**Disclaimer: Quick dribble that takes place after Heart of Hush Pt 5, with specific reference to Pt 4. I do not, in any way, own Batman. Bob Kane, DC do, so on & so forth. Bah where DCnU is concerned…as per usual…** He lay atop the duvet. Relief. That’s the only way to describe the feeling. He couldn’t describe the…fear…in Arkham, having slipped in as simply as a mouse. Finding that…human was simply too kind a description. He couldn’t deny the release of tension as his boot’s sole met Crane’s skull. The vibration ran through his leg when they met the shatterproof glass and despite his better self…he felt a certain kind of pleasure. Not at the circumstances, but at making that, well…cretin…suffer. Such as it was. Swiping the card, opening the cell. It was mere chance that the Joker’s cell happened to be closest to the corridor. But it was an opportunity. A not so subtle warning as it were. A sort of strange return to form. That his oldest enemy, nay, the one figure besides Selina who’d seen him since his start and remembered the ruthlessness with which he used to work. The other evening, he’d channeled all of that old rage and after cuffing Joker to the cot….He’d let his inner demons lead the way. She…Selina…his mind had echoed emptily with Oracle’s words. The way she’d hesitated…the way she’d stated, finally, plainly…Selina. His body, nay, his mind switched to auto pilot. In that simple, bare, semi-squalid cell, he’d grasped the woven cord of the light bulb overhead and improvised. A mere hanging out over a building’s edge, a swift beating in an alley way…none of that was sufficient. The boy…the little boy, Colin…as if that weren’t enough…that boy’s suffering amounting to a simple rouse. A distraction for Elliot’s…game. It amounted to so much child’s play ultimately. The jealousy, the intelligent but immature lashing out. Elliot was smart enough, of course, but his arrogance and irrationality had been Bruce’s saving grace ultimately. He sometimes wondered if Hush really knew what he was fighting for anymore. But Bruce remembered…his mother and father in the past…and last night, Selina. The present. The agony of driving to Arkham, of wondering if all his actions were in vain. Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite…their efforts were diligent, to be certain, but ultimately, her fate rest in his hands. His hands. He turned in the sheets and pressed his freshly showered face into the pillow. His futile efforts to pretend that he hadn’t relished the feeling…the vengeance… He hadn’t thought of—hadn’t felt that word since the early days. So many years spent as Gotham’s protector had wringed the word out of his vocabulary. At least it didn’t come to mind so easily anymore. Now the Mission was his life’s work. He’d expected to die early on. Life proving within his grasp, he’d…conformed, in a sense. He raised his head and stared at the calloused but clean hands before him. Not two nights before, he’d dragged the socket out of the ceiling and plunged Crane’s head into that filthy toilet. Not caring whether Joker’s waste lay there or not. The wire found the water and the head, hair grasped tightly in his gloves. He couldn’t pretend the light smell of singed flesh didn’t please him. His gloves and the suit isolated him from the blowback of his rage. It was savage, he knew, but…the violent urges he might’ve otherwise succumbed to upon finding Elliot… He tried to remind himself that that was worse…much, much worse. Friends…What are two friends? Two souls dwelling in the same body…Aristotle. Elliot was nothing approaching the word anymore, perhaps he’d never been. But Selina. They were more than friends. They were…lovers was too generic…partners was too vague. But he couldn’t grasp the right word to describe what drove him where she was concerned. Now he breathed deeply…she was safe. He reminded himself that he’d ultimately recovered her heart. Held the vessel in his hands and returned it to the fellows who’d stood watch over her. They didn’t really understand his feelings for her…but he knew Barbara, Dick, Tim and Alfred knew. They hadn’t seen him there in that wretched place. They saw him act with caution and savvy. But if they’d seen him then… He felt shame now. He didn’t care for it, he felt justified but… He closed his eyes and remembered the feeling of her lips, delicate, frail and graceful against his. He’d felt compelled to tell her how much he loved her. He couldn’t imagine her forgiving his… What? Incompetence… But she didn’t question him…she’d…he couldn’t describe holding her, alive… He closed his eyes tightly, so many lives saved and yet…if he’d lost hers… He imagined lying there in defeat but the feeling wouldn’t stay. He couldn’t relish joy. There could be no delight in causing her so much pain, even inadvertently… But everything. He’d given everything for that kiss. Honor be damned.