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A Parliament of Rooks

the many places here can mean

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Dristi, The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne/Selina Kyle, R

Dristi: sight; a focused gaze; seeing the world as it really is; outward gaze, inward focus

"What a goddamn waste. All that aggression and leather," Jen says mournfully when she finally pries loose the story that sent Selina scrambling for a way out of Gotham and landed her in Blackgate. "You should have fucked him when you had the chance."

"Yeah," Selina's probably going for complicit or coy or some shit like that but Jen's known her long enough to know better. Goddamned wistful is what she is. "At least once."

What Jen thinks her friend means is she'd like to be able to wash him out of her sheets. She would have done the symbolic laundry herself if it would've stopped Selina's lips from tightening every time she sees a downfallen one-percenter in grimy Lacoste get a few good-natured kicks to the ribs.

In the new world order, it's not surprising how backward everything is. And it's not like it's a new thing, the world going one way while Selina Kyle quietly slips another. It's just one thing Jen never thought would be the Batman's fault.


Once, hundreds of little boys and girls in Gotham wanted to be just like Batman. They grew out of it.

Blackgate prison measured out a thousand lives in 8x8 cells, a thousand men sentenced to the opposite of life on the lie of Harvey Dent. The Dent act was a law without compassion, a law writ on the lie that the worst of circumstances couldn't warp the best of men. And so prison-bound buses ran from the Narrows to Blackgate, a public service, brimming with little boys who inherited prison cells like family homes, plots of land their fathers walked.

Now hundreds of fatherless boys sharpen themselves into shivs, arm themselves against a world already proven hostile. Nobody ever wanted to grow up like Bruce Wayne.


It's hero-worship she thinks, for the first month, the way she misses him. She'd been twenty years old when the Batman first showed up. Too angry to think he might save her, almost young enough to believe it anyway.

It's the Batman she's missing. By now she's used to Bruce being gone.


It's not that they were childhood friends. They may share a few memories but no embarrassing photos, no slumber parties, no show me yours and I'll show you mine. There was one trip to Disney when his parents were tied up with charity and a nanny was absolutely necessary but that's ancient history she only saw from a stroller.

The distance in their ages, of course, was nothing on the distance in geography, not in a city where geography stood in for wealth and power and class. The Palisades and the Narrows were 60 minutes and as many worlds away, a distance bridged only by the train and the two buses Maria Kyle took every morning to raise Martha and Thomas Wayne's son.


"Gone missing again has he?" Alfred asks with that defiant sort of hope when she catches him visiting the family plot. Or maybe it's that he catches her. "For my sins," the old butler says, laying carnations on the snow. Alfred should be anywhere but here. Gotham, that is. If Bruce was really dead, he was turning in his grave right now.

"Your mother was the first person convinced him to come down here and visit. She brought carnations every Sunday, you know." The man's smiling through tears, neither for show, neither held in reserve. "He kept it up, Mr. Wayne, when he disappeared on us. Carnations came every week. Except when they didn't." He chuckles, sweeping a hand toward the headstones to evoke a spray of flowers. "And there was me, waiting to see if they'd turn up again. It's almost better this way, with him vanished altogether."

Selina will never admit it but she kind of loves the way Alfred talks like he knows Bruce isn't gone but it's okay to miss him anyway. "Don't let his noble act fool you," Selina says, and hears anger in her tone, sowing discord amongst the words. "Pride's the big one right? Flying too close to the sun. Sound like anyone we know?"

"Now you're talking hubris, Ms. Kyle, challenging the will of the gods."

"A real Greek tragedy," she says with a nod toward Martha Wayne's grave. "At least it wasn't Oedipus."

Alfred ignores the tasteless remark and considers the carnations, already collecting snow flurries. He works one out of the rubber band binding them in place, removing it from the grave to hand to Selina. "In my experience, the gods don't often make their wills clear enough for the likes of us to meddle. Hubris. People use that word for an excuse. When they try to do something truly great and fail, they look back and shake their heads and say it was sin of pride."

"I've never had that problem," she says, eyes fixed on the flower in her had. "I've always preferred greed."


There were rumors, she remembers, that first time he disappeared. A boy billionaire who gave up his fortune and became one of the people, poor, hungry, desperate. Insane, plenty of people said but with a kind of affection, a quiet sort of pride. Even where she was from. But they didn't know him; Selina did.

"Fake," Selina said.

All he ever had to do was say his own name, like a click of ruby slippers, and the world would rearrange itself to welcome him home.


She's seven and he's thirteen the first time she remembers him running away to her apartment.

It's just getting dark and the clouds are finally burning off, easing a few degrees of heat off the over-cooked city. A bang and crash sound over the flat breeze that slinks through the open windows of her mother's second floor apartment. There's a baseball bat by the front door but Selina eyes her own thin arms skeptically.

Her mother works nights and there's a half full pot of coffee on the countertop. She carries it to the window and peers out. Maria had used just such a trick last month during a break in and Selina calls up the tone from memory. "Free hot coffee for burglars," she calls out the window. "As much as you can catch with your face!"

She's about to tip the pot when a boy's cracking voice says, "It's Bruce. Bruce Wayne. Is your mom home?"


At fourteen she chooses the street over a group home.

For some people, the streets mean burn cans and overpasses and sweating through summers with everything you own on your back. But it's harder to find a decent rental in Gotham than it is a decent vacant. Highest murder rate in the nation most years running and the city still claims ten grand in taxes every year for anyone dumb enough to want the privilege of living there. So, she has options.

She lives for a while in a burnt out warehouse that everyone calls the Copy Cat for the one remaining sign on what used to be a row of shops on the ground floor. It's a hipster's wet dream, a burnt out husk of a warehouse, lousy with high ceilings and performance space. Most of her fellow squatters are not truly homeless but burgeoning anarchists, broke grad students, aspiring artists. They host grand communist style parties where the price of admission is shared music or food or drugs.

It's in fashion among the young elite to go slumming at a spot called the Warf or at the Copy Cat and Selina's halfway through a fifth of whiskey when she catches sight of one Bruce Wayne. She thinks about commenting on his outfit, about how he might find himself burnt like an effigy of oppression for coming in here in a polo and boat shoes. But then a haphazard troupe of bongo players gives way to the evening's next entertainment, a full marching band pressing at intersecting angles through an intoxicated crowd.

She sees Bruce spin to get a face full of trumpet blast and whoops with glee when a set of cymbals crashes behind her head. Not something money could buy, this, she thinks and gets a little bit why the rich kids kick around down here. When she finds Bruce again in the crowd he's barely cracking a smile. There's a pretty, waifish girl with razor-cut hair hanging on his arm, making eyes at him like she's ready to hang on his words if he ever deigns to speak.

Selina raises her bottle in silent toast to whoever he's trying to be. The band is good, she thinks, and this is fun. But he might be even worse at being young than she is.


In some ways, he is the chip on her shoulder. In some ways, they had the same mother. But somehow he got the better life. She comes from a place where everything seems finite: money, food, happiness. She learned early there's almost nothing you can't steal back.