Part IV. II – "A bridge crossed"
Before she knocked the door of Sean's bunker, her hand hesitated, her eyes sweeping around the streets that she never thought she would see again. All things considered, a talk with Sean was the last thing she wanted to do at the moment, especially when she had a rather annoying billionaire in her ear carefully listening every word she spoke. The man was a pain in the ass, a very smart, not to mention good-looking pain in the ass, but he was still one. If she wasn't the focus of his close scrutiny, she would have been impressed at his attention to the details, but unfortunately she was. She had always liked to be in the center of the attention, but never like this, never intruding, trying to slip through her borders, picking up every little piece of bread in the meantime. She wondered how long he was going to keep his promise before yielding into his curious nature. She almost wished him to do, just to see how he might react.
She sniffed, shaking her head, knocking the door. They should have just slept together. It would really make things—not easier, but simpler. Men were always simple in the bed; their needs were clear, uncomplicated. Well, mostly, possibly. If the rumors were correct, Batman had a high stamina. She shook her head, dismissing the sudden thought, and braced herself to face her opponent. She couldn't deal with Sean with a naked image of Bruce Wayne in her mind. She knocked again, more firmly this time, but the door still stayed unopened. She took a step further, and brought her ear close to the surface, listening to inside. Perhaps he was still asleep, although it wasn't the man she had down, he always woke up before the dawn, but time...times did funny stuff to people. And he was getting old, approaching to fifty. Then she heard soft footsteps. She retreated quickly, forcing herself into the eased demeanor that she had perfected over the years, a suave small placed on her lips. When the door opened, she greeted the man, "Hello, Sean."
Even though he was surprised to see her at his doorsteps, close to the dawn, the former guerilla didn't show it off. Leaning against the frame of his door in his faded t-shirt and jeans, he didn't look like he'd gotten out of the bed, either. He gave her an once-over, his eyes carefully assessing her...assets, but she knew more than her body he was assessing the situation. She huffed with a mocking exasperation, eying the white in his hair. "You've become rude in your old age, love," she commented with a pout, adding to her voice a silky taunting, but still keeping it free-accent. It had been long since she had forced herself to drop her accent, and she was not going to adopt it now.
Smiling at her, Sean pulled back from the door and opened up the way for her. "Forgive the manners of the old man," he stressed the last word as she walked into the bunker, "Just never thought you'd show your face around here again."
She laughed out. "Well, you know what they say," she said over her smile, shrugging, "You always come back to home."
"They also say the criminal always returns to the scene of the crime," he shot back.
She took a breath, as if she was affronted. "Sean, you wound me," she said exaggeratedly, a mocking husk roughing her voice. The former guerilla looked at her. She started laughing again. "Come on—" she drawled, hitting his upper arm lightly, "Don't tell me you didn't miss me."
"Oh, don't worry," he said in return slyly, "you were always in my dreams."
She cocked up her eyebrow, her lips curved into her smile, "Really?" He gave her a look. She shrugged, still laughing. "Well, you were in my dreams, too, darling."
His eyebrow arched, too, "Really?"
Her face suddenly sobered as she dropped the fakeness in her voice. "We used to be good friends, Sean," she said, "Is it impossible to miss that?"
As soon as the words left her mouth, his face sobered too. "All right, Felicia, that's enough," he said, voice turning colder then asked bluntly, "What do you want?" He halted for a second before continuing, "Assuming you didn't already steal it from me?"
She exclaimed, "I would never."
"Oh, you would always," Sean sneered back then repeated. "What do you want?"
She decided to cut the bullshit then. "I'm looking for Christian—" she answered truthfully then asked directly, "Do you know where he is?"
His eyes narrowed. "Why?"
She shrugged. "I'm in a need of his—expertise."
In silence, Sean only looked at her.
She let out a sigh, and strutted to him with a leisure pace, taking her time to create the scene. "Ok…here's the thing," she started again, propping herself over the counter he was standing in front of, and told him the truth, in her own way; "I'm working on behalf of someone who likes his privacy very much, and who is very rich, very gullible, and also in a dire need of a good doctor." She dropped her voice a tone down as she closed in on him further. "Give us something, anything," she whispered earnestly, "and he will make it very much worth your while."
With a scoff, Sean took a step back. "You're losing your touch, Fi," Sean walked back to his couch, shaking his head at her, almost in disappointment. "You used to be a much better liar."
Dropping the act, she neared in on him again. "I'm not lying," she rasped heatedly.
"Like you said we used to be good friends?" he asked, barking out a laugh, as he sat on the couch.
"We were!" she protested.
"The last time you told me we were good friends you stabbed me at my back!" he bit off, words not loud but full with a cutting edge.
"You were trying to do the same!" she shouted back, as Bruce's commanding voice echoed in her ear, "Valerie." The sole utter of the name made her collect her wits again, the hazy blur of fury lifting. Sarah Allen was dead, Felicia was merely a nickname. Now she was just Valerie, and Valerie was here for a purpose.
She let out a rough breath, before she tried again. "Tell me where Christian is," she said, "and I will pay you a great deal of money." Again, Sean only looked at her, not moving an inch. Her face closing, she nodded, curtly. "Okay. Try this," she leaned back over the counter behind her, crossing her arms over her, "I'm wondering how much Ronnie might be interested in knowing how you kept him in the dark before."
Sean laughed loudly. "Oh, that was good. Ronnie swore, and I quote," his voice turned to a mocking imitation of the cast-out heir of the Looney family, "the next time I see her, I put a bullet in that lying face of hers." Sean gave her a crooked smirk and continued with his own voice, "Don't recommend running back to your old lover, love."
She shook her head, disgust and anger distorting her face, before she spun on her heels and walked back to the door. She was an idiot, an idiot to think that he could help her, just because she was in a hard place. She yanked the door open, but before she put a foot outside, his voice stopped her. "But you must be truly desperate if you return here," he slowly said.
She didn't turn back, but asked, "What if I am?"
"Then quit lies, buttering up, and threats, and sit down," he said, "Then we might talk about—business." He paused for a second. "Real business."
Smiling, she closed the door, and turned to him, a smarmy smile all over her face. "I always knew you have a soft spot for me," she muttered under her smile.
"Shut up." She smiled wider, sitting in an armchair, as Sean walked to his desk and took a yellow dossier from his drawer. "If you want to learn where the doctor is, you're gonna help me with this," he announced, throwing the dossier at her.
First she gave him a look as he stood towering above her, then bowing her head, she opened the dossier. "What's this?" she asked, looking through the contents. There were a few snapshots of a man in his thirties as he walked in the streets, unaware of his photos were taken. There was a haunting expression over his face, his face the color of ash, the dark shadows underling his eyes, giving him even more bleak air. There were other snapshots, too; a house, a car, another bunker. "Or rather who's this?" she amended her question, lifting her head from the surveillance file.
Giving her a stiff look, Sean supplied her with information, "This is Rory Boyle," he said, "He used to be together with us in the old days." She heaved a subsided sigh, finally understanding what was happening, "Some...people in the Assembly believes he's a part of a cell that refused to disarm after 2005."
"He turned to one of the rogues?" she asked to confirm. The New IRA, as they called themselves, the dissidents that would never make their peace with any authority, no matter what everyone else wanted. She could understand the feeling, but the reasons were different.
In answer, Sean nodded. "Some people can't accept time...happens," he intoned, shrugging off, almost in resignation.
Her eyes drew away, "And things change," she muttered slowly then turned back to him, the momentary nostalgia gone. "I thought the Army deals with the rogues."
"Well, given that there is no Provisional Army officially anymore," Sean shrugged. "He used to be...a friend," the smuggler said with hesitance. She arched her eyebrow. Sean shook his head. "They've been mostly dealing with drug dealers and pimps at the corners, but—" he halted for a second then shook his head again, "There are talks about an event in the circles. The party doesn't like it. They just gave their full support to PSNI last year. An attack would turn things into a further mess."
Then she understood. "They want to bring him in before it's too late," she stated.
He nodded, giving her a half smirk. "We're the peacekeepers now."
"Touching," she shot back, sarcasm thinning her voice, as she laughed softly, "So it's got nothing with the bounty that they must've placed on his head."
He shrugged with an unabashed ease that she saw herself mirroring lots of times, "I'm multitasking."
"You've always," she agreed, then looked at him narrowing her eyes, leaning over the couch, "But what I don't understand is what you need from me."
He looked at her back pointedly. "I need someone to bring him in... peacefully."
Straightening back, she gave him another smarmy smile, "Let me guess, you've crossed him before, and when he sees you the next, he puts a bullet in that lying face of yours?" she retorted back his words, muttering again under her smile.
"I'm not going to apologize for being who I am, Fi."
"We never do," she nodded, voice affirmative then stated out with finality, "So you want me to bring him in."
Sean though only shook his head in frustration. "Don't be stupid," he snapped, "He doesn't even know you."
"Then what do you want from me?" she asked with the same frustration.
"I want you to bring Jason in."
The words were spoken clear, without any ulterior or hiding meaning but she wasn't still sure if she had heard him correct. They had reached to her ears, but the meanings suddenly were lost to her. Because he could not ask what she had just heard. He simply could not.
Her eyes stuck on him, she whispered, "What?"
"I want Jason," he repeated bluntly, "Bring him in. Rory used to adore him. Jason could talk some sense to him."
In silent astonishment, she shook her head. "Sarah—" Sean said her name deliberately.
She shook her head, stopping him. "No way," she snapped in a harsh whisper, "No way I talk to that man again."
Taken aback, Sean looked at her, "Still?"
Her face closing off, she stood up. "Still." Without another word, she turned on her heels, and walked to the door.
"I guess you're not that much desperate, huh?" he asked from her behind.
Her hand on the handle, she let out a scoff, but admitted before she walked out, "No, not that much."
She had sworn she was never going to be that much desperate again. Never again.
An hour later, Bruce was watching her as she paced the motel room, her heels clicking on the bare floor with a curt a staccato rhythm. All in three weeks, Bruce had never seen her like this; like a wounded lioness that was stuck in a cage, even not when she had been in the bunker truly wounded, truly stuck. He shook his head. Much like everything with her, this one was turning to more than they had bargained for. It was supposed to be a recon mission. He knew it wouldn't be easy, he knew they wouldn't find the doctor easily, but bringing a rogue in? He shook his head with frustration as Valerie muttered under her breath the same. She was passed beyond the agitation now. The problem was that he was barely, just barely any different from her.
During the time she had been outside, it had been him who was wearing out the floor under his feet, his temper rising with every second they had spent away from Gotham, while his mind was crowded with unknown dangers and with the stress of being away from his city. It was the first he had been away from Gotham since Rachel's death, and each moment he spent here he felt something bad was about to happen, and just because he wasn't there to stop it, more people would end up death because he failed again.
He knew he wasn't being fair to himself, but knowing it didn't make any difference, the feeling was still there, a constant reminder how he always let people who believed in him down.
"That scheming, slithering, heap of old bones and wrinkled skin!" Valerie hissed through teeth cattily, "The nerve of him, the nerve of him—"
"Valerie—" Bruce called her, his voice edging her name with a clear warning.
But she didn't seem to be in the mood to play nice. She stopped, looking at him then barked out, "What?"
He looked at her directly, too. "What was that about?"
Turning away, she ignored his question and resumed her wild pacing. "We just need to find out something," she said, shaking her head, pacing to the left side of the room, "Leverage, something that he is desperate of," she hissed as turning again toward the right side, "It was stupid of me going there with empty hands."
"What are you talking about?"
Her routine turned to his direction, her feet carrying her toward him, her eyes blazing, "We need to talk to him in the only language he understands—" She suddenly halted, staring at him as if she had seen him the first time. "Fuck it!" she exclaimed, "Why I didn't think of that before," she murmured as she rushed to his side and caught his wrist. She started dragging him toward the door.
Stopping, he pulled her to his side, "What are you doing?"
"You need to make him talk!" she shouted at his face, clawing at his forearm again, "Kick his ass, throw him over a roof, I don't know. I don't care. Just make him talk!"
He shook his head at her. "You've lost your mind."
"You're the goddamn Batman!"
An utter silence followed her declaration as they stared at each other, their chests inches apart. Her frenzy waned through the silence, and he could even see the way her jaw moved as she swallowed the rest of her words, her eyes still struck on him. There she had said it out loud. You're the goddamn Batman. He felt a door closed and locked behind them, a bridge crossed, and there were no safe returns now. She knew his secrets, she knew him like no one else did. She had tagged herself along with his life, and Bruce understood with a perfect clarity now that the journey was going to be a hell of a rough ride.
"Who is he?" he asked slowly, taking a step further to her, crossing another border, into her personal space, like she had been doing to him since the day they had met.
"No one of importance," she returned his move, almost challengingly, even though she took a step backward.
"Do you know where to find him?" he pressed in, stalking to her with a predatory measure. She shook her head no, taking another step back. "Don't lie to me," he rasped out, his voice dropping to the distinctive rasp on instinct, a not-so-subtle warning edging it to sharp steel.
The next step had her back pressed at the wall. Standing inches apart, he looked at her trapped figure, as she stared at him, perhaps truly understanding the first time with whom she had been dealing with. But she wasn't one to back down without a fight first, he had already gathered it, too. Her chin titled up on challenge, she asked, "What if I don't?"
He didn't move an inch. "Don't," he ordered, voice definitive. In silence, she swallowed, but still maintained the eye contact. "Answer me," he ordered again, softening his voice only an fraction, "Who is this Jason?"
She let out a rough breath, before she whispered out, "He's my father."
He stared at her, the last word echoing in his ears. Taking advantage of the moment, she turned aside, and rushed to the bathroom.