OK, I’ve been an idiot.
Talia is a bitter psychopathic witch, I know that. I’ve said it to Bruce; I’ve said it to her; I’ve said it to Whiskers and Nutmeg, my bathroom mirror and my luffa sponge.
And still I let her get under my skin with her insane delusional rantings.
I apologize for nothing I ever did as Catwoman—except for that one night.
After the witch showed up in my bathroom, I gave in to the little formless fears.
I let her make me doubt.
I put on the suit and went to Wayne Manor as Catwoman, that’s who he wanted afterall. The bad girl. A conquest. Catwoman. Not me, not the real me that lives somewhere between Selina and the Cat. So I broke into Wayne Manor and I opened his private safe because I could. I don’t know what I was thinking, and I certainly don’t know what I expected to find… but I didn’t expect a greeting card.
Yet there it was: One lavender envelope addressed to “Kitten,” one perfect dried rose, one exquisite cat pin covered in diamonds and onyx with two emerald eyes.
My Thank You. I’d forgotten completely.
I opened the card, half-expecting something sappy and out of character, but instead found the words:
Took you long enough.
I was beginning to think you’d lost your touch
We had a dinnerdate two days later, so of course I wore the pin. Alfred noticed the minute he opened the door and commented as he took my wrap on the lucky coincidence of its having green eyes. Oddly enough that detail hadn’t sunk in, and I blushed a little. That was embarrassing; I haven’t blushed since I was 15. But Alfred looked so pleased that he could make a woman blush at his age, I guess it’s okay.
I met Bruce in the garden, gave him a special kiss in thanks for the pin and… it’s the damnedest thing, I don’t know if it was Bruce or Batman kissing back. At first it was so easy to tell them apart, but lately…. Maybe I am losing my touch.
Dinner was slightly awkward at first. Intimate table for two in a perfect honeysuckle-scented garden, with candlelight glistening off the crystal and an invisible butler whisking plates and filling wineglasses… terribly romantic. And the regular world’s version of romance is not something either of us has ever done well. At least it’s something I’ve never done well. I had thought he was none too good at it either, except tonight he was doing it perfectly. He was so smooth and charming and at home with all these movieset seduction props. This wasn’t my Bruce; this wasn’t ‘the guy inside Batman’ and it sure-shit wasn’t Batman…
Then I got it: THIS was the playboy routine he gives the bimbos.
I would love to say I played along and took up my role in the scene he’d set up, then realized playing a part on a date—even with him, even for fun—wasn’t my style and brought the episode to an end with some magnificent bit of wise & sexy bravado. I would love to say that, and I’m sure that’s just what would have happened… if only I could have held back the smile. But the second I realized I was seeing “Wayne, Bruce Wayne,” the startling-endearing-pitiful-adorable-sillifudiness of it all produced this ridiculous grin.
“What?” asked the Dark Knight Dilettante.
All I could do was rearrange the smile and gesture in his general direction, the Caped Catch-of-the-County Crusader.
He got up from the table and walked off a few paces, standing with his back to me. I followed and put my hand on his shoulder.
“Do you know why I love you?” I asked, trying to make my voice tender, but sounding amused instead. “Because you suck at the candlelight and violins as much as I do. And I think it’s the most adorable thing in the world that you ‘ran home to mamma’ putting on that ridiculous playboy character just to give me a romantic evening.”
I put a hand on his chin and turned his head to face me, intending to give his cheek a light kiss. I expected the seeking, vulnerable eyes from that first night in the vault. What I saw instead was the steel intensity of Batman. They were so interconnected. This was my Bruce.
He walked me back to the table and we finished dinner, but now he acknowledged Alfred’s presence and playfully chided him for setting up the romantic staging.
“He says having a house like this to entertain in is a privilege and I don’t do it justice.”
“Well, maybe if you did it more often, you wouldn’t suck at it so very, very badly,” I teased.
“Before tonight, I haven’t had any complaints,” he answered in a parody of the playboy lothario.
“Before tonight you’ve been playing to bimbos.”
For the first time since my encounter with the demonspawn, I was feeling myself again. Cat and Woman teasing my favorite bat…. Enjoying the way he eyed my figure when he thought I wasn’t looking. Except he wasn’t eying my figure; he was focused a few inches higher.
“That’s not quite right, is it?”
“The pin, it should be higher and more to the side.”
I looked down—the pin was positioned perfectly—and what do men, particularly men who dress as bats, know about ladies’ couture?
“Move it up, please.”
I started to suspect where this was going, did as he asked, then gave a perplexed half-smile like I was humoring a deranged dressmaker.
“Better,” he grunted, reaching into his jacket. He pulled out a small red leather box and slid it across the table. “Now there’s room for this.”
If it weren’t for years spent curling my arm through alarm system lightbeams, my hand may have trembled as I opened the box. Dick’s advice to “act surprised” was unnecessary. Even knowing there was a second pin made for the Duchess of Windsor, even seeing that Bruce had set up this elaborate (if somewhat hokey) romantic dinner, even seeing the box as he slid it across the table, it didn’t seem real. But there it was.
Bruce was saying something about buying these years ago—diamond leopards with green eyes—telling himself they’d make excellent bait for Catwoman one day and never dreaming…
The words didn’t matter; the gift spoke for itself. Two pins: one for Catwoman, one for Selina.
Oh Bruce… …I’ve been such an idiot.
OK, I’ve been an idiot.
I knew when I got involved with Selina Kyle there was going to be a certain amount of… strangeness from the Catwoman part of her life.
I knew she must have contacts and, yes, friendships with some of my enemies. I can’t claim to be surprised that any relationships existed. So what’s my problem, that these particular ones are so off-the-scale bizarre? They’re not. Harvey Dent was once my friend. Edward Nigma is harder to figure out. He wouldn’t be my choice for a drinking buddy, but considering the alternatives… From the sounds of their conversation, he’s more of a regular guy outside of Riddler-mode than the other psychos.
Besides, it’s not like he was involving her in anything criminal. They were just talking. They were talking like friends do.
It’s an opportunity, really. Even Matches Malone would never see the star-players interact that way. This could be a watershed in my war on crime. My enemies let their guard down in the presence of my girlfriend in ways that could expose any number of secrets and weaknesses…
She called him Eddie. Not Riddler, not Nigma, Not even Edward. Eddie.
They seem to have little nicknames for everybody. Azrael was “The Choirboy”; Huntress was “Bony Ass.” Ra’s al Ghul was “The Cadaver.” It was like listening to the cast of Seinfeld.
It’s part of who she is. It’s part of what I …love. Selina is wonderful, but she’s not the whole package…. Could anyone but Catwoman have looked into Batman’s eyes that way without blanching for even a second? She hurt my feelings last night, and I shut down and I glared at her… and she just… looked up at me with those impossibly green eyes that see so much and so little… and everything was fine.
Well, I don’t get to pick her friends.
Eddie. Harvey. Fine. I can deal. I don’t like it, but I can deal. Who else? Penguin? Croc? If Joker so much as has her phone number I swear to god I’ll break him into…
Listen to yourself.
…I’ve been such an idiot.