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Renascence

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      He is leaning against a wall, and despite his casual stance he exudes danger. He is not wearing his suit but Selina is still surprised when he speaks and it is not Batman’s growl she hears.

      He starts towards her and she wants to run away but can’t seem to move.

      He came back from the dead once. She should have known he might do it again.

      He looks haggard but his eyes burn with life and there is something gentle-

      so gentle it stabs like a knife

      -about his smile.

*

He’s been angry for so long that now he feels empty without that anger. Selina knows, somehow, when that hole threatens to swallow him whole and spit him out different. She never says a word about it. She steals his watch-

his wallet, his keys, his jacket, his steel

-and forces him to chase her.

There are high buildings, rooftops and dark alleys. His leg hurts worse than ever but his heart soars. Sometimes she pretends to be someone else, and he pretends to be Bruce Wayne. They crash parties thrown by rich people, and they seduce each other again and Batman sleeps.

He buys her jewellery afterwards and leaves her little notes with bank names and safe deposit box numbers. She pretends that she doesn’t know that he is awake when she leaves the bed, and he pretends he did not wait to hear the sound of her putting on her suit and opening the window.

He opens his eyes to see her throw herself into the night.

Selina likes to steal her gifts. Bruce likes the unconscious smile it brings on her face when she absentmindedly touches the necklace-

bracelet, earrings, rings

-he bought for her to steal.

Sometimes, she leaves for weeks at a time and he knows he is not to follow. He knows she will be back because she takes with her the pearls that once belong to his mother.

She would have left them if she was leaving for good.

If she leaves those pearls, he will not find her if he tries to follow.

*

They don’t speak about Bane. Sometimes, she looks as if she is waiting for him to remember the way she led him down, like a lamb to the slaughter.

*

      She dreams sometimes, of his hands beating the life out of her. She wakes with a sob, terrified and light with the sudden absence of dream-pain.

      She would have killed him if it was he who had done that to her.

      She turns her head to find his eyes on her, calm and knowing. A shiver runs up her spine.

      He is not a lamb, she knows.

*

He watches the news sometimes.

Robin flies over Gotham.

*

They are sitting in a restaurant, waiting for their dessert, when she excuses herself to go to the ladies room. After she doesn’t come back after ten minutes he knows she has left. He is not surprised to see that their bill has mysteriously tripled. He empties his wallet. With no money left for cab, he walks back to their apartment. His cane thumps as he walks and it attracts the attention of a couple of thugs.

His back feels stiff and his leg really hurts.

They are so close he can hear them breath.

*

He enters their apartment. “What was that all about?”

“I was bored.” She smirks as she stalks to him.

He meets her halfway.

He tangles his fingers in her hair and pulls her close. He barely feels his knuckles throb.

*

Gotham is surviving.

Robin takes good care of her.

*

Selina is eyeing her next mark. She is anxious. They have been spending a lot of money lately. She touches her earring, one of the first gifts he left for her and it is obvious that she is thinking about selling it.

He touches her hand softly and she looks at him questioningly. He shakes his head no. Her eyes narrow angrily. She knows he has some money stashed away and thinks he is spending it too freely. Thinks he doesn’t know the value of money having never truly been without it.

She doesn’t know about his self-imposed exile, his life of crime or just how much money he has hidden all over the world.

“He is too dangerous for you to play with. No matter how much money you think you’ll get.” He says and she snatches her hand away angrily.

She sneers, defensive and insulted, and he smiles. Something about it must clue her in because her sneer falls away.

“You bankrupted.” She says and it sounds like a question.

“I died too, but I’m not dead.”

“..”

“If you really feel like stealing, how about that guy over there,” He says, pointing to the left “There’s a bruise under all that make-up his girlfriend is using. And it is too hot for those long sleeves she is wearing.”

*

It is four in the morning when he finally finishes his research and sends it to the Batcave’s computer. He knows that he shouldn’t have. He is supposed to be dead, not anonymously sending info to his successor. But, he justifies it to himself, Robin is too busy chasing criminals on ground and this kind of research takes time, and there was a bomb and it is really important. He masked his trail, made it seem like the information came from a long time informant of Batman’s. Robin won’t know it’s him sending-

Ping !

Bruce checks his email. It is from the batcave. No subject line. He clicks on the email to open it.

-Batman?

Damn.

He chose well.

That knowledge makes something in him unfurl and his shoulders relax.

*

Every now and then, he smells other men on her. It makes his blood boil.

It may be nothing. She is probably just getting close enough to them to rob them but not close enough for anything else.

He doesn’t know for sure.

She insinuates things, gives him sly looks and he can’t help but reach out to her, more roughly than usual. He feels a growl build in his throat and she smiles, delighted, against his mouth.

She likes reminding him that he can’t keep her.

*

They don’t know yet that he doesn’t need to, she will always go back to him.

*

He strokes one of his batarangs and feels the need to hunt so strong it makes his chest ache. For a moment he thinks he can’t breathe.

Selina sees him. She pauses for a moment before leaving, angry.

      Scared.

      Selina will never forget what he was like when she met him. She didn’t know then just how far he had fallen.

      How far he can fall.

      Again.

*

He gets into a fight against six men to prove to himself that he still can.

He doesn’t know what he would have done if that fight had proven something else.

His cuts are shallow and he bleeds anger. It surprises him that he has enough anger in him left for that.  It seems it builds up after awhile. John was right when he said it went deeper than blood, to the very marrow of the bones.

He feels guilt then, suddenly, for leaving Batman to Robin, and vows not to let him fall into despair as he did.

He had Alfred. He knows how important it is to have support, someone who knows.

Bruce responds to Robin’s email query.

-Batman is dead. I’m just a fellow orphan, lending a hand.

John Blake will understand.

*

“I won’t go back.” He says to her. “I will help sometimes.” He continues. “But Gotham has a different protector now.”

She doesn’t believe him yet.

      She will. One day, in a few years, she will turn around to tell him something and will realize, suddenly, that he is still there.

*

They’ve been coming to the café every day for the last two weeks before Bruce sees Alfred sit down at a table.

For just a moment, his and Alfred’s eyes meet. They both look away.

Like strangers.

Selina touches her neck, self-conscious, and Bruce smiles.

Alfred sits in peace.