Chapter 6: Happier Not Knowing
“Eddie is in love with you.”
That, according to Harvey, was the problem I had with Edward Nigma. He even thought Bruce could be in danger, apparently because criminals are dangerous when they want something they won’t be getting and Eddie might decide to eliminate the competition. What chance would a civilian like Bruce Wayne have against a ruthless criminal?
Exactly how Eddie banging Harvey’s date in the back of a taxi after a post-opera Iceberg foursome had somehow been transmogrified into Eddie being in love with me, that’s one of those Only-in-Gotham mysteries that I’m just as happy not knowing. What I did know was that the problem with Eddie as I saw it was a lot more urgent than Harvey’s view. The problem as I saw it was that Eddie was standing outside the window signaling pass interference.
Or possibly—ironically—too many players on the field.
I assured Harvey that I could handle it. I said I was quite sure Eddie was not in love with me (although an offside kick wasn’t out of the realm of possibility), but if I was wrong, I had plenty of experience dismissing unwanted suitors and not once had blood been spilt in the process…
At least, I think that’s what I told him. As I was talking, Superman had lowered slowly into frame behind Eddie, so I think I can be excused if I don’t have a perfect recall on what I said at that moment. It was all I could do to keep from reacting as Superman grabbed the back of Eddie’s belt and the two of them rose together, upward and out of sight.
I know there were dozens of reassurances coming out of my mouth, more hand-squeezing on Harvey’s end and lots of promises on mine: I would call him if I ran into trouble. Bruce would call if he ran into any trouble. We would not suffer in silence if anything happened that we couldn’t handle. (And the irony of saying that as I looked out the window and saw this red and blue streak with a little green dimple on the bottom disappearing on the horizon: Superman himself was escorting Eddie off the property, but there I was promising Harv that I’d be sure to let him know if we had a problem we couldn’t handle ourselves.) The reassurances—and the hand-squeezing—were repeated each step of the way getting Harvey out of the house: in the drawing room, in the hallway, in the foyer, and finally, outside the front door as his waiting cab pulled up to collect him. Getting rid of an unwanted suitor should be half as much trouble as getting rid of Harvey Dent in big brother mode.
All I wanted after that was a kiss and a cuddle with Bruce until the sun went down, and then to slip into the catsuit for a good palate-cleansing prowl. Unfortunately, even without Referee Eddie’s wild signals outside the window, there were still extra players on the field. When I got to the morning room, Spitcurl was back, and he and Dick were both talking to Bruce.
“Everybody who doesn’t live here should leave,” I said flatly.
Superman’s earlier blink-of-an-eye transformation had left me gasping. The change I saw now was less showy, but more endearing. There was no necktie or eyeglasses, he still wore the cape and tights, but it was suddenly Clark Kent standing there instead of Superman. It was the married man, not the superhero.
“I know that look,” he said kindly. “Lois is ‘having a day.’”
I offered a weary smile. He doesn’t know much by Gotham standards, but he knows when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.
“I’ll bring the diamonds Monday,” he said, heading for the door. “And large trees. Dick, come along. You’ve been married long enough to know the drill. Lois has had a day.”
Dick glanced at him, glanced at the door, glanced at me, and then looked searchingly at Bruce.
“Yeah, ah, I’m just going to look for an empty parking lot somewhere, and, ah, find some evidence.”
“Good,” Bruce said softly.
“Bye, Selina,” he said, passing me on his way to the door. “Wish I could stay, but I’ve got to see a guy about a thing.”
“Good,” I murmured with a tiny smile.
Bruce watched him, a curious series of looks flickering in his eyes, one of those moments where you can almost see the mask on his face. He was considering something, considering it with that amazing intensity he can put into anything. Then, just as Dick reached the door, a decision:
It was said very simply. Thanks, Dick. Nothing dramatic. Nothing extraordinary—coming from anybody other than Bruce.
Dick turned back, flushed, bumped his hand on the doorframe, swallowed, and then said, “Yeah, thanks—I mean, sure—I mean, uh, anytime. Anyways, gotta go see that guy about the thing.”
He went. The door closed behind him. And that left us alone at last. Me. Bruce. And Psychobat.
Raven never considered herself a romantic. She didn’t go for chick flicks. She didn’t read romance novels. She would never understand grown women who wallowed in the dewy-eyed fantasies she’d outgrown in high school. She did have a weakness for men making a gesture after a breakup. Someone like Jonathan Crane giving her an out-of-print book of Portuguese fairy tales because it was “a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,” that got to her. So she’d gone back to him, and they’d had another few weeks together before saying their final goodbyes. Leland coming to the Iceberg struck the same chord. She couldn’t brush aside a man like Leland Bartholomew coming to a club most Gothamites considered a den of criminal intrigue. He knew the place was filled with past and future Arkham patients, yet in he came and made a spectacle of himself pleading his case. She was moved, who wouldn’t be? What must he feel, how strongly must he feel to make a scene like that? So she agreed to get back together, or at least to give him another chance. She’d gone back to his house to cook a special dinner with him on her night off, although none of the issues behind the breakup were resolved.
It was awkward. He talked about work while they were cutting up plantains—and work was Joker. His going back to Arkham to treat Joker was the real issue that split them up. When she talked about work, it was light Iceberg gossip, but Leland’s was sweeping condemnation: the way Arkham passed patients through the fast-track rehabilitation program, and his special resolve to not let “Patient R” (obviously Roxy Rocket) slip through without making true progress at each level. Raven couldn’t help but worry they would never see Roxy again!
They fried the plantains in canola oil, and Raven continued to worry. If Leland’s approach caught on, what would happen to the Iceberg? All the regulars went into the asylum at some point, but they always came back out again. If that were to change… Of course, hard times for the Lounge was more Oswald’s problem than hers. He would never close the doors completely, and if he cut back on staff, some jobs were absolutely secure no matter what. Raven’s was one of them. She would still have a job, but the conversation with Leland still made her feel funny. The way he was talking about Rogues as if they were specimens in a jar… But then, she and the waitresses talked about Rogues as a separate species too, especially when they’d tip in—bananas! They needed fresh nutmeg and allspice for the bananas foster.
Raven found the small grater and expertly ground up the spices for the rich dessert while Leland measured out the rum—and went on (and on) about his guilt over the Roxy situation. Their romance had set off a Joker-beating, and that was apparently putting him off his game as a… well, as a lover, although that hardly seemed the right word to use when they hadn’t had sex yet.
And what did he expect, anyway? That’s what Raven really wanted to ask: what did Leland expect going back to Arkham that way? You spend enough time with that crowd, you’re going to set off a few Joker beatings, everybody knew that. She’d done it once when she bought a car! She didn’t even mention it to the patrons. She just told Gina in the washroom, Gina apparently told Harley, and Harley told Joker. Something about it being a yellow Saturn bothered him, so he squirted Harley with his acid flower, stabbed a Ghost Dragon with a broken beer bottle, and hit Maxie Zeus with a chair.
Okay, sirloin with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, fried plantains, green salad, and bananas foster. Once they sat down to dinner, it got better. The food was good. But the conversation still turned strange here and there. Raven felt she was living a repeat of Jonathan Crane, Frank Picalone, and Toby Morse. She had been moved by a gesture, and she’d gone back to a relationship that was already heading south.
Accepting that their remaining time together was limited, Raven decided to spice things up. After all, if it was only to be another few weeks, they may as well enjoy it. It was definitely time for sex—past time, in fact. At first she found it refreshing: the slower approach of an older man. He didn’t try to jump her bones at every opportunity. It was nice, she told herself. He was old-fashioned, she told herself. He was a gentleman, she told herself. But now… It didn’t seem like “telling herself” anymore, it seemed like she was making excuses for him. Why wasn’t he even trying?
After dinner, she’d find out. After dinner…
Didn’t that show say bananas foster was an aphrodisiac?
Back in the day, weeks could pass between Bat-encounters. I didn’t admit it back then, but I looked forward to them. Anticipation was part of the fun. A new Bast statuette at the museum, Batman would have to know I’d try for it, so there was a good chance I’d be seeing that pointy-eared shadow rising ominously over the display case—Meow. When the moment finally came, it was usually all I’d hoped for. Meow. Sometimes, it was better—Meow—but sometimes, well, everybody has an off night now and then.
The weirdest one I remember was right after he’d reclaimed his mantle from AzBat. The Batman I knew had disappeared, nobody knew what really happened, if he was badly hurt or even dead. That awful imposter had shown up in his place, and the whole town was going to hell. And then, miraculously, the real Batman returned. I was in on the big throwdown, when he gave Az his walking papers, so I can’t blame it on surprise or shock. I knew he was alive, I knew he was back in action, and I knew there was a better than even chance that if I went after a newly discovered frieze of Pharaoh Akhenaten petting a cat, he would be there to stop me.
He was. I’d been living for the moment I heard that voice again, when it would be just him and me and some prize to win or lose, a trinket we could both pretend was the real reason for the encounter. But when the moment finally came—“The museum is closed, Catwoman”—I froze up. The banter didn’t come. I know I said something, but it wasn’t light or witty. And the fight was… awkward.
I wasn’t holding back, but I was self-conscious. What’s worse, I think he knew… It was impossibly uncomfortable, but it didn’t last. Everything was back to normal by the end of the week. There was a Japanese scroll of a tiger at Gallery Blu, a very physical tussle on the roof, and a lingering caress inside a shi-shi pin while I felt his very hot breath on my cheek.
It was all back to normal in a week, but at the time, in that one moment I’d been waiting for…
“The museum is closed, Catwoman…”
That’s exactly how it felt in the morning room. I’d wanted to get every last crazy out of the house—all of them: Rogues past and present, crimefighters, and even butlers—and just have Bruce to myself for a few hours. Now, at last, here we were. (“The museum is closed, Catwoman”) And it felt strained and awkward and wrong.
“Well… I got tigers,” I said mildly.
Psychobat just glared.
“Oh, and Eddie is in love with me,” I added.
He raised an eyebrow.
“That’s what Harvey wanted?”
He shook his head.
“I don’t think I want to know. In fact, I know I don’t want to know,” he glowered.
“Here I thought you knew everything,” I said, trying for a smile.
“Some things I wish I didn’t,” he said. He made a half-hearted attempt at a lip-twitch, and the room sank into another heavy silence.
(“The museum is closed, Catwoman.”)
“What did Spitcurl do with Eddie?” I asked suddenly.
“Dropped him off ten miles from anywhere. He’ll have a nice long stroll to rethink ‘playing around Batman’s house’ as a viable way to spend his free time.”
“Do you have to look at it that way?” I sighed. “He wasn’t playing around Batman’s house, he came to seee me. You just happen to be here.””
“I know for a fact that Edward Nigma knows how to use a telephone,” he said acidly.
“So does Spitcurl,” I pointed out.
He started to reply, then sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Can we not talk about this now? Can we just sit and enjoy the quiet for a little while?”
There followed a minute and a half of not very enjoyable quiet. But then, while I was trying to remember what I actually said that night in response to “the museum is closed,” an interesting thing happened. Whiskers trotted into the room and started head-bumping Bruce’s leg. He looked down, said “You know you’re not supposed to be in here, right, little guy?” (while picking him up), and started scratching behind his ears like he knew Whiskers’s favorite spot.
Then, he looked over at me.
“I have some work to finish up on the Dhumavati before closing the case. Care to join?”
It was fair to say Leland Bartholomew was terrified. He wasn’t afraid of sex, not the way Freud meant it. Not the way Adler, Stekel or Jung meant it either. He was afraid the way Harold Watts was afraid. Nice chap, Harold, his first patient in private practice. A pediatrician. Married at 24, widowed at 52, went on a date three years later, and came to Bartholomew in a state of abject terror when he realized he hadn’t been with a “new” woman for thirty years. They had six different kinds of orgasms now, so said the cover of his daughter’s Cosmo. At the time, Bartholomew thought little of it. He approached the problem like a therapist, not like a man. He approached it like a therapist who had a real diploma on his wall proving he had read enough books, written enough papers, and had enough professors tolerate his over-articulated, under-developed ideas long enough for him to receive a certain grade. He projected the expected aura of empathy and authority and offered up the obvious advice: acknowledge the anxiety and then dismiss it, trust the acceptance of a loving partner, remember that intimacy isn’t confined to physical pleasure, and so on.
What bullshit! Why did Harold Watts even pay him for that session? He should have called Bartholomew a snot-nosed kid that had a lot to learn about being a man, punched him in the mouth, and dinged his fender on the way out of the parking lot just to demonstrate that a successful pediatrician in a paid-off Mercedes outranks a preachy child in a rusty Corolla with $80,000 in student loans and no understanding of the human condition!
In the years since Harold Watts failed to enlighten him about his shortcomings, Leland Bartholomew’s social life had dwindled to that of a dyspeptic bachelor. His last sexual experience was… was… when the cable company renumbered the channels and he discovered HBO by accident. Then he watched MTV, once, and got really scared.
But now… Now he had Raven and… well there was no mistaking the signals. Raven was expecting sex, and if he didn’t make a pass in the next thirty seconds it seemed as though she would actually jump on him. Acknowledge the anxiety and then dismiss it—Of all the idiocy students fresh out of the diploma mill had sputtered on their first jobs—trust the acceptance of a loving partner—what the hell did that even mean? It’s not like he could just announce that he was “out of practice!”
It happened, he missed his cue.
The thirty-second window opened and closed, and failing to receive the pass she wanted, Raven made it herself. She was unspeakably beautiful, young, uninhibited and… flexible… And she tasted like the bananas foster they’d made together… It was all a little too much for a man who’d seen fifty summers… It was clumsy, awkward… not in a good way… just…plain… bad… …And again… Leland missed his cue.
Leland muttered something about it ‘having been a while.’
Raven said something about a famous Eddie Izzard quote.
Bartholomew didn’t know who Eddie Izzard was, let alone what this “famous” quote could be. But he was sure it wasn’t complimentary.
It freed him. His sexual performance had just been critiqued in a way he didn’t even understand. It surpassed his worst fears—it surpassed anybody’s worst fears. Having bombed as a lover, not only in the sheer godawfulness of his performance but in the resulting humiliation as well—she was young enough to be his daughter and she was quoting some rock star that he never even heard of, and… and… he suddenly became completely uninhibited…
…it was true, there is none freer than he who has nothing left to lose…
…it was also true a man acquires a good deal of passion over the course of fifty summers…
…around midnight, Leland remembered he’d been to medical school…
…around two, Raven decided she was calling in sick tomorrow…
Oswald didn’t get it. He simply didn’t get it. Harvey and Eddie, back again. It was the third night this week. Each time they brought different women, each set lovelier and–kwak–more aristocratic than the last. He toddled out of his office for the customary introductions. Harvey’s bird was called Binky, and Oswald bowed low and bestowed a gentlemanly kiss over the woman’s bejeweled fingers. Eddie’s escort was Bunny. And again Oswald bobbed and twitched his lips over the lady’s extended wrist. He noted the cost of her bracelet, factored in the rings on the previous hand, and called for a bottle of bubbly to be sent to the table with his compliments-kwak. Much as it pained him to give away liquor, he felt clientele of this type must be encouraged in every way possible-kwakwakwak.
Harvey and Eddie had difficulty concealing their shock. Oswald sending a bottle was one thing, Sly bringing it to the table himself, that was really unprecedented. But it turned out the special attention was borne of practicality, not a special honor. Raven had called in sick (or as Oswald put it “let me down disgracefully at a most inopportune time”). Dove was covering her podium, and none of the Iceberg staff seemed to feel the groupie-waitress subbing for Dove could be trusted to pour champagne. While the wine flowed, Oswald shared his tale of woe: Raven never called in–kwak–never. Not even when Crane came in spraying his toxins to celebrate Druid Halloween, or that time Joker thought it would be funny to poison all the Ghost Dragons just to see how many times he could get the FOX affiliate to say ‘Botulism’ in one newscast. Never once did she call in sick. Now–kwak–she’d left him in a waitress short. Kwak! No one understood the special trials of being Oswald Cobblepot.
When the champagne was drunk, the women rose together, as if both were puppets attached to the same controlling mechanism. They walked this way, in perfect sync, to the powder room. By now, Harvey and Eddie were used to the maneuver.
“You’re getting Bunny,” Harvey guessed.
“WHY BE WRONGING LUST?” Eddie queried, anagramming the name. Adding under his breath, “The things I do for Kitty.”
“You’re holding up well,” Harvey said encouragingly. “Be strong.”
In his mind’s eye, Eddie imagined the Bat-Signal altered to project a series of letters into the night sky, inviting all of Gotham to ponder the question: How is an automotive mishap like a deluded obsessive with a new delusion to obsess on?
Both are pronounced Dent.
Harvey was fixated—absolutely fixated—on the idea that Eddie was pining for Selina. No matter what Eddie said or did, nothing would convince him otherwise. He was snapping up every socialite that looked his way. Rather than be repulsed by this flagrant Don Juanism, Harvey thought he was a brave little soldier.
At least Harvey didn’t know the secret. There should be some comfort in that. Eddie was still the first Rogue to know (barring Hugo, who didn’t count, and Catwoman, whose manner of finding out did not reflect badly on Riddler’s intellect or his stature as a villain, as he was quite sure he couldn’t compete with her in that particular arena—nor would he wish to). So there was that small consolation: Even if Two-Face couldn’t enlighten him on taking on Batman with that special knowledge of the man behind the mask, Riddler was still the first and only true Rogue to learn the truth. It should have been good news. It should! Harvey clearly didn’t know anything about Bruce Wayne other than he was with Selina… which is what led to this present absurdity. He was A THIEVES NO WIN ILL in love with Selina. So they kept doubling with all these women, Harvey determined to lift Eddie’s spirits, and the ladies determined to “share his cab.”
And still he couldn’t get his Rogue-on.
One aborted robbery since he’d learned the secret. One. What do you get when you’ve solved the riddle of riddles? Fame? Victory? Power over the great Dark Knight? No. You get a recurring nightmare of your nose being smashed into a gloved fist, then hearing your own voice slurred with blood and snot whining that “that wasn’t a stealing-the-Chinese-puzzlebox punch, that was a taking-Selina-to-the-opera punch.”
Now there was the new nightmare. Selina hearing he was in love with her and showing up at his lair, not infuriated as you might expect, but amused as only Selina can be amused. There she stood, striking a pose in the doorway, all sleek and purple, just-ate-a-canary grin on her face—“Hello, Lover”—and he woke up screaming.
Not for the first time, Eddie considered moving to Metropolis. Their hero was a dullard. Their idea of pizza was a deep-dish concoction you had to eat with a knife and fork. And their newspaper’s idea of a crossword was simply an offense to the intellect—six-letter word for “a challenging query” indeed! But still—“Hello, Lover”—he was considering it.
What was that phrase of Selina’s? It seemed like a good idea at the time…
Bruce didn’t want to talk about Nigma, tigers, or anything else connected to the day’s visitors. He wanted it all to go away for a little while—but that did not mean he wanted Selina to go. He’d been cold and abrupt with her. The cat’s entrance had reminded him just how comfortable their life together had become, how glad he was that she was there. He couldn’t very well say that, so he said it a different way, inviting her to come with him to the cave and be a part of what he was doing next. He saw it as spending time together. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
He didn’t realize… not until they got to the cave… She waved at Walapang—at the bat—the bat he specifically told her not to name but had somehow become ‘Walapang’ anyway. She waved to it. She thought it was cute. The bat. A bat in the very heart of the Batcave. The purest essence of that dark icon meant to instill fear in the hearts of criminals, Selina thought it was cute and waved at it. Impossible woman. Why didn’t he realize…
They were in the Batcave. That alone made it hard to blot out thoughts of the safe. Making it worse, the work he had to complete was analyzing the dust and fragments of a cat’s eye cabochon from the Dhumavati chalice. A cat’s eye of an as-yet-unknown material he strongly suspected was kryptonite. He was becoming more and more annoyed with each passing minute—not at her—not even at himself—at the situation—a situation clawing at him like those damnable tigers, ripping into his flesh no matter what he did and pulling him into the one thing he most wanted to avoid.
“Cat’s eye kryptonite?” Selina exclaimed when she heard what he was doing. “How is that possible? And if something like cat’s eye kryptonite exists, why haven’t I heard about it?”
He explained briefly how kryptonite sometimes fused with other materials after it fell to earth. In this case, some amount of ordinary green K must have landed in a deposit of chrysoberyl, the material most cat’s eye gems are made of. The kryptonite was subjected to the same heat and pressure as the material around it, forming a composite stone with the same tiny inclusions that produce the winking cat’s eye effect in the regular stones. “The effect is called chatoyancy,” he concluded—and Selina kissed his cheek as if he’d invented the concept just for her.
“Chatoyancy from the French,” she purred. “Chat meaning cat, and oeil meaning eye. I like the theory. So how do we find out for sure?”
Bruce said nothing. He was tempted to get the kryptonite ring from the safe; it was the obvious way to begin, comparing the cat’s eye fragments visually with the known variety. But glancing at Selina, he didn’t feel comfortable with the idea. It wasn’t even the ring, just the act of going to the safe in front of her. Just the idea of opening it, of walking towards it… Instead, he punched a few keys emphatically on the keyboard at workstation 1… and even that had associations. Associations that caused his stomach to tighten.
He’d pulled up a voluminous file, which now displayed on the enormous viewscreen as well as the small workstation monitor. The chemical composition on every known type of K displayed in sequence, but it was another screen he was remembering. A blueprint he pulled up on this same workstation, with a conspicuous bat-emblem over the secret alcove with the secret safe, seeing it flicker in sync on the monitor and the overhead screen, praying Selina would notice the symbol and act…
He pushed the sick recollections from his mind and read.
Paging through screens of statistical and analytical data, Bruce regretted not having another physical sample. If he had even the smallest amount of kryptonite that wasn’t in the ring… He remembered that Selina once mentioned having “a bead of kryptonite” from the old days. She said it was a gift from Felix Faust, from the ‘my wife doesn’t understand me’ era—and just what was meant by that was probably one of those things he was happier not knowing. She’d also said her bead of kryptonite was ‘buried in one of the hell-mouth closets,’ which meant she probably couldn’t get to it quickly, and even if she could, he wouldn’t want to ask. It would only spark the question:
“Wouldn’t it be easier to compare it to the ring?”
Damn her. She brought it up anyway. Damn her.
He muttered something about having all the data from that ring in the computer already. That should have been the end of it. It would have been with Dick, Tim, Alfred or even Clark. But not Selina. Of course, not with Selina.
“Is something wrong?” she asked pointedly. “Because you have that look. When we’re slumming at the Iceberg and Joker walks in.”
He started to speak, stopped, then started again.
“No, it’s… just… the ring. Make sure that Clark doesn’t know that you know about the kryptonite ring.”
“He’s already mentioned it,” Selina said softly. “A ring you had, he said he was sure you went and put it in your belt that day he was here about mindwipe. I never knew what he meant until I opened that box.”
Bruce bristled, sighed, and shook his head.
“Figures he would mention it. How that man has maintained a secret identity all these years…”
Again, that should have been the end of it. With Dick, Tim, with anybody else, it would have been. But again, Selina had more to say:
“None of them know you as well as they think, in my opinion. You didn’t put the ring in your belt that day. I was in the trophy room, I would have seen if you’d gone to the safe. You just went out for a breath of air.”
It was said with love. Selina didn’t consider him a raving paranoid like SOME so-called friends and colleagues, and she was letting him know that. But all Bruce could see was her flaunting her special knowledge: she knew about the safe, knew about the ring, and knew him better than anyone in the world.
“The ring is irrelevant,” he snapped. “Everything I could glean from it is already in the computer… Let’s just drop it, okay?”
“Okay,” she said with a sharp breath. “I thought it would be easier to look at the real thing than comparing graphs and wavy lines, I’m sorry… Now, how long are we going to not think about pink elephants?”
“What?” he sputtered.
“First, upstairs, we ‘just drop’ Eddie, now we’re ‘just dropping’ Clark. The boys are over-Zoggered, you’re protesting way too much about missing the opera. Seems to me we’re back to not thinking about pink elephants, and I’m just asking how long. A week, a month? Just so I can plan my schedule. Our record is eight and a half years, Bruce. I really hope it’s not going to be one of those ‘cause I’m not as young as I used to be.”
“What’s gotten into you?”
“Fine, you’re not saying. I’ll live in suspense. For an indeterminate period of time, there are no pink elephants.”
“No mauve ones either, just to be safe.”
“You going to come back like this every time you go out with Nigma?”
“Are there any other improbably colored species you would like to nullify from existence while you’re at it?”
“At the moment, I could do without purple cats!”
For a long moment neither spoke. There was a faint hum from the overhead monitor and a fainter scratching from the bat Walapang rubbing his wing against a stalactite.
“I’m glad you think this is cute,” Bruce said at last, a grim finality replacing the usual bat-gravel. “Now, as much as I know you love playing with your toy, do you think you could possibly let me get back to work without getting on my casefile—case. Without you getting on my case?”
Selina took a deep breath. When she spoke, it was with a cool, deliberate control measuring out each word.
“I don’t think it’s cute at all, Bruce. And I have never considered you in pain to be entertainment. I did hope if I pushed you hard enough…”
“That what, I’d snap?” he cut in angrily. “That’s just it, Selina. I said I didn’t want to talk about it right now, but you just couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you? No, you had to keep prodding and jabbing, wearing me down, until what? I finally give in and give you what you want? Is that how it works now?”
“It seems like everything leads back to it no matter what I say or don’t say, do or don’t do. It also seems like whatever it is, it’s getting worse. So yes, Bruce, I’m pushing and prodding and jabbing and refusing to ignore the fact that a pink elephant has come among us. But just for the record, this isn’t ‘what I want.’ I don’t want to get into any of this! I would love nothing better than to shove it all in the closet and forget it ever existed. But… But one of the things I want to shove in the closet and forget is a world where this kind of thing was shoved in a closet and forgotten. I don’t know everything that happened there, but I know it went on too long. A pink elephant was left to… fester or something… until, finally, you told me to leave. I woke up in the back room of the fucking Iceberg and Ivy had my sapphire—”
“Sapphire? Selina, what are you talking about? Wait, you think this is…” he trailed off, his head reeling. “This has nothing to do with the dimension hopping,” he said finally. “I know that you will tell me—or not tell me—whenever you feel you can… I’d like the same consideration.”
Selina shook her head.
“You’re not listening—or not understanding. I am telling you. One of those worlds, you’d thrown me out. Something was left unsaid for too long. It scares me. Bruce, I don’t want that to happen with us. If you need time, then take it. “
She stared at him for a moment, then added, “Just don’t take too much.”