Occupation of Gotham City: Day 84
Selina wrapped the cape around herself as Bruce got off the cot. "I hate this plan."
"I know." He adjusted the drawstring pants around his hips. "It's not too late for a new one."
She scowled at him. They had been arguing about this plan for practically the whole week he had been mobile. If she was going to think of a better plan, she would have. She knotted the cape around her again as she looked at the floor. Her stomach rolled this morning. That would come in handy.
Strong fingers lifted her chin. He kissed her. "This is the best chance."
"I know." She watched him wrap the rope under his arms and go limp. Barsad's shadow loomed down the hall. Her stomach rolled again and she sprinted to the port-a-potty. She made it just in time to kneel over it and vomit. She felt worse that Bruce thought this was acting.
"Whore? What's wrong?" Selina finished vomiting and slumped down on the floor. "Whore!" She didn't move. The magnetic lock buzzed, the tray slid against the metal table, and Barsad loomed over her.
Now. She rolled to her back and kicked up and out. Her foot caught Barsad's stomach and sent him flying back. He landed against Bruce who embraced him with both arms.
Barsad twisted in the hold and slammed his left elbow into Bruce's side. Bruce's arms latched around Barsad's neck and head.
Selina moved closer, looking for an opening. The sling put his left arm over his chest. Barsad snarled as he kicked at her. She dodged it, but Bruce coiled his right leg over Barsad's legs. Barsad twisted, and then drove his hand into Bruce's braced knee. Bruce grunted with pain and tightened all his grips. Barsad rammed Bruce's knee again while twisting.
"Stop that!" Selina kicked Barsad again. Her heel plowed into his ribs under his right arm. They gave way with a loud snap. Both men twisted away from her blow thanks to the rope, but Barsad's face snarled at her until it went slack with another snapping noise. Her stomach rolled again.
Bruce dropped his leg and loosened his arms. Barsad's body fell to the floor.
Her stomach forced itself into her throat. No time to get to the port-a-potty. She turned away, dropped to her knees, and puked.
"Selina," Bruce said softly. She heaved until a wet rag touched the back of her neck. She straightened, still on her knees, into Bruce's arms. He pulled her away from the mess and stroked her hair. "It's over."
"We killed him!" She pressed against Bruce's chest instead of pushing him out of the way and tearing into Barsad until his blood covered the floor. Bruce had been so insistent on just incapacitating him.
Bruce's arms froze around her. "I broke his neck."
She shifted to look at his still face. "I broke his rib and twisted both of you."
His hazel eyes darkened. "I--"
"No. I'm not sorry for what happened," she cupped his face, "but you are not taking the blame for this. We acted, we killed him."
He hugged her tighter, tucking her head against his neck. "He never should have touched you." His voice was ragged.
"I agree to that." She pressed her nose against his skin while his fingers stroked her hair and kept the wet rag on her neck. "Water?" He eased his hold enough to grab the water bottle and hand it to her. "We have to get moving."
Bruce nodded and helped her stand. She rinsed her mouth out while staring at the television. She should pay attention to know what to expect upstairs, but couldn't muster the focus. They had to get out of here. She turned to Bruce.
He had pulled the knife from its hiding place and took a ring of keys from Barsad's pocket before taking the dead man's leather belt. "These are for storage containers, aren't they?"
She looked at the dinky keys in his hand. "Best guess. Let me have the knife." She pried off the top of the keyboard lock, brushed off the numeral keys, and hotwired the lock. The magnetic lock buzzed as it released. Bruce pushed the gate open and then threaded the belt through the chain-link fencing and the metal bars. The gate swung against the buckled belt but remained open.
"Stay here," he ordered. She glared at him and slapped the hilt of the knife into his hand. He blinked at it. "I don't need this."
"Take it because I don't."
He nodded and moved silently down the tunnel. After he disappeared around the bend, she turned her attention to the table. The discarded wrapped from the crackers in the last MRE they had eaten would work. She shook the crumbs out of it.
She glanced down the empty tunnel before kneeling next to Barsad's head. Her fingers eased his eyelids closed. Unnecessary sentiment, but this was creepy enough without his dead eyes staring at her. She pinched some of his dark brown hair and yanked.
She examined the hairs as critically as she did gemstones. Several strands had hair follicles at the ends. She wrapped them up in the plastic and squeezed it in her fist. Then she drifted back to the table.
Bruce should know. She should open her mouth and blurt it out. What was she afraid of? If the baby wasn't his, he'd probably pay for the abortion if she couldn't. Not that her finances were in that bad of shape.
And if the baby was his, he would be ecstatic over fatherhood but try to hide it. And then he would make sure she was safe and cared for and fight Bane alone again. She hugged herself to ward off the chill that shook her. Not no, but hell no! If that was the only outcome, her lips were sealed until Bane was dealt with or she suddenly sprouted a basketball under her skin.
Bruce carried a box back with him. "I found all your equipment." He set the box on the table. "Plus I grabbed a coat that should fit." She lifted her belt and goggles out of the box and inspected them for any damage. Bruce lifted out the clothing he had scrounged for himself. She slipped the plastic and hair into an empty belt compartment as she set the belt on the table. He held out a small canister about two centimeters deep and wide. "Have any ideas what this was used for? Or recognize the chemical?"
She plucked it from his hand. The underside had a nozzle surrounded by a small depression for a latch to lock onto. It was empty when she shook it. "I don't even know how to pronounce that word." She blinked at the long chemical name stamped around the canister. "It probably held gas and it looks familiar, but I don't remember seeing anyone doing anything with it."
"I found a box of them, all empty." He set it down on the table and lifted the box filled with MRE packages. "Have you talked to them?" He jerked his head in the direction of the rock pile.
"Nope, this is your plan, remember?"
He raised his eyebrows at her, but took the box to the hole in the rocks. "Who's back there?" he asked in his growl.
"Jensen, sir," the young male's voice gulped. "Kelly and Montoya are at the other end of the tunnel. What's going on?"
"We're breaking out. It's possible someone may check in on Barsad, so don't dig out this way."
"You're going to leave us down here!" Selina paused as she tugged up the legs of her catsuit. The young man's distress carried through the wall.
Bruce pressed a hand against the stone not going anywhere. "I will come back for you," he growled. "As soon as I know I won't get you shot by Bane's Army. Now here come supplies." He stuffed the MREs into the hole.
She shook her head as she shrugged her arms into the sleeves. Sure he had taken the hard line about protecting their identities, but he caved to the kid's distress. She tugged on the zipper. It refused to meet over her stomach. "Shit."
"What's wrong?" Bruce stuffed the last MRE into the hole and dropped the box.
"They broke my zipper. At least the coat will cover it." She sat down on the cot to pull on her boots.
He didn't question it as he pulled on the worn jeans and knit shirt he had found close to his size. Her belt still fit, as did her gloves. The drab olive coat swallowed her, but no inappropriate flesh flashed after she zipped it closed. He shoved his feet into a pair of cracked military boots. "Ready?"
"You wouldn't believe how ready I am." She took his extended hand. They strolled down the tunnel and into the emptied command center. She blinked at the lack of all the cases that had been here. "Wow, talk about a clearance sale."
"The safest route is probably up through Applied Science." They circled around the waterfall and saw a rope ladder ascending to the hole blown through the ceiling above. "I'll go first."
She let him, even though she thought it was silly. Applied Science was as empty as she and Fox had left it, but Bane's men had wrenched the elevator door open. Bruce looked up the shaft with a scowl. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"I wish they had taken out their frustrations with me on just me and left my company out of it." He stepped away from the ledge.
"We'll find Fox and the others." She headed to the garage door. Bruce turned her to the corner next to it. He set his hand on the wall and the seam in the concrete broke apart. He pulled the human-sized slab out like a door. She shook her head and went through the door first.
The pathway down to the exit ramp was clear, despite cars left in their parking spaces. Rolls of barbwire stretched across the exit ramp and snow filled the dip before the street. The silhouette of a man holding a rifle leaned against the building's black shadow lying on the white street. She felt Bruce next to her and threw out her arm to stop him.
He took her gloved hand and led her across the parking garage. This side of the building faced a skinny alley and another skyscraper. The concrete retaining wall extended from the floor to her chest and a fat cylindrical bar bisected the open air window between the concrete columns supporting the rest of the building. Shoddy security feature that wouldn't stop the more daring car thieves she knew. But the shoddy security worked in their favor now.
Bruce slid over the concrete wall and below the bar first. He dangled against the building before dropping into the alley. Selina exhaled as she prayed her ass hadn't widened yet. She slipped under the bar without snagging. She swung her body off the edge. Her fingers clung to the sharp corner as she lowered her body by straightening her arms.
Strong hands wrapped around her hips. She let go of the wall and Bruce slid her down his body to the ground. "You didn't need to," she whispered at him.
"Wanted to," he whispered back. They eased past the bored guards around Wayne Enterprises and headed down West Sixteenth Street into West Side.
The cold stung her face and dug through the gloves to seize her fingers. She let go of Bruce's hand so they could stuff their hands into their coat pockets. The cold and the fuel shortage meant they were the only ones braving the streets. She grew tired of hearing the snow crunch under their feet. "So where are we going?"
"Sheal Docklands. Are you okay with the walk?"
"Since there are no cabs to hail, I'll live. Why there? You got a Bat-Boat?"
He smirked. "No boat, but I do like the idea. I built a bunker there; hopefully, Bane didn't find out about it."
If she stopped the cold would seep further into her boots, but oh how she wanted to stop. "Bunker? Underground again?"
His head jerked to look at her. "It won't be that bad."
No Barsad keeping them trapped was a bonus, but still. "It better be the penthouse of underground lairs."
Rumbling of vehicles coming up Robinson Avenue interrupted Bruce's reply. He grabbed her arm and pushed her into the alcove protecting a store's front entrance. He pressed her against the wall with his chest.
She silently snarled and curled her hands into fists. Over his shoulder, Bruce watched the truck slightly smaller than a semi passed through the intersection. He tucked his face next to her head as the Hummer with a gun turret followed after the bomb truck. She waited until the convoy's rumble faded before shoving him. He didn't move. "I'm not helpless!"
"I wanted to hide your face." He stepped back to the sidewalk. Selina fell into step beside him. "We don't need a fight with Bane right now."
"I agree." They hurried across Robinson. "Just save the protecting for someone who really needs it."
"You want everyone in Gotham ahead of you?"
"Stop assuming that you're helping everyone in Gotham alone."
He lapsed into silence as they changed direction and walked up along the docks lining Queens River. This partnership stuff was easy when the common enemy was in your face. Bane was far enough away, Bruce might think he could face the fanatic alone again. She had to squash that thought before he had it.
They ended up at a Wayne Enterprises shipping yard. Bruce's code worked on the gate lock, which he reengaged before leading her down a lane lined with C-cans. He stopped them at a red one halfway between the street gate and the water after the lane turned a corner.
Selina's eyebrows rose at the biometric lock that scanned his finger before he swung open the doors. "Pretty fancy lock for an empty cargo container." She smirked as she walked into it.
He smirked before swinging the doors shut. "This isn't a cargo container." The floor shifted down and heated air wafted up through the growing crack between the floor and the walls. Lights flickered on next, so they saw the long empty concrete room the platform stopped in.
Bruce strode forward over the floor with many staggered seams. She had never seen a concrete pour that had resulted in that look, so she followed his path. He stopped in front of a row of incinerators built into the wall and putting out much-missed heat. She stopped in front of the middle one and basked.
He knelt on the floor between seams that marked a large L on the floor, and tucked his thumb into a dimple before standing up. The floor glided up, transforming into a concrete-slab desktop. A stand of monitors rose up behind it and between her and Bruce a long rectangle slab continued up to the ceiling becoming a work station with task lighting and housing a server underneath it.
She leaned across the workstation as he typed on a wireless keyboard. "Impressive."
"I'm not done impressing you yet." Along the opposite wall, five concrete slabs slid up and tucked against the ceiling. Bruce pointed to each of them. "Storage room, medical bay, chemistry lab, bathroom--"
She darted around the desk straight for the lighted, smaller room. "Dibs on the first shower!"
"And garage," he finished. She ignored him as she stared at the first-person corner shower with more jets than she could count. The sink cabinet hid the towels. She tucked two into the towel bar on the wall next to the shower when Bruce spoke behind her. "These are probably too big, but I don't have any robes like the Carlyle." He held out a pile of black clothing.
She seized the offering and kissed him hard. "You are getting laid tonight. After you get clean."
He blinked. "Hot water turns you on?"
"Are you questioning your good fortune? Fine, I won't leave you any." She pulled her goggles from the coat pocket and laid them beside the sink.
"It doesn't run out, but I wish I had thought about a bigger stall." He caressed her cheek before pulling a privacy screen out of the wall next to the chemistry lab. It reminded her of a Japanese rice paper screen only made of a textured plastic.
She made sure he had returned to the computer before she yanked apart the zipper on her catsuit.
By the time she finished with her shower and dressed in the baggy sweat pants, T-shirt, and socks Bruce gave her, he had raised a long table from the floor, sat two stools around one corner, and place set the best he could with two MREs. "Beef enchiladas," he said. "You're probably sicker of chicken than I am."
She glanced at the monitors while she wrapped her hair into a tighter turban with a towel. One was playing GCN muted, one had a diagram of the reactor rotating on it, two had a map of Gotham City stretched out on them, and the rest had lists too far away from her to read. "Been busy?"
"Found Gordon and Blake, got the reactor information pulled up, and thought we better eat before I got caught up in that or started exercising." They sat at the table. Bruce brought up the next conversation topic. "Your suit didn't give you much protection and now you need a new one."
The enchiladas were heavy on cardamom and she drank from her water bottle. "You have a spare you want me to have? I don't go beating people up. What would I do with all that Kevlar?"
"There has to be something in Applied Science that will protect you better than that spandex you were wearing."
"Please, you ogled the spandex too."
His eyes crinkled. "I didn't say you looked bad in spandex, but you'll look just as good in titanium-dipped tri-weave fiber."
"And where are we going to source that when you had it dropped on the bottom of the ocean?" Bruce smirked at her while he chewed. She gaped as she realized what he was not admitting out loud. "You are simply unreal. Out of you head with pain and you still managed to lie to Bane?"
His smirk melted into a serious smile. "I had a lot of incentive to be convincing when Bane threatened you." He averted his hazel eyes. "I had Mr. Dawes trade the loaded ones for three empty containers across the road, and the empty ones were sunk. So everything from Applied Science is available, plus the tools I have stored here."
She grinned at him. "It was time for a new suit anyway." He smiled back. "So what ration schedule are we on?" She waved her vegetable cracker at their MREs before popping it into her mouth.
"Eat as much as you want. We've got three hundred sixty-five cases. That'll last for a couple of years." He speared the last bit of his enchilada with his fork.
"Why so much?"
Bruce swallowed. "That was Alfred's doing. Buying in bulk through dummy companies was the easiest way to supply, but he always said in a bad enough situation, food was worth more than money." The upturn of his mouth fell and the slight crinkle of his eyes smoothed as the shutters closed off that memory of Alfred. "Are you finished?" he asked. She nodded and he scooped up the packaging, carried it to the incinerator doors, and closed it before any noxious fumes from the plastic could invade the bunker. "I'm going to work out now."
"Okay." She had pushed him enough over the past couple of months. If he didn't want to tell her why he was upset with Alfred, she could wait. She sat down at the computer desk while he extended a pull-up bar out of the wall beyond the storage room. A floor mat came out of the storage room next; that had to be for her yoga routing. He did sit-ups on the cage floor until she lost count. He grabbed the pull-up bar and she turned to the computer screens.
The reactor diagram images also had a date clock running in the bottom right corner: 66 days and she didn't pay attention to the decreasing hours, minutes, and seconds numbers. "Is this how long we have until the reactor goes boom?"
Yes," Bruce grunted as he lowered himself from the bar. "Provided Bane removed the core from the reactor the same day as the football game."
"Still too close for comfort. Okay besides making me a new suit, what's next?"
"Get intel from Blake and Gordon."
She unwrapped her hair and rubbed it while she looked at the map of Gotham. The dot labeled Gordon was stationary on the other side of Midtown, but Blake was hiking across Uptown right now. Her eyebrows knitted together. "You tagged them?"
"Now you sound like Lucius." Bruce let go of the bar and sat on the mat. He contorted through a few crunches before exploding into words. "And for all the lectures that you have to trust people to have self-interest in their own survival, that people deserve privacy, that I can't save everyone," he spat out that word, "the ones I know are alive and safe are the two cops I didn't give the choice to!" He flung his hand at the computer as he glared at the wall.
Selina walked to the edge of the mat. "Two questions. Did you tag me?"
He jerked his head and blinked as he looked up at her. "I haven't, and you don't want me to."
"Let's talk about my choice later." He glanced at the mat as his shoulders slumped. "What happened between you and Alfred?"
"He left me," he said as he deflated.
"Because you wanted to do suicide-by-Batman?"
"He said he didn't want to bury me, but he left because I told him to go. I was so angry. He lied to me for eight years!" His hands curled into fists. "I lost Rachel before the Joker blew up that warehouse. She chose Dent, and Alfred thought he was sparing me pain by not telling me." She stepped closer and he looked up at her with wincing eyes. "I was over it after I slept. You saw me, wallowing in my grief. I might as well have sewn his lips together myself. But he left and now I have no way of knowing where he is or if he's safe."
She smoothed the ratty long-sleeved shirt he still wore over his shoulders. "His name hasn't shown up on the GCN's tribunal victim list, like Lucius Fox's hasn't."
"They both could be in the Dungeon, but Alfred's not high profile enough for the show and Bane--"
She ran her fingers through his hair. "The man I met, the man who survived raising you, would not get captured by Bane." He looked up and she stroked her other hand against his stubble-covered jaw. "After Bane's dealt with, we'll go find Alfred."
She pulled her hands back. "If you'd rather make it a guy thing--"
Bruce caught hold of her hand. "No, I... I'm not used to we." His thumb rubbed circles against her skin. "I want to take care of you and you end up taking care of me."
"That's what people in a we situation do." She smirked. "And your luxury suite underground lair is taking care of me."
"Let me guess, it's not a penthouse underground lair due to lack of a bedroom." She nodded as a yawn forced its way out. God, how she hated these sudden bouts of fatigue. "After this is over, we'll go find Alfred and then we'll go check on Jen." She nodded again as another yawn kept her from talking. He squeezed her hand. "Go rest. I won't leave."
"You better not." She yawned again, but picked up the bathroom before stripping and climbing between the hospital bed's sheets. She dozed off, woke up to the shower running, and rolled over. She did notice the lights dimming before Bruce moved inside the medical bay, but his erection poking her when he spooned behind her that truly roused her. "Somebody's eager."
"You did promise." He shifted her hair. She smelled his aftershave before his shaven face kissed her neck. "But if you're tired, I--"
"I'd rather be dead than too tired for you." She ground her ass against him.
His arms wrapped around her as his lips kissed down her neck. "Don't say it like that."
She planted her left leg behind his calves. "Touch me, Bruce. Make me scream."
He slid his left hand down her stomach and cupped her dark curls. His other arm banded across her chest and pressed up her breasts. She stroked his side before plucking her own nipples. "Selina." He squeezed her tighter to his chest.
His long fingers tickled her g-spot. Her whole body coiled tighter. Her cry wasn't a scream, but it was louder than any sounds of pleasure she made in a week. "Bruce!"
"Selina." He withdrew his fingers from her quivering insides and thrust into her. She grabbed the bed rail as she rocked with him. "I'm yours, Selina," he kissed behind her ear. "I'm yours until the end."
She couldn't respond as her body tightened around him again and she screamed at the stars she saw. Bruce managed a few more thrusts before he pressed his face against her neck and came with a shout.
Once she could, Selina turned in his arms. His expression was tender yet braced for a blow. Just blurt it out. She cupped his face with both hands. "I love you, so I'm yours, Bruce. But the end better be far, far away."
His smile lit up his whole face and he drew her up his body for a kiss.