Selina frowned at the closet rods installed along the wall of the room between the master bedroom and the master bathroom. "This is too nice of a space to treat like a walk-in closet," she called out.
Bruce grunted before he spoke. "We have to put our clothes somewhere."
"But a couple of wardrobes would do that without this cheap-ass but functional theme, and you could put a vanity in here, so make-up application doesn't take up bathroom space." She adjusted her sports bra and grabbed her yoga pants.
"Do you want to decorate?"
"I'm not throwing sheets over everything I think is too ugly to live with."
"Do I get any input or should I just give you a credit card?"
Cassandra swung open the master bedroom door. Selina pulled on her T-shirt and waved at her through the open doorway to the dressing room. The little girl wore the black unitard again. Selina reminded herself to peel it off her and wash it today. Cassandra waved back before stopping in front of the bed with a scowl. "No training inside."
"Not training," Bruce grunted. Selina peeked around the corner. He held himself up in a rigid Plank pose before executing a perfect push-up. "This is warming up."
Selina decided watching his back muscles flex was her new favorite way to warm up. The show ended too soon as he used Downward Dog to stand up. "I'll meet you outside," he said as he tugged his pajama pants up. Cassandra stared at the scars he had on his torso.
"Okay." Selina ushered Cassandra out of the bedroom and followed her out to the back patio. The tower and house shadowed the paved area and the hedges.
Cassandra pivoted. "Kata no good?"
"For warm-up exercises?" Cassandra nodded. "Everybody has a different routine that works for them. I have fun with yoga." She started a sun salutation.
Selina paused in Cobra pose. "What makes you happy." Cassandra still looked puzzled. "Get used to the idea. You are going to learn how to have fun." She exhaled to the ground.
Cassandra started her kata. Selina finished her sun salutation and moved into more complicated back bends. She was curled into Scorpion pose when Bruce joined them. Selina eased out of it, keeping her breathing even, and stood up.
Bruce swallowed hard. "Right, who wants to go first?"
Cassandra took a running leap at Bruce. He dodged her kick. She landed on her feet and lashed out with a backwards kick. That caught his sweatpants-covered hip before he dodged.
Selina pressed her back against the house. Hopefully that gave the circling sparring partners enough room.
Bruce lunged forward to grab. Cassandra seized his arms and flipped over his head. Her feet landed on his back and she launched into another flip. Bruce grunted as he stumbled.
Cassandra spun a roundhouse kick into his stomach. Her elbows slammed into the small of his back. He straightened with a grunt of pain, grabbed her, and swept her upside down. Cassandra slammed both heels into his shoulders.
He lost his hold and she landed on her hands. She pushed off, slammed her feet into his chest, and crouched on him. He toppled against the weathered patio table. It splintered around them as Bruce yelled through gritted teeth.
"Bruce!" Selina didn't register her scream until Cassandra's face blanched as she scrambled off him. Selina jerked away planks of wood, but her brain wanted to add in wet concrete and metal grating. "Bruce!"
His hand wrapped around Selina's arm and he pulled himself up. "I'm all right." He glanced at the bleeding scrape on his left arm. "Glad I got that tetanus booster."
"You need an X-ray."
"After what Bane did to you! I'm calling an ambulance."
"You're scaring Cassandra." Selina turned. Cassandra's wide brown eyes brimmed with tears as she clutched her lower back. Bruce shifted his legs. "Help me up."
She leveraged him upright. "Don't pull that macho man crap on me."
"No numbness, no tingling, no pain, everything is where it should be," he felt his lower back, "but I won't turn down an ice pack."
"Sorry!" Cassandra flung her arms around his waist. "Go for weak."
"Nothing's wrong with your technique." Bruce cupped the back of her head. "We just have to set up formal sparring rules. And keep the patio clear of furniture."
"And mats," Selina added. "I'm not trading blows with either of you until we create a proper dojo."
"And mats," Bruce repeated as he put his right arm around Selina's shoulders. He steered them back inside. Cassandra released Bruce with a sniffle, and proceeded ahead of them.
Selina pushed him toward their bedroom. "I'll get the ice." She pulled out the largest Ziploc bag they had. "Cassandra," Selina handed her the broom. "Go throw away every piece of wood."
"Because if you make a mess, you have to clean it up. It's called being responsible."
"Okay." Cassandra headed downstairs while Selina emptied the ice trays into the Ziploc.
She found Bruce in the master bathroom wiping his arm with disinfectant. "Shirt off. Just humor me please," she said.
He peeled off the black T-shirt and turned so she could examine his back. "It's worth the breakthrough."
No bruises blossomed and his bones were all in place. "Breakthrough?"
"Cassandra hugged me." She met his crinkling eyes in the mirror. "Maybe she just needed to beat the crap out of me to like me."
"I'm going to beat the crap out of you next. Pass the band-aids."
Selina didn't hit but hugged him when Bruce presented her with the new laptop and offered to transfer the information from her smashed one. But she refused to give the netbook to Cassandra for him. "I had enough trouble with food, a place to sleep, and clothes. Besides, if you want her to trust you, you have to interact with her."
He couldn't deny that logic, but he also observed Selina putting the bag of ice back in the freezer when he went upstairs. Cassandra stood on her hands under the shortest portion of the roof. She dropped to her feet as soon as she saw him. "No training."
"I always meditate in Lotus pose." He sat down on her bed.
She looked him over. "No hurt?"
"I'm fine." He smiled and held out the netbook. "I bought this for you."
"What?" Her eyebrows nearly touched as she stared at it. He opened it and her face brightened. "Like Selina. Why?"
"I thought you'd like it. Once we get the satellite connection, you can look at whatever you want without borrowing Selina's or mine."
"It's a present." Her confusion didn't abate, and he blanked his face. Her father never gave her presents, not even to make up for her scars? "Do you know what a present is? A gift?" She shook her head. "It's something you give someone to show you are friends or family."
"Me friend? Me hurt you."
"That was an accident. At least, I hope it was."
Cassandra bit her lip before speaking. "No training on streets. Me forget."
"We'll both remember tomorrow. Or Selina will get us." She smiled and edged closer to the netbook. Bruce set it on the bed. "Do you know how to use a computer?"
She shook her head. "Selina." She pointed at the keyboard.
"Do you want to learn?" She nodded. "Do you want me to teach you?"
"Want teach?" She touched the edge of the netbook's screen.
"I wouldn't offer if I didn't want to."
"Bruce!" Selina called up the stairs. "The satellite guy is here."
"I have to go help him." Bruce left the netbook on her bed. Cassandra watched from her bedroom's inside window. They mounted the flat-screen television above the fireplace in the second-story living room.
Selina tested the WiFi signal in various rooms while Bruce discussed the feasibility of a dedicated fiber optic connection if he installed his own server. "Found a local athletic shop with floor mats in stock," she announced when she returned. "And the signal doesn't work in the tower at all."
"You want to redecorate; I want to rewire." The television finished accepting all of its channels, and the installer headed out to his next job--leaving his card with Bruce.
"I hope you're considering electric too. Downstairs is a cave."
He smirked. "Not enough bats, but a few more light fixtures wouldn't hurt. Does the athletic shop have pull-up bar stations?"
"I'd recommend turning the tower's top floor into a gym. It's got the highest ceiling."
Cassandra hopped silently from the stairs. "Gotham?" She wrapped her arms around Selina's waist. "Please."
"Good thing you aren't addicted to a show with an earworm theme song. Turn it to GCN."
Bruce complied, took his tablet back, and sat down on the couch facing the television and fireplace. Cassandra plopped down on the floor. Selina sat next to him. He bought the mats she had flagged and told the store to hold them for pick up. That way he could see their gym equipment. "Keeping an eye on things from afar?" He nodded at the television.
"I think she has a crush on Jim."
"You're on first name basis with the Commissioner?"
"When people go through a traumatic experience, formalities aren't that important." She kicked off her shoes. "And he was nice enough to make that mess with the Congressman go away without me asking. He saw Gilly goose me at the Dent Day party and decided he deserved much worse from his Old Town adventures."
He glanced at her face watching at Mayor Hill's press conference and then glanced down at Cassandra who stared at them. He'd ask Selina to clarify that story later. "As long as you don't have a crush on him." He opened the tablet's connection to the Batcave computers.
Selina wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "He doesn't wear enough black."
His ear burned under her tease and he dragged his fingers along her arm. Hill droned on about rebuilding Gotham City Stadium. Selina tucked herself against him so he could hold her and use the tablet.
Cassandra tilted her head. "Snack?"
"Apples are on the counter."
She brought an apple back with her, but rolled it between her hands. She patted Selina's knee. "You pay?" She swung her arm up and out.
"This is Bruce's house. He's letting us stay here."
Before he added that it was a gift, Cassandra said, "You sex Bruce."
"So much for keeping that a secret," Selina said.
"You're eight-years-old; what do you know about sex?" he said.
"Father teach." Bruce almost dropped his tablet, but Cassandra shook her head. "Strike target at sex seller. Sex sellers know streets. Buy help. Me sex too young."
"At least he added that," Bruce muttered.
"Adults have sex without buying and selling it," Selina said. "That's prostitution. Adults in a relationship have sex to show how much they love each other."
Cassandra's nose scrunched. "Selina and Bruce?"
"If she needs a label, I'm okay with boyfriend." His tablet connected to the more powerful computer across the Atlantic.
"We're dating; that's a relationship. I'm not giving him sex so we can stay here."
"Okay." Cassandra bit her apple as GCN announcers appeared on the screen. She plopped down on the floor again.
"Does Gotham have a new vigilante?" Summer Gleeson asked the camera. Bruce and Selina both looked at the television. "Eyewitnesses have come forward thanking an armored man in a mask. So far he has rounded up four escapees from Blackgate Prison, and is rumored to have had a hand in exposing a drug shipment that almost cleared customs last week. I asked Commissioner Gordon what he plans to do about this masked man."
Gordon appeared on the screen and glared at the microphone shoved under his moustache. "If someone wants to take up Batman's mantle and keep Gotham safe, I will happily work with them. Gotham needs all the heroes it can get."
"Damn." Bruce glared at the tablet.
"You'd rather Gotham not get any vigilante help?" Selina asked.
"No, I'm glad Blake's getting into it. I started a search on League of Shadows associates and it was stopped prematurely."
"Can't you just restart it? With a note to leave it alone?"
"That's not exactly the way I wanted Blake or Lucius to find out I'm alive." He added a password to halt the search.
"I have no advice on how to be a ghost in the machine, but stalking them is a bad idea."
"I just have to hide the search deeper. Hopefully, I can get it done without having to buy a server."
Selina snorted. "Go ahead and turn the wine cellar into a computer room. You know you want to."
"Might need that money for something else first." Cassandra had left the living room when the news shifted to street reconstruction. He pulled up a saved search he had done while on the jet and passed the tablet to Selina. She read "speech and language therapy" in the search box, and sat up straight to read it again. She knelt on the couch facing him. "But we need to make sure no one will search for us before we sign her up."
She dropped his tablet on his lap and caught his face between her hands. "You really do care, you brilliant genius." She kissed him fiercely and stood up. "Have to start supper."
He blinked as he rebooted his brain. Cassandra held the netbook in front of him. "Teach please."
"Okay." He smiled. She smiled back as she scrambled onto the couch.