AN: He finally persuades her to marry him at the nth hour. And Hermione meets an ex-girlfriend.
~ooO Doors Open & Close Ooo~
"Tell me Lucius, what do you suggest I do?"
Lucius Fox stared, amused at the clearly bewildered younger man across the private restaurant table.
"Do? There is nothing you can do Bruce. When a woman digs in her heels the best thing you can do is wait her out."
A faint frown creased Bruce Wayne's brow. "That is not an option. Hermione is set to deliver any day now and she's still putting me off. Every time I try to talk to her about it she somehow diverts my attention." He shook his head. "I never realize it until she has already moved onto something else."
"And how does Alfred feel? Perhaps some gentle persuasion on his part…?"
Bruce shook his head. "I expected her to get some of her way in the Manor but not to the extent she has! Alfred is very pleased about the situation. He's been after me to settle down for years and he sees this as my rightful karma. He is also firmly on her side to make me wait." He sighed mournfully. "She's got everyone in the house either loving her or utterly confused."
Lucius smiled. "Really? And does she confuse Batman?"
Bruce smiled faintly. "She confuses and awes him most." Then he frowned as the soft new message tone of his Blackberry interrupted their lunch. Quickly he checked the new text message and paled. "I have to go Lucius. Hermione is in labour."
Lucius nodded. "Do you need a lift? I don't think I'll trust you in any vehicle just now." He jerked his chin at the billionaire's hands which were trembling.
Bruce stared at his hands bewildered. "I think I'll take you up on that offer. Alfred is with her right now. Gotham General."
Hermione was sweaty and aching.
"I'm so sorry Alfred!"
She had nearly crushed the bones in the elderly butler's hand in her last contraction.
Alfred discreetly massaged his hand stifling his wince. "Do not worry about that, Miss."
She shook her head. "I should have realized I was in labour. It's just that my back has been aching for weeks! I didn't realise it was different."
"Mr Wayne! Just slow down!"
Hermione blinked as Bruce burst into the room, ignoring the much smaller Japanese nurse trying to stop him. She could see he was wearing a full three-piece and suit under blue tie-over gown. She smiled despite the pain.
"You look ridiculous," were her first words to him. Then she winced as a fresh contraction began rippling through her.
She was barely aware of him moving fast, taking Alfred's place, helping her sit up long enough to get access to her back. Then the contraction was not so bad. His strokes were strong and sure. Familiar. In the past few weeks, it had become routine for him to massage her back to relieve the tension and strain of carrying so much weight.
The contraction ended. She sagged against him.
She felt more than heard his response. The urgent need in his touch, the slight fear and wonder in his voice breathing in her ear.
"No, I thank you."
"For what you gave me, are giving me, will give me."
She sighed. "You don't have to worry, Bruce. I will never stop you from bonding with the children."
"It is not just them. It is also you. What you've brought into my life. Warmth. Friends. Understanding. Acceptance."
She laughed softly. "You've just been hanging around the wrong sort of people."
"And you have a knack for finding the right sort." He countered.
She smiled. "If you say so. That and trouble."
His arms tightened around her waist. "Somehow I can't bring myself to care about that last point. I can handle the chaos as long as you are with me."
She turned to see his face. There was a vulnerable open expression, a faint yearning. "Are you sure about that?"
His answer was as open. "Yes. Please marry me."
She stared into his eyes for long seconds before she nodded. "Okay."
A broad smile spread across his face. "Great." He turned to Alfred and the nurse who had been silent witnesses to the whole thing. "Does the hospital have a chaplain? Someone who can perform a marriage ceremony?"
Eyes widened. Hermione opened her mouth to protest.
"Bruce! You can't be serious!"
"I'll locate the chaplain immediately Master Bruce." Then Alfred ducked out of the private delivery room.
"You can't be serious!" Hermione whispered. "I'm in labour! We need a license!"
Bruce produced a piece of paper. "I've been carrying one around for weeks. It helps that I have some pull with City Hall. All it needs is your signature to make it legal." He ran his fingers through her sweaty curls. "I don't want to wait. We can have a second ceremony later if you want something more formal."
Their eyes met and then she nodded. "All right. I'd like Barbara to be one of the witnesses if possible."
Bruce nodded, a small triumphant smile curling his lips. "I'll ask Tim to pick her up."
Selina Kyle frowned as the bellhop closed the door to her hotel room. She ignored her unopened suitcases and walked to the dinette table. There was a pile of all the major papers and magazines she had requested and her laptop.
She opened a bottle of water from the mini-bar and began working through the news, hard copy first then online back issues. By the time she was done, her stomach was a tight knot and her mood was fluctuating between rage, depression, and envy.
How dare he!
How dare he what, Selina? The voice of her conscience rebuked her. How dare he try to move on and find someone else who cared for him? Someone who was willing to stay with him and share his life? Someone willing to give him children? A family of his own?
She touched her waist. A botched theft left her heavily scarred years ago. Every doctor she had consulted gave her the same answer: it was very unlikely she could conceive naturally. Each had offered alternatives including IVF if she wanted to have children. But she didn't, not just yet, not when there was so much to see and do!
She forced her emotions aside and focused on the facts.
There was no indication of Bruce having a serious relationship with his houseguest before Oswald attacked her. Everyone had believed she was just a family friend waiting for her significant other to join her at some point in the future. Bruce had escorted her to various social events but neither one had slipped to reveal their intimate relationship. Something one could expect from Bruce who was used to compartmentalizing but what about her? How could someone so young maintain such a perfect façade for weeks, months?
Then the way they met; it was too pat. Selina strongly suspected they met while Bruce was on a case. But she knew how focused Batman got on the job. How and Why did he ever relax to have a relationship with someone he never met before? And to not take precautions! It was not like Bruce or Batman. Did she drug him? Hypnotize him? Was she blackmailing him? Selina had to talk to him and see for herself.
Her hands smoothed the glossy sheets as she re-read one of the newest articles.
Gotham Billionaire Marries his English Rose.
Twin Heirs to the Wayne Legacy.
Citizens of Gotham, it has been confirmed: Bruce Wayne has wed British expatriate Hermione Granger. The former resident of Britain had moved to America to co-habitat with the Gothamite business magnate for the latter half of her pregnancy. There had been no announcement or plans regarding an engagement or marriage until she gave birth to the billionaire's first biological children, twin heirs to the Wayne dynasty. Bruce Wayne has confirmed the eldest is a son named Liam Alfred Wayne born 7:49 p.m. and the second born is a daughter named Martha Jean Wayne born 8:03 p.m. Mother and children are doing well and have been given the okay to go home despite being three weeks premature. Doctors say both are healthy and well-developed, that premature delivery is usual in the case of multiple births.
The marriage ceremony itself took place in the hospital delivery room, just hours before the Wayne twins arrived. "Hermione was determined to wait and be sure of my feelings. I carried a marriage license for a few weeks while I worked on getting her to say yes. I'm not sure if it was the labour or my persuasive words but she finally agreed to marry me in the delivery room. I wasn't going to wait and give her the chance to change her mind. We will of course hold a formal reception at a future date." When asked about his personal feelings in regards to the situation his response was unexpectedly open and heartfelt. "I am Very happy with events. Hermione has given me more than children, she has given me a family. I've spent a lot of years looking and met quite a few women who I thought could be the One. But now when I think about it, I have to confess none of my past relationships had the depths I have with my wife."
Bruce Wayne's adopted children and teenage wards also share his opinion about his new wife and their relationship. Richard Grayson said, "after Hermione moved in, Bruce really relaxed. We used to fight a lot on our different views of doing things but Hermione gives him a different perspective that helps." Tim Drake noted, "Hermione doesn't look like it but she has a core of pure steel. When she decides to make a stand, she pushes hard and you can't help but listen. She isn't intimidated by Bruce, his name or wealth." Hermione Wayne was not available for any comments.
Bruce hummed softly as he lifted his fretful daughter from the antique muslin curtained cradle and rocked her against his bare chest. She was quicker to wake than her twin brother was. Even if she didn't settle down it was almost time for her next meal.
Then he felt the quartz stones embedded in the titanium wristband warm. There was an intruder in the house. An unexpected breeze wafted through the nursery.
He stiffened and turned to face the knee-to-ceiling windows. One set was opened and framing an old lover in a clinging grey cat suit.
Selina Kyle stared at the man she loved, the man devoted to a cause that tended to put them at cross-purpose. There was no hint of desire in his eyes when he looked at her. Inwardly she frowned.
"What are you doing here?" He asked softly as he rocked the baby in his arms.
She smiled secretively. "I heard the news and I had to see it for myself. I mean, you married and already a father? And that little bit about getting married just hours before your children were born… I never thought you would have been careless to get any woman pregnant. Especially on a case. You did meet her on a case, didn't you?"
Bruce smiled faintly. "Sort of." He brushed a large hand over the small head of curls. "But I cannot regret anything."
Selina frowned. "You didn't have to marry her to get custody! Any court will see you are just as suitable to have primary custody as the biological mother is. You have a good reputation, money and experience raising kids."
Bruce looked amused. "I'm afraid you are mistaken Selina. I wanted more than just my children. I wanted their mother."
Selina blinked. "As a maternal figure? Surely there are more trustworthy women you can ask to help you raise them!"
"Like you?" His voice was sardonic.
Selina was taken aback. "No. Not me. But perhaps the Commissioners daughter? Barbara Gordon?"
Bruce studied her hard and shook his head. "I wanted to marry Hermione for more than just her maternal abilities. She is a wonderful friend and very supportive about all my interests." His dark blue eyes were very steady as they met green. "She accepts all parts of me. She does not favour one over the other." As you did was unspoken.
Selina stilled. "She's just hoping you die on the job." She retorted spitefully.
That made him laugh. "I'm afraid you are mistaken on that. One of the first things she did was demand certain changes that have had positive benefits in my night time activities."
"She figured it out days after meeting both of me."
"What happened to what you always used to say? That your quest was more important than any relationship? That you weren't willing to risk any hostages to misfortune and chance. How can a normal, untrained woman handle the danger? What if she were attacked by someone more violent than The Penguin?"
Bruce smiled. "Like The Joker?"
Selina blinked. "Yes! Like him."
"I am surprised the Commissioner managed to keep it under wraps for so long." A soft unfamiliar voice answered in a polished English accent.
Selina whirled to the doorway. The bitch had somehow snuck up without setting off her danger senses! Carefully the cat-thief studied her rival. She was not tall and more rounded than fashionable. Her stride was graceful as she crossed the room to join Bruce. She had some martial arts training in her past. Her breasts were full and almost spilling over the deep V of the mid-calf length empire-style nightgown made of light blue cotton-lycra knit she wore under an enveloping mauve fleecy robe. Instead of regular slippers, she wore a pair of black ballet-flats laced up with ribbons. Curly brown hair was brushed and twisted into an old-fashioned single braid down her back. Her features were defined but not perfect taken singly, but as a whole she was attractive, not gorgeous like any of Bruce's old girlfriends.
The younger woman did not show fear, envy, or anger. She just looked at Selina, cataloguing almost everything seen and unseen about the older woman. Selina tore her eyes away and looked at Bruce.
"What if someone like The Joker attacks your wife?"
"I'm afraid that is quite impossible." The British woman answered clearly amused by something. "The Joker has been… dealt with. Quite permanently."
Green eyes widened. "He is dead? There was nothing in the papers!"
Bruce ignored her question as he passed the child he was carrying to Hermione. Then he watched as she seated herself in one of the two padded rocking chairs.
Selina watched as her old lover passed a blanket and pillow to his wife and helped her make the adjustments to breastfeed the child in her arms. Hermione Wayne shifted the child under the light blanket thrown over the two of them before settling back.
Only then did she respond to Selina's question.
"The Joker is not dead… per say."
Selina glanced at Bruce who nodded slightly before turning to his wife. "The Joker made a threat Hermione would not tolerate. She is quite protective of family."
Pale gold eyes met green without flinching. "Currently Jack Napier is a resident of Maryland's Atworthy Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Through an unfortunate series of events and an experimental security system the criminal known as The Joker lost his memories all the way back to when he was twenty-three. His criminal records began when he was twenty-five. Psychiatrists are evaluating his current state of mind. They believe they will be able to eventually release him on parole since Jack Napier does not have the mindset, experience or mania of The Joker."
"You erased his memories?"
Gold flashed dangerously. Selina nearly stepped back. "He threatened my children." She snapped with no remorse or regret. "Bruce is far more civilized than I am. If it wasn't for him I would have killed the bastard without hesitation." The gold simmered. "And I would have been perfectly justified, a pregnant woman acting against an escaped, convicted murderer who broke into her private residence."
Selina was confused. "But how?" She wanted to know. "It would take an experienced team days of preparation to selectively wipe and recondition a man. And I didn't think it could work on someone like The Joker!"
Gold eyes, cat eyes, were amused. "You are mistaken Miss Kyle. I didn't recondition the bastard. I simply wiped his memories out. He got a mental reset for a certain number of years. What he does from now on is entirely up to him."
Suddenly this mild, unassuming looking woman became a heck of a lot more dangerous. No wonder Bruce was not afraid- Wait a second! Green eyes narrowed. "How do I know you haven't done your mind-wipe trick on Bruce?"
To her shock, Bruce chuckled. "Oh she has." He touched the top of his wife's head. "After the first time we met Hermione wiped my memories and sent me back."
"Your kidnapping and amnesia." Selina began connecting the dots.
"Correct." Hermione murmured. "I was involved in some dangerous activities. There were too many people looking to kill me. It was not safe for Bruce so I sent him away. I had not counted on getting pregnant though."
More facts fell into place. "The JLA was in Europe. There was some terrorist activity in Britain." Selina voiced out her thoughts.
"Yes. Once it was settled, Hermione had agreed to move to Gotham, to give her friends in Britain the time to handle the aftermath. As we got to know each other it became pretty clear we are a good match. I asked her to marry me. She kept putting me off until she was in the delivery room." Bruce concluded simply.
"And you trust this woman? She wiped your memories!" Selina was aghast.
Blue eyes were clear and calm. "I remember what happened. The sad thing is I can understand why she did it. If I had been any other man…" He trailed off.
"But you are not." Hermione murmured. "You are not and I love you for it." She looked at Selina. "Let it be Miss Kyle. What we've shared has shaped us. He is not the same man you once knew. Don't make things more difficult for yourself."
Selina's ego stung at that veiled threat. "Shouldn't that be up to Bruce? I mean you are not exactly meeting the photogenic standards of his past lovers."
Bruce and Hermione just looked amused.
"Selina, I did not date you because you are beautiful. It may have caught my eye but I never would have tried to make it work for just that. I admired your determination, your strength, convictions and courage; even your more shady skills. You were not afraid of my alter-ego and more than able to look after yourself. I just didn't like the way you had chosen to apply yourself."
"And what about her?" Selina jerked her chin at Hermione who was shifting the child under her blanket to her other breast.
Her old lover's voice was soft and affectionate, full of warmth and wonder. "I never would have looked at Hermione because she does not stand out, because she prefers to stay in the background. But when we met it was not in usual circumstances. It was impossible to Not see her strength, courage and determination. And her ruthlessness, her drive to make her vision come true. Her unbending ethics, a set of principles that mirrors Batman's. Both skewed to encompass more than the rule of law or social mores. And she is willing and able to understand, match, and help both Bruce Wayne and Batman."
He knelt beside his wife, so their eyes were on the same level. When their eyes met, Selina saw she had lost. He loved her. Just as she loved him.
I will not cry, I will not cry. Selina told herself sternly. A long vacation was in order. Somewhere much warmer than Gotham.
"Then I wish both of you the best." Selina spoke in careful tones. Then she frowned. "I must confess I am curious about your security system. It must be good to take out The Joker. Isn't it active right now?"
Hermione Wayne smiled, a slow warm expression. "It is Miss Kyle. Try stepping into the room."
Selina blinked and obeyed. Lightly she stepped off the ledge. Before she took more than three steps into the room she ran into an energy field that bounced her back. Carefully she reached out to test the range of the barrier. It was a large circular arch that started from one window edge to the other side that extended as high as she could reach. Experimentally she tossed a rapping hook at the ceiling only for it to return at high speeds after bouncing off the barrier's roof.
Gold eyes met Selina's gravely. "Experimental security. Definitely not for the general market. Most likely not ever."
Selina shook her head. "How likely am I to run into something like this?"
Hermione tilted her head to one side. "It is possible." She admitted. "If you do I highly recommend avoiding that household unless you are very, very sure. And be prepared for nasty surprises."
Selina blinked at that bit of advice. She glanced at Bruce who nodded, affirming his wife's advice. "Okay. I'll think about that." Her heart ached. "Good bye, Bruce."
Then she threw herself out of the window in a back flip.
Hermione made a noise of protest.
"She'll be fine." Bruce murmured soothingly. "Selina has more lives than a cat."
"Do you wish… That you could have made it work with her?" Hermione asked hesitantly.
"At times, yes. But not since you came to Gotham. Now I only wish she finds someone who accepts her like you accept me."
Hermione hummed. "I'm sure she will. You should wish for her to recognize it. That is generally the more tricky part." Gold eyes were calm and loving. "It is too easy to walk past your perfect One and never know it."
He leaned forward and kissed her. It was intimate without excessive heat, filled with promise and affection.
"How much longer?"
"Three weeks. George dropped off some healing potions he picked up in San Francisco. He sounded like he was interested in Julie."
Bruce chuckled. "When is she moving?"
"Next month. It will not be the same as her living in Gotham but Chicago is a lot closer than San Francisco."
"Is there a reason why she chose Chicago?"
"It is younger than Salem. More experimental." Hermione confided. "Julie has some interesting theories about blending mundane medicine and magic. St Eckhart's is willing to cover her research and case studies."
"St Eckhart's. Who is the Administrator?"
"Senior Healer Matthias Warrington. I believe you know of him. His nephew is one of those interviewed and hired by George."
"Would he be interested in a donation?"
"Of course. Just make sure you make a few others so that Julie's future co-workers do not get overly envious."
Bruce chuckled. "Of course."
There was a comfortable silence.
"You are happy, right? This is what you want, right?" Her tone was tentative.
His response was direct. "It is everything I dreamed of, but thought I'd never have. A family, a wife who accepts me, one who can look after herself, one comfortable with staying in the background while at the same time is not afraid of fighting for what she believes in." His voice became more thoughtful. "I never thought of it but I should be grateful for Lucius Malfoy, for his bigotry and malice. If it wasn't for his scheming, I would never have been so blessed."
Hermione was taken aback. "Yes. It turned out to be a good thing, didn't it?" Her voice became more confident. "Blessings from malice."