Title: Set fire to the rain
Fandom: Batman Begins/The Dark Knight
Characters: Bruce Wayne/Batman and Selina Kyle/Catwoman
Word Count: 2100 or so
Summary: On final chapters and taking off masks. Filling in the gaps in the ending of "The Dark Knight Rises". Spoilers, of course. Canon compliant with all three Nolanverse films. Bruce/Selina
Denial was the first stage of grief. She understood what she was doing even as she cursed herself for a fool, pulling up the navigation and searching for the icon that would mean he'd somehow escaped that explosion. Well, his utility belt at least. That was the most likely place the homing device was- she'd tracked him down earlier the same way, saving his life just in the nick of time. Only to have him sacrifice it anyway, as if it was no more important than one of those billions of dollars he'd shrugged off losing.
Such a damn waste. She wished the taste of acrid metal and ashes in the wind were the only reason behind the bitter taste in her mouth.
She sucked in a breath when she spotted the icon, imagining the smoking ruin of his remains. She'd seen those pictures of people's shadows burned into stone after the first A-bomb. That it was still functional was a miracle. It was a lot further from the centre of the bay than she'd expected though, the explosion must have flung it- Her thoughts skittered to a halt.For a second she sat frozen, unable to take her eyes off the screen. A second later she let out a laugh that sounded suspiciously like a sob. "You sneaky sonofabitch…"She jumped when the engine suddenly revved on its own and frowned at the screen.
RETURN TO USER
She had just enough time to grab hold before it took off like a shot.
She had only panic fragmented memories of the next few hours- finding him slumped against a wall; strapping him to the bike; following his whispered instructions to a veterinary clinic in Oldtown. She'd had to outsmart the security on his the suit and mask so they could perform CPR when his heart stopped, and she'd paced the waiting room floor feeling helpless and stupid as they performed emergency surgery on a table normally used for animals. The TV provided a little distraction as officials made speeches about radiation poisoning precautions and treatments and relief efforts being mustered for the city, but her thoughts kept coming back to the same thing.
She really was a sucker. Getting attached to people meant getting hurt, and he'd started out as a mark –hell, she'd betrayed him. And yet he kept believing in her; giving her what she desperately wanted even when she'd been instrumental in making him broken and bankrupt. It was humbling and ridiculously noble. What was a girl supposed to do but try to live up to that? She really shouldn't have kissed him again. The moment had been so loaded though, with his stupid heroism. How could she have resisted, even if the memory was messing with her head? If only the ache in her chest and the knots in her stomach would go away. She refused to be some tragic weeping widow if the last few hours were all for naught.
It was hours later when the door finally opened and one of the two vets emerged. "Sorry we couldn't keep you updated- with just the two of us we've had our hands full. He's in recovery now. Would you like to see him?"
She let out the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "Yes."
He was pale, with wires and tubes going to machines and IV drips and an oxygen mask over his face and a tube down his throat. But his heartbeat registered steadily on a monitor, and his skin was warm to the touch.
"Your vet school must have had one hell of a program," she said dryly.
The doctor inclined her head from the sink where she'd been washing up, drying her hands. "The Batman saved us on Harvey Dent day. We used to work at Gotham Memorial. I was a surgical resident and my husband was an OR nurse when the Joker took us hostage. But without a hospital after there were too many medical personnel and not enough jobs. Not that either of us wanted to work in a big hospital again after what he made us… " She broke off, shuddering. "I went back to school and switched to veterinary medicine. We bought this place with the insurance settlement. "
"The Batman came here the night after we opened and asked us to get the surgical bay ready for emergency procedures on humans as well, just in case. Had a duffel bag of cash "from a friend" to fund the equipment." She smiled wanly, looking over at him. "I guess we know who that "friend" is now. Most of the equipment was just sitting in storage for years. Gotham was at peace and the Batman was hibernating. We'd almost forgotten how to be afraid… until Bane and his "revolution." No riots here in Oldtown, but we've barely ventured out the last few months. We knew the Batman wouldn't abandon us though. We've been ready since we saw his sign again."
So you owed him a debt too, huh? "I wish other Gothamites were as appreciative."
The doctor looked at him pensively. "We've done our best. The next 24 hours will tell."
He needed to be constantly monitored, so they stood vigil in shifts. Selina hurried home to shower, change and gulp down some canned soup. Her packed bags and the laptop taunted her from where they sat by the entrance. She'd opened the Midtown Tunnel herself; made Jen pack and leave. If she'd been given this chance even two days ago, she would have grabbed it and run. This city that had been the stage for enough tragedy and pain for her, and now she could really start fresh- her criminal record, newspaper articles and even references to her on forums used by fences had all been erased thanks to his Clean Slate program. She still found it hard to really believe it- breathing freely would take practice after trying to claw her way out for so long.
He'd given her one sweet ride to use as well. And yet she was still here, despite all the hoping and planning and plotting. She hated being that girl, and yet she couldn't seem to help herself.
It was more than a debt of gratitude- she'd done what he'd asked and more. But he'd somehow managed to see right through her carefully constructed persona, get under her skin despite all her defenses.
It bothered her that he'd talked about giving everything. Had he guessed that fate had it in for him today? They said that people sometimes had premonitions about their death, and he'd always seemed to know more than he should; have some secret tucked up his sleeve.
Or was it that he'd been planning for a clean slate too? Nothing like death to put a final nail on all the claims on him.
Not that he'd actually dodged that yet either.
It was late when she slipped back into the clinic. She was too tired after all the trials of the day to lay awake wondering, so she'd given in. Whether he took his last breath or finally woke up, she'd be there.
She was sleeping with her head pillowed at the foot of the gurney when she woke to the sound of him gagging. Her eyes flew open to meet his panicked ones as he struggled clumsily with the mask and tube. "Hey- hey, it's ok we're at the vet, remember?"
But the doctor was already there and smiling, calmly easing the mask off and removing the tube. "Welcome back Mr. Wayne. Good to see you breathing on your own again. Would you like some water? "
He nodded, lying back and panting. "The fallout?" he croaked.
"You almost died and that's what you ask about first? Stop being such a freaking martyr," Selina growled, beyond exasperated.
She rolled her eyes and continued when he tried to speak again. "Mild radiation levels in communities by the waterfront. The reporters are saying it isn't as bad as advertised since the casing wasn't designed for a bomb. Dr. Pavel was probably trying to convince Bane of his value as a hostage."
He nodded and sighed with obvious relief. "My reactor, my responsibility. I needed to know. Doctor, my thanks."
She nodded, checking the dressing on his wound and helping him rinse his mouth. "Gargle only. I'm sure you're in some residual pain. Let me know if it is unmanageable and I can increase the dosage."
He smiled grimly as she helped ease him back. "I've endured much worse than this."
She nodded, her face a mask of calm concern. "You are a very lucky man. The stab wound you received was deep, and just missed the hepatic artery. The open wound in your chest cavity also caused your right lung to collapse: what we call a 'sucking chest wound'. It's a frequent complication from a puncture wound to the chest- your lungs are designed to function in a closed system. We were able to repair the damage to your liver and re-inflate your lung." She hesitated. "While I am as grateful as any other Gothamite for your actions yesterday, I must strongly discourage you from engaging in any more high risk, high impact activities in future. There is a good chance your lung will collapse again if you aggravate it unduly."
He shut his eyes, as if savoring the act of inhaling and exhaling. "The Batman died yesterday saving the city, Doctor. I will do my best not to let your efforts -and his- go to waste."
She lowered her eyes. "Of course. I'll be in the office if you should need anything. Just push the button there."
Once she left, Selina pinned him with a glare and raised her eyebrows.
"You scared the crap out of me."
"Theatricality and deception are powerful agents. I employed an explosive as a distraction."
She gave him a withering look. "You're comparing a nuke to those flash grenades you hide in your pants?"
He chuckled and then winced, sucking in a breath. "Same thing on a bigger scale. But I was actually talking about that building I had to destroy enroute. You weren't the only one looking for a way to disappear and start fresh. To finally take off the mask; go anywhere and be anything."
That brought a ghost of a smile to her face. "I get the motivation. I just want to understand how you did it."
"Duct tape and a brick on the gas pedal, " he said, grinning when she lifted an eyebrow derisively. "Software patch on the autopilot. Did you know I went to Princeton? Double major in computer science and finance."
"Stuck up geek."
"Hey, you don't get to judge me just because I wasn't born in the master bedroom of Wayne manor."
That elicited a real laugh, and she leaned in. "Guess I'll have to decide based on your actions instead."
There was a flash of emotion in his eyes -Recognition? Sadness? Acceptance?- before he smiled triumphantly and cupped her head close. "I look forward to arguing my case."
They were both breathless when they broke apart, and she groaned at the ache kindled inside her, the doubts her emotions shoved aside.
"You'd better have a short recovery time."
"I'll do my best to rise to the occasion."
Authors note: What I hope is a more realistic version of the ending in TDKR. I love Selina/Bruce sexytimez as much as every other shipper, but seriously people: a few stitches does not a collapsed lung repair. ;) And no, he couldn't have survived a swim in the winter water much longer than the "exiles" since he was no longer wearing the Nomex suit, although I did try writing a version like that before I started researching and realized how little time he had before that stab wound killed him, especially since Talia so kindly removed that knife. I hope you can spot the references to the other films in the trilogy! Thank you for reading- I hope to continue writing this fic and your thoughts are very much appreciated!