What just happened?
The words sprung out of my mouth— Selina, wait!—and I’d reached forward to stop her from going. It wasn’t a conscious act; it was instinct, like countering a gust of wind mid-swing on the Batline. For a second I even flashed on magic and mind control. It was the same kind of speech and movement independent of will.
Before that moment, it had been a typical Bat/Cat sparking off…
“It seems like everything leads back to it no matter what I say or don’t say, do or don’t do. It also seems like whatever it is, it’s getting worse. So yes, Bruce, I’m pushing and prodding and jabbing and refusing to ignore the fact that a pink elephant has come among us.”
The pink elephant again. A few years ago, Selina came down to the cave when I’d been fasting and sequestering myself before the anniversary. I was trying to meditate (albeit failing), a kind of ritual I’d fallen into for those last days leading up to the 21st. She wanted to know why. Starving and exhausting myself didn’t protect the city, save innocents or frighten criminals, so why was I doing it? When I didn’t provide a quick enough answer, she said we were back to pink elephants.
She’s right in that there’s a history of the unspoken between us. She was a thief. I’m a crimefighter. There were things I couldn’t say back then. We both knew what we felt, it was inescapable. But we couldn’t talk about it; I couldn’t, no matter how much she wanted me to.
“Just for the record, this isn’t ‘what I want,’” she went on, eerily in sync with my private thoughts—and there’s a history of that between us too. “I would love nothing better than to shove it all in the closet and forget it ever existed. But one of the things I want to shove in the closet and forget is a world where this kind of thing was shoved in a closet and forgotten. I don’t know everything that happened there, but I know it went on too long, a pink elephant was left to fester or something, until finally you told me to leave. I woke up in the back room of the fucking Iceberg and Ivy had my sapphire—”
“Sapphire?” I sputtered. “Selina, what are you talking about?”
What was she talking about? It was the safe, it was Walapang, it was… No. Wait.
“Wait, you think this is…” I trailed off, my mind reeling at the flash of understanding. Not pink elephants. Pink sapphires. Suddenly it all became clear. Kitten was projecting again. She’d been on me all day about what I’m not telling her, about Clark, about Nigma… Now it all made sense. The pink sapphire. It’s what she hasn’t told me that’s really on her mind. “This has nothing to do with dimension hopping,” I said honestly. “I know that you will tell me—or not tell me—about that whenever you feel you can. I’d just like the same consideration.”
“You’re not listening—or not understanding. I am telling you. One of those worlds, you’d thrown me out. Something was left unsaid for too long. It scares me. Bruce, I don’t want that to happen with us. If you need time, then take it… Just don’t take too much.”
What… just… happened?
“I’m waiting,” she said, patient but curious, like she had no idea why I reacted the way I did—which was understandable, since I had no idea myself.
Before that moment, it had been a typical… Bat and Cat… It’s always been this way. What’s said is said, everything is thrown out there, then one of us walks away. We fume, gestate, introspect, and eventually we come back and find a resolution. Somehow that wasn’t acceptable this time. Not today, not in the cave. I don’t know how or why, but some deep instinct said no. Now, today, that simply was not acceptable.
“It’s the safe,” I said quietly.
I wasn’t sure that was enough. This torrent in my brain was screaming that it was Ivy and the gold bars and that damn bat and the kryptonite ring, my mother’s pearls and my father’s wallet, the police file reducing their murder to a few cold phrases “occurred in a back alley” “held at gunpoint” “powder burns on the victims’ clothing.” It was more than I could ever explain in words. How do you explain that there is no one, no one else in the world, that knows that safe even exists? With everything else I have: with Batman, the Cave, the League, the manor, with my father’s business and the Foundation… there have always been others that know about all of it. But that safe… not even Alfred knows. How could I possibly…
She was kissing my cheek. The kiss and the words that followed punched through the haze in my mind, like when I was recovering from Ivy’s pheromones—which is, of course, where this mess started.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, Bruce. You think I don’t know a personal safe from the other kind by now?”
Only Catwoman. Only Selina. How is it possible for her to reference her criminal past that way, intertwined, as it were, with the murder of my parents, and have that somehow make it better rather than worse? She said she recognized the personal nature of the safe immediately. She said she’d looked in the boxes because of the kryptonite clue, then she took the number she needed off the gold bar and that was it. She said she didn’t go through the papers. She assured me that she’d never tell anyone about the safe’s existence or about anything inside—which of course I knew, but the assurance still gave me a pang. We were so far beyond that, in terms of trust, it went without saying. She should know that. She was trying to reassure me, that’s why she said it, but she didn’t know how, because she didn’t really understand why the safe was an issue. I realized I had to at least try to explain, even if it was futile.
“What bothered me the most is that you had to find it on your own,” I began, realizing that part of the truth only as I heard the words coming from my lips. “Once again, I had no control over the situation. Somewhere, deep down, I knew that one day I would share that safe with you. But, Selina, I wasn’t ready then and I’m not ready now. Every item in there is… intensely…
“Just look at the kryptonite ring. Since you know about that, it’s the easiest way to explain. When Superman first entrusted me with that ring, I put it in the safe because it was the most secure location I had at my disposal. It didn’t mean anything. Like the gold bar, placing it there was a simple expedient. But as time went on, as the partnership evolved, it became something more. It’s an emblem of trust and mutual respect. It belongs there now because my relationship with Clark is a part of who I am.”
She nodded. I wasn’t sure she understood—she thought she did, but I don’t think anyone can really understand Superman handing you the means to destroy him. Luthor made that ring for one purpose: to make a kryptonite fist. To coil all his hate and anger into a blow his enemy would feel. He made it to take Superman’s life with his bare hands. And when he got his hands on it, rather than destroy the object made for the sole purpose of killing him, Clark gave it to me… “in case it was ever needed.” After he married Lois, we brought her to the cave, I revealed my identity, and Clark told her the whole story. After Luthor became President, possession of the ring became instrumental in his downfall.
I told Selina there was an untold story like that behind every item in the safe, an involved, deeply personal story I didn’t know if I could ever adequately explain. I knew I should sit down and go through it with her, piece by piece, but it was too much to take on. I simply wasn’t ready.
She gave a sad little smile, a sad little nod, and eyed my cheek like she wanted to kiss it again. I took the hint and kissed hers instead. It seemed to be enough. What I’d revealed would end the ‘festering’ she was afraid of. Now that she knew what was at the root of the recent tension, she looked… content. At least by the standard of the day.
It’s the safe.
I’ve been breathing so much easier since I heard those words, it’s like I’d forgotten what it was like to take a full relaxed breath. It was the safe.
God bless the cat-instinct that rides shotgun on every cat-crime, deciding what leaves a safe and comes home with me, and what stays right where it is. That box was bad enough, with the broken pearls and the wedding rings, the bloodstained wallet… I hate to think if I’d gone through those papers.
No wonder he doesn’t want to go through it all, sifting through the “untold stories.”
I went up to the bedroom, relief mixing with the exhaustion setting in after a perfectly hellacious day and a growing desire to hold Bruce all night long. That’s what we really needed, I thought. Give Batman the night off and make achingly sweet love until morning. He’d never go for it, of course. I had a bad day but Psychobat had a worse one, and that meant tonight’s selection of muggers, pimps and drug dealers were going to have a worse one still.
And, as if Destiny herself wanted to confirm that great Universal Truth, the bat was back.
The day we woke up knowing the very worst of the mindwipe aftermath was before us, this little bat appeared on the bedroom window. Bruce said it was called a bumblebee bat, the smallest species there is. He was awfully cute, just a few inches wide, this tiny vote of confidence from the Universe. At some point he disappeared, I’m not sure when. But as I came up from that talk with Bruce in the cave, there he was again, hanging upside down near the top of the window just like he used to. I went up to take a closer look, wanting to see him as a good omen like before. But somehow I couldn’t see him that way now.
He was just this little bat hanging there. If his return meant anything, it was an enigma.
He was there again the next day, when Barbara called. Oracle just picked up a memo on Arkham’s mainframe: Killer Croc due to be released in two weeks. He was there the next day, when Bruce agreed to a sunset cruise on the Gatta “before things heat up again.” He was there the next week, when the Falcones noticed most of the costumed types were up the river and started getting aggressive on the docks. He was there when Eddie got his swing back, left a clue on an 8-track tape and Bruce nearly tore the cave apart looking for a way to play it.
He was there when… when… …oh hell.
To be continued...