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Chapter 3

The poodle BeBe began licking paste from Ra’s Al Ghul’s goatee for the 63rd time when the image on the great cluster of monitors froze and began moving backwards. 

“I don’t care what you say, Bat-o-my-heart, you have not watched that tape 63 times out of professional dedication.”

“I have to find out what it means.” 

It means that ratty little dog doesn’t know better than to kiss up to a cadaver, Selina thought but didn’t say.  Or maybe he got dipped one time too many and the pit finally ate his brain.   

DefCon4 meant their date was cancelled again, and Selina had come to the manor to spend some time together.  She accepted that, just as there were hours of less-than-glamorous footwork planning a robbery that might lead to an intense three minute confrontation with Batman, there was a great deal of busywork on this side of the crime game as well.  Nevertheless, it didn’t take a strategic genius to realizerewinding and replaying that videotape over and over—the demon, the hosts and the dog were going to do exactly what they’d done the last 62 times.   

He was enjoying this.  He would never admit it, but the sight of his great enemy—the mighty, the inscrutable, the unspeakably full-of-himself Ra’s Al Ghul—being asked inane questions by silly women, harassed by an idiot dog, and grinning like a morning show dolt who enjoyed it, was being replayed over and over for entertainment value, not for crimefighting insight. 

“It’s ‘cause of Black Canary.”  

Both Bruce and Selina tried to hide their surprise as Dick spoke.  When did he sneak in anyway? 

“You’re spending more time here than in Bludhaven these days,”  Bruce growled.  As always, he made it sound like an accusation. 

“I overheard her and Barbara talking,” Dick said as if Bruce hadn’t spoken.  “Ra’s is trying to impress Black Canary.”

Bruce considered this possibility, then dismissed it. 

“Ra’s is obsessive, he’s consumed with his quest to take over the world.  Guy like that doesn’t compromise the mission for love.”

Selina had one foot up on the worktable, using a batarang to scrape dried cave-slime off her heel. 

“Yes, Dear,” she purred. 

“Selina, have you got a minute,” Dick asked pointedly,  “I need a woman’s perspective on something.”

She looked up quizzically and Bruce put in, “Barbara again.”

Dick hadn’t thought Bruce was paying attention during his previous visit.  When would he learn: Bruce/Batman was always paying attention. 

“Yes,” Dick answered defensively “Me and Barbara again.  And I want a woman’s opinion because you and Tim are both useless, okay.”

Dick told his story for a third time and on this last repetition, he began to see he was overreacting.  What had Babs actually done?  He didn’t like being referred to as “Dickey-the-Dick,” but it was probably said affectionately… The bit about the two of them being a “foregone conclusion” was unfortunate when he was effectively there to propose, but she didn’t know he was there to propose—she didn’t know he was there at all!  He concluded his story with a conciliatory:

“I realize I’m being hypersensitive, but I don’t know, maybe… maybe it’s cause I’m not really ready for this.  It’s a big step.  Don’t you guys think it’s a big step?  I mean, Barbara and I have been… in a certain place, doing things a certain way, for a long time now.  It’s familiar.  It’s comfortable.”

“Familiar and comfortable,” Selina remarked, “There’s a description that’s always a turn on, romantically speaking.”

“Oh come on, you know what I mean.  The relationship’s about to change, and I’m wiggin’.”

Dick looked at Selina—Selina looked at Dick.
Dick looked at Bruce—Bruce looked at Dick. 

“COME ON, GUYS, if you two don’t get it then what’s the point?—Don’t tell me you don’t miss those times—”

Dick looked at Selina—Selina looked at Dick.
Dick looked at Bruce—Bruce looked at Dick.
Bruce and Selina looked at each other.  Then Bruce spoke, in a deadpan monotone:

“That’s not your necklace.”

“Great detective,” came the instantaneous, but equally bored reply

“You’ve gone to far this time; I’m taking you down.”

“Ooh, you’re so HOT when you say that.”

Dick turned to leave as the bored dialogue turned to bored narration. 

“Here comes the whip.”

“Here comes the batarang.”

“Grab the whip.”

“Reel me in.”

On the way out he glanced at the desk and there was another news item:  An R & D lab was reporting the theft of manmade industrial diamonds, and satellite equipment.  Weather + Diamond + Satellite = …Ice Princess.  It couldn’t be. 

“Don’t let go of the handle.”

“I don’t mind getting close.”

“Grab the wrists.”

“Flare the claws.”

It couldn’t be. 

“Kiss me.”

“Act surprised.”

It was a soap opera. 

“Slip in the tongue.”

“Pull away.”

“Judgmental jackass.”

“Amoral bitch.”

“HEY, if you two are done with Masterpiece Theatre,” Dick called over his shoulder, “come look at this.  I know what Ra’s Al Ghul is up to, and you’re absolutely not going to believe it.”


An assault on Ra’s Al Ghul’s headquarters, even if it was a luxury hotel in the heart of Gotham instead of a high-security compound in the middle of the desert, was not a casual undertaking.  The whole of “Team Bat” were on-site, except for Catwoman.  She had provided some additional information about the Gotham Imperial not noted on the blueprints.  She set out with the rest.  But a few blocks before reaching the target, she told them to go on without her, she would meet up with them inside.  She waited for the party to continue east and disappear on the horizon before she turned and headed south. 

Meanwhile, Barbara was brewing her first pot of tea for the evening, a ritual she often observed before logging on as Oracle.  Her mind was full of possibilities for monitoring the battle ahead with Ra’s—she had the frequencies of the Imperial’s private security, and all the area precincts and—CAT!  The sight was so incongruous it stopped her in her tracks.  She nearly tossed the tray—teapot, cup and all.  Catwoman was seated at her workstation with her feet perched neatly on the monitor. 

“You knew he was here.” 

It wasn’t a question or an accusation; it was a statement. 

“No comment,” Barbara said crisply. 

“The batboys aren’t as silent and invisible as they like to think—not with us at least.”

“No comment.”

“Barbara.  If I can tell, you can.”  

“OKAY, ALRIGHT, I KNEW… I … smelled the flowers.”

“Richard thinks he overreacted because he’s nervous as hell about the relationship changing,” the use of the proper name instead of the nickname was conspicuous and it startled Barbara into considering the words more fully.  “What do you think?” Catwoman asked.  This time it was a challenge, and Barbara felt compelled to come up with some sort of reply. 

“I think… I think change can be a scary thing.”

Catwoman nodded.  She could relate.  Her own behavior had been none too courageous when the situation with Batman began to develop beyond what it had been forever.  But Batman was, well, he was Batman—this was Dick they were talking about. 

“Change can be scary,” Barbara repeated. 

“But Dick isn’t scary.”

Barbara smiled at that, then giggled, then laughed openly. 

“No, Dickey’s a teddy bear.”

Catwoman gave a pleased “my work is done here” smile, took a cookie off the tea tray, and prepared to leave and rejoin the others.  But Barbara went on:

“I guess I just panicked at the thought of becoming stale and predictable.”

What a pair! Selina thought.  It wasn’t two hours since Dick called their current rut comfortable and familiar, and now the other half of the sketch was fretting that moving on would make them dull and boring.  She asked Barbara to fetch a second cup for the tea—this was going to take a while.


Draco, 120th Demon guard to be dispatched, hit the floor with rather more force than the previous 119.  Batman was exasperated, and making a point.  He addressed his nemesis across the room as he smashed heads and kicked butts, moving ever closer to his target. 

“Ra’s,”  <crack> 
“Man-to-Man,”  <crunch>
“This isn’t going to work.”  <kick, block, punch>
“It didn’t work for Mikkos Cassadine and it’s not going to work for you!  Let the captives go home! Get out of my town!  And I WON’T tell Black Canary you got your diabolical master plan from General Hospital!”


“So that was it?  He caved?”  Selina was wrapping Bruce’s broken ribs as, in an adjacent niche of the cave medical facility, Alfred tended to Dick and Tim’s minor injuries. 

“He caved,” Bruce pronounced with satisfaction—and then saw to his surprise, he was expected to say more.  Alfred never wanted to hear this stuff.  He swabbed, disinfected, bandaged and taped in disapproving silence.  Selina was disappointed to have missed all the action and wanted to know every detail. 

“He couldn’t lose face in front of his ‘most radiant paragon of transcendent inamorata,’” Bruce explained.

Then he winced as attempts to stifle her laughter caused Selina to tug the end of the bandage. 

“Let me get this straight, he doesn’t want her to know he’s getting ideas from Luke & Laura, because that would be embarrassing—but he’ll say ‘radiant paragon of…’ how did it go?”

Bruce refused to smile but he allowed his mouth a half-twitch as he said “I’m grateful now to have gotten off with a simple ‘beloved.’ Time was I didn’t think it could get worse than that, but evidently it can.”

The jerk Selina gave the bandage on ‘beloved’ might or might not have been another attempt to suppress laughter.  To be safe, Bruce touched her cheek and said:

“Just promise me you’ll never refer to me as your ‘cherished vessel of rapturous bliss.’”

“Pumpkin, I swear, to me you’ll always be ‘judgmental jackass.’”  


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