Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 115
Blake yawned before crawling further into the ventilation shaft. He tapped on the slim radio microphone on his goggles. "Why am I doing this?"
"How many times are you going to ask the same question?" Selina answered. "Because Cadmus wants a secured building and it's my job to double-check that. So I'm paying you because I can't fit through that door with a camera. The picture is coming in fine." Her voice shifted from the microphone, but he still heard her. "Look how far he's in. Yes, it is a door." Her voice strengthened over his ear. "Oh, laser grid. Remember what we went over?"
"I remember." He stopped as the red lines appeared in the infrared lenses. He uncovered the electrical panel powering the grid, and recognized the wire configuration that Selina had been quizzing him for weeks. He clipped on her tool, the red lines disappeared, and he slithered past. He retrieved the tool without triggering the lasers.
"Good, I didn't even have to coach you. Three feet ahead and you'll have the whole building as your playground."
Blake surged forward on his bruised forearms. He saw the light through the register, and slid the goggles off his head. He tucked everything into his belt pouch before he lifted the register and dropped into the security room below. "Here I am. What's my time?"
The Cadmus Project's security chief scowled at him while Selina shut down her laptop. "Slower than my average for this type of building."
"Practice, practice, practice." He picked up his jacket on top of the laptop bag on a spare table.
"Yes, I've had plenty of it and you haven't." Selina turned to the jaw-clenched security chief. "That's all I need to do here. Shall I include you on my emailed report?"
"Please do, Mrs. Wayne," he gritted out before shaking her hand. "Let me show you out."
Blake carried her packed laptop bag as they moved down the halls filled with construction workers and movers. The security chief led them all the way to the small skyscraper's parking garage floor and stood by the elevators watching them load. Blake opened the SUV's door for Selina before climbing behind the wheel. "Maybe you shouldn't have made fun of his metal detector."
"It's the cheapest one on the market. It doesn't even pick up barrettes people wear." She waved at the dour man as they drove past him. "Now that's over with, we can talk about Bruce."
"I have no idea what he'd want for Father's Day."
She sighed as she rubbed her belly. "His sleeping is worse, but I'm more concerned about the bruises on your arms."
Blake plastered on a fake smile. "Hey, I held my own when I earned these bruises."
The SUV felt like the inside of a glacier. "Don't dare do that don't-worry, don't-stress-out the pregnant woman shit. I know something's wrong with Bruce and you know it will take both of us to stop him from doing something stupid."
He let the fake goodwill fade and showed his worry that had been building for weeks. "Sorry, I should've realized he couldn't hide it from you. So he isn't sleeping too?"
"His nightmares are waking him up. Not as bad as they were during the Occupation though. The only reason I know is because it's impossible to sleep while pregnant. What is he doing to you?"
"It's just when we spar." A quick glance to the passenger seat revealed that he hadn't reassured her. "When he's teaching, especially teaching Stephanie, he's present and focused on the task. But when it's just us sparring, I'm not the one he's punching."
"I would love nothing more than to kick the Riddler's ass too, but I'm not taking my frustrations out on you."
"I'm glad to know these B&E exercises are strictly for my education."
"You'll thank me when you need to sneak into a bad situation." Selina sighed as she looked out the window. "I don't know how to make him stop dwelling on it."
He matched her sigh. "I don't know either. And the Riddler hasn't done anything since."
His view that criminals nearly always were inconsiderate assholes was bound not to go over well, so he went to his next quibble. "Shouldn't we be having this conspiracy meeting with Alfred?"
She shook her head. "Alfred will go into don't worry your pregnant head about it, so I'd rather save him as a last resort. Besides, Bruce has listened to just us before."
But he still did what he thought was best without us. Blake wouldn't bring that. "So do we have a plan for it he puts on the suit?"
"Booby trap the suit cabinet with knockout gas. You keep yours in a different cabinet, right?"
"That... that could work."
Stephanie liked going to work with Daddy. His office now had two desks: Bruce's larger one under a large painting of Gotham at night and her smaller one next to the glass wall. She was always good and sat there with her coloring or books when he had people in for a meeting. And usually Daddy had something fun to show her after the meetings, either on his computer or in the building.
"So we're on track for training with the police department in a month?" Bruce closed the folder and passed it back to Ms. Hooks. They sat in the corner with the springy black chairs.
"We're on schedule production-wise," she answered. "Now we need to talk about the publicity. Oh don't make that face; PR is scared enough of you already."
Stephanie looked up to see Bruce's scowl shift to a smirk. "I know they want to make a big fuss about the product and drum up more orders," Bruce answered. "But the police are going to insist on not showing anything that would hamper their crime fighting and I agree with that."
"Of course you do. I'll tell them to talk to GCPD's PR department so we're all on the same page. But they'll want you have a statement."
"They always want a statement. I'll have one, just to not disappoint you, Jessica. Have a good day."
"You too, Bruce. Bye, Stephanie."
"Bye-bye." Stephanie looked up at the closing door.
"That's the last meeting for Wayne Enterprises. We have to finish shopping and then we can go on inspections with Mr. Crusher."
"Shopping for what?" She closed her numbers book.
"A Mother's Day gift for Mommy. Come see." He sat at his desk and adjusted the computer screen so she could see it better. "If you don't like it, we'll have to find something else."
"What's Mother's Day?"
Daddy scooped her onto his lap. "It's a holiday to show how much you appreciate her on the second Sunday of May. You want to show her that, right?"
"Yeah, she's the only one who wanted me."
He pointed to the computer screen. "This is what I found to give Mommy."
The green rectangle was different from the green stone in Mommy's ring and it was surrounded by swirly lines of sparkly stones. A round white ball hung from the bottom and a smaller one sat on top. "Pretty. Is it a necklace?"
"No, it's a brooch. You wear it pinned to your clothes."
"That's not the same stone in Mommy's ring."
"That's right. The green on the brooch is your birthstone, peridot."
"Birthstone?" She wrinkled her nose as she looked at him.
"Each month has a gem stone associated with it. You were born in August, so your birthstone is peridot. We're expecting your little sister in June, so the pearls are for her." He pointed to the white ball on the brooch. "Do you like it for Mommy?"
"Yeah, let's buy it." His hand moved the mouse and he pressed the button to buy it. She thought of another question. "Is there a Father's Day?"
"Third Sunday in June, and you need to talk to Mommy about what to get me." He kissed her cheek and set her on the floor. "Pack up."
"Okay." She ran back to her desk and pulled her bag out from under it. She hadn't been on inspections with Mr. Crusher, so that was a new adventure. "Hey, when's Alfred's Day?"
"We'll have to pick one. But you're right, Alfred deserves a day too."
Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 136
"I can't believe you've never been to a baseball game." Babs Gordon pushed Jen up the stadium steps to their seats.
"It always looked boring on TV." Jen zipped her jacket as they sat in the green plastic seats.
The redhead wrinkled her button nose. "Yeah, no, this is one sport that doesn't translate to television. You have to watch it live."
Jen agreed and silently hoped she liked it. If she did, maybe it would be a good date to bring Renee on. They hadn't had time for another date between the weird bank robberies Renee had been assigned to after the Riddler murder and Jen's classes and the family stuff. Easter was fun, but still a lot of work. Luckily, all those do-dahs were canceled until Selina had the baby.
Babs flagged someone sitting above them and started talking about one of her assignments. Jen turned her attention down to the field. They managed to put stripes in the grass that pointed to the city skyline above the campus' trees. How did they do that? Men in green and white uniforms surged out from under the seats on the right side of the field and surrounded a man in a burlap hood and a man in black armor. "Hey, Babs, you never said anything about a pregame show."
"There isn't supposed to be." Babs twisted to face the field. "Damn, that's the Scarecrow!" Before Jen could react, the redhead jumped up and bounded down the concrete steps. "Call the police!" she yelled back.
"Babs!" Other people in the stands pulled out their cell phones, so Jen ran after her. Selina would kill her for running towards the danger like this. The baseball players screamed as they ran; some fell to the ground and some attacked each other. The armored man dodged a baseball bat swung by a bellowing player. A blue bird-shape was painted across the chest revealed to the audience as he twisted away from the bat. Nightwing, that has to be Nightwing.
The man with the burlap mask over his head ran across home plate. Babs grabbed the top rail at the end of the steps and did a splint on it before throwing herself into a flip. The only time Jen had seen anything like that was during the Olympics. Babs' feet knocked Scarecrow to the dirt. A brown cloud billowed around them.
Nightwing kicked out with his leg and knocked the baseball player's legs out from under him. The player fell onto his back.
Jen reached the railing at the end of the steps. "Babs!" Her friend had tied the Scarecrow's arms behind his back with his jacket. She glanced up at the stand with a broad grin. "Look out!" Jen screamed as another baseball player charged behind Babs brandishing the bat like a club.
Babs spun around and kicked up. Her foot caught his stomach. That stopped his charge, but he sucked in air and heaved the bat down over his head.
Nightwing pivoted, grabbed the bat and yanked the player off Babs' foot. He dropped to a knee and punched the player. "Get off the field!"
"They'll kill Crane!" Babs yelled back.
Nightwing pulled her to her feet before grabbing under one of Scarecrow's arms. Babs grabbed the other one and they pulled him to the stand. Jen knelt and reached under the bottom rail. Nightwing lifted Babs so she could grab Jen's hand. Jen gritted her teeth, held onto the rail, and pulled. Babs let go when she grabbed the rail and slithered over the round metal. Babs dropped next to Jen and leaned over. "Pass him here."
"Give me a minute!" Nightwing dodged a player who lunged at him. He threw an uppercut that connected with the player's chin. Before the player hit the ground, Nightwing heaved Scarecrow over his head.
Jen grabbed his leg while Babs pulled his upper body under the railing. "Are you crazy?" Jen yelled at her.
"This asshole tried to kill my father. Sent him onto the ice." Babs heaved him into the aisle in front of the first row and let go so Scarecrow dropped onto the concrete. She leaned over the railing. "Get out of there."
Nightwing leaped up and grabbed the bottom rail. Jen scrambled over Scarecrow's prone body and grabbed a black armored arm along with Babs. They got Nightwing even with the railing right before a pair of players collided where he had stood. So Jen's first baseball game ended up with her staring at the face of the vigilante who had taken over for Batman.
She focused on every acting skill Selina had drilled into her to never give Catwoman away. She concentrated on his mask--so much like Catwoman's--but the specialized lenses were against his temples instead of on top of his wavy brown hair. Her acting skills faltered when her gaze hit his familiar brown eyes. She looked down at the berserking players.
John Blake was Nightwing. Holy shit, John Blake was Nightwing!
"What the hell did he give them?" Babs asked as Nightwing climbed over the railing.
"A fear toxin that makes them aggressive. Luckily, it only worked on half the team." The other half was curled up on the ground, not attacking anyone. Nightwing plucked something from his dull gold belt and spoke into it. "Montoya, you got the fear toxin antidote?" The speaker must be in his ear, because Jen couldn't hear Renee's response. "We need it in tranquilizer darts at Hudson U's baseball stadium. The players got hit with a new formula that has pissed them off." He smirked. "Aw, don't get all Spanish on Allen. I'm cuffing Crane right now. And here comes campus security. See you in twenty." He tucked the radio back into his belt and glanced at Babs before kneeling next to Scarecrow. "Did you break him when you landed on him?"
"Didn't feel any broken bones when I tied his hands," she answered as he snapped on cuffs below her knots. She looked up at the campus security officers who approached them with Tasers out. "We should lock down the field so no one can get in or out."
The lead rent-a-cop bristled. "You aren't in charge here. Get back in your seat."
Nightwing stood. "She's right. The players have been drugged and the police are on their way with the antidote. Someone meaning well could get hurt. Lock down the field and the stadium." The rent-a-cops holstered their Tasers and started giving orders into their walkie-talkies. Nightwing turned back to Babs. "Thank you for your assistance, but you two should go back to your seats, so the audience can leave safely."
"Yeah, this cancelled the game. Come on, Jen."
Jen didn't even look at Nightwing as they climbed the steps. "My sister needs to give you one of her risky behaviors lectures. You could have broken your neck."
Babs grinned with a touch of recklessness. "Only my ankles were in danger and Crane cushioned them nicely."
Other students started questioning Babs, so Jen slumped in her seat and stared at the field. Catwoman worked with Batman and Nightwing to stop Bane, and then she rescued Stephanie and kept the kid because she didn't have anybody else. But why keep Nightwing? It didn't pay to poke at any holes in any of Selina' stories. Now Jen had to poke holes in Selina's story of the Occupation, and she didn't want to.
Rebuilding Gotham City: Day 142
Selina pushed away her breakfast plate with a disgusted look. Bruce frowned and she explained. "It's giving me heartburn just looking at it."
His frown eased into sympathy. "Fruit?" He picked up the bowl of cut melons and berries. She accepted it, speared a cantaloupe, and nibbled on it. "It's not because I woke you up during the night, is it?"
"No and no. I was already awake last night and the heartburn has been flaring for a couple of weeks now. Pregnancy," she made the disgusted face again.
"Is that why you keep asking me to find someone working on an artificial womb?" Bruce buttered his toast.
"You really should be looking harder for that. If not for my comfort, how about everybody with fertility issues?"
Their bedroom door eased open and Stephanie peeked inside. She saw them dressed and eating at the breakfast table, barged in, and carried a wrapped present to Selina. "Happy, Mother's Day, Mommy!"
"Thank you, sweetie." Selina gave her an awkward hug and glanced up at Bruce's small smirk. "You two didn't have to get me anything, you know."
"Of course we did. It's Stephanie's first Mother's Day and the first one I've had a reason to celebrate in thirty-two years. Open it up."
She slid the white ribbon off the baby blue box. A beautiful peridot, pearl, and diamond brooch rested on the satin cushion inside. "Oh it's beautiful, Victorian," she turned it over and examined the back, "and from Tiffany's." Eighteen thousand was her monetary guess, but she wasn't going to bring that up for Stephanie to question.
"Daddy found it, but I okayed it. It's my birthstone."
"Yes, it is." Selina bent and kissed Stephanie's cheek. "Thank you for a lovely gift, but I hope the diamonds aren't a hint we should plan a third child for April."
"No hint of any kind." Bruce leaned over and kissed her lips. "That was the best of the jewelry combining peridot and pearls. My vote is we leave more children up to chance."
"We'll talk about that later." Selina pinned the brooch to her shirt.
They ended up on the patio off the west wing of the house: Selina stretched out on a chaise lounge while Bruce and Stephanie kicked a soccer ball across the grass. Jen plopped on the chair next to Selina. "Oh John's not up yet?"
"He does work the night shift; he can sleep in if he needs to. You can too."
She wrinkled her nose. "I got an assignment due tomorrow and I need to get it done so I can sleep tonight."
"You didn't bring any school books out here with you," Selina smirked.
"I haven't started yet," Jen pouted. Selina closed her eyes. The day was warm and sunny, and she could never get enough basking in the sun. It drove the memories of winter away. The seat cushion squeaked under Jen. "What made you guys hire John?"
"His credentials are impeccable, he was the first one in the city to realize Bane was up to no good, he did a lot during the Occupation to help people, and I think Bruce has always wanted a little brother." She opened her eyes and looked at Jen's thoughtful face. "Why all the questions about John? I thought you--"
"No, not that. Not for me. A classmate saw him when he picked me up last week and I realized I didn't know enough to hook them up."
"Jen, you are not good at hook ups. Remember Monica and Ross in your therapy group?"
"That was years ago."
"Sam and Gina when we moved to Old Town."
"How was I supposed to know they dated in high school?"
"If you want to help John date, just introduce the two of them and walk out of the line of fire."
Jen harrumphed under her breath and then noticed the brooch. "Is that what Bruce gave you for Mother's Day?"
"Stephanie and Bruce."
"I thought they were getting you a bracelet from Cartier's."
"Cartier is still working on replacing all the diamonds with amethysts. I think it hurt their feelings that I didn't want all the diamonds, so they're dragging their feet."
"All because of your thing about diamonds." Jen rolled her eyes with a smile.
"Hey, every woman who can afford it has a diamond bracelet from Cartier's. Nobody will have my purple panther."