Dinner Date

September 04, 2016:

Bruce and Rachel manage to steal a night out.

Gotham

Le Cirque

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Every city has traffic, Rachel reflects as she sits in the back of the taxi cab driving her to her dinner appointment (Dinner Date, she reminds herself). However, each city's traffic is a unique thing. And Gotham is unique in it's own miserable way. She texted Bruce 15 minutes ago saying she was 10 minutes late. And now, she can barely see the sign for the restaurant ahead. "Here's fine," she says quickly and pulls a couple of $20's to pay for everything. It's a quick dash in heels to get to the restaurant, and Rachel pauses to fix her hair in the reflection of the front window. She wishes she had been given the time to change out of her business attire into something more appropriate, but working on depositions had dragged on for an extra 2 hours that she hadn't planned on. Hopefully, Bruce would understand. Taking a deep breath, she enters the restaurant, asking the Matre'd to take her to the table. And when she arrives, Rachel sighs again to the man that she's late for having dinner with. "I'm so, so sorry," she starts with an appologetic expression.

Bruce Wayne was at Le Cirque quite a bit early, in fact, as much to steady his nerves as anything. Bruce Wayne had stopped 'dating' publically some time ago— in some ways, Batman viewed the adoption of his young wards as a bit of a blessing. After all, it was 'respectable' for a young father to not bring around young women, right?

Still, in the intervening minutes between Rachels' texts and her arrivals, he'd caught his heel drumming on the ground in nervous anticipation, a habit he'd abandoned literally two decades prior.

When she finally arrives, though, he's all smiles, rising from his table and offering her a clasp of both hands and a relatively chaste kiss to her high cheekbone. "Rachel, don't sweat it," Bruce offers, pulling a chair out for her (and beating the waiter to the task). The colorful circus silks create the illusion of privacy in their own booth, cutting out the chatter of noise from the restaurant's main floor where it's merely trendy, not specifically exclusive. Wearing a double-breasted suit and tie, he's in fact a little underdressed compared to the tuxedoed gentry outside.

"You're a lawyer. It happens," Bruce says, wryly. "I'm just sitting here working up an appetite, myself, and I think the crab cakes are on the way. Have you eaten here before?"

The relief that Bruce isn't upset and very understanding is evident on her features. She smiles at Bruce as he helps her sit down. "Sadly, it does. And more often that I'd like it to. I was getting depositions and the scumbags seemed to be happy dragging it out as long aas possible." She sighs and shakes her head. "But, the last thing I want to do is burden you with my day. How was yours? And crab cakes sounds fine to start. Love the ones they make at Scoma's on Fisherman's Wharf." When the somalier arrives to discuss wine matters, Rachel looks over at Bruce. "I'm game for whatever you'd like."

Bruce glances at the wine list, then addresses the sommeliere in excellent French. The fellow is a bit surprised, pleasantly so, and recommends a bottle for the two of them. The fellow wanders off to get their drinks, and a waiter arrives with a rather delicious sampler of breads and cheeses and sparkling clear water for both Bruce and Rachel.

"It was business as usual," Bruce tells Rachel, relaxing into his seat. "Sold some things, bought some others. No babies needed kissing or ribbons needed cutting, so I was able to stay in my office most of the day." Which is Batman-code for 'sleeping'. There's a reason there's a pullout bed in Bruce's corporate offices, along with heavy blackout curtains. "We're looking at helping to build a new wing at Mercy Medical— the neonatal care unit is in bad need of an upgrade, and they just bought a parking lot adjacent to the hospital campus to expand into."

The water is taken by Rachel with gratitude, and she drinks from the glass for a bit, her breathing and heart rate now back to normal after her short sprint to the restaurant. "I'm…really impressed," she says to Bruce, smiling. "I'm not surprised, mind you. Just impressed. It's been kind of hard, reacquainting myself with Gotham. But from what I've seen, she needs all the help she can get from everyone that can help. You've already done so much for the city. And you still want to do more." Hesitantly, rachel reaches out and puts her hand on top of Bruce's. "They'd be so proud of you," she says quietly.

Bruce goes very still when he's touched, as if the sudden human contact shocked him. And his face becomes… a little withdrawn. A distant pang, a memory of unpleasantness that will never fully heal. Maybe a wound he can't help but scratch open far too often.

"Thanks, Rachel," he says, his voice a bit somber, and his fingers turn upwards to squeeze around hers. He flashes a smile at her— weak, but real. "It helps to hear that from— a friend," he says. "Someone who knew them."

He releases Rachel's hand after a few seconds, clearing his throat, and looks up at the waiter ducking into their 'tent'. He orders for both of them, speaking in continued, smooth French, and the waiter ducks out.

"The duck confit is supposed to be very 'on' today," he tells Rachel. "Just in case you aren't feeling the waterfowl, though, I also ordered their Wagyu steak."

"So, bit of a culture shock moving from the west coast back to Gotham, huh?" he remarks, lightening his tone. "I bet you're missing that sunshine." Smooth, Bruce— talk about the weather.

Rachel smirks at Bruce's comment about her being homesick. "Do I look like I had a chance to work on my tan out there?" She sighs and picks at a piece of the bread. Between the fog and the time demands of the job, I didn't have much time to spend outdoors." After chewing down the bread, Rachel smiles. "It's more…the little things that make a city unique. I see homless here on the street, like in San Francisco, but not the buskers. So it's…despair without the relief of a song or a street painter. It's still hot at the end of summer here, but there, it's about 68 or in the low 70's becasue of the Bay." There's a wistful look in her eyes as she continues. "At 6 am, Market Street is almost completely deserted. Just this silent corridor of glass and steel, with the occasional echo of someone on the street playing a musical instument. Here…Gotham never sleeps. It's never quiet." Rachel breaks out of her reverie and looks back to Bruce. "It's just different. Sometimes, I miss the differnt pace there. But this is where I belong. I've never had any doubts about that."

Bruce's face grows a bit moody as Rachel lays it all out. She's not wrong, and he knows it, and he can offer little defense of Gotham. After all, Batman isn't in Gotham because of the light work load.

"Well," he says, after a few silent beats, before it can turn awkward. He clears his throat. "Hopefully, a hotshot new DA can help change things around a bit," he says, summoning a faint smile. "There's a lot of work to be done, but I still think Gotham can be saved." Something dark flashes in his eyes, and he shifts in his chair a bit uncomfortably. "I know that opinion puts me in the minority, but… well. Someone has to try," he says, a bit lamely.

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't think it could be saved," Rachel says with a warm smile. "And I'm only an ADA. I think I should probably show Gotham I can win a few cases for them before running for election. So, let's not put the cart before the horse here." She doesn't sound angry or ambitious over her current position, just reminding herself not to take too big a leap. "Still. You've got an ally in me. And I'm sure we're not the only ones working to save Gotham. There's plenty of people, good people, working to make Gotham a better place; even if it's just by refusing to give up and leave for a new opportunity."

"Some good people," Bruce echoes, and he nods— he means it. "Well, I guess that's a start, right?"

"So, uh…" Bruce's eyes flicker to the table, then the opening to the booth, then he emits an easy laugh, shaking his head. "Sorry. It's been a while since I was on a date," he admits to Rachel. "Between the boys and the offices, I just don't have much time for it. And it's not like I don't know where you grew up or family history," he says, a grin touching the edges of his lantern jaw. "How about hobbies? Anything you do for fun when you clock off?"

"Again, not a lot of time for hobbies," Rachel respons with a sigh. "I do kickboxing. Cardio and self-defense all rolled into one. Saves a lot of time." She has a sheepish smile as she goes over the list of her almost hobbies. "I try to read a book other than a law review from time to time. Mostly, though, when I want to relax, I just Netflix and chill. Love 'House of Cards'." Her smile broadens, then Rachel looks at Bruce with renewed curiousity. "How about you? What do you like doing? Or watching, for that matter?"

The room shakes and begins to crumble.

"Well, Game of Thrones is definitely taking up a lot of my time," Bruce says, lying with an expertise of long habit. "It's such a fascinating and well-made world. And I'm not much one for fantasy series," he chuckles. "Not much time for recreational reading these days, not with the boys and a multinational corporation to be managed. Once in a while I sneak a peek at the New Yorker but I just don't really have the time to sit and enjoy it anymore."

"But we still have fun. Polo once in a while at the Garden Greens, when I get roped into it, and we've had enough fundraisers down at the Yacht Club that I'm learning my way around a sailboat." Another lie— Batman is an expert sailor, even if Bruce Wayne isn't. "We've got a bit of a spread these days, Damian's still in that area between being a teenager and being a young man, and Tim and Dick are both in their early twenties— so I try to appeal to a sense of adventure."

The mention of Bruce's sons gets a smile out of Rachel. "I still can't get a handle on you being a dad. I mean, I'm sure you're a fantastic dad, and it's great how you opened your home up like that. I guess I just still remember how you always rolled your eyes when I'd bring over my dolls and try to get you to play 'House'. You always left me alone with the 'kids' and went off to the woods." There's a hint of a giggle in her voice, then she continues. "But I always knew you'd make a fantastic father one day."

Bruce chuckles ruefully, flicking his hand into the air with a small shrug. The waiters drop off the first course silently, leaving the two of them to talk. "I never really thought about it until I met Dick," he explains to Rachel, warming to the topic. "He had just lost his parents in an accident. We just… sort of bonded, you know?" he says, with a small shrug.

"Anyway, I went back the next day and couldn't stop thinking about him, so I offered to help home him for a bit until Social Services got him settled with a full time foster guardian. Then it just… stayed that way, and I adopted him formally. Tim came along a few years later, and Damian too. And you can't have teenage boys without teenage girls wanting to hang out with them, so— there's a whole little army at my house some days, now. I don't think Wayne Manor has been that lively in years."

"It's a good thing," Rachel says after taking a drink of the wine. "That house was never ment to be empty. It was built for a family and there should always be a fmaily there." She pauses, taking time to gather her thoughts and words. "I'd always hoped that you'd find happiness, Bruce. After I moved away, I imagined that if I ever returned to Gotham, you'd be married and have a family. You'd be smiling again; happy. I'm glad to see that for the most part, I was right."

Bruce looks a bit surprised at that remark, then almost touches his face— he /is/ smiling, and it seems to startle his good humor for a moment. "Er, well— married, probably not," Bruce admits, wryly, clearing his throat. "When I was younger it was socialites and actresses trying to get a leg up in the social scene, or who were looking for a, uh, sugar-daddy," he says, obviously disdaining the term. "And then the boys came along and… it just didn't seem right to be bringing dates home when I needed to be there helping with homework. Alfred's pretty good at English Lit, but his calculus isn't great," Bruce chuckles.

"How about you, though? It's been… what, how many years since Law school, and you didn't find Mr. Right over on the coast?"

Now, it's Rchel's turn to blush a bit. Another drink of wine to cover it up, and a half-quirked smile. "There were a few dates," she finally says. "Some serious possibilities. But…No. Never found Mr. Right. I honestly don't think I was looking for one, either. Coming back to Gotham was always my goal, my focus. Every date I had, when he learned I was from Gotham, the inevitable question was asked. 'How could you live in a place like that?'. People that aren't from here, they can't understand. I couldn't ask someone to move out here with me. And I couldn't imagine meeting a man that would change my mind about returning."

"If you're not from here, it's hard to understand," Bruce agrees, a bit somberly. "As much as this town frustrates me, it's home. I like it here— and my family's put generations of work into it. I might not ever make it perfect, but I feel like quitting and walking away would be undoing all the effort my father and grandfather put into the city. I can't do that to their memory, or to the others who haven't given up." He stirs an appetizer with a piece of bread and takes a quick, neat bite, jaw working a few times.

Rachel also takes a few bits of the appetizer, nodding. "You're preaching to the choir." The slight changes in Bruce's atittudes, the moments of tension and darkness, are noticed, but Rachel just files them away in her memory. "And there is no such thing as a 'perfect' city. Remember, 'Utopia' means 'no place' in Greek and the whole idea was to present an impossible standard of living. And you know? I don't think I'd like to live in a perfect city, anyways. I think that the real character of a city is how it rises to meet and overcome its imperfections."

"That's true," Bruce says, acknowledging Rachel's point. "Even the best cities in theory turn out pretty disastrously in practice. Gotham's a living growing thing, and sometimes that takes odd meanderings and detours."

The entrees arrive and the two of them are busied for a moment with steaks and duck confit, and Bruce and his knife pass around equal shares so no one is stuck with just one plate. "So where are you living in Gotham for the time being?" he inquires of Rachel. "I somehow don't see you moving back into that townhouse in the Heights," he adds, smiling. "Good for your mother, I think, but probably not right for a young ADA about town with a chip on her shoulder and a reputation to prove."

"Coventry," Rachel replies after taking a few bites. "I'm renting a nice condo. Converted the second bedroom into an office and library. I'm afraid the kitchen doesn't get much use, aside from being a storehouse for chinese and thai delivery containers." The corner of her mouth curls up a bit and she shrugs. "Anyways, this is a magnificent dinner. I can't remember the last time I had a meal like this. It's just nice to have a dinner that I didn't order on GrubHub." Rachel looks a bit guilty after she makes the joke. "I'm sorry. I know this if one of the best restaurants in Gotham…probably the East Coast. I really do appreciate it. The dinner and the chance to catch up."

"It's French cuisine, it takes some getting used to," Bruce tells Rachel with a reassuring smile. "I know out west it tends to be mostly Chinese and Latin fusion fare— that's all I seem to eat when I'm in California on business, unless I'm up in the Northwest, and then it's clams and oysters. But, there's still a strong French cooking tradition here in the tri-cities, and Le Cirque is— I think they have ten locations, globally?" he thinks. "Anyway, they're on the Forbes Top 10 restaurants list, so I like to eat here fairly often."

Rachel arches and eyebrow and gets a mischevious glint in her eyes. "If that's all you think of California cuisine, you need better West Coast business contacts. I mean, Gary Danko in San Francisco is just as good as here. The French Laundry up in Napa. Scoma's and Alioto's on the Wharf. Joe's Grill, home of the Maltese Falcon. Next time you're in the Bay Area, let me know and I'll tell you where to eat."

"Maybe next time I'll let someone else do the picking," Bruce says, wryly. "My PA's pretty good but he's a die-hard Yelper, so it's possible he got mislead a little. There's no substitute for a real gourmand."

The entrees come and go, leaving Bruce and Rachel dithering over after-dinner cocktails and a generous looking platter of caviar, complete with pearl spoons and tiny servings of creme fraiche and cracker. "So… aside from the DA position, eventually… what are you looking for in Gotham?" Bruce asks Rachel, making a slow business of arranging his roe just so on a spread of white creme.

Rachel isn't used to caviar, and it shows as she tries to arange her cracker. She watches Bruce intently and mimics his movements and preparation. "To be honest," she says after eating her test portion of caviar. "I don't know what else there is besides trying to make Gotham better." There's a hint of a sigh and she shrugs. "It's going to be a full time job, and I don't know if there's going to be room for anything else. So, I'm not planning on a social life or anything." There's a guilty look on her face as she glances at Bruce. "Even if…I could meet someone that could understand my priorities and job…I don't think it would be fair to ask them to always come in second place."

And the other penny drops, and Bruce's smile falters and then turns a bit wry. "I know how that feels," he exhales, taking a few un-necessary motions to make sure his caviar is properly arrayed on the cracker. "When I was younger I didn't think twice about jetting off to Bora Bora for a weekend or partying until 4 AM. But then the boys came and I realized I owed them something more than just a home and a few hot meals," he says. "And I thought about the hard work my father put into the city, and the charities and causes that could use some support and a personal touch." He chuckles, shaking his head. "I guess it was a bit late, but I finally had to grow up."

Rachel's smile falters for just a brief moment. Most people would miss it, but for that instant, it's like Rachel had a hope completely dashed. "Responsibilities," Rachel echos with a nod. "It always seems to come down to responsibilities." She swirls the last of her wine in the glass before drinking it down. "Putting the needs of others before our own needs. SOmetimes, I wonder if that's noble or just…tragic." She looks back at Bruce with a little smile. "Can it be both at the same time?"

Bruce has had very little of the wine, if Rachel's being very observant. Perhaps it's just not his cup of tea. He examines his caviar on the cracker, and without needing to look at Rachel's wry little expression, he matches it, and chuckles as if seeing the darkly funny side of it all of a sudden.

"It's funny, I was talking to one of the kids just the other day about Aristotle, and— here we are, talking about classic heroic trageidies," he says, shaking his head. "It's kind of depressing to ask yourself what kind of hero we are— a 'tragic' hero does the wrong thing for the right reasons. Hopefully we figure out where we go wrong before the audience does, then we might get a late-season redemptive arc— or, if we're playing it true Netflix style, we end up getting killed off just when the audience is getting to like us again," he says, laughing easily.

Rachel laughs a bit. "You'd think a Game of Thrones fan would be used to the sudden and tragic deaths of characters." Her smile breaks the mood, and there's a bit of hope back inside her eyes again. And maybe, some determination as well. "I suppose the only thing to do is to keep trying, though. Trying to find that utopain balance and hope for a better life. Becasue if you can't have hope for yourself, how can you expect to bring it back to an entire city?"

"Very noble, Miss Dawes," Bruce says, smiling at Rachel. And he seems to mean it. "How's that old quote go— 'society is great when old men plant trees, the shade of which they'll never enjoy?'" he says, before popping his caviar into his mouth. "That's really what matters in the end, is to keep trying. I might not make Gotham great in my day, but I'm hoping that in ten or fifteen years, Dick and the boys will see Gotham the way I always envisioned it in my mind— a shining beacon, just like Metropolis," he tells her. "Meanwhile, all you can do is work hard, stay focused, and find people of a like mind to share the little moments with," he says. He reaches over and squeezes Rachel's hand, a smile curling up the side of his mouth.

The touch of Bruce's hand brings a flush all over Rachel's body. She can feel her heart pounding and she returns the tender smile. Her mouth opens to say something, and then her cell phone goes off with the 'Law & Order' theme as the ringtone. Rachel's body sags and she drops her head, in frustration, rather than embarassment. "Damnit…Sorry, I really have to take this." She looks at Bruce appologetically as she fishes her phone out of her purse. "Dawes," she says curtly into the phone. "Wait…wait, what?" Rachel looks highly agitated as the other party speaks. "Are you kidding me? Are you seriously kidding me?!" She's not shouting, but her voice is loud enough to cause the other diners to stare at her. Rachel doesn't seem to notice, she just slumps in the chair, sighing. "Alright…we'll figure something out. No, I'll be back at the office in…say an hour? Okay." The phone is clicked off and Rachel reaches up to rub her temples.

"…I take it an emergency just cancelled any after-dinner plans," Bruce says, wryly. He holds a hand up to forestall Rachel, rising, and offers her the fingertips to assist her in standing up as well. "I won't keep you. It's fine, really— dinner's on me. A bit of gratitude from your adoring public," he tells her. "Thanks for joining me tonight, and… if you want to do it again, call me," he adds. "It's… really good seeing you again."

Rachel looks shocked at the offer of a follow-up date and blinks like a fish for a bit. "Umm…I would love to try this again. Maybe next time we can make it to dessert without being interrupted." She smiles, takes Bruce's hand as she stands up. "I'll call you later tonight when I can. I promise not to make it too late. I just…need to get back to the office and start some damage control. But it was wonderful seeing you again, Bruce. And…" She apuses a bit, then leans it to give him a hug. A 'slightly more than friends' hug. "Let me know when you'd like to try this again." And then, she's moving quickly out of the restaurant, giving Bruce a long look before she's out the door. And then, a quick flag down of a cab and she's off.

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