Batman and Catwoman in Cat-Tales by Chris DeeCat-Tales 19: Dearly Beloved

Dearly Beloved
by Chris Dee


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10:30 a.m.

Tim tripped, spilling the change across the parking lot of the 7-Eleven.  This was so embarrassing.  In a tuxedo at ten in the morning, bent over picking up nickels and dimes. 

Everybody told him his job as Best Man was to hold onto the ring and make sure Dick was wearing pants.

Nobody said (a) pick up the minister and (b) call to remind the bride’s father to pick up (c) the dress otherwise somebody has to (c-1) drive back to the city.  But (a-1) the minister had to run out and see a sick parishioner and (b-1) the door to the church office was locked, but (b-1.2) even Robin can pick a lock but then (b-2) the phones didn’t have any power, and (b-3) he didn’t bring his cel from home cause (unnumbered Tim-rant) where do you put a cel phone in a tux, but (b-4) there was a payphone down the street, but (b-4.1) no change, so (b-4.2) 7-Eleven to break a bill and (b-4.3) spilling the change all over the parking lot and god this was embarrassing…

 

10:45 a.m.

Dinah and Barbara arrived at the Wayne Manor drive at the same time as Tim with Reverend Geoff, and Maurice Wilson the photographer.  The Napoleonic parking attendant assumed this was the first rush of guests and began waving them into the receiving area on the south lawn.  Rather than just explain that she was the bride and driving straight up to the house, Barbara explained with some eloquence (and at some length) the difficulty of maneuvering a wheelchair over two acres of grass—hence the very concept of the handicapped parking space.  By the time she had finished, Wally West and Lucius Fox joined the queue of cars behind them at the front gate.

The bride’s arrival in the manor’s main foyer created flurried ripples through the quiet efficiency of the final preparations.  Alfred stood formally to welcome Ms. Gordon, Ms. Lance, Mrs. Fox, Mr. Drake, Mr. West, Reverend Geoff and Mr. Fox.  He indicated the room in which the ladies would dress, the room where Mr. Drake could find Mr. Grayson, and that to which Mr. West should escort Reverend Geoff before seating Mr. & Mrs. Fox.  If everyone had taken their cue from Alfred, things would have progressed smoothly.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Fox couldn’t help but notice the beautiful shade of aqua peeking out from the couture bag on Dinah’s arm.  Mention of Dinah’s dress led to talk of Barbara’s.

“Where is it, dear?” Mrs. Fox queried.
“Oh it’s not with me.  Dad brought it,” Barbara answered.
“He hasn’t arrived yet, Miss,” Alfred informed her.
“But Tim did call and remind him, didn’t you Tim?”
“He never answered the phone; I figured he’d already left.”
“Look if there’s any delay, I’m only booked ‘til 2.”

This last was Maurice Wilson, the photographer.  A fool.

Dinah, Wally, and Tim stepped back imperceptibly, clearing a path between Maurice and Barbara—or more precisely, Oracle.  This was a personality to whom, when she said “Do it now,” the most powerful beings on the planet said, “Yes Ma’am with a vengeance.”    

 

10:55 a.m.

Bruce looked into the mirror and straightened his tie for the fourth time. 

Dick… married.  Little circus kid, lost, crying… so lost, and so angry, and so alone.  And now he was grown up and getting married.  To Barbara Gordon, that upstart little girl that put on a cape and cowl and took on the night.  Tim was Robin now; Cassie was Batgirl.  Little Dick and Little Barbara were grown up and getting married.  They could have children?  Would that be possible; Batman a grandfather? 

Forcing the thought from his mind, Bruce straightened his tie for a fifth time and resolved to work out what Penguin’s bartender was doing here.

He crossed from his dressing room into the hall and did a doubletake as, for a half-second, he thought he saw Kittlemeier disappear into the far doorway. 

Bruce shook his head in disbelief.  His inner-critic spoke in Batman’s voice:
You’re using crime—thoughts of Sly & Kittlemeier—to detach from this.  Today’s not my problem.  It’s yours.  Go deal. 

Downstairs.  Find out what Sly is doing here, don’t you think?

I’m the detective here, and the simplest explanation is always the best.  Gotham’s an expensive city.  Lots of working people have two jobs.  Rogues are lousy tippers.  The man picks up extra bartending work with a caterer—and you’re only saying go downstairs because you don’t want to go in there and talk to Dick.

Bruce sighed his defeat, walked to Dick’s room, and then stopped, hand on the doorknob.  The thought that stopped him was Batman’s “Today’s not my problem.”  But what if…

I might know what to say to Dick if Dad was still around.

In his mind’s eye, Psychobat assaulted Bruce with the most petrifying deathscowl ever delivered:
You DARE?  You dare use their memory to get me to do this for you?

Unworthy of you, Son… Psychobat morphed into the image of Thomas Wayne.  You’re 35, Bruce, and if I was still around, we still wouldn’t have had the wedding day talk, now would we?

Dad! For godsake!

Okay, never mind.  Just get in there and tell the boy you love him and you’re proud of him. Doesn’t take nearly as much courage as addressing the stockholders, let alone the other things you do with yourself.

But it does, Dad.  For me, it’s a thousand times worse than facing an army of Jokers and Crocs and Ra’s al Ghuls.  I don’t know why.   Selina once said there’s a difference between the risk facing a hail of gunfire and risking getting your heart broken.  I guess…

Bruce, you’ve lost a lot of the people you’ve loved.  And I know that was painful.  But you can’t never take that risk again.  No risk, no return.  If you don’t recall that one, I hate to think what’s become of the company under your stewardship.

Banner year, Dad, we just posted record earnings, okay?

It occurred to Bruce, that he sounded very much like Dick just then: “Lay off, I’ve got it under control.  Just stuff your advice and let me do this my way.”

You love him.  Whether you want to take the risk or not, you love him.  You may as well go tell him so.

At that moment the doorknob was yanked from Bruce’s hand and Dick’s face appeared before him, bleeding at the chin.

“Styptic,” he croaked.  “I forgot how to shave.  I need a styptic pencil.”

Tim called from inside the room, “Here, got one.”

Dick turned back and closed the door in Bruce’s face.  

Bruce blinked for a minute, then opened the door undeterred.

“What time is it?” Dick asked.

“1 minute and 20 seconds since the last time you asked me,” Tim answered.

“You have the ring?”

“I have the ring.” 

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, Dick, I’m sure.”  

Tim turned to Bruce and talked as though Dick was not present, “He’s been like this since I got here.  I don’t know what to do, it’s like Scarecrow gas except the focus keeps jumping around.”

“Blood.  Did I get blood on the collar?”

“It’s fine, Bro.”

“What time is it again?”

Bruce stepped in, thinking perhaps, for once, it was he and not Batman that was best-equipped to deal with the situation.

“Richard,” he said, “Calm down.  It’s a ceremony, that’s all.  You love her, so you say so, out loud, in front of everybody.  A ritual.  It’s not like swinging on a flyline forty stories above street level.  The worst thing that can go wrong here is—”

“Is I forget my line!” Dick realized with horror, “or her name—what if I forget her name! Or lose the ring—Tim, do you have the ring—Hold on to that ring - It’s an heirloom…”

Bruce left.  He was sure now he could clap his son on the shoulder and tell him he loved him and was proud.  But he may as well leave it until after the ceremony, when Dick might actually hear him.

Back in the hallway, Bruce heard a voice in one of the rooms:

“It was idiot who did dis.  Dis ruffles is for stick woman.  Your proportions very deeferent.  Need smooth lines, show where you curve in and curve out, not poofy-flouncy like dis yellow.”

Bruce opened the door without knocking -And yes, there was Kittlemeier, signature tape measure around his neck, kneeling before Selina, adjusting the ruffles.

“Dere,” Kittlemeier pronounced with satisfaction, “Now when dis one falls…” he draped a particular ruffle, “it draws de eye to—yes, when you move, dat will flutter and bounce in very becoming manner.  You try now, in front of mirror, you knock their eyes out now.”

He knew it.  Bruce always knew they plotted against him this way—Kittlemeier and Catwoman.  It couldn’t be an accident that she looked like that, the purple, and the gloves and the boots as black as her hair, escaping out the cowl in little wisps and curls, and the line of that costume wrapping her curves in leather—they did it to him on purpose.  Of course they did.

“Do you mind?” Dick’s Aunt Kate appeared and pushed him towards the door.  “This is a ladies’ dressing room.”

But none of the ladies present were shy in front of Bruce, and Barbara in particular wheeled up to him—wearing little more than a slip and bustier, which made Aunt Kate gasp.  Barbara slapped a bouquet of flowers into Bruce’s stomach and a roll of tape around his wrist.

“Go down,” she ordered, “and tape one of these to the end of each row of chairs, and one on each candelabra…”

Not wanting to tape flowers to anything, Bruce started to object: there was something he needed to keep an eye on, there was… this bartender from the Iceberg…

The no-nonsense OraCom voice that said “do it now and argue later” bored into his very spinal column with the words “then hide the tape in this.” And a roll of white ribbon joined the tape around Bruce’s wrist.  

 

11:15 a.m.

Rosa began playing the specially selected walk-in music with the arrival of the first guests.  But Mr. & Mrs. Fox had arrived so early, Rosa soon ran out of prepared material.  Steve and Wally, stationed at the garden entrance to seat guests as they arrived, noted this.

“If I were her,” Steve said, “I’d grab a hymnal.”

At almost the same second, the synthesized chords of A Mighty Fortress is our God droned through the garden.

Wally looked at Steve.  Steve looked at Wally.  Both stifled a laugh.

Faith of Our Fathers was next… There was a pause, then… On the River Jordan and a longer pause.

“Can’t keep that up forever,” Steve observed.

“How many hymns are there?” Wally asked.

Then came the Ave Maria followed by the longest pause yet, and We Gather Together.

“Running out of hymns,” said Steve.

After the Thanksgiving song, the pause continued on… and on… and on…

“Now what?” asked Steve.

“Improv,” Wally answered.

On cue, Rosa began a jazz exploration of Greensleeves.

Steve and Wally looked at each other, eyes locked, then sprinted out the back of the garden, doubling over with laughter, only to run smack into-

“Bruce!” Wally sputtered, his whole face red with mirth suddenly paled to pink with embarrassment.  Then Wally saw the tape, the ribbon, and the flowers Bruce carried, and mirth-red returned.

Bruce glowered the best glower he could manage without the cowl. 

“I’m looking for one of the bartenders,” he growled. “You see him?”

 

11:30 a.m.

Okay.  A lot has been written, concocted, and speculated about that day at the Watchtower.    Here’s what really happened:

There was a bad guy: Prometheus.  He had a gadget.  He took control of Steel’s armor, reduced Martian Manhunter & Plastic Man to a state of spastic paralysis, hit Green Lantern with some neural chaff making it impossible for him to use the ring, set up motion detector explosives to keep Flash from moving above normal speed, hypnotized Huntress into immobility, and beat Batman within an inch of his life.

Well, what was I supposed to do?  You can’t just stand there and WATCH that kind of thing spinning further and further out of control.  

So I abandoned the disguise I’d snuck in with and interceded.  I drew focus with the whip just long enough that the heroes were able to get the upper hand.

My point is: there was Kittlemeier, agreeing to look at Dinah and Kate’s dresses since he’d finished with mine, and Tim in some panic about losing the ring in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven and maybe he could ask Wally to zipzap over and look for it.  Mr. Corry, Constance, and Anatole came up the stairs as a bickering set!  Then Bruce came back with the tape and the flowers, asking if I knew how much Sly made at the Iceberg, while Barbara started chattering behind me that if he ran out of ribbon there was more on the gift table.  I heard a door open down the hall and Dick’s voice calling for Tim…

Well, what was I supposed to do?

“You,” I said to Mr. Corry, “tape the flowers to the candelabra.  You,” I turned to Tim and continued round the circle, “find the ring.  You, fix the ruffles.  You, stop stalking the bartender. You, get back in the room before Dick sees you.  You… I don’t know what your thing is.  And you, go guard your cake.”

And they did it.  Every one of them.  Even Bruce!

I took a deep breath, clapped the imaginary pixie dust off my hands, then settled them on my hips—where Kittlemeier had indeed tamed the ruffles into submission.  That was really much easier than I would have thought possible.  Almost like the first time I went up against Batman—the giddy realization that I can do this.  I can really do this!

 

11:45 a.m.

..::Detective, I wished to call and convey my respects to the young ones on this special day…::..

Bruce was expecting this.  There were only two villains with the crucial information to know Dick Grayson’s wedding was an opportunity to strike at Batman.  There was Hugo Strange, for whom such an event would hold little appeal.  And even if it did, Hugo was too afraid of Catwoman at the moment, since her payback for Riddler threatened removal of some internal organs he’d rather not lose, through bodily openings not intended for ad hoc surgical procedures.

And there was Ra’s al Ghul, who would not shrink from using the occasion for some nefarious purpose if he had cause, but was far more likely to pull a stunt like this: making a show of his ability to use the event and even bigger show of not doing so. 

“Give it up, Ra’s,” Bruce growled into the receiver, “You want to play ‘Aren’t we Civilized,’ pull those six DEMON agents out of Chinatown.  Their arrival didn’t go unnoticed.”

..::Detective, you wound me, truly.  I called to wish your family joy, and you answer me with threats…::..

“I haven’t threatened you yet, Ra’s, but I…”

..::Oh, for godssake, boys! ::.. 

Bruce and Ra’s both stopped as Selina’s voice, a curious mix of silky, amused, and pissed off, broke in on the extension:  

..::Just unzip, whip’em out, and let’s all get on with our goddamn lives!::.. -click-

 

12:00 noon  

Martin Stanwick was, for all intents and purposes, the Batman of Gotham High Society.  He had an almost frightening eye for detail, an equally formidable gift for deduction, and he even had a secret identity: he was Hermoine, the society & gossip columnist for the Gotham Times. 

But Martin was known to the Gotham social scene as Marty Stanwick, a “novelist” in theory, but hostesses learned fast that inquiries about his literary output were never encouraged. One simply learned to not ask, to smile when he called himself a writer, and to generally humor the silly goose.  He was always available to round out a dinner party, he was always charming and funny, and he never seemed to notice if he was a last minute replacement.  Nor did he mind escorting deaf Grandma Wensis.

Martin / Hermoine sat in the East Garden of Wayne Manor, in the last seat of the back row, taking mental dictation:

The bride appeared in a full-length gown of imported peau de soie and alencon lace, fashioned with a portrait neckline, bracelet-length sleeves & fitted bodice with alencon lace appliqués re-embroidered with seed pearls…  Who’s that coming in? Mr. and Mrs. Wigglesworth (back together?)… Being seated next to Mr. and Mrs. Fox… Interesting …The full princess skirt and chapel-length train with which such a dress would have been originally designed, was modified, gathered into graceful twirls to accommodate the wheelchair… His editor would object to his mentioning this, but Martin would fight for it.  It was a dignified solution to a reality of this bride’s circumstances, and it damn well should make it into print…

On the bride’s side… Good lord, what a mish-mash.  That fat cop and the pretty Hispanic one that guarded the baubles at all the charity balls.  Why couldn’t they dress them more uptown?   The man was impossible but that woman could pass if someone put her in a decent frock and taught her how to carry herself—GOOD LORD, they were sitting next to the Father!  They were guests!  How frightful…  

Her fingertip veil, Martin resumed his mental note-taking… cascaded from a mother of pearl tiara.

 

For Dick, the reality of the situation began receding the moment he turned to the back of the garden and saw Barbara at the top of the aisle. 

He’d been standing at the altar, where Tim had led him like an invalid, standing him on his mark.  The organ stopped, then played a note -that sounded like all the other notes as far as Dick could tell- except it triggered a rustling noise behind him.  Tim poked him, then he felt a nudge on his hip—ah, turn.  We turn now… 

His mind dimly registered 5’1” of yellow, topped by Aunt Kate’s face.  She walked up to him, smiled, then stepped to the side. 

Selina did the same thing—except she winked.

Then Dinah—smile, no wink, and her dress was aqua. 

And then… there she was.  His Barbara.  Reading from top to bottom—fiery red curls that used to peek out from below her cowl—fiery blue eyes that also peeked out from the cowl, always demanding to be taken seriously even though… progressing down farther…the way those apple lips pouted and the bat-emblem stretched across her costume did not inspire “serious” thoughts—at least not for him.

That’s how he first saw her, and that’s how a part of him would always think of her—bright yellow gloves that matched the emblem and the belt—but also gave her away.  She put on a brave show, but she was new to being in costume.  She wasn’t comfortable and it showed.  That first meeting, while they talked, she had no idea where to put her hands.  Kept striking those little poses, then readjusting.  Yellow here, yellow there.  It was SO CUTE…

…gathered here in the sight of God and this gathering, to join together this man and this woman in holy wedlock, an honorable estate…

He was afraid she wanted to hone in on his position as Batman’s sidekick—it sure looked that way from the outfit.  But she didn’t.  And she was this incredible, irresistible mix of “better than me” and “clueless”…

…and not by any to be enterprised lightly or wantonly…

Then they found out Batgirl was Barbara Gordon.  The commissioner’s daughter –wasn’t that something!  It seemed to make it better and worse as far as Bruce was concerned.  As Gordon’s daughter she had a legitimate claim to the fight on crime; it wasn’t a wound like Batman’s or his own, not back then, but it was a tie to this shadow world.  That was something.  

But Batman was also worried that he could learn her secret at all.  He thought it meant she had no idea how deadly this world could be.  How could she know?  How could any of them?

…but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God, duly considering the causes for which matrimony was ordained…

How was it possible they were standing there now?  Did he make this happen?  The memory of that first sight of Batgirl, in a “superhero” stance on a rooftop while he pulled himself up on a Batrope, vanished like a reflection in still water hit by droplets of rain, each drop forming a new image:

Barbara in Oracle-mode at her keyboard, the image from her monitors flickering off her glasses, oblivious to his presence.

…for the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have of the other…

Giving her the locket… Getting the diamond for her ring…

… both in prosperity and in adversity…

 

…into which estate these persons present come now to be joined…

Barbara found it impossible to control the smile which was surely too wide and undignified for the occasion.  Happy was good, but the bride should be serenely happy, not cat-that-ate-the-canary happy.

And now she owed herself twenty dollars.  Because the moment she named Dinah and Selina among her attendants, she knew someone would have to use that expression sooner or later, and she figured it would  be the original punster himself, Dick.

Look at him.

What happened to that infuriating little brat that couldn’t leave a bad pun alone, who had to make it so clear he was Batman’s second, trained by the master, handpicked—Look at him now.

Look at him looking… like she was the center of the universe.

What could he possibly see?

That couldn’t be right, could it, being that focused on another person, even at a time like this?  Didn’t even look like he knew where he was…

“I do,” Jim Gordon intoned.  And the words snapped Barbara into her reality.

Her father said… then… that would have been in answer to “Who gives this woman?”

Oh my, Barbara thought, speaking of staring into his eyes like Svengali, not knowing where we are…

 

Do you, Barbara Louise, take this man, Richard John… 

Yellow ruffles or not, I was awfully glad now that Barbara forced me to do this.  Standing safely up there, turned a comfortable 60-degrees towards the happy couple, he couldn’t see my face from Father of the Groom position.

Shouldn’t be looking my way anyway, Bruce, I thought, should be looking at your son.  Look at that smile—like he can barely hold in a laugh—isn’t that priceless.  He didn’t get that from you, Stud.  From day one, what the kid feels, you can see all over his face.

 

For better for worse, For richer for poorer, In sickness and in health…

Does she think I can’t see that? 

Selina, how long did I know you in that mask?  A few inches of cheek and mouth to work out what the whole face was doing?  Do you think I can’t see you, Kitten?   Smiling at my son and his girl. 

 

With this ring…

The sixth sense never lies.

You’re watching me, Dark Knight.  I know it.  What you can possibly see from there, I can’t imagine.  But I feel your eyes on me.  Like the museum. Or a rooftop. 

You know where they got that ring?  Cartier’s.  Our first rooftop.   First time it got interesting, anyway.  First time you let me get so close. I found I could do more than just scratch you at that distance.  I could kiss you.  And you let me.  You didn’t seem that surprised, either, not even the first time.  Is that why you let me get so close that night

 

You may now kiss the bride…

your arms slid up around my neck, like it was perfectly natural.  I could never figure out how you did that.  How you could be so casual about it?  Like this was something that happened all the time between crimefighters and thieves. Your eyes were the most astonishing things I’d ever seen, and the taste of your lips…  That does not happen every day.

You didn’t blush that night, Catwoman.  But your cheeks are coloring now.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen…

Look at me, Kitten…

I present for the first time…

Don’t look, no, just for a split-second…

Mr. And Mrs. Richard Grayson 

To be continued…


 

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