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It’s getting harder to tell where Batman stops and Bruce begins.  Or maybe it’s the other way around. 

The others tell me I’m naïve about Batman.  That he’s sneakier and more manipulative than I give him credit for.  I’ve always chalked this up to my fellow rogues being idiots.  I mean, at the time I could always read his thoughts like a book:  His mouth said “You’re a thief and I’m taking you down” his eyes said “Run away now or I can’t stop myself from kissing you.”

It turns out not all his thoughts are as easy to read as that particular one. He was hurting last night; I could see that. But that’s all I could see. 

The Watchtower was awkward.  He only asked me there to avoid coming clean about the other thing—when it finally came out what was really bothering him, my supposed friendship with the other rogues, it set up a weird point/counterpoint:  I had my ties to the rogues just like he had ties to the JLA.  

I thought it made a good parallel and I said so.  “Just because you work with these people doesn’t mean you’re all friends, does it?”  I knew damn well it didn’t.  I’d seen enough of the JLA to realize he scares the crap out of them.  His mind games with the Joker are nothing compared to the number he’s doing on Green Lantern.  

I knew they weren’t all friends.  But I didn’t know how vicious it had gotten. I can’t say I was surprised to hear about the protocols.  Batman is hell on wheels when he thinks he’s right and you’re wrong—which would be all of the time.  And personal considerations will buy you exactly nothing (well, almost nothing) in those situations.  Nobody knows that better than I do.

If one of the heroes turned, no friendships, no years spent on the same team, would make a bit of difference. He’d do what he had to. Rather than wrestle with it in the middle of a crisis, he planned ahead. Perfectly in character.  Perfectly understandable to anybody that knows him. How odd that these people who thought they had such a bond, didn’t grasp something so obvious.

He says I understand because we’re alike in that respect…. After all, he was my enemy as much as I was his, and Catwoman never let her feelings for him stop her from doing whatever I pleased.

They tell me I’m naïve about Batman. He’s manipulative, unprincipled, and untrustworthy….

It’s amazing, the dayshift we relieved at the Watchtower pulled me aside and said there’s something I should know if I’d be working with Batman.  What would they say, these self-important pinnacles of justice and heroism, if they knew they were telling me exactly the same things the rogues say about him: I’m naïve; he’s manipulative, unprincipled, and untrustworthy.

It’s possible I’m being played.  

It’s possible he planned the whole scene at my apartment to set up the rogues/JLA parallel in my mind, then told me about the history with the protocols and planted the suggestion of how alike we were… all to get to that one moment—just to ask that half-joking question:

“Do you have any protocols, Kitten?”

It was so light and off-hand, the voice and manner that charms every socialite on the Upper East Side…. But he wasn’t gossiping about Bunny Wigglesworth’s fourth divorce; he was asking if I’d hand him plans to take down the rogues.

“Okay, not protocols,” he went on, “but you know, inside information that might help take one of them down?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No.”

“You’re serious?”

“Does it strike you as something I would joke about?”

“No.”

“See.”

“But you’re not generally inclined to joke about anything at all.”

“But if I were, this wouldn’t be it.”

“Right.”

“So do you or don’t you have protocols? ‘Cause if you do, I’m just saying I’d really like to see them.”

…It’s really getting harder to tell where Bruce stops and Batman begins.

To be continued...

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