The Dark Knight Rises: Weapon of the Shadows

Chapter Twenty-One

Bruce lifted Selina out of the passenger seat of her rental car. She looked around the shipping yard with a smirk. "Are we sailing back to Italy?"

"No, we have to check on Blake and Babs Gordon." He opened the cargo container door and looked back. Cassandra yawned, but followed him carrying the equipment. Bringing that back gave them an excuse to see the two young adults who also took up his symbol. He had clarified his responsibility to Selina and Cassandra. Now he had to figure out his responsibilities to Nightwing and Batgirl.

"Okay, but can we go to a pharmacy next? I want a painkiller." The door swung shut and her arm tightened around his neck as the lift dropped.

"I'll get you something down here." He kissed her cheek.

Her brown eyes widened as the lift landed in the bunker. She took in the open doors to other rooms, the extended shelves and cabinets into the main room, and Blake and Babs who stood at the computer desk. She looked at him as he carried her to the chairs. "You cannot build one of these under our house."

His heartbeat stuttered when she said our house. "Not until I buy out our neighbors."

"The tower will fall over."

He set her down in a chair. Cassandra sidled up beside it. "This is Babs Gordon; you've already met John Blake, Selina Kyle. I'll get you the painkiller." He strode into the medical bay.

"Hello," Babs said. "Let me get the stepstool."

Bruce found the bottle of the eight hundred milligram ibuprofen tablets and two instant ice packs. Babs helped Selina rest her sprained ankle on a plastic folding stepstool he didn't remember putting down here. Then he glanced at Babs' height and the height of the storage shelves.

"Thanks." Selina smiled at the younger woman and held out her hand. Bruce dropped one tablet into it. Babs opened a water bottle and passed it to her. "Thanks again. Haven't mastered dry swallowing pills."

"We saw the alert when GCPD processed David Cain." Babs waved a hand at the monitors.

"Please make sure he doesn't get out of Blackgate," Selina said and then sighed when Bruce set the cold pack on her sore shoulder.

"Unlike you," Blake blurted. He bit his bottom lip when Bruce glared and laid the second cold pack on Selina's ankle. Did Blake think Selina's actions meant nothing?

Selina smirked. "Even though the charges are gone and I only stayed in there because I didn't trust Bane not to break my neck, I'm sure it still counts as your collar." Blake didn't respond, so Selina pushed Cassandra forward.

Cassandra raised the gear to Babs. "You took my cape and my grapple gun?" The red-haired young woman looked confused at Selina's white blouse belted over Cassandra like a dress.

"Borrow fight Father," Cassandra said.

"It's not borrowing if you don't ask permission."

"Sorry."

Babs took the pile, and found the Batarangs in the cape. She fanned them out. "And Batarangs? John, you let her take real Batarangs out of here?"

"Blake no give," Cassandra said.

"I didn't let her," Blake said. "She knocked me unconscious. How did you do that?" Cassandra shrugged and stepped toward him. He jerked back. "Don't do it again!" Cassandra tucked herself under Selina's left arm. His eyes narrowed. "I'm surprised she didn't take more given her role model."

"Your nap hasn't improved your mood and sedation is still an option." Babs brushed past him carrying the equipment.

Bruce pulled up a second chair so Cassandra was sandwiched between him and Selina. Cassandra whispered in Selina's ear. Selina's hug tightened. "I know. I'm holding in the ugly because you taking a header off the building is all his fault."

Cassandra reared against Bruce's armrest. "Father my mess! Save you and Bruce."

Blake's mouth dropped open. "She fell off a roof?"

"She forced Cain over the edge and went down with him," Selina explained. "Bruce caught them, but that doesn't change the fact that she gets suicidal grand gestures from us and the Halloween costume from you."

"She took it apart like a craft project. I thought she just liked dressing up."

Cassandra shook her head. "No tell Blake. Me hero. Hero mask. Clean mess. Father my mess!"

Babs rejoined them with a guilty expression that matched Selina's. "It's not just Blake's fault. I agreed with her that heroes clean up messes."

"All I meant was house cleaning is a responsible chore," Selina muttered.

Bruce pulled Cassandra's cowl out of his pocket. No protection in the shaped rubber, but she did a good job stitching in the fabric with suture thread. Put the ski mask he had first used to shame.

Cassandra's hands gripped his thigh. He looked at her reddened eyes and trembling lips. "Mad me bad?"

"Mad about this?" He flopped the cowl. "Or Faizul?"

"Who's Faizul?" Blake asked.

She brought her hand in front of her throat, clawed through the air, and then stared at her hand. Selina cut off her own gasp. Bruce tilted up Cassandra's chin. "Game," she whispered. "Terror and nothing." Tears welled in her brown eyes. "No game. Father liar."

"You didn't want him dead," Bruce said.

"No want. Never again."

How many years had he yearned for Chill's death? He watched his parents' killer die believing it would give him peace. Cassandra refused to cause more death. He wiped away the one tear that snuck down her cheek. "Not mad."

Her body sagged against his leg. Selina rubbed her back. Babs' pale face winced. "Poor kid."

Blake shook his head. "So what happens now? You three disappear again?"

"That depends on you, John," Bruce answered. "If you can't let go of your animosity toward Selina, it will make things awkward when you come to our home to train."

"Train?" Babs repeated.

"The best fighter here is Cassandra."

Selina spoke before Babs voiced the skepticism in her expression. "Just accept it. She beat the man who did this to me."

Bruce ran his hand over Cassandra's brown hair. "I can't give you two the responsibility of Gotham City without giving you all the tools necessary, so training. We'll work out a schedule so it doesn't disrupt your lives here."

Babs stuck her finger under Blake's nose. "Do not screw up my training because you can't bury her past."

Blake raised his eyebrows, but gently pushed her hand away. "Can you accept a truce?"

Selina smirked. "Oh, I can accept a lot that's freely given."

"It's freely given."

"And at no point can you blame me for the training hell Bruce puts you through."

"I can agree with that."

"Okay." Selina turned to Bruce. "Good enough for you?"

He nodded. Cassandra looked at Babs and Blake and then at him. "Me train too?"

"Yes, you have more to learn before you wear this again." The rubber cowl flopped again. "Well, a cowl like this that will protect you."

Cassandra took the cowl back and frowned at Selina. Selina shook her head. "No, I agree with him. You have your whole adulthood to wear a mask."

"Our children will have a better childhood than we had," Bruce said. "Starting with you."

Cassandra spun to him. Her brown eyes eclipsed the rest of her face. "My Selina, my Bruce? Me yours?" She twisted back to Selina.

Selina eased over and kissed Cassandra's forehead. "Oh Cassie, we've been family since Hong Kong."

Cassandra kissed Selina's cheek and pushed her upright. Bruce scooped the little girl into his lap. She trembled against his chest like a plucked bow string before lunging and planting a kiss on his cheek. He hugged her and kissed the top of her head.

Her trembling stopped with a sigh larger than her body and she snuggled against his chest.

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