In the Batcave, Batman watched intently as Hella laid out a gauzy fabric on his worktable, and ran her fingertips over it until it glowed with runic symbols that burned themselves into the surface with an eerie incandescence.
Jason set the witch orb in its center.
"Magick is power driven by will," he pronounced formally. "As the witch orb is meant to trap any ill-intentioned spirits within the webwork of its interior, so does it hold fast the Magicks of Zatara, so ill-used by Zatanna that the Universal Is has revoked its right of existence. We return this power to the Cosmos from whence it came."
He placed the three oil burners on the cloth around the orb in the same way they had circled Selina's feet in the JLA transporter.
"Cats were guardians in the ancient temples," he declared. "Let these nine who have so nobly guarded the portal between realities, between what is and what might have been, follow this accursed Magick of Zatara to the brink of oblivion, and there stand sentinel at the gates of existence, that this which should have never come into being, that is hereby nullified and expunged from existence, may ne'er have hope of rebirth or reinvention."
He nodded to Etrigan.
Gone, Gone from World of Man,
By Earth and Hell, forever damned.
Order, Chaos, Good and Ill
Unite in Magick and in Will
To banish this which stilled the String
And so endangered Everything.
Gone, Gone, from Here and Now
That which crossed the cosmic Tao;
Never shalt thou be again,
So speaks the Demon Etrigan.
Jason wordlessly gathered up the cloth and its contents and flung it into the vortex. Hella waved her arm abruptly, and the vortex collapsed to the size of a manhole… to a teacup… to a thimble… to a pinhead… and then nothing.
Superman let out the breath he didn't realize he was holding. And Jason turned calmly to Batman.
"You may rest easy tonight, Bruce," he said flatly. "There is no more magick in your house."
"There won't be once you take this back with you," Batman croaked, holding out a small silver object.
"The moonstone ring I gave Selina," Jason noted coldly, eying it without making any move to take it.
"May I?" Etrigan asked, reaching to take the ring from Batman's glove, his eyes shifting subtly towards Hella. "To say goodbye," he explained.
Batman grunted, and Etrigan took the ring and withdrew with Hella to the far side of the cave. There was a sharp snap as Superman closed his JLA communicator.
"She was onstage," he announced. "There was an elephant supposed to vanish. It didn't."
"I won't lose sleep over it," Batman growled.
"Nor will I," Jason affirmed. "Nor I expect will Selina."
"I wish I could be so sure," Clark said resignedly. "How exactly is what we did any different than the inner League's transgressions, hm? You're both sleeping fine tonight because we 'had a good reason,' because we were saving the world? Zatanna had it coming, I guess you figure, like they decided Dr. Light had it coming. How are we different, Jason? Bruce? Tell me."
"We didn't decide anything, Superman. We made no judgment about Zatanna's fitness to wield power, even though her abuse of it brought us all to the brink of extinction. The Universe itself determined that her abilities should not exist. And even at that it was not a judgment or punishment, it was an immune response."
"Jason, Selina used magic to strip away Zatanna's powers."
"If you break your leg, Superman, a doctor will set it so the bones may mend properly, but it is the body itself, not the doctor, which does the actual healing. All we did was set the leg so the Universe might heal itself. Selina placed antenna so the magicks could do what they were meant to without being pulled off course by Lex Luthor. She did not wield magic herself – except perhaps— well, not really," he broke off chuckling at some private joke.
"Except?" Batman asked archly.
"Except perhaps?" Superman prompted.
"Oh it's nothing," Jason laughed. "It's just that when she returned, she was, eh, 'ranting' I guess you would call it, rather heatedly, about Zatanna's future sans powers. Paying 85 for a haircut and having it ruined, etc. It's simply that, to a magic-user, to emote in such a fashion when she hates Zatanna so passionately – well, magick as I said is driven by will and… Let's just say the 'Turtle Spirit Indian Casino in Bottleneck North Dakota' was the most frightfully gleeful hexing incantation I've heard since the Red Witch of Eirog got drunk on brandywine."
In the corner of the Wayne bedroom, beneath the curio packed with cat figurines, Selina sat at her vanity studiously brushing her hair. Bruce came up behind her and met her eyes in the mirror.
"That's three hours, Kitten. Even Whiskers is impressed. Grooming on that scale, I imagine even Bast sits up and takes notice."
"Just reassuring myself that it's still long," she said.
His lip twitched.
"It's long, and it's lovely. Now put down the brush, please."
She did and turned to face him, smiling sadly, as he sat opposite her, on the edge of the bed.
"You had a rough day," he noted. "I know the goggles, and the hair, and the black…" he gestured with his hand in a pointless twirling motion, a helpless man stymied for words about a woman's clothing.
"The zipup-guttertrash-bikerchick outfit," Selina pronounced, like Poison Ivy rattling off the formal Latin name of an obscure strain of ragweed.
"Yes, that," Bruce nodded tactfully. "I know none of that helped. I just… It wasn't easy for me either."
"I know," she said sympathetically. "Magic in your house."
"No, that I got past," he said lightly. "Considering everything else that was at stake."
"Well that's the creepiest anomaly so far," she replied, raising her eyebrow. "You're okay with it? We can start inviting Jason over for afternoon tea and weekly séances?"
And for the first time in days, something within the walls of Wayne Manor actually felt normal.
"Not the magic" Bruce said seriously. "The part that killed me was standing on the sideline while you were in there, in danger. Selina, it was– Everything that I've– Since we started, you and I, every fear that I – damnit."
"Let me try," she interjected with a knowing smile. "Bruce, I can't get to sleep when I know you're out there battling Joker. There. I've said it. I'm cool with everything else Bat, but when Joker's involved, I can't quite make my peace with it. But what can you do, it goes with the package."
"Well anyway," he said, an uncharacteristic hesitation in his manner, "It won't be a regular occurrence. As you've said yourself, many times, the 'hero thing' really isn't 'your kink'…"
After an Owlman, twin Dr. Luthors, the Rydbergii Lounge, 5 alternate Batmen and an engagement ring, Selina was able to control her smirk. Bruce struggled on.
"It did seem like, after all you went through to 'steal the necklace,' you should wind up with something… tangible." He reached behind his back, producing a long, flat box in familiar, but worn, red leather with gold leaf trim.
Selina reached out and touched the top of the box tentatively with a fingertip, running her finger lightly across the slight scratches in the leather and looking questioningly at Bruce.
"Take it," he urged, uncertainly, after a strained moment. "It's 'your kink'," he added, in a surer, deeper gravel.
She managed a timidly naughty grin, took the box into her lap and, with a final glance at Bruce, opened it.
"Oh my-meow-my… oh…" she breathed.
"Canary diamonds," Bruce pointed out. "Surrounded by white. It's, the setting might be, I don't know, kind of old-fashioned. It was my grandmother's. But it's so close to what you described—"
"It's perfect," Selina said simply.
"It's yours. They would all be yours if I had- if I… There are emeralds too, from some Aunt Elena, color of your eyes. If I was able to—"
"Let's not do that," Selina interrupted softly. "If this, if that, if I, if you… This whole thing has been too many what-ifs. We are what we are. It was true then," she pointed superficially at the necklace. "It's true now. It works in its way, the occasional alternate reality Justice League and Joker-patrol sleepless night not withstanding."
He smiled sadly, then reluctantly grunted. Selina touched her finger to the largest diamond in the necklace and continued.
"It is beautiful, Bruce – purrrrrrfect in fact," she rolled out the word in a luxurious burr, clearly for his pleasure as much as hers, then she resumed a less-feline manner, "But stunning as this necklace is, what I really need is to get away for a while. From this house, from Gotham, from all of it."
He reached into his pocket and wordlessly pulled out a slip of paper.
"Wayne One is fueling up now," he said crisply. "Xanadu has Bungalow 4 waiting for you and plenty of pickled ginger on hand to make your special martinis. You can look forward to two weeks of continuous pampering on a level few women in the world have ever experienced."
Selina burst out laughing.
"You don't do anything by halves, do you Stud?" she purred through merry chuckles, then breathed deeply. "I do appreciate the gesture, Bruce; really I do. Appealing as the thought is of a cream and honey wrap, followed by a hot stone massage or crystal or diamonds or whatever they're using this month, and then a little snack of those giant raspberries… delicious as that all sounds, what I really want more than anything is a few days of you."
Bruce shifted his finger, revealing a second slip of paper folded behind the first.
"I can't leave Gotham for two weeks, but I'll come for the first few days, get you settled in."
"Feel free to meow or something," Bruce said brusquely.
"Meow," she blurted as if expelling a long-held breath. "Wow… You are full of surprises."
"Consider it a new 'Kitten Protocol,'" he twitched. "To save the sweaters."
© Chris Dee, 2006
-- — -- — -- -- — -- — -- -- — -- — --
"The Universe is having a great deal of fun at my expense right now,
and when all this is over, somebody better make it up to me."
That's what Selina said; we'll see if the Universe was listening in
THE GOTHAM POST
"Reality has nothing to do with appearances, with your narrow way of seeing.
Reality is love expressed, pure perfect love, unbrushed by space and time."
There are a lot of Gothamites to catch up with next time in
-- — -- — -- -- — -- — -- -- — -- — --
Cat-Tales will celebrate its 5th Anniversary in March, 2006.
Visit the website linked on my author page for all the details.