Chapter 4: Not Yours
Enough is enough.
I’ve been more than patient with all of Ivy’s little quirks, her pretensions, neuroses, psychoses, and ego. Especially her ego.
Patience is not a quality cats have in abundance either, unless there’s a mouse involved and even then there’s a fucking limit.
I’ve put up with the alabaster skin and natural redhead routine, in the spirit of humoring and handling her. I overlooked past indiscretions with both Batman and Bruce, because it was all ancient history. I’ve put up with her dissing Harvey. And Eddie. And Bruce too, for that matter. And everyone else so inconsiderate as to be born into this world with a penis. I even held my tongue the 246 times she proclaimed herself irresistible when what she really is is a pheromone dispenser.
“No man can resist me,” she says—like it’s a mark of her personal charm, beauty, and sex appeal. She drugs them! It’d be like Sly claiming credit because anybody guzzling a fifth of scotch gets drunk!
Well, enough is enough is enough is enough.
That was the thought that kept cycling in my head for the fifteen minutes it took to enter the Wayne penthouse after I saw those ferns through the window.
It wouldn’t normally take me fifteen minutes, not when I know the target so well. But normally Bruce’s penthouse doesn’t look like the goddamn Jungle Cruise, so I took precautions going in.
I took the kind of precautions I would take going into hostile territory.
Which wasn’t pleasant.
The penthouse isn’t the manor, it isn’t his home, but it is his. I didn’t like approaching it like enemy territory. It made me sick, in fact. I kept repeating in my head enough is enough… I had this sick tightness in my gut… is enough… If I got inside and it smelled like furniture polish… is enough… I didn’t know what I would wind up doing… is enough… but I was sure claws and the words “AIIEEEE, CATTY, MY FACE!” would be involved.
I got inside.
It didn’t stink of lemon.
It smelled of olive and fig and ivy and cedar and honey and mimosa and fern. But it didn’t reek of lemon pledge. That was something. It didn’t completely rule out the possibility that Ivy had overstepped, but it didn’t prove absolutely that she had.
Well no, the place was overgrown with grapevines and primroses, so she had absolutely overstepped. It was just a question of how far.
I felt that catlike tug around my ankle just like that night in the park. I looked down, and sure enough, it was my viney little friend from that prowl, or a viney little sprout just like it. And just like that night, it had wrapped around my lower leg and was nudging me forward.
I kicked it off, cursing myself for not thinking this through before coming inside. It would have been a good idea to gather a bit more intel before barging in this way. I should have at least checked to see if Bruce was inside …or if Batman was… or for that matter if Ivy herself was here. But now that one of her damn weeds had seen me, it was too late. If she was on the premises, she’d know in a matter of seconds that I’d come calling.
“Tattling little creep,” I told the ankle-vine, giving it another kick for good measure.
There was nothing for it now. Any cat will tell you: if surprise is no longer an option, the only way to go is to march right in like you own the place. So I made straight for the living room. Only one plant got in my way, I think it was the maitre’d from the restaurant. I brandished the claws, explained where mulch came from, and it stepped aside.
The jungle scents were stronger as I neared the living room—where I found Queen Green making herself entirely too much at home, draped over the chaise longue and pouring herself a cocktail—from a shaker that was a thank you gift from Barbara after I wore yellow ruffles at her wedding!
But there was still no lemon in the air. And even more important, no orange.
There was also no Bruce.
So I squelched the impulse to pick her up by that
it’s-not-alabaster-it’s-green neck, slam those henna-rinse locks into the
nearest wall and explain with bat-brevity: Not yours.
Instead, I made a show of looking around at the flora. When I finally spoke, I kept my voice soft and firm.
“If this is payback for the Jimmy Choos,” I told her, “then you have either overrated the fuck-me pumps or else you have very seriously underrated my attachment to Bruce.”
She was ready to respond, but I cut her off at the inhale.
“Nono,” I warned, “No. You don’t try to argue this one, Pamela. There is no explanation; there is no rationalization. There is just you and the blood in your veins—and there is the question whether it’s going to remain in there, happily carrying oxygen to all your vital organs, or if it’s going to be rerouted in the next five minutes onto this terminally dreary carpet.”
“Really, Catty,” she drawled, going all dignified goddess. “How you do go on. No harm came to your precious Bruce. I’ll give him back once I’ve had my fun.”
“Precious Bruce” would have struck a nerve at the Iceberg over Cosmopolitans. But we were so far past that at this point, I just shot my hand out and grabbed the nearest piece of green. I gestured, as if giving her the finger except with the index, and then used that claw to make a long, slow incision down the plant’s leafy gullet.
Goddess dignity was forgotten. She gave the expected shriek (her babies, her babies, her dear leafy babies) and lunged at me. I sidestepped and tripped her, quickly and casually, then plopped the sap-oozing plant carcass on her it’s-not-natural-redhead.
“Do I look like Roxy Rocket to you?” I asked firmly.
She looked daggers up at me. She doesn’t shy away from eye contact. Goddesses don’t. Neither do cats.
“You murdered this plant!” she declared. The volume was down from the initial shriek, but she more than made up for it with venom.
She hadn’t bothered to get up yet, so I half-bent over her.
“Nope, you did. You brought it with you when you trespassed into my territory. You don’t want the rest of these weeds to go the same way, get them the fuck out of—Get them out. Now.”
There was a distant hum—the elevator was coming up—and Ivy had this funny smirk. I figured that meant it was Bruce, coming back from whatever task she’d sent him on. She had him and thought he’d defend her. Or maybe she figured she could hurt me just by displaying her control over him. Neither was a pleasant thought.
But I gave her too much credit. When she spoke, it was clear that her smirk had nothing to do with the sound of the elevator.
“Get the plants the fuck out of? Get them out of what, Selina? Out of ‘your house,’ perhaps?”
Bruce spends the better part of Hell Month making a fist; he’s not aware of it, he just does it reflexively. I had just done the same thing. I only realized when the claw tips punctured the glove.
“Has the wildcat been tamed?”
The elevator pinged and I recognized the footstep on the marble foyer. It was certainly Bruce about to come through the doorway. So rather than give Pammy the thrashing she was begging for, I posed, hands on hip, and waited. In three more footsteps he’d reach the doorway and I’d have to face an attack from an Ivy drone… with Bruce’s face—and Batman’s right hook.
Step. Step. Step.
And there he was.
“Let me guess,” I announced, although I doubted he was in any condition to appreciate a snappy line. “This isn’t how it looks.”
I was still braced for an attack—but in the second it took to speak the words, I saw my joke had hit on the literal truth: it wasn’t how it looked. He wasn’t under Ivy’s spell.
I know Bruce. I know Batman even better. The split second he
walked in the door, he saw something very different from what he expected.
The very second it registered:
that 17-jewel brain went to work.
–Ivy on the floor–
I SAW it in his eyes.
–prostrate over a dead plant–
I saw his mind rolodexing through the possibilities: what did it mean? what had happened? what might happen next? what would he do in response?
None of those answers mattered. The questions meant he was in there. He was okay. She didn’t have her hooks in him.
The relief I felt, starting between the shoulder blades and oozing through my body in all directions, was… was a lot more disturbing than relief is supposed to be. Ivy’s last (unanswered) taunt was still ringing in my ears. “Has the wildcat been tamed?”
It was 14 minutes before I could extricate myself from the situation. As soon as I saw Bruce was okay, I knew I should go. Batman was on the job and he had the situation in hand. But I couldn’t just wink, blow a kiss, and waltz out the door. The play had to play out. It took 14 minutes. It took 14 of the longest goddamn minutes of my life. It took 14 tree-minutes, that’s 140 years to you and me.
Bruce had volunteered, from the sounds of it, to go out and get her a love token, some little bauble to prove his devotion. My guess, which I’d confirm later, was that he wanted an excuse to leave in order to secure the satellite cave.
Now Gotham is the city that never sleeps, but the “love tokens” available at four in the morning are still fairly limited. There’s kink, of course, if you’re into leather and handcuffs, which Pammy is not. There are t-shirts or novelty mugs from an all-night diner, maybe a Hong Kong Rolex from a guy on a corner (although I doubt even those guys bother at this hour), a variety of pills and powders, and the contents of the 7-11. Factor in that this is a gift for Poison Ivy, which means no cut flowers and no perfume (eeked out from the petals of the poor, poor flora, her babies, her babies, look how Calvin Klein distilled the essence of her poor murdered babies)…
So he got her a Whitman Sampler.
And that’s when she went thermal. Gaia’s Chosen, Goddess of Green—once she blinked away the shock—went absolutely, flat out, “So this is what it’s going to look like when we completely lose the ozone layer, fry the atmosphere, and all of nature becomes a big global microwave.”
He brought her a Whitman Sampler. I got diamond cat pins. She mentioned that several times: I got cat pins from Cartier, just for being me, no pheromones required. And she got a box of chocolate creams.
˜˜There’s been a lot of that,˜˜ Bruce signaled me silently. He’d never used the sign language that way before. It’s something we evolved during all those Wayne parties, just to stay sane amidst all the Wigglesworths and Ashton-Larrabys. But in front of them, we’re more careful. And with me in costume and him not… I guess he figured these were special circumstances.
˜˜She has a thing about you,˜˜ he added.
˜˜It’s not my penthouse she greened,˜˜ I shot back, although that haunting echo of Ivy’s “Get the plants out of what, Selina? Out of ‘your house,’ perhaps?” sounded again in a dim corner of my brain—“Has the wildcat been tamed?”—a corner of my brain that must have more important things it could be doing, like remembering the date of the Norman conquest or something.
˜˜You’re why she came here,˜˜ Bruce insisted. ˜˜But she doesn’t know that.˜˜
We had to suspend our sign-chatter at that point, because Ivy was now directing her complaints at random—to me, to Bruce, and to the ferns—so there was no telling which way she might turn at any given second.
“Maybe you should leave us alone,” I said crisply, because, as I said before, cats are not known for their patience, even when mice are involved.
“You mean me?” Ivy asked grandly.
“No, I meant Bruce.” I said calmly, turning to face him. “Please.”
The look on his face really is priceless when I throw him a curve—even pretending to be pheromoned, there’s no mistaking that defiant/confused glower.
I smiled and raised a playful eyebrow, which is how I always answer that glower.
Fact is, a curveball is the only way to deal with either of them sometimes. And this time it was Ivy who needed the jolt. She certainly hadn’t forgotten how we’d started our conversation this evening—but she was burning to know why I had asked Bruce to leave and not her. She looked at him, poured on the goddess grandeur, and ordered him to go. Then she looked back at me, glowing with triumph.
It seemed Bruce was right: it was about me somehow. She had struck at him because of me. But why? That whole performance, lording it over me that she could control him—why? What was the point of this—other than proving she could be a royal bitch, which was certainly no state secret.
Bruce left, and we just stared at each other for a minute.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way you wanted with Harvey,” I told her finally. “I know it meant a lot to you that he liked you without the Lemon Pledge treatment. But Pamela, there’s more to being a couple than how he made you feel. He’s got his face back; he’s got a piece of his life back. Pammy, if you care about him at all, you’ve got to be happy for him. And if you don’t, if he was nothing more than a way to feel good about yourself, then go back to the goddamn plants, you’re not ready for people.”
“No. Save it,” I cut her off. “I can’t listen to any more of it tonight, Pammy. I’m done. I’m not a rosebush; I get no benefit from fertilizer. I’m going home, I’m taking a bath, and I’m going to bed. In the morning, if I do not find Bruce and this penthouse in the precise condition they were in when we went shoe shopping, then Ivan will be making the acquaintance of the Jimmy Choo heels in a manner he will not enjoy. UnderstoodGood, see Iknewyoucouldbereasonable. GoodnightPamela.”
And I was out the window before she could get a word in.
I checked the time—14 minutes. It had taken me almost as long to get back out as it had to get in in the first place. And I’m still not sure which was the more difficult.
After I’d left the penthouse, I took the long way around the building, giving Bruce every chance to see me through the north windows.
I did go home. I did have a bath. I did not go to bed.
I sat on the bed, waiting for Bruce, running two memories in parallel in my mind, like watching two TVs side by side showing different programs: That night on the roof of the MoMA three years ago, and that moment in the penthouse tonight.
I wasn’t going to steal the Van Gogh when the MoMA reopened… and
then… “Has the wildcat been tamed?”
I wasn’t going to steal the Van Gogh because I’m with Bruce now, and Bruce is Batman, and it’s not possible for us to… to be like we were and still be what we are. “Has the wildcat been tamed?” she asked. She didn’t mean it as a question, she meant it as a shot, she meant it to hurt but… it was a fair question.
Not only was I not going to steal the Van Gogh, I was literally sitting on Batman’s bed trying to work out how I felt about it.
I thought I was fine with it but… that penthouse all greened over. (NOT YOURS, Pammy!)
I didn’t mean the penthouse, of course. I meant Bruce.
How he would love this. Me holding up those two words as the great inviolable absolute: Not yours. Doesn’t belong to you. Wrong to take.
I had these two memories cycling in my head. The top of the MoMA—the Van Gogh that Catwoman would never take now because I’ve changed that much.
And the penthouse.
“Get the plants out of what, Selina?” “Stay away from that Van Gogh.”
“Out of ‘your house’ perhaps?”
The penthouse that didn’t belong to Pammy…
“Who said anything about one night, Stud.”
…the penthouse I thought of as mine…
“Do you like Monet?”
…because Bruce is mine.
“Get the plants out of what, Selina?” “Stay away from that Van Gogh.”
Batman is mine.
“Has the wildcat been tamed?”
NOT YOURS, Ivy. Not. Fucking. Yours.
“Are you crying?”
I jumped. That last one was not from the memory TVs. Bruce was home.
“Kitten, what’s wrong? You’re not upset about that nonsense at the penthouse, are you?”
“Of course not.” It wasn’t a lie. It wasn’t Ivy or the penthouse, it was… something. “What happened with the silly leaf-bitch anyway?” I asked lightly, changing the subject.
“Nothing. She’s still free,” he sighed, frustrated. “She simply would not do anything that Batman could go back and arrest her for. I tried leading her to it eight or ten times. I mentioned the yacht, reminded her about the bachelor party, I did everything but wave a credit card under her nose, she wouldn’t take the bait. She just kept whining about Harvey and Harley and Joker and—life.”
“That’s our Pammy,” I mentioned softly.
“Well, unfortunately, there’s no law against self-pity. And a simple trespassing charge without any felony extortion wouldn’t hold her long enough to justify the drive out to Arkham. Now are you ready to tell me what’s wrong?”
“Actually, when I asked what had happened at the penthouse, I meant before I got there, not after I left. You were… ready for her, I assume.”
“It wasn’t hard to predict. Ivy has abandonment issues and control issues, and she can’t cope with rejection. Harvey’s gone, Harley’s gone—something like this was bound to happen. I’ve been dosing myself with the anti-tox since they released her from Arkham.”
“How did you know you’d be the target?”
“I didn’t know, but it was a possibility. Harvey and I were… cohorts, back when she first went after him. And my personal wealth is a lot greater than his—”
“You mean you’re the road not taken? ‘If I’d zigged instead of zagged back then, would I be sitting here now with my heart broken?’”
I don’t know why I said it that way, why I said “I,” why I used the present tense.
“There is a second reason,” Bruce said gently.
I smiled sadly.
“As if the ghost of Two-Face is still with us,” I joked. It wasn’t funny, and neither of us pretended it was. “So what’s reason number two?”
“You are. Selina, you and Harvey are friends. Striking at me scores off both of you with one stroke. But even more than that, there’s the catfight factor.”
“That’s insane. After the humiliation with Roxy, she’d have to know—”
“That you’d cream her, of course she does. Selina, that’s what she was after: dulling the emotional pain with a physical one. It’s a maneuver I know pretty well… Just like I know the one you’re pulling, Kitten. Hiding the obvious fact that you’re hurting in this (not very convincing, coming from you) preoccupation with the job.”
I do hate it when he does that.
“Jackass,” I said quietly.
“Pffft,” he answered.
Nobody said anything for a minute. Then…
“Selina, tell me what’s wrong?”
“Did you know the MoMA is getting ready to reopen?” I asked him.
“Of course, Flay wants me on the committee to… Ah. The Van Gogh.” He was chuckling like it was cute, and he’d run a hand around my waist that was now playing up my back.
“Don’t touch me,” I spat. I had meant to push him away, but somehow I wound up turning in to his shoulder, and, well, not crying exactly, but there was one breath that came out something like a sob. “This is why you’re not supposed to tame a wild animal, Bruce.” I said it into his sweater, but I’m pretty sure he could hear. “They can’t ever go back to what they were and if it’s the only way they know how to be—”
He pulled at the back of my neck until I looked up at him. He’d done that density shift, he was all bat-intensity now, which I didn’t find nearly as sexy as usual.
“Selina, nobody has tamed you. Nobody will ever tame you. You’re an impossible woman, it’s part of your charm. Now where’s this coming from?”
“You don’t think… the penthouse… and Ivy… you don’t think that was a little… Pammy thinks the wildcat’s been…”
“Pammy is having a meltdown because of a man she once stabbed with pottery shards after he killed her pet flytrap, and that’s not even the most psychotic stunt she’s ever pulled. And a wildcat will claw you into ground chuck if you go poking around her lair, and god help you if you try to help yourself to the wildebeest she bagged and stuffed in the crotch of a tree. So I think you’re safe as far as what went on at the penthouse.”
He stopped, because I was… staring at him… openmouthed.
“Yes, I’m the wildebeest in that analogy, that stays between us,” he growled.
“’Cause it’s pretty hard to strike fear in the hearts of men when everybody’s picturing you hanging halfway out of a tree on the Serengeti with a disgruntled look on your face,” I pointed out.
“See. Impossible woman.”
To be continued...