Chapter 22: I had no choice
Inspiration image: imgur dot com slash amegbBf
It is still dark when Selina awakens – perhaps four or five in the morning. She stretches languorously and then grimaces at the feel of her grimy and sticky self, courtesy of the night's exertions.
With a growl, she works up the courage to get up and head to the pump to have a quick bathe. Bane is by all appearances profoundly asleep, on his back on the floor a little ways off. (They did not cuddle, afterwards – neither of them are the type.)
Selina swears creatively at the ice-cold water that gushes from the pump. She takes a pissy vow that this is the last time she's taking a crotch-freezing bath here – they're moving on. Bane is more or less mobile, and will be able to hold onto her for an eight hour stint on the Batpod. She will give him today to recuperate further and they will leave tonight.
Selina dries off using her precious blanket, pulls her clothing back on and returns to the hayloft.
As she climbs back up the ladder, Selina's sensitive nose catches an unfamiliar whiff. Something about the air has changed in the 15 minutes since she was last here.
Her eyes strain in the darkness. She can see Bane's form seated against the wall, the saggy lean-to of the tarp beside him. Nothing looks out of place, and yet… something is different.
"There's someone here," says Selina to Bane.
"Yes," says Bane.
Selina feels the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end, because now she feels it, the presence – of several someones – somewhere above her, crouching in the barn's dusty rafters.
"Do not kill her," warns Bane's voice, heavy with threat. "Do not harm her."
There is a pneumatic hiss. Selina ducks and lets herself fall down the ladder in a controlled tumble. Something embeds itself in the wood where she was standing a second ago – a dart, she thinks, but she cannot see enough to know.
They can see her, though, that much is obvious from the accuracy of their aim. Selina lands on the floor and launches herself toward the camouflaged Batpod. She grabs her goggles and snaps on night vision mode, thereby evening out the playing field significantly.
There are three figures in the rafters, all quite acrobatic from the looks of them. Two of them raise weapons at her and fire again with that soft hiss. Selina dodges the two darts and vaults behind old bales of hay.
So, it looks like the League is here, and they're not going to indulge her with a nice long negotiation session. That's really too bad. For them.
There are two dull thuds as two of the men land on the barn floor.
Selina rolls out from behind the bales and onto the Batpod in one fluid motion. The machine growls to life and Selina tilts the bike toward the two figures glowing greenly at her through her goggles. There is no time for her usual banter here – she cannot take two members of the League on in hand-to-hand combat while another is shooting at her from above.
Selina has never claimed to be an honourable fighter. She guns them down with extreme prejudice.
The third man has disappeared from the rafters and is now nowhere to be seen. Of course, that means he's behind her. The bike is too bulky for her to pivot it in a 180 spin quickly enough to give him the same death as his colleagues. She pushes off the Batpod and hits the floor just as another two shots from the dart gun whizz by.
Selina hisses as one grazes her neck. Whatever the thing is drugged with, it's going to be potent, and even this small scratch could be enough to slow her down. She flies to a far corner of the barn, her run punctuated by the sound of darts barely missing her. Dodging is one of the many arts that Selina has perfected over a lifetime of getting shot at a lot, and with a satisfied smile, she hears the man curse and reload.
It's not darts he's shooting at her when he resumes; he has a pistol equipped with a silencer.
So League-boy wants to play for keeps? Selina will play for keeps. She pulls out her whip.
Her vision has begun to blur at the edges – she is already feeling the dart's effects on her system.
"No," thunders Bane's voice from above as silenced shots hiss out. Selina hears him stomp his way to the edge of the loft.
The League agent flinches at Bane's tone and hesitates just enough for Selina to wrap her whip around the barrel of his pistol and snatch it away.
Her limbs feel heavy and the world seems to be moving slowly. Selina shakes her head, waiting for her opening to wrap the whip around the man's neck, that inevitable moment when, filled with rage, he will come at her with his arms wide open, and then she will end this last member of the League and revert to plan B…
Of course, there is a fourth member of the League of Shadows here. Selina is reminded of this when a dart embeds itself deeply in the side of her neck.
Selina feels her face go numb almost immediately. Then her legs fail her – she collapses forward, stupid slow fingers grabbing at the dart in her neck and pulling it out. Distantly, Selina feels the rage of betrayal, and spits out some words of wrath towards Bane.
He catches her as she falls and she fights to focus on his blurry face, the mask, the smell of him…
"Such fire, such fire," she hears him say, as though his voice was far away and simultaneously right in her head. "I will regret you dearly..."
Selina manages to tell him to go to hell, and then the world fades to a comfortable, fuzzy blackness.
When Selina comes to, she is suffering from a throbbing headache and godawful cotton-mouth.
It takes her a moment to remember why she is angry – and then she remembers and pours out a vehement stream of curses on Bane, the League, dart guns, Bane…
It is around three in the afternoon based on the angles of the sunbeams slanting through the barn's gapped walls. Selina pushes herself upright with a groan and takes stock of her surroundings. She is tucked neatly into her blanket in a corner of the hayloft. The old bucket is within arm's reach, filled with water.
Bane is nowhere to be seen. Nor is the surviving League agent. Selina creeps to the edge of the hayloft and looks down: the bodies of the other League men are gone as well.
And so is the Batpod.
"Son of a bitch," spits Selina.
So he stole himself from the thief, in the end. Selina is certain that the irony of it amused him vastly.
Selina's anger subsides, because it is unproductive to rage uselessly at a man who is long gone by now, and who she will probably never see again. So Selina begins to think of her own next steps, now that Bane has fucked off and taken care of his.
She puts together her meagre possessions and makes her way to the nearest farmhouse. Without Bane, she is no longer really on the run. Selina adapts; now she is just one of thousands of survivors of the horrors of Gotham, looking for help.
And help is willingly given, of course, to this pretty young thing with the large brown eyes filled with fears and tears. And Selina is fed and watered and clothed, and offered a real bed in the guest room, and promised a ride to Gotham in the morning, to look for the rest of her family (hah).
Selina whiles away the dark hours before dawn by tossing and catching a cartridge of Bane's anaesthetic. She lifted it from him a few days ago, hoping to use it for leverage or blackmail if the time came when his stash ran out.
The amber liquid glints at her in the moonlight as it spins, and even through the plastic she detects a whiff of medicinal camphor and mint.
Selina is disappointed that she did not manage to convert Bane into cold hard cash as she had originally planned. But her original plan did not take into account the fact that the League would not be interested in negotiating, so it was kind of shot from the get-go. She should have surrendered him to the authorities from the start, perhaps. Had him locked up in Arkham for a little while. Then she could have sprung him, later, and seen where that would lead… someone would have paid for him, eventually.
Selina smiles ruefully to herself. Here she is, plotting away on the what-ifs, on the should-haves, on the future of a man that she will probably never see again.
There is a part of Selina that is actually surprised that he left her. She knows that he wanted her, and wanted her in many ways. When she was shot by the dart and her world faded to black, her expectation was to awaken in some dark cavern, some League HQ somewhere.
But no. He chose to leave her behind, alive and unharmed. She is certain that the thought must have crossed his mind, to take her with him. To cage her. To have her at his beck and call, to know exactly where she is at all times, to own her. His obsession with control would have made this a delicious fantasy, and one that he was very close to making into a reality.
Selina wonders if he struggled with it when she was unconscious in his arms. If he thought to carry her off, then thought better of it. Something happened to make him climb back up to the hayloft with her, and wrap her blanket around her, and have the strength to leave her there.
Perhaps he understood, finally, that her freedom makes her what she is. That a caged Selina would no longer be Selina.
She knows that she will be in his thoughts for a long time. Because yes, she bewitched him, kind of on purpose, and kind of not.
And he will be in her thoughts, but she will not allow herself to think about that. He tried to obliterate her city, he wants to own her, he owes her a million bucks that she'll never see again – she has excellent reasons to hate him.
So why doesn't she?
Selina returns to a Gotham which, in the few days since her departure, has already begun to heal. There is an influx of aid from all corners of the country and the globe, helping to rebuild the city and erase the damage caused by Bane. Ton after metric ton of refuse is removed from the streets, bodies are given the proper burial rites, buildings are rebuilt by companies other than Daggett Industries, the sick and injured are cared for...
Five months later, the state of emergency is officially lifted from Gotham, and the city begins to thrive again.
It almost feels like everything is back to normal when Selina click-clacks her way into her bank one morning, dressed up to the nines just because she can again, to pull some cash. The tellers lined up behind their desks look bored with their jobs, the janitor mopping the floor is going about the job grouchily, there is a toddler wrestling his mother, screaming for sweets…
Normal. Normal and boring. She can live with this for a little while.
At the ATM, Selina pulls out a few hundred to help pay for groceries for Judith and the girls that remain with her. The machine proffers the cash, then spits out the record of the transaction. Selina glances at the little piece of paper as she heads to the door, more out of habit than interest.
Her double-take causes the grumpy janitor to look at her curiously. Selina sweeps by him and tries not to let her eyes boggle out of her head. Because the line indicating the total funds in this account are far, far more than she knows she had in it…
As soon as she gets home, Selina opens her online banking for that particular account to investigate. It appears that, about a month ago, someone made a deposit for a truly exorbitant sum of money. And there is a secondary deposit on the same day for precisely one million US dollars – petty change compared to the first one, but the figure is familiar to her. It is a sum of money that she was owed by a certain someone.
"Well what do you know," says Selina.
She stares at the computer screen for a long time, waiting to blink and awaken from this peculiar dream.