Meanwhile, inside Bruce’s head…
Batman had always considered Catwoman “the sane one” among his enemies. She was a thief; she stole for profit. She didn’t try to copyright fish, wipe out humanity so the plants could rule, or kill off all her henchmen just because it’s Thursday. He had always thought she was sane, until she started sleeping over and he heard her talking to her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She claimed it was very therapeutic and he should try it sometime. That it would ”loosen him up” and make him ”more human.”
Bruce Wayne stood at his shaving mirror, stared at it for a minute, then another minute, then another.
This was just too ridiculous. He shaved and brushed his teeth in silence, as always.
Next day as Batman, returning from patrol, he glanced at the rearview mirror for a split-second longer than necessary after cutting the Batmobile engine. What would anybody have to say to their reflection? It made no sense. It must be a girl thing. Or maybe a cat thing. He found himself saying that a lot lately. Despite the playboy persona, Selina was his first true girlfriend: the only woman he’d really let into his life, all of his life, in an intimate way. Without any similar relationship for comparison, he was becoming increasingly unsure just what in her behavior was typical girlfriend banter and what was uniquely… feline.
Next day in his study that question still bothered him. He hated the idea of talking to someone about it. He hated displaying any uncertainty that could be seen as weakness. Besides, who would he ask?
Alfred was a bachelor.
Christ, he had given Dick such a wonderful role model, hadn’t he: feckless playboy/monosyllabic avenger with a thing for bad girls. No wonder the poor kid had such a problem closing the deal with Barbara.
Clark had very limited (admirable but limited) Smallville notions about the relations between men and women…. Besides which, there was no power on earth that would make him repeat Selina’s words about loosening up and making him more human. They were the same things Clark himself had said on a number of occasions, and Bruce was too smart not to realize: when CATWOMAN and SUPERMAN triangulate on the same aspect of your personality, you can be pretty damn sure it’s really there.
Bruce glanced up from his desk and saw the answer: the person he really needed to talk to, the man he could absolutely trust with the deepest fears in his soul, a man who had enjoyed a happy, loving marriage for 20-plus years… was his father.
The portrait of his parents that hung over the fireplace looked down benevolently—but it was the wrong image. He wanted—insane as it sounded—he wanted to talk to his father alone, outside the presence of his mother. He took an old photo in a silver frame off a side table and set it directly in front of him on the desk. He addressed it more or less the same way he’d heard Selina talking to the mirror:
“I need some advice, Dad. I’ve got girl trouble.”
In his mind’s eye, he could see his father reacting as Alfred would: mock concern unable to hide a pleased smile. And in his mind’s ear, he could imagine the response:
“Well it’s about time, Bruce. Your mother and I were starting to worry that those… ‘bimbos’ I think you call them, were going to sour you on the benefits of a real, loving relationship with a woman. And incidentally, son, ‘bimbo’ is not a proper way to refer to any young woman. Not everyone has had the advantages you’ve been given, and certainly not everyone is gifted with the intelligence you have, but you still treat them with respect.”
“Alright then. We’ve been meaning to speak to you about that for a while now. Your mother’d kill me if she thought I had this talk with you and didn’t say something.”
“Of course she would, where do you think you got that tendency to obsess over injustice night and day until it’s corrected? That’s your mother. Also your temper. The detective skills, those are mine. Medical diagnosis is mostly about watching and listening and drawing conclusions. Don’t tell me you didn’t know that…”
“I remember, Dad. You told me that before he became a writer, Arthur Conan Doyle had studied medicine, and that Sherlock Holmes’s methods were based on those of his professors in med school.”
“Good lad. I didn’t know you were paying attention that day. I guess you couldn’t be hearing me say any of this if you didn’t already know.”
“I guess. Look Dad, here’s the thing: Selina, she’s got a temper too. We seem to set each other off. I don’t know, maybe it’s force of habit, we were fighting a long time.”
“Son. It’s passion. It’s a good thing, trust me on this. Raising their voices, it means they care. If you can upset her that much, it’s a sign that she’s wild about you.”
“So you think it’s not just a cat-thing?”
“Dad, Selina is Catwoman; I’m Batman. We were enemies for a lot of years. If I had a nickel for every time I said I’d take her down, and she tried to flay me with that whip while I tried to get the cuffs on her…”
Bruce stopped as his imagination caught up with the words he was speaking, and he envisioned his conservative, middle-aged father’s reaction to this evocative imagery.
“It’s not as kinky as it sounds,” Bruce lied.
Wayne Sr. didn’t seem to have a response, so Bruce went on talking.
“We were just… on opposite sides for a long time… and we fell for each other anyway. And… I guess maybe she feels that’s part of what I like and if she doesn’t go off at me regularly, I’ll lose interest.”
My god, that made sense!
He hadn’t really seen the logic of it until he heard the words coming out of his mouth. Selina had seemed so totally on top of things at every turn, he hadn’t fully appreciated that she was, after all, human. Subject to all the same insecurities as everybody else.
“Just like you come on like gangbusters in the JLA,” his father put in, “overcompensating to mask your humanity in the face of so many meta-humans.”
“Dad, I’m such an idiot. Every real blow-up we’ve had has been about Talia. She said—God, I’m an idiot—I said I’m really stupid about letting bad girls into my life. Then she said… she said ‘If you think I’m threatened by that little—’ I forget now, but she had it all prepared. She’d been waiting for me to make the comparison. Of course she’s threatened. Christ, if even the smallest part of her thought it was just about ‘bad girls’—how could she not be insecure? Let’s face it, morally speaking, Talia makes Catwoman look like Marsha Brady…. I’ve been a real schmuck, Dad. And I need to make it right.”
Wayne Sr. smiled. “There are advantages to being a rich man, Bruce. Not as many as people think, but a few. You owe her a thank you, right?”
“You told her you got her something, but you haven’t yet, have you.”
Bruce looked ashamed.
“I had to say something to break the ice. So I made it into a challenge. She likes that. And I figured that’d give me time to come up with something… appropriate.”
“Get her a really spectacular piece of jewelry.”
Bruce gave a nobody-understands-my-problems look of mock self-pity.
“It’s Catwoman that has a thing for jewelry, Dad, I’ve got to make it up to Selina.”
“Don’t be impertinent, Bruce; I’m an older and wiser man and I’m giving you good advice. They all like jewelry.”
Meanwhile inside Selina’s Head…
The inevitable aftermath of a wild night of drinking is the hangover. The inevitable aftermath of “the season” of society parties is the letdown when it’s over and everyone leaves town for the summer. And the little-known result of being a costumed vigilante is the hollowing lull after a period of excitement concludes. Oh it’s great that the baddies are all behind bars for a while and innocent people aren’t in danger. But there’s no denying that a restlessness sets in when you’re used to living in an adrenaline-fog 24/7 and suddenly find yourself at your desk catching up on e-mail. It’s tedious. Even heroes without guilt issues wind up feeling bad that they’re disappointed by the lack of crime and catastrophe.
Selina didn’t know this. As often as Catwoman had worked with the good guys, she didn’t consider it her vocation. She’d always picked her battles. She’d always made her own fun. She’d known Desire, Rage, Exultation, Indignation, Disgust, Frustration, and Desperation. But Boredom? That was a new one.
The whole episode with LexCorp and Wayne Enterprises security made an invigorating challenge, but it stirred up complex emotions. Selina just hated dealing with her emotions. Getting into costume and kicking some butt the night Harley, Ivy and the Joker invaded the Foundation Gala made a wonderful release. Then morning came—and afternoon. The letdown was palpable. It was one of those days that looked like rain, but didn’t.
Ulgh. Summer humidity was a killer.
She attempted a physical workout, the favored therapy of the mask and spandex crowd that shrug off gunfire, ninjas, and supernatural beasties but avoid introspection like the kiss of death. Intense physical exertion was a great way to force all those complicated doubts and conflicts out of one’s mind. It was about reducing yourself to that primal core of your monkey brain where everything was instinctive and simple…. when it worked. But it was so miserably humid, Selina found she couldn’t perspire properly. Actually she could perspire just fine, but the sweat wouldn’t evaporate in the moisture-heavy air.
There is no sublime fight-or-flight simplicity in feeling like a sticky mass of cotton candy wadded-up in a smelly sweatsock.
“What a vision you are, Thief,” said a hard voice made harder with sarcasm, “I can see why my beloved amuses himself with you until we can be together.”
To be continued...