Occupation of Gotham City: Day 77
Bruce heard a familiar voice tut-tutting at him. Not Selina, not Barsad. "Did you not think I would return, Bruce?" Not Alfred, either. He lifted his head and Ra's al Ghul pushed himself off the metal table across the cell. "I told you I was immortal."
Ra's was unburnt and dressed in shades Bruce associated with his Ducard alias rather than the black-on-black suit from their last encounter. "I watched... I watched you die," Bruce whispered.
The mouth inside the trimmed Van Dyke beard smirked. "Oh, there are many forms of immortality." Bruce remembered their conversation at the campfire after his dip into the freezing lake water. Ra's had stared into the flames and admitted, "Once I had a wife, my great love. She was taken from me."
Bruce remembered the story Barsad told before he raped Selina. "You were the mercenary." Ra's nodded as he crouched down to Bruce's face. "Bane is your child, your heir."
"An heir to ensure the League of Shadows fulfills its duty to restore balance to civilization."
"No," Bruce whispered.
"You yourself fought the decadence of Gotham for years with all your strength, all your resources, all your moral authority, and the only victory you could achieve was a lie. Now you understand, Gotham is beyond saving--"
"No." His feet pushed against the floor.
Ra's continued as he faded from the cage. "And must be allowed to die."
"No!" Bruce screamed. He felt delicate fingers against his lips and blinked.
Selina's exhausted face swung into focus. "Your nightmares are getting worse."
"I..." His mouth barely wanted to work. "I woke you up."
"This is a good sign. Usually you lapse into la-la land after I interrupt one." She walked to the table still wearing her now-filthy socks, but with a black fabric wrapped around her like a sari. The next thing he realized was that his feet were flat against the cold concrete floor. He looked down. His calves, thighs, hamstrings, and gluts trembled with sudden use, but pain didn't flare up his back.
"Is Barsad coming?" He asked as he focused on his toes. They curled up and relaxed on command.
"He stopped checking on your screams six weeks ago. You missed his great rant on America the land of therapy and Dr. Phil should have dealt with your night terrors." She turned back with an open water bottle.
Bruce straightened his legs and pulled up the loop of rope from under his arms. His knees buckled as he clung to the rope while freeing himself. He listed backwards, and she darted forward but stopped when he grabbed the chain-link fencing and threw out his other hand.
"Do you hurt?" she whispered.
"No pain; I have to remember how to move." He let go of the rope and fence and stepped forward. He walked around the cage in reach of the fence and back wall in case he toppled over. He didn't and soon faced Selina again.
She sat on the cot, held the water bottle, and watched him. "You aren't using the trick you learned in India, are you?" He shook his head and tears welled up in her eyes. "Good, finally some good news."
"Don't cry," he blurted out. He wanted to wrap his arms around her, but was unsure if it would be a welcome gesture.
She wiped her face and waved his concern away. "I'm just tired." She handed him the bottle of water. "What now?"
He drained the bottle. "Get strong enough to beat Bane, and save the city from Ra's destruction." He passed the empty plastic to her before dropping into Plank pose for a push-up.
"Starting the Charles Atlas routine right now. You are nothing if not dedicated."
He glanced up at her worried and annoyed expression when he completed the first push-up. "We've wasted enough time down here." His eyes swept over the television screen and he glared at the day tracker of the crisis. "Ra's child has been in charge for two months too long." He channeled his rage into his arms and more push-ups.
"Ra's al Ghul's child?"
"Do you remember the story Barsad told us: the mercenary and the warlord's daughter?" Cold swept over his skin. He shouldn't have brought up her rape, but it was too late now.
Her voice didn't expose any pain. "Yes, and you were conked out and missed me showing him I was not the warlord's daughter."
He paused at the top of the push-up and looked at her again. The grey T-shirt she wore under the black fabric now had a ragged V-cut collar and he found the lump under the black that was a knot tying the shirt together like a halter top. The black wrapped around her was memory cloth. "What did he do?" Bruce asked through clenched teeth.
Selina ignored the question. "Ra's al Ghul was the mercenary and Bane is his kid, the one who climbed out of the prison pit in Barsad's story. That's what you think?"
"That's what I think. Now tell me what I missed starting with why you're wearing my cape."
She glared at him. "Bossy, I was trying to remember something else about Bane. Now that's gone." She rubbed her temple. "I'm wearing your cape because I'm cold and this is the easiest way to cover up."
His arms quivered even though he had only done thirty push-ups. He rested on his knees. "Did Barsad hurt you again?"
"The sick fuck wanted to. He thought I was secured to the cot, told me I had to earn a new blanket." Before Bruce's rage came out of his mouth, she leaned closer and grinned like the Cheshire Cat. "I broke his collarbone, got to keep the cape, and convinced him to stay on that side of the fence."
He grinned back at her as he wished he had seen her in action. "Good for you."
She tucked her hair behind her ear and her grin turned shyer. She gestured at the rock slide. "The cops figured out you're Batman and have been digging out the other end of their tunnel. The people exiled are sent to walk over the frozen East River, and nobody's made it across. I think that's everything."
"What name did you give the police officers?" He nodded in the direction of the rock slide.
"Catwoman; though to be fair, I told Barsad first, but I think it broke his brain."
"What little he has." Bruce shifted to sit on his gluts and rolled his back down to the floor. Still no pain.
"Need me to hold your feet?" Selina's expression mixed lust with a yearning, and reminded him of the Carlyle.
Maybe he wasn't the only one unsure of what was appropriate between them now. "Won't hurt."
He was right that she wanted tactile contract. She sat her thigh on his feet, leaned her body against his shins, wrapped her arms around his calves, and set her chin on his knee. He curled up for the crunch and brushed his nose against her cheek. Her hands squeezed his calves. "They left your knee brace," she noticed.
"No need to take it off if I can't walk." He completed another crunch.
She nodded but with a far away expression. He continued with the crunches without nuzzling her for attention. She blinked as she came back. "How can someone be in charge yet act like a flunkey?"
He paused against the floor. "You want to play with riddles now?"
"That's what's bothering me about Bane. You say he's Ra's kid and that's why these Ghulites are following him. And he's throwing his weight around when there's an audience." She waved her hand at the television. "But when you told him you sank all your toys, he acted just like a flunkey."
Bruce paused on the floor again. "What did he do?"
"Maybe I'm reading too much into it." She squirmed against his legs. "But he left, just like a flunkey does when I've thrown them a curve ball the boss didn't prepare them for. They always need a few minutes for a conference."
He performed a few more crunches while he tried to remember. That night was fuzzy with pain, fear, and rage. "Dealt with a lot of flunkeys?"
"Like I'm too stupid to figure out who really wants the shiny they sent me after. You were the first to hire me without a middleman in years." She shifted her head as he curled up and he stopped before their faces collided.
"I never delegate the important stuff," he whispered.
"Lucky me." She leaned into his lips. He couldn't hold the curl long enough to kiss her properly and curled down with a low groan. Her eyes widened. "Did that hurt?"
"No, that was frustration." He watched the flicker of her emotions across her face.
She finally blanked her face, but unlatched her arm and drew her fingers down his abs. He couldn't stop those muscles from fluttering even if he had wanted to. "One thing you haven't tested yet," she said.
"I wasn't about to bring it up."
Her big brown eyes glanced away. "I'm bringing it up. Medically speaking, I understand if you'd rather check it as a solo activity." Her bravado faltered and she tucked her arm around his legs again.
"It's better with you." His admission drew her eyes back to his face. He curled up again. "But only if you want--"
"I want you," she said. Bruce closed the gap between their lips this time and anchored his arm around her shoulders.
This kiss lasted longer though Selina broke away first and stood. Bruce accepted her hand up. She seized his hips and tagged on the waistband of the cotton drawstring pants. He untied them and let them drop to the floor. Medically speaking, the test was already a success. His erection strained toward her already and neither of them had touched his penis.
She unwrapped the memory cloth cape from her body, and then untied the ripped T-shirt acting like a bra. His hands replaced the fabric. She clamped her lips shut on her moan. He latched his lips onto her neck, remembering how much she had liked it before.
"No tease, no tease," she gasped out. Her fingers dug into his shoulders.
"Foreplay," he murmured into her neck.
"Not necessary." She pulled them both down to the cot. He grabbed the cape and tugged it over them. She wrapped a leg around his hip. "Please," she keened softly.
His fingers slid into the fold between her legs as he kissed down her breast. "You're dripping already." He looked up at her face.
She bucked against his hand. "Watching you work out is a turn on." She wrapped her arms around his back. "Do you need some help?"
He wiped her smirk away by sliding into her. Her fingers dug into his back as her head fell back. His mouth latched onto her collarbone. He slid out and in slowly, and held her leg up when it shifted off his hip. He ended the kiss on her skin before he bit her. "Every dream that wasn't a nightmare had you in it." He licked up her neck to her jaw.
Selina choked down another moan. Her fingers curled into his hair and tugged his head up. She started to say something, but gave up on it and kissed his mouth instead.
He worried that he would finish before her as he recognized his muscles tensing for orgasm. But she pulsed around him and moaned into his mouth. It triggered his. As they panted together, he stared down at her face. Deep circles surrounded her half-shut eyes, and he didn't care for the pallor of her skin. What had she been doing without to take care of him? He shifted to his side and pulled her to his chest. "Sleep. I'll keep watch."
Her eyes fluttered open. "I fell for that once. What stupid thing are you planning now?"
"Nothing stupid." He glanced down the tunnel. "I'll go back to the rope so Barsad doesn't suspectů does that count as stupid?"
"No, that's smart." She relaxed against him. "I'm sorry I'm so tired."
He kissed her forehead while he tucked the cape around her. "Nothing to be sorry for, Selina," he said softly so her name wouldn't carry. "I want to take care of you." He stroked her brown hair as her breathing evened out. This was a new, unfamiliar want. Protecting her was familiar, tied to how he wanted to protect Gotham and his outlet for his rage and pain. But protection wasn't enough. He wanted to see her lips grin and her eyes widen with joy. He wanted to make her scream with passion. He wanted her cradled in his arms but in a bigger, warmer bed.
He kissed the crown of her head. If she's let him, he would give her all those wants and make her life the easiest she had ever known. But first they had to deal with Bane.