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World On Fire

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This story is No. 3 in the series "Life After". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Cutting off the monster's head doesn't always kill the monster. Sometimes, it just pisses it off. Gotham's going up in flames, rumour has it Azazel's in town and an enemy thought vanquished has returned. It's a not so ordinary week for Cordelia and Bruce.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
DC Universe > Batman
Multiple Crossings > Cordelia-Centered
KylieLFR131060,0767209,95326 Jan 1016 Feb 10Yes

Chapter Eight: Aftermath


Fan Fic,Life After


Chapter Eight: Aftermath

Cordelia was feeling strangely satisfied when they return to Doyle-Oracle. They had faced a crisis and handled it without having to call the IWC to get a Slayer to do her thing, though the support from Xander and Jane had been much appreciated. It was petty she knew, but she was glad that they had managed it themselves. She was proud of her people; they’d handled the whole situation well, working together. She’d do a little dance, but she was too tired now that the adrenaline had drained away.

“Anyone want to take a bet on whether Alice is still up, waiting for us?” Xander asked as Cordelia unlocked the front door.

Jane glanced at her watch. “This late, she’s probably fallen asleep. She would have been waiting up, but probably crashed on the couch.”

“I think the real question is whether or not Alice has managed to wear Alfred out as well,” Gray noted. “You wouldn’t believe how tiring kids can be.”

“Speaking as a grandfather there, Gray?” Rogue asked playfully.

“Yes,” he answered feelingly. “I adore Jason, but demons and criminals are less tiring.”

There was a round of tired laughter as they removed their coats and unburdened themselves of their weapons.

“Cordelia, is that you?” Alfred called from the top of the stairs.

“Yeah, Alfred, it’s us,” she called back.

Gray had sat down at his desk, placing his revolver carefully on the blotter. He opened the desk draw and removed his gun cleaning kit, and began to strip down his revolver.

“Good idea,” Gerry commented, placing his shotgun down cautiously. “I’m going to go get mine.”

“I’ll get ours from the Impala,” Dean added, and headed back outside.

Alfred descended the stairs. “Any casualties?” he enquired, his gaze taking in the state of the occupants.

“Just the Adjusticar,” she replied tiredly as Dean and Gerry returned and began to strip down their weapons. “And my coat, but I think that it can be resuscitated.”

“So it is over then? That’s good to know.” He examined Cordelia closely and frowned in concern at her. She followed his gaze.

“Yeah, I’m going to need your help with that if you don’t mind?” She wrinkled her nose.

“Of course, Cordelia,” he said and went to retrieve the first aid kit.

Jane pulled an icetray out of the office refrigerator. “How was Alice?” she asked Alfred as she wrapped the ice in a handtowel. She wrapped the improvised icepack around Rogue’s wrist.

“Alice was fine,” Alfred replied, placing the kit on the reception desk and indicating for Cordelia to take a seat. “She fell asleep on the couch about an hour ago.”

The male occupants of the room laughed. “You called it Jane,” Sam commented.

“I know my sister,” she returned easily.

Cordelia hissed as she shrugged out of her sweater and rolled the sleeve of her shirt up. Alfred slid his spectacles on and examined the wound on her arm. “Well you have made a bit of a mess of yourself, haven’t you?” he tutted and began cleaning the dried blood and grit away.  “Gunshot?”

She nodded. “Yeah, didn’t move back into cover fast enough.”

“You’re lucky it just clipped you,” he informed her grimly. “It took a bit of a chunk of flesh, too. It’ll need a couple of stitches, I think.”

“Suture kit is in the orange box in the supply cupboard,” she advised.

A knock on the door came as Alfred was putting a second stitch into the wound. She looked at the door in surprise. “Who’d be knocking at this time of night?”

“I’ll get it,” Gerry said, rising. He peered through the blind first, then apparently satisfied that whoever it was wasn’t likely to start attacking them, he opened the door. “Yes, can I help you?”

“Hi,” a nervous voice greeted and Cordelia sat up straighter. She knew that voice. “We’re looking for Cordelia Chase.”

“Nope, sorry don’t know her,” Gerry shook his head.

“Doyle, not Chase,” a male voice corrected as Xander explained, “Gerry, she means Cordy.”

“Then why didn’t she say that?”

“Old habits. We’ve been expecting them, you can let them in.”

Gerry looked to Cordelia for confirmation and she nodded reluctantly. She didn’t really want to deal with them right now; she wanted to bask in the satisfaction of getting the job done themselves for a little while longer.

Gerry stepped back to let their visitors in. Willow hesitantly stepped into the office, looking around carefully. Buffy followed behind with...

“Giles?” Cordelia stared at her former high school librarian in astonishment, she hadn’t expected him.

Willow saw Xander and threw herself at him, engulfing him in a fierce hug. “Xander! Are you ok? We were so worried! We would have been here earlier, but they diverted our flight due to the smoke and fires and then we had trouble hiring a car and we got lost trying to get out of Washington and then there are detours all over the city, the satnav wasn’t working and we’ve been driving around for hours trying to find the place—”

“Wills,” Xander cut her off. “Breathe, ok?” He watched her amused as she stopped babbling and took in oxygen. “Hey Buffy,” he greeted. “Giles, we weren’t expecting you.”

“It was a last minute decision. I thought you may be able to use the extra help. I hope that it’s not a problem.”

“Ah.” Xander’s lips twitched into a brief amused smile. “You’d have to ask Cordy that.”

“Cordy?” Willow spun to face Cordelia, who Alfred was just finishing his sewing job on. Willow frowned in concentration, her expression turning to puzzlement.

“You won’t be able to cast in here,” Cordelia advised her, wincing as Alfred applied a dressing. “Thanks Alfred.”

“You’re welcome,” he replied and started clearing up the mess. He nodded at Giles. “Rupert.”

“Alfred.”

Cordelia raised a questioning brow at Alfred, who waved her off. Fine. She could hassle him later. She turned her attention to Willow.  “There are wards up to stop most kinds of magic from being used in the building, so if you want to find out if I’m evil you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way. Or ask Xander – I haven’t killed him in his sleep yet,” she added with dark humour. Her moods were swinging wildly at the moment between amusement and annoyance.  Despite her resolution to be adult about the meeting with Willow and Buffy, she couldn’t help but be annoyed that they felt the need to protect Xander from her.

Willow frowned at her, but she then noticed that Buffy’s attention had been caught by the people cleaning guns that were clustered at Gray’s desk.

“Guns?” Buffy sounded outraged. “Would someone tell me what the hell is going on here?” she demanded.

Xander winced, as did Giles. “Buffy,” he started soothingly, “perhaps now is not the best time—“

He was interrupted by Dean. “Who the hell are you?”

“Dean this is Buffy Summers,” Cordelia jumped in quickly. As much as she might love to see Buffy taken down a peg or two, she didn’t have enough energy to deal with an argument right now. And Dean in a combative mood she had less energy for. “She’s the head slayer with the IWC. She’s the one I went to high school with.”

He glared at the blonde. “I don’t care. It doesn’t give her the right to come into your home acting like she owns the place.”

“Dean,” Cordelia warned. How to explain that this was just the way Buffy was? Cordelia was of the opinion that being the Slayer had given Buffy a sense of entitlement that was more or less as impervious as Cordelia’s own had been back in Sunnydale. She may be wrong, or Buffy may have changed – Cordelia hadn’t kept that close an eye on the blonde slayer while in the higher planes -- but considering her current behaviour, Cordelia doubted it. “Just back off for now, all right?”

After a stare down he reluctantly nodded. Buffy looked suitably chastised.

Cordelia then ignored Buffy for the moment; Dean’s outburst had already made the point. She turned to Giles. “I wasn’t expecting to see you Giles. How have you been? Finally given up on the tweed I see.”

He gazed steadily at her for a few moments before smiling tiredly. “Yes. It’s good to see you Cordelia.”

She raised an eybrow. “Had to check me out for yourself, huh?”

He shook his head. “No. Xander and Angel have both assured me that it’s just you this time and I’ll trust their judgement. They know you better than I.”

He seemed sincere. “In that case you’re welcome to stay provided you don’t mind the couch. The third floor isn’t habitable at the moment.”

“We don’t want to put you out. We’ll find a hotel.”

“No, you won’t,” Gray interrupted. “Either they’ve been evacuated or they’re full with people who’ve been evacuated from their homes. I doubt there will be a room available for at least a few weeks.

“Ah. Well in that case, the couch will be fine, thank you Cordelia.”

“No problem.” She shrugged. “So what enticed you to spend a night or two on my couch?” she asked leaving Xander to deal with Buffy and Willow for the moment.

“A couple of things,” he admitted. “I wanted to meed Jane and get a better understanding of what would need to be worked out—“

“Ok. That’s Jane over there, by the way,” she pointed to the girl who was eavesdropping shamelessly with Rogue.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Giles acknowledged with a nod. “I’m Rupert Giles.”

“Cordelia has mentioned you,” Jane replied neutrally.

He smiled tightly. “I’m sure she has. The second reason was to discuss your operation.”

“We’re not about to become a division of the council, Giles,” Cordelia said flatly, highly protective of her baby. “Don’t even ask.”

“I wasn’t going to,” he denied, though the colour in his face made her think that he had considered it. “In addition to that, Angel mentioned about the Adjusticar – we thought that you could use the help.”

All eyes turned to her.

Cordelia couldn’t help it. Her mood swung back to amusement and she did her best to stifle the laughter that gurgled up, but failed. 

“Umm, do you mean to help with the demon?” Jane carefully clarified.

“Yes, of course.” Buffy answered for Giles as Cordelia gave up on stifling her laughter. “It’s what we do.”

“Your timing is just brilliant!” Cordelia manage to choke out.

Rogue was the first to snort then join Cordelia in laughter. Xander manfully restrained himself from laughing, he didn’t want the Scoobies to take it the wrong way, but he couldn’t help broadly grinning as Jane and Sam joined in with the laughter.

“What are we missing here?” Willow asked, mystified.

Gray filled them in. “The Adjusticar is dead already. We’ve already dealt with it.”

Buffy looked surprised. “Really?”

“Really,” Dean retorted. “You may not think much of Cordelia’s or of non-Slayer’s abilities, but this isn’t our first rodeo. We managed just fine.”  He shot her a condescending look. “Us and those guns you disdain so much.”

Yeah. Dean and Buffy were going to be a problem.

*_*_*_*_*

Normally after a night out terrorising the Mob and having the crap beaten out of him, he came home to Alfred’s concerned looks and efficient care. Tonight he got back to the manor after handing over the restrained League of Shadows members to Gordon to find Cordelia waiting for him, frowning at a small pile of papers. He’d ask how she got down here, but it would be a pretty stupid question to ask.

“You don’t look like you’re pleased with whatever it is,” he noted as removed the helmet and mask.

“How do you spell ‘abdicate’?” she asked, glaring at the paper. That hadn’t been a question he’d been expecting, but he spelled out the word, and waited for an explanation. She sighed. “That’s how I’d spelt it the first time, but it didn’t look right.” She dumped the small pile of papers onto the bench and threw down the pen she’d been holding in disgust.  “Serves me right for trying to write this stuff at this time of night.” She blinked then focused on him. “So, how’d it go? All the bad guys locked up now?”

He smiled briefly. “All the ones we’ve managed to catch. Yes.” Without his asking she moved forward to help him out of the suit. He hissed in pain as his left shoulder complained at his shrugging out of the top half of the suit.

Cordelia pulled the sleeves clear and gave a low whistle. “What did you do, Bruce? Get run over by a tank?” Her concern was evident, and she gently started to probing to assess his injuries. Another time he may have appreciated the gentle thoroughness and speed with which she felt him over from head to stomach, but tonight he ached too much.

“I think you might have pulled your shoulder and bruised a few ribs, but other than that and the rather colourful bruising, it looks like you’re ok.”

“Lucky me, more quality time with the icepacks.” Oh geeze, now he was beginning to sound like her.

“True,” she said as she bandaged an ice pack to his shoulder. “Now, do you need help with the boots?”

“Um...” He moved experimentally. Yeah, he was going to need help. “Well this is a little humiliating.”

“What, Alfred has never had to help you with the boots?” she asked with a tired grin, fumbling for the hidden zipper at his calf.

“On occasion, usually when I’m unconscious,” he admitted. “Under normal circumstances, I don’t actually require a squire.”

Cordelia snorted and tugged one boot free. “I’ll help you out of this kit, but I’m not about to clean it. You can do that yourself when you’re feeling a little less bruised.”

“Fair enough. Although I find it somewhat interesting that you know that cleaning the armour was the job of a squire.”

She tugged the other boot free. “Blame tv.” She shrugged. “I caught an episode of ‘The Worst Jobs in History’ by accident a couple of years ago. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was gross. I was rather disappointed that they hadn’t included my current job at the time, but I guess that may have been expecting too much from the Channel 4 research department.”

He chuckled lightly then winced. “So what do I owe your services to tonight? Is Alfred not home?”

“Not yet. Buffy, Willow and Giles turned up when we got back home, and it turns out that Giles is the younger brother of one of Alfred’s friends. They were engaged in a rather involved discussion when I escaped, before I gave into the impulse to start strangling Buffy and Dean.”

“Why?”

“Two alphas? Buffy’s used to being in charge, and she freaked out about the guns that the guys were cleaning when they turned up. Dean took offence.” She grimaced. “It hasn’t made the best of impressions on Jane. We’re probably going to have trouble getting her to go to Cleveland after this.”

“I’m sure you’ll work something out,” he called from the changing area, gingerly stripping off the last of the suit and pulling on a pair of sweats.

She had found the strapping tape by the time he rejoined her and was cutting lengths off the roll. As she efficiently strapped his ribs, he studied her. She looked absolutely exhausted; the dark circles under her eyes a deep bluish grey, her expression assessing as she smoothed a piece of tape into place. He could just make out the outline of a dressing on her upper arm through the sleeve of her top. At least she had submitted to Alfred’s care before she had escaped Doyle-Oracle. It wasn’t the first time that she had strapped his ribs, although it was only the second time he’d been conscious during the procedure. “Who taught you how to this?”

She eyed the placement of the strapping critically then nodded, satisfied. “Hawkeye Pierce, a rather roguish doctor in Maine. He’s Erin’s unofficial godfather. He insisted I take his version of Battlefield First Aid 101. He’s kinda difficult to say no to.” Her lips quirked, “Unless you’re his wife.”

He carefully shrugged into a sweater and she levelled a questioning look at him. “So what happened with the League?”

“The GCPD picked up the one’s we ran into tonight. Gordon caught a couple of them in the Narrows around Arkham, and there was a group that we caught planting explosives at Wayne Tower.”

She frowned at that. “That sounds awfully careless of them.”

That had been bothering him too. “They may have been counting on the fires as a distraction.

“Mmm.” She considered it. “Do you think that you got them all?”

“No.” He didn’t try to sugar coat it. One of the things he appreciated about her was that she preferred the truth, even if it wasn’t pretty.

“Let me rephrase then. Do you think that you got enough of them that they will stop trying to destroy Gotham?”

He deliberated that as they entered the lift and he swung the gate closed behind them. “Yes,” he said, finally. “For now, at least. I’m not sure they’ll ever give up entirely.”

“Fanatical?” she asked with a raised brow.

“Dedicated,” he corrected with a slight smile. “Very, very dedicated.” An odd noise caught his attention as they exited the music room and he went completely still.

Cordelia stopped and turned. “What?”

He motioned for silence, his senses stretching. After a moment; “There’s someone in the house.”

Cordelia’s eyes widened in surprise. “Alfred?” she whispered.

Bruce shook his head. “He wouldn’t be trying to be quiet.” The noise came again, closer and more distinct. It was difficult to be silent in a house that hadn’t settled yet.

He indicated for Cordelia to remain where she was. She nodded, and he stealthily moved forward, following the sound. He smelt the gasoline before he discovered the two unwanted house guests who were pouring gasoline over the drapes and furnishings in the Library.

He recognised the way they moved and took in their dress, or what little he could make out in the gloom. What was it that made them want to burn his home to the ground? He had only burned down the League of Shadows base once after all. He considered his options briefly then, moving quickly so that he didn’t lose the element of surprise, he attacked.

The first man went down quickly and then he found himself under attack. He subdued the second man just as his shoulder protested in agony as he was hit from behind. He stumbled then turned to find two more black clad figures, one in the process of taking a swing at him. He blocked the attack, then tackled the figure closest to him, the momentum separating his assailants, giving him a chance to deal with them one on one. It didn’t buy him as much time as he would have liked and he quickly found himself under attack from two sides.

Before he had a chance to change tactics there was a sudden flare of brilliant light and he snapped his eyes closed. As soon as he sensed the light dim, his eyes snapped back open, spots danced in his vision, there was a sickening crunch, and he felt the assailant behind him begin to slump. As the man’s weight pitched forward, Bruce quickly twisted free and let the body fall onto his compatriot. Rolling to his feet, a swift well placed kick sent the assailant grappling with his comrade’s dead weight into unconsciousness.

Blinking the remaining spots from his vision, he turned to see Cordelia, a bronze statuette from the foyer in her hands.

“Don’t say it,” she warned, cutting off the expected ‘I thought I told you to stay put’ before he could do more than draw the breath need for the sentence.

But all he said was, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” She nodded to the hallway. “There’s one more out there. Did you want to check the rest of the house?”

“Yes. Will you be alright here?”

She shot him a glare that was all the answer he needed.

After checking out the rest of the house and finding a few more doused rooms, but fortunately no fire or more members of The League of Shadows, he returned to the library, to find that Cordelia had restrained and gagged the unconscious vandals and opened the windows.

She coughed a couple of times from the fumes as she turned to face him. “How bad is it?”

“Bad enough,” he said grimly. He flicked the light on, then took her hand and pulled her out of the room. “A few rooms on the second floor, including mine and Alfred’s. Looks like they were just getting started on the first floor.”

“Nothing’s on fire, is it?” she asked worriedly as he guided her out the front door. She took a deep breath of fresh air as he pulled the door closed behind them.

“No. And I’d like to keep it that way.” 

By the time the police arrived they had turned off the gas and the pilot lights for the hot water heating and had gotten their stories straight.

The lead detective was obviously sceptical of their story, but not for the reasons they were worried about.

“You’re telling me you knocked out two of them?” he said, staring at Cordelia in obvious disbelief. “You’re what 130lbs?”

Cordelia glared at him. “112lbs,” she ground out. “What does that have to do with anything?”

Detective Graham Sanders was either stupider than he looked or impervious, as he didn’t wither at the daggers Cordelia was glaring at him, but ploughed on. “They’re what 200, 220llbs? Judging from their outfits, probably black belts of some description. You sure you don’t want to revise your statement?”

Cordelia’s eyes narrowed dangerously. The next thing Det Sanders knew he was flat on his back, gasping for breath and staring up at an extremely annoyed brunette. “And you’re what? 260 – 270lbs, Detective?” she asked scathingly.

He was saved from further ignominy by Jim Gordon’s long suffering, “Cordelia, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t break my Detectives.”

The driver’s side door of the patrol car slammed closed and a tired Jim Gordon was illuminated by the strobing police lights as he surveyed the scene. Just what he needed to wrap up his night, Gotham’s most prominent citizen being attacked, and Cordelia Doyle assaulting his police officers.  

“I didn’t break him,” she replied evenly. Wayne shot her an arch look from where he was being questioned. “I didn’t!” she protested. “I just winded him a bit. He was being a condescending ass.”

“That doesn’t mean you should assault a police officer,” Jim told her wearily.

“I was proving a point. He didn’t believe that I could take out two of those idiots.” She waved to the League members who were being led to squad cars.

“Really Commisioner,” Sanders protested, “A small thing like her? No way she’s telling the truth.”

Cordelia glared at the detective, and Jim thought it best he intervene before she ended up actually doing some damage to the Detective.

“Detective, you’re new, so you haven’t met Cordelia Doyle yet.” Gordon levelled his own glare at the detective. “A word to the wise, it’s never a good idea to underestimate her.”

The detective set his jaw stubbornly. “Sir...”

Jim sighed. He was too tired to be dealing with this sort of bullshit. “Detective, other than your blatant sexism, do you have any reason to think that she’s lying?”

Sanders’ mouth tightened. “No sir,” he ground out.

“Good. Then you can return to the precinct and type up your report.”

Sanders obviously didn’t like that, but was forced to comply. “Yes sir.”

Cordelia’s assessing gaze followed him as he climbed into a squad car, and pulled away. “He’s going to be a pain in the ass,” she muttered.

“Possibly,” Gordon agreed neutrally, biting his tongue to stop himself saying the same of her. “But despite his faults, he’s a pretty decent cop.”

“Clean?”

“As far as I know.”

“Transferred? I don’t recognise him.”

“He’s from Pittsburgh.” And had transferred in two weeks ago. “But enough about Sanders. Want to tell me what happened?”

“It’ll be in Sanders’ report,” she sighed, rubbing her temple.

“I’d rather hear it from you.” 

“Wouldn’t you rather be at home, asleep?” she asked bluntly.

“Yes. But I can’t do that until we’re done here. So start talking.”

Obviously amused at his snippy tone, she complied.  “I came in through the back door, heard an odd noise and went to investigate.”

“Why come in the back door?” Gordon asked, taking notes.

“It’s the one I have a key for. I saw a guy dressed all in black that definitely wasn’t Bruce, and I managed to get the jump on him in the hall.”

“What did you hit him with?”

“A statuette from the hall, I think. It was what was closest to hand.”

“Then what?”

She shrugged. “Heard a crash in the Library, took a look, could just make out some kind of a fight going on.  They were distracted, so I flicked on the light and before their eyes could adjust I took the opportunity to sneak up behind them and I brained one.”

“And the others?”

“Oh Bruce got them,” she assured him. “I didn’t even see the other two until after it was over.”

Gordon shot a glance at the billionaire, who was the picture of boredom as he finished giving his statement to another officer. “Wayne did? Really?”

Cordelia grinned wickedly. “Yeah well, he may not be a ninja, but I’ve been working on him, so he’s not completely hopeless.”

“I heard that,” Bruce commented, shooting her a look that promised retribution as he joined them. “I never thought I’d be glad for those three months of high school football.”

“Only three?” she asked, grinning at him unrepentantly.

He grimaced. “Turned out I wasn’t a particularly good fit for the sport.”

“For the sport or the team?”

“Both, as it happens.”

“More of a loner, huh? No wonder I kicked your butt.”

 “Using cheerleading moves is cheating.”

“No it’s not. If it works, use it.”

“Interesting philosophy.”

“It’s worked well so far.”

“Are you two done?” Gordon asked dryly. It was probably exhaustion that let him use that tone around Bruce Wayne, a man who he usually found himself somewhat in awe of, despite the memory of the lost young man many years ago.  

The younger man blinked at him in surprise then a gleam entered his eye. “Assuming she doesn’t want to try breaking another one of my ribs for arguing with her, yes.” Jim gasped in shock, as did Cordelia, in outrage. Wayne continued on blithely, “It seems she’s in a bit of a combative mood tonight.”

“It was an accident,” she growled, glowering at the billionaire. “Next time I’m not saving your ass.”

“Next time you should let me know when you’re coming, I’ll try to make sure we aren’t interrupted.”

“That’s the last time I try to surprise you. I thought you would have appreciated it considering I had to cancel our date.”

Date? Jim knew that they were friends, but he hadn’t realised that they were actually dating. He wondered how she was going to handle the media attention she was going to start getting. Being under that kind of scrutiny was going to cause problems for the unofficial side of her work. Then he thought to wonder exactly what Wayne knew about her work.

“Had it not been for being attacked I would have.”

“Well that wasn’t my fault.”

“I know that! I’m just...”

“Enough.” Jim disrupted the argument before they got too into it. “Do you have any idea why they attacked you Mr Wayne?”

 Wayne frowned in puzzlement. “No,” he shook his head. “I don’t think they like me very much, for obvious reasons, but I can’t think what I could have done to generate that dislike.”

Cordelia “Pfft’d”, then snarked, “Maybe they were hired by the backers of the Moscow ballet, furious at the loss they made on the Gotham tour.”

The Russian mob? Highly unlikely given the culprits...

“Oh that won’t be it,” Wayne dismissed, “I paid out to the producers for that.”

“Really?”

“Of course. They were threatening not to refund the tickets.”

“Rachel got into your ear about that one, didn’t she?”

Wayne’s smile turned bittersweet, and Gordon recalled that they had been friends. “Yeah, she wasn’t happy that she didn’t get to see them perform. But they certainly weren’t annoyed enough with me to send someone to burn my house down, or blow up Wayne Tower.”

“Blow up...” Cordelia trailed off, and Jim was suddenly glad that they were back to ignoring him. “You didn’t tell me about that!”

“Security and the GCPD caught them before they actually did anything,” Wayne tried to placate her. “I’m not going in until Security have finished sweeping the building. Nor is anyone else.”

“Damn straight you’re not! I don’t want to explain to Alfred that you got yourself killed by being stupid, dumbass!”

“I don’t blame you, I wouldn’t want to either.”

Gordon cut them off again before they could get too deep into the argument. “All right. I think we’re done here.” He flipped his notebook closed. “I’d recommend staying somewhere else tonight Mr Wayne.”

Wayne nodded. “I can stay at the penthouse.”

“You haven’t let that yet?” Cordelia asked in surprise. “Alfred said there was some couple from...”

“That fell through. We haven’t had a chance to relist it.”

“Oh. Well just as well. ‘Cause I think Alfred is too old to be sleeping on my floor. I already promised my couch to Giles.”

 As much as he appreciated Cordelia Doyle, Jim did not need to know about her domestic situation. “Well, we’d like both of you to come down to the station for a formal statement tomorrow – later today,” he corrected.

They both agreed, and Wayne offered to drive her home. She gave only a token protest, which told Gordon that she was probably as tired as he was. She had after all had an eventful night.

*_*_*_*

When the lights of the manor had disappeared from view, Bruce shot Cordelia an impressed glance. “I don’t know why you think it is that you can’t act.”

She twisted a little in her seat and rested her head against the passenger window. “It was the performance of a lifetime, wasn’t it?” She grinned tiredly at him.

“You’re outrage at the mention of the attempted bombing of Wayne Tower was particularly well done.”

“Can I have my Oscar now?”

“I don’t have much pull with the Academy, I’m afraid.”

“Damn.” She sobered. “How long do you think it’ll be before the goons start singing the ‘Bruce Wayne is Batman’ tune?”

“Not long.” Grimly he contemplated what the next few weeks were likely to contain. A lot of suspicion, questions and unwelcome attention, followed by possible jail time in all likelihood. Unless he could find a way of disproving the accusation – which was going to be extremely difficult given that it was true.

Cordelia’s musing aloud penetrated his contemplation. “You know, it’s all about appearances, really. People believe what they see.”

Yeah, that was the first possibility he’d rejected. “And when people realise they’ve never seen Bruce Wayne and Batman together?”

“They’ve never seen Elvis and Batman together either, that doesn’t mean anything. It’s just that once the suspicion has been planted, it’ll take proof to shake it.”

“I don’t think Elvis would be spry enough to don the suit,” he commented dryly.

“And he’d be totally the wrong build,” she agreed. “But...Angel isn’t.”

He damn near ran off the road. Clenching his jaw he pulled over and turned off the ignition before turning to face her. Her jaw was set mulishly; she expected that he was going to argue this. She was right.

“Angel,” he bit out. “You want to put Angel in the suit and manage to get us seen together.”

“Don’t have to be seen together. That would be too difficult considering the implications. Just in different places at the same time. In front of witnesses. Cameras too would be good.”

“Have you lost your mind?! I’m not telling Angel of all people about Batman!”

“He already knows,” she announced tightly.

“What?”

The look she was shooting him yelled ‘Duh!’ “He had you pinned to the wall and you were in close staking rage. Vampire senses? If he didn’t recognise your scent then he was being denser than usual. Especially after your exchange of words at the benefit.”

Wonderful. That probably meant that Spike knew too. Actually he’d prefer dealing with Spike.

“Spike’s the wrong build; otherwise I’d ask him–”

There were times he’d swear she was telepathic, not just intermittently clairvoyant.

“— I can’t ask any of my other guys, for obvious reasons, and Angel owes me. He’d do it, and he’d keep his mouth shut about it.”

He couldn’t quite put into words why he found the idea so abhorrent. “I’m not bringing anyone else into this.”

“Oh for...” she threw up her hands in frustration. “Do you know what the next few weeks are going to be like for me?” she demanded. “After that Oscar worthy performance, the GCPD thinks we’re lovers. You know how fast gossip travels. This won’t be like the ‘Mystery Woman’ crap to fill in for a slow gossip week. They’ll actually bother to do some checking this time. I’m going to have gossip columnists demanding to know all about my – our – love life, tabloid reporters going through my garbage, and paparazzi following me everywhere. I won’t be able to go on patrol, because the last thing we need is a photo of me staking a vampire running in the National Enquirer or the Gotham Gazette. Gray, Jane and Alice will come under scrutiny; I don’t need to explain the potential problems there, right? Then what if they start digging into OSI? On paper we’re fine, but what if some enterprising busybody digs deeper and actually starts questioning people? On top of that, there are going to be questions about ‘Did I know that I was sleeping with the Batman?’, ‘Why, considering my obligations as a private investigator, did I not turn you in?’” She paused to draw a breath. “I am not going to deal with all of that and you being pig headed and moody because you’re being hamstrung by the idiots as well!”

He mentally blinked as she finished her tirade, the implications of what she was saying sinking in. She hadn’t stepped blindly to his assistance, or if she had, once she’d had a chance to think it over she’d decided it was worth it and continued on. She knew exactly what she was getting herself – and everyone else – into. It was him who hadn’t been thinking clearly enough to protect her from this.

 “I get that you don’t want to involve anyone else because you’re worried about exposure,” she continued, “– which, hello! – and about people dying, but Angel’s already dead.”

“That is not the point,” he ground out. Yes, he was worried about getting more people killed, but that was only part of the problem he had with this. Trust was a bigger issue; trusting wasn’t something he did easily and trusting that Angel – of all people the man who had her tied up in knots for so long – could do what needed to be done and leave it at that...he couldn’t do it.

Cordelia eyed the stubborn set to Bruce’s jaw, she was pretty sure he was grinding his teeth, which she hadn’t seen him do before.

Grrr. He was going to be stubborn. Well, two could play that game. She wasn’t about to sit here and go toe to toe with him while the goon squad were most likely spilling their guts and bringing the world down on their heads. Annoyed, she fished into her purse for her spare cell and placed a call to the new entry in her phone book. Angel answered on the third ring.

“Cordelia? What’s wrong?”

She was diverted for a moment; “You’ve learned how to use caller id?” she asked, pointedly ignoring Bruce and the looks he was shooting her.

There was puzzled silence for a moment. “You called this early in the morning to ask me that?”

“Well, no I’m just surprised you knew it was me without me having to say anything. The reason I called is I need a favour.”

“Name it.”

“How soon can you get back to Gotham? Without anyone knowing?”

He was quiet for a moment. Then he ordered flatly, “Put Wayne on.”

She pulled the cell away from her ear and blinked at it in surprise for a moment. Huh. She offered it to Bruce. “He wants to speak to you.”

Bruce eyed the phone for a moment then reluctantly took it from her. Stubborn dumbass.

Bruce’s side of the conversation was decidedly uninformative, he was at the point he was communicating in sharp monosyllables. Rather like Angel when he was in a similar mood come to think of it. Huh. She wondered if it just a thing both men did or men in general did. After a couple minutes Bruce handed the phone back to her.

“Hello?”

“Cordy, I’ll be there tonight. Where did you want to meet?”

They arranged to meet at restaurant in the Narrows and then rang off. She snapped the cell closed.

“I know you hate this plan, and you’re pissed with me,” she began, meeting Bruce’s forbidding gaze steadily. “You have until tonight to come up with something else.”

His jaw worked. “Just how do you propose to get me to go along with this if I can’t?”

She shrugged. “I’ll go around you.”

“You’ll go to Alfred.”

“I’ll go to Alfred,” she confirmed, nodding. “Cause if it comes down to you not talking to me again or you being in jail, a sitting target for the crazies and people you’ve put away... I can live with you not talking to me again.” She arched a brow. “I’m pretty sure that Alfred will agree with me.”

Yes, Alfred probably will.  

This right here? This is why he hates it when Cordelia and Alfred gang up on him.

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