A Drowning Man


"She deserves better than this."

This takes place after Batman #615. I've only read a few issues of this comic, so if I've screwed anything up, that's why.

To Magaera, who betaed this even though she has no interest in Batman.

Date Completed June 11th, 2003

"So. . .where do we go from here?" -- Bruce Wayne, Batman #615

"Your place."


I ask her if she wants to stop at her place, pick up some things. She'll at least want some clothes, her toothbrush. That wins me some points, I can tell. I may have horrible luck in my relationships with women, but that doesn't mean that I don't know a little about them.

I wait in the car a few blocks away while she slips in and out. Coming and going like a burglar, even though it's her own house. I understand that she has to, to keep her secret, but it amuses me anyway. She's back in mere minutes, with a small backpack. Leopard print, of course.

I try to think of something to say in the car on the way to my house, but we get there before I can come up with a single thing. Down and in, and out of the car.

She looks around, and whistles appreciatively. "Wow. Somehow I always knew it would look like this."

I leave her to her own devices while I strip for the shower. I get my cowl and my shirt off with no problem, but as I sit down to take off my boots, all I can think is that this was a very bad idea. This is not the time for this. I'm tired, I smell bad, it's the middle of the night, and I just buried my closest childhood friend.

Maybe she senses that I'm talking myself out of it, because she appears in the doorway. Sitting there in just my pants, I look at my boots and think it wouldn't be that hard to get dressed again, take her home.

She comes over to stand in front of me, backpack still on her shoulder. Her fingers cup my chin, gently tip my head up to look at her. She took her gloves off at some point, but I don't know when.

"Whatever you're thinking? Stop," she says. She's pushed her goggles up on her head, and I can see her eyes. I can see that she knows that this isn't the right time. I can also see that if I change my mind now, it will hurt her. She'll understand, but it will hurt just the same.

I catch her hand and pull her down onto my lap, because I don't know what else to do. Because I don't want to do what I know I should. Her fingers run through my hair, messing it up even more. They travel down the sides of my face, over my shoulders and chest, over the scars. I've lost track of which ones are from her.

Back up to my face again, and she looks at my eyes, like she's trying to figure out what I'm thinking. All she has to do is ask, and I'll tell her.

Maybe that's why she doesn't ask.

She rubs her thumbs gently over the dark smudges I know are under my eyes. They're probably even darker than they were the last time I looked at myself in a mirror. I've lost count of how long I've been awake now. Sixty hours? Seventy?

"Let's go upstairs," she says, slipping out of my arms.

I stand up and take her hand, lead her to the elevator. She yanks her goggles off and lets them dangle from her wrist as we wait for it. She doesn't let go of my hand.

Once we get inside, I tug on one of her kitty ears so she'll come closer to me. So I can kiss her, and not think about what we're going to do beyond how badly I want to do it. Beyond the cold wall against my back and the warm woman against my front. I don't let her go until the elevator opens.

It feels strange to be in the real house in my Batman clothes, even if it is just the pants, and I tell her that. Maybe she'll think that's why I'm hurrying through the halls, dragging her behind me. She probably knows the truth, but she doesn't say anything.

I can feel her looking around, checking out the paintings and the sculptures and the antique furniture. All things she would have loved to steal, once upon a time. It's safe for her to be here now, though. Safe for everything in the house but me.

When we get to the bedroom, she pulls me toward the bed.

"Shower. . ." I remind her, but she shakes her head.


She sits down in the dressing chair and takes off her boots, leaves them on the floor next to her goggles and her backpack. It's a little strange, seeing her here in my house, in my chair.

I make the mistake of letting myself think, and it doesn't take long for the doubts to come back.

She deserves better than this. She deserves better than a beaten-down man who wants to hurry up and get her into bed before he collapses from exhaustion. It bothers me, starting off this way. Like it might jinx us, somehow. And we need all the good luck we can get. She may have nine lives, but whatever is starting to form between us won't.

I sit down on the bed anyway. I don't even know what to do anymore and I'm so tired of thinking, and of worrying over every decision.

Maybe she's right. Maybe I should stop thinking. Maybe it's better to just fall in.

She reaches up and unzips her catsuit as she walks over to the bed. I wanted to do that, I think to myself, but she's already stepping out of it, and it's too late now. Purple bra, purple thong panties. That explains the lack of a pantyline in that suit.

She stands between my knees, and she's gorgeous. Pale skin, wild hair, and few scars of her own. I remember exactly which ones are from me.

She doesn't move, doesn't touch me, and I realize she's giving me one last chance to change my mind. If I really want to stop now, I still can.

I reach for her, and let myself fall in.

It starts out tentative, but we've got years of attraction and frustration built up, and it isn't long before we're naked under the sheets. It isn't at all like I've imagined, but it feels right. Tight grip of hands that know how to cause pain when they have to, and the greasy feel of skin that's been trapped in Kevlar and rubber and spandex. It feels like us.

She seems so much smaller in my bed, beneath my body. Delicate cheekbones, slender fingers, that tiny waist I can encircle with my hands. She looks so fragile on the outside, when the woman on the inside is anything but.

Still, I know I could destroy her, with this. With us. I hope I don't.

She's slick and ready under my fingers, thank God, because I can't wait. She clutches my shoulders and throws her head back, lifting her hips to meet me. I've always loved that first thrust, that feeling of sinking into soft warmth, the way everything goes blurry around the edges. This time is no different.

What *is* different is that I look at her, at her eyes. That's something I could never do before, with other women, because I was always hiding from them, hiding who I really was. Secrets follow you everywhere, I've learned, even into bed with a beautiful woman.

But this woman knows my secrets. There is nothing to hide.

And even though I know her secrets, her eyes are closed. Maybe she still wants to hide.

"Selina. . ."

I want her to see me, to know this is me. The real me. Bruce Wayne, Batman, and that scared little orphan boy in the alley. Everyone I've ever been.

Her eyes flutter open and she looks up at me, but they start to close again, just as quickly. I won't let that happen. "Keep your eyes open."

I'm still moving in and out of her, her thighs quivering around my hips, her nails digging into my back as she moves with me. It would be so easy to forget everything else and just think about the motion and how good it feels. But I know I'll regret it.

She tries to turn her head to the side, away from me. I slide my arms under her shoulders so I can hold her face between my hands, force her to look up at me. "Look at me."

Finally, she does. She meets my eyes, and I can see that she hates that I'm making her do this. We've spent too long keeping secrets, playing hide and seek in dark alleys, fighting each other and our attraction. But if we don't get rid of all that now, it will never go away.

She needs to look at me.

I stop moving, and she squirms beneath me, wanting the sensation back, but I won't let her have it. Not until I figure out what's wrong. She was the brave one, up until now. Maybe she isn't used to being vulnerable, maybe she isn't used to letting a man see inside her heart while he's inside her body.

Or maybe she just isn't used to doing those things with me.

Maybe she isn't even sure who I am.

What a horrible thought.

I have no idea what to do about it.

"Don't stop." Her nails dig in a little more.

"I'm not." I slide out and then in, slowly. Her eyes slip shut again, ebony eyelashes standing out against flushed cheeks. She's so beautiful like this, and I ache inside just looking at her. I can feel her slipping away from me, before I've even begun to hold on.

I was right. This isn't the right time. But it has nothing to do with being dirty and tired. She's not ready for this, for what I need from her. And I don't blame her. She doesn't know me without the mask.

Maybe we didn't let ourselves fall in. Maybe we stumbled.

I rest my forehead against hers and keep moving, closing my eyes and riding the sensation of straining bodies and damp skin. Even if it isn't what I wanted, it still feels incredible, and I can at least have this. If nothing else, at least this.

Her hands slide down, trying to pull me deeper, but I can't get any deeper. I can't get any more lost in her than I already am. But I suppose I've always been lost, in one way or another.

We find a rhythm together and make the most of it, until she's moaning and whimpering and telling me how good it feels, how close she is, how she doesn't want me to stop. Then her fingers claw at my head, and it feels like she's pushing me away, even as her hips keep rising to meet mine. I don't understand what she wants, so I start to pull back, but she grabs my shoulders and hangs on. When I look down at her, I understand. I understand what she wants.

She wants to look at me. She can't do it, though. Her eyes keep darting away.

I shouldn't dare to hope, but I can't help it. I kiss her, and her fingers knot in the hair at the back of my head and hold me there. She moans against my mouth.

"I can't. . ."

I think about the times I've tried to turn away, and how she let me, but she never let me leave her behind. How can I not do the same for her, if that's what she needs?

If that is what she needs. God, I hope so.

Maybe she can give me what I need, too. If I ask for it the right way.

"Say my name." My voice is raw. Desperation and grief and not enough sleep.

I kiss her again, so I can tell myself that's the reason she doesn't respond right away. The hand in my hair tightens to the point of pain, and it's just a murmur against my mouth, but it's enough. It's her, saying my name.

My real name. She knows it's me. The real me.

And this is the real us, I think. Scarred and dirty and frightened. Clinging to each other. Wary, but willing to trust one more time. The price of betrayal will be high. But not as high as the price of holding back. I think she knows that.

She arches under me and makes a sound that's almost a sob, and I can feel her coming apart around me, tight and hot. I'm only seconds behind her, but I fight to hold out just a little longer, so I can watch her. She says my name again, into my shoulder, and I know that I'm falling in love with her. I don't tell her that, though, because she won't believe me if I say it now. Yet another thing I know about women.

Then I can't wait anymore, so I let it happen, going deep and still. Watching her watch me. As the tremors fade and I catch my breath, she kisses me and laughs. It's a beautiful sound.

Maybe she did know best. Maybe we needed to do this now, before we had time to talk ourselves out of it. Maybe it's okay to hesitate sometimes along the way, as long as we don't let it derail us entirely.

Maybe we'll be all right.

And maybe now I'll finally get that shower.

The End.

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