Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Catwoman, Alfred, mild Batman/Catwoman
Challenge/Prompt: Christian Pens: "Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them." -- Psalm 126:5-6 and beattheblackdog 94: Simple
Word Count: 2,438
Date Written: 25 September 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to DC Comics, not the author, and are used without permission.
“You know,” he offered quietly, watching her sip demurely from her cup, “you can ask about him.”
“I’d rather not. The more I know -- “
For all her wisdom, age, and experiences, there were still times when Selina, especially in her wide or narrowed, green eyes, looked like a scared, little girl. This, Alfred realized, was one of those times. “ -- the more you’ll endanger him?” he finished for her. “Nonsense, Miss Kyle.”
“Actually, I was going to say,” she said, shifting subtly in her seat in a position he knew would have her tail slashing the air beneath their table if she was a real catwoman, “the more he’d endanger me and what I’m trying to do with these girls.”
Alfred raised an eyebrow in surprise. “I beg your pardon?”
“Alfred, your boy is a wonderful man. He’s a role model for thousands of scared kids across our nation.”
Selina stopped as a waitress appeared beside her elbow. “More coffee, ma’am?”
There again was the telltale swish of the Catwoman’s invisible tail, Alfred thought, slightly amused as he watched her cover her coffee cup with a hand. “Just cream,” she told the girl.
Wide-eyed, the waitress scampered away, then returned, with a moment later, with a small pitcher of cream. “Leave it,” Selina commanded as she started to pour the cream into her coffee. The girl was obviously taken by complete surprise but knew better than to speak her mind. She scampered away again, leaving the pitcher of cream with Selina, who poured it directly into her mug.
“He’s a good man,” Selina resumed, raising her mug and sipping the smooth cream that now covered her dab of coffee, “but he’s not who I need beside me right now. If they so much as spot me with him once, Harley will go running back to the Joker, which she almost did last week and would have done if Bruce hadn’t already thrown him back into Arkham by the time she reached their last hangout. Ivy would immediately think I was traitor, and we’d lose her too. I’ve fought beside these women, Alfred, many times, and despite what Bruce may think, they are good women. They don’t deserve Arkham or jail or the things men have done to them in the past -- “
“I know,” he agreed quietly. “There’s always been something different about them -- and about you. You do deserve better, all three of you.”
Selina sighed and slumped back into her chair with a surprising lack of dignity. The elderly Brit frowned, watching her. “What?” he asked, genuine concern etched in his voice.
“I’ve thought that myself,” she admitted, her eyes opening slowly to touch his across the tabletop, “many times, but every time I come close . . . something happens to destroy it all.” She shook her head slowly and sadly. “That’s exactly why I don’t want to become involved with him again. He never understands when someone has to go against the law.”
Alfred’s lips twitched; she couldn’t quite decide if he was fighting a smile. “He is by the books.”
She arched a slender eyebrow at him. “Would you tell me you’d be any different if you were in his cape?”
“I’d like to think I would be,” Alfred answered truthfully. “He has a lot of hard decisions to make, Selina, and some of them break his heart. He has never once been unaffected any of the times he has handed you to the authorities.”
“Yet he’s done so nearly a hundred times,” she remarked, “and I know better than to think, for even one second, that he will ever not do so.”
“He feels he can not break the law even when it breaks his heart to do so.”
“It’s not like I ever set out to purposefully break him,” she responded, “or the law any more. I just . . . keep finding myself in these positions when I see very little alternative. What would you do,” she asked him point blank, “if you knew a man had done horrible things to little girls but possessed such a fortune that the law would never find him guilty?”
“I . . . would probably have done the very same thing you did, or,” he added hurriedly, “that he thinks you did.” He coughed delicately behind his wrinkled hand. “But Bruce would not. He would trust in the law to do what is right.”
“Precisely. And how many times has he trusted in that law, Alfred, and the people he’s put behind bars have broken out and killed more?”
“Miss Kyle,” he said softly, reaching across the table and placing his hand on hers, “you misunderstand me. It is not that I often agree with Master Wayne. It is that I am duty bound to him to do all I can for him.”
“Just as I,” she replied quietly, meeting his steady gaze again, “am duty bound to these girls, not just to Harley and Ivy but to every one of these . . . kittens that come into my pathway. He’d throw them behind bars for petty crimes they’ve committed to survive while the very ones who put them in such positions got away. With us, with my team, they won’t get away, and these girls will be given an actual chance at living life the way they choose.”
“What of you, Selina?” he inquired. “What life do you choose?”
“I choose,” she answered simply and honestly, “to protect those I can. I choose not to let children suffer in the same ways I did when I was clawing my way up on the streets as long as I can do something to help them. I choose not to blind an eye or to trust the law or any man blindly. I choose to defend the true weak, those who can’t defend themselves: children, animals, . . . “
“Plants?” Alfred suggested. This time his lips did twitch upward into a smile.
He was rewarded with a quick bark of laughter from the beautiful and bold woman sitting across from him, the woman who Bruce Wayne continued to be fool enough to let slip through his fingers at every opportunity. “Yes, even plants.” After a moment, as they just sipped their drinks in amicable companionship, she confided in him, “You should see them, Alfred. You really should. We’re making a difference now. Maybe it’s just one life at a time, but we’re really making a difference. And they’re happy. Children and animals who probably wouldn’t even otherwise be alive still -- they’re happy and they have a real chance at staying that way.”
“But if I meet with Bruce, if I go back to him, even for just one night, it’s all going to come down around our ears. Everything I’ve worked so hard for is going to be destroyed. I can’t do this alone.”
“You’re not alone, Selina.”
“I know. And I’m thankful for the check, Alfred, and the support. Really I am. But what will he say when he finds out?”
“I have no intention of allowing my ward to find out any time soon. It is a share of my paycheck after all, not his. And when he does find out, I hope, for once in his life, he will think of what is right for the people and right for him and not just by the books.”
Again, she barked out a short, quick laugh. “That’ll be the day! When Bat-- “ She paused and corrected herself, “When Bruce Wayne does anything that is not by the book, that will be the day all of Gotham turns on its ear and dogs eat catnip!”
“Then you might want to stock up on that nip, Miss Kyle,” he said with a wink that really did have her laughing afterward.
After several minutes of genuine, hard laughter, she wiped at her eyes as she leaned back in her chair across from him. “Thank you, Alfred. I needed that -- and this,” she added, indicating her coffee.
He piqued an eyebrow at her. “Really, Miss Kyle? It’s just coffee -- “
“It’s coffee with a friend,” she replied, turning her hand over and entwining her fingers with his, “who believes in me and what I am doing.”
“And I always will, even if Master Bruce never sees reason, although I hope he does. You know, you are the only woman with whom he’s ever been happy.”
She smirked but, at the same time, looked a little guilty.
“What?” he asked, squeezing her hand as if to say, You can tell me.
Her eyes met his again. “He’s the only man,” she said truthfully, “with whom I’ve ever been happy. That’s why I can’t help thinking, Alfred, wondering -- “ She sighed, her graceful shoulder slumping. “Why does it always have to fall apart?”
“We are tested, Miss Kyle, constantly in this life, tested to see if we will do what is right rather than what is wrong but easy, tested to see if we can stay on the side of Good, but each test makes us shine brighter. There was a verse of which Martha Wayne, Bruce’s mother, was especially fond. I heard her quote it often to her husband. I believe it went something like, ‘Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.’”
“It does make me happy,” Selina confessed, ”to see those girls so happy. You know I never realized before I got to know her, but Harls really is just an overgrown kid.” She laughed. “Pam and I feel like the parents of that bunch quite often.”
“You are,” he said, “just as much as Bruce and I are the parents of his brood. You know for a man who has always claimed not to want children, he has accumulated quite a number of them.”
Selina smirked again. “That makes two of us,” she admitted. “I was always happy with my cats before . . . “
“Before you saw how the world was hurting?” he asked.
“Yes,” she admitted, inclining her beautiful head slightly.
“No one ever said it will be easy,” he said, squeezing her hand, “least of all I, but it will be worth it. All these trials and tribulations with which we are faced are preparing us for a better day.”
“You believe in all that Heaven mumbo jumbo talk?”
There was something about Alfred’s intent, quiet gaze, Selina thought, that always seemed to be able to see right through her most cunning deceit and lies, such as right now in this very moment. She sighed and looked down at her other hand that was clutching her coffee cup. He squeezed her hand again, a silent testimony of endless support. “I’ve seen too much,” she answered quietly, “not to believe that there’s something out there, Some One who’s far stronger than all of this. Ivy believes it’s a Goddess, though, not a God.”
His lips twitched into a small smile. “We each have our own beliefs,” he admitted, “and we should each be allowed them, but who is right or wrong, we’ll never know until we die. I do know, however, that there are places that exist beyond this world of living, Miss Kyle. I have never told Master Bruce this, but . . . I have seen the ghosts of his parents quite often visit him, especially when he was younger.”
Selina inclined her head in an accepting nod. “I’ve seen ghosts too,” she answered honestly, “and . . . other things.”
“And when the time comes,” he asked, looking deeply into her emerald green, catlike eyes, “and it is time for us to pay the Reaper as it were, would you not rather have your soul improved and shining from all you have endured rather than to risk a dull spot? He does not give us more than we can handle after all, Miss Kyle; that is a belief held in many religions, not just Christianity.”
Selina sighed, her shoulders slumping again and her eyes falling from his. “I know,” she said. “I just wish He wouldn’t trust us so much.”
“I know, my dear, I know,” he reassured her, patting her hand, “but one day, it will all be worth it.”
Her eyes raised to his again. “Promise?” she asked in a small, almost childlike voice.
Alfred gazed at her, at this beautiful woman she was becoming both inside and out and remembered when she had first come into his life. He had since come to feel almost as protective toward her as he did toward his own charge and all the Robins that had come both before and after. He thought of all the hardships he himself had endured and how he’d watched his charge and his charge’s charges grow and of each time his heart had warmed when he’d watched them succeed in their own battles. “I do,” he answered, knowing that she would share those same feelings every time she saw her girls succeed in both the near and far future.
The waitress returned, clearing her throat to get their attention. Alfred, despite the public display that might, under other circumstances, embarrass him did not remove his hand from Selina’s. Instead he answered the child’s unspoken question, “Yes, we would like another refill, coffee for me and just cream for the lady.”
The waitress quickly and wordlessly supplied his request, then left them alone again. Selina smiled warmly as she met Alfred’s eyes again; he felt that warmth spread from her happy, shining eyes to the deep cockles of his heart. This, he knew, would be another moment to remember over the years to come. “Thank you, Alfred,” she said.
He nodded. “Now drink your cream,” he commanded in a gentle, fatherly tone. He picked up his own cup as he got to his feet. “I have another friend to see.” He felt her inquisitive, thoughtful gaze follow him as he got up and walked away, leaving enough money behind him on their little table to more than pay for their bill.
“Alfred? I didn’t expect to see you here -- “ Bruce started.
“I do like a good cup, Master Wayne,” Alfred returned, “that I don’t have to make myself every now and again.” He smiled and sipped his coffee as he turned back away, subtly checking over the rim of his cup to make certain Selina was gone, which she was, leaving no sign behind her to even mark that she’d been there. Yet he knew he had, and he smiled as he led Bruce into the little establishment that was the latest procurement for Wayne Enterprises.