Batman: Bruce Wayne: Missing and Presumed Dead, Book 1, Chapter 1: All My Love

by Immortalwildcat

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“Bruce, it seems like you just got back from a case, and you spent half of last month in Europe. (*) Do you really need to go jetting off again so soon?

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Fleur-de-Lis: Tangled Webs and The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Godiva: The Terror of London.]

Bruce Wayne stopped on his way to the bathroom and turned back toward the bed. The silk sheet did little to conceal the graceful curves of Silver St. Cloud’s body. It’s hard enough to leave her for just a minute, much less days at a time, he thought as he looked at her. “It’s only for two nights. The federal government may have approved drilling in the far tundra, but there’s opposition from some of the local Inuit clans as well as environmental groups. I need to go out there and put the best face possible on this deal.”

Silver sat up on the bed and stretched, arms reaching toward the ceiling as the sheet fell away from her upper body. “I’d offer to come along and keep you warm, but my company has its first big event since the disaster at the Wayne Foundation a couple months ago. (*) I’ve got to be on hand to make sure everything is perfect for Mayor Skowcroft’s campaign kickoff.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman: Double Elimination, Book 2: Justice.]

Bruce stepped back to the bed, leaned down, and kissed her. “I know, dear. Never fear, I’ll be back on Friday afternoon in time to help him start his year-long re-election.” He resisted the temptation to climb back into bed and instead strode off to the shower.

***

“I have every confidence in his ability to handle this deal, Lucius. The matter is decided.”

Lucius Fox took off his glasses and wiped them with his handkerchief. “Bruce, I have no doubt that Dick can handle it, either. I’m just thinking about the stockholders. How does it look to have your former ward, who took off to run a private investigation business for four years, suddenly come back and be put in charge of one of the largest development projects to hit Gotham in twenty years?”

“It looks like the man who I raised to be the heir to my business empire has returned from finding himself to take his rightful place.” Bruce shrugged, his hands held out to either side, palms up. “After all, that’s what’s happened here.”

“Would you mind repeating that so I can write it down? I may need that during the next stockholders meeting.” Lucius picked up a folder. “I’ve got the itinerary for this Alaska trip. You fly into Fairbanks and meet with the folks from WildPeace tomorrow night, then the following morning you go up to meet with the Inkota clan. Their current settlement is close to the proposed substation site. They’ve been pretty favorable, but WildPeace and the Green World Fund have been working on them. Some of the clan members may give you a hard time. From there, you fly down to Seattle for dinner with Robert Fence to discuss a software contract with Macroware, then fly back to Gotham on Friday.”

“I think I can handle it, old friend.” Bruce rose and reached for the folder. “Matt has a copy of this, right?”

“Of course. If I can’t be there, Matt Walsh is the one I want there with you. He’s been working this oil project from day one.” The phone rang, and Lucius reached for it. Bruce rose and gave him a small wave, taking the folder with him. Lucius covered the mouthpiece with his hand. “Have a safe trip, Bruce,” he whispered before returning to the call.

***

Shortly after sunset, the air over Wayne Manor was briefly stirred by a pair of blue-and-red-clad figures. Leaves swirled in their aftermath as they touched down in a small cluster of trees near the front of the estate. A moment later, a tall, broad-shouldered man in dark blue trousers and white button-down shirt, and a slender, red-haired woman in a knee-length dress in a swirling red and blue silk, emerged and strolled hand-in-hand up to the front door of the mansion. There, they found the owner of the stately home waiting for them in a black turtleneck and gray blazer.

“Right on time as usual. Kristin, a pleasure to see you again.” Bruce reached out to take Kristin Wells’ hands in his own for a moment.

“I must say, Bruce, nothing I’ve seen so far in this era prepared me for the size of your home. This is simply magnificent!” Both men chuckled as her gaze took in the front of the massive home.

“I assure you, it doesn’t seem as large on the inside. Unless, of course, you insist on seeing the whole thing.”

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the whole thing, Bruce,” replied Clark Kent with a wry grin.

“Actually, old friend, I’m not even sure I’ve seen every room.” As Kristin stared, Bruce added, “Not since we remodeled the north wing, at least.”

“Bruce, are you going to keep them waiting outside all evening?” They turned to find Silver St. Cloud, in a flowing sheath of black silk, in the open doorway. “Come on in, Clark, and introduce me.”

“Of course.” Clark gestured first to one woman, then the next. “Kristin Wells, Silver St. Cloud. Silver, Kristin.”

“Ever the smooth one, Clark,” joked Bruce, slapping the broader man across the back. “Ladies, how about we all get better acquainted over a drink in the library.” Reaching out to take a lady on either arm, Gotham’s best-known billionaire guided them into the house, leaving the reporter from Metropolis standing flustered on the verandah.

Two hours later, the two couples were settled into chairs around a patio fireplace on a terrace overlooking the gardens of Wayne Manor.

“You know, Bruce, when Clark said we were coming over for dinner, I was expecting a fancy affair — formal dining room, fine china, the whole Ronald Bridge thing.” Kristin reached for a long-handled fork and speared a marshmallow on the end. “Somehow, I wasn’t expecting meat loaf and mashed potatoes around the kitchen table.”

“I learned a long time ago that Clark isn’t comfortable with the lifestyle of the rich and extravagant.” Bruce tore open a chocolate bar and started breaking it apart. “That, and I can’t stand shouting down the length of that big dining room table to talk with friends.”

“Speaking of talking with friends, we have a bit of news to share with you.” Clark tossed a marshmallow in the air and watched it arc through the air, smoke starting to rise from the soft white pillow as its edges turned a warm, toasted brown. As if from thin air, a graham cracker and a square of chocolate appeared in the big man’s hand as he caught the marshmallow. “We’ve, uh, that is, we’re going to–“

“What the ever-erudite reporter is trying to say is,” interjected Kristin, “is that we’re engaged to be married.”

Engaged? That’s great!” Bruce stood and clasped Clark’s hand with one hand and wrapped his other arm around Kristin. “I expected it sooner or later.”

“When’s the wedding? Have you made any plans yet?” Silver sat forward in her chair, reaching for Kristin’s hands. “I have a friend in Metropolis who owns a marvelous little reception hall, and he owes me a favor or two.”

“I haven’t even started to think about it. In my own time, marriage is a legal arrangement with no big ceremony.” Kristin looked over at Clark. “And by Kryptonian custom, we’re already married, right, dear?”

“The moment we professed our love before Rao, darling,” said Clark. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman: All Mxyed Up, Epilogue: Will You Marry Me?]

Bruce chuckled as the ladies got up and walked into the house. “First Ollie and Dinah, now you and Kristin. And I expect to hear something from Hal and Carol soon.” Bruce paused to take a bite of the gooey concoction in his hand. “A man could go broke buying wedding presents.”

“Oh, Bruce, you don’t need to — heyyy!” Clark’s face split in a broad grin. “Now, the big question is — when are you and Silver going to follow suit?”

Bruce reached down inside of his turtleneck and pulled out a black leather cord, on which a jeweled gold ring glittered. “I’ve been giving that a lot of thought lately, Clark.” He held the ring in between his thumb and forefinger and stared at it. “All my love, until the day we die. It took a lot of skill to engrave that in this ring, along with both of their names. That love did last up until the night they were killed. They were walking hand in hand, like a pair of newlyweds, when we left the theater that night. They set a high standard in relationships.”

“Don’t hold out for a relationship like your parents had, Bruce. If I did that, I would be looking for a sturdy farm woman who was prepared work hand in hand with me in everything I do. I doubt I’d ever find someone like that for Clark, much less for Superman.”

“You know, it’s bad enough when you talk about either of your identities in third person, but it’s positively unnerving when you speak of both of them that way in the same sentence. And, no, I’m not holding out for a society woman with all the proper schooling and a humanitarian spirit. Silver is a self-made woman who turned a small Philadelphia catering business into a major event-planning organization. She can drop all the glamorous trappings and roll around in a sandbox with her nephew, and she can trip up both Nightwing and Robin with a walking stick, things that my mother, God bless her soul, could never bring herself to do.”

“So, what you’re saying is–?”

“I get back into Gotham on Friday, and she is organizing a fundraiser for Mayor Skowcroft that evening. Afterwards, I have reservations for a midnight dinner at Gotham on the Green in their solarium overlooking the park. The full moon will be at its peak overhead at about 12:45, and the lights in the solarium will go out for five minutes. And under the light of that full moon…”

“And to think the others in the League think you’re unromantic! I’ll keep it under my hat, Bruce.”

“I know you will, Clark.”

***

All over Gotham City, clocks were chiming ten o’clock as a solitary young man looked out over the city that was once again home. Dappled light from the rooftop swimming pool played over the skintight dark blue costume he wore. He stood at the edge of the roof, noting for the umpteenth time the changes in the city since his days of swinging over the city in shorts and a yellow cape.

“Penny for your thoughts, Boy Wonder?” Nightwing turned and smiled at the black-clad woman alighting on the rooftop in front of the French doors leading into the penthouse.

“You know, you’re just about the only one who dares to call me that.” Before he could step away from the edge, she jumped up to grab a string of deceptively fragile-looking lights and swung herself up and over the pool to land beside him.

“Yeah, me and Speedy, right?” Batwoman said, grinning. “Figured you could use a little lightening up; you were looking too serious.”

Shouldn’t I be? This isn’t the old days when I was the dutiful ward and the wisecracking sidekick. Bruce has me in charge of redeveloping a major piece of downtown Gotham, and now he’s got me taking over his patrols while he’s out of town.”

“That’s no big deal. You’ve patrolled Gotham solo for years, and you spent all those years in New York with the Titans. What’s the problem?

“Oh, I think I’m just stressing a little over the day job. Demolition work is starting down on Park Row this week, and with Bruce leaving town, I guess I’m feeling like I’m working without a net for the first time ever in the business end of things.”

Batwoman peeled the mask back from her face and looked into the eyes of the younger man. “Dick, you were working without a net when you were seven years old. You’ve maneuvered death traps and Congressional red tape with the kind of ease that others walk through their living room. What is it about this deal that’s got you so spooked?”

“It’s his kind of deal, Babs, not mine.” Nightwing reached up and pulled away the adhesive-backed mask that covered the upper part of his face. “I mean, I know Bruce has always had it in the back of his head that I would take over for him as Batman someday, but these past two months are the first time I’ve ever felt that he wants me to take over his business as well. And I’m just not sure if it’s what I want to do with my life.”

“Right, and that’s why you torpedoed that attorney from Ryder Holdings and his suit claiming ownership of the land where the Broome Center stands.” She pulled the dark blue cowl back up over her flowing red hair. “So, what do you think? Ready to swing from a few ropes and beat up a few muggers?”

Nightwing pulled a tiny canister from his belt and sprayed his mask. “Couldn’t hurt. By the way, I put a roast in the oven; should be done around two o’clock. Stick around for a late dinner?” He pressed the mask back into place and tucked the canister back in his belt.

“Why, are you asking me on a date, Mr. Grayson?”

“Well, um, that is–“

“Because I’m accepting on one condition.”

“Condition?”

“Yeah. You let me cook breakfast.”

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