Tim sat on a cot in the Batcave medical facility as Alfred bandaged the outcome of the latest training session with “big bad Zogger.”
“You’re telling me the two of them worked together on Two-Face, talked him down without throwing a single punch, that the crux of Two-Face’s whole problem was the very Black & White thing Bruce and Selina were fighting about, and they’re still not making it up?”
“I wouldn’t like to be put into the position of gossiping about the Master’s private affairs, young sir,” Alfred answered cautiously. “I can only confirm that the Two-Face situation has been resolved, mercifully, for once, without violence. And that when I asked the master about his plans for your father’s birthday party next week, he replied that, ahem, ‘Bruce Wayne’ would be going stag.”
“Oh hell, if he’s calling himself ‘Bruce Wayne’ like that, that means it’s Bruce the Buffoon that’ll be coming.”
“It is the role he’s most apt to play in Society, Master Timothy.”
“My family’s not ‘Society,’ Alfred, my dad’s self-made. The people he knows are all industrialists and businessmen, not those inbred social register types. He could’ve come as Bruce Wayne, the CEO. My Dad could respect that. Instead he’s going to wonder why I bother knowing a dilettante fop.”
Alfred frowned. He too found this perceived need to sully Bruce Wayne’s reputation at every opportunity to be one of the most distressing aspects of Batman’s activities, but he didn’t like hearing the sentiment from Tim.
“Master Bruce has been living this kind of life a good deal longer than you, young man. You must trust that he knows what’s best.”
The snort of disgust Tim made in reply was more disturbing than the fop remark.
“Like telling Spoiler who I was? Christ, if anybody interfered with his relationships the way he tampered with mine…” Tim stopped and grinned in a way Alfred would have found more disturbing still if he had seen it. But he’d turned away to put the bandages back into the first aid kit.
It was indeed Bruce “the fop” Wayne that entered Jack Drake’s birthday party. It was the fop who bypassed the receiving line and made straight for the bar. It was the fop that leered shamelessly at Bunny Wigglesworth and told the bartender—in a too audible stage whisper—that he’d been waiting out that fourth marriage for years. It was the fop that finally sauntered up to his host and, rather than shaking hands, handed him his scotch—then his handkerchief, cel phone, and wallet while he fished a wrapped gift from his jacket pocket …but it was Bruce, the real Bruce, who felt Batman’s sixth sense stir the hairs on the back of his neck… his performance was being watched too closely.
Jack Drake was saying something about “another friend of my son’s” escorting his brother tonight. Drake’s brother, Tim’s Uncle Derek, was a well-known travel writer who dabbled in breeding very fast horses and racing very fast cars. He was a glamorous figure; certainly he didn’t need fixed up with some friend of…
Tim materialized, Alfred-like, next to his father’s wheelchair and deftly helped him juggle the contents of Bruce’s jacket pocket. While Tim tried to hand back the items, Bruce managed to dislodge and drop the battery off the cel phone. Then bending to pick it up, he spilled the drink on his shoe and, startled by the spill, dropped the phone and the wallet.
The sixth sense quivered again, and Bruce turned.
Across the room, entering on Derek Drake’s arm, was Selina Kyle. She was breathtaking in a plunging evening gown of intense purple that set off her dark features. And she was looking at him like he was the world’s biggest idiot. Tim handed him his wallet and the boy’s eyes said it all: Spoiler. Zogger. Payback.
Bruce “the inbred idiot Fop” had a difficult evening after that.
During cocktails, his peripheral vision caught a glimpse of intense purple… and he missed a chance to confuse Paris, the character from Greek mythology, with Paris, the capital of France.
Later he heard a familiar silvery laugh—and understood Ingmar Bergman to be the famous Swedish director and not the blonde actress from Casablanca.
Taking Bunny Wigglesworth in to dinner, he caught a whiff of Selina’s perfume—she and Derek were walking directly behind them. Rather than the tasteless joke he’d prepared about Bunny’s rumored divorce, he heard himself saying “I’m so sorry about you and Chester. Don’t give up hope, sometimes these things aren’t as permanent as they seem.”
At dinner, he sat across from her and saw she was wearing one of the cat pins he’d given her. What did that mean? Could it be a sign she was willing to make up, or did it mean she’s there as Catwoman? Maybe it meant nothing at all; she might not have even known he’d be there. She might consider it just another piece of jewelry.
So preoccupied was he with these questions, he absentmindedly made several intelligent comments about the NASDAQ, the first hundred days of the Luthor Presidency, and the new conductor at the Philharmonic.
When the band arrived, instead of loudly requesting a medley of Abba’s greatest hits, he glanced in Selina’s direction, discreetly slipped the leader a fifty and whispered: “I believe the lady likes Cole Porter.”
Bruce the Fop was a playboy and a rake. Selina was the most stunningly beautiful woman in the room, and there was nothing to stop him from brazenly cutting in on another man’s date. But it was still an awkward moment as he took her hand…
“Do you know why I love you?” she once said, “Because you suck at the candlelight and violins as much as I do…. It’s the most adorable thing in the world that you put on that ridiculous playboy character just to give me a romantic evening.”
“Kitten,” he thought, “how did we ever get here from there?”
“Sneaky and manipulative,” came the answer, “using me… medieval notions of right and wrong.”
Ah yes, that was it, wasn’t it.
“You had a fight,” Dick had said. “Now you know what one is. You fought, you make up. It’s not the end of the world”
What did Dick know anyway?
“I went to see Harvey the other day,” Selina whispered while they danced.
“How’s he doing?”
“Surprisingly well. It turns out this new doctor at Arkham actually knows something about Asian philosophy. Showed him the Yin-Yang symbol—pointing out that inside the white half there’s a circle of black and inside the black…”
“…there’s a dot of white. I’ll be damned, there is, isn’t there?”
“So he’s happy now, he has a neat two-sided image to view life through again.”
They danced in silence for a moment before she asked:
“Did you mean what you told him, about color & light?”
“What I told him is true, if that’s what you mean. Physical science isn’t something you believe in or not, it just is.”
“Hm. I just wondered because—for someone who takes it so personally, for whom right and wrong aren’t abstract philosophical concepts—the analogy seemed very… philosophical and abstract.”
More silence before she went on.
“Tim says that if we were really fighting about the black and white thing, we should’ve made it up after the Two-Face episode. He says the fact that we haven’t means we were fighting for another reason. He thinks we were bored after the first pent up passion died down and had a fight because, well, we were never bored in those days.”
“Tim said that?”
“Tim is an idiot.”
Selina laughed at this pronouncement and they danced for another moment. This time it was Bruce who broke the silence.
“Dick says, you’ll love this: we don’t know how to behave like a couple and took a perfectly normal squabble and prodded & pulled at it until it became Batman and Catwoman on a rooftop.”
“Dick said that?”
“Dick is an idiot.”
“Dick is right,” Bruce pronounced. “He’s right. I don’t have the luxury of deceiving myself about my actions the way ordinary people can. Dick is right. There was a moment that night, I could have been a guy whose girlfriend was giving him a bad time. And I could have calmly and rationally said that I wasn’t trying to use you, I was asking for your help. And instead I spouted platitudes about right and wrong that didn’t really have anything to do with—”
“And I could’ve given you a knowing smile and said ‘don’t try to handle me’ or ‘you’re so cute when you’re stupid’ instead of ‘cold-hearted bastard.’”
“It was ‘sneaky and manipulative’ that hurt.”
“You are sneaky and manipulative. You’ll do whatever’s necessary to accomplish your ends, and go straight for the jugular if anyone challenges you. That’s what’s kept you alive. It makes you You. It makes you dangerous.”
The last word was hungry. And it was spoken by Catwoman.
Bruce pulled back to look into her eyes… he saw desire, affection, acceptance, and invitation…
“Did we just make up?”
“Well,” the voice too was full of desire and invitation, “maybe we could keep the feud going for just a few more hours… There’s an emerald in Tiffany’s window I wouldn’t mind having a go at.”/p>
©2001, Chris Dee