Crossing the Rubicon


Part VII. IV — "The Big Picture"

Alone in her newly hired room, Valerie studied the blueprints of the warehouse. While she was away to do her...recruiting, it seemed Bruce also get some work done, as he looked for her; a man after her own heart. He could multitask.

The last thought brought a sudden image over her eyes from the backseat, as he showed her how sleekly and expertly he could multitask... She curtly shook her head, as if to cast off the image. Nope, she wasn't going to think about that. It was a moment of heat, and it had passed. There was more important stuff to focus on now. Like how they were going to position at the warehouse.

The building had three main entry points. One was the entrance door that held the abandoned management offices. The other was the area with the four ramps that had four doors for loading and unloading the goods, and the last one; the fire exit at the backside.

The loading area was the trickiest one as it was also the weakest point with its docking ramps. They would need to split, they wouldn't cover the whole ground sticking together, and truth to be told, she wasn't sure if it was a good idea. Another heist literally next to Jason was the last thing she wanted to do, but she would prefer to keep him over at her sight as long as she could. Her back had already stabbed too many times.

And there was Ronnie, too, but she really didn't know what else she could do with him; her whole plan was depending on their separation as she needed him as distraction while they did the real job, and got Ronnie out. But she needed to keep him in her radar, too, simply to evade a misfortunate event like him learning about the truth with money...Money, Jason had claimed Rory not having.

But she would never believe any word Jason uttered, no more. She had made herself a hopeful idiot too many times, too.

A knock cut her thoughts, as her lips turned into a grim line. Standing up from the table, she went to the door, and peeked through the hole to get a glimpse of her intruder. It was no surprise though seeing Bruce standing at the other side. His back rigid, his shoulders squared, he was carrying that strain again; his release short-lived. Well, what she would expect, really?

With a subsided sigh, she opened the door, and walked back to the table. He followed her example, and came to her side. Her eyes skipped downward, toward the black pack back, where she had taken the USB stick before. He put the bag on the table, his eyes taking a hold of the warehouse too.

"We're leaving in an hour," he informed her, sitting at the chair opposite of her, his face as impassive as marble, as expressionless as stone. Valerie looked outside. It was still raining, and it didn't seem it would stop in any moment, either. In silence, she nodded. It really felt nothing had changed. It shouldn't disturb her, it wasn't like that she had expected him to drop on his knee and ask marriage, but still hurt, and she had no idea why. Why the hell she was worrying about that anyway? It wasn't like that she wanted him to do that.

"Have you looked at the plans?" he asked, pointing the blueprints with a tilt of his head.

She nodded again. His forefinger moved along it, and pointed the four ramps. "Ronnie's men should strike here, creating as much as fuss they would manage."

With another nod, she showed him the back exit. "We need to enter from here," she said, "It's the safest."

"Yes," Bruce affirmed, then paused for a second before he asked with a curt voice, "Do you have a plan how to deal with Ronnie in case that he figures out about the money?"

She shook her head. "It won't come to that," she answered, "I'll stick to him."

Suddenly, a fire lightened in his eyes, as he looked at her sharply. "No—" he rasped out, eyes boring through hers, "You won't leave my side."

She looked at him back with a blank look. For a moment, she felt oddly tired, tired of everything. "We need to split up," she said monotonously, and tapped the blueprints with her finger. "There are two more entrances, and we need to cover them both. I don't know about you, but I trust neither Jason nor Sean to team up against us." She paused for a second, taking a breath, and shrugged off, "Besides, Ronnie wouldn't want to keep me away from his sight, either. And it's best for him to see me together with Sean than—" Her eyes shifted at him, "with you."

The implication of her words was clear, and she knew he got it with a perfect clarity, but his expression still stayed the same. She looked at him back with the same blank look. She was fucking tired of this game. "I can take care of myself, Bruce," she told him, but this time it wasn't a challenge; she was tired of that, too. Her eyes skipped at the backpack. "Just give me my gun back."

She had looked for it in the car later, but it wasn't there. Bruce had taken it. Bruce Wayne who closed off his company's Weaponry Division at the first thing after he had regained his power from William Earle had donned a gun for her. Once that would have made her happy, but for the moment, it just sounded sad. He kept looking at her with that look, then at last he nodded, as if accepting something he didn't like, and yes, he was; he was accepting something he didn't like, but she didn't know which one; the fact he was giving her back the gun, or the fact that she didn't neither want or need his worry.

Possibly the latter. He opened the bag. He took out her Glock, put it on the table then added a few little round black balls with little spikes next to it. Leaning forward, she narrowed her eyes at the balls.

"What are these?" she asked, picking up one. She turned it around her fingers, gazing at WayneTech logo on the bottom, "Grenades?"

He shook his head. "Flash bombs," he answered, "When they crash on the ground after you click the mechanism, they create a flash that blinds any eye in the vicinity for ten seconds, so don't forget to close your eyes." He pulled out another ball, bigger and gray, with black satin spikes, and held it up for her. "This holds tear gas," he explained, showing her another one, this time smaller than both, "and this is for smoke."

She nodded, softly brushing her fingers over the metal spikes. Parlor tricks, yes, but Batman was a creature of subterfuge and stratagem, as much as Bruce Wayne was of smoke and mirrors. She opened her leather hip bag and placed the bombs inside with delicate fingers. Bruce took out another item from his backpack, and as soon as her eyes fell on it, she stared at it, her mind drawing a blank.

Bruce looked at her back, "I prepared a tracker," he explained, dangling the bracelet at the end of his fingers, a bracelet that looked exactly like her queen bracelets, "in case that something happens to your phone."

With the last comment, her head turned to his, forcing her eyes away from the bracelet. "I thought you were planning to stick with me," she said, suddenly her voice petulant.

Her lips pulled into a grimace as soon as the words left her mouth. She had no idea what made her utter those words in that way, but Bruce gave her a half smile, taking her hand gently. He put on the bracelet over her wrist. "Well, my plans have a tendency not to go according to the—" As he paused for a second, as if to search a word, his eyes darted up at her, "well, not according to the plan," he concluded, letting off her hand.

Her lips reflected his faint smile on their own records. "And you like to be prepared," she muttered, looking at her wrist. He shrugged. "How did you find this?" she asked, turning up to him.

He looked at her blankly. "From the stall on the corner," he answered.

"No," she shook her head, "How you choose this?" Her face soured, a thought appearing in her mind. Her smile vanished. She glared at him. "Was it Jason, wasn't it?" she snapped.

"What?" Bruce asked with confusion, "Valerie—"

"He made you buy this," she hissed angrily.

"No," Bruce shook his head, "No...I—I'd seen bracelets like this several times in your—box," he explained, his voice faltering again, awkwardly, "I was searching them—to find a pattern," he continued, as she let out a sigh. Of course. "I thought you liked it, so I chose something close from the stall."

She exhaled, letting another sigh. "It's my queen bracelet," she said. Bruce again looked at her with confusion. "Do you know Queen of Caria?" she asked, "She used to wear bracelets like this," she said, "She was a warrior queen. She was the commander of a naval army." She looked at him. "When her country invaded, she didn't need any man to save her, she saved herself, and her country."

Then Bruce understood what she was talking about her. He gave her a half smile again. "Valerie, Artemisia was fighting on the Persians' side," he said, "And they were the invading army."

She shrugged dismissively. "Details, Bruce, details..." She threw at him a half smile, too, "Looking at the details, you're missing the big picture."

As soon as she spoke the words, something in his eyes heated, just like the way before he had kissed her, savage and desperate, and his smile dropped. "I know the big picture, Valerie," he said with a voice so small she almost didn't hear him, "I always know it."

Suddenly she knew they weren't talking about her misdirected story anymore. Her smile faded, too. Bruce exhaled, letting out a deep breath out, as if he was about to something he dreaded, something he didn't want to. And she knew exactly what it was. He was right; he always saw the big picture at the end. "Valerie—" he started, "about what happened in the car—"

She cut him off, "Bruce, it's OK. You don't need to explain." She paused for a second, "I don't expect you to explain," she corrected herself. In silence, he looked at her. "I know, it was a heat of the moment," she continued when he didn't say anything, "and you—" she shrugged, "snapped. But I know where your priorities lay." Together with Rory and other millions of people he felt the need to save.

Bruce didn't say anything for a little while, but when he did it was that small voice again, as if he didn't really want to confess, but he couldn't help himself. "I don't easily snap, Valerie."

She shook her head. "Don't be hard on yourself," she countered, "You're only a man."

"I can't be only a man," he muttered, bowing his head.

She let out a small laughter, bittersweet. No, he couldn't be a man. He had to be...more.

"I'm sorry," he said then lifted his head back at her. "If things were different—" he said slowly, "you and I—" Looking at her, he trailed off, as if he couldn't even complete that thought, couldn't even let himself say it aloud.

As her breath hitched, her lips twitched into a small smile. Weird things happen all time, but that was possibly beating all of the other times. She was getting dumped in the weirdest way possible, off a relationship that hadn't even started yet, off a relationship she didn't even want at the first place.

"It's all right," she said, shaking her head, "Don't stress over it—" She stood up. "Everything turns out the way it's supposed to be."

Bruce looked up at her, his expression impossible to read. "So we're good?" he asked.

She smiled at him wider. "Why wouldn't we be?" she asked back, turning around, and started walking to the door, "It was just sex, Bruce."

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