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The Wrong Track

Title: The Wrong Track
Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Gotham
Character/Pairing: Bruce+/Cat, Alfred
Rating: PG/K+
Challenge/Prompt: beattheblackdog #37: Control
Warning(s): SPOILERS for Seasons 1 and 2
Word Count: 2,092
Date Written: 14 October 2016
Summary:
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to DC Comics, not the author, and are used without permission.




He's not supposed to see her, but she knows the moment he does. Her heart gives a little leap, but then she stills herself. She focuses first on her breathing, then on calming the rapid beat of her heart, but he's still watching, his wide, sweet, and innocent eyes focused right on her where she stands in the low hanging branches of the tree next to the wall surrounding his school. He leaves the crowd of people around him, including that little, blonde fluff he's been hanging with, and heads for her. "Cat!"

She does the one thing she can think to do. She turns and leaps off of the high, stone wall. She lands perfectly well on her feet, but she still hesitates a moment, hearing him call to her and approach the wall. She's been watching him for days despite Alfred's warning. This is the first time he's seen her, the first time he's noticed her.

Her heart quickens again as her stomach roils with sickness. She presses a hand to her stomach, trying to calm it even as she acknowledges without a word that it doesn't seem that his lack of noticing her was because he chose to ignore her. From the joyful look on his handsome face when he saw her and the way he quickly left the others behind, it's almost enough to make a girl think he wanted to see her.

Almost. But then Alfred's words ring once more in her ears. Her face stings with the remembered blow, but it's not his defense of his friend that comes into her mind. It's his telling her to stay away from Bruce. She's known for a long time now that he doesn't like her and doesn't want to share his charge's friendship with her, but he openly told her that Bruce was better off without her.

Her heart suddenly switches from beating too fast to an almost physical pain as she realizes she shouldn't be here. Alfred was right: Bruce is too good for her, but not because she killed Reggie. She killed Alfred's friend for Bruce, to keep the bastard from coming back and hurting either of them again. But the life she leads isn't one she would ever wish on Bruce.

"Cat! Selina, come back!" She shakes her head as she backs slowly away from the wall. She can hear scrabbling on the other side and knows he's trying to climb up after her. She turns, face pale except for the bruise plainly evident on her face, and breaks into a run. She's controlled her tears carefully for days. She hasn't let a single drop fall since Alfred touched her. But now, as she runs from Bruce, her tears finally fall, hot, wild, and, for once, unabashed, from her eyes. She keeps crying and running until she can hear Bruce no longer.

=^.^=

Bruce finally stops trying to climb as he hears Cat's feet slapping the pavement from the other side of the wall. His small hand curls against the hard stone and is still laying there when his new friend walks up behind him.

"Are you okay?" she asks him, her concern growing when he doesn't turn around to face her.

Emotions boil within Bruce, but he stays silent, his back to her, his mind turning over what just happened.

"That girl," Silver tries again. "Is she a friend of yours?" She winces inwardly, realizing how stupid she sounds. The girl's clearly important to him. "Is she your . . . girlfriend?" she adds hesitantly.

"No," Bruce answers quickly, spinning around to face her. She notes the darkening of his light skin and the way his head tucks down a little. "She's just . . . just a friend." He glances back at the wall. "A really good friend who I haven't seen in a while."

"She seemed . . . upset."

"She was." Any other boy his age might have slouched his shoulders, but Bruce stands stiff and upright despite his growing sorrow. She was more than upset. He saw the bruise on her face. His hands start to ball into fists, but Silver reaches out and takes one of them in her hands.

She tugs lightly on him as the bell rings. "Come on," she urges. "We're going to be late."

Bruce glances back at the wall, but he knows it will do no good to scale it now, even if he could manage it. Cat is far gone now and back into hiding. Experience has already taught him that he never finds her unless she wants to be found. He nods silently and slowly follows Silver back to class. The girl smiles, but she hasn't won. Bruce remains quiet for the rest of the day, his mind constantly on Cat.

By the time, dismissal comes and he reaches his waiting limousine and butler, his mind is made up. "Not today, Alfred. We need to find Cat," he tells him, waving away the jogging clothes and shoes.

"That ruffian -- "

"Do not start. I know you do not like her, but she is my friend."

"Master Bruce -- "

"She needs my help. Some one has hurt her."

"With that crowd she runs with -- "

Bruce shakes his head. "Cat would never let her guard down around the people who would normally try to hurt her. Whoever struck her, Alfred, earned her trust, and that's not easy to do."

"You . . . You really think so, do you?"

"I know so." Bruce's eyes lock with his butler, and sickening dread twists in his young stomach. "You're not telling me something. What are you keeping from me this time, Alfred?" he demands icily, his suspicion already growing.

"Master Bruce -- "

"What," he grinds out. "Are. You. Not. Telling. Me?"

"I just don't like you chasing after that girl, is all. She's nothing but trouble."

"You were the one who thought it was a good idea for me to be around kids my own age." Bruce stops, seeing the look in Alfred's eyes. His dread grows so strongly that it makes him shiver in the warm, afternoon sunlight. "You didn't." He whispers the words at first. When Alfred doesn't respond except to look away, he speaks louder and clearer, "Alfred, tell me you didn't hurt her."

"She -- She killed Reggie!"

"She did it to protect me!" Bruce cries, not seeing Alfred's goes slack with his declaration. "And after he almost killed you!"

"She -- She didn't!" It's Alfred's turn to whisper hoarsely now.

"She did!" Bruce's eyes blaze with his anger. His teeth and hands clench. "Yes, she killed him, and maybe she shouldn't have, but she did it to save me!!"

"Master Bruce -- I -- I -- "

"Hush, Alfred," Bruce snaps. Then he shakes his head. "I don't want to hear it," he speaks sorrowfully. "Just get in and drive." He slides into the back seat of the limousine, shutting the door behind him and making certain the partition window is closed as well.

As they pull away from the school, his eyes search the passing scenery for any sign of Cat, but he finds none. Eventually, though he's tried to stop it, his mind turns to reflection. Alfred is no longer the man he thought he was. From the whispers they've both heard, neither is Jim Gordon. He likes Silver, but his instincts warn him to be careful of her uncle. The girl may or may not be aligned with her uncle, but he can't seem to find it within him to truly trust her either.

The one person he does still trust is Cat. She doesn't care about anybody else, but she's proven time and again that she will not let him be hurt. She likes him more than she dares to admit, more than she'll ever admit now thanks to Alfred's intrusion. His very blood boils as he remembers that his oldest friend hit her. She's not very much older than himself. He never thought Alfred would hit a child, let alone a girl, but he was clearly wrong.

He needs to find Cat. He needs to apologize to her. He needs to find a way to make Alfred apologize and make her listen, but then, can he even trust Alfred any more? His eyes trail to the butler's reflection in the rearview mirror. He's not at all the man he thought he was.

Bruce shivers again and turns his gaze back out to the city. He needs to find Cat, but he knows he won't be able to until she chooses to again come out of hiding, which undoubtedly is going to be a very long time. His fingers are still clenched into fists as Bruce determines that now he has not just one wrong but two wrongs to right. He still has to find out who killed his parents and make them pay, but he now knows who hurt Cat. He can not reprimand him enough, but he knows no punishment will satisfy Cat.

No, this isn't just a simple matter of avenging her honor. It's more, much more, and goes far beyond Alfred. His butler is just the latest person to betray her and be mean to her. He can't make up for all the hurt she's endured in the past. What he can do -- what he must do when he finds her -- is make certain she understands that the entire world is not as wicked and cruel as she believes. He has to find her, and when he does, he has to make her understand that he isn't better off without her, as he's now certain Alfred must have told her.

She thinks he's got the money to buy the world. He doesn't, and he doesn't even want the world. Right now, he wants only her and to find his parents' killers. The latter is a search he has a feeling will last for years. He'll find Cat first, and when he does, he must make her believe. He must make her see that the entire world is evil. He wants her; he needs her. He will be kind to her, and if any one, including Alfred hurts her again, they'll have to answer to him. Bruce keeps searching the window for any sign of Cat, but as always, she's covered her tracks well. He will find her one day, though, and when he does, he'll never let her run away from him again.

=^.^=

Watching his young charge in the mirror, Alfred barely restrains himself from shaking his head. He, too, watches the streets for Cat even as he wonders how he can apologize to her. If she truly killed Reggie to save Bruce, then he owes her not only an apology but a debt he can never repay. He looks down at his hands as he turns the wheel, sees the scars and lines that will one day be wrinkles on his flesh, and silently reprimands himself. He's old enough to know better than to hit a child, but he fears if he lives to be twice as old as he is now, he can never earn Cat's forgiveness.

All he can do is try and, in the future, be there for her and, of course, his young master Bruce. Perhaps it is best their lives are entwined after all. Maybe he was wrong to think Bruce would be better off without the girl. After all, she's clearly the only one besides himself and perhaps Officer Gordon who will do anything for Bruce, including kill. Maybe he shouldn't fight their budding romance so hard.

He opens the partition window separating him from Master Bruce, clears his throat, and tries to speak. "Master Bruce?"

"Just drive, Alfred," Bruce readily snaps, reminding Alfred that it's much more than a mere window that separates them now.

"Yes, sir. As you wish, sir." Alfred returns to driving, but now he knows he's got not one but two children whose forgiveness he must earn and two futures for which he must try to guide. He sighs inwardly, wishing there was some one left to guide him, but they all died so long ago. He has only Master Bruce now, and he has only himself, Cat, and Officer Gordon. He needs all the friends he can get if he's to have the happy life Alfred wants for him. His mind made up, Alfred slides the window shut but continues driving slow, ever on the look out for Cat.

The End

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