The Dark Knight Rises: Weapon of the Shadows

Chapter Six

Cassandra's shy faade lasted until the flight crew shut the cockpit door on the chartered Hawker 800XP. She shook her head. "No safe, no safe, no safe! Seen him. Father target!" She pointed to Bruce, and he saw tears pooling in her eyes. "No safe."

This level of fear was easier to take hidden behind the cowl. "Neih sīkḿhsīk gng gwngdngw a? Ngh giujouh Bruce."

Selina glared at him as she tucked the blanket over the divan's cushions. "Before you go through all the languages you know, she's using what English she knows and that's all she knows. Daddy Dearest thought fighting was more important than conversation." She turned to Cassandra who studied the jet's outer door. "Cassandra, you sleep here like the sofa. Only when you wake up, we'll be in--" she looked at Bruce again.

"Italy, Florence, to be precise."

"No safe!"

"Calm down," Selina said. She pulled out a steno pad and a small box of color pencils from her purse. "We can't stay in Hong Kong. So draw what you're trying to tell me, okay?"

"Yes." The little girl sniffled as she climbed on the divan and took the pad and box from Selina.

The pilot's voice interrupted via the intercom. "We have permission from the tower to begin take-off, if you would please take your seats."

Bruce sat across the aisle and put his back to Cassandra. Maybe that would put her at ease. Selina stowed her purse in the coat closet and sat in the seat in front of him. "Tell me everything."

He glanced at the shut cockpit door. "There's not much to tell." Selina pressed her lips together as the jet sped down the runway. She hadn't forgotten her anger; just set it aside until now. He would be more impressed if it wasn't aimed at him.

Once the jet reached cruising altitude, she inhaled and he braced himself for a shout to shatter the stemware. But her voice--while strident--was low enough not to alarm the flight crew or Cassandra. "Two months! Two months I thought you were dead. I sent flowers to your funeral."

"Really? What did you pick out?" Her glare turned murderous. "No one has sent me flowers before," he said.

"Red roses, mourning bride, and pink carnations; Gordon told me it looked lovely."

"You didn't go?"

"I'm flattered you think I'm that shameless. But considering you let them go through with it, you win the shameless category."

Bruce unfastened his seatbelt to hide his squirm. He didn't like the thought of what he put Alfred through, and what Selina was hinting that she went through. "It was over by the time I found out about it."

"So now that Gotham's safe, it's time for us to settle accounts?" The anger faded into a wall for her to hide behind.

He thought they were past that, but her expression reminded him of the retribution she had expected when he gave her the CleanSlate. He would reassure her as often as she needed it that he wouldn't double cross her. "You saved my life and you helped save Gotham. If you're worried about owing something for this," he gestured at the opulent cabin, "I have a vested interest in thwarting the League of Shadows."

Selina leaned against the leather seat, and broke out one of her teeth-baring grins. "So you finally get around to telling me you're alive. Am I the first one to hit you for it?"

"You're the first one to know. I had to heal." Her gaze roved over him. He stripped off his jacket and pulled his shirt up on his left side.

Her brown eyes widened as her mouth slacked. He tucked his shirt back over the ragged scar. He had been lucky the blade had to go through the armor and his scar tissue. "Bane stuck you with a kris?" she asked.

"Straight knife twisted and I always make a bloody mess stitching myself up. But it was Talia, in revenge for her father." Miranda Tate's true identity had been given, and he doubted he needed to explain further to Selina.

Cassandra silently padded up the aisle until she stood beside Selina's chair. "Ra's al Ghul," she said.

Bruce didn't frown, but his forehead crinkled in confusion. "How do you know that name? He died before you were born."

"You know." She scowled as she waved the notepad in Selina's direction. "You League."

"Don't make me the referee between you two." Selina seized the notepad. "This plane isn't big enough for a three-way fight. You drew a bedroom." She held the notepad so he saw the crude collection of squares and rectangles. One long rectangle had a square like a pillow drawn on it.

"Father bed."

"This is your bedroom when you lived with your father or your father's bedroom?" Selina asked.

"Me." Cassandra pointed to Bruce and then pointed to the wall perpendicular to the bed. "Picture here. Target in mem?" She huffed.

"Target in memory of Ra's al Ghul?" Bruce offered.

"Yes." She turned to Selina. "No safe."

Selina looked at Bruce. "That book, How to Make Friends and Influence People? I don't think you're following it right."

He raised his eyebrows rather than concede that she had a point.

Cassandra huffed again. "More."

"Sorry for interrupting. Go on."

Cassandra held out her hand at her waist and then moved it up to her ear. "Me show Talia fight. Talia see picture. Talia tells Father no." Cassandra pantomimed ripping down a poster and tearing it up. "Talia leaves. War in Gotham."

Nothing subtle about that at all. Bruce froze before he snarled and stalked to the mini-bar at the front of the cabin. Cassandra's father and Talia disagreed over revenge, and Talia won the fight. He stared at his reflection in the lacquered wood facing of the cabinets.

"Bruce," Selina said. "No, he's not mad at you," she told Cassandra.

"You want anything? The plane is fully stocked." He grabbed a bottle of water.

"Don't tempt me with good liquor when I must keep a clear head. Cassandra? Just water for me."

He carried back two water bottles. Cassandra tucked herself between Selina's legs and fastened her gaze on him as he passed a bottle to Selina. He tried to release his bitterness. "Who is your father, Cassandra?"

Cassandra shrugged.

Selina set her bottle in one of the cup holders. "She doesn't know his name. I couldn't find him, and I wanted to have a conversation about his child-rearing techniques."

Cassandra twisted, knelt on the seat, and latched her arms around the older woman. "Selina no fight Father!" Her arms tightened. "Selina no fight Father!"

She rubbed the distressed girl's back. "I stopped looking for him. No mother in her picture at all," she told Bruce.

And she latched onto Selina of all the women in Hong Kong. Bruce drank to hide his smile. There really was more to her than what she projected. "Your father was part of the League of Shadows?"

Cassandra's voice was muffled as she pressed against Selina. "You League. League bad."

That explained her reaction. He rested his arms on his thighs. "The League of Shadows trained me and I left them." Cassandra dropped to the floor, pressed her back against Selina, and shook her head. "They wanted me to kill a man and destroy Gotham City. I fought them, burnt their temple down, and then stopped them from destroying Gotham."

"The Narrows Riot?" Selina asked.

Bruce nodded. "Ra's al Ghul died on the train that crashed into the old Wayne Tower. The train he hijacked to spread fear toxin all over the city."

"You don't kill."

"I didn't save him from the path of destruction he caused. I've only had to make that decision three times."

Cassandra's face scrunched up as she stared at him. Selina leaned over to see the expression. "You still don't trust Bruce?"

"No liar. League no free."

"Can you give him the same chance you gave me?"

Cassandra twisted to face Selina. "Selina trust Bruce?"

"Yes, I do. Besides, the League thinks he's dead."

"Chance yes." Cassandra yawned.

He doubted she would accept him more than that. "Is your father in what's left of the League?"

"No League. Father help League do bad."

That explained their similarity in fighting styles. "Does your father kill people for money?"

She looked down until all he saw was the crown of her brown hair. "Yes."

"Are you narrowing a pool of suspects?" Selina asked.

"Establishing his profile. Did your father want you to be an assassin too?"

She shuffled her feet. "Yes. Me run."

"Wow, what a guy. As if questionable training methods and not teaching her to talk wasn't bad enough." Selina hugged Cassandra and pressed her cheek on Cassandra's head. Cassandra stifled her yawn as she looked up.

Bruce leaned eye-level with her. "I won't betray you to your father, Cassandra. I promise to keep you safe from him. You and Selina both."

"Okay."

"Come on," Selina released Cassandra. "Sleep now." She pushed Cassandra to the divan. "Turn down the lights please."

Bruce adjusted the controls so only ambient lights nestled around the cabin remained on. He left his tablet phone on the shelf beneath the window while he hung his jacket in the coat closet. He returned to his seat and Selina handed him a pillow and a lightweight cashmere throw. "She's asleep already?"

"After a busy day, all you have to do is get her to stop moving." Selina tossed a beige throw around her shoulders before sitting. "Today has been a busy day."

He tucked the pillow behind his head and watched her recline her seat. "When you say questionable training?"

She sat up and craned her neck to look at Cassandra. "I mean what you, I, and every justice system in the world would call abuse. Her scars...." Selina winced. "She's only eight years old. I've seen adults with less scar tissue."

He remembered Cassandra's back. "And the League wants her."

"I'm sure her father put up the money, but they called her a weapon. They can't get their hands on her."

"We'll keep her safe, Selina."

She blinked and smiled shyly. "It's a lousy way to spend your new life, caught up in my problems."

"You'd rather I be bored to death?"

"So that's the reason you keep coming back for more."

"One of them," he admitted despite the squeeze in his chest trying to stop him. "Get some sleep."

"Get some yourself, Bruce. We need you awake in Italy." She curled her legs onto the seat and turned on her side.

He smiled before focusing his attention to his tablet. He connected to the computer in the Batcave and searched for assassins in his database. Floyd Lawton a.k.a. Deadshot was still serving time in federal prison for various murders committed and one attempt on a police officer's life. No family members known. Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke was wanted by Interpol for numerous assassinations, but only had two sons and an ex-wife listed under his next of kin.

He frowned and opened the program to search the various databases he had access to. Looking for assassinations and assassination attempts connected with suspected League of Shadows activities would take hours. He let it run in the background of the Batcave computer and disconnected. He opened up an Internet search and typed the language of flowers into the search box.

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