Title: Gucci and Versace
Author: DC Luder
Summary: Bruce and Selina face each other for the first time since they went their separate ways after the events in Hush.
Infringements: All recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder.
Author's Note: Batman and all recognizable characters are property of DC Comics not DC Luder. Set a few months after the conclusion of the Hush storyline.
A/N 2: This is a one-shot I started way back when after Hush came out. After reading Hush the other night, I simply had to finish it. Several quotes and references made to the events of Hush Parts I and II.
Pure love and suspicion cannot dwell together: at the door where the latter enters,
the former makes its exit.
"Your tardiness fails to impress me, once again, Master Bruce."
"Very well, sir."
I was at the bathroom counter, shaving as quickly as possible without slicing my carotid, approximately forty minutes late to a Wayne Foundation fundraiser. Given the evening traffic and the fact that I still had to dress, I would enter the lavish banquet and reception hall of the Carter Hotel just after nine. After playing Meet and Greet with the famous faces and the board members, I would then be able to sneak out less than an hour later to start patrols.
If not earlier.
With my jaw smooth, I wiped my chin clean of shaving cream before retrieving a jar of precisely colored concealer to cover up a few of the more noticeable scars on my face, neck and hands. Dressing nearly head to toe for most social events kept me from having to offer many difficult explanations to the elite of Gotham. Even with Bruce Wayne's list of car accidents, including the one nearly six months earlier that had me on operating table at Mercy General.
Under the knife of Doctor Thomas Elliot.
It had only been mere weeks since I had faced off with the man who had been taunting me, the man who had been teaching my enemies new ways of getting to me, the man who had been my childhood best friends. Since I had been in his grasp, bleeding, disoriented. I had learned only moments before that my trusted ally, Harold, had in fact given my identity away in order to receive the medical treatment he secretly desired. And before I had the chance to feel the anger rising within me, a masked gunman planted two bullets into Harold, retuning him to silence.
Later, I had buried Harold on the hill overlooking Wayne Manor, my hand still bearing the open stab wound that Tommy… that Hush had inflicted upon me with one of my own Batarangs. Alfred said that had been the cause of a lasting infection that he repeatedly threatened would result in amputation.
Looking down at the faintly red line, I sighed before applying a touch of the long-lasting waterproof concealer, doing my best to not think of what else happened on that very same hill that very same night.
When I stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in a midnight blue towel, I found Alfred had already been busy scavenging the walk-in closet. I spotted the tuxedo coat, vest and slacks lying meticulously flat on the bedspread in addition to a set of undergarments, black silk socks and a pair of black Salvator Ferragamo loafers. Just as I was about to ask Alfred about a shirt, emerged from the closet with a pristine white tuxedo shirt as well as a polished black leather belt.
As I began to dress, Alfred spoke, "I'm afraid Miss Gwendolyn never did return your call, sir. Nor did Miss Adriana, Matilda or Miss Pamela."
I reached for the slacks and replied, "Then I'll go stag…. Alfred, what is this?"
"The very latest from the Versace collection, Master Bruce. A fine-woven combination of cotton and silk with velvet piping…"
As I donned the slacks, I shook my head. Alfred saw to it that my tailor ordered the finest for both my work suits in addition to my tuxedos. Since my figure had barely changed in fifteen years, the spry, old man used the long-since memorized measurements to custom fit each new garment to my frame.
After putting on my belt and vest, Alfred offered my onyx cufflinks and I secured them effortlessly to my shirt. "Shall I don my Sunday best to chauffeur you into the city sir?"
I allowed myself a slight smirk before replying, "I'll drive. Bring the Jag around front."
"As you wish, sir."
Alone, I moved to stand in front of the mirror in the bathroom in order to perfect my bow tie. Alfred would only return minutes later and only criticize it but I would at least make the effort. Task completed, I returned to the bedroom to slip my shoes on before retrieving my wallet, watch and cell phone from the bureau. Wristwatch in place, I suddenly realized I would be at the fundraiser earlier than predicted, possibly even by nine sharp.
Surprisingly, Alfred did not return to the third floor to inspect my appearance. I met him in the foyer and received a quick looking over before he granted me the keys. As I headed through the front door, I overheard him commenting that my arm would be cold without a young lady hanging off of it.
In response, I peeled out in the Jaguar, leaving tire marks on the driveway.
Upon pulling up the hotel seven minutes after nine, I handed the keys and a one hundred dollar bill to the valet before making my way up the marble steps. Since most of the elite were already inside, there were a scarce number of photographers and reporters outside. As I passed by, they were suddenly brought out of their bored states and instantly came after me like insatiable barracudas.
"Mr. Wayne, Mr. Wayne, Janet Stone, Gotham Gazette!"
I waved, and smiled for the camera and gave her exactly forty-five seconds to ask a question, copy down her answer and ask another before I turned back to the gilded doors, "Sorry, but I'm late as it is."
As the doorman allowed me entry, I heard her shout out something about being on the bachelor path again but decided to ignore it.
For the better part of an hour, I toured various tables, shook hands with people that offered me inebriated smiles and proceeded to hunt down a few of the board members to finalize my appearance. The event was a five hundred dollar a plate dinner to benefit the restoration of a youth center in Bryanttown. Despite the fact that I had no intentions of eating, I had already submitted a personal check for fifty grand.
It was when I made my way around the half full dance floor, heading towards an attendant with a tray full of champagne flutes that my eyes locked onto a shimmering purple gown.
From the back, it could have been any tall, slender woman in that form fitting dress. It could have been any finely toned back exposed with narrow shoulder straps coming together over the back of her neck. The smooth dress that faded to black just beyond the floor in a draping train could have covered anyone's shapely legs…
Knowing better, I dove into the crowd, making the trip to my champagne two minutes longer than necessary. I took two glasses, downed them and returned the empty glasses to the tray. Despite having only been at the event for less than an hour I had a growing desire to get as far away as humanly possible. As I tried to navigate back to the main entrance of the banquet hall, my eyes flashed with that deep purple again, only this time, it was front on.
The front of the dress nearly dipped as low as the back of it, highlighted with a low hanging string of sparkling diamonds. Hesitating meant a chance she would spot me but I found that I couldn't look away let alone move my feet. She was talking animatedly to another partygoer, no doubt playing up the intoxicated socialite while mentally taking note at all of her entertainer's flaws.
A habit I found myself doing far too often.
With my attention on her, I was caught off guard when I heard my real estate attorney Rex Gates yell, "Bruce Wayne, you owe me a drink, boy!" just loud enough to attract a very green pair of eyes.
I turned just in time to avert Selina Kyle's gaze and rapidly shook Rex's hand, "How'd we close on that Southside deal?"
He went about rambling about a case he had been working on for me for a little over a year. There were a number of condemned buildings along the southern part of Gotham that I was looking into investing and renovating for low-income housing. Half of the current property owners were more than willing to sell but the remaining owners wanted to get every dime they could for their dilapidated properties. I feigned interest in his struggles but knew better. I was contracted to pay him $800 for each billable hour he worked on the deal.
When I casually glanced over my shoulder, Selina was gone.
After freeing myself from Rex's hold, I made it to the perimeter of the room. I was within eyesight of the doorway when I heard, "Bailing awfully early, aren't we, Mr. Wayne?"
Turning back towards her, I smiled despite the uneasy feeling in my gut, "Lots to do, so little time, I'm afraid, Ms. Kyle."
"I'm sure. Not bailing on some poor innocent girl, are you?" she asked, moving closer.
I tried to keep myself from inhaling her perfumer as I replied, "Afraid not."
"Stood up?" she asked, her left eyebrow rising slightly.
I shook my head, putting on my best Bruce Wayne smile, not to fool the other partygoers but to try and contain the thoughts that were racing through my mind.
The cold autumn winds, pulling leaves from the tree that stood quietly over Harold's freshly dug grave. The throbbing in my hand and in my head. The smell of the river still permeating from my cape. The taste of blood still on my palate.
…Forget about being a detective for once…
…We are who we are, that's why this works…
…Maybe someday you'll come to trust that…
"Stag? A change for you," her words brought me back to the present.
"A lot's changed," I said, my voice showing the faintest indication of the intention behind it.
Selina glanced over her shoulder towards the open French doors leading to the terrace. Without a word, she walked away, passing through the doors before leaning against the wrought iron railing, staring out over a beautifully lit Gotham skyline. I followed suite, keeping a good ten inches between our arms.
"How's Alfred?" she asked quietly.
"Fine… I bet dealing with you, he's anything but." I inquired as to what she meant and Selina shrugged, "After everything that happened… I could see you being a royal pain in the ass." When I was silent she looked over at me, a single lock of black lying across her cheek. As I turned to look back, she turned away, leaning her lower back against the railing.
"I saw you last month, at the art opening at the museum. I left right after, went home, cried… I cursed you for controlling my behavior. Making me do something I didn't want to do…"
I listened, offering no reply. I had a penchant for speaking at the inopportune moment, more often saying words best never said. Especially to Selina.
…Or we both could be under Ivy's spell…
When she had left me that night, I had wanted to apologize for my suspicions, for my actions, for hurting her. But I lacked the courage to do anything but stand and watch her walk away. She had even gone as far as declaring her love for me but I had simply stood there, staring at her as if she was once again my enemy.
When instead all I had wanted to do was utter the very same three words…
She continued, "I keep thinking that we're mature adults but then… I know we aren't. Like we've said before, we're not like other people, we can't base anything by their standards…" she smirked, "I guess that means even breaking up."
"I guess so," I finally spoke, my voice no longer that of Bruce Wayne.
"I thought detectives weren't supposed to guess?"
"It's an educated guess."
She nodded before sighing, "Since you're still here, my educated guess is that you were leaving because of me, not because of…" she tilted her head over her shoulder towards the city.
I wasn't sure as to why, but I agreed, "That would be correct."
"Good to see I can still control your behavior."
For as long as I could remember Selina had a unique influence on me, but never complete control. Not to any lengths that I was willing to admit to, either to her or myself. Or Alfred. I found myself looking over at her once more, unsure as to what she wanted to hear from me. Her eyes were aimed straight ahead, jaw set tightly. I suddenly wondered if she even knew. Her eyes then fell to my right hand and not a second later, I felt her warm fingertips covering the scar I had covered up earlier that evening.
I tensed, instinctively and she pulled away, muttering, "Sorry," at the very moment that I had uttered the same.
She smirked, I frowned.
"Should be going," I finally spoke quietly.
"Of course," Selina said, just loud enough for me to hear over the noise of the party and traffic down below.
I stepped forward, taking a handful of strides towards the French doors before turning back to her, "What do you want from me, Selina?"
She crossed her arms over her chest before replying, "I… I don't want anything from you, Bruce."
She cut me off, "I don't know, I don't know what I was thinking… I should have played the same card again, leaving before convincing myself to confront you."
"You're here now, confront me."
I had expected her to yell at me. To growl something under her breath before stomping off. What I hadn't expected was her smooth palm slapping my freshly shaven cheek.
When she moved to head back inside, I grabbed her arm, pulling her back to me. She raised her hand to slap me again but I snatched her wrist, pinning it to her side. A growl rose from her throat and the look in her eyes said she planned to disembowel me once she freed herself from my grasp.
Hence why she caught me off guard once more, pressing her lips against mine.
Before I knew it, my arms were entangling around her waist as we stumbled back towards the brick wall. When her back made a quiet thud, I felt her arms encircle my neck as her left leg rose to wrap around the back of my knee. As a pair of sharp incisors took hold of my lower lip, felt my right hand, the hand she had just gently touched, slowly slide down over her hip before moving back to slip around her lower back.
Although I should have been thinking that it was wrong, kissing her, holding her, I couldn't keep my mind from drifting back to that rooftop after Catwoman had located Poison Ivy. How my cape had swirled about our feet while our lips explored each other almost as feverishly as our hands. The very same rush I had felt that night was suddenly pumping through my veins, causing my breath to grow hasty and my pulse to throb.
I broke away, hungry for oxygen. Looking down at her, I noticed a slight flush had risen in her cheeks, and suddenly wondered if I was in a similar state. She smiled, as she looked up to me, leading my mind back once more to that night…
… There will be plenty more where that came from…
"I know…" she smirked as she let her leg fall back to the stone terrace floor. While drawing in air slowly, she let her arms slowly fall from my neck "That was very normal behavior for the recently separated." Before I could reply, she reached up touch my face and I stepped back, acting on instinct. She looked away briefly, "I wasn't going to hit you… you have lipstick…"
I reached up and wiped my lips before briefly touching the warm patch of skin on my cheek. She had done far worse to my body; I had at least a dozen scars she could take claim of. It hurt, but on a much more visceral level.
When Selina looked back towards me, she opened her mouth briefly as if to speak before suddenly shaking her head and slipping away from me in order to pass through the French doors.
With no other reason to stay, I left the party fairly unnoticed before over-tipping the valet in order to ensure speedy service. Instead of driving back to Bristol, I chose to drive to one of the satellite Bat-caves I kept in the city limits, trading my Versace for Kevlar and the Jaguar for a Bat-cycle. Not wanting Alfred to be offended, I remember to pack the suit into a compartment on the Bat-cycle in order to see to its safe return to Bristol. Without checking in with Oracle, I headed out, more than willing to let my anger out on those deemed worthy.
I managed to work my way through the city uninterrupted by the others, or my thoughts, for nearly three hours. Finally, Oracle managed to unlock the hold I had put on the comm. link, "Alfred said you didn't come home, I figured you found yourself a date after all."
Ignoring the scent of Selina's perfume that still lingered in my nostrils, I replied, "What do you want?"
"Thought I would check in, tracker shows you've been pretty busy. I can dispatch Batgirl to---."
"I've got it under control."
Of everyone, Barbara had the greatest tendency to speak up against me, and it was an earned right as far as I was concerned. After facing death head-on, it was ridiculous to think she could ever fear me, or anyone for that matter. Although I could be callous at times, I would always be amazed out her bravery, her strength. When I had first been paralyzed by Bane, I had been enveloped with hopelessness. She had showed a tiny fracture in her armor when she had said, "The chair is difficult. I hope that you unlike me, can find your way out of it."
The slightest sign that Barbara suffered on the inside, always maintaining a strong exterior, for herself, for her father, for me.
Surprisingly enough, she only replied, "Okay… Oh, something's coming over the scanner. Bank alarm at Central National of Harrison Drive."
"I'm on it."
Secretly hoping for an all out brawl with a dozen or so armed men, I wasted no time in making my way to the bank that was fifteen blocks away. Unfortunately the alarm had gone off as a result of a drunk driver swerving off of Harrison and into the bank lobby.
The remainder of the night was similarly disappointing. Thugs who gave in to easily, snitches who offered nothing while wetting themselves, possibly dangerous situations defusing within minutes. I should have been pleased, a small indication that the city was under control, but deep down I craved more.
Something, anything to get my mind off…
The Cave was silent when I roared in at a little past four in the morning. Instead of seating myself to log in my activities for the night, I bypassed the computer bay and headed into the costume vault. I stripped slowly before donning my robe. As a second thought, I restocked my utility belt quickly, saving me from the task the following night.
Most nights I would be in the Cave for an hour or so after completing Patrols, Alfred often arriving at some point to bring me a fresh cup of coffee. He would check my bedroom first before heading down, no doubt surprised whenever I was actually in bed. As I climbed the granite steps up to the Manor, rumpled tux in tow, I fought a yawn while thinking a cup of coffee would be a godsend.
As I stepped into the master bedroom, I closed the double doors behind me and ignored turning the overhead light on seeing how both bedside lamps were lit. I tossed the tux to the foot of the bed, throwing just hard enough to watch it miss my target and land on the floor. The covers were turned down as always and when I went to undo the sash of my robe when I heard a soft noise from the window.
Selina Kyle sat on the sofa facing the massive windows, barely noticeable in the dimly lit room. One of the drapes had been pulled back and she looked out over the scenic landscaping of Wayne Manor in the faint pre-dawn light. I redid my robe just as she turned to face me, a weak smile on her face.
As she showed no inclination of getting up, I approached her, pausing before sitting beside as well.
"We've played this game for years," she started softly. I looked her over briefly, surprised to see her still in that deep purple sleeveless gown, her hair and makeup still flawless. Selina continued, "It's always been the same, I'd run, you'd come after me. Tonight I realized… it's not the same game anymore. Now it's I run, you run…"
I nodded slightly but offered no verbal response.
"I have to admit, Bruce, I don't want to run if you're not coming after me."
After a brief smirk, I replied just under a whisper, "You shouldn't have to run at all."
I shook my head, "Nothing
She turned on the sofa, facing me, the faint light setting off tiny flickers on her shimmering dress, "Well, you shouldn't have to run either… Like I said before, you have an awful lot of strings, I didn't want to be the one that tripped you up. I still don't… but…"
I thought to myself, I do.
For some reason, Selina stared at me, her mouth slightly agape. It took a moment before I realized I had uttered the words aloud.
Her brow rose quizzically, "Bruce?"
Having let the proverbial cat out of the bag, I sighed and stood before speaking, "I've never invested myself emotionally in anyone because I knew it wouldn't be long before they were taken from me. But… if there was anyone to trip me up…"
"I'm not sure if that's a compliment, but I'll take it."
I nodded before starting to reach for her, then letting my hands fall back to my sides,
"But I will never be able to forget… it only takes one wrong turn down an alley, Selina."
She went quiet for moment, "I've taken my fair share of wrong turns, Bruce. We both have. And we're still here." She made the first move, setting her palm flat on my bare chest that was exposed by my robe. Over my heart. Over four horizontal scars. "But losing someone you love is no reason to never love again."
Even though we had a great deal more to talk about, words seemed pointless after that moment. She had no intention of listening to my concerns and I suddenly had no desire to make her listen to them. For years, our actions had always taken the place of our words, whether it was a cold rooftop or the darkness of my bedroom.
We were who we were, after all, and that's what made it work.
I found myself, for the second time that evening, letting my body take control over my actions rather than my mind. Although my hands had already felt the material of her dress, it felt smoother, warmer after placing my hands on her hips. Even though her perfume had faded through the night, it filled my senses as my face neared hers. Despite the fact that I had kissed her many times, it still felt like the first time.
We stumbled backward as we had on the terrace earlier that night. Although instead of Selina bumping into a brick wall, her thighs came into contact with the edge of my bed. On some level I thought about how we were stepping on the fabric of the tuxedo on the floor. And that Alfred would stroke out if he the slightest inkling.
I had expected her to recline but instead, she broke from the kiss and said, "This is awfully irrational behavior for Batman."
Replying without hesitation, I spoke, my breath more ragged than I had expected, "But very rational behavior for any other man."
"Mrrow," she replied, putting her fingers to work at untying the sash of my robe.
It took a moment to find the clasp that held Selina's dress on behind her neck but it took a mere flick of the wrist to cause the silky fabric to pile at her feet. I felt her lips on my chest and then her forehead as she gazed down. When she pressed her lips back to my chest again, I could feel her smiling as her shoulders shook from an internal battle with laughter. Not exactly the most desirable response after disrobing in front of her…
"Gucci and Versace," she managed before looking up at me, "Almost as good of a combination as Kevlar and Nomex."
I smirked as she sat on the bed, pulling me with her, "Almost."
Once again, she had amazed me.
I was certain it wouldn't be the last time.