The Dark Knight Rises: Weapon of the Shadows

Chapter Eleven

Bruce panted as he pulled Selina closer. "That was--" He was unable to think of an adequate adjective and settled for kissing her.

"Fulfilled your fantasy?" Selina chuckled as he kissed down her neck and rolled the pearls with his lips.

"Surpassed it," he admitted. "You do know I'm game for anything you think up."

"You'll be the first person I tell my naughty fantasies to." She rolled off the other side of the bed.

He watched the morning light brush her skin. She knew things about him he would never admit to another soul. Why didn't she open up the same way? He hid his confusion behind his blank face.

She plopped onto the mattress and grabbed his chin. "Don't pout."

"I'm not--"

"For the first time in my life I have the luxury to imagine stuff like that instead of planning survival. And that's because of you." She pecked his lips. "So no pouting." She avoided his half-hearted grab and laughed as she went into the bathroom.

Her life had led her to him and to this, but at what cost? What could he do to prove that time was over forever? His heart tried to bruise itself against his ribs. Maybe it was too early, with only about a month together, but he'd be prepared.

He pulled on his pajama pants and headed into their bathroom. "Would it bother you to skip practice today?"

She stuck her head out of the shower curtain. "Who are you and what did you do with my Bruce?"

"Okay, I want to see if Cassandra trusts me in the city without you."

"That sounds like a test. I hate tests. I'm fine with staying home and not getting thrown around today." She ducked back inside the curtain.

Bruce tied on his robe and went to the stairs to Cassandra's room. "Hey Cassandra, how about a mission instead of practice today?"

She appeared at the top of the stairs with a black expression to match the Batman pajamas she wore. He hadn't wanted to buy them, but Selina overruled him by pointing out that it was the first outfit Cassandra wanted and the profits supported Wayne House. "Mission?" Her lips curled back.

He sat on a riser. She had looked happier when she had thought he was a member of the League of Shadows. "I want to buy a surprise for Selina and I'd like your help picking it. Selina's staying here while we go to town."


"A present she doesn't know about until I give it to her."

Cassandra's snarled cleared. "Yes. City clothes?"

"Yes, dress nice for the city." She disappeared into her room.

Selina turned off the blow dryer and swiveled at her vanity in the dressing room. "What's wrong?"

"Have you noticed Cassandra having a bad reaction to 'mission?'"

"Never used it."

"I must have stumbled onto something her father did. It's okay; once I explained, she dropped her I-will-hurt-you-if-I-don't-like-your-answer attitude."

"So what's really bothering you?"

Bruce sighed. "I hate triggering her. She's supposed to be safe with us."

"She does feel safe with us. Otherwise, she would have taken off the first night here, despite not knowing Italian." Selina read Cassandra better than he did. He dropped his worry when he kissed her forehead as he passed her for his shower.

Cassandra inhaled breakfast, and brought up the subject when they drove into Florence. "What buy?"

He glanced at her in the front passenger seat. "I want to buy Selina a ring."

"Selina wears tools."

So Selina had shown Cassandra her burglary tools disguised as jewelry. "I hope she'll wear it because I gave it to her." That kept Cassandra silent all the way to the jewelry store. "Don't touch the merchandise, but if you see anything Selina would like, tell me."

"Tell yes." They entered and Cassandra darted to the showcase counters on the left.

A young saleswoman bore down on him. "Buongiorno, how can I help you today?"

Bruce swallowed before switching to Italian. "{I'd like to see your engagement rings.}"

The woman squeezed her hands together. "{A proposal in Florence, how romantic! What kind of jewelry does your girlfriend like?}"

"{You could say she is a connoisseur.}" He stared through the top of the case. Necklaces adorned white headless busts and matching earrings and rings were arranged to best catch the light. What the hell was he doing? It was one thing to give her the pearls; she put them on before she even left Wayne Manor, of course she liked them.

The saleswoman slid a tray into his view. "{And what better time to give her the very best?}"

He looked over the rows of sparkling diamonds in stunning settings, but none of them shouted Selina. He glanced across the store. Cassandra crouched eye-level with the jewelry. Another saleswoman watched her with a frown until she caught Bruce's scrutiny and changed it to a thin-lipped smile. He turned back to the tray.

He was halfway through a third tray when Cassandra called, "Bruce, ring." He crouched beside her. She pointed without touching the glass and held up three fingers. "Pearls. Selina wears."

His saleswoman joined them on the other side of the case. "{May we have a closer look at the pearl ring?}" He asked her.

"{Your daughter shops as intently as you do.}" She pulled out the ring. "{It is a Tiffany ring, pre-1926, platinum setting.}" She set it on the counter.

Three flawless pearls were surrounded by thirty-four tiny diamonds on a metal ribbon. "You think this is the one?"

Cassandra nodded.

The saleswoman beamed when Bruce said they'd buy it. He smiled at Cassandra. "I have a good feeling about this."

Cassandra grinned back.

Selina pulled the stack of plates out of the lower cabinet and set them in a box. She should wait until Bruce and Cassandra were back so they could help clean out the first floor kitchen, but there would be plenty of demolition left for them. Her phone buzzed in her back pocket. A Gotham number, but not one on her contact list. "Hello?"

"I got something private to talk about, Pussycat." Jen gulped on the other end.

She recognized their code for when unfriendly ears were around. She also heard a foot scrape on the floor. Jen had her on speakerphone. "I'm alone, Princess. What's up?"

"There's a guy here in Gotham that really wants to talk to you about his daughter." A smack of a hand against skin filled the speaker, followed by Jen's closed mouth cry.

It had to be Cassandra's father. Her free hand curled into a fist. He couldn't use Cassandra as a punching bag, so he was using Jen. "This guy wants a face-to-face meeting?"

Jen's shriek grew louder until she inhaled again. "He wants to meet you tonight on top of the World Financial Center." A voice spoke in the background, but too low for Selina to understand the words. Jen continued, "If you don't show, my dead body will be left on the Commissioner's desk." Jen's inhale had tears in it.

"I'll be there with heels on. You tell that son of a bitch--" The dial tone echoed in Selina's ear. She left everything in the kitchen and charged up the stairs.

She stopped short in her and Bruce's bedroom. His robe hung next to hers on the row of hooks he had helped her put on the wall. He wanted to help, he said before they escaped Hong Kong. Probably the same thing he said before he first put on the cape. He would want to help--hell, he had his own list of things to punch Cassandra's father for--her with another monster of a man she couldn't beat.

Her hands shook as she heard the clang of the steel gate from her nightmares. No, she would never throw Bruce at her problem again. She took responsibility for Cassandra's life, so it was on her to protect them. Her trembling hands pulled her suitcase out of her wardrobe.

While her laptop searched for a plane ticket available this morning, she hid the stilettos inside rubber heels and packed the boots. Her catsuit and tools went in, along with the wad of fifties from Dorrance, a black dress, and a clean shirt.

She bought the ticket and called a cab. Then she dropped the cell phone next to the laptop on the bed. Nothing could lead back to Bruce and Cassandra. The first sheet she tore from a notebook ripped in half. The second sheet came out whole, so all she had to do was control her watering eyes.

I'm sorry. This is for the best. Take care of each other because I love you both.
After the third try, her shaking hands set the string of pearls on top of the note.

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