Selina was frantic as she packed her suitcase full of clothes and other essentials. She had to get away from Gotham. She knew Bruce would find her if she didn't, and she couldn't bear to face him right now. It would no doubt be difficult for him to face her as well, but if Bruce had one strength, it was masking his emotions. He was the Batman, after all.
Selina had left Bruce at the altar. Well, not literally; the big event had been called off in favour of a much smaller, secret ceremony, which would feature only Bruce, Selina, Alfred, Holly and an official to perform the ceremony. Selina had been preparing for the ceremony, when Holly had said something that had completely changed Selina's outlook on the whole situation, prompting her to abruptly leave Bruce in the lurch.
And now, she was packing, knowing Bruce would find her. He'd want answers - he deserved answers - but Selina couldn't give them to him. If he knew the reason, it would destroy the Batman, and Gotham needed him.
There was a knock at the door. It wasn't the frantic, powerful knock she'd expected from Bruce. Rather, it was a much more calm, measured knock, as if performed by a friend coming over for a casual drink. Hesitantly Selina crept over towards the door of her apartment, bare feet and years of practice making her footfalls silent as she crossed the hardwood floor. She brought one green eye up to the peephole to look out, expecting Bruce, but finding someone else: Alfred Pennyworth.
Selina tried to angle herself to see as far to either side of the Wayne family butler as she could, convinced that Bruce was off to the side, using Alfred to disarm her. Not finding the man she had left, Selina realised how out-of-character it would be for Bruce to even involve Alfred. If Bruce wanted to see her, he'd come alone and not tell anyone. That was just the kind of man he was. If Alfred was here, it meant he was here alone, of his own free will. Cautiously, Selina opened the door, held on a tight leash by the security chain.
"Ms. Kyle." The butler's tone and expression were calm, controlled, though the warmth with which he usually addressed her was largely absent. Clearly, he was none too pleased by what she had done to his surrogate son. And she couldn't blame him.
"Alfred. Why are you here?"
"To talk, Ms. Kyle. I'd like very much to understand your motivation."
"I'm sorry, Alfred, but I can't tell you why."
"I'm not here to report back to Master Bruce. I'm here of my own volition, for the sake of my own curiosity. If you would prefer, I can swear to keep what you tell me in confidence. I simply wish to understand."
Alfred was certainly more trustworthy than either Bruce or Selina, that was for sure. Hesitantly, Selina closed the door, unchained it, and opened it fully for the butler to enter. She half expected him to criticise the mess cluttering her apartment, but either he was understanding of her current rush, or he was simply holding back out of courtesy.
"Can I get you anything?" she asked upon closing the door.
"No, thank you. I shan't be staying long. I suspect your motivation is not so complex an issue as to keep me." There was a certain barbed feeling to his words. She had never heard Alfred insult someone before, but she suspected that that was his intent. He was either too pure or too polite to show it.
Selina crossed the room back to her bed, covered in clothes and other assorted items she was contemplating bring with her. She rested her backside on the edge of the bed in one of the few free spaces and looked up at the expectant butler. She suspected this was how it felt to be a child, answering for some wrongdoing to their disappointed parent.
"I didn't want to leave him, Alfred. You have to understand that."
"Oh, I've no doubt you and he would be back at the manor in... 'consummation', had your last second change of heart not occurred. It's hardly difficult to see they way he looks at you mirrored in your own eyes. Yours is the look of a woman who desired Master Bruce not for wealth, nor his abilities, but for the man himself. A very rare thing, in my experience. Whatever it was that caused this sudden change must have been truly exceptional."
Selina was finding it harder to justify her actions to herself, let alone to Alfred. Even had the man not possessed a powerful aura that compelled her to speak truthfully with him, she doubted she could have found a lie that presented her in any better a light than the dim, flickering lightbulb presented by the truth.
"I wish I could say it was, Alfred. But don't get me wrong, it wasn't some flight of fancy that made be say yes or that made me leave him. I thought long and hard both times because, for all his faults, Bruce deserves that kind of consideration."
Alfred's stone-faced expression softened, but not by much. "Then, what was it that forced you to reconsider and go against your own desires, as well as his? What compelled you to do this to a man whom, by your own admission, you believe to deserve such deep consideration."
Selina let out a deep sigh. She'd stalled as long as she could. Her only option now was to present her case as best she could, though she doubted she could word it in a way that might satisfy the butler.
"Before the ceremony, I was speaking with... a friend," she said, stopping herself just short of implicating Holly in all this. "They asked me about how this all would affect him. They said that... going through with this would make him happy. But him being happy would destroy Batman. He needs to be angry, to be miserable and withdrawn to be able to do what he does. If he's happy, he can't be the Dark Knight that Gotham needs him to be."
In all the time she'd known him, Selina had never seen Alfred look quite so confused. He has always seemed a paragon of wisdom, often seeming more intelligent than even Bruce. Evidently finally understanding what she was saying, he simply shook his head.
"The last time I heard that ludicrous load of tripe, the one presenting it had faked a miscarriage and birthed Master Bruce's secret lovechild."
"W-What?" Selina knew he was talking about the circumstances behind Damian Wayne's birth. She didn't much appreciate being compared to Talia al Ghul. But more than that, she didn't understand why Alfred had deemed the motive that had forced her to abandon the love of her life as 'ludicrous'.
"Ms. Kyle, do consider the way Master Dick refers to the network of Batman's allies throughout Gotham."
"The Bat Family?"
"Yes. This is not simply a term he concocted on a whim. He chose that term, and indeed it is still used by others within said group today, because of how deeply applicable it is. Master Bruce had only myself in his life for many years, until the night Master Dick entered his life. It took time for him to open up to us, but he soon became Master Bruce's son more than just on paper. The same with Masters Jason and Timothy. Master Damian and Ms. Kane are blood relatives, and he also has Ms. Gordon, the Belfry group, the Birds of Prey. And then, he had you."
'Had' was the operating word to Selina. Each new word he spoke displayed a growing sense of frustration and disgust that even Alfred had trouble suppressing, but that one word was like a dagger through her heart.
"Whether you and he are family in the eyes of the state or not, Master Bruce considered you a part of his family. An ever-growing family that even extends as far as the Justice League. Do you truly believe that a man surrounded by so many people who love him could possibly have not already been happy? If happiness would destroy the Batman, Gotham would have lost its Dark Knight the first time Master Dick called Master Bruce his father."
His point thoroughly made and seeing that Selina had no response, Alfred turned on his heel and marched towards the door. Selina wanted to speak up, to assure him that he was somehow wrong. But she couldn't. She knew, deep down, that Alfred knew Bruce better than anyone ever would, even her, and he was one hundred percent correct in his assessment.
Alfred wrapped a gloved hand around the doorknob and stopped. "If you truly know Master Bruce so little that you believe he was not already happy, not emboldened and strengthened by the love he gives to and receives from his family, then perhaps you shouldn't marry him. He deserves someone who truly understands him. I had thought that person to be you, Ms. Kyle. But clearly, I was mistaken."
Without another word, or a moment of hesitation, Alfred was closing the door behind him and his footsteps were fading away down the hallway. Selina could only shiver as his words washed over her like a sheet of ice, her skin warmed only by the streams of warm tears trailing down her cheeks.
He was right. Bruce was happy, even without her. It was egotistical of her to believe she could hold such a large place in Bruce's heart and have such influence over him that her love could erode his will to be the Batman. She realised now that her desire to not destroy the Batman had, ironically, done far more damage to her Dark Knight than she would have done otherwise.
How could she ever face Bruce again after this? Her shame was too great to even think about going back to him and apologising or begging for him to give her yet another chance. The best thing she could do now, the only thing, was to leave Gotham and make sure Bruce wasn't distracted by his desire to see her. She had to remove herself entirely from the equation, if the damage she had already done to the Dark Knight's heart was to be the end of it.
Perhaps, he would forgive her someday. It was doubtful, she admitted. He had given her so many second chances, but this was a betrayal far greater than any she had ever inflicted against him and there was very likely never going to be another.
Bat and Cat was done.
I've had this idea for a while now, inspired by the recent arc in Batman, where Bruce and Selina were finally going to get married, only for Selina to not show up after a discussion with Holly Robinson. Needless to say, this made me... a little cross, and I hope what we're getting instead is worth it. And yes, this is the best title I could come up with.