Who: Bruce!Luke and Iris What: Post memory check-ins. Where: Luke's apartment. When: Uh sometime after the memories. Warnings/Rating: None, really.
If Iris truly thought about it, admitted it to herself, she was somewhat proud of the fact that the invasion of other people’s memories hadn’t sent her into a complete tailspin. She knew that most of that was thanks to Alfred, whose time through the door had given her the time and the distance to work through what she’d seen, place it into mental boxes of ‘real’ and ‘unreal’. She knew her doctors would likely take her to task if they knew she was compartmentalizing things so much, but they weren’t the ones that had to deal with the technicolor thoughts of hating someone enough to kill them with only their hands and a shard of glass. It wasn’t her own issue, she couldn’t face it directly to come to terms with her own actions, because they hadn’t been her actions. Alfred’s thoughts led her to believe it was much like living on a battlefield or in an emergency room - take care of the worst cases first and patch the others just enough to give yourself the time to treat the wounds that were most dire.
So it was herself she’d given time to first - herself and Alfred. Once she was confident enough to move on from that, she spoke with Loki. Family came next. She knew she would have to contact the rest of her family as well, but Alfred had family too, and encouraged her to make contact with either Bruce or Luke. She knew about his and Bruce’s conversation, the statements of how the memories had hit Luke, and her own concern made the decision easier, even though she’d promised herself in the past to stay out of Wren, Luke, and Gus’ lives. The circumstances were as extenuating as she could imagine, and other things had to come before her self-made promises.
She was close enough to Luke’s apartment that it seemed, in a strange way, to make more sense to visit than to attempt the journals. So many things could be hidden in writing that being face-to-face revealed. Therefore, it was a hand that only shook slightly with nerves that knocked softly on Luke’s door.
Bruce had made minimal progress at best since his rather disastrous visit to Wren’s penthouse. A sense of urgency now existed, one which had not existed before, and despite the fact that not much time had passed since, he knew this could not continue on for much longer. The girl needed Luke in a way he could only just understand, and Gus needed him too, though the child was much easier to fool than his mother. He hadn’t yet realized that there was something not quite right with his father, primarily because Bruce had nearly run himself ragged in his efforts to embody Luke properly, and aside from those he’d spoken to, the only other living being that realized not all was as it seemed was, strangely enough, the dog. It was in the way the animal looked at him, the way it kept close to Gus at all times, as though it was merely waiting for not-Luke to step one toe out of line and give it reason to attack. Bruce may not have liked dogs, but he could not deny the creature’s intelligence.
Today, Gus was with his babysitter again, gone to the park with the dog, as Bruce preferred the child to not be present when he sought to work on getting Luke back in control. Reasoning with him had proved unsuccessful, so for the past two hours he had been trying another method, something learned a world away, long ago, at the hands of a man who had taught him as much as he had later attempted to take away. It began slowly, with simple breathing exercises. Bruce cleared a space in the living room with only the phone nearby, a blinking blue light on its screen indicating Gus’ current location, and took Luke’s body through various calming techniques; the boy’s presence was a maelstrom in his mind, and he had not had the chance to work through the memories he’d been plagued with. They had come rapidly, one after the other, and if there was any hope of him working through them, he would first need to be in a physical state to do so. Once that was achieved, Bruce intended on pulling each memory forth, one by one, and forcing both himself and Luke to accept the reality of that which could not be changed, only learned from. He did think of other things, such as taking the memories upon himself in order to spare Luke, or even causing the boy to forget what he had seen, but this was the right way. Luke had the potential for great strength, but he needed to realize that there was also no shame in weakness.
In the midst of all this, a knock on the door sounded. Bruce had barely managed to scratch the surface of the memory of Wren in the alley, as Luke’s presence was very much resistant, and he pulled himself out of his near-meditative state with a sigh and rose, striding to the door under the assumption that it was Jack returning from wherever he had been; a potential confrontation he was not at all eager for. Yet it was Iris he saw when he looked through the peephole, and after a moment’s surprise, he pulled the door open. “Hello, Iris,” he said, and it was clear that this was still Bruce, albeit in Luke’s body.
While she and Luke had interacted several times when she was still watching Gus, she would never say that they’d become friends. Even if it was true, she wouldn’t be the one to label it, and not only with Luke. She had family and Anton (who, if she was honest with herself, should be added into the label of family without any reservations at this point). And other than the strange connection she’d formed with Damian, she wasn’t sure she could actually name a friend that wasn’t also family. She would admit to Luke being an acquaintance, though. One that she knew well enough to tell that something wasn’t right when he opened the door. But it was Alfred’s additional input and how well he knew Bruce, even in someone else’s body, that caused Iris to sigh when the door opened. It was extremely strange to know that the person behind the face wasn’t who it was supposed to be. “Still no luck, then?” It was possibly a random comment, one that shouldn’t have been used as a greeting, but she didn’t apologize for it, instead watching Bruce’s borrowed face from behind the thick glasses she’d chosen to wear that day.
If Bruce found her version of a greeting strange or unexpected, he gave no sign of it. Instead he stepped back, giving her room to enter, before responding. "No," he admitted. "Not yet. It may be more difficult than I initially expected." The apartment was quiet, and he'd gone through Luke's wardrobe to find loose-fitting clothing; Bruce wasn't exactly a fan of jeans. It was almost a relief to be able to be himself, despite how unnatural it must have seemed for Luke's body to play host to a fictional character. He had, otherwise, pretended to be Luke with nearly everyone else, not wanting too many people to know the truth, but the longer this went on, the more difficult it would become. He could only hope the boy came to his senses and began cooperating soon. "How are you feeling?" he asked, recalling that Alfred had said Iris struggled with what she'd seen as well.
Iris took the unstated invitation and slipped into the apartment, moving past Bruce to stand near the door. She linked her hands in front of herself and looked at him closely, as if she was trying to find the small differences between him and Luke. It resulted in a long silence accompanied by her steady stare. When she finally broke that stare, she smoothed her hands down the front of the sweater she was wearing, making sure it was laying flat. “I am... surviving.” It was the same answer she’d given others that had asked, and not an entirely positive one. But it was the truth at least, and it didn’t reveal anything specific. She returned her gaze to Bruce’s borrowed face and went seriously somber. “He’s refusing then? To come back?”
Oh, Bruce knew all about surviving. He was quite good at it by now, though sometimes he did wonder what it would feel like to live, as others did, rather than merely keep himself alive and fighting towards a seemingly unattainable goal. He thought she deserved better than that, just survival, and he would have said as much had it not been for the way she looked at him. Stared, really, in a way no one ever stared at him. Iris was not like most people, however, and whether he was in the cowl or out of it, he doubted she would ever cower as others would. “Surviving is a start,” he said finally, settling on a rather neutral response. “You are doing far better than Luke, at the very least. You’re here.” If only the boy had her strength, he reflected. He didn’t need him to fix himself overnight, as he doubted she had; he just needed him to be here. “He’s still largely resistant to it, yes. I think he associates coming back with the memories. I’m attempting to help him work through them, but... it’s not easy.” For a moment he looked troubled. “The last thing I want to do is push him, but there are people here who need him.” His son, for starters, and Wren followed closely behind.
“I’m used to awful things happening in my head. I’ve become very good at putting them into boxes. ...it’s not actually a very healthy way of dealing with things.” It was said frankly, and with the slightest tip of an eyebrow to indicate that while she was quite serious, there was a wry hint of humor behind the words as well. Her eyes stayed fixed on his for another long moment before she moved farther into the apartment, not wanting to linger near the front door. Though it may have been too casual and too familiar, she had been in the apartment before, so she moved to perch lightly on the edge of a chair, smoothing her skirt over her knees. “Not surprising, really, “ she addressed her knees, keeping her gaze down for the moment. “But it’s not going to work, and he’s just delaying the inevitable.” She looked at him again, this time with slightly narrowed, intense eyes, as if she was trying to see past Bruce and talk to Luke. “Nothing here has actually changed. We just have a different perspective now.” Her thoughts so briefly turned to the things she’d seen, and her voice shook slightly before she cleared her throat. She laced faintly trembling fingers together and attempted to ignore the sudden scent of blood in her nose. It took another moment before she stood again, crossing the room to stand directly in front of Bruce, probably too close for polite comfort. When she spoke again though, it wasn’t to him. “You need to come back, Luke. Whatever you saw, you need to come back.” She didn’t have a lot of hope that her words would work, but it was at least a start.
Iris’ methods of coping sounded much too similar to his own, though Bruce hid his discomfort at the realization well. Very few people knew that his seemingly impressive display of willpower was not all that it seemed.”No, I suppose not,” he agreed, wondering how present Alfred was in her mind, compared to the dynamic he and Luke usually had. “But if it works for you, then you can find ways to build upon it. To improve.” While he was not exactly known for his sense of humor, he was in touch enough to notice hers in the tilt of her eyebrows. He moved to close the door when she stepped further into the apartment, unconcerned with the apparent casual ease with which Iris navigated her way to the chair. No, Luke’s resistance wasn’t surprising, and no, this sort of hiding away from the world wasn’t going to work, but attempting to explain that to the boy was even more difficult than attempting to reason with Wren when she’d been half out of her mind and gripping a shard of glass. “I know,” he sighed. “He will have to return sooner or later, and the longer he delays the inevitable, the more difficult it will be. I have faith that he can overcome this, but he doesn’t have the same faith in himself.” It was discouraging, to say the least, that nothing he said to the boy seemed to stick. Bruce did not waver under her gaze, sharp as it was, though he felt a prick of something in his mind; Luke’s presence was more feeling than actual words. “You’re right,” he said, attempting to soothe the anguished consciousness in his mind. “It may be a difficult perspective to accept, but things will only change if he allows them to.” His feelings for the girl had not changed, Bruce knew that; he simply had to ensure what he’d seen did not destroy them.
He noticed the sudden, subtle change in her demeanor, and did not point it out, suspecting that she was recalling something she had seen. For a moment Bruce was surprised by her approach, but he recovered quickly, despite his feelings on personal space. Iris' words were nothing he hadn't told the boy himself, and after a moment there was nothing, just blankness, before a sharp pain cut across his forehead and made his vision blur. At least the boy was there, even if he still refused to fully emerge. "He heard you," Bruce said, almost dryly, blinking to refocus his sight.
In the moments when Bruce was attempting to regain focus, Iris’ expression changed, her eyes now on him instead of searching for Luke. It was a subtle difference, but noticeable. The concern there was obvious, hidden in the small worried crease on her forehead. “What happened just there?” In the back of her mind, a voice that somehow sounded very much like Selina began to insist that she was only making things worse, that she’d checked in like Alfred had encouraged her to do, but that she should leave now before she did something worse. Something that she would try to apologize for; apologies that would fix nothing, worthless. She took several steps back, pulling a soft tremor of a breath as she did. “...I believe it might be best if I leave now.” It was sudden and out of the flow of the conversation.
“His reactions are tangible,” Bruce explained. “I feel, rather than hear. There are fragments of words, sometimes, but his presence hasn’t solidified yet.” He made it sound like the most natural thing in the world, having a shattered consciousness in his mind, though he couldn’t quite articulate it as well as he would have liked. Experiencing it for oneself would have been much easier than attempting to process it into words. His expression fell into one of confusion when she stepped back, as he did not see his--Luke’s--reaction as anything particularly terrible, and he wondered if she had seen something, perhaps, or recalled one of the less desirable memories. “Why?” It was a simply, genuinely curious question.
The question, combined with a gentle word from Alfred in her mind, at least kept Iris from fleeing from the apartment. It was a struggle between her own feelings on the memories from Louis and Anton. She rested one hand on her own stomach, trying to get it and her heartbeat to calm, while holding the other one up, palm out, as if to ward of the question or the possibility of Bruce moving closer. She took one breath, then two, obviously forcing herself to calm at least slightly. Finally, in a voice that she was proud only shook a little, she tried to explain. “If I stay, I will likely do something that will cause harm in one way or another. Through words or actions. I don’t want that to happen, especially when you both are struggling so much at the moment...” She trailed off and looked up at him even though she’d kept her eyes averted while she spoke. Her voice dipped softer after she paused. “So I should leave now. Before I do more than I already have.” She gestured vaguely up at her own eyes, indicating the way Bruce had just been blinking to clear his vision.
Bruce knew when to stay back and when to move forward, and now fell into the former category. There were variables at play that were beyond his understanding, he knew that, as Iris' mental state was questionable at best, but his concern for her was genuine regardless. Her insistence that she would cause some sort of harm puzzled him, but he refrained from immediately objecting. It was almost a relief to focus on problems other than his own. He waited, and he only shook his head once her voice went quieter. "I doubt that you would cause harm to either of us," he told her. "You're free to leave if you want, of course, but don't feel as though you need to. What just happened simply means that Luke is still here, and that is a good thing. I worry that he may withdraw beyond reach, but it's clear that hasn't happened." And it wouldn't, not if he had anything to say on the matter.
Iris drew another breath, still shaky but growing steadier. Her hands twisted together in front of her, fingers twining around each other. “Not on purpose. But...” She trailed off, looking at Bruce again before shaking her head once, sure, as if she’d made a decision in that moment. “I will stay. For now. ...and try to help.”
On Luke’s face, Bruce’s smile seemed more natural than it would have on his own. The boy may not have had much reason to be happy, but he had his moments, which was far more than could be said for the man currently in control. “Good,” he said, stepping back and resuming his seated position on the floor. “I could certainly use the help.” He didn’t quite expect anything to be resolved, of course, but it couldn’t hurt to have Iris’ presence, and if he was being honest, amiable company was something he severely lacked these days.