Selina didn't care for parties. Too many people. She cared even less for Gotham. She'd have just as gladly never come back.
Yet here she was, at a party in Gotham.
Bruce Wayne kept nothing she wanted, nothing that wasn't his. And the cats liked him. They were good judges of character. Some part of her was glad.
She'd left the ballroom when she'd decided it wouldn't get better. She may have been a little overwhelmed. Too many people, too tempting to claw some of their faces off. Unpleasant smiles, looking at her like a potential pet. She was as wealthy as they were, but one wouldn't know it from the way they looked at her.
Wayne Manor had cats like some places had mice. They lived in the woods along the mountain, some descended from generations of ferals and others abandoned by idiots. Out in the garden and under the moonlight, they wound themselves around her legs and stretched out in the grass.
That one is coming, they said, but they were neither threatened nor excited. She turned her head. Bruce Wayne, remaining at a distance in the dark. He was the first to break the silence.
"That's a lot of cats."
Selina looked down at the clowder around her feet. "Cats like me."
"They must." He wasn't trying to come closer.
"Am I not supposed to be out here?" she asked.
"There's no rule against it. You okay?"
"I just needed some air."
"Okay." His hands were in his pockets, his expression indecipherable. Would she even have been able to see his face, with someone else's eyes? Would he have tried to look nicer, if he'd known she could see him? At worst he looked apathetic, or quietly inconvenienced. Not hungry. "Miss Kyle, right?"
"You were studying abroad, weren't you?"
"After a fashion." Dropout, runaway. He remembered, at least a little. Maybe that explained the distant kindness. Recognition, pity.
"I didn't mean to corner you out here." She could not have been less cornered. "Just wanted to make sure nothing was wrong." He adjusted his weight like he was planning to go.
"You don't have to leave."
Bruce stopped. Selina hadn't actually asked him to stay. "Alright," he said after a moment. Didn't ask questions, still didn't try to come closer.
That one is nice, they said, an I-told-you-so. A cat's definition of nice, letting interaction happen on their own terms. A scrawny tortoiseshell wandered away from the others to rub against Bruce's leg; he didn't seem to mind.
"Cats like you, too," she pointed out.
"Sometimes." The tortoiseshell meowed, meaningless noise to get Bruce's attention. He scooped it up almost absently, and it went limp on his arm as he scratched its head.
Selina stepped closer. He did nothing. "I don't think we've ever actually met," she said.
"We haven't," he confirmed. "Should I have introduced myself?"
"I know who you are." Bruce Wayne, such a shame, such lovely people, that poor boy, so unfortunate what happened.
There's never enough time. You got even less. Don't make yourself smile. Let it hurt. It might get better, but it might not. There is no good advice. Yours, Bruce Wayne.
"Why are you still here?" she asked.
"I live here," he pointed out, deliberately obtuse.
"You don't have to."
"It's home." The tortoiseshell held against his chest was purring like an engine. "Besides. What if someone bought the place who didn't like cats?" He might have been joking.
At some point she'd closed the gap between them. She shouldn't have. Fine as long as she didn't smile. She reached out and took the cat from him; he and the cat both let her. "I hate it here." She didn't owe him an explanation. Recognition, pity. Maybe she felt it, too.
"So why come back?"
"I won't be here long. Just picking up some things." She knelt to set the cat back in the grass; it rolled onto its back, but she left it there as she stood.
"I'm glad you made time to stop by, then." He might have meant it. That didn't mean anything.
She wrapped her arms around herself against the chill. "I still have your letter."
A suggestion of surprise. "Do you?"
Two worn-out pages of immaculate handwriting in a tattered envelope, three years and thousands of miles, tucked safely into her suitcase. "It was nice. Is nice."
"I tried. Are you cold?"
"I'm fine." A slinky dress in purple, it wasn't designed to be comfortable. Despite what she'd said, he unbuttoned the jacket of his tux. He offered it to her rather than try to put it around her shoulders.
"I can get myself another one," he said when she hesitated. "I live here. I have a lot of them."
She took it gently from his fingers, slid her arms into the sleeves. It was still warm, almost hot compared to the night air.
Claimed, they accused, because she'd wrapped herself in the smell of him and to them that meant something. She didn't pull it close. It didn't mean anything.
"Least I can do to make your stay in my city less loathsome."
"Your city," she repeated.
"It's home," he said again. "Where are you planning to go?"
"Anywhere. Everywhere. Have you ever been to Teotihuacan?"
"Can't say that I have."
"If you decide to go, you should call me," she said, a smile without teeth. "I can show you all the good stuff."
"I'll keep it in mind," he said, though he didn't ask for a way to contact her and she didn't offer. "Ready to come back in?"
"I think I'll wait another minute," she said, "and then I'll head out, actually. Sorry."
"Alright," he said, understanding or ambivalent but distant either way.
"Before you go inside, there was something I wanted to tell you."
She opened her mouth, shut it again with a silent huff of breath, averted her face to look down at lurking cats. He cocked his head to the side to try and see her face, brought it closer to hers in the process. Her chance to pounce. Balanced on her toes in heels, fingers splayed through his hair to pull him down, claim his mouth before he could realize what was happening and stop her.
The plan was to get it done quick, so Bruce wouldn't have a chance to push her away. She didn't want him to push her away. But she wanted to savor it, too, memorize every little detail to keep. The hint of stubble along his jaw, the smell of him. It reminded her of black tea in Paris, despite smelling like neither of those things. The muffled sound he made against her tongue, how rough his hands felt against her shoulders.
She needed to stop before he noticed her teeth. Before he pushed her away.
Selina almost let him go, took her lips from his and let her heels fall to the ground. But her hands lingered along his shoulders. Gentle confusion and not anger in his eyes, not disgust and not desire. She was grateful for that.
"You didn't even know me and you didn't need to say anything," she explained, "but you were the nicest. You were nice when you didn't need to be. That's why I came, tonight. I wanted to thank you in person."
She didn't want Bruce to look sad, but she didn't hold it against him. "I hope you've met nicer people since then."
"Nice," she said, "but not nicer."
He kissed her again, too gentle to be doing it for anyone but her. Sweetness, softness, affection offered because it cost him nothing to do so. She tried not to compare herself to the tortoiseshell. Part of her wished that he would mean it. That it didn't matter that he thought he'd never see her again.
Then he pulled away, and with a bittersweet not-smile stepped backward toward the door. "See you in Teotihuacan, Miss Kyle."
He even got the accent right.
"It's a date," she murmured to no one but the cats. When she was alone in the dark, she pulled his jacket tighter around herself, buried her nose in it.
Bruce Wayne was never going to see this jacket again.