness at the side of her bed. It was a lie, so she waited. His voice was low and controlled when he spoke. "I made you a target."
He stood out of reach of her hand so she rolled her eyes and pushed the tray away from her. "That's the first thing that pops in your head? Not 'are you okay?' or 'what did Leslie say?' It's all somehow your fault when a nut in Gotham comes out of its shell."
She wanted to smack him, but Bruce shoved himself forward. His hands cradled her head as his lips crashed against hers. She curled her arms around his shoulders. His desperation relaxed and the kiss shifted to tender before it ended. His hands moved down to her arms when he pulled back. "What did Leslie say?"
"She's still doing tests." Her hands tightened on Bruce's jacket. "But our kid is kicking like there's a karate tournament on the line." His hand caressed her stomach until he found a firm kick. She let go of her fašade with the one person who would never use it against her. "That has to be a good sign, right?"
"I think it's a sign we should put in a soccer field when we put in Stephanie's playground." His second kiss reassured her, but he pulled back puzzled. "You smell like smoke."
"You weren't listening in through Nightwing?"
"Gordon elected to keep me distracted himself. What happened?"
She breathed deeply as she let him go. "Better bring the other two in here so I only have to give one statement."
Bruce nodded and opened the door. "Selina's ready to talk."
Gordon and Nightwing followed him inside. The Commissioner looked more relaxed with the coffee mug in his hands. "Are you sure you're up to this, Mrs. Wayne?"
"I'd rather get the details out while they're still fresh. You already figured out the lunch meeting was a ruse to get me out of the office?"
Bruce pulled the sheet over her legs. "We saw the security footage. The man in green is the Riddler?"
"He never gave me a name. He drugged me and never let me see him when I woke up cuffed to a chair with blinding light in my face."
Bruce pressed his lips together as he turned to Nightwing. "He dressed the same as the security footage when I saw him," Nightwing said.
"Wait for your turn." Bruce opened one of the utility belt's compartments and took out a set of lockpicks. He went around the hospital bed and opened the storage drawers. "Did he talk to you, Selina?"
"Oh God, does he love to talk. He wanted Catwoman to tell him who Batman was. He wanted to kidnap you to make me tell him that."
"We got that from his riddles," Gordon said.
"Riddles? He sent riddles before his crime?" Selina looked at all the men silently daring them to end the joke right now.
"He's consistent with his theme so far." Bruce pulled on a set of latex gloves and turned her left arm so he could pick the handcuff.
"Tell us exactly what he said to you, best you can remember," Gordon said.
"He said he had a fetal Doppler to check the baby's heartbeat and it was normal. Since my shirt was tucked over my belly and ultrasound gel was all over my skin, I believe he did that." Bruce paused to squeeze her hand. Selina closed her eyes to help her remember. "Educated, but General American accent nothing distinctive to Gotham, but he said our elected officials, so he's lived here long enough to consider Gotham home from somewhere else or he polished up his accent. He knows I'm Catwoman. He knew what Cadmus changed from my original identity. I denied it with every cover story we came up with, but he didn't buy any of them. I'm Catwoman, Bane had me locked up with Batman, Batman must be the baby's father, and you can't tell him any different." She opened her eyes.
"But he never made the connection?" Gordon gestured to Bruce.
"Batman is dead, so no, it never occurred to him. So smart and so stupid at the same time."
The handcuffs fell onto the mattress and Bruce passed them to Nightwing. "Dust them for prints." He uncovered her left ankle. "You're having Batman's baby so you must know Batman's identity."
"He's been trying to figure it out for eight years. Our conversation ended after I pointed out that he couldn't verify anything I told him and he threatened to kidnap you or Stephanie to make me talk. He left the room, a walk-in freezer, after that and I didn't see anyone until Nightwing opened the door."
Gordon took out a small notebook and started writing. "Did he let anything slip that could identify him?"
"Access to my records and Roger Cly's. He connected us both back to Willowwood. When he complained about working on Batman's identity for eight years, he made it sound like someone challenged him to do it. He watched our interview on Gotham Tonight."
"Who in the city didn't?" Bruce recovered her left foot as he handed the cuffs to Nightwing and moved to her right foot. "Six weeks ago he figured out you were Catwoman and left a rhyming riddle about it on the Tumbler."
"I made the wrong call on that, Selina. I'm sorry." Nightwing's regret leaked out from under his mask.
"You said something about rumors," Bruce said.
"Bane's Army in Blackgate," Gordon grumbled.
Nightwing sighed as he bagged the first pair of handcuffs. "Bane had Batman and Catwoman locked up is easy to trace. That's what the local members of Bane's Army were told if they asked about Batman stopping them. Bane squashed any speculation on your identities."
"Wasn't that nice of him," Selina said.
"The riddle was left on the Tumbler the night of the Evermonds raid. The police knew I was there and the police were also the only ones who talked about Catwoman being pregnant."
"How?" Selina demanded. "By my count, only nine people knew not counting myself and they are almost all ones who know who we really are, so who talked?"
"Jensen," Nightwing said as his shoulders slumped.
"The rookie who was trapped underground with us." Bruce handed Nightwing the cuffs from her right ankle.
"I thought I hid my morning sickness better than that," Selina said.
"It was downtime before the funerals. Somebody asked why Catwoman didn't help with rounding up the last of the Blackgate Boys. Jensen blurted out 'She probably didn't want to risk the baby.' Renee jumped on him first and explained how it's not polite to speculate on a woman's uterus especially after the woman kept you fed for three months. It was a beautiful headlock, but the damage was done." Nightwing lightly brushed the fingerprint powder on the metal handcuffs. "Riddler's poem put together you as Catwoman and hinted at your pregnancy, so I thought it was another cop who put things together."
"And you told me to visit less and the wedding stuff made a perfect excuse." Selina frowned. "You don't think it's a cop now, why?"
"The stunt at Cartier's." Nightwing pulled the hospital bed tray he worked on out of Bruce's way. "Something like that will bring the Feds back saying we can't take care of Gotham and no cop wants that."
"The new Mayor shut it down," Gordon said. "So we don't have that to worry about unless this Riddler unlocks Blackgate."
Bruce looked up from her right wrist. "That's not funny, Jim."
"Not laughing, Bruce."
"Confused here." Selina raised her left hand. "I know you investigated Cartier's, but what does that vandalism have to do with the Riddler?"
"It started off his scavenger hunt across Gotham with riddles that led to Harriet Allnut's body," Nightwing explained. "He hid the riddle for you to go to Willowwood to rescue Bruce at that crime scene."
"He was upset that you hadn't shown up at the restaurant." Bruce glanced at Selina. "He took me to keep his hard work from going to waste."
"Can't have that, can we?" Bruce jabbed the probe further into the lock.
"Bruce figured out the answer to the last riddle and I went to Willowwood. It was open when I arrived. There were two heat signatures and I went up after the smaller one. The perp met me on the second floor's landing. He dressed like the man in the security footage, wore a purple mask under the green hat, and called himself the Riddler. He told me I had to catch him to find Selina and ran into a room behind him. I chased him into an electrified maze that filled the second and third floors. I thought I found a way around the maze once I reached the third floor but he booby trapped it and I fell down a chute to the basement laundry room. Selina was secured inside the walk-in freezer next door and a maze filled the rest of the basement. We tried to go out a staircase to the first floor, but I missed the booby trap on it and set the building on fire. Selina told me how to disconnect the electric maze and then we were able to cut our way through and get out using the basement exit."
Bruce jerked the picks out of the lock as he looked at her and turned to Nightwing. Selina squeezed his hand. "It's okay, neither one of us got singed. The Riddler probably killed Harriet, but I don't think he wanted to kill us. It was too easy to get away."
Bruce didn't say anything as he focused on the handcuff again.
"I know he got away because he left a rhyme on the Tumbler," Nightwing frowned. "Can we put a Taser auto theft device on it?"
"Or at least a camera if he keeps leaving notes on it." Gordon drained his coffee mug.
Bruce set the last handcuffs on the hospital tray, but the room door opened before he responded. Leslie held onto a clipboard as she put her hands on her hips. "Really? After everything she's been through today?"
"I let them in," Selina said. "They're family after all. What's the verdict?" Her hand found Bruce's.
Leslie consulted her clipboard. "Nothing's abnormal in the ultrasound or the tox screen. But let's not make a habit of taking whatever it was. Your little girl has a normal heartbeat and you should take it easy tomorrow. Rest and eat."
"We're having a girl?" Selina asked. The dizziness relief left in its wake made her glad she was sitting on the hospital bed. The baby kicked and she rubbed the spot.
"Did you want to be surprised?" Leslie asked.
Bruce shook his head.
"She always curled up for the other ultrasounds." Selina squeezed Bruce's hand. "We both hate taking pictures."
"She didn't try to hide for these pictures." Leslie passed them a long strip of photo-paper with three sonogram images on it. Selina recognized the head on one of them.
"I feel outnumbered," Bruce said.
"Congratulations," Gordon said. "Now we have to see about catching this Riddler."
"I'll head back to Willowwood and see if there's anything left of his trail," Nightwing said.
Bruce turned to Gordon, "If you need a ride--"
Gordon held up his hand. "I already called for a car to meet me here."
"I thought he looked a little pale. How fast did you go?" Selina smirked.
Bruce squeezed her hand before turning to Nightwing. "Any fingerprints?"
Nightwing shook his head as he bagged the last cuffs for evidence.
"Take you wife home, Bruce, and at the speed limit. Gentlemen, shoo." Leslie pushed Gordon and Nightwing out of the room.
Bruce silently helped her get dressed in her smoky outfit. Selina was lost in a daydream of two little girls, blonde and brunette. The Lamborghini was much further down than she remembered and she needed Bruce's help to get into the passenger's seat. He drove sedately across Midtown. "Is there anything you want to add to your statement that you didn't want Gordon to know?"
"Of course, you're still focused on the case." She sighed as she looked at the street lights. They were close to Cartier's store. "Not really. I don't want to step on toes by profiling the Riddler for him."
"My toes are fine."
"He's smart, meticulous, look at how much he did just to put one person in the right place to kidnap. But despite being that smart, he makes a little mistake that nearly derails his whole plan."
"His grabbing you."
Selina shook her head. "No, that was smoothly recovering. The mistake was not verifying your schedule."
"I do keep that on a need to know basis."
"I could get it. This guy is smart enough to get it too."
Bruce nodded. "What were you thinking about?"
"Did you want a boy?" she asked.
"A matched set has its perks, but I don't have to have a boy."
"Good, 'cause today is not a good day to tell me we got to try again." Selina's smile dropped away. "On the subject of not good, what went wrong with my tracker?"
He glanced at her with clear confusion. "Your what?"
"Tracking device, you know your little compromise that had me buying jewelry for everyone but Blake and Gordon because theirs are implanted."
His face was undergoing the same shift it had early this morning when she volunteered for Foundation work. "We agreed to trust each other," he said. "And you didn't want one."
"I thought you took so long on the ring because you were fitting it in there." She looked down at the cat's eye and started laughing. "We can't tell Alfred. I only got him to agree to the cufflinks because I was covered with one."
His right hand let go of the steering wheel and drew her hand to his lips. "Mrs. Wayne, I will take you to Cartier and buy you jewelry to hide tracking devices for every occasion you can think of." He kissed the back of her hand.
"Do they have that much in stock yet?"
"We'll make them design something unique for you to wear everywhere. In the meantime, no, we don't tell Alfred."
The butler met them in the kitchen still dressed in his black cardigan. "Dr. Thompkins called with the medical instructions. Shall I bring a tray up to your room?"
"Only if it's no trouble." Selina glanced at the clock, realizing how early Alfred's day must have started and with the wedding the day before.
"No trouble, Missus Wayne. I saved your portions of supper; won't take any time to reheat. And maybe you'll get Master Wayne to actually eat his."
"I eat when I'm hungry," Bruce said as he held the rear stair door open for Selina.
Alfred shook his head. "I did tell Miss Jen what was going on and advised her to go to bed. I doubt she's asleep."
"She won't be." Selina leaned on Bruce as they went up the stairs. "All I really want is a shower."
"You'll get a shower and supper." Bruce tightened his arm around her back.
"You have met my sister, haven't you?"
Jen wore her Loony Tunes flannel pajamas as she paced the bedroom hallway. Her new robe flapped behind her as she ran down the stairs to meet them. "Kidnapped? Are you joking? Is this some kinky game since you didn't get a honeymoon, like role-playing abduction? You were really kidnapped?"
Selina pushed Bruce to keep walking up the stairs. His normal politeness would trap them on the stairs all night. "Don't be so melodramatic."
Jen waved her arms. "Hello! Kidnapped! Nobody gets the drop on you."
"I made the classic blunder I'm always telling you not to make."
"Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line?"
Selina glared at Jen. "Being unaware of your surroundings. I was concentrating on Foundation business." They reached the third floor.
"But you always fight off the bad guys." Jen's whimper had an undercurrent of fear.
"She's pregnant," Bruce said. "How much fighting do you think she can do now?"
"Selina has always been the fighter. Do we need the secret service now?" Jen hugged herself.
"We don't qualify for them," Bruce said, "but we can hire a security team."
"We don't need to hire a security team." Selina's eye roll didn't stop her from hurrying to their bedroom door.
Jen kept pace. "Why not? Did the police lock him up?"
Her sister skidded to a stop and threw her hands on her hips. "You can't beat up bad guys; I can't beat up bad guys. Who are you counting on, Alfred?"
"Don't count Alfred out." Bruce opened their bedroom door.
Jen followed Selina inside. Selina sighed. "Stop freaking out, will you?" She sat at the breakfast table. "He wanted information on Batman, not money out of Bruce."
The younger woman turned like a dancer and stomped her foot. "He's dead and still brings you grief!" Bruce flinched but hid it by loosening his tie. Jen stomped her foot again. "Are trained mercenaries gonna break in next?"
Bruce stiffened before he stripped off his suit jacket and headed to the dressing room.
"That's enough," Selina said. "I'm fine and the baby's fine. And this guy's ego won't let him hire mercenaries."
"Is it a mask thing? They assume because you wear a mask and Batman wore a mask, you must be BFFs? Or did the bad guys get some details about you and Bats that I didn't get?"
Stephanie ran into the room and straight to Selina. Her pendent bounced against the cartoon character on her nightgown. "What bad guy? What going on?" She hugged Selina's leg.
"It's okay. Everything's okay." Selina petted her blonde hair.
"Aunt Jen said bad guys and breaking in. Bad men were at work?" Stephanie squeezed harder.
Jen slapped her hand over her mouth. "Now you shut up," Selina said. She reached as far as could to pet Stephanie's back. "Aunt Jen didn't mean to wake you up."
Bruce returned, having discarded his jacket and tie. He pulled his chair next to Selina's other side before setting Stephanie on the arm rests between them. Stephanie balanced against Selina. "A bad man tricked Selina into a trap, but Nightwing got her out."
Stephanie wrapped her arms around Selina's neck. "He didn't hurt me, just locked me up. And nobody is crazy enough to break in here." Selina hugged her.
"You sure about that?" Jen hugged herself again.
"I didn't go to the Harvey Dent Day party because I like wearing an apron."
"But she looked beautiful in it," Bruce said to Stephanie.
The little girl pulled back to look at Selina. "But Aunt Jen is mad at Batman. You love Batman."
"Yes, I love Batman. Everyone in the city loves Batman. Aunt Jen is just scared of bad people."
"Yes, I am," Jen said. "I'm not mad at Batman."
Alfred arrived with a tray of food at the perfect moment for a distraction. "Well, I did put Miss Stephanie to bed on time."
"She heard my big mouth." Jen tied her robe around her waist. "Are you sure you're alright?" she asked Selina.
"Leslie said me and the baby are both fine. I just need to take it easy tomorrow. Now go get some sleep, college girl." Jen hugged her and then vamoosed. Selina untangled her arm from around Stephanie and accepted her plate of roast beef and vegetables.
"So bed rest tomorrow?" Alfred asked.
"I figured downstairs on a couch and have my new personal assistant work from here. Unless she's in cahoots with the Riddler?"
Bruce handed Stephanie his roll and shook his head. "The appointment was set up on Harriet's home computer while she was at the reception or in transit. Ms. Bai is clear. But nothing is that pressing, take the day off."
"Everyone has been asking for money and the director has to approve new expenditures."
"Who needs approval?"
She let him wait as she chewed. "Sorry, honey, I left the paperwork at the office."
"Of course you did."
"You need a briefcase," Stephanie said around her full mouth.
They ate enough to please Alfred and Bruce told him to go to bed when Selina retreated to the master suite's bathroom. Bruce had told her that he had rebuilt the Manor according to the original plans as much as possible, so she wondered which of his ancestors had wanted a Roman bath in the house. She bypassed the sunken marble tub big enough for half a dozen people and went to the marble and glass shower between the wall and the long double vanity. The shower could probably fit half a dozen people too, but some of the space was taken up by a built in bench. She approved of it right now. It was so much easier to get clean when she could get off her swollen feet.
She blow-dried her smoke-free hair and wrapped her robe around her nightgown. Bruce had changed into his pajamas and sat on the bed reading a Dr. Seuss book to Stephanie. "She wants to sleep with us tonight," he said.
"Okay, I'm ready for bed too."
Stephanie got up on the pillows while Selina and Bruce pulled down the bedcovers. She tugged at her cat pendent. "Here, Mommy, you need the button."
Selina's breathing almost stopped. "Mommy?"
"I'm not supposed to call you mommy?" Stephanie's blue eyes widened.
"Yes, you can call me mommy." Selina sat on the bed and hugged her. Stephanie pulled off her pendent and pushed it towards Selina's neck. "No, sweetie, that's yours. Daddy has one for me." She helped Stephanie put the pendent on the nightstand.
"You need to get her a briefcase too, Daddy." Stephanie burrowed against Selina as they lay down.
"It's on my list." Bruce wrapped his arms around them both as he spooned behind Selina.
"If you want to help Nightwing investigate--" A yawn cut Selina off.
"Later." He kissed the base of her neck. "Right now I want to hold all my girls."