Bruce leaned back from his laptop on the desk and rubbed his eyes. Jen had the right idea to abandon them for the DVD collection that he had never bothered watching. He looked across the study at Selina. She sat cross-legged on the carpet now wearing black leggings and a knit blouse she had changed into when they had returned to the relit Manor. She had left her hair up in the bun she had worn to the bank. She stretched to scroll the laptop screen set on the table next to the large metal globe. He remembered ignoring chairs and preferring to scatter paperwork on the floor around him, just like her.
She caught him watching when she got up on her knees to type. "I don't know how much help I'll be with this. My experience with stocks is letting my mutual fund manager pick them."
"I'm more worried that someone innocent bought my Wayne Enterprises shares in good faith, but I doubt whoever planned this let that happen."
She nodded. "You found anything yet?"
"I think it was a one-time-use connection because I'm not finding a trace of it now. And this code is some of the cleanest I have ever seen." He sneered at his screen before sighing and shifting to the next section of code.
"Listen to you; you sound like a hacker."
"I could say the same thing. A cat burglar with a mutual fund?"
"Had." Her face fell slightly. "I had a mutual fund. There was an emergency about seven years ago and I had to liquidate it to handle it."
"Hence working for Daggett?"
"Hence working for Daggett. You were right about me being in deep with the wrong people."
The trace of regret in her voice almost made him wish he had been wrong. "You're not working for the wrong people now."
She smirked. "Fishing for compliments? Back to business, I don't think Daggett was the brains. He's a greedy little cheapskate, and I haven't found his name or Daggett Industries as someone who bought yet."
"He didn't need to. Second place among the shareholders was tied between him and Miranda Tate. With my shares split, the board had to chose one of them as CEO. Lucius swung them behind Miranda."
"With your blessing."
"I wasn't blessing Daggett. He doesn't pay his bills and he brought Bane to Gotham. Not that I can prove that." He tapped the key harder than he meant to.
"But not that he hired a thief?"
He looked up and met her eyes. "Not when I hired the same thief. But there's more to you than that."
"There's more to you too." She dropped her gaze first, and talked more briskly. "But I don't think Daggett would pass up the chance to get more shares, especially if they had been yours." She stood and bent back.
He turned his eyes away from her arched body with a hard swallow. He focused on the code again. "I think you're right, but Daggett is neck deep in this." He rubbed his eyes again.
Selina closed her laptop and padded over to the desk on her bare feet. "And he didn't get what he wanted."
"Maybe we can use that." He focused on the code again and blinked the symbols back into lines.
"We can." She stood in front of the desk and gently shut his laptop. "Tomorrow. Let's go to bed."
There was nothing suggestive about the phrase, but he imagined dragging her upstairs and losing himself in her. He wanted to taste her as badly as he wanted to find Bane and pound his skull in for threatening Gotham and putting Gordon in the hospital. "I'm confused. You said you don't sleep with clients."
"You're sleeping alone." She circled around the desk. "But I'm in no condition to pull an all-nighter and you had a longer day than I did, so we should come back to this in the morning." She leaned her hip against the desk drawer and he turned his chair to face her. "I'm not out to be a notch on your bedpost."
He stood up, taller than her without her high heels. She didn't back away. "And what if I want to be a notch on yours?"
Her smirk gave way to a more serious expression. "Maybe I want something more."
"I know I do." He reached behind her and plucked the hair pin out of her bun. Her brown hair cascaded over his hand and her shoulders. He wove the thick strands through his fingers before Selina pulled his arm down and took back her hair pin.
"There's a limit to how long your kind slums around with mine." Her eyes filled with regret.
He was tired of her constantly harping on the one thing that didn't mean a damn thing. "I've got more in common with you than anyone else in my social circle." Her lips parted, but he continued, needing her to understand. "That bone deep anger because life is more than unfair; it cuts your heart out and everyone expects you to smile again. I know it. Finding a way to help that no one suspects, I've done that. Even if I'm guilty of ignoring the details."
She shook her head. "You never took what they had."
"No, but I tried to guilt them into giving it up voluntarily. Until I couldn't put that mask on any longer. You woke me up from that apathy."
"You are unbelievable." She stepped back from him. "If I hadn't broke in and stole your prints--"
"Daggett would've hired someone else to do it. And I would have lost out on meeting you." He walked up to her again.
"And that makes up for all this mess?" She waved her hand.
"More than." He cupped her cheek and aimed his lips at hers.
They pressed against the palm of her hand. "Don't make me knock you on your ass again. If I make one exception for you, word will get out, and the only job offers I'll get will be for rolls in the sheets instead of cash." She shrugged as she lowered her hand. "Bad business." She headed to the study's door.
"What about after?" He turned off the lights and caught up with her in the hall. "After this job is done and I'm not a client any longer."
She paused on the stairs. "You'll go back to your supermodel bimbos and eccentric billionaire hobbies. Actually, get some new ones. The archery in your robe is pathetic."
"I never wanted the supermodels." He joined her on the landing. "What about staying? Assisting me find better ways to help with my money?"
"That sounds like a job offer, which doesn't solve anything."
Well, that was what it sounded like, and he also remembered never having this much trouble with these negotiations before. If anything, the trouble was keeping the women out of his bedroom. He followed her up the stairs. "I'm out of practice."
"Tomorrow's a brand new day for you to try again." Surprisingly, she patted his cheek before opening the bedroom door beside the one he thought she had claimed. He saw Jen sprawled out on the bed inside. She closed the door and he retreated to his bedroom door. "If you don't mind me asking, why did you start ignoring the details?"
His hand tightened on the door knob, but he didn't turn it nor did he look at her. "My father built the elevated train system for all of Gotham. After I fixed it, I wanted to give something to the City on that level. A fusion reactor capable of supplying clean energy is what I worked on. Only three years ago, a scientist figured out how to weaponize the design. My best idea for Gotham will blow it up." He glanced at her concerned face. "You're probably right to keep your distance, Selina. Everything I want dies." He ducked into his bedroom and rested his back against the door. The door across the hall opened and closed.
He rubbed his face. What the hell was he doing? He had to stop Bane; all he needed to do was protect these two women from him. He stared out the window at Gotham in the distance. He couldn't leave them here unprotected to run around with the police again. And after a day like today, he didn't want another police chase. Daggett was the key to finding Bane now. He pushed off the door and went to the bathroom.
Selina found herself the first one awake with birds chirping in the morning sunlight. Boy, that was a change from Old Town's traffic. She felt fully rested even if her mind was still foggy with dream images. She didn't remember the details, but it had Batman and Bane fighting--big surprise. Funny how her dreams went there when she fell asleep worried about Bruce Wayne.
Her stomach twisted. She knew what kind of day he had and she had poked at his psyche like it was a ball of yarn and then sent him away without any distractions because of her rules. She was lucky to still have this job. She dressed in the black slacks from her pantsuit and an ivory blouse but left the jacket laying across her suitcase as she went downstairs to figure out breakfast.
The fridge was stocked with milk, eggs, and a bottle of green liquid that smelled like grass. She put it back inside and went looking for bread.
Jen stumbled into the kitchen first and inhaled. She blinked at the plate and a half of French toast. "What happened?"
"Nothing, why?" Selina flipped over the slices in the pan.
Jen grabbed a mug off the counter and headed to the coffee pot. "You only make French toast when you want to apologize but you can't since you never apologize for anything. So what did you do?"
"I didn't do anything." She added the finished pieces of bread to the second plate and gestured for Jen to take the first. What Bruce told her last night stayed between the two of them. "Another wrong theory about Selina Kyle, sorry."
Jen carried the plate and coffee to the eating end of the island. "If it's wrong, how come you made French toast for a month after you found me?"
"To fatten you up. You were skin and bones back then."
"Yeah right. They're for Bruce. What happened last night?"
"Nothing, but I'm about to take your French toast and give you oatmeal."
Jen raised her fork to stab as she hunched over the plate. "Wanna test how fast you are? Do ya?"
Bruce walked into the kitchen pushing up the long sleeves of his Polo shirt. "Morning." He stopped and his gaze moved from Jen's posture to Selina's cooking at the stove. "Is this breakfast or a war zone?"
"She threatened to give me oatmeal," Jen answered.
"Behave and I won't have to punish your stomach." Selina set the second full plate into Bruce's hands and turned back to the pan. "The coffee's hot."
"Thanks." But he headed to the fridge and filled a tall glass with the thick green juice before pouring a mug of coffee.
Jen blinked at it. "What the hell is that?"
"Trust me, if you have issues with oatmeal, you'll hate it." He drained the glass in one draught as if he didn't want it to linger on his tongue either.
Jen wrinkled her nose and cut into her French toast as Selina brought her plate to the island and sat across from Bruce. "Sleep well?" Selina asked.
"Well enough," he said.
"I think that mattress is the most comfortable I have ever been on." Jen set down her coffee. "So did you two fix it all last night?"
"We made some progress." Bruce sliced into his French toast.
"So I have another all day date with your movie collection."
"Sorry you're so bored, kiddo." Selina sipped her second mug of coffee.
"I'm no where near bored yet. Trust me." She shoveled the sweet fried bread into her mouth.
Selina glanced at Bruce while she ate. The camaraderie of yesterday had vanished behind his walled-off face. Now that he slept on it, he probably regretted admitting to her of all people what all he had admitted. Or he didn't want to say anything revealing in front of Jen. She couldn't blame him.
Jen finished her meal first. "I'll get the dishes." She set her plate and mug in the sink and started rummaging for the dish soap.
Bruce twisted his head to follow her. "You don't have--"
"Selina cooks, I clean. Because I can't cook and Selina can't clean."
"I'm making something with spinach for lunch." Selina drained her coffee mug.
Jen gagged with her tongue out until she caught Bruce watching her. "Can you cook, Bruce?"
"Not on a stove," he answered.
"So I guess we can't change things up then." She shut off the water faucet. "I'm getting my music. Put 'em in the sink when you're done."
He turned back to Selina with a slightly guilty expression. "This isn't part of what I hired you--"
"Don't worry about it." She picked up her dishes. "You won't be able to hire a staff until your financial mess is cleaned up and we still have to eat."
She turned from the sink and found him right behind her with his own dishes. "Thank you for breakfast. It was delicious." Her heart hammered at the sincerity in his hazel eyes. He knew, he overheard what Jen said and jumped to the same conclusion that Selina had something to apologize for. "Ready to get started?" He asked lightly as he held the kitchen door open for her.
"It's early to pay Daggett a house call, isn't it?"
"True, and I'm not exactly sure how to tackle him yet." He led the way down the hall to the study. "I wasn't getting anywhere with the program's code. Did you finish the list of everyone who bought my shares?"
She nodded. "All the names sound like charities, but none I've never heard of." She continued around the Louis XV sofa to the round table she had left the laptop on, but Bruce stopped at the door.
"That means something?"
"When Earle took Wayne Enterprises public, I bought the majority of the shares through charities and trusts, so he didn't notice what I was doing."
"That's legal?" She asked as the laptop booted up.
"Yes, and it's how I started the Wayne Foundation. But who would've been paying that much attention to that history?" His eyebrows knitted together. "Daggett wasn't on the board a decade ago."
"I'm printing out the list." She glanced around the tastefully decorated study, but no familiar whir introduced itself.
"The printer's in Alfred office. I'll get it." He slipped out of the room before she could offer to go with him.
Just as well, because there was a hard knock on the front door. No peephole or camera mounted to see who it was; she guessed there was no need when you hired people to answer the door. She sighed and opened it after whoever on the other side knocked again.
The baby-faced cop from the shoot-out at the bar blinked at her. A dark suit with a bright blue shirt replaced his uniform and a detective's shield was clipped to his belt. His brown eyes narrowed. "Congressman Gilly pressed kidnapping charges, ma'am."
"Wayne!" Selina yelled over her shoulder.