Crossing the Rubicon

Part V-IV

Part V. IV – "Good people"

A year ago, if someone told him that he was going to confess to a woman who seemed to play with men like toddlers playing in the kindergarten, leaving a mess behind, his first reaction would have been checking out the said person's vitals for any exposure to IDHL. He had no idea how the talk had evolved into this, him ending up being the one who was questioned, admitting something he couldn't even bring himself to mention to Alfred, but somehow the words hadn't come out of him with force. They had followed out naturally, like it was the easiest thing.

It wasn't. And the decorum of serenity of the silence now was only a pretense, harboring a tense storm inside. Valerie started slightly shifting on her seat, feeling the same. It was his turn now, and she knew that.

He opened his mouth, "So—" but she cut him off, reaching out for his arm.

"Look," she said, angling an inch downward to see better through the windshield, "Jason is talking to someone."

Saved by the bell, he thought, his attention turning toward the men standing at the opposite of the side of the road they had been stationed. He raised his phone and took a few quick photos of the man her father was talking with.

"Do you know him?" Bruce asked, almost frightened with another episode with her former marks. He knew he shouldn't be bother about it, he shouldn't let it bother him, he knew from the firsthand experience that she wasn't afraid to use her looks to coax people for her benefits, still the little boy that had been dutifully raised inside him couldn't help but frown at the idea—using sex as a tactical move.

He was aware what she had been trying with him, too, all those flirting and hitting on, sometimes unabashedly obvious, sometimes just fleeting looks, she was trying to get him—their interaction to a point that she knew how to deal with it. For a moment, he felt...pity. Her previous life had possibly rendered her unable to allocate men simply beyond partners and marks although he had no idea with what he could describe his own relation to her. Nothing seemed to fit in.

Valerie seemed to have a clear idea, however, with that look in her eyes, like she had an itch only he could scratch, but Bruce was damn sure it wasn't a good idea to give into that itch, hell, he was quite adamant not to give in even an inch; she had already demonstrated what miles she would run away with it.

I didn't save him, echoed in his ears. Nope, definitely not a good idea.

"No," she said, frowning at the man, "Never saw him before."

Well, it was hard to believe. He entered a few commands into the tablet and ran the man in the databases. Thirty seconds later, the results poured over his screen, his eyebrows tightening. That was fast.

He squinted at the tablet. Turning her attention to him, Valerie piqued at the screen, too. "What?" she asked, as soon as her eyes fell downward.

"Yeah," Bruce said in return, "He's a cop," he stated, lifting his head, "Organized Crime Task Force."

Valerie stared back at him.


Quick as a flash, "moment" they had shared disappeared into the tides of the present. Not that she was eager to fulfill her own end of their bargain nor she had any idea what to do with the secret he had just confessed to her.

I didn't save him...

She wasn't exactly sure what those meant, either, but she understood another thing, that Bruce Wayne was really a good person, someone like she would think only can be found in stories; unselfish and noble, forgiving, as long as the offense committed personally to him, not to Gotham. He had said he could have forgiven his mentor if only he had tried to kill him, and she knew truths were true. She knew because he had come to her aid, despite what she had tried to do to him, he had forgiven her because her atrocity had been directly mostly to him. He had taken the brunt of it, without compliant, and accepted the punishment. She could see now how he could take the blame for Harvey Dent, even though she couldn't understand. In the sense of the words, he was truly...selfless.

Perhaps Alfred was right; Bruce Wayne didn't act like only a hero. He had invented himself a cross to carry then had shouldered it willingly, as if he deserved it...for what...she didn't know. When she had asked why he was doing this at the night he had learned about Harvey Dent, he had said he could not. She hadn't understood what the elusive answer meant then, not really, but now... it was different... She still didn't understand the reason, but she knew why he was doing it...guilt, self-blame...self-hatred—for what she wasn't sure, but she had recognized the sentiment, she could know it from everywhere... the way Clara's screams still echoed in her ears when it was dark, and cold, the world so small...squeezed into a little metal box.

She grimaced. Now, things became even more...fucked up. She should have known better. She should have never let him get under her skin, she should have never asked that question; understanding why he understood what she felt didn't make anything easier, but only got things more complicated.

To be fair to her though, she hadn't expected him to answer her that truthfully. He protected his secret as fiercely as she did; his maneuvers as evasive as hers, his tactics as elusive as her answers. If it had been anyone else, she would have said he was becoming...attached to her, but no, she could read the signs. She would say he found her...attractive, the tension was still high and alive between them, almost a living, breathing thing, but it wasn't that kind of closeness. Intimate, yes, sensual, sometimes, but not downright sexual. She really wished it was. It would really have been much easier to deal with, but apparently Bruce Wayne liked playing the hard ball.

She shot at him a pissed look, as he frowned at the tablet in front of him; his attention entirely focused on the new riddle they had found, like the man who had just confessed possibly his one of the deepest secrets wasn't him.

Deciding following his example, she did the same; brought his attention to the organized crime task force's Inspector, and ignored the rest.

Goodness, it felt...nice...easy, simple. As frustrating as they might be, she knew at least how to deal with them.

Desmond Hayes. She angled her head and stole a glance from the tablet's screen. The man's rugged photo looked at her back, his lips set with a grimace; an expression seemed natural on his features. Her eyes turned on the man's real figure at the street. They were still in front of the pub, like they didn't care if they were seen or not, which was certainly not-normal. You don't make your contacts in the broad daylight, in front of prying eyes. He didn't either care, or he...wanted to draw attention. Knowing Jason, she would say the second.

The only thing the man didn't look old enough. She turned to Bruce. "His partner," she asked, "He's got a partner?"

"No—" Bruce answered quickly, brushing his finger over the screen, "His last one had retired last year," he went on, then halted, his eyebrows clenching. "Charles Hollis. His partner was Charles Hollis."

She raised her eyebrow. "You know Hollis?"

He frowned deeper. "His name was on the file," he explained. She made a "right" sound. "He was the officer that was on his trail."

She barked out a laugh. "He was the officer that was saving his skin," she shot back, looking at him pointedly, "Hollis was Jason's inside man in the police. He was throwing the others off Jason's track," she explained, and asked, "How do you think he has managed to remain clean this long, all investigations on him leading to dead ends?"

He gave her that look, his lips pulled with dissatisfaction. "A dirty police?"

She pursed her lips back at him. "Jason used to call him a man that knows how to make business." Her eyes turned outside, finding them again, "That son of a bitch," she muttered, "He's on fishing."

Bruce inhaled, reliving a sharp breath out. "This is his idea to gather information?" he asked, his voice turning to a rasp, as his hand waved vaguely in the air, "Broadcasting his presence to the whole city?"

She shrugged, "So he would see who would wear the cap."

His face turned sterner. "He threw his cast out, and now waiting to see who would catch the bait," he rasped, staring at the men outside.

"Someone would," she said in return, "if he has an itch."

"This is...dangerous."

She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, like, you wouldn't do anything like that," she shot back, the paused before she added, "If the mountain doesn't come to Muhammed..."

He shook his head. "That's an unnecessary risk," he retorted, his voice adamant, "I don't like it."

She gave him a half smile. "Now, you know how I feel."


The Belfast Memorial Hospital was having a calm afternoon, no way close to the rush of yesterday's Monday. Taken a cover at the angle that had a clear view of the main entrances of the E.R, they had been watching the public hospital for three hours. After leaving Jason with his buddy, they had come to Rory, tracking him around the clock like Bruce had stated yesterday. Valerie was already bored beyond the reason. Bored and hungry, and tensed, her whole body felt like it was about to snap. God, this was the worst stakeout she had ever participated, and it was nowhere close to done. Rory's shift was about to finish, and who knew what kind of pit stops they were going to have to make until Rory finally called it a night and went to home. She passed the last night in her mind. Apart from the fight with Ronnie's minions, there was nothing to suggest the dutiful janitor was what they had been suspecting him to be. His and his friends seemed like boys that had rounded up to protect their neighborhood than a secret cell that was planning an attack that would turn into the city into the chaos, once more, with a good possibility of hurting innocents. The young man she had seen in the dossier was a man of desperation, a misfit, a dissident, and in a way Rory was that man, but her eyes weren't seeing any cruelty. She knew how it felt not belonging to anywhere, but how that kind displacement would get you to do what he did, fighting, protecting the streets, for the good of the people?

Her eyes skipped to Bruce, a realization lightening in her mind. Their Rory seemed much like to the man she was sitting next, and she was kinda upset not to see it earlier. She wondered if Bruce had.

Leaning forward, she held the handle under her seat and pushed the mechanism to lounge over the seat. God, she had missed Lamborghini. "You know, it doesn't make sense," she commented under her breath, stretching her legs, "We've been following him since yesterday, but he doesn't fit to the bill."

Bruce craned his neck and gave her a look. "Illegal organizations once they went underground work in secret," he cited placidly in answer, "Their all integrity is to blend in until the time has come."

She shook her head. "Well, I don't know," she said, "If his aim is not to get uncovered, what was that fight yesterday?" she asked.

He turned his head away. "Some things cannot be helped."

She shrugged, her lips pursing, "I don't know. He really doesn't look like to me as someone who would hurt innocents."

His eyes still fixed ahead, he slowly muttered, "Sometimes you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

Her eyebrow rose, as his expression closed off, as soon as the words left his mouth, as if he had understood what he had uttered. Her eyes darted at him, but she didn't know what to say. She wasn't even sure if she wanted to say anything at all. She wished he had stopped saying things like this, things that were doing funny things in her chest, leaving her short on the breath, her lungs squeezed.

Live long enough to see yourself become the villain... then she realized she had missed another thing, once again, something pivotal with Bruce Wayne. He didn't save his mentor, but he had saved the other, even after all the things the maniac clown had done to him and to Gotham, he had saved the Joker.

Releasing a silent breath, she slightly shook her head. Just when she thought she had understood a part of him, in a small way, she felt she had turned to the beginning once again. It was no use. She could never figure out this man. So like she always did, she decided to dwell on the things she would.

She turned her away, and looked at the hospital. "We need to talk to Jason," she stated with a cool voice, steering the topic to the safe waters. "Rory trusts him, but why?" she asked, and her eyebrows tightened, "and Jason is dragging his feet to make a contact."

He followed her example. "Alfred's file mentions that Rory participated in a few bank robberies five years ago," he said, his voice rough, a tone above a whisper but clear, "Do you know anything about it?" he questioned.

She shook her head. "No, I wasn't around here then."

Another sudden silence ensued after her answer. Then he slowly said, "Sean doesn't know...you're—" He looked at her, "—supposed to be dead."

Running her eyes away, she faked a shrug. "Wouldn't broadcast it, would I?"

His eyes followed, and captured hers. "Your death certificate was citing an accident in Londonderry."

She stared at him, her eyes widening. "You saw my death certificate?!" He gave her another look. She huffed. "I went to Derry afterward," she explained vaguely, but also giving him an opening to collect his payment, "Wanted to be away for a while."

He took it, of course. His eyes turning darker, he opened his mouth, but before he could say a word, the car's back door opened, and her father slipped inside. Their heads snapped at him at the same time, as if they were caught—doing something... she didn't know. Jason gave them a look, too, recognizing the nervous gesture, and smirked. "Interrupting something?" he asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

She pulled her lips out back at him. "No..." she said, her voice silky with fake sweetness, "We were just trying to understand why Rory trusts you..." she smiled further, "You must understand our confusion... It's hard to comprehend why anyone would do that."

Jason smiled back at her. "Kiddo, you're really vindictive, you know that?" he shot back, "It's hard to comprehend from who you took that—" He paused for a second, "Cathleen!" he almost exclaimed, "That witch of a woman... she infected you."

She shook her head. Sometimes she didn't know why she even tried. "Rory, father," she seethed.

"Do you remember my...friend in the organized crime task force?" Jason asked back. Her eyes skipped at Bruce and they shared a quick glance.

"Yeah," she said back, turning her attention back at Jason. "Chuck Hollis. What about him?" she asked, "I thought he was retired."

Jason nodded. "Yes, last year. Turned to London," he said, "Last time I heard he was working in Art Loss Register."

"And?" Valerie prompted, rising her eyebrow, waiting for his point.

Jason shrugged at ease. "And, seven years ago," he said, and her eyebrows furrowed, too, "When you were trying—your something different—" his eyes skid to Bruce for a moment, her frown deepened. She was going to kill him! One of these days, she was going to kill him. "Rory got involved with a gang..." he started explaining, "They were robbing jewelry stores... He wasn't doing much of anything, he was the lookout, watching for the police. One day they got caught after their big job. The same story; power struggles inside, the boys got greedy," he said, shrugging.

"I called Chuck," he continued. "I knew Rory since he was a little kid. Chuck pulled a few strings, disappeared a few evidence...you know the usual stuff—" he muttered under his breath. She let out a sigh. "Fixed him a quick penance, away from the trouble." An idea, an idea came to her mind, but she didn't ask, she didn't want to ask, but she couldn't help her mind speculate...what he had done for Rory seemed like the exact thing he had done for her... and Jason didn't do sentimental...

He might have recognized her expression, because a second later, he laughed, looking at her. "Kiddo, I only have one child—" He paused, "As far as I know."

Her hands pulling into fists, she glared at him, but not dignified the words with an answer. "So what did you two figure out?" Jason asked, looking at them.

They shared another quick glance before she let out a sigh. She didn't want to give away about what they had discovered the last, there was still time for that, but for Ronnie...well, she reasoned he needed to know. "Well, you remember the trio Rory was fighting last night?" she asked.

His eyes narrowing, Jason nodded, "Yeah."

"They're Ronnie's minions."

His eyebrows raised above his hairline. "Ronnie..." he asked, "as in...Ronald Looney...?" he asked, looking at her, "The man he swore to kill you when he sees you the next?"

She clicked her tongue. "Right that one."

Jason exhaled softly, "Oh boy."

She looked at him back. "It's the time," she declared, "We need to finish this." Her eyes turned sterner. "You need to talk to Rory."


"God, I can't believe you're here, old man," she heard Rory declared an hour later, his voice cracking with static over the radio, a sound of toasting glasses echoing inside her ear along with it. Somehow, it was going well. Upon seeing Jason, the younger man had been expectedly skeptic, but as the time passed, he had become...friendlier. "People don't come back easily now, a lot of them already have moved on..." he continued, a sadness entering into the cracks of his voice.

"Well, you know what they say," Jason said back, "You always come back home."

"It's good to be home," Rory said softly, as she turned her eyes away. Apparently she was the only one who didn't feel the happy homecoming feelings. If she had her own way, she would have never returned here, never. "Despite everything," he added, voice now a mere mutter.

It was a good opening, and Jason didn't waste it. "I thought things are getting better," he said, "The Assembly reopened last year," he continued, "That's an improvement."

From the radio, she heard ruffles as if someone was shaking head, "That's a comprise," Rory opposed, a fierceness heating his tone. She turned and shared a look with Bruce. His expression was guarded, weighting the moment, but also prepared. "They gave their full support PSNI," Rory spat the last word like an insult, "They signed St. Andrews Agreement...just that so they could place their worthy arses on the leather seats back again."

Ah...now they were coming somewhere. She looked at Bruce again. "He's not happy," he stated.

She shrugged. "A lot of people aren't happy after last year," she said, "Feel betrayed. Cathleen used to call all of them Judases."

Again, a brief silence followed after her words, as Bruce studied her, that look all over his face. She cursed inwardly. She had just jumped into the trap willingly. "Ah, politicians always are the same," Jason commented with a laugh, "Can't expect anything else from them."

Bruce lowered the radio, Jason's voice fading into the silence stretching between them. "Who's Cathleen?" he asked softly.

She ran her eyes away, but answered as she understood this time there was no where she would run, and they had made a bargain. It was his time to collect. "A Sisters of Mercy," she said, "she used to run the orphanage I born."

"Nothing stays the same," Jason voice echoed from the distant. The words weren't uttered for her, but still it felt the same, "Life goes on. You should too."

She closed her eyes, exhaling shakily, and rested her head back. You can't hate him forever...

She thought she could, she was certain she would... but... "Seven years ago," she started suddenly, "I was trying something..." the words trailed off, her mind coming to a stop. What the hell she had been trying really? She had been just playing house.

"Something—different?" The question echoed in the car. She could feel his eyes on her even with her closed eyes, intruding and probing ever, but this time there was another gentleness in his tone, something she seldom heard from him, in fact, the only time she had heard it had been when he had told her they didn't need to find her father if she wasn't comfortable with it...pity in his eyes...

Her eyes snapped open, and she looked at him, searching for any sign of pity, but there was none. There was something close to compassion, soft and kind, and somehow it didn't boil her blood, painting the world red. It was funny but she knew he had understood, and even funnier was that she had found herself not minding it, not even caring. It felt...oddly good. "You ever felt something wasn't right with your life?" she asked, "and wished things could be—different."

Still looking at her in silence, he nodded. She guessed he would. No sane person got lost for years, declared himself death for no reason. Perhaps she had been right. He had really understood. "Cathleen had just passed away..." she explained, "I gone to see her...you know...for the last time... and she looked at me that way..." She shook her head. "It's hard to explain."

"Was it bad?" he suddenly asked. She looked at him, almost confused. "Her..." he clarified, "She was bad?"

She shrugged. "Could be worse, I guess," she answered, with the only truth she could find. "You hear stuff all the time. No one abused me or anything. I was just..." She shook her head again, trying to find a suitable word, then she chose to go with the first thing that had come to her mind, "...alone," she finished.

Then there was again silence. She softly laughed. "Don't get me wrong," she said, "Most of times, it was a blessing. Cathleen..." She let out a small sigh, "she was a stern woman, living a century or so back. She was fair in her own way, but her world view wasn't exactly... corresponding with the times we live in—" She pursed her lips, and added, "especially for someone like me."

He frowned, the habitual crease between his eyebrows deepening. "What do you mean?" he asked.

She laughed again. "She was a good Catholic, Bruce, used to say my mother was like a daughter to her," she explained, "and I'm born out of wedlock..." She shrugged. "She had thought mother would have been a nun like herself, to quote her, not open her legs wide to the first man who threw at her a smile." Her eyes finding his, she smiled, bitter with irony, "She must have felt betrayed."

"That's not right," he muttered.

She shrugged. "Perhaps," she said, "but in any case, I'm...grateful to her," she continued, the same bitter irony edging her voice further, "I wouldn't have been here now if it wasn't her."

His crease deepened more, his eyebrows clenched tighter. It was almost cute. She laughed again. "Come on, Bruce," she said, irony turning to a dry humor, cutting, "A girl who is about to be a nun getting knocked up, and the father isn't even in the country...do the math."

"Your mother—" he rasped, "Your mother wanted to—"

She cut him off, "Cathleen didn't let her," she said. "She thought one sin is already enough. Another one should not be committed under her roof."

"Valerie—" Bruce said, but she cut him off again.

"I don't blame her, Bruce," she said, "Mother tried to do what she had to." Her words more than anything were matter of fact. They hurt but it didn't change anything; it was the truth. She didn't blame her mother, and how she could have, after what she had done herself, not having enough justifications like her, either? No, her mother was trying to keep her away from a life that she knew only would bring her pain... She was glad to be alive, but she understood her mother.

Bruce, on the other hand, didn't seem like he did. He shook his head, defiantly, his eyes lightened with a fire she seldom saw. "It's not right," he said, shaking his head.

She narrowed her eyes at him. "And what's right, Bruce Wayne," she asked, her voice turning into a hiss, "bringing someone like me in the world with their conditions?" She shook her head. "Right and wrong most of times are opinions, they differ from one person to another. But this—" She waved her hand around, "—is reality. It's the same for everyone."

"And every action has consequences," he encountered, "You can't ignore your responsibility."

"Responsibility?" she asked back, her eyes suddenly pricking, the history weighting down on her, things she would have never let herself sway into, but Bruce Wayne had a way to get under her skin. "There is only responsibility in this life, Bruce, and it is called living," she rasped, fiercely blinking to keep her tears at bay. "My mother died giving me birth because she went to labor prematurely, and do you know why that happened?" She asked, raising her eyebrow, "Because someone called her a whore...a mother of a bastard, and do you know how I know that?" she asked further, but her voice felt like it belonged to another, "Because my childhood passed listening to that story... That's what happens when you be a bad girl..." she spat, the words itching, her breath an inch away from him, "So...don't sit on your high horse there, and judge her for what she felt she had to, but they didn't let her do."

She exhaled, releasing a deep breath, and rested back on her seat. The silent murmur of Jason and Rory were still in her ears, but she couldn't gather their meanings to save her life. She cursed at herself again silently. She really shouldn't let him do this to her, getting under skin, forcing her to share the past. There was nothing, nothing good scratching the old memories, she had always known that. That path had no way.

Another moment passed in the silence, the murmurs still their backgrounds then Bruce said, slowly, as if weighting the words on his tongue. "I'm sorry."

She shrugged, the fire in her slowly quenching, leaving its place to cold ashes. "A wrong deed can't be straightened out with another one, Bruce," she said, her voice now even, and matter of fact once again, "It only worsens it. The truth is that..." she paused, her eyes turning away, "some people are not meant to be parents."


Her attention fixed at outside, Valerie didn't talk further, and Bruce absorbed the rejecting gesture, and let her be to gather herself back. He was well aware how her fingers were tightened around the car's handle. If they had been in the motel after the episode they had just went through, she would have already tailed back to the bathroom.

Perhaps he was making a mistake. The more they shared, the more screwed up their relationship had become, every talk they had turning into a mess. Not that he was surprised. All things related to her had an annoying tendency to turn to a mess.

The worst part of it, deep down he couldn't find in himself opposite her, even when he knew she was wrong. Her words were true, he believed them. Her mother might truly have lived through that hell, and that kind of atrocity was making his blood boil, his teeth bare at each other but still... It was her responsibility. Sometimes he wanted to smash her father to the ground for leaving her stranded, but she was right again in that part; some people were not meant to be parents. Her mother was meant to be a nun, and her father possibly could be anything but a father, and in one moment, one faithful moment, their life was ruined.

As soon as the thought appeared in his mind, he crashed it down. That was how she felt, he wondered, blaming her own existence for ruining her parents' life? A child is a miracle, not a burden, he remembered his father saying. And all life is sacred, his gentle voice echoed in his mind.

Your father should be ashamed of you...

Rachel's words still stung, after all these years, but his father's words had become his only rule. He wouldn't play the hand of justice and the judge at the same time, he couldn't play the God. He had done once, had submitted to his darkness, but even one time had been enough. He could be anything; an abhorred fallen hero, a scorned playboy, a dummy business man, a dark savior, but he couldn't be that man. He couldn't decide who should live, who should die. He had failed. Perhaps he was the man Ducard had thought of him be. He hadn't killed his once mentor, yes, but in the heart of things, it made little difference. He hadn't saved him either.

"So what are you doing nowadays?" Jason's voice asked in his ear, dissolving his thoughts. His lips setting in a grimace, Bruce decided to focus on the present, the call of his mask getting more adamant in his mind. When the cowl was on, the world was really a much easier place, the sides definite. He knew with a perfect clarity what he was, what he wasn't. When the mask was on, he was simply Batman, nothing more, and nothing less.

"Working in a hospital," the younger man answered, an obvious shrug in his voice, then a second later a smirk tinted it, "cleaning the grounds."

With the last worlds, Valerie finally decided again to acknowledge his present. She turned to him, and gave him a look, a small half smile appearing over her lips. "Well, wasn't that a word play?" she asked, her words clear, as anonymous as ever.

They hadn't before. For the first time he had known her, there had been a ghost of accent in them the last time she had spoken, a trace of her Irish origins. She didn't look like she was aware of the slip, but after what she had said he hadn't expected her to be. Any other woman would have probably had a break down by now; any other woman would have already had a couple of breakdowns by now.

Despite the messiness, Bruce decided it was a good thing. She wasn't as cold-hearted as she pretended, in fact, all things considered, he would even call her...sentimental. "So you're playing nice?" Jason asked, his voice coming closer, "No trouble?"

"No, I left it all behind, it wasn't my thing," Rory answered then a hint of suspicion lowered his tone, "Why do you ask?"

"Nothing, you know me, just listening around..." Jason said airily.

A brief silence, then Rory asked, suspicion this time clear in his voice, "And what do you hear, old man?"

But there was no hesitance in Jason's answer; "Things. An event... Something's happening," he said, "Your name is around."

Valerie looked at him, her eyes widening. "What the hell—" she said, touching her ear, "Jason—" she called in, "what are you doing?" she asked to her father.

"What?" Rory asked the same thing she had, "I can't believe this," he said, "This is why you're here?" There was again silence, and the younger man fired, "You want what everyone else does, too..." Bruce looked at Valerie. In answer, she shook her head, shrugging... "I told you already, told y'all. I—"

Jason cut him off. "I'm here because I'm worried," he said, "I don't know why but you're in the radar."

"What they say?" Rory hissed out.

"Nothing specific," Jason answered, "But I can see it..." he said, "This... this won't last forever." He didn't clarify what he meant by "this" but Bruce had already understood the meaning. The truce...the pretense of order; the peace time...it wasn't going to last, like Gotham, Belfast was a steaming cauldron that had reached to its boiling point, and soon what was inside was going to spill.

"Of course, it isn't," Rory said back, the words heated much like his city, "Don't you see it? They might pretend otherwise, but they hate it as much as we do..." He paused for a second, before concluding, "Sometimes it feels like we're doomed to do this forever."

Something hit him in the stomach, the words ringing in his mind. Valerie was right. Rory wasn't fitting into the bill. He was a good person, who had made some bad decisions, but he couldn't do it. He ripped off the wireless from his ear, and turned to Valerie. "You were right," he said, directly looking at her eyes, "Rory can't do this."

She raised her eyebrow, "Meaning?"

"Someone is framing him."

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