The Dark Knight Lives (THIRTY-NINE)

Gloria Ramirez knew that being a hero was hard work but she still hadn’t quite comprehended just how hard that work would be. Robin was a good teacher but he was stern and unforgiving.

Starting the morning after her arrival at his secret base he began to train her in superhero boot camp and it was evident very quickly that she may have asked for more than she bargained for.

She was first taken for a long three-hour jog around the city in the wee hours of the morning when the bitter cold was near-excruciating. She was only allowed a thin cardigan to wear over her exercise garments–thankfully he was lenient enough to let her wear a thin pair of gloves so her hands wouldn’t freeze. The jog was casual but nonstop, meaning by the end of the run she felt like her lungs were going to explode and her heart rate was so high she thought she might pass out onto the concrete. Then what would he say?

After briefly recuperating–if thirty minutes for a small meal could be called a recovery–he then made her practice sparring. This was to determine her skill set, her fighting style, and which type of weapons she was supposed to wield into battle.

Sparring Robin seemed like something out of a dream but it wasn’t as fun as it sounded. In fact, it was rather painful. He was merciless with that godforsaken wooden staff of his, pelting her with stinging slaps and hits that she knew would leave her body covered in black-and-blue bruises that would probably last for a week.

They did this for another three hours.

And then, after all of that, the real workout began. It was purely to make her tougher and she was mentally and physically exhausted. She was a star athlete at her high school, meaning she knew her way around a gym, but never had she trained so strenuously for anything in her life.

There were pushups and weight lifting, sit-ups and ab crunching, and cardio-based workouts that had her heart hammering in her chest.

After this nightmarishly long day, her training was over and she found herself crashed on a long sofa in the lounging section of his base trying to comprehend why her muscles felt like literal jelly.

She had done this for exactly four days straight but throughout it all, she hadn’t complained. Robin said it would make her stronger, more durable in a firefight against criminals as bad as the likes of Harley Quinn who she had come face to face with. Gloria understood this and absorbed the pain of her daily training sessions, for she knew all of this would come back to save her life one day.

The evening of the fourth day had arrived and Gloria, usually sprawled on the sofa half-dead, was actually able to sit up. Her muscles still ached but she was beginning to relish the simmering agony of her relaxing muscles.

The sofa was placed before a warm fireplace where a raging flame flickered comfortingly. Alfred, the butler, was busy sitting in one of the chairs in the room, sewing an old shirt. Blake Lively arrived around the corner from his spying station and, upon seeing them, decided to sit down as well.

Gloria smiled at him. “Well, seeing you here must mean things aren’t too bad in Gotham at the moment.”

His lips quirked upward. “Not at the moment.”

They stared into the fireplace, the crackling of the flames providing a soothing aura to the room that calmed them immensely. Gloria eyed Blake who was staring into the fire seemingly lost in thought. She found herself beginning to wonder if he was lonely. Being someone who was probably in his early-to-mid-30s it was a bit strange that he didn’t have a woman in his life.

Before she could think about the consequences she blurted, “So, do you have a girlfriend?”

Alfred winced as he pierced his finger with his sewing needle and Blake’s eyes widened as he looked at her.

“What?” he asked in utter surprise.

She smiled, deciding to pursue the subject after growing amused at his reaction. “Do you have a girlfriend?”

Alfred smiled. “It’s nice to finally have a woman in here. Makes life interesting.”

Robin shot a withering glance at him before replying bluntly, “That is entirely my business.”

Gloria’s eyes widened. “So you do have a girlfriend!” she exclaimed.

“No I don’t, I mean yes, I mean,” Robin made a noise of exasperation, “it’s complicated.”

“Complicated?” Gloria sat cross-legged, clasping her hands. “This is the entertainment I needed. Do speak more.”

Blake rolled his eyes but a flicker of a smile crossed his lips. “There is a woman that I care about but…I don’t think she feels the same way.”

“So it’s a crush…essentially.”

Blake shrugged. “I guess you can say so, but not really. A crush is the action of a teenager. I’m not a teenager.”

“Well then, tell this woman how you feel so you can make it official that it isn’t a crush. Otherwise, you come off as a stalker.”

“I’m not a stalker!” he exclaimed. “I just…”

He made another noise of exasperation before standing. “I don’t have time for this.”

With that, he stormed out of the room. Gloria looked after him before turning to Alfred after he had disappeared.

“What did I say?”

The elderly butler smiled apologetically. “Mr. Lively has always kept his relationships close to his chest. It’s because he was an orphan. It’s made him…careful about relinquishing certain information. Don’t feel hurt if he acts a little standoffish. It’s just a defense mechanism.”

Gloria shrugged. “I’m not offended. I’m just curious.” She stood. “I’ll find out who this secret crush of his is. Mark my words.”

The butler’s smile widened. “And tell me who it is when you do learn the truth. I’m sure it’ll be very interesting.”

Gloria chuckled before leaving the room. It was time to go to bed.

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