Crossing the Rubicon


The Finale Part

Part VIII. I — "Nothing more, nothing less"

Valerie threw herself at the left side as Ronnie tried to fulfill his oath, his aim despite his temporary blindness having a terrible acuteness. The bullet wheezed just beside her ear, as she exhaled out a sharp but shaking breath, but adrenalin urged her forward. She didn't have time.

With a battle sneer, she launched, and tackled him down. She straddled over him as her fingers clutched around his hand that held the gun. Before he reacted, she took the gun, and leaping back quickly, she pointed it at him.

Regaining his sight, Ronnie stood up, looking directly at her eyes. "Do it," he challenged, almost tauntingly, "Do it, love."

She stood still, only staring back at him. In his eyes, she saw the truth. In them there were hurt, the hurt of his pride, and malice; a promise of revenge, because she had turned the tables yet again. For a moment, for a little but tempting moment, she entertained herself with the idea of accepting his challenge. Things would be easier; at least she would have one less problem to think of. Inwardly, she heaved a sigh. If only she didn't have this conscience. Life would have been really a lot of much easier.

"If you won't, you know I will—" Ronnie continued when she didn't speak, "Where ever you go, whatever you decide to be, Felicia—" he hissed the fake name he knew her by, "I will find you, and I will kill you."

She smiled, before she knocked him out, "You will try."

Quickly she returned to the hall where Ronnie had left Sean, and knelt beside the older man. As she picked up his pulse, throbbing under her finger, she sighed with relief, and called in.

"Valerie!" Bruce's agitated voice rushed into her ear as soon as she opened the link, his breath faintly but definitely labored. "Where the hell are you?" he asked.

"We're coming out," she answered quickly, starting shaking Sean, "Ran a bit of problem." There was a sudden, brief silence from the other side that was only interrupted with his snuffing breaths, "Bruce, where are you?" she asked, frowning.

"I'm coming to get you," he answered in a way that made her feel like an idiot. Of course, he was. Let no one may say that Bruce Wayne missed a chance to play the hero.

"There is no need—" she started but the line was already closed. She sighed, and leaned closer to Sean. "Come on, old man," she called him, hitting his cheek lightly, "You have too much of a thick skull to get knocked out by a simple blow."

Sean's eyes slowly opened. "Your bedside manners still suck," he moaned.

She smiled at him, and held his arm as he started standing up, "Well, I was told I'm much better in it." As, he silently laughed, they started walking toward the entrance that they had come in. "Thank you—" she said, lifting her head at him, "about back there." She pointed with her head at the corridor Ronnie had pointed his gun at her the first time.

Sean shook his head, but didn't say anything back for a little while, then grumbled, "Never liked that guy. Too much pride, too little wisdom." He paused for a second, his eyes darting around. "By the way, where the hell is he?"

She shrugged, "Knocked him out."

Sean smiled as with the corner of her eyes, she caught Bruce running toward her under the faint moonlight. The night was still stormy, but it was full moon, its light pure and strong even under the thick storm clouds.

"Valerie—" Bruce called, as he grabbed Sean from her hurriedly, barely glancing at her, "Come on, we need to get going," he said, effortlessly dragging Sean, "the police are on the way."

She didn't make him repeat the words. She trotted next to him, keeping up with his long and quick steps. "What happened?" he asked, his eyes checking on her.

She shrugged again. "One of the men taunted about the money before they left," she explained fast, "Ronnie didn't take it well."

Bruce gave out a sharp exhale of breath, his lips pressing into a grim line. The retort seemed to be on the tip of his tongue, he held it back. She shook her head. "Come on, say it," she urged him.

Turning his head aside, Bruce threw at her a look. "Say what?"

"'I told you so'."

"Tonight I don't want to," he countered, but then a sudden ghost of a smile lifted one corner of his mouth, "but I did bloody tell you."

So he did, so he did. She threw at him a glance then did the most sensible thing she could think of the moment. She laughed.

One hour later, they were back in the motel, with their one plus. On the staircase, Bruce stopped her by putting a hand on her forearm and put a safe distance between them and the rest of the group. She looked at him in question. "Talk with Sean, and pack in," he instructed, "We need to leave in the morning." His eyes skipped at the men walking ahead, "We can't stay here anymore."

There was nothing she wanted to do more, but damn her conscience, there was something else to consider. "Rory—" she asked, "What about him? He can't stay around here anymore, either."

Bruce nodded in agreement. "No. I'll arrange him a cover identity," he said, then his eyes turned the men ahead of them again, fixated on a specific one, "Jason will look after him," he remarked slowly.

And that was what she was afraid of. "No," she countered stiffly.

Bruce took a step closer to her. "We need someone to cover the doctor after we left, Valerie—" he said, his eyes finding hers, "We couldn't leave something like that to the chance."

She looked at him back, "I—"

"—need to accept," he interjected.

Her eyes lit with more anger, she shook her head defiantly. Bruce took another step toward her. "There is no one else, Valerie," he said, his voice low but resolute, certain as the truth that was.

She knew he was right. From this moment, the doctor was always going to be a security risk, and Bruce wouldn't deal with it without endangering both of them further. They needed someone to watch over Christian, someone with...enough reasons. "I know how you feel," he continued, softening his voice a bit around the edges, but the certainty was still there, "but there is no other option."

No. No... There must be a way out. She couldn't go back to where she had started, not after all of this... She didn't want to get tangled again; too much confusion and bitter feelings she didn't know what to do with; she didn't want to deal with that again. She just wanted to be alone, just always, away from all of that; she wanted to be...elsewhere, in another place where emotions didn't confuse, people didn't disappoint, where she didn't have to live with insides more damaged than a fractured glass.

Somewhere else. She turned her head. "I'll send them first back to Egypt," Bruce said, "They can hide there for a while, until dust settles down."

Wordlessly, she nodded, and went to her own room to prepare.

As she walked away, Bruce looked at her retreating back. Second in the same day, he thought of going after her. She was still hurt, and conflicted, Bruce could even taste the bitter feelings as they emitted off her every pore, and he knew, with each passing moment, she was slipping away more, but he still didn't know how he could hold her.

Again, he turned, and walked to the room. Gotham. He needed to return to Gotham, be what he was; Batman. Nothing more, nothing less.

In the room, Jason was tending Rory's injuries with quick but deft movements. When he walked in, both of their eyes turned to him. Giving them a short glance, Bruce turned to Sean. "Valerie wants to talk with you," he announced. Aside Rory, everyone in the room knew what that meant. Sean nodded, then a little frown appeared between his eyebrows.

"Why do you call her Valerie—" Sean asked, looking at him.

"Why do you call her Fi—?" he asked back, "When she specifically asked you not to?" he continued, staring at the man back. Both men stayed in silence. Bruce's eyes skipped to Jason, as he was leaned over Rory, placing a band aid over a split at his eyebrow. "She's decided what she wants to be," Bruce said for the last.

Straightening from Rory, Jason nodded. "He's right," he said, "We all should respect her choices."

Bruce sent the man a glare, as Sean left the room, but the older man turned back to Rory. He approached them. "How are you?" he asked Rory, standing a few feet away from them, his legs apart, his body stiff. This was the talk he had dreaded. In the confusion of the warehouse, under the darkness, it must have been close to impossible to recognize him truly, but here, away from the danger and in the open light, the truth was laid bare.

He looked Rory's features for any hint of recognition, but there was none. Not for recognition, but no hint whatsoever. His bruised face was expressionless, carved out of a colored marble. It was a look Bruce most of times saw over the mirror, eyes glinting with a fire not because of life, but something else. He looked at him more carefully. He must be around his age, but like him, he looked much, much older.

Pulling back from Jason, Rory encountered his gaze. They looked at each other for a little while, eyes dead serious, before Bruce spoke, "You can't stay here anymore," he told him what Valerie had said, "They will be looking for you now."

Rory gave him solely a small nod. "I should have never returned at the first place," he said sotto voce.

"Yeah," Jason said, "Why did you by the way?"

Rory looked back up at him, and gave out a little smile, sad and sorrowful, and it was something else Bruce also saw over his own features from time to time. "Criminals always return to their crime scene?" Rory asked back, then shook his head, "Why did you return, old man?"

Jason shook his head, muttering a "bloody Robin Hood."

Bruce looked back at him. "I'll arrange a cover for you. You can leave with Jason. He runs a—business at the Philadelphia Corridor in Egypt," he said, his eyes turning to Jason. The older man lifted one eyebrow at him in question, his eyes holding an amused curiosity, "I have—some interests there you could tend." He paused for a second, then continued; they had already crossed the line, there was no going back now, "My company sends humanitarian aid, but our goods stay blocked at the borders for a long time—" he said, recalling what Jason had told him when they had been in Egypt. It was the best option he could find, until they found the doctor, and Valerie went to the operation, they could give him a helping hand there. "Jason runs operations to pass them through the Strip," he said, "You can help him."

Rory nodded. "I will."

"Of course," Jason said, "and when you find Christian-?" he asked, his eyes looking at him in question.

"I will contact you," Bruce said stiffly.

Jason nodded, too, then turned back to Rory. "So what we will call you, eh?" he asked, then paused, a sly smile appearing over his lips, "How about Robin?" he asked with a silent laugh.

Bruce and Rory scowled at the same time. "My middle name is Timothy," Rory said, "Tim would be enough."

"And surname?" Jason asked.

Rory—Tim looked like thinking about that for a second, before he decided on something, "My mother's maiden name," he answered, "Drake—" he looked at them, "Tim Drake."

Bruce turned. "Get ready, Mr. Drake," he told him, walking to the door, "We'll be leaving soon."

Bruce held the door's handle, but before he opened it, the other man's voice stopped him. "Mr. Wayne," he called.

Bruce steps halted, as he looked ahead, but waited him continue, "I won't forget what you did for me," the second person who he had saved without wearing a mask said to him, "And one day I will pay my debt."

Before he left the room, Bruce only nodded back.

In the room, Valerie was packing. Luckily, it was a short business as she hadn't much of anything to pack up. She took out a few remaining smoke and flash bombs from her hip bag, and placed them inside a little container and put it inside her backpack. Her hand found the little USB drive the next.

She took it out, and stared at it. She wondered how much money there was in but knowing Bruce Wayne she knew it was a lot. The knock at the door interrupted her thoughts. Quickly tugging the drive in her back pocket, she went to the door.

Sean gave her a tight smile through the peeping hole. With a silent sigh, she opened the door. The older man walked in, his eyes sweeping around the room. "Packing?" he asked, turning to her.

She nodded. "We're leaving," she answered, then looked at him seriously, "You should lay low, too," he said, "Neither Hayes or Ronnie will like what you did."

Sean shook his head. "Don't worry about me," he said, "I always manage."

She knew he was right. Sean, despite everything, wouldn't do something like that if he wasn't sure he would come clean afterward, but this was bigger than he also thought, "I will still leave the country for a while," Sean continued, just like she had thought, "A change is good everyone, after all."

After the last words, he looked at her pointedly. She didn't turn her eyes away. "Do you look for Christian for yourself, don't you—?" Sean asked, "because you want to be—" he paused, "Valerie?"

She didn't hesitate, "Yes."

A new her, a new beginning, a second chance... "Where is he?" she asked.

"In Bolivia," Sean answered, "he went to work for MAS when they elected in 2005," he explained, "after the Belfast Agreement." He held her a piece of folded paper, "You can contact him through this address."

She nodded. "Thank you."

Sean nodded back then walked back to the door, "Stay alive—" he paused again over the threshold, looking back at her, then a half smile appeared on his lips, "Valerie."

She looked at the door after he had vanished, then shaking her head, she went back to packing. Just she zipped her backpack, Bruce came back again.

"I talked with them," he explained, walking inside the door, as she sat on the edge of the bed. "Rory is going with Jason to Egypt. I made a deal with him—" Her head snapped up at him, "He will cross over Wayne Relief's blocked aids through the borders." He looked at her back, his jaw squared with grimness, "I can't have them rot in the customs. I should have done something about that."

The typical Bruce Wayne, taking responsibility for everything that was wrong in the world. She didn't say anything this time, though. It wouldn't make any difference, so she only nodded.

"Did you talk with Sean?" he asked.

She nodded again, "He's going to lie low for a while, leave the city, too, I guess."

He gave her a slight nod back then looked at her directly in the eyes. "So—" he started, "where is he? Where is the doctor?"

She looked back at him, the moments flashing over her eyes rapidly; the way he crashed into the car, the way he draped his coat over her shoulders, the way he looked at her, the way he held her in the backseat; this was her second chance; to be someone else, in somewhere else, where she did what she always did; she went on. This was the way how things were supposed to be; nothing more, nothing less.

She smiled at Bruce, and said, "Buenos Aires."

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