“Hi” was all I could think to say. It may have come out “Meow,” I’m not sure. All I knew was he had materialized out of nowhere, a beautiful Bat-entrance when my head had filled up with so many irrelevant nothings since sunrise I nearly forgot… “Do you want the short version or the long one?” I heard myself asking.
He looked me up and down, and then took a breath like he’d forgotten how for a second.
Or maybe that was me. Somehow there was air in my chest again.
“Look,” he said. His arms were around mine and his eyes were—Oh hell, I don’t know, so blue and so Batman all of a sudden, while his voice was that soft lilt I didn’t hear until years later. “We’re going to go out there and recite vows, and I have something picked out, but right now while it’s just us, I want to say this.
“From the very first night you saw through the mask. You saw me, a me that even I haven’t always understood. And I look into those eyes now—masks, no masks, they’re the same—and they always will be. The parts of us that are connected… Are. WE are. It’s Just. Us.
“We both invented ourselves. Most people want to but not many can. Most aren’t brave enough. Early on, we discovered something about ourselves, something deep. And we didn’t run from it; we leaned into it. We let it lead us, shape us… And that’s what brought us to each other, because that’s how it works.
“This one temple dojo, there was a monk. We didn’t exchange more than ten words in all the time I was there, until this one day shortly before I left. He said he was like me, the training came easy, the discipline, self-denial… But the one thing it took him the longest to understand: it’s in the path of our happiness that we find the learning for which we’ve chosen this lifetime. And if we don’t pursue happiness, the Universe has to adapt and put the happiness in the path of our learning.
“I didn’t understand then, but I see it so clearly in us. The parts of us that they all see and the parts they never will, we’re meant to complete each other.”
All I know of the next seconds is he lifted my hand to his lips, he said he would see me out there, and he… basically… did a Bat-vanish.
It never occurred to me to tell him about the newspaper.
The room Martha Wayne nicknamed ‘the chapel’ (for the god light that poured from the high windows in late morning and not for the sculpture of Michael the Archangel some 19th Century, globetrotting Wayne brought back from his grand tour) was covered in flowers. Lily of the valley signifying a return of happiness and hyacinth symbolizing constancy in love were interspersed with roses because they were roses, and honeysuckle because they smelled nice.
Clark deposited Bruce on his mark and then scanned the crowd, the walls, the caves beneath and the grounds for a half-mile in every direction. With no sign of the menace lurking behind that headline, he gave Superman a moment off and watched Lois begin the short parade down the aisle.
She was so beautiful, and he thought of when he stood where Bruce was now, that strange, blank, otherworldly numbness… He looked at his friend in concern, and yep, Batman had left the building. The ordinary human who could stand toe to toe with gods was simply… reduced. He breathed, he blinked, and he faced the end of a long white aisle knowing something he set in motion was about to happen, and that was about it.
“You got this,” Clark whispered, and offered a manly clap on the shoulder before he withdrew.
Anna was next. She seemed like a nice woman, doing her best after the ordeal she’d suffered. She’d reacted like a normal person compared to these Gothamites, and that was something Clark appreciated. He smiled at her as she reached the altar. She smiled back (quite a radiant smile for one who wasn’t the bride), nodded at Bruce, and then stepped aside...
Jim Gordon looked briefly at Edward Nigma and the woman beside him. Happy as he was for Bruce, it was unfortunate what Selina brought in her wake. Still, the little pest was at Barbara’s wedding and did no harm. At least the new girlfriend was no Harley Quinn.
In the alcove just outside the chapel, Selina looked to the ceiling—and thought for a moment of that portrait of Thomas and Martha hanging in the study. “Thank you” she mouthed to the heavens before clasping Matt Hagen’s arm. The music trickled to a halt, and all eyes turned…
Jason Blood smiled, checking her aura and seeing no sign of shadow-sapience. He was never worried about Clayface or Etrigan, but there was something that day in the library. Something that was certainly not Etrigan; he knew every nuance of that demon’s appetites. But this, this was… not familiar. And whatever it was… Jason looked around suddenly at the guests… Yes, whatever it was, at that moment it had been quite absorbed by Selina, but it almost seemed… in another sense, it was more intrigued by them as a couple…
Selina walked down the aisle to a special arrangement of Mariage D'amoure for piano and viola, the latter played by Femi Molokhya on the Castello Sforza. At first, no one knew the rather distinguished man escorting her, but of course no socialite would admit such ignorance.
After a moment, Nigma’s eyes gleamed with recognition and the faintest hint of a smile crossed his lips. “Nice going, Hagen,” he murmured.
Dick turned from Selina’s entrance to watch his father. “Well done, Bruce. Well done,” he whispered. Barbara heard, reached for his hand and gave a squeeze.
Beside them, Alfred stood a little taller and breathed a little deeper. He had done it. The world might need a Batman but that had nothing to do with Master Bruce finding a measure of happiness in his life, other than intensifying the need for it. He nodded, his chest swelling with pride as he dared to imagine Doctor and Mrs. Wayne watching from another plane. “Well done, miss,” was his thought, eyes riveted on Selina.
Tim’s eyes were also glued to Selina because he was determined not to look at Cassie. It was ridiculous, weddings, girls and weddings. They put too much pressure on everybody. It was like Valentine’s Day on steroids. Just because you happened to be in a relationship, there was like this gravitational force that—He heard the sigh beside him. And he turned to look at Cassie.
Hagen bowed out three quarters of the way down the aisle as Bruce stepped up, not even registering the man he’d never seen before or the implications of his presence. He saw only Selina, the hint of a tear in her eyes, the radiance of her smile visible through the veil.
The veil which his overloaded brain saw as an allusion to the mask. Could this really be happening? Catwoman.
“I always knew you’d be beautiful,” he whispered as if he was seeing her unmasked face for the first time, and Bishop Geoff cleared his throat.
“Friends,” he said, “We are gathered together in the sight of God to bless this joining of Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne. What makes this such a joyous occasion is Selina and Bruce are reaffirming a love they have lived for many years now, since I stood not far from here to wed his son Richard and his lovely wife Barbara. Marriage is not a ring worn or a paper signed, but a mutual promise to live two lives as one.
“I ask you now, in the presence of God and these people here gathered, to declare your intention to enter into union with one another.”
Selina felt she was smiling too much. She should tone it down just a little, but neither her mouth nor her eyes would cooperate as the bishop’s soft voice carried with surprising force to fill the large room.
“Selina, will you have Bruce to be your husband, to live together in holy marriage? Do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” she pronounced solemnly before the smile returned.
Bruce was focused with an intensity never seen in Batman, the side of his lip raised almost imperceptibly as if frozen in the famous lip-twitch.
“Bruce, do you take Selina to be your wife, to live together in holy marriage? Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” came almost as a sigh of relief, and he cleared his throat and repeated a bit louder. “I do.”
“Let us pray. Eternal God, Creator and Preserver of all life, Giver of all Grace, bless and sanctify with your Holy Spirit Bruce and Selina who come now to join in marriage. Grant that they may give their vows to each other in the strength of your steadfast love…”
Both were smiling wide now, Selina barely able to hold back a laugh, as their eyes locked in shared, shocked disbelief: They made it, they were doing it—this ridiculously normal thing—they were getting away with it and none of these people watching had an inkling...
“Enable them to grow in peace and love with you and with one another all their days. Amen.”
“Amen,” Selina said sincerely.
“Amen,” Bruce echoed.
… As if they were normal people.
“You may join hands and exchange your vows,” the bishop said with a subtle gesture, as this is where people often took out an index card.
Bruce took out a thin volume in weathered leather, the gilt title “Shakespeare Sonnets” almost completely worn.
“Selina, I haven’t always been the best telling you how I feel. In the beginning especially, I often wound up saying the exact opposite of what… So I found someone to say it for me.” He indicated the book and said bashfully, “This was my mother’s,” and then read formally:
“Let me not to the
marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even… to the edge of doom.”
He paused and took a breath, head swimming, those green eyes the only point of reference.
“I, Bruce… take you, Selina to be… my wife,” those two words again infused with relief, and then something more. Every word after was claiming something that had been denied for too long… “To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse,” he stumbled over the words, and Selina laughed as Bishop Geoff prompted him. …Something sacred and fundamental to all humanity, that was denied him… “For richer, for poorer, and in sickness and in health, um…” Just… finding another person “To love and to cherish, 'til death parts us, and therefore I pledge thee my troth.”
The smile was gone.
“I, Selina,” she said solemnly, “take thee, Bruce to be my husband,” The sincerity was almost painful, and Bruce had to remind himself to breathe. “To have and to hold,” every word pronounced so clearly, with such intent “from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,” There it was, a hint of a smile—which made him smile—she was the Selina he knew again. “In sickness, and in health, to love, and to cherish,” her voice broke on the word, and that tear was back in her eye. “'til death parts us, and therefore I pledge thee my troth.”
It was nothing but teary smiles now, and would-be laughs barely held in check on both sides now that they’d got through it.
Then the spell was broken as Bishop Geoff said “You may exchange rings now” and they both became aware of the world, looking around trying to figure out where rings were supposed to come from. There was considerable tittering among the guests as Clark stepped forward and supplied them.
“With this ring, I thee…” Bruce managed, holding it immobile near the tip of her finger, and then thrusting it forward. “Wed,” he finished, making Selina laugh at the breakdown of hand-mouth coordination, which made him laugh too.
“With this ring, I thee wed,” she said soberly, and slid the ring on, lifted his hand curling the fingers into a fist and kissed the knuckle, a flash of the cat in her eye, making sure he knew that was for Batman.
The smug, satisfied smile of the Catwoman—just for a moment—the Catwoman victorious…
“I now pronounce you man and wife.”
…getting away with her prize.
“Those that God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”
They kissed unprompted, the music began and the guests stood and applauded… and the kiss continued while the music encouraged them to stop, link arms and depart.
Tommy Pearl, the world-class cat burglar identity who was Bruce’s wedding gift to Selina as well as her gift to him, had equipped his West Village apartment with a hidden media wall equal to any of the satellite Batcaves. Beneath the long, horizontal viewscreen, Bruce and Selina’s phones were docked. Batman’s most powerful data-sorting algorithms prioritized the photos and video sent to them by Alfred, Clark, Anna, Eddie, Barbara and Tim over the deluge of material being uploaded to social media since the reception concluded. The center of the screen displayed the best images for each segment of the festivities, while the sides ran a slideshow, montage or video of alternative angles.
On the sofa, Bruce and Selina were curled around each other, watching in a kind of euphoric awe that Selina expressed in giggling and Bruce in pulling away the sleeve of her peignoir, flicking the thin strap of her negligee, and nibbling.
“That tickles,” she announced for the third time, “Husband.”
“I know. That’s why I’m doing it. Wife.”
On the screen, guests gathered in the south drawing room while waiters circulated with canapes.
“This would have been when? While we were taking pictures?” Bruce asked suddenly. And then before Selina could answer, he said “VOX, audio on panel C and expand.”
“Oh lord,” Selina laughed and held a hand to her eyes to mock-cover the sight of Pikhai talking to a rapt Ford Dormont.
“Foie gras on gingerbread with Atlantis smoked salt,” he was saying. “The other, is vegetarian option, is ‘wild mushroom cappuccino’ a shot of rich soup of porcini, morel and button mushrooms, topped with truffle foam and porcini dust.”
“What the hell, Demon!” Selina half-blurted, half-cackled. “You don’t know ‘worthy’ and ‘better’ but you’ve got ‘vegetarian option’ and ‘truffle foam’?!”
“He is a strange one,” Bruce graveled, as the image faded into the society photographer’s formal shots of the receiving line. Either because the Bat-algorithm weighted facial recognition of Riddler and Game Theory or because it was one of the most aesthetically pleasing compositions, the first photo displayed was of Nigma meeting Anna, clasping her hand in both of his in the slightly blurred foreground while Selina greeted Doris in sharp focus and Ash Torrick shook hands with Bruce, with Lucius Fox approaching Clark in soft focus.
“If that’s the signature photograph, it’s going to wind up the social climbers all over again,” Bruce noted. “Think Nigma’s told her what to expect?”
“They both knew what I was asking with Dormont. They’ll be fine,” Selina said, pulling Bruce’s hand from her breast and kissing each knuckle individually.
There were few photos or video from the meal, other than a few Instagram-style shots of the food, which Bruce narrated with an impersonation of Pikhai “The Wagyu filet has a glaze of soy sauce from Sawai-shoyu Honten near Kyoto’s imperial palace which has been making it for a hundred years, and this I will not to be mangling with my wobbly English because the Grit One al Ghul has a glossary of anything happening next to the seat of power in any langua—”
His performance was cut off by Selina’s tongue, and a substantial portion of the slideshow was missed in favor of spirited love-making. They only subsided—ironically—with the tinkling of glasses from the viewscreen. They managed to separate just as their video selves kissed to appease the crowd, and Clark rose to give his toast… “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please…” Bruce again called for an adjustment to the volume, and Selina stroked the scars of that ancient cat scratch on his chest as they listened.
“My very good friend,” Clark said from the screen. “My best friend and long time old buddy, a man I will always respect and whose respect I will always cherish, got married today to a lovely, beautiful, exquisite woman who gave him what he needed more than anything in this world. She challenged him, challenged his preconceptions about the world. And about himself. She made you a better man, buddy.
“And that’s saying something. You are, despite what some people assume from the ludicrously distorted picture they’re given in the press, you are the smartest, most generous, most dedicated, and just generally extraordinary human being I have ever been privileged to know. I should add the bravest, given the losses you’ve overcome without losing the will to fight on. Selina, when I say you deserve this man, it is the highest praise I can offer. And as your loving him made him a better man, I think I may call you a friend enough to say that his made you a better woman.
“Let me tell you something, folks, this day has been a long time in coming. But it’s well worth the wait. To Selina and Bruce.”
They danced to I Have Dreamed, and by the time the melody was up to the line “How you look in the glow of evening, I have dreamed and enjoyed the view…” they were, once again, not watching.
Video Bruce and Selina cut the cake… Video Anna danced with Pikhai… Video Eddie and Doris laughed merrily with Ford and Ash… Video Lucius raised his glass with Dick, Barbara and the Ashton-Larrabys… Video Anna danced with Hagen… Tim with Cassie… Eddie with Doris… Gordon felt a tear threatening as he sat with Barbara, so he abandoned the champagne in favor of a stiff bourbon… Lois danced with Ash Torrick but was so patronizing about his conspiracy theories that Clark cut in to save him, even though Lois would know it meant he was eavesdropping… Video Bruce and Selina appeared again in traveling clothes…
While their warm-blooded counterparts had gone, leaving only a trail of lace and silk bits on the floor, across the coffee table, by the wall, and in the doorway to the bedroom.
“Ohhhhhh!” two voices moaned in sync. “Ooooooh” “Errrrrrlllll” “Ooooooh” and then a broke up into staccato “mmmmMM! MM-MM-MM-Yes—” and giggling on the one side and a kind of snarling grunt on the other which also resolved in laughter…
“Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Wayne,” Selina purred finally, stroking a scar, “Is it me, or is it better now that we’re man and wife?”
“I think it’s probably the days apart,” Bruce said, curling an arm possessively around her hip. “God, I missed you. That empty spot in the bed… And there was a vengeance ghost in Tokyo. Do you know how long it’s been since I tangled with something like that and didn’t have you to come home to? Hear ‘Oh woof, I released one of those in Giza one time, what a mess.’”
She laughed. “I never said that.”
“Or ‘I remember when Jason sent me to steal the Scroll of Aken-kotep to evict a murder ghost one time and—’”
“I never said that either,” she insisted, laughing harder, and then “Oh.”
Bruce adjusted to read the kaleidoscope of emotion flashing across her face.
“Hey, Mrs. Wayne, what’s wrong?” he asked, concerned.
“I guess it doesn’t matter now; we made it to the ‘I dos,’” she said with a smile. “I just realized I never got to tell you… any of it. My God, we have a lot to catch up on.”
“Well, I know you did more than survive Hagen, you brought him back from whatever happened,” Bruce said like a Detective whose brain hasn’t quite restored full operations after Olympic sex but is still capable of marshalling obvious facts.
“Not Hagen,” Selina said, first biting her lip as she realized the new challenge facing her. Whatever the threat to the nuptials had been, it failed and that idiotic headline would never appear, but she now had to tell Bruce that a whole episode came and went affecting the most important event of their lives and he was completely unaware of it. “Bruce,” she said as if taking a deep breath before diving into a maelstrom, “when I sent Clark to get you this morning, it wasn’t about Hagen...”
“Wait,” he said. “Selina, I hate to do this, but this is obviously going to be a bit of a story… in addition to Hagen, and whatever happened on Jumby Island, and I haven’t told you about Tokyo. And Batman has patrol tonight. Tonight of all nights, I cannot risk not being seen. So rather than start this big thing we clearly won’t be able to finish, let’s put it off until I get back, okay?”
“Deal,” she said, reasoning that the more time that passed, the better. After patrol, logs, sleep, sex, more sleep, more sex and breakfast, he’d be more apt to keep the news in perspective. Yes, something big happened that Batman didn’t know…
“…But everything worked out in the end,” she concluded the belated sitrep. “‘I now pronounce you man and wife’ and ‘who God joined together, let no one even think of messing with.’”
“The Times?” Bruce graveled like it was the worst riddle Nigma had ever handed him. “The Post I could understand, it would be perfectly in character but—”
“I think that’s the point exactly: it would be in character. I’ve had time to think about it, and I think whoever sent this must have realized if it was the Post, we’d dismiss it without a thought. With all the shit they make up about us, I mean completely out of thin air, just think about it: Who would take it seriously? And if the wedding really didn’t happen, they wouldn’t have reported anything that simple and straightforward. It’d be—my God, the mind boggles—It’d be flying monkeys. A cult of zombie Green Lanterns. Skies red with a hailstorm of frozen blood from giant vampire bats...”
“Whoever sent it,” Bruce repeated. “Yes, that’s the question. If it was meant as a warning so we could avert disaster—”
“If? What else could it be?”
“Anything. A scare tactic, a cry for help, a threat, just a mean-spirited act of aggression to ruin your day— If it was the Post, none of that is possible because they have no credibility. You’d laugh it off: a story in the Gotham Post just like a thousand others.”
“But the Times means it happened,” Selina winced, feeling a victory had been taken from her. If it was a warning so she could save the wedding, then yes she’d beaten the threat. But if it was anything else Bruce was suggesting, then they’d won. The thought crept in like a spider while she cleared the breakfast and began quietly weaving its web while Bruce put on a robe on to collect the newspaper from the door: That headline had set the tone for her day, it had kept her from experiencing the joyful excitement the morning of her wedding should bring, it kept her focus from Bruce and their future and buried it in worry and dread.
“So we’re back to who sent it and why?” she murmured. “Not to mention what actually happened to stop the wedding and create that headline in the first place, I don’t suppose we’ll ever know that now.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Bruce said, holding up the Gotham Times Vows section to the page reading ‘Sorry, Bruce, It Wasn’t Meant to Be.’