The Dark Knight Rises: Part of the Night: The One Rule

Chapter Seven

Bruce headed up to the office he had used before he had stopped coming to the Wayne Enterprises building. The personal assistant's desk was empty, but the door to the inner office was ajar. He peeked inside.

Miranda Tate had decorated already; something he had never bothered with. Her brunette head bent over paperwork she focused on at the desk, so his view of the painting she had hung on the wall behind the desk was unimpeded. Smoke billowed from the castle's ramparts, and flames consumed a building behind the gate. Figures on the ground added to the smoke by firing muskets. Strange choice, but the warm hues matched the dark wooden furniture. He knocked on the open door.

She jerked up her head. "Bruce," she smiled. "What are you doing here?"

"I had to see my lawyers and thought you might like dinner." Now that he stepped further into the room he saw the painting was labeled "Prise de la Bastille" by Houël.

She cocked her head to the side. "But you are broke."

"I'll be sick of that phrase before this whole mess is cleaned up. I have enough money to take you out, if you're not too busy. And if we go to the Ocelot or Puccio's, they should remember I still own them."

Her smile warmed and lost its tease. "I'll call for my car."

He stepped back from the desk and looked out the window while she called the valet service. The restaurants he named were where a woman like Miranda expected to go, but it wouldn't be as much fun as he had with Selina and Jen last night. He squashed that thought fiercely; this was about keeping Gotham safe. How he felt never compared to that. Miranda was as beautiful as the other women he had brought to either location, like Alfred and Lucius told him repeatedly. And she possessed a familiar tenacity he needed to guard against. Blake deduced his secret, Selina now knew it too, and he wasn't about to share it with Miranda. She wouldn't understand.

Miranda hung up the desk phone and headed to the coat rack beside the door. He intercepted her and helped her into her coat. "Having dinner with me won't upset your friends staying with you?"

"My consultants had to leave town, a family emergency." They boarded the main elevator. Bane may have used the upset to plant a man inside Wayne Enterprises. They had no impediments to getting men inside the Stock Exchange after all. If they heard Selina had slipped out of their grasp, the safer she would be.

"I hope it's nothing too serious."

"I didn't pry." They reached the lobby and got caught in the first wave of office workers leaving for the day. The sedan that had picked Miranda up from Wayne Manor yesterday waited at the curb.

She waited for him to settle next to her on the back seat. "Do you have a preference for which restaurant?"

"Lady's choice."

"The Ocelot." She turned to Bruce as the driver pulled the car into traffic. "So should I expect these surprise visits?"

"If you expect them, they aren't very surprising."

"True, but I don't blame you for being cautious with your parents' legacy."

"I think I abdicated the right to second-guess anyone else's decisions concerning Wayne Enterprises three years ago."

Her grey eyes were soft. "Your apathy is cracking, Bruce."

Rachel chose Dent. That wasn't the only reason, but it lessened his guilt over Selina striding through his dreams like she owned them. And Gotham needed him again. "Apparently I needed a wake-up call."

"Most people do. What are you going to do with yours?"

"Get my shares back from who stole them first."

Their arrival at the restaurant interrupted Miranda's response. The Ocelot had changed wall colors to a deep Merlot in the years since his last visit, but the maître d' still wanted to give them the best table. "Something more private, please," Miranda requested. "Some Gotham egos need more time to adapt to changes."

They ended up tucked into a side table in the middle of the restaurant. "Thank you for insisting on this."

"You dislike being the center of attention."

He opened the menu. "I didn't realize how much my parents shielded me from it until after they were gone."

"Now it is a constant reminder of the loss. My mother protected me much the same way before she was taken from me. My father preferred to give me tools to protect myself before he also was taken." She opened her menu. "I do not like to dwell on the loss either, Bruce."

"I'm sorry you experienced it, Miranda." His social circle seemed to be filling with orphans lately. His cell phone buzzed for attention. "Excuse me," he said to Miranda as he answered the call from Captain Hamasaki Kaito. "Konnichiha, Hamasaki-san."

The man laughed and continued the conversation in Japanese. "{Still cannot speak freely, Wayne-san?}" He chuckled. "{I'm glad my life is simpler than yours.}"

"{I wish my life was simpler.}"

"{No, you don't. You would be wasted on a simple life. We picked up the cargo containers as you asked. Is there anything else you need? A free trip away from the United States? We set sail in two hours.}"

"{Thank you for the offer, but I am needed in Gotham. Give my regards to your family.}"

"{May your current troubles end swiftly. Good-bye.}"

"Sayonara." Bruce slipped the phone back into his jacket pocket and looked at Miranda. "Sorry about that."

"What was that about?"

"The captain of the Takino Doukutsu Maru did a personal favor for me. That was just a status update before the ship leaves port."

"You speak Japanese."

Bruce smiled blandly. "Along with Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Russian, and a smattering of Hindi."

"Impressive." The waiter interrupted for their drink orders. Miranda asked a new question after he left. "Did your lawyers have good news for you?"

He grimaced. "Not really. It's in the hands of the SEC now."

"Waiting on the bureaucrats."

"I'm not good at waiting."

The waiter poured their water and wine and disappeared with their dinner orders. Miranda sipped the water. "Despite years of practice?" She quickly set down the glass. "Forgive me, that was rude."

"No, it was true. I've been accused of just waiting for things to go bad again rather than living my life." Alfred and Lucius both trusted Miranda, but Bruce felt the need to hide behind half-truths that he used with everyone. The half-truths Selina had seen through as soon as he uttered them.

"You gave up on saving the world because the reactor has the potential to become a weapon."

"It was the last straw really. Gotham has come so far in my lifetime, I couldn't risk it."

"But the greatest reward only follows the greatest risk." The waiter set their salads on the table. "It is different when the risk affects those you care about, but a whole city ahead of yourself, Bruce?"

He shrugged and started on his salad.

She tried again after the waiter cleared the salad plates. "Is Gotham important to you because your parents cared about it? You focus on one city when there's a whole world in need."

"I'm only one man." He took one swallow of the wine--all he allowed himself. "What legacy did your parents leave you, Miranda?"

"That selflessness is no protection from the injustice of the world."

Neither was innocence or selfishness, he added as he thought about the story Selina had told him. She did see her abandonment of his sister as selfish and loathed it now. And his sacrifices hadn't saved Rachel.

She picked up her wine glass and saluted him with it. "Shall we ever escape the sins of our fathers?"

"I would categorize mine as regret rather than sin."

"Regret?"

"That I'll never really know if I made them proud."

Her face puckered as if he had slapped her with his words, but she wiped it away with another sip of wine. The waiter set down their entrees. "I did not realize we had so much in common, Bruce."

"Wish it was concerning a happier subject." Selina would have lobbed the conversation into his lap with a quip that made him smile. Hopefully, he could do the same for Miranda. "Maybe we should just stick to discussing work."

Her laughter was light. "I've been using the pretense of work to meet you for years now. Let's not revert."

He cut his chicken so not to look at her face. "It wasn't personal, Miranda. I was that way with everyone." Everyone but a certain cat burglar for whom locks and walls were an invitation.

"I know, but now everything has changed." She took a bite of her own entrée before speaking again. "What will you do now for Gotham?"

His bite gave him time to think. "There's not much I can do until I get my financial mess straightened out."

"But that can be done from any location. Gotham City has brought you nothing but pain, why do you stay?"

"Gotham needs people willing to fight for it. I made the mistake of thinking the fight was over." He swallowed some water. "Where would you start?"

She blinked at him in surprise. "I have always focused on clean energy. Save the environment and people's lives with one thing. But your reactor is unavailable, Gotham's climate precludes solar energy and Americans have not been favorable to wind turbines off the coast." She shrugged. "To focus on other ills, they have their roots in poverty and education, do they not?"

Selina would have more ideas than just that, but he couldn't fault Miranda for what she had never experienced. "That's what I focused the Wayne Foundation on. I suppose I can look there for a project needing a hands-on approach."

She smiled. "I forgot about the Wayne Foundation. It hasn't been affected by this mess?"

"Other than funding because of low profits from Wayne Enterprises, it is fine. I set it up to survive beyond me."

"Wise planning. You will let me know if there is any way I can help?"

"Of course."

They both passed on dessert, and Bruce settled the bill while Miranda got her coat and called for her car. The text alarm on his phone went off. Kyle is in room 3312 of the Carlyle. Fox. He texted his thanks before meeting Miranda in the foyer of the building.

"Where to now?" She asked with a smile as she brushed her hair back.

He knew what that look meant. "I had planned on taking a cab back to the Manor."

"I can drop you off."

He cleared his throat. "There's no coffee or a nightcap at the Manor, Miranda."

"If that is what I wanted, I would be offering for you to come home with me. I need to see a friend in the Palisades tonight, so it is no bother to drop you off." She stepped one foot into the car before glancing over her shoulder at him. Her hair cascaded over her cheek and hid her red lips. "Not everything has an ulterior motive, Bruce."

Precious little didn't in his experience, but there was no point in being rude. The job was done and he needed to get back to Selina for damage control. Damage control that would go better if he brought her luggage with him. "Okay, thank you for the ride." He climbed into the car after her.

Silence filled the back seat as the car crossed over the bridge to the Palisades. Miranda twisted and faced him. "I know it is your home, but I don't like the idea of you staying there alone."

"It's all right. I'm used to no one making the drive to bother me."

"Nor did you want them to."

He glanced out the window. He preferred Selina's direct questions which she followed with a subject change or something soothing, like breakfast this morning. This hinting dance was the same reason he refused therapy as a child. "No, I didn't. I had my reasons, but they no longer apply."

She laid a hand on his arm. "You don't need to make a joke out of your pain with me. I know you're still working on trusting me and I would never push for something you were not ready for, but you do not have to be alone tonight." Her hand gripped harder. "You don't even need to stay in Gotham. I have a plane that can take us anywhere in the world."

Selina refused to run. He was sure he didn't deserve her loyalty, but he had to respect it. He set his hand on Miranda's. "I appreciate the concern, I really do. But Gotham needs me, so I won't do anything foolish."

"So you have found something in this adversity worth living for?" Her grey eyes widened.

"I have." But it was Selina's serious brown eyes he saw.

The car pulled up the drive to Wayne Manor. "Good." She withdrew her hand. "Just remember the offer stands if you need it."

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