Disclaimer: Full disclaimer on chapter 1, but I own nothing -- they are the properties of their respective owners and I make no profit off this fic. Foreword: I know quite a few of you weren't pleased with how I wrote the previous chapter. I apologize, and so I did a rewrite a few days ago to fix that and make it less ambiguous. And please note this is going AU from "The Dark Knight Rises" onwards, even though it will contain a few scenes and sequences from the film later on. Suggestions and critique are most welcome on this and future chapters. -- TL Chapter 5
The tension was palpable. So thick it was, Buffy felt like getting up and leaving the room. But then she reminded herself that just getting up and leaving didn't solve any of her problems -- it just followed her.
She felt sympathy for Dawn right now. The uncomfortable silence brewing between her and her 'dad' felt uncannily close to the ones between her and Dawn after her mom died, usually a few hours after a big argument over nothing and anything. They'd stayed silent a few hours afterward to maintain a semblance of peace, but it only thickened the tension more. It would be gone by morning, but resurface in more arguments.
Matter of fact, it was
the same. Only this time, Buffy was in Dawn's position and Bruce was in hers.
She cleared her throat--a bit noisily than she liked--as she picked up her glass of white wine and took a sip. At the far end of the table, Bruce glanced at her before turning back to his leftovers. His face was unreadable and his hair was mussed. Then again, wearing a graphite cowl during most nights wasn't good for the hair anyway.
Buffy turned back to the last of her fried rice. She spooned the last bit in her mouth and chewed, deciding to break the ice. She knew her father, or at least some cartoon iteration of him, was a man of few words… even less wordy-ier when he donned the rubber suit. But this was different.
She cleared her throat again, swallowing. "So, uh 'Dad', aside the whole 'you-could've-been-killed-and-endangered-me-and-everyone-else' hissy fit you threw, how'd you think I did?"
Bruce's carefully blank look gave way to exasperation. "You did well for a rookie," he allowed, trying to keep his voice even. "Your college advisor told me you'd aced your self-defense and tae-kwon-do classes with flying colors. Your fighting technique is… impressive."
"Ah, so now I'm in your league? Your Bat-accomplice seemed to think so."
Bruce's face darkened. "She didn't say anything to you. And she's not my--"
"What were you thinking, letting her wear a skintight leather outfit and a domino mask? She's not fooling anyone
with that ensemble. And how can she run in those stilettos? I'm surprised she can keep her balance on those things."
"Look, you're changing the subjec--"
"And that Bane guy? Talk about a total pushover. He's like any other villain -- they love to hear themselves talk. Easy to take down too. Break the facehugger, the pain cripples him."
"How can you explain him knocking you out?" Bruce arched an eyebrow.
Buffy sighed. "He managed to trip me, I cracked my head on the ground, blacked out for a bit. Trust me, he couldn't take me out otherwise."
Bruce looked skeptical. "I'm glad to hear it, but you should still be careful. He--"
"Look, he knows who I am. He knows you're Batman." The words just slipped out.
"He does?" Shock colored his face, and Buffy could've sworn all color left his face in milliseconds. He sagged back against the chair, looking more world-weary than he'd let on.
"Yep." Buffy nodded. "Even the finest Wayne technology comes back and bites you in the ass. Alfred said you were trying to protect me by erasing all memory of me from existence, but guess that turned on you too." Her Slayer seriousness kicked in. "So barring the parental protection reason--which didn't do squat--why go through the trouble?"
Bruce rubbed his face, some color returning to his face. "I'm new to this whole parenting thing…"
"Been there, did that, got the scars to prove it." At her dad's incredulous glance, she shrugged. "Just saying."
"I mean, it wasn't like I was out of your life entirely," Bruce protested. "I sent your mother a generous child support payment each month, set up that college fund for you, and things like that before she died."
"Now look who's trying to change the subject, Dad?"
"I wasn't trying to," Bruce countered. "I'm just… I'm just not cut out to be a parent. I didn't want to be known as a deadbeat, but it was at the point in my life where I had to find out what my place was. Then I decided to become Batman and that went to hell."
"So you're…what? The invisible dad? The one who doesn't get involved in his child's life? Is that what this is? Is this like Hank?"
"No, not anymore." Bruce's eyes crinkled in confusion. "Who's Hank?"
"He's… never mind." Buffy's voice cracked. "Why are you pushing me away?"
"Most people I get close to die. Most of the time I get close to a friend, colleague, or family member -- they die on me. And I feel that it's my fault."
"Is this because of the Batman thing?"
"Yes. And no."
"People die everyday," Buffy pointed out, her voice getting steadier. "It's a part of life. It's not my fault Mom died, it's not yours, it's not anyone else's fault."
"That was a brain aneurysm."
"So Mom's death is the exception, and everyone else is the rule?"
"No," Bruce snapped. "You… you don't know what it's like to fight criminals on a nightly basis! You don't know how badly these criminals want to kill you and everyone you hold close. You
don't know what's like when you're out there to save lives, and you
can't save everyone. Even Clark knows this. You
don't have the blood of innocent people on your hands. I don't want to get you killed or put your life on hold because of what I do. I want you to live a normal life."
Buffy felt the hackles on her neck rise. "Dad, you're clearly not seeing the full picture here."
"I've been doing this for close to nine years," Bruce rejoined.
"If Alfred told me right, you were Batman for six years up until a couple weeks ago," Buffy sniped. "What was that… being a recluse in Wayne Manor for three years until the Joker broke out and then this Bane guy shows up on your radar? Then you had to get this Superman and Batwoman to help…"
"Okay, I wasn't being entirely truthful."
"About what? Your two sidekicks or you being Batman for nine years instead of six?"
Uncomfortable silence surfaced again, as Bruce focused his attention on finishing his dinner. After a few more minutes, he pushed his plate aside and took a fortifying gulp from his glass.
"All right Buffy," Bruce agreed, breaking the silence. "I'll give you the truth. In exchange for yours." He narrowed his eyes. "I knew something wasn't right when you went off with Clark last night."
"Being struck by lightning has that effect on people."
Bruce leaned back. "Very well. Ladies first."
Bruce had taken Buffy's story of who she really was and how she got to Gotham remarkably well. She thought he'd blow a gasket or something when she told him about the interdimensional gateway, but she supposed that his meeting and collaborating with Superman had opened his eyes to more supernatural forces. Again, she had done some selective editing to the story like she'd explained to Alfred and Clark. No need to worry him more than he already was.
In addition, Bruce had explained how he had met Clark under some very interesting circumstances. It was vague, something about Lex Luthor, reviving the Batman persona after the self-imposed recluse phase, giant killer robots, and the Joker commandeering a stealth bomber. After the whole incident had gone down and both offenders were re-incarcerated, both heroes had agreed to a mutual understanding.
But as Bruce explained about the other 'companion', the woman in the leather bodysuit, domino mask, and pointy night-vision googles wasn't Batwoman as Buffy thought. Instead it was Selina Kyle, expert cat burglar. Definitely not one of Bruce's sidekicks.
As Buffy readied herself for a good night's sleep, she couldn't help thinking that with a lot of the answers she got, she still wasn't seeing the full picture. She had her reasons why her 'father' wanted to keep his distance and things like that, but she had a lot that needed clarifying.
Especially Selina. From the way Selina had held herself, Buffy saw her as a more down-to-earth and composed version of Faith. She could hold her own in a fight, but there was something else about her that made Buffy uneasy. She didn't want to end up on the wrong end of Selina's razor stilettos.