|Life Is Good
Author: DC Luder PM
Second in the Series of Three storyline. As Bruce reclaims the mantle of the Bate, the Family draws together to fight old enemies and to make new acquaintances. Ch. 1-10 have been modified as of 12/12/11Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Family - Bruce W./Batman & Selina K./Catwoman - Chapters: 21 - Words: 136,964 - Reviews: 88 - Favs: 47 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 04-29-04 - Published: 04-09-03 - Status: Complete - id: 1299190
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: Life Is Good: XX
Author: D C Luder
Summary: The second addition in the Series of Three storyline. Se three months after his full recovery, the Dark Knight is back with a vengeance.
Infringements: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder.
The photographer was an older woman who had the claim to fame of not only being able to photograph Bruce's wedding, but also Bruce's parents when they had been married years ago. Every time I scanned through the Manor's wall to check on the progress of the picture taking, she seemed overwhelmed with joy in seeing Bruce grown and starting a family of his own.
In the mean time, the guests had holed up in the Great Hall and were helping themselves to appetizers and free drinks and listened as the band warmed up.
Lois had gone off with the wedding party, anxious to see the locale and poses. Despite her strange relationship with Bruce, she had come to be very involved in the affairs of the Wayne wedding in our last week in Gotham. Selina, who had never been one for girl friends, had enjoyed her company and views on what marriage life was all about. When I had visited during Bruce's recovery over a year ago, she had been wary of me, but after introductions and explanations had been exchanged, and her deduction of my true purpose, she had become much more amiable towards me.
I sat, alone, at a large table situated to the left of the wedding party's table. There were ten chairs surrounding me, and as I read their name cards, I recognized only two of them: Lois and John Jones. Earlier that week, I had discussed with Dick the matter of who in our "community" had been invited to the wedding and reception. Supposedly, only myself and J'onn had been directly invited while a small group of the others were invited to the reception if they could attend without causing a scene.
I was about to get up to refill my soda glass when I heard a sigh to my right. To very little surprise, I saw the form of a middle-aged man, with dark brown hair and gentle features on a broad face. His nameplate had been the one I recognized. I reached over and shook his hand briefly, "Were you at the ceremony?"
He nodded, "Someone took the seat I wanted, ended up standing at the alter with Father Miller."
I smirked, picturing the invisible form of my friend watching the wedding from the best spot possible. I traced the rim of my glass, "So how many others are here?"
A smile formed on his lips as he touched my shoulder. Faces that had gone unrecognized suddenly became the visages I had come to know and trust. Wally, Roy and Kyle stood by the bar, chatting with two women while Arthur and Tempest stood next to an ice sculpture. I scanned the room looking for others as J'onn spoke, "A simple mind block on anyone in the room. Those with more... recognizable faces are disguised."
"Boys, are we behaving ourselves?"
We both turned to see Lois, all smiles as she walked over to her seat. She reached over once she had seated herself and straightened my tie. When she saw that we had been joined by another guest, she smiled, "Hi. We've met, haven't we?"
He nodded, "John Jones. I'm a friend of Clark's. And Bruce's."
She nodded, winked and then lifted her wineglass to her lips. Just as she was about to let loose the investigative reporter in her on J'onn, a male voice came over the speakers, "Ladies and gentlemen, if you would please make your way to your seats, the wedding party will be here shortly."
Within fifteen minutes, the tables were full, including mine. I grinned to see that the faces had been revealed to me earlier sat themselves at the table and nodded in acknowledgement. Wally and Kyle sat together facing me and chatted a bit before laughing loudly in unison. I asked, "Something funny?"
The suddenly looked ashamed and Wally spoke after gnawing on his lip, "Nah, just excited to see them all dressed up. Especially Mr. Brooding Is Fun," he smiled as he held his pointer fingers to the side of his head, imitating Bruce's cowl.
I looked over to J'onn to see him grinning before he said, "I'll be sure to tell him of your enthusiasm."
Their skin paled before our eyes and Arthur let loose a great chuckle after sipping water. As things settled and background music began playing, I noticed that there was one chair empty at our table, just on the other side of J'onn, labeled Rhonda Sykes. I nodded towards it and J'onn spoke, "Diana. I don't know if she is going to come."
Before I could comment, the voice returned to my ears. There was a young man, dark haired and smiling, standing with a microphone on the makeshift stage towards the front corner of the room. He waited until a vast majority of the group had silenced before continuing, "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming to join the celebration..."
He had a crisp, clear voice, slightly bass, and oddly familiar. Lois elbowed me and said, "That's Don Rage, from WNGC. Love his show..." My mind clicked with the name and I recalled hearing it several times while Lois was showering or even hanging around the house. He was a host for a show on an AM station that was famous for it's male host and the best of classic and modern Jazz.
I preferred Garth Brooks.
As he went about highlighting that no smoking would be allowed and the location of the fire exits, I heard a door open and glanced to see who had arrived. Wearing a long, blue silk dress, Diana searched the room, her features tense and nervous. J'onn smiled and signaled to her and when she made eye contact, she crossed the room and made her way towards us.
As she sat, I asked, "Get lost?"
She frowned at me and went about smoothing her dress and touching her hair. She was nervous, I couldn't believe it. She and Bruce had suffered a great deal of tension in their relationship. I knew she had feelings for him, but Bruce had never truly been interested, his devotion to his quest consuming him. And when he had decided to enter a relationship, it had not been with her, but a known criminal. Although the rest of the League was happy to see Bruce finally seeking out happiness, even with Catwoman, Diana was hurt, feeling as if she had been rejected.
J'onn sent his thoughts to me, The claws versus the lasso. When I looked at him suddenly, he continued, I was thinking about it as well. Be interesting to see when they are introduced formally.
I suddenly hoped that Bruce wouldn't be caught in the middle.
"I am so glad to get out of that thing," I sighed as I smoothed over my evening dress.
Well, mid-afternoon dress.
After nearly two hours of photographs in the muggy heat in thirty pounds of dress, I was fried. The dark rain clouds had left momentarily, providing the natural lighting necessary for the pictures to be perfect. I kept joking with Bruce as we were posed, on how fate had finally found it possible to smile at us.
He grumbled in agreement and wiped sweat from his forehead.
When we returned to the Manor, I had changed into a similar version of the bridesmaid's dress, but it was a lighter shade of lavender and had a small train on the skirt. In all actuality, it was a trimmed up version of the dress I had worn all day. The men, unfortunately, were stuck in their tuxes. Not that I complained, but they sure did.
As we stood just outside of the dining hall, Bruce leaned over and whispered into my ear as everyone lined up to enter, "Parri passu."
I arched a brow and stared at him, wondering if he was suffering from heat stroke, "Would you care to repeat that."
He kissed my cheek, "Parri passu. Latin for 'side by side'."
Definitely heat stroke.
The doors opened before I could ask if he was feeling all right and I heard Don announcing his name and Cassie's. It had been a miracle that Bruce convinced my all-time favorite radio personality to speak at our wedding. And that he had gotten Magnolia, a six member live band that had performed on one of our first real dates. He could be such a softie.
A real "grumble, mumble, growl, yes dear" romantic.
We watched as Tim and Cassie marched in, all smiles, and made their way to the main table. Jim, who stood directly in front of Bruce, looked back, "Close as I'll ever get."
Bruce asked him what he meant as Barbara and Dick entered through the doors, and he replied, "Them, it's as close as I'll ever get to see them walking into a wedding reception together."
I grinned as Bruce shook his head, fighting off a smile. I heard Alfred and Mattie's name and looked up to watch them walk on, everyone emitting, "aww" 's and "ooh" 's at the sight of our daughter. Bruce nudged my side with his elbow, "She's already a heart breaker."
I laughed and pinched his side, "You just wait until first grade, and she'll really knock them dead."
Not a moment later, Jim and Leslie stepped forward, leaving us alone in the hall. I felt him shift his weight beside me as he smoothed his suit coat. I reached over and fixed his tie. He brushed my hand away and then hooked his arm with mine. After a second, he leaned over and said, "Let's just leave. Turn around and leave."
I laughed and had hardly caught my breath as I heard the words, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in the public eye, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Wayne!"
After a pause, we both stepped forward and faced the public for the first time. Rae, the photographer snapped off a few shots while everyone rose and applauded. Neither one of us enjoyed the spotlight, and after as many smiles as we could muster, we walked to the main table. On our way, we passed the special reserved table that held the mind-cloaked whatever forms of Bruce's fellow crime fighters. J'onn had met up with us outside, had removed the block on the chosen members of the wedding party and then kissed me on the cheek with a sad look in his eye. Bruce had explained that J'onn's wife and child had been killed many years ago.
I made a note to dance with him at some point.
Maybe when Lois stole Bruce.
"I have never eaten so much in my life," Tim sighed as he sat back in his chair.
After the toasts had been finished, dinner had been served. And despite the light conversation, comments and interruptions made by people clanking their glasses, demanding a kiss from the bride and groom, a small competition had developed. Leslie had commented on how vast Cass's appetite was and how her metabolism must be off the charts.
Tim had butted in that she still couldn't eat as much as a man could.
I sat in between Leslie and Cass and watched in horror as she and the boys devoured plate after plate of chicken, pasta and vegetables. Annoyed, Bruce called an end to it, but the damage had already been done. The three "children" had managed to produce twelve empty plates in total, and Cass was still bright eyed and ready for cake. The other two could hardly breath.
I grinned at Dick as he rubbed his stomach carefully, "What's the matter Sarge?"
He groaned and looked over at Tim.
Having finished my meal long before, I spent the time looking at the guests, listening to the band and when they weren't looking, gazing at Bruce and Selina. Despite the fact that they had just exchanged vows and rings, they appeared just as they would have any other night. He held his wine with one hand, leaving the other on the table. His face was calm, but not overtly happy, while hers beamed. She sat close to him, talking softly in his ear while looking out at the guests, her free hand touching his.
When I looked over at Dick once more, he carefully sipped a glass of water and then looked back at me, a smug grin on his face. Someday, I told myself.
The band suddenly produced a few recognizable piano and trumpet notes. Bruce nodded curtly and went about standing and pulling Selina's chair out for her. Mattie, who had been sitting on the other side of Bruce, held her hands up to him and said "Uppie."
He lifted her carefully and then said something to her in a hushed voice. She poked his nose with her finger and said his name. He smirked briefly then kissed her cheek before handing her over to Leslie. All the while, the band had been picking up volume, repeating the set of notes that had a title on the tip of my tongue.
Before I could place them with a song, the host spoke, "Could I have your attention, please?"
The room hushed in anticipation, but Wally had been in the middle of telling a joke and it took him a few words to realize that everyone had gone quiet. Dick laughed at the other end of the table and hid his grin with a napkin. With the Speedster silent, the host went about informing the guests that refreshments would be served throughout the evening and the appetizer buffet would be available as well. I saw Cass lip her licks out of the corner of my eye.
Dick had introduced her to crab stuffed mushrooms.
Within in moments of leaving the table, Bruce and Selina had materialized on the dance floor. Since the entire hall was floored in red carpeting, the area where they stood was of varnished hardwood. Before the Manor had been leveled in the Quake, the ballroom had been a part of the room we sat in, and had seen tens of thousands of couples on its floors. This one was hardly worn in.
As Mr. Rage went on about the band that was fine tuning itself before the first dance, I studied them as they stood on the floor not ten yards away. She had wrapped her hands around his neck, pulling her face to his ear. He nodded to whatever she was telling him, no sign of response otherwise. Then finally, a fraction of a smile.
Without my noticing, the wedding party had rearranged while I watched Bruce and Selina. Leslie and Mattie had switched with Dick, so he sat next to me. When I faced him, I jumped slightly and he grinned, "Boo."
I swatted at his arm and then found his hand.
We both set our gaze, as everyone else had in the room, towards the dance floor.
The title of the song hit me, just as the music came into full swing. As the singer of the band cooed in his best attempt at Frank Sinatra, Dick's baritone sifted into my ear at the same time, "I've got you, under my skin." I squeezed his hand, offered him a smile and then watched as Selina and Bruce embraced. With his right hand, he held her left to his chest and set his left hand on her lower back as her free hand wrapped up towards his shoulder. The swayed flawlessly with the music, perfectly at peace and completely ignoring everyone that gawked at them.
The singer continued, "I've got you deep in my heart of me. So deep in my heart, that you're really a part of me," and as Bruce's face came into view, I watched as his lips moved slightly with the words, "I've got you under my skin."
"I've tried so, not to give in. I said to myself this affair, never will go so well," a smile broke out on Bruce's face that caused mine to grow as well, "But I should try to resist when, baby, I know so well, I've got you..."
"Hey," Clark said from behind me. He stooped a bit and put his face in between Dick's and mine "So far so good."
Dick grinned, "Yeah, but Roy, Wally and I haven't hooked up yet."
I threw him an icy glare as the band provided a loud, brass heavy instrumental piece, "If you three can not behave, you will be separated. Is that understood?"
Clark snickered but Dick's face had gone pale. Alfred glanced over at us and shook his head slowly. Before he could scowl at us in light of our rude behavior, I heard a child's whine and soft plea for her mother. Before anyone could make a move, Mattie had writhed out of Leslie's arms and toddled towards the end of the table. Clark made a grab for her but I touched his arm, whispering, "No, let her."
As the band quieted and the singer resumed his words, Mattie took full attention as she walked towards her parents, arms up in the air. While any other newlywed couple would have been mortified, Bruce dropped his one hand from Selina's waist and proceeded to lift his daughter up. As he supported her weight with that arm, she leaned against his chest, wrapping her tiny arms around his neck. Selina's hand then moved from Bruce's back and caressed Mattie's as they resumed dancing.
Maybe it was because I was a girl, or I wanted to get married to the lug next to me, or that it was wonderful to finally see Bruce and Selina happy, but I felt a tightness in my chest as I let out a sigh.
Then Dick said, "Ahhh, I want to dance with Mom and Dad too."
"They don't know how to play the Chicken Dance?" Dick cried out.
I shook my head, "Said they could do a mean 'Mack the Knife' though if we wanted that instead." I sat beside him at our new table. Dubbed the "Side Kick Kiddie" table seeing how it's members were myself, Dick, Wally, Roy and Garth. The adults had domineered the table a few feet away, the one closer to the head table, and acted as if we weren't even there.
Cass had actually remained with the main party. I couldn't decide if she was avoiding the mass of testosterone or if she wanted to play with Mattie.
Roy eyed a woman as she walked past towards the hall, "So who are all these people, Rob? Didn't think yer old man knew anyone that didn't wear a mask or a short skirt."
Dick glared at his friend, but I was content to laugh.
Although in most traditional wedding, the guests stayed and sucked every drop they could out of a reception, almost all of the "Civvie" guests, as Wally described, had left after speaking with the couple. As I looked about the room, maybe two-dozen people were left, and it was only 6:45. I picked up a grape from my plate and popped in my mouth before speaking, "So how long do you think until Bruce and Selina bail out?"
Kyle smiled, "Who would leave their reception early?"
Wally laughed, "Bats would. Got an important honeymoon analysis report to attend to."
I almost pitied them, for not knowing what Bruce was really like. They only saw him in full work mode, never the person behind the mask. Even still, Bruce had failed to tell them about his incident two years ago until less than four months ago, and that was to settle rumors that had peaked in his absence. They were at first angered that they were never told, but supposedly as Clark pointed how serious the circumstances had been, they dropped their grudges almost instantly.
Roy, who had always tried to be fearless when it came to the topic of Batman, was indeed intimidated. There only a bold few who could clearly admit that they held no fear in Bruce or Batman, and Arsenal was not on the list. He sat up in his chair and nodded several times before saying, "I give him an hour," and then looked over to a small group who were standing about the groom, "At least that's about as long as I could wait to, um, well you kn-OW!"
Dick had smacked him in the back of the head, "That's just a precursor to what he'll do to you if he ever even partially heard that sentence. And because she's my step-mother, sort of, now."
"He's right," I confirmed.
"Well I still give him an hour. Guys can't even play the Chicken Dance, what kind of a party could it be?"
As if God had granted his wish, a low rumble sounded from outside. Having been indoors with the drapes shut, we had been dining and enjoying ourselves without an outdoor view. I stood and walked over, carefully pulling the drapes back.
"Oh, boy," I mumbled at the sight of the near black rain clouds heading our way. The thunder we had just heard was followed ten seconds later by a flash of lightening.
Dick had joined me with a grim look on his face, "That's heading right at us," he stated.
"And to think you were trained by the World's Greatest Detective," I muttered as I closed the drapes.
When we turned, Alfred stood directly behind us, his arms crossed over his chest. A look of anger and sadness was on his face and I knew at once it was because the near-perfect day was about to be drowned in a rainstorm.
As thunder growled again, loud smacks of rain slapped against the windows. If we had been at our table and the band hadn't been in between songs, we would have never heard it. Dick was about to speak when lightening grounded itself and a flash of light seeped through the drapes. Alfred jumped and made his way towards the hall, most likely on a quest for candles, rain coats and flash lights.
Dick and I sat back down and eyed the group in the room. Bruce was on the dance floor now, with Lois in his arms as she chatted away. I sought out Selina and found her to be dancing with J'onn. Interesting, I thought. The others followed my gaze and Wally laughed quietly, "Bats is putting the moves on Mrs. Kent."
"Heard he already did," Kyle said as he picked up his water glass.
We then partook in a lively and humorous conversation of Bruce's love interests. Ranging from reporters to cat thieves and even Taila, or as Wally said "Mr. Crypt Keeper's hot number there..." the conversation came to an abrupt stop when Roy mentioned a certain Amazonian Princess.
And then thunder and lightning struck simultaneously and the lights flickered out. The only illumination was that of the table candles and the lightning. The band continued for a few notes and then gave up. A few voices sounded, voicing concern, then I heard Bruce, "It's all right everyone, the generators will kick on in just a few."
In the minute of darkness, hushed voices chatted as the rain fell harder and the thunder clapped louder. Mattie cried out a few times and then giggled, from the sound of it someone was tickling her. Then silence again. Dick touched my arm and I looked up to see Alfred holding a large candle as he returned to the room. He shook his head to himself, muttering quietly.
Suddenly, the lights flickered back on and the amplifier squeaked a bit as it came back online. After my eyes adjusted, I surveyed the room to see if anyone had strayed from their original position. The dance floor had emptied a bit, but didn't look too different. Then Roy gasped, "Damn he couldn't even wait that long!"
By the time I had figured out what he was talking about, Dick was giggling uncontrollably. Then Roy and I joined him as Kyle shook his head in disbelief. Alfred approached us after blowing out his candle, "And what about this situation do we find so humorous, gentlemen?"
Roy walked over and set an arm around Alfred's shoulder, which elicited a look of complete disgust, and then grinned, "The Master has left the building," and pointed to the dance floor.
Where Lois was dancing with J'onn.
And Bruce and Selina were nowhere in sight.
"Little busy, O, I'll call you back," I growled before smashing an escrima stick into the side of a man who was no older than I, but had spent at least eight years of hard time. In my years in the vigilante business, I had handled him and his group of friends at least a dozen times.
And the lesson that we tried to teach them each time never sank in.
Crime doesn't pay, it only puts you in traction.
After a blow to the back of the head had knocked poor old Darryl Carr out cold, I turned to see that Batgirl had already brought down her attacker and had him bound by the wrists and ankles in what appeared to be a rather painful position. He moaned and she walked over him, lightly stepping on his side and paused to watch me shackle my own captive.
With Bruce off on his "personal leave" as he called it, I had continued my role as Gotham's interim protector. But with crime surprisingly not being all that bad, Bludhaven had not been as neglected as I had expected. We had been passing through Tri Corner on our way to the Clocktower and had happened upon a duo of suspicious characters. Aside from their black masks, gloves and anxious movements, their only tip off had been one man calling out, "Hurry, strip that shit out of there before the pigs come!"
While Batgirl and I had descended down upon them with the wrath of God, Robin called in over the comm. link. He had been half way across the city, monitoring a drug shipment. He sighed, "False alarm, turns out they're importing the million dollars worth of cocaine next Wednesday."
And the second he had signed off, Babs had tried to get a hold of me. I had Batgirl call in for a unit to pick up the Two Musketeeers, I reconnected to Babs, "Yessum?"
"What was I interrupting?" she asked.
"Cleaning up the streets a bit, mopping them with a few cons cleaning out a stereo store. What can I do you for?"
"Um, I was wondering if you could pick me up a few things before coming back tonight."
"Such as?" I asked, already knowing that one item would be a certain frozen good, namely anything in the ice cream section.
"Well, I need more fruit cups for Mattie, seeing how you ate them yesterday, bread, tomato soup and ice cream, preferably strawberry."
I grumbled as I memorized the list, "I didn't eat all of them, Cass had like two." At the mention of her name she looked at me and scowled beneath her mask. I waved and then pointed to the roof. Once we had secured lines and began to ascend, I asked, "So is she asleep?"
"Yep, went down about an hour ago. I hooked up the video cam and Selina called around seven and Mattie was so excited to see her. But then when she left, she bawled for a good twenty minutes."
"But she's fine, right?" I asked when I landed.
"Oh, sure, we played with her dollies for a bit, then she went down to bed. I keep telling her that they'll be home in a few more days."
"Did she see Bruce at all?"
Barbara paused, "Sorry, thought an alarm went off at the Houghton Pharmacy, but the security code was entered. No, he was swimming before it got dark. Selina says he's just about gone insane with inactivity. Runs in the morning, swims before dinner, then after they go for walks until they can't see anymore. Very romantic."
There was silence again as Batgirl and I made our way towards Oracle's hub. My ears scanned the area and were pleased to not even hear a car honk. I was about to tell Babs that I would see her in a minute when she spoke, "Bruce is going to call in the morning, he wants to talk to you. Well to Mattie, but if you could be around he would appreciate it."
I smiled, "Are you inviting me over for a sleep over, O?"
"No, I'm hooking you up for a cyber date with your father. So can I tell him you'll do it or do I have to reinforce his antisocial behavior with your rejection?"
I sighed and then prepared to make the ten-foot leap between the two Clarkson apartment buildings on 5th, "Well when you put it that way... Tell him I'll be there, on one condition."
"Name it Boy Blunder."
"Two words my dear: foot massage."
Not even thirty-five minutes later, I was sprawled on the couch, a bowl of strawberry ice cream in my stomach, showered, dressed and hypnotized by a movie on the guy channel. All the while, Barbara's hands were working magic on my sore feet. Cass had cleaned up, watched Mattie sleep, scarfed down her own bowl of ice cream and had decided on sleeping instead of watching TV.
In the last week we had spent more time together then as long as I could remember. We had gone out to dinner several times, and had indulged in some heavy duty eating contests, now that competition had been spurned from the wedding reception. So far, she had eaten Tim and I under the table three out of four occasions.
The girl could eat.
As Babs cracked the big toe of my left foot, the credits rolled up on the movie. I shut the television off and yawned loudly, "I am beat."
"Been working hard."
I nodded, "Yeah, but I don't have to go in until six tomorrow night. Get to catch up on the sleep department."
She nodded and offered to take my bowl and spoon for me as she headed out for the kitchen. After I heard water running, I rose, stretched my arms and scratched my back. When I stepped to the kitchen door, I leaned against the frame and watched Barbara as she loaded the dishwasher. With a slight smile, I said, "The wedding was something else."
"Yep, and it was also three days ago," she replied before shutting the washer's door. After wiping her hands, she faced me, "You looked pretty James Bond-esque, I must admit."
I arched my left brow and spoke in a horrid accent, "Why Ms. Moneypenny, I never knew."
Without a thought, I walked over and lifted her from the chair and walked towards her bedroom, all the while quoting 007 and kissing her neck. Just as I maneuvered through her door, Cass stepped into the hall, "Keep it down. People sleep here, y'know."
I hid my smile and Barbara called out, "Sorry, Cass."
The last thing I heard before shutting the door was, "Alfred right. Bloody kids."
After four nights away from Gotham, I was used to waking to the sound of the ocean waves rising up on the beach. With my eyes closed, I felt sunlight slipping into the room and Selina's breath on my cheek. It was barely seven in the morning and it was already over sixty degrees.
When I finally opened my eyes, I looked over at Selina, who was facing me while using over a third of my pillow as hers. Her arm was limp over my abdomen and the fingers moved slowly as she slept. With no chance of falling back asleep, I slipped out from under her arm and carefully sat up so not to disturb her. After I paused a moment, I began to rise until I heard, "What are you doing?"
"Making coffee," I smirked and sat back on the bed.
She rolled onto her back and yawned, "What time is it? Four?"
"Ten of seven, go back to sleep."
"Nah, I'm up," she sat as well and crawled over to me, kissing my cheek, "Morning hubby."
I grumbled something incoherent and she slapped my shoulder, which was freshly covered in sunburn after a late morning run the previous day. Although we were far from home, our curse, or rather my curse, of not being able to remain unscathed for more than a day had followed us.
My first swim in the ocean, I had been stung by a small jelly fish across my lower back so I had been unable to lay on my back or sit completely in chairs. Then, not forty hours later, I cut my foot on a piece of glass in the sand. And then yesterday, I absorbed too much UV.
And the worst Selina had seen was hang nail.
While I dressed and cleaned up, Selina had gone out to the kitchenette of the beach house and set the coffee pot. When I left the bathroom, she dashed in, a green dress in hand. She said something about going into town for breakfast. I sighed, considering the trip to town was thirty minutes, ten of which would be spent on an unpaved road. The alternative was that we cooked. I called through the door that I would call and make reservations.
For the last four nights and days, we had stashed ourselves in a small island northwest of Martinique. I had purchased a fourth of the island years earlier and was pleased to see that it had never become truly inhabited aside from a small town that supplied the three other co-owners of the island with entertainments and supplies. In the three times that I had visited the island, I had been to town once and that had been two days earlier when Selina had wanted to go out for dinner.
While she showered, I decided to check and see if Barbara was up yet. Unsure as to whether Dick had to work or not, I wanted to catch him before he returned to Bludhaven. When I logged onto the secure line, a symbol in the bottom right of the display showed that ORACLE was offline. I then checked the Instant Message system and say OraBG99 was online, but away: Feeding the children, and Mattie too.
I sent her a message: Ready?
The speakers on the laptop offered, "For what?" in Barbara's voice.
I turned the microphone on, "Is Mattie eating?"
"Kind of, Dick's washing her up a bit, had an incident with our banana."
"I need to talk to him first."
She sighed, "Hold on, let me give him the headset while I set up the cam. Cass, can you take her to the living room?"
Then, Dick, "Hey, how're the jellyfish biting?"
I didn't reply. Selina had informed everyone of my mishaps over her nightly phone calls. It had been none of their business, but Selina felt it was necessary, for entertainment's sake.
After a beat, "So, Babs said you needed to talk to me."
"Not needed. Wanted to," I caught myself, "Wanted to check in on things."
Suddenly, his image filled the screen and I noticed that an outgoing image of myself had begun as well. That woman was too good with computers. I had expected to see him prepped for work in his uniform but to my surprise, he wore a gray tee shirt and had yet to shave. Before I could comment, he grinned as he looked at my image, "Hey, you're not ready for the day either, so don't even start."
I nodded, "Good point."
An awkward silence fell between us and instead of putting the pressure on him to speak, I cleared my throat and looked towards the window, giving him a profile view of my face, "I want to... You've done a lot, Dick. More than..." my eyes returned to look at the camera. His face was beaming on the display screen, his blue eyes twinkling as they often had a way of doing.
He said softly, "Thanks, Bruce."
"No," I said sternly to myself, "I should be able to say this."
He shook his head, "Babs, he's talking to himself, think he's got Dengue Fever."
Instead of throwing him an icy glare to tell him to knock it off, I felt a smile crack and then quickly fade. After a long breath, I spoke quietly, looking directly at him from a thousand miles away, "Thank you, son."
He blinked, tried to smile and then shrugged, "Anytime. Hey, I think I know a little ankle biter who would love to see your face." He disappeared momentarily, leaving me to look at the rear wall of Barbara's apartment. While I waited, Selina came out of the bedroom, dressed in a long, narrow, sleeveless silk dress the color of kiwi flesh. She had put her hair up, still wet, and droplets of water flecked off when she moved her head.
She saw the computer set up and grinned, "Tell me you didn't talk to her without me."
"Why, you talked to her without me last night."
She stared down at me, hands on her hips, "You were trying to run your feet to nubs. I was showering. Big difference, Bruce."
Instead of pulling over a chair to sit beside me, she went about plopping down on my lap, wrapping her arms around my neck while she situated herself. I shook my head and was about to comment on how I wasn't a chair when Dick returned with Mattie in his arms. He pointed to the screen several times, until he got her to look at he camera.
I hadn't seen her since Monday night, which had been the last time the satellite imaging had worked. A small storm had followed us from Gotham and had interrupted the signal Oracle had set up for us. She bounced on his lap and began poking at the keyboard. He gently removed her hands and whispered in her ear, "Say hi to Mommy and Daddy."
Selina faced the monitor and cooed, "Hi baby."
At the sound of her voice, Mattie grinned and held her hands up. I put my face on the other side of Selina's and smiled lightly, "Kitten."
"Mah-mie," she said, her face confused as she looked at the screen. At her age, the image was disregarding everything she knew about reality. But I had wanted her to be able to know that we weren't gone forever. "Icie nahp."
"Isis is taking a nap?"
Dick commented, "Uh, yeah, Alfred and Leslie took a small, um, jaunt out of town, brought the kitty down here for a few days."
Selina went about asking Mattie what she had for breakfast and what she was going to do that day. All the while I sat back and watched, a half smile on my face even though I felt terrible for leaving her behind. I listened as my daughter told stories about her bananas and that "Dichie" gave her a bubble bath. I felt Selina's hand reach for mine and when they met, she squeezed hard.
We were both in withdrawal.
"Do you see Daddy, Mattie?" she asked.
As my cue, I sat forward again and looked into the camera. She reached towards the screen and touched it "Dah-ie. Wan Dah-ie."
"I'll be home soon, kitten, we both will."
Dick then spoke, "You should tell them where we're going today. Remember where we're going to take a trip?"
Mattie's eyes had grown focused as she touched the screen but then lit up briefly as she said, "Poh-nie."
Selina laughed, "You are going to see a pony?"
Dick nodded, "There's a small fair up near Camden, we're all going to go for the day. Eat junk food and ride the rides and see the ponies and the llamas... Lots of fun, right kiddo?"
"Poh-nie, yama," she giggled as Dick tickled her sides.
The screen dimmed and I cursed myself for not charging the laptop. The battery was in the other room. I was about to whisper to Selina that I would run and get when the light flickered once more at the bottom of the screen. There wouldn't be enough time.
I sighed and then said, "Well it sounds like you've got quite the busy day. Maybe later we can talk and you can tell us all about the ponies."
Mattie had resumed staring at the screen, her head titled and lips pressed firmly together. A look I knew meant tears were in the near future. I smiled at her, "It's okay kitten. We'll be home soon."
"Mommy loves you Mattie," Selina said as she raised a hand to her face, wiping away a tear I couldn't see. "You be a good girl."
Mattie's lower lip trembled, "Wan dah-ie."
"I know you, do. Be good, okay," I said quickly, the light glaring at me as it flickered its warning.
Dick prodded her a bit, "Say bye bye, I love you."
"Mahmie-bye. Bye wuv Dah-ie."
And then the screen went blank.
Selina turned and faced me while sitting sideways on my lap. Her eyes were glassy but no tears. She recognized the look on my face and wrapped her arms around me, "It 's all right, we'll see her later. And she'll be so talkative, they'll have to kick her off. She's going to love the fair. Maybe Dick can win her a gold fish."
I nodded, my jaw tight.
After she stood and smoothed her dress, Selina walked around the back of me and leaned over, kissing my cheek, "Don't worry, be happy."
I nodded once more and then stood. She led the way to the bedroom and picked out an outfit for me, khaki shorts and a dark blue shirt. As she talked on about how she wanted to try snorkeling again that afternoon, I simply stood and watched her. She had been under my gaze many times, and could feel it without looking at me.
When she turned, she winked, growled something to the sound of "Mrrrow" and left the room, "Get dressed, I'm hungry. Shave too, just because you're on vacation doesn't mean you get to go all Grizzly Adams on me."
Before I set foot in the bathroom to shower, she called back, "And don't shave with my blade either!"
In solitude, I mocked her quietly, "Don't use my blade, or my ten dollar a bottle strawberry mouse shaving lotion---."
"I heard that!"
Ten minutes later, we were getting in the car, a rented Jeep Cherokee, and were just about to head out for town when she reached over and kissed me on the lips. After we separated, I asked, "Mrs. Wayne. Would you hand me my sunglasses."
She grinned and did so, "Certainly, Mr. Wayne."
"Thank you, Mrs. Wayne."
"You are welcome, Mr. Wayne."
Despite the rough roads, the CD player worked just fine in the car and as we made our way to the small town, Frank Sinatra remind us that love and marriage went together like a horse and carriage. Selina moved closer, rested her head on my shoulder and sang along softly. It was nearly seventy-five degrees. Not a cloud in the sky. The beautiful woman at my shoulder was now not only the mother of my child but my wife as well. My biggest problem of the day would be itchy sunburn.
Before I wrapped an arm around her back, I thought to myself, Life is good.