Disclaimer: I do not own the Dark Knight Rises or the rest of the Nolanverse Batman and I make no money off this work.
The characters Selina Kyle, Bruce Wayne, John Blake, Jim Gordon, Jonathan Crane, Lucius Fox, Jen, and Alfred Pennyworth as used in this story come from the Dark Knight Rises movie. Barbara "Babs" Gordon was introduced in the Dark Knight, and Molly C. Quinn has been cast in the story to portray her. The characters Cassandra Cain, Oswald Cobblepott the Third, and David Cain originate with DC Comics. Also I dropped about a decade from Joseph Gordon Levitt's real age for the sake of my timeline.
This story is set after the core exploded in the Dark Knight Rises but before the café scene in Florence.
"The last thing he said to me was anyone can be a hero." Jim Gordon's voice caught and he looked down at the podium. Selina pitied him and turned off the television set. She knew there were more to Batman's last words, but she had been there two months ago when he had uttered them. She didn't begrudge Jim's editing for the speech dedicating the statue to the fallen hero's memory. Just like he didn't begrudge her leaving Gotham before someone pinned a medal to her undeserving chest.
She had wasted enough time on television tonight, and wasn't any closer to answering what to do with her life now. Bruce Wayne had bequeathed her a few things, and a stronger desire to help was the third one. Her philanthropist cover was the cleanest; she even paid taxes with it. Maybe it was time to be Elva Barr full-time and see what good she could do by throwing money around.
She pushed off the sofa and opened the Roman shade over the window seat. Her suite looked over the streets of Hong Kong. Colorful neon lights broke up the darkness. Her skin itched for the catsuit to soothe it. After a couple of hours of watching GCN's rebuilding Gotham footage was the wrong time to zip up the catsuit. But one didn't have to wear it to prowl.
Selina moved with the crowds sampling the clubs and theaters, but she didn't enter. She wanted her senses sharp tonight as she learned Hong Kong. She abandoned the throng to explore the alleys of the district. Awnings pressed against the buildings, shop windows shuttered with metal, and door locked tight. She shadowed a pair of businessmen ahead of her in the closed-for-the-night alley. They rapped on a closed door. A bouncer slid a peephole window open, and grilled them just like the Prohibition was ongoing. The customers vibrated in their suits as they entered. She hoped the experience inside the speakeasy met their expectations as she walked past.
She looked up as she eased past the pile of bagged vegetables stacked against the wall. A shadow on the roof moved against the neon signs of a taller building. The human shape jumped back out of sight. The alley ended ahead. She planned to circle the building on her left to reach the main street. As she turned the corner, three men eased out of the shadows. She shook her head. "Alleys are the same all over the world." She pivoted to retreat. Three more men stood in front of the human-tall pile of bagged vegetables, cutting off the narrow path around the merchandise. She smirked at the casually dressed men. "Don't ruin such a good night, boys."
"Selina Kyle from Gotham City." A muscular Indian stepped away from the gap between the wall and the plastic bags. Selina moved under the awning stretched across the alley and closer to the wall. His voice reminded her of Miranda Tate's accent. The three men blocked adjacent alley. The Indian smirked. "We know who you are and what you did to Bane."
"No thanks necessary, but flowers would have been nice."
"You will pay for attacking the League of Shadows." After their leader spoke, the closest soldier--a burly Caucasian--swung.
She dodged to the right and his fist slammed into the concrete wall. Her elbow spiked down on his forearm. It cracked. "So, no flowers?" She batted her eyes at their leader.
A skinny black man grabbed at her from the right. She kicked him, but the Chinese soldier next to him caught him. The Indian seized her leg and shoved her back into the wall. Her fist bashed his cheekbone. He shifted with it and faced her with a cold glare.
The metal supports holding air conditioner units to the building clanged overhead. A small figure landed on the vegetable bags. Selina glimpsed a gap-tooth grin on a tiny face as the girl moved through the light. She vaulted off the produce and dropped onto the shoulders of the burly Caucasian. Her weight toppled the larger man and she kicked him in the head as she cartwheeled off his back. The Chinese man in front of the alley exit caught her feet. He fell back.
The League soldier who gripped Selina's leg looked behind him at the child. "Get the weapon!"
The three remaining men turned their attention to the little girl. One leaped to tackle her, but she jumped away. She pushed off the wall, punched the dark-skinned soldier, and landed both heels into the back of the soldier who tried to tackle her. He groaned as he dropped onto the wet pavement.
Selina flexed her knee and pulled their leader toward her. She grabbed his shoulders, pivoted, and slammed his face into the concrete. "That is a child, you moron!" His stance crumpled and she dropped him. "No wonder you idiots couldn't destroy Gotham." She kicked him in the stomach as she stepped over him.
All six men lay on the pavement. The little girl stood above them, hands planted on her flat hips, and a smug grin stretched across her lips. "No kill."
"They didn't. Thank you."
She tilted her face up and tapped her chest. "Me no kill." She pointed at Selina. "Gotham?"
"Yes, I'm from Gotham." Selina stepped over the unconscious men and through the narrow path beside the pile of bagged vegetables. The child followed her into the light above the store door. The plumpness of her pre-pubescent face had been hollowed out by hunger. Her black, frayed clothing was sized too big for her and covered as much skin as she could despite the hot weather. Selina pushed down her bitterness at the sight. "Let me buy you supper to thank you." It would have to be a restaurant meal. The grocery stores were closed and Selina hadn't stocked her suite's kitchenette yet.
The little girl tilted her head to the side. "Fight League in Gotham?"
Selina glanced at the groaning men. "We shouldn't talk about Gotham here."
"Yes." She followed Selina down the alley, up the busy street, through a few side streets to confuse any followers, and into the restaurant. They ended up at Chez Patrick Deli, because it was still open and Selina had sampled their coffee earlier during the day. The waitress sighed and disguised her pout as she met them at their table.
"Coffee for me, water for my friend." The little girl nodded as she frowned at the menu. "I know it's late. What do you have that's already made?" Selina smiled.
"We have plenty of bouillabaisse remaining," the waitress answered.
"That will be fine."
The waitress addressed the little girl in Cantonese. Her brown eyes studied the woman. "No talk." She looked across the table at Selina. "Talk little."
"I don't think she knows Cantonese," Selina said.
"And I don't know Mandarin." The waitress retreated.
"My name is Selina Kyle. What's your name?"
"Cassandra." The waitress set down the coffee mug in front of Selina and two glasses of water. Selina watched the child gulp the water. Cassandra's brown hair had sun-bleached streaks through the matted knots tied into lopsided ponytails. Her hands and face were scrubbed clean, but lines of dirt filled the creases around her neck and wrists. She set the glass down and her tattered long sleeves brushed against the table. "How fight Bane?"
"On a motorcycle with guns powerful enough to blast tanks. And I know about the tanks because I blew them up after Bane." Selina smirked and Cassandra grinned. "Do you fight the League often?"
Her gapped baby teeth vanished inside her frown. "League bad. Help Father do bad." Her solemn eyes drilled into Selina's. "Me no bad now."
The waitress set down two plates before a platter of the fish, clams, and potatoes between them. Two bowls with the broth went on top of their plates. Plates of toasted French bread slices with two small bowls of mustard and rouille joined their dishes. The waitress handed them wrapped silverware and vanished.
"You fought better than I could have at your age." Selina spread the mustard and rouille onto a bread slice and dropped it into her broth. "How did you know what to do?" She spooned up the now soggy bread and broth.
Cassandra did the same with her bread. "Father train eight years." She ate the bread and broth and then wrapped both hands around her water glass again.
Selina hadn't had experience with children since she left childhood behind, but there was no way a normal eight-year-old could take down five men trained in the same way Bruce, Bane, and Bane's elite soldiers had been trained. Yet she had watched Cassandra do that. Her sinking worry killed her appetite. She missed the days when finding a snuff film stash in the safe was the weirdest shit she had to deal with.
Cassandra dunked another slice of bread without the mustard and rouille. "Talia al Ghul dead?"
"Yes and good riddance. But this isn't a supper conversation." Cassandra's eyes widened and she stopped chewing. "I have Gotham stuff back at my rooms I can show you. Is that a plan?"
Cassandra nodded and chewed again. Selina tasted the broth. This kid had better puppy eyes than Jen, and Selina was proving to be a sucker all over again. Cassandra sipped the broth silently before asking, "Why here?"
"I knew the food was good here."
Her frown knitted her eyebrows together. "No. City here."
Selina wished she knew whatever language Cassandra knew, so this conversation wasn't a guessing game. "You want to know why I came to Hong Kong?" Cassandra nodded and shoveled another spoonful of broth into her mouth. Selina bought a little time by sipping her coffee. If a little girl who could barely speak English thought her reason was nuts, chances were, it was nuts. "Batman came here, years ago. You were probably just a baby then."
Cassandra's eyes gleamed as she looked up from the soup. "Bat man sent Selina?"
Her chest squeezed. Two months wasn't enough time for it to stop hurting. "Batman died saving Gotham. I… wanted to see other places he had seen." She set her soup bowl aside and scooped some potatoes and clams onto her plate. Cassandra moved her soup bowl over, but looked at it as she reached for the platter's serving spoon. "Drinking it down, if you want. I won't tell."
She brought the bowl up with both hands and gulped the soup. She wiped her lips on the back of her hand before scooting her plate closer to the platter. She had been taught table manners and hunger hadn't made her completely forget them yet, but she gave up her end of the conversation in order to eat everything on the table.
The waitress gaped when she returned. Selina left her a decent tip and led the way to her extended stay apartment. Cassandra moved through the crowd as silently as Selina did. They entered the building through a door that bypassed the concierge's desk and went up to the sixteenth floor. Cassandra looked around at the beige and brown combination living room and dining room while Selina shut the door. "Nobody followed us here," Selina said.
"No see." She walked up to the brown closet wall and peered up at the bland artwork an interior designer had hung on it. So she had been taught to stay aware too. "Gotham?"
"It's in the bedroom." Selina sat on the couch. "Look, I know how hard it is sleeping on the streets."
Cassandra tilted her head. "Don't sleep on street."
"Oh, really, so where do you sleep?"
"Roofs." Cassandra grinned.
"I know how hard it is to get a shower and clean clothes on the roofs too. I can wash your clothes here."
She looked at her clothes and then at the spotless apartment. She toed off the faded black sneakers. "Wash yes."
Selina ushered her through the bedroom to the bathroom, and pulled a clean T-shirt from the drawer under the television set. "You can wear this after you finish." The girl had already stripped and was turning on the shower faucets. Selina set the T-shirt on the toilet seat lid, picked up the dirty clothing, and carried them into the kitchen where the front-loading washer was installed. She started the load, and glared out the small kitchen window while she took deep breaths.
The last time she had been this furious with someone, he ended up making a dent in City Hall's marble wall. The time before that; Jen's former pimp used a walker these days. Scars covered Cassandra's body. The ones on her arms and legs were less noticeable than the ones on her back, especially the mass left from a bullet wound. Who had pulled the trigger on a little girl: Daddy Dearest or a soldier in the League of Shadows?
Selina squeezed the edge of the counter as she exhaled. She didn't want to spook Cassandra. She needed help even if she didn't think she did. Selina wanted to give her that help. She let the anger recede where it could be found to do the most harm later. She turned the living room television on. GCN flashed on again showing a bronze Batman, the statue. She had turned the set off before the unveiling. It was larger than life, undeniably Batman, and already the base was surrounded by floral tributes. But it was not recognizably Bruce, and tension eased out with her throaty chuckle. "He would hate it. Absolutely hate it." She gathered her laptop and mementos of Gotham from the bedroom, and brought them to the sofa.
Cassandra came out, wrapping a towel into a turban only to have it slip and fall onto her shoulders. Selina's T-shirt hung off one shoulder and past her knees. She saw the statue footage on the television and left the towel on her shoulders. "Batman."
"A memorial statue, like the one of Bruce Lee on the Avenue of Stars."
Cassandra nodded and climbed onto the sofa. The program changed to a recording of Gordon's dedication speech. Her brown eyes stared at the man as he stumbled through his speech. "Hero," she repeated after his speech was done and the program returned to the anchors in the studio. She turned to Selina. "Knew Batman?" She pointed at the television.
"Commissioner Gordon? He helped Batman when he first appeared in Gotham. He kept the bomb from detonating while Batman and I chased it down."
Selina started her story with Batman giving her a way off the islands in the shape of the Batpod and claimed to have changed her mind because of what Batman told her. No need to burden the child with Selina's guilt. She showed her security footage stored on her laptop of the Bat flying through the skyscrapers and herself on the Batpod, though the distance from which it was taken made identifying her hard. She left out Batman's revealed identity the same way Jim Gordon had left it out of his speech. Next they spread out all the newspapers and magazines Jen had stuffed into her suitcase before Selina left Gotham.
The washer buzzed and Selina hung Cassandra's clothes to dry in the bathroom. Cassandra stabbed a magazine's picture with her finger. "Selina! Seen him Father. Selina there."
Selina's stomach twisted as she sat down. Cassandra bounced up against her to show her the picture. Selina already guessed which one, but looked down at herself in the lacy masquerade mask staring into Bruce Wayne's face.
"You're right, that's me." She moved the Gothamite magazine halfway to her lap.
Cassandra's finger tapped Bruce's ear. "Seen him, who?"
"His name was Bruce Wayne." Selina's voice wavered slightly. "His company is important to Gotham. You probably saw his picture in the financial news."
"Bruce Wayne," Cassandra repeated. "Who?" She patted Selina's arm.
Selina swallowed the lump in her throat but it didn't move. "I stole from him twice. And I didn't help him when he needed my help." She looked at the other picture on the page, a shot of him leaving Wayne Enterprises for the last time. His tight-lipped expression blurred and shifted. "I thought I saw him die." Cassandra's head pressed against her arm. "But he didn't. He found me before the War for Gotham." The tears she had kept dammed broke free. "Everyone else I have ever known would have hurt me for what I did, but Bruce didn't. He gave me what I took from him, and only asked for help getting the people he cared about out of the Dungeon. I helped him, but he died in the War."
Cassandra flung her arms around Selina and buried her face against the woman's side. "Sorry sad. Sorry." She sobbed and squeezed tighter.
Selina freed her arm, set the Gothamite's tribute to Bruce Wayne on the sofa's end table, and wrapped both arms around the little girl. "It's alright. He was the best man I ever knew, along with Batman, and they're both gone." She'd keep his secret. "It's okay." She hugged while Cassandra sniffled.
She pulled back and her lips trembled. "No mad?"
What kind of life had made this child believe making someone sad was going to piss them off? "I'm not mad at you." Selina wiped her own face. "I've been forcing myself not to cry over him for two months."
Cassandra smiled as she wiped her tear tracks. "Go?"
"Your clothes aren't dry yet. You can sleep here tonight on the sofa." Selina gathered up the newspapers and magazines.
"Pay too much. Me," Cassandra pantomimed throwing a punch and then held up her hand with all the digits spread out. "Food, wash, bed, too much."
Selina closed her laptop. "You're paid to beat up people?"
"Sex sellers feed. Me," she punched the air, "thieves."
"So I'm overpaying for you beating up five soldiers of the League of Shadows?"
Selina nodded. "I'm not paying you for that." Cassandra cocked her head. "After my parents died, I ended up on the streets. Since I grew up, my friends can come to me for anything. And right now, you need a place to sleep while your clothes dry."
"Friend?" Cassandra tapped her chest.
"If you want to be." Selina smiled. "I could use a friend."
Cassandra grinned and showed all her baby teeth. "Friend. Me sleep here."
Selina matched her grin. "As often as you need to."