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Unmasked

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Bruce woke up handcuffed to a bed that wasn't his.

It wasn't the first time.

Selina Kyle was sleeping next to him.

That was a first.

His head still throbbed, skin felt too tight. Every laceration felt like it was trying to burst open. Bandages that hadn't been there before, and they itched.

No mask. No suit. No shirt. Still wearing tights, at least. Small blessings. A studio apartment didn't seem like her style, but it may have been borrowed. He tilted his head to see his hands, get a better look at the cuffs. Police issue, steel. Probably stolen from a cop. Pulled through the slats in her headboard. Needed to get them off without waking her up. Harder when she'd curled up against his chest like she belonged there.

No mask meant she knew who he was. He might have been angry about that. At the very least, irritated.

No. Angry. Definitely angry.

She lifted her head. Too late. Awake. She yawned, showed off fangs in the process as she rested her chin on him. He was trying not to look obviously furious. She looked tired; it took a minute to realize it was because she wasn't wearing makeup. Changed the shape of her face, made her look younger, eyes bigger.

"Good morning," she said, too blasé and too affectionate. "Or, afternoon, probably." He said nothing. She walked sharp-nailed fingers up his chest. "Poison Ivy got you," she said, matter-of-fact. "You're very heavy, by the way."

When he continued to say nothing, she sat up. She was wearing a bootleg Batman tank top, the kind they sold on sidewalks. She probably thought she was being cute. She threw a leg over him to straddle his waist, rested her hands on his abdomen. Heat and weight and soft thighs and black cotton, inky waves falling over her shoulders.

"Are you mad about the mask?" she asked. "I took mine off, too. That makes us even." She frowned. "You don't look surprised." She sat straighter on top of him. "Did you — how long have you known?"

"Years." Always.

"You never told." It wasn't clear if she meant herself or the police.

"Selina. Take these cuffs off of me."

"I don't want to. You're upset with me."

"Selina."

"I like it when you call me that," she said. Her fingers traced the shape of a thick scar left by a sword, right along his ribs. "I only cuffed you so you wouldn't leave while I was sleeping."

"Uncuff me."

"You're mad."

"Not as mad as I'll be if you don't uncuff me." Bruce flexed his arms just enough that he could stretch his shoulders, and she recoiled a little. "You know I'll get out eventually."

"I was only trying to help."

Still angry, but the tension in her shoulders tamped it down. "I'm not going to hurt you," he said, every word careful. "Uncuff me."

At that, finally, Selina leaned over him to reach his wrists. He turned his head away; her shirt brushed his cheek. "You were hurt," she said. "It seemed silly to take your suit off and leave the mask."

"You had no right."

"You don't get to be mad. I get to be mad. Because you knew this whole time and you were never going to tell me." One wrist free, and then the other. He lowered his arms to work out the tension, small motions that still seemed to tug at the broken seams of skin wrapped in gauze on his biceps. She'd braced her hands against the headboard so that she could stay above him, hair tumbling down around both their faces.

"That's different," he said.

"You don't trust me."

"You're a criminal. Trustworthy isn't your strong suit."

She brought her face close to his. "Of the two of us," she asked, "who do you think is more likely to get hurt by the other?" She waited for an answer, but he didn't offer one. She withdrew, sat up, still resting on his stomach. "I didn't know anything about you, but I still brought you back here. And I took my mask off to keep things fair. I wasn't going to ask for your name. I didn't think I'd recognize you. You don't get to be mad."

"I never asked for your help," he said, "and I never asked you to trust me."

"You didn't have to," she said, running a hand through her hair, trying to make it fall neater and accomplishing the opposite. "That's the point."

He rolled over and brought her with him, and she made no effort to resist as he trapped her beneath him. Bandages on his back more obvious now that he wasn't lying on them, knees between her thighs as a consequence of her previous position. She tilted her face away and turned up her nose, a petulant show of unconvincing disdain. Black hair pooling on white pillows, wide pupils wrapped in gold.

"What happened to Ivy?" he asked.

Selina crinkled her nose. "We flirted a little. I lost her. She didn't get the guy. I left him with the cops. I pretended I was you. It was very Weekend at Bernie's. Robin would have loved it."

"Don't flirt with supervillains."

"That's rich, coming from you."

"Do what I say, not what I do." He ran his fingers along the exposed strip of skin beneath the hem of her shirt. She stiffened, eyes widened, not fear but wary confusion. Looking at him like he'd grown a second head. He pushed her shirt higher, only by inches. Barely touched her at all, only as high as her ribs, but her breath caught.

"What are you doing?" she asked. He buried his face in her neck, took a deep breath and felt her shiver. She smelled like fake fruit, not anything real or in particular. Soap or shampoo or both, she'd showered while he'd been passed out. Crawled clean into bed beside him, and he was still stinking of leather and sweat and blood. She put her hands on him, didn't push him away. "Did you get whammied?"

He resented the reasonable assumption. "No."

"Would you know?"

"We'd both know."

"Oh." He felt her touch the edge of his gauze, didn't move. "You shouldn't be putting weight on your arms." He still had a hand against her waist, and the other caught her wrist to pin it to her pillow. Briefly she tried to pull away, instinct, but he gripped her tighter. "You're still mad."

"Yes." If he pressed his lips to her carotid he could feel her pulse, rapid and erratic.

"I can keep a secret."

His hand slid under her shirt, and she squirmed beneath him. "That's not the point." He took his face from her skin so he could see her, still barely touching her. Trying to prove something in the ways she moved, her mouth and her eyes and the way she breathed.

When he stopped it was in favor of collecting her other wrist, and he had her cuffed to the headboard before she could get her bearings.

"Bruce." She pulled at them even though she should have known better, metal digging into her skin.

"Where are my things, Selina?" She looked stricken when he asked. Part of him felt a certain satisfaction at that. Good. Another part of him remembered promising not to hurt her. It counted. "I'm not leaving yet. Where are my things?"

She swallowed hard, looked to another part of the room. He followed her gaze, a laundry basket left near her wardrobe. Almost disrespectful. He got out of bed, left her laying there trapped. He checked that his belt was intact, everything he'd be needing in the short-term accounted for. He could call for a car, but that didn't solve the problem of clothes.

Selina was already feigning disinterest in everything he did. "I'm going to use your shower," he informed her, "and you're going to wait here." She looked at him, finally, and he held her gaze. "You and I both know you can be out of those cuffs in forty-five seconds, but you're not going to do that. You're going to wait here, just like that, until I get back. Are we clear?"

"Is that an order?"

"No. That's just what's going to happen. Are we clear, Selina?"

"Crystal."

In her bathroom he took something for his headache, peeled away gauze so he could assess the damage. What she'd done might have worked fine, if he was willing to be gentle with himself. He wasn't. Not much he could do for his back, would need to save that for Alfred. But his arms, he could stitch the worst of those, even left-handed. Tissue adhesive for the rest so he could shower without opening them back up.

It hurt. Everything hurt. What else was new. Sharper pain helped him focus, he preferred it to a dull ache. He was trying to clear his head. Pain could be good for that. Meditative.

It wasn't working.

Still angry. Irrationally so. Water drummed on his skin and ran rust-colored down the drain. Irrational to be feeling so strongly about it.

A betrayal of trust. Except he'd never actually trusted her. A violation. Except he'd known all along who she was, let her believe it was a secret. She'd leveled the playing field.

The field wasn't supposed to be level. She'd cheated at a rigged game. Overstepped unspoken bounds.

The situation was slightly more under control than it had been. Still not as much as he would have liked. He rubbed at his face. He needed to shave. The headache was softening. He squinted at a bottle with a picture of a pomegranate on it.

Should not have sex with Selina Kyle. Should not. Would not. Wanted to. Every kiss he'd let her steal and every fight she'd used as a way to make him touch her. Every filthy suggestion she'd ever made that he'd pretended to ignore and thought about later. The way Selina looked at him when he was Bruce Wayne. Had looked at him, before.

Bruce didn't bother looking for something to wear. Selina was exactly where he'd left her, exactly how. Still wouldn't dare call her obedient, but he'd spoken and she'd listened. He was on top of her again, her eyes wide with alarm, his mouth on hers. A kiss for every one she'd stolen, taking back what was his.

She was giggling when he pulled away; he'd never heard that before, the way Selina giggled and not Catwoman. "You keep condoms in your belt?" He kissed his way down her throat instead of answering. "Why?"

"Emergencies."

She laughed, really laughed, and he didn't know what to do with the sound. Irrational still, everything tangled up inside him into something he didn't want to look at long enough to get it sorted. If he could have, he'd have reached inside her and pulled that sound out to keep, locked it in a drawer and fed her the key.

He settled for nipping at her skin and trailing droplets of water from his hair, hooking his fingers in her panties so he could slide them off of her. Wrapped her legs around him and buried himself inside her all at once, silent so he could hear her tiny cry and the sound of metal against wood as she pulled against the cuffs again. Rattled with no particular rhythm, because his thrusts had no rhyme and less reason, just trying to drive deeper with nowhere else to go.

A list a mile long of all the reasons he shouldn't have been doing this, every noise she made was a bullet point and later he would carefully consider every single one at length. Grace in the turn of her wrists and the arch of her back and the points of her toes, subtle and delicate but he was a clumsy fucking oaf and all he did was break things.

Still a bat over her heart and he pushed her shirt higher until he didn't have to look at it, nothing but scrunched up fabric over her collarbones. Impossible softness all wrapped up in sharp edges but she'd let him in and now he'd tear her apart because he didn't know how not to.

His tongue and his teeth on her skin, a low growl in his ears that he realized was his own and none of this was who he was supposed to be. Fingerprints pressed into her hips, everything lost in the sound and the smell of her and how badly he needed, needed for every part of him to be touching every part of her. His name on her tongue, louder and louder, Bruce with a reverence she'd always had and he'd never earned. Cut off when her voice collapsed and her body shook beneath him, gasping and trembling and helpless and beautiful.

Perfect.

He buried his face in her shoulder, didn't quite collapse on top of her. He felt her fingers in his hair, along the back of his neck; not sure exactly when she'd slipped out of the cuffs.

"Does this mean you forgive me?" she asked, drawing circles on his skin.

"Yeah."

Maybe.

God, he was tired.