Chapter 7 - Inheritance (1)


There is nothing so controlling, uplifting or damning as inheritance.

It's the tangible manifestation of a legacy imparted to someone for a myriad of reasons, none of them truly controlled by the receiver.

I know well the pedestal and yoke that inheritance imparts on someone. I have no illusions, I exist as I am because of the sheer wealth I inherited, wealth that provided me with the freedom and resources to become who I needed to be.

However, with my inheritance came expectations and commitments which have bound me to exist in parts, to exist as a caricature of ridicule to hide what I've wielded my inheritance for.

And I know the burdens which I will leave behind for those to whom I leave my legacy.


(Wayne-Stark Expo - Flushing, New York City - 7th May 2010)

Tony grinned like a giddy schoolboy as he leapt from the aircraft. The only thing even remotely dimming his mood was that he couldn't feel the rush of wind through his hair as he soared downwards. The Mark IV Iron Man suit was working perfectly as he twisted and dodged out of the way of the hundreds of explosions that were lighting up the sky. Yep, she was purring like a kitt-

BOOM!

'Okay.' he thought as a firework exploded right in his face, 'Maybe Pepper was right and I went a tad overboard.' He would never tell that to her in person though.

All doubts faded a s he neared the stage, and his grin only widened as he did a spin in the air that caused the crowd to go wild before making his signature three–point landing. As he stood up, the stage's automated system kicked in, rotating him slowly whilst removing the Mark IV. The last piece of his armoured suit soon vanished under the floor, leaving him standing in his tailored Armani suit as the music score kicked into high gear and the dozen barely-dressed dancers kicked their routine into high gear. .

"Oh it's good to be back!" Tony gave a wink and nod to the dancers before turning around and stretching out his hands to his sides "You miss me?"

The crowd exploded into a flurry of cheers, screams, and the flashes of cameras going off everywhere, somehow above the rest a single male voice rang out "Blow something up!"

"Oh, I missed you too. Blow something up? Already did that. Now, I'm not saying that the world is enjoying its longest period of uninterrupted peace in years because of me."

Tony's line caused the crowd to cheer again, his eyes darting to the side of the stage where he saw the one wrinkle to this whole expo that was lowering his mood considerably. It took a lot of self control from him not to grimace when he saw the figure of Bruce Wayne waiting in the wings, the man was naturally flirting with several of the backup dancers while sipping a martini. Tony felt his disgust grow for the man as Bruce leaned forward and not-so-subtly groped one of the girls who jumped in shock, it was made all the worse by the presence of the small asian girl Wayne had adopted out of the blue last year. His only satisfaction was that the other man's aggressive move was met by the girl suddenly storming off along with the other dancers, leaving him alone and rejected holding his drink.

"I'm not saying that from the ashes of captivity, never before has a greater phoenix metaphor been personified in human history." The speech continued, refocusing on the audience who were hanging on his every word, "I'm not saying that Uncle Sam can kick back on a lawn chair, sipping on an iced tea because I haven't come across anyone who's man enough to go toe-to-toe with me on my best day!"

"I love you Tony!" The voice of a woman broke clear of the crowd and it was accompanied by a dozen more calls like it.

"Please, it's not about me. It's not about you. It's not even about us. It's about legacy. It's about what we choose to leave behind for future generations."

Tony took a quick deep breath as brought his speech to the climax, which included a statement he hated but had to include. He'd tried to cut it so many times but had been forced to accept it mostly because Pepper had threatened to burn down the whole expo if he didn't. A tad melodramatic, but he couldn't blame her. The past year had been difficult for her as she had been the one fighting off the encroaching hand of Bruce Wayne. Tony had wanted to host the expo for his own reasons and been planning for it to be a purely Stark affair, like his father's original ones had been, but then Bruce had wriggled his way in. The man had used, or one might say abused his position as a major shareholder to force a vote and now Tony found himself hosting a joint expo like his father had in 1979. He was hating it.

"And that's why for the next year, and for the first time since 1979, we have partnered with our old and dear friends at Wayne Enterprises to provide a stage where the best and brightest from all across the world can pool their resources, share their collective vision, and leave behind a brighter future. So welcome, for the second time in history, to the Wayne-Stark Expo."

The volume of the cheers somehow grew even louder as the image behind him displayed the original 1979 logo that then transformed into the more modern sleek version the marketing team had come up with. Tony swallowed the lump in his throat as he remembered the bitter pill that was his next line as he gestured to the right side of the stage.

"So in that spirit, please welcome to the stage my 'friend' Mr. Wayne who is going to be joined by a very special guest. Ladies and gentlemen, Bruce Wayne!"

Tony watched as Bruce carelessly hurled the martini glass over his shoulder and strode out onto the stage. Had to give the man credit, although Tony knew the guy was drunk he didn't show it in the way he walked. That lasted for all of 10 seconds until Tony reached out his hand to shake Bruce's for a quick photo-op, and the other billionaire was so drunk he missed the offered hand and ended up grasping him in a weird forearm handshake. The two stumbled closer together and Tony found himself pulled into an almost hug as Bruce tried to cover up his slip, which clearly worked as it brought more cheers.

"TONY STARK THE IRON MAN, EVERYONE!" Bruce pulled away from him and raised Tony's hand into the air like he was a sports star. Tony took a few moments before breaking free and then headed off the stage. "Isn't he great, and speaking of great, it's so good to be back here at a Wayne-Stark Expo!"

He waited a few moments for the shouting and picture snapping from the crowd to die down. He spotted Tony at the side secretly pressing his thumb onto a device that Bruce recognised as a portable blood scanner. The fact that Tony was checking his blood soon after using the Iron Man suit, combined with his checking of Tony's pulse, perspiration and the discolouring he saw on Tony's skin when he faked tripping over his own feet led to only one conclusion. The man was dying. The most likely cause was heavy metal poisoning from the reactor he stuck in his chest, which meant the more he used the Iron Man suit the more the Arc unit's fuel source would decay and the more Palladium would enter his system.

"And because it's such a momentous occasion, we've invited a special guest. Making an appearance from the great beyond to tell you what it's all about, please welcome my dear old friend and Tony's father, Howard Stark!"

Bruce gave a sweeping bow before gesturing to the screen behind him as the image of Howard Stark appeared introducing the Wayne-Stark Expo. Bruce looked at the image of his brother in arms for a moment. The original footage had actually included himself as well, since back in 1979 neither had been available to attend the opening event, but had been tailored to just show Howard. He exited stage right as his old friend showed off his diorama of the city of tomorrow that the expo was modelled on and proudly talked about the great advancements to come, promises which had fallen far short in reality.

"I asked for Red Vines! THESE ARE TWIZZLERS! GOD, YOU PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS! Just go and get me some RED VINES!"

Xialing's voice sounded out. She had perfected the American accent he had her practising; she sounded like a perfect Gothamite. He saw her throw the box at the panicked staff member who scrambled away, then looked closer at the red candy strewn across the floor and noted that they were actually Red Vines. He waited for the poor assistant to be truly gone and checked the surroundings before he turned his attention to the young girl. Xialing was a few months away from turning 8 and although hadn't grown much in the last year she had changed in practically every other way and was now barely recognisable. She wore expensive designer clothes that had been tailor made for her, her long hair was cut short, and she had a constant bored look on her face as she held her smartphone loosely in one hand.

"I hate this, I don't even eat this food" Xialing whispered, her new accent holding but now tinged with her real emotion of frustration as her facade cracked as she looked up at Bruce "Why do I need to pretend to be this horrible person, this 'Cassandra Cain?' "

"Because if you ever want to wear that suit you stole again, then you will have to learn a set of crucial lessons" Bruce whispered as the Bat loomed over the girl who the world currently knew as his adoptive ward Cassandra.

"I have! –I can fight, I can hide, I can move in the shadows, I have run the courses hundreds of times." Xialing shot back, trying to show no fear to her mentor even as a shiver went up her spine. "I am ready, I need practical experience, I need to be out there!"

"You can punch and kick, and you have demonstrated some ability at stealth, that much is true. But what you need now is to learn to hide all of that under layers of an identity no one could believe or be convincedlies beneath the mask." Bruce gave one more glare before stepping back and relaxing his stance. "You think no one ever considered Bruce Wayne was Batman? I am a billionaire with an athletic build, vast resources, multiple degrees, and a two-second search of my name would reveal that I have a very good reason to want to fight crime. Do you know why that connection has never been made?"

"Why?" Xialing asked shifting as she saw Bruce put on a smile so convincing she couldn't believe a few seconds ago he had been ready to go and do things like dangle a criminal off a rooftop.

"Kid, Bruce Wayne's a wreck, a total booze hound and skirt chaser that numbs his trauma with women young enough to be his daughter or even granddaughter. The guy rubs shoulders with a dozen different kinds of sleazy businessmen and dips into the world of criminal scum on the regular." Bruce gave the speech with a look of shameless charm that made it seem as if he was bragging like a frat boy over his outrageous lifestyle. "There's no way for you to hide everything, folks will wonder where you disappear to, why you have injuries, what you spend your money on. So you give them answers, answers that push them down a path that makes you look like even less of a candidate for what you truly are."

"How do you bear it?" Xialing asked, looking at Bruce who was acting worlds away from the man she knew he was, the man she was desperate to learn from. "That people look at you as a joke, or worse, a villain."

"A friend of mine told me in her culture we all have three faces, one we show the world, one we share with those we let into our hearts and the third we share with no one but ourselves." He shared the wisdom he had learnt from Tatsu that had helped him keep his focus through his time as Batman "If you want to be part of this life, of the mission, you need to have a reason, a reason that you don't need to share to justify it to others. A reason that you share only with yourself. If you don't, you will fail."

Xialing stood still for a moment as she absorbed what the man was telling her, her young but highly intelligent mind processing it. As he looked at the young girl he was training, he saw she had indeed come a long way in the year since she had forced her way into his life, creating a situation where he had to train her to survive her father's future wrath or else abandon her to it. Although he was loath to admit it, she was a very promising student. She had a keen mind and focused drive , and though she had no formal training before she came to him, she had clearly spent time watching someone very skilled train and instruct someone else.

He had drilled her hard as he did with all his students and it was quickly paying off. Her original style was sloppy, amateurish, and wasted energy, as to be expected from a self-taught fighter. However, she had a natural talent and a near supernatural ability to absorb lessons, he had only needed to go over a lesson or a move once and she learned it. Her only weakness to his mind was that she mimicked his moves rather than internalising them and blending them together, so he still had to work on teaching her to make a style of her own. Although she was not allowed near the Batgirl suit, and he still wasn't sure he would ever allow her to don it again, she was much closer to being ready than he was letting on.

"Now, are you ready for the rest of the night?" Bruce asked, looking at Xialing with narrowed eyes.

"Ugh, god, what a stupid question, of course I am!" She slipped perfectly into the Cassandra Cain persona he had created for her, even rolling her eyes and sighing dramatically.

Satisfied with her response he gave her a nod and slipped completely into his own public persona. The rest of the evening was spent bouncing around the backstages of the expo. Though it was far too late for a seven year old girl to be up no one questioned her presence although a lot of people did whisper about it. Xialing kept up the spoiled brat persona for the evening and took the chance of pretending to be bored to watch her mentor and try to learn how he could do so effortlessly what she was struggling with. The Bruce Wayne before her was flawless, his every move and act created the perfect front that couldn't be more different than the teacher that had trained her until she couldn't stand. She watched as he flirted, absentmindedly insulted, or else joked with everyone around him. it was apparent that although people tolerated this Bruce Wayne no one liked him, not even the women who flirted with him.

"Well hello, Brucie." Said a woman that sauntered up to him wearing a very tight cocktail dress caught them just as they were leaving the expo at nearly 1AM and were walking up to Alfred and his waiting car. "I have a little something for you,"

"Just hand it over already, The girl needs to go to bed and I've got a club to hit." His curt voice and outstretched hand caught the very beautiful woman by surprise who blinked at him.

"Bruce Steven Wayne, this is a subpoena." The woman handed him a sealed envelope that she had been hiding behind her back and flashed a US marshal badge in her other hand. "You are hereby ordered to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee tomorrow, or should I say this morning, at 9 am."

"Yeah, I got it, you can leave now," Bruce took the envelope that he just passed to Alfred who appeared next to him and waved the marshal off now that her task was completed.

"How did you know what she was?" Xialing asked. She had only seen a a slightly more aggressive airhead looking to score with the famous billionaire playboy like all the rest.

"Experience. Marshals send cocktail dresses, FBI sends tight jeans in loose shirts, and the FDA just sends anyone in a suit," Bruce turned and opened the car door for her.

"Everything alright, sir?" Alfred asked as he glanced at the subpoena, which he really wished was the first one his employer had been served with and not the hundredth. "Shall I call our lawyers?"

"No, this is about Tony and his stupid mouth, nothing we've done." Bruce sighed as he glanced back at the expo before looking Alfred in the eye, "Which reminds me, tell Fury his medical team's assessment appears correct, he should get someone on Stark."

"Will do, sir" Alfred nodded as he held the door while the other man climbed into the waiting limo. "I suggest you sleep in the car. DC is about 250 miles, and we only have 8 hours,"


(Senate Armed Services Committee - US Capitol Building, Washington DC- 8th May 2010)

It was easy for Bruce to appear completely disinterested in the events unfolding before him, as Senator Stern attempted to weasel out an admission from its creator that the Iron Man suit was a weapon, only to be made fun of in turn. The committee conference room was packed full of people, from reporters to military officers, but the whole focus however was on one man, Tony Stark. He was seated in the middle of the long table that was placed before the committee and he was glibly dismissing any attempt to label his suit an instrument of war.

Looking at Tony briefly, Bruce wasn't surprised to see that the man had shown up without a lawyer and was treating the whole affair as a joke. Even when Colonel Rhodes arrived to testify against him, Tony didn't even bat an eye as his best friend was forced to read a small section of a thousand page report that made it seem like Tony was a threat to America and her interests. Rhodey attempted to continue, mentioning that he had in fact suggested folding Iron Man into the existing structure rather than force Tony to hand over the suit. Tony again outmanoeuvred all of them by jokingly offering to serve as Secretary of Defence.

Bruce didn't even react when Justin Hammer, CEO of Hammer Industries and America's newest top supplier of weapons since Tony dropped out, arrived to drum up fears of hostile powers attempting to build suits of their own. A fact he knew was true and would be concerning if his own research hadn't shown they were decades away from even a basic working prototype. Tony was glad to show off by hijacking one of the TV screens which started displaying a montage of the numerous failures of said weapons programs. The crowd chuckled and then laughed as Tony made jabs at the disastrous test videos, including Justin Hammer's own attempt that ended with the pilot's upper torso twisting around a full 180 degrees."

"Wow. Yeah, I'd say most countries, five, ten years away. Hammer Industries, twenty." Tony joked leaning back in his chair, his comment causing even Rhodey to smile.

"I'd like to point out that that test pilot survived!" Hammer quickly commented as he looked at his lawyers next to him who just shook their heads.

"You know, I think we should hear from Mr Wayne on the subject," Senator Stern quickly gestured to Bruce trying to regain control, looking just about ready to blow his top. "Let us not forget that Wayne Enterprises and Mr. Wayne himself has a claim on the technology that Mr Stark is boldly claiming is his alone. The Arc Reactor was a joint company project overseen personally by himself and Howard Stark."

The room suddenly went silent, save for the occasional camera shutters, as all eyes turned on Bruce who had largely been ignored until now, with the only real question raised about him so far had been hushed whispers as to why he was there. Even Tony didn't speak up. He didn't have a quip or a joke ready as this was the one avenue he wasn't certain he could win on. Every other trick the government had used on him over the past year had been swatted away either by himself, Pepper, or the Stark legal team. From the outside, his position was unassailable as he knew the government needed him and legally the technology was his alone. Unfortunately, his lawyers had repeatedly warned him that Wayne Enterprises was a potential threat from within.

Technically the patent for Arc Reactor technology was jointly owned by both Wayne Enterprises and Stark Industries, which he had known for a long time. What he had been unaware of until recently was just how much the other company had contributed to the project back in the day before it had been mothballed. He always thought Bruce had only fronted money and resources to the project while his father was the brains. However, ever since he had become aware of the health issues caused by the palladium he really looked into the original research, hopefully for an alternative material. What he had discovered was that his father, shockingly, had a great deal of help, not just from the famous Lucius Fox but from a Bruce Wayne who was a lot smarter than he knew. He had discovered dozens of technical notes and ideas pitched by the aged billionaire that showed he had worked very hard to help make the technology work.

"Firstly…. I would say Hammer is closer to thirty years than twenty," Bruce leaned in to speak to the microphone. His joke caused the room again to chuckle and even Tony to crack a grin. "And secondly, I admit I am confused as to what this committee is after. Is it the Iron Man suit, or the Arc Reactor technology that powers it? As Wayne Enterprise only helped with one."

"One would argue that they are one in the same, Bruce," Justin Hammer butted in trying to regain some control.

"Yes, I do suppose it would seem that way to the uninformed. One's something you wear and the other is a power source, very different" Bruce responded leaning further forward to shake his head at the CEO before looking back at the committee "If you want a mechanised war suit with all the bells and whistles then that is something even I could design, but you know that. What you all want is a power source that can make such a design work without it being astronomically expensive or impractical to wear."

"Then yes, Mr. Wayne, that is what we are after, we want the Arc Reactor technology," Senator Stern sighed, his nerves coming to an end as he glared at yet another billionaire who was refusing to play ball.

Bruce leaned forward and readied the legal argument he had constructed in consultation with a team of lawyers last time to close down this avenue for good. Although he appeared disinterested, he'd come prepared for just this situation, and was about to make it clear that he had no willingness or desire to to help the government get its hands on Arc technology. He needed to refocus his efforts on Gotham, not keep getting dragged into the quagmire that was Tony Stark's public life as Iron Man.

"You know what? You're welcome! That is the point I am trying to make," Tony suddenly stood up cutting Bruce off before he could start, clearly believing the man was about to try and stake a claim on his tech, clearly not trusting what he was about to say.

"For what?!" Senator Stern scoffed as he looked at his fellow committee members for support.

"Because I'm your nuclear deterrent. It's working. We're safe. America is secure. You want my property? You can't have it. But I did you a big favour." Tony suddenly stood up glancing quickly to the side before turning around to face the crowd, "I've successfully privatised world peace." Shooting a wide smile and making peace signs with both hands as the crowd stood up and started cheering for him."What more do you want? I tried to play ball with these ass-clowns."

"Fuck you, Mr Stark. Fuck you, buddy." Stern angrily dropped all decorum before banging the gavel to try and restore order. Eventually, he gave up. "We're adjourned. We're adjourned for today. Let's just get out of here. You've been a delight."

Bruce just released a sigh as he watched Tony put on his shades and start blowing kisses to the committee and Justin Hammer, he even gave him a quick thumbs up before wading through the crowd shaking hands as he left. Bruce glanced at Ms. Potts and Colonel Rhodes, both were unimpressed by their friend's cavalier attitude and he could see Pepper's phone was already starting to ring. He moved to pick up his own phone and signal to Alfred to bring the car around as the whole fiasco of a hearing had taken far less time than he'd allotted for it, however, as he did so, he spotted someone in the crowd that caused him to freeze.

"Hey hey there Bruce, mi amigo, some real funny stuff, all part of the game, I know," Hammer approached what he thought was a cornered man, seeing this as his chance to speak with arguably the world's most powerful businessman "I actually wanted to talk to you about some opportunities and projects we at Hammer Industries are working on. You know, since Tony's turn towards hippy love and harmony the weapons business suddenly has real competition and I think you'd find it…"

He trailed off as Bruce completely ignored him and stood up to walk towards the figure that'd been solely occupying his attention. The room was largely empty now, nearly everyone had followed Tony out or else left in the aftermath, leaving mainly reporters writing up notes or people waiting a little longer to hopefully avoid the media circus that had been stirred up. Stark's bravado and actions had meant for once Bruce found himself not in the centre of attention. After all, who wanted to focus on an aged businessman even if he was the world's richest man and the prince of Gotham when the Iron Man was cracking jokes.

Bruce was slow and careful in his approach, as his eyes lingered on the figure who just stayed seated and didn't even bat an eyelash when he loomed over them. He felt his muscles tense and his eyes quickly darted around the room looking for any potential threats. They found none, just as he knew they would. However, that revelation did nothing to ease the tension in his muscles or the fact that he was now on edge waiting for something, anything to go wrong.

"Hello, beloved."

Talia's voice was as smooth and tantalising as it had been when he first heard it as a lost young man in Korea looking for purpose. She stood up from her seat, the top of her head just level with his eyes forcing her to look up at him, her pure emerald green eyes were still unreadable as a soft smile graced her lips. She raised a slender hand towards his face, and had they not been in public he would have grabbed it. She stroked his right cheek with such tenderness that he could almost forget what she truly was. Almost.

"We simply must get something to eat."

Bruce didn't say a word as she picked up a purse from the ground next to her seat and walked towards the exit. He waited for a few moments, a debate raging in his head, before following her. A few reporters tried to ask him questions about the hearing but he brushed them aside and focused on Talia. The woman moved as gracefully and swiftly as he remembered, although that was no surprise, whereas time and life had left marks on him, Talia was her father's daughter, and she hadn't aged a day since their first meeting in 1971.

Talia al Ghul, the Daughter of the Demon, one of the deadliest assassins in history much like her older sister Nyssa, looked nothing like what one would expect of a femme fatale. She wasn't overly tall and had a light narrow frame, though she was a little more curvaceous than her sister. The main difference between the two, though, was that Nyssa's features were a mix of Middle Eastern and Eastern European. Talia's were more distinctly Middle Eastern with deep striking emerald eyes, high cheekbones, and full lips. It was the eyes that Bruce always found were what really separated the Demon's children from each other, the colour was their father's but knew each of their complexities well. Nyssa's always held a glint of danger, Dusan's were soulless pits of fanaticism, but Talia's eyes were gates that held tantalising secrets behind them, promised one's heart's desire but revealed nothing, not even to him.

It didn't take them long to reach the place that Talia had clearly planned for them to arrive at, regardless of how she had pretended to wander aimlessly through the streets of Washington D.C. with Bruce trailing behind her. She waited for him inside the building's lobby, totally at ease as he stood next to her scanning the area again for threats and made no move to stop him as he alerted Alfred to his location. As he gazed around the area the smell of food and liquor indicated he was in some kind of restaurant. It was clearly on the higher end of the market judging by the expensive materials he could see but it was also tailored towards privacy for the political scene as well. The lobby was secluded, the windows were blacked out, and as he looked around he could only see closed doors for each dining area with no sound escaping from within.

A hostess arrived and without taking a name led the two of them to a door that opened up and revealed a beautifully decorated room with an elegant table and two chairs, the food already waiting on the table. As the door closed behind them Talia casually removed the suit jacket she had been wearing revealing a stunning white dress and pulled the pin from her hair allowing it to flow freely into a cascade of beautiful locks. She didn't wait for Bruce before she took her seat and tucked into the sumptuous meal. Bruce glanced around before joining her at the table although he didn't touch the mulligatawny soup waiting for him.

"You seemed surprised to see me?" Talia teased after a few minutes of silence as she ate her meal and acted like nothing was wrong.

"A little, I expected the League to reach out after Nyssa's actions but that was a year ago and I was anticipating Ubu himself at most, not…." Bruce trailed off as he felt himself shift as Talia gave him a smile that had at one time in his life had been something he had desired to see more than anything. "You're not one for simple errands, and it's been a decade since we last saw each other"

"Paris, New Year's Eve, 1999. What lovely night." Talia sighed and for a moment Bruce thought he could see the memory of that night playing in her eyes, before she blinked and the moment was gone. "Is that why you're not touching your food or the drink?"

"You drugged me," Bruce responded curtly, recalling the night or as much of it as he could. It was perhaps his lowest point ever, the one time he had let loneliness cloud his judgement. "You made me do what you wanted and then left."

"It wasn't so terrible, what I gave you just lowered the walls a little, you were surprisingly romantic in truth," Talia responded, although how honest she was Bruce couldn't tell, he could never tell with her, "And besides, you didn't really want me to stay…. did you?"

She had clearly surprised herself with the question and for once Bruce saw a crack in the woman's armour through which he glimpsed a brief flicker of doubt. He still didn't know if it was real or not, he knew how manipulative Talia could be and she had seemed genuine before which had only led to disaster. But there was a part of him, a part he thought long buried which reared its head and caused him to speak before his brain had decided on a course of action.

"Truthfully..." Bruce trailed off. He opened his mouth to respond but stopped himself and pushed back whatever he was feeling to regain focus. "Why are you here, Talia? Nyssa's actions were over a year ago and I have no interest in League affairs these days, just so long as you stay out of Gotham. Your father wouldn't send you just to convey his apologies on behalf of his wayward daughter"

"I am not here for my father," Talia responded shifting so she sat upright, all flirting or teasing leaving her as she saw the Bat regain control over her beloved as the room's warmth disappeared. "Nyssa's actions caused more damage than you know. Her heretics, my father's Shadows, and Wenwu's Ten Rings have been engaged in a brutal three-way war for the last year."

That piece of information earned a small grimace. He knew something had been occurring in the hidden world that the organisations existed in but didn't think it had reached this stage. Wenwu and his group were separate from the League, but Talia's father had been Wenwu's first teacher and so mostly their goals aligned. Any issues were settled between the leaders directly so no one stepped on each other's respective toes. Nyssa changed that when she gambled big time and lost last year, in that gamble she had humiliated the newly resurgent Ten Rings and betrayed Wenwu's trust, and so by his own code Wenwu would have to seek her death. Nyssa's only saving grace though was that her father Ra's al Ghul, the Demon's Head himself, had his own code, so rebellious or not he just couldn't let one of his children be killed and would move to protect her. Although knowing Nyssa Bruce knew she wouldn't just accept the help and as Talia's statement of a three way war confirmed likely attacked her father when she saw him move to protect her. He let out a small huff as his lip twisted. It was like the secret society version of World War One.

"I was wondering why Wenwu or Nyssa didn't try anything further against Tony, too busy with each other. I'm guessing your father stepped in soon after to try and make peace in his own way?" Bruce summarised earning a nod from Talia confirming his theory, before narrowing his eyes at her. "How bad is it?"

"It's…not good. Nyssa's forces have nearly been wiped out although no one knows where she is personally." Talia released a sigh that said everything he needed to know about her views on her sister "Wenwu and my father are, to use a Western phrase 'not pulling their punches', my father needs me focused and ready to fight, so I am here to achieve that"

"I am not going to fight for Ra's, I thought my last campaign made that clear," Bruce felt an old rage burn in his heart at the thought of that abominable man trying to recruit him again after the evil he had wrought.

"I can start right where I left off" he snarled the bat coming to life, which only caused Talia to smile.

"No, like I said I am not here for my father. I am here for me," Talia sighed as she suddenly stood up and moved over to the other side of the room, where another door was located."I need to focus on the war being fought and I can't unless I know….. unless I know our son is safe."

"What?" Bruce asked, suddenly feeling blood draining from his face. He quickly rose to his feet as Talia pulled the door open revealing a boy wearing padded leather with a sword strapped to his back.

"Hello, father." The boy spoke politely with a slight accent very much like the one he knew Talia truly spoke with as he moved forward to stand in the room.

Bruce's analytical mind worked even as he stood frozen for the first time he could remember. The boy was about 9 or 10, tall for his age, nearly being the same height as Talia, had an extremely athletic build, a few cuts and scars were present and apart from his familiar green eyes and slightly narrower face he looked the spitting image of the pictures Alfred had of him at that age.

"Bruce, this is your son, Ibn al Xu'ffasch,"

Talia placed a motherly hand on the boy who due to her own youthful appearance looked far too old to be her son unless she had him at the same age the boy currently was, he also couldn't help frown at the boy's name. It wasn't really a name, directly translated it was a title or description at best, it meant 'Son of the Bat.'

"I have furnished him with a legal identity, to the world his name is Damian Wayne. I thought it fitting he should have names from both his parents' cultures. Damian, this is your father. He is known by many names; Khuffash, the Detective, the Shadow of Gotham, the Dark Knight, but know him truly as the Batman,"

Damian moved towards his father, their height difference forcing him to look up at Bruce, his eyes narrowing as he looked his father up and down.

"You're taller than I thought you'd be."