Batman and Catwoman in Cat-Tales by Chris DeeCat-Tales 38: Fool

Fool by Chris Dee
In Shakespeare, only the Fool can mock the king.  In Gotham… It’s Harley’s birthday.

Man about town


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Harvey Dent was a Harvard man.  It was an aspect of his personality even Two-Face couldn’t supercede.  Every year on the eve of the Harvard-Yale game, he bet on his alma mater.  His only concession after the acid was to give 2-to-1 odds.

He still had his Harvard tie—somewhere—if he could find it.  He hadn’t worn it in years, because he refused to cut it in half.  The Armanis, the Hermes, the Pradas and the Brooks Brothers he had turned over to Kittlemeier to be sliced down the center and stitched onto dingy burlap or loud polyester for the Two-Face half. But his Harvard tie he refused to sacrifice.  He knew he had kept it safe, somewhere, but having searched under all his Two-Face ties, his sock drawer, his underwear drawer, and his armoire, he was forced to admit defeat.  He’d had two… too many hideouts over the years.  

And too many of those two-puns…

Anyway, in one move or another, he had obviously lost his tie.

A call to the student bookstore set that right.  The nice girl he spoke to, Gail, was not impervious to the charms of Harvey “the Apollo” Dent.  She appreciated that he wanted his new tie immediately.  She said it happened all the time, alumni on a business trip, needed to replace the tie for an important presentation.  She said she would FedEx it; he’d have it by ten o’clock tomorrow.  Harvey squelched the impulse to ask about sending it second-day air.

Habit. Old habit.  It would take a while, certainly, to lose those old habits.

But by 10 a.m. tomorrow, he would have a new tie. 

In the meantime, he would have to do some other shopping.  If he wanted to rebuild his old life, he would have to start by rebuilding his wardrobe.  Every garment he owned was split down the center, that was no way to appear in polite society…

entr’acte…
Heroes are infuriating. I wasn’t overjoyed when I saw another submersible rising from behind Sub Diego, but I would have managed something.  It might have involved semi-nudity and a certain degree of Spring Break “girls gone wild” behavior, but it would have neutralized the situation.  Because let’s face it, when a reporter tells his buddies that this hot chick in a mini-sub came on to him thirty fathoms down, their response is fairly predictable. 

But no.  Because heroes can’t ever let it be.  They can’t trust that you know what you’re doing; they have to watch out for you.  They have to call ahead to make sure a school of fish is ready to run blocker.  Just as soon as I sighted the submerged Hotel del Coronado, there they were, several hundred thin silvery-greenish fish surrounding me like a squirmy iridescent honor guard.  They blocked any view the other sub could have of me, and once it had disappeared, they stayed with me, escorting me down to the cupola.

Infuriating.  The hero, not the fish.

Nothing about this job had felt right up until now.  Since my plane landed in California, nothing about this job felt like it used to.  Now, finally, bottom of the goddamn Pacific Ocean and I was back in familiar territory: Pissed at a hero.  Pissed off at that familiar mix of annoyance and gratitude. I just hate heroes interfering, watching over my shoulder, and HELPING when they are not needed—but the fish were handy.

Ryan did not get to be the top-selling salesman at Feldman’s without being able to pigeonhole customers.  He had worked at the exclusive men’s clothiers for only two years, but he had evolved, in only two months, an eye for the way people browsed.  He could tell by the way a man walked in the door: a sure gait—here to buy…  a poseur—putting on airs but way out of his price range… a quickrich—can afford to buy but won’t.  Never been in a place like this before.  He’ll look around, get intimidated, then scurry across the river to some outlet mall in Bludhaven…

The man in the tan trench coat was a puzzle.  He fit none of Ryan’s prescribed categories.  He walked through the door like a regular, but then, almost immediately, the assurance vanished and he was looking around like a newbie.  Then he started browsing like he might know quality merchandise.  Ryan was puzzled and started analyzing his clothes.  You couldn’t tell much from a trench coat unless it was from the very top or the very bottom.  This was neither, and it hid too much of the shirt and trousers beneath for Ryan to appraise.  In desperation, Ryan looked to the shoes… They didn’t match.  They didn’t match?!  One black shoe and one brown one?  The guy had to be a nut!  Lunatics shopping at Feldman’s must surely be one of the biblical signs of Armageddon.

Of course, you did hear about crazy billionaires.

Just in case this guy was some Howard Hughes, Ryan decided to wait on him.

“Welcome to Feldman’s,” he began, “What can I show you today, sir?”

“Anything that’s not double-breasted,” Harvey Dent answered with a bright smile.

Thirty minutes later, Ryan was returning from his third trip to the fitting rooms.  He had followed the mystery customer through the store, taking shirts, jackets, trousers, braces, and even ties back to the fitting room as the odd fellow selected them.  He seemed to know what was what in terms of quality, although his sense of style seemed behind the times—at least to Ryan.  But Feldman’s had plenty of stodgy clients.  Ryan didn’t like to judge unless they were somebody else’s commission.

It was only once the customer walked back to the fitting room himself and removed his overcoat that Ryan saw the guy was dressed from head to toe in clothing divided down the center.  In the zeal of calculating his commission, Ryan had forgotten the mismatched shoes.  He was struck now with the sight of… split down the center…

Even in the rarified air of Feldman’s, Ryan knew a thing or two about Gotham.  He read the newspaper, at least.  And this guy was…

“You’re— you’re not—” he stammered.

“No, we’re not.  I’m not,” Harvey answered.  “Let’s start with the Polo, shall we?”

Ryan scrutinized the man’s face.  It certainly wasn’t split down the center.

“The dress shirt?” the non-two-faced customer prompted. “The Ralph Lauren, if you wouldn’t mind handing it over.”

Ryan rapidly recalculated the commission he would earn on the sale (assuming the customer paid for it instead of flipping a coin, killing them all, and waltzing out the door with some $4600 worth of sartorial elegance). 

He handed over the shirt. 

“Can I find you some shoes?” he offered.  He was risking his life for this sale, after all.

entr’acte…
Alfred entered the Batcave med-facility as he did every Tuesday morning to check the inventory of bandages, disinfectant, and other basic supplies.  He expected the room to be empty, as it always was at this time of day.

“Good heavens, Master Tim, you gave me quite a start,” he announced.

Tim looked up from the bloody puncture he was dabbing above his kneecap. 

“It’s weird how you have to say that, Alfred.  Other people you can just tell, y’know.  But when you get surprised, no sign of it.  It’s kinda cool how you do that.”

“Master Timothy, your attempt to divert attention from the gaping hole in your leg is duly noted.  Now if you would permit me to have a look at the injury.”

“It’s nothing, Alfred,” Tim murmured, although he hopped up on the table to let Alfred get a better look at the leg.  “I was just blowing off some steam.  Bruce and Dick got some wicked settings on Zogger.”

Alfred inspected the wound, then Tim’s face, then turned with a look of sour disapproval to find a fresh gauze.  He saturated the pad with disinfectant, inserted it into a pair of tiny forceps, and began probing the wound.  Tim winced.

“My apologies for the unavoidable discomfort, young sir,” Alfred said blandly, “You might find conversation a welcome distraction.”

Tim agreed and began chattering.

“Did you know they’ve got settings on that thing labeled François and Jean Paul and Eddie? Ow! Man that smarts.  I remembered Dick saying that Zogger did double-duty around here in the old days, eeesh, how it was a training program, yeah, but that sometimes Bruce used it to Ow-OwOw-ouch relieve the tension when Catwoman got him all hyped…”

Tim paused in case Alfred wanted to say anything.  He didn’t.  So Tim continued.

“Anyway.  I haven’t really had any problems like that so far.  With girlfriends, I mean.  Lucky me, right.  But with this whole mess with Steph running around in my costume, I figured I’d try it out.”

“And did you find the experience rewarding, Master Timothy?”

“No.”

“Hm, perhaps there is hope for you yet.  Master Timothy, one doesn’t wish to be inquisitive into a young gentleman’s private affairs—”

“But—” Tim interrupted.  It was absurd.  Alfred was poking the gauze around his kneecap.  When a guy is digging around where your tibia meets your femur, he gets to ask whatever he wants.

“But one is rather curious. I had the impression that you and Miss Stephanie were no longer seeing each other in a romantic context.”

Tim bit his lip guiltily.

“We weren’t really, after I started seeing Cecily just before Christmas.  And it was really nice at first.  Cecily didn’t have anything to do with any of this life.  She was just a girl.  It was so… easy.”

Alfred set the dreaded forceps aside and began bandaging the wound. 

“But the thing was, even after ‘Tim and Steph’ broke up, Robin and Spoiler still worked together.  When that whole thing happened with Johnny Warlock, it made me see that somebody from the outside is never going to understand the stuff we deal with.  I thought I had killed him, Alfred.  And I had a date with Cecily that night.  I kept it.  We went to some movie.  I don’t remember a thing about it.  All I remember is sitting there in the dark for two hours thinking how there was no way I could tell her. Even if I could tell her, y’know, if I told her I was Robin, there was still no way I could tell her.  There’s no way you can make somebody understand: ‘this guy is an enemy, a powerful one. He absorbs energy and expels it.  And he expelled too much, weakening his body to where I thought I had decapitated him with a single kick.’”

“And Miss Stephanie was able to understand?”

“No.  No, I went to see her that night after I said goodnight to Cecily.  She was totally clueless, but—see Alfred, that was it—it was the way she didn’t understand.  She thought I’d lost my nerve.  I learned to fight from Bruce and Lady Shiva.  If I back off a fight, it’s not because I don’t think I can win.  It’s because I learned something else from Bruce.  I learned strategy… Anyway.  We got into it pretty good that night.  There was so much she didn’t get about me.  But we could talk about it.  We wound up knowing each other a lot better because we could talk about it.  I can never do that with someone like Cecily, Alfred.  Never.  I can never… open up about the stuff that makes me me.  It limits the pool, girlwise; y’know what I mean?” 

Even though he would never practice law again, Harvey knew only one way to try on a suit. He assumed various poses in front of the mirror as if summing up for the jury—pacing here, pointing there, leaning on the rail, strolling back to the council table—and scrutinized his reflection at every turn.  When he was satisfied, he told Ryan to call in Old Man Feldman to chalk the alterations. 

Harvey was delighted to see Feldman again.  His face lit up when the dear little man pulled back the curtain, his trademark wire-rim glasses and suit vest, a tape measure around his neck just like Kittlemeier.

“Alec!” he called happily. 

His delight was not mutual.

“Mr. Dent,” Alec Feldman declared coldly on seeing whom he had been called to measure.  “I regret that we are unable to do business with you.  Your account here at Feldman’s is closed.”

“So reopen it.  Alec, come on now, it’s me.  It’s Harvey.”

“I regret, Mr. Dent, that that will not be possible.  We here at Feldman’s—”

“Alec, what are you saying?  You still sell clothes, don’t you?”  He pointed to the heaps of suits and shirts he was trying on.

“Our customers, Mr. Dent, are esteemed members of the community, more than a few of whom you have robbed over the years.  We at Feldman’s cannot in good conscience—”

We here at Feldman’s is YOU, Alec.  I know a little something about referring to yourself in the plural.  You want to watch that, it has a way of sticking.”

Alec Feldman regarded Harvey haughtily, turned and left the dressing room.  From outside the curtain, Harvey heard hushed agitated voices, followed by an outburst from the salesman:

“But why?  He was Two-Face, so now he’s supposed to walk down the street naked!?”

“You tell him, Ryan!” Harvey called from inside the fitting room.

“We must draw the line somewhere, Ryan,” he heard Feldman retort.

“We again,” Harvey muttered to himself.  “That is so affected.”

entr’acte…  
No one likes admitting they’ve made a mistake, but everyone does make them.  Every being on the mortal plane could err.  Every being, every being, be it made of flesh, energy, or spirit; winged, scaled, or feathered, every being within the strictures of space-time was fully capable of screwing one up!  The only gray area was whether the being was so stupendously powerful that nobody witnessing the screw up would say so.  There really was no difference, Jason Blood reflected, between European courtiers all running around with the bottom of their vests unbuttoned because portly Edward VII couldn’t fasten his, and the Lightning Beasts of Altaire flying in a perfect arrowhead formation right into the cliffs of Kaldar when the leader caught the wake from Etrigan’s fireball.  Every being in the universe made mistakes, but a prerogative of the truly powerful was that the rest of them wouldn’t notice. 

If one wasn’t that lucky, if despite being an extremely powerful wizard one did have to have one’s mishaps pointed out, there couldn’t be a more maddening creature in the universe to do the pointing than Batman.  There really couldn’t.  He was worse than Etrigan, and that was saying a great deal. 

Etrigan.  Jason really didn’t feel up to another eighty stanzas of the demon’s latest epic: Ode to a Horse’s Ass, so he returned to the terrace, where the aura of Etrigan’s old girlfriend still lingered over the park, bringing a blessed silence.

Jason looked out on the park with satisfaction.  While he remained out here, Etrigan would be quiet—and he himself could bask in those other lingering echoes like another man might enjoy a sunset.  Batman really was insufferable when he was right about your being wrong.  The rebuke of the mortal man stung more than that of the chaos demon. A mortal, confined to a single fleeting lifetime—it was such a limited perspective—what did they know even of their own hearts—these echoes of his early visits to Selina, what did that say of Bruce Wayne’s ability to see the truth about anything.  Such ragingly conflicted emotions when… Of course.  Selina! 

Batman was truly the most insufferable being in the universe when he was right about your being wrong.  And nobody knew that better than Selina.  It had been too long since they commiserated, not since that awful little bistro in New Orleans when she brought him the Scrolls of Delataire.  He always enjoyed their talks, but he sensed that she got more out of them than he did.  She seemed to have few friends among those ‘rogues’ and few chances to really tell stories of her adventures.  He had listened, and now she could reciprocate. Yes, that was just what he needed:  A sympathetic ear about an insufferable bat, and a tale or two from an entertaining cat.  It even rhymed.  Take that, Etrigan.

Harvey Dent was a Harvard man.  It was an aspect of his personality even Two-Face couldn’t cancel out.  He had never let his membership lapse at the Harvard Club, and his colleagues there—broader minded than Alec Feldman—had never removed his name from the rolls.

He sat now at the bar in a crisp, new, Asprey blazer over a polo shirt and trousers (pricey, but one color per garment was worth it), and fidgeted with the swizzle stick.  He looked down at his fingers with alarm—it was the same way he had fidgeted with his credit card before buying the blazer.  It was the same way he used to fidget with the coin.

Feldman.  Turning on him like that.  After all the years, all the pinstripe, all the pima cotton button downs… It’s not like he was going to go off and commit some Two-Face crime IN one of Feldman’s suits! 

Well.  There were plenty of other places to buy clothes in Gotham.  And that sales chap, Ryan, was nice enough to refer him.  Geoff at Asprey, Philip at Barney’s, Stan at Polo, they were all very helpful… Harvey fidgeted again with the swizzle stick.  It was with Geoff at Asprey where Harvey had hit that second snag.

Asprey blazer, $1700.

In his wild bachelor days, they used to call him Apollo.

Polo shirt, $250.

You don’t get likened to a Greek god shopping at Target.

Trousers, $250.

Harvey could well afford it.  He had been operating as Two-Face for the past mumble years, after all.  Crime on that level does, in fact, pay.  It pays very nicely indeed.

Getting your life back from Darth Duality… Priceless.

It was standing there at the Asprey checkout, with his gold card poised in his fingers, that Harvey seemed to have experienced a momentary ethical dilemma:  Was it quite right to be living off all that ill-gotten gain which was… from a certain point of view… well… ill gotten?

It was only a second.  He played with the credit card for only a second, the way Joker sometimes fidgeted with a playing card, running his finger down the sides, top to bottom, then pulling to let it fall ninety degrees onto its side, lifting it back up, then doing it again…  But anyway, he bought the stuff.  It wasn’t a moral crisis or anything.  He had a choice to make and he made it.

Choice.  There really wasn’t any choice:  there were piles of clothes to buy so he could get on with his life, and the only way to do it other than stealing the stuff was to pay for it.  And what he had to pay with was the wealth amassed in his old life.  Case closed.  A minor ethical dilemma, and he’d made the call.

And now he was just chewing on it.

That was understandable.

It was an ethical decision, the first one he’s made in quite a long time.

And he’d done it.  He’d done fine.

It was quite a treat actually, considering both sides of the question himself with no coarse Two-Face in his head making the whole thing so unseemly.

So he weighed both sides himself and made the decision himself.

People did it every day.

He made one, just like that, no big deal. 

Not like he needed a coin flip to make a call like that.  

There was actually a 50-50 chance that if he had flipped a coin, it would have said the same thing he decided anyway.

It would be interesting to see if it did…  But that would probably be cheating…

Harvey caught himself still playing with the swizzle stick.  He set it down on the bar decisively and glared at it.  Then he picked it up and snapped it in two, and set both halves back down on the bar.

He looked at them critically, picked up the larger one and snapped it in half as well.  He gave the three pieces a satisfied nod, symbolically thumbing his nose at all things “two.”  Then he gathered all three in his empty glass, waved it to the bartender and ordered another drink.

entr’acte…
You meet a different caliber of person on rooftops than anywhere else in the world—even if that rooftop is under water. 

Her name was Lorena, a water-breather, one of the mutated survivors of the quake that had deposited the Hotel del Coronado, a naval base, and approximately 10 square miles of San Diego onto the ocean floor.  She met me on the hotel cupola, considered the entrance to Sub Diego by its residents, and led me to the naval base.  The base, or what was once the naval base, was now the home to the research and relief operations.  They had two pressurized rooms there, and I waited in one while the sub was unloaded and refueled.  I was surprised when Lorena joined me there.

“I didn’t think you could breathe air,” I told her.

“I can’t.  Not for more than a few minutes at a time…”  There was an undercurrent in her voice that I recognized.  Bitterness.  Quite a lot.  I’d heard it before, from Harvey when he got to talking about his old life before Two-Face:  a job he was good at, Gilda, trying for a baby.  “…But Aquaman said it was important that I greet you personally and talk to you while you were here.”

“Bruce!”  Harvey beamed, surprised but not suspicious when his old friend appeared in the Oak Bar, and waved him over to his booth.  “Selina out of town, right?  I should have expected you’d show up, you old dog.  Just like old times, eh?”

It was like old times at first. 

“Nice blazer, Harv,” the playboy man-about-town noticed immediately, “Asprey?”

Harvey nodded.  “Linen and silk blend.”

“Thought I saw it in the window,” Bruce remarked, sitting.  Without his ordering, a waiter automatically brought his usual.

“Still drinking the single malts, I see,” Harvey said, pointing to the elaborate set up of scotch in a special tasting glass, a second rocks glass, empty, and a pitcher of Scottish spring water.

But instead of the usual performance of a shallow fop reveling in the Oak Bar’s pretensions, Bruce casually poured water into the second glass, took a whiff of the whiskey and moistened his lips.  “I don’t pretend to be a connoisseur,” he said simply. “I suppose I’m just used to it.”

“Well I’m a connoisseur,” Harvey insisted, taking a large swallow of his own drink, “and I must admit, I’ve missed them.  It’s like coming home.”

Harvey looked at his glass lovingly.  Bruce raised an eyebrow.  “No more double malts?”

“There is no such thing as a ‘double malt,’ Bruce.  It’s either one single make of scotch, a single malt, or else it’s a blend.  More than one is a blend, plain and simple.  Nothing sacred about the number two.  Use two kinds of whiskey and pretending it’s something special.  ‘Double malt’ indeed.  Pure affectation.”

Batman overruled Bruce’s urge to take a healthy drink from his own glass.  He had to stay sharp, observing the new Harvey Dent, but if the observations continued as they had begun, Bruce felt he was going to need something stiffer than spring water to get him through.

entr’acte…
Lorena said the resort, the Hotel del Coronado and its convention hall, was their population center.  They had the same needs as they had above:  food, shelter, clothing.  Except they needed ways to chemically cure food, since conventional cooking was impossible.  Their shelter was to protect them from predators more than the elements, and the surviving structures from above were never built for that purpose.  And as for clothing, they needed fabric that could better withstand the salt.  She said Atlantis had sent some, short-term, and the Wayne Foundation was working on some way they could make their own. 

My eyes may have flickered at the unexpected name, but Lorena didn’t notice.  She had other problems—had to step outside for a breath of fresh not-air.  I started to wonder why Aquaman was so insistent that she speak to me, if he still had hopes I would kickback my fee for the relief efforts or… …He couldn’t possibly want leverage with Bruce; that wasn’t even worth considering… the Foundation was already onboard anyway from the sounds of it, and anybody who knew the truth about us would know that—

Lorena returned.  And very soon I realized the real reason Aquaman had her talk to me.  It wasn’t for me at all.  It was for her.

“If we can just get over this initial hump,” she was saying, “with the basic necessities, then we can set up a school.  And then some kind of industry.  There are all kinds of resources down here, if we can just get to a place where we can trade with the surface for what we need instead of living on charity…”

He was grooming her.  He wanted them self-sufficient, so he was grooming this woman to lead.  She had “greeted me at the door” in a way, meeting me at the Cupola just as Aquaman had at the transporters in Atlantis.  And she was giving me an overview of their culture just as he had on “the tour.”

I thought about that as I climbed back into the sub and decided not to be quite as annoyed with my fishy escort back to the surface.  Heroes are still infuriating.  But sometimes, I don’t know, they’re kind of cute, too.

Randolph’s was a comfortable, clubby lounge in the lobby of a venerable midtown hotel.  It had one particular feature that made it Bruce Wayne’s preferred spot for a quiet drink with friends or business associates:  it had enormous windows looking out on the midtown streets, making it easy for him to watch the city and, if it were lighted, to spot the Bat-Signal.  

No signal was lit but, sitting with Harvey Dent as their boys’ night on the town continued, Bruce looked out at the traffic all the same. 

Harvey looked more and more at Bruce.  He was starting to wonder just how accidental their accidental meeting really was.  He was feeling… scrutinized.  It wasn’t exactly “stuck in an interrogation room at the 22nd precinct while a room full of police idiots stare at you from behind the ‘mirror’ that fools no one” scrutiny… And it wasn’t exactly “sitting in the Iceberg after a particularly nasty rumor about you and Ivy involving the mayor’s garden shrubbery” scrutiny.  It was just an occasional clutch in the pit of his stomach in the middle of saying something perfectly normal… 

“Knights got a good team this year.”

“Yeah.  Yeah, I caught the end of the Meteors game last night.  Tough break losing in overtime that way.”

“At least it was a game.  I haven’t enjoyed sports much since” he gestured to the side of his face. “The Twins couldn’t win a championship with a gun to their heads.”

…And then that strange little clutch in his stomach.

He had a sudden flash of the social captains of Gotham’s High Society, the very people he used to call friends, all getting together in secret to decide whether ol’ Harv should be let back into the “inner circle” and electing Bruce to run the reconnaissance.  Perhaps this whole boys’ night was Bruce’s way of testing him to see if he would still fit in after what Gladys Ashton-Larraby would call “that unfortunate Twofers affair” if he passed and “Dent? No I don’t recall ever meeting a Harvey Dent” if he did not.

“Still got that skybox, Bruce?”

“No, I never used it after Dick went off to college.  Finally, I just signed it over to the Foundation.  Lucius uses it to court donors.”

Harvey dismissed the idea that Bruce was shilling for a cunning cabal of Gotham’s elite.  The idiots debated if it was politically correct to serve goose livers at a cirrhosis fundraiser.  They couldn’t agree whether that hideous excuse for a dress Gladys wore to the McIntyre opening was tan or taupe.  It wasn’t exactly the Ra’s al Ghul level of guile.  It wasn’t even the KGBeast level of guile.  

It was just… maybe it was just Bruce.  He was different, less foppish, more human.  Talking about his new yacht.

“So I went with the Gatta, the smaller one.  It’s better suited to the rivers around Gotham anyway.  Perfect for picnics and short weekend jaunts.  Besides, who do I need to impress.”

It was still Bruce and it was hard not to like the guy, but it was hard to believe this was the same wildman who once bet that, in the course of six months, he could score more with Harvey’s dates than Harvey could with Bruce’s. 

The mystery had teased him all night.  It was only now that it solidified as a definite question (What happened to the playboy?) that the answer presented itself:  Selina

Man.

What a woman like that could do for a guy. 

Gilda was like that.  In less than a year, she had transformed him from “the Dentmeister” into “loving husband.”  And he was happy about it!  He remembered looking at Bruce around that time, seeing him still alleycatting all over town every night, and wondering if his old friend would ever grow up. 

Of course, then came the acid… and Two-Face had made short work of the Dents’ marriage.

“You okay there, Harv?” 

Harvey started. 

“You were twiddling with that olive like a coin.”

Harvey looked down at his fingers dully, then up at Bruce. 

“We should get something to eat,” his friend was saying.  “Pierre, could we get a couple club sandwiches over here.”

Harvey looked piercingly at Bruce, thinking back to that old contest they had…  Scoring with the other guy’s date…  What a difference a woman like Selina could make… The way Two-Face used to think about her.  Geez, what a pig.  She was a beautiful, sexy woman, sure, but there are things a guy just isn’t supposed to notice about the woman he thinks of as a kid sister.

The sandwiches came, and a fresh round of drinks.

“You were a million miles away there, Harv,” Bruce said glibly.  “What on earth were you thinking about?”

“You’ll sock me,” Harvey said honestly.

“Heh, come on Harv, really.  Penny for your thought.”

“Women.”

“Ha.  You haven’t changed.”

Harvey thought about that…

“Oh that it were true,” he said sadly, then his eyes danced and he looked up mischievously.  “Her skin is not alabaster, by the way.  It’s green…  Not that I settled for what I could get because I was a freak.  It made sense at the time.  We had known each other, you know, before.”

“When she tried to kill you,” Bruce said dryly.

“It made sense at the time,” Harvey repeated.  “Of course, if I had it to do over again today… Doubt I’ll ever think of the phrase ‘clingy like vines’ the same way again.”

He chuckled and, after a moment’s pause, so did Bruce.

That earlier thought about the date-swapping returned.  Once upon a time, there had been stories about Bruce Wayne and Poison Ivy—but those stories existed about her and every rich man in Gotham, anyone with wealth or influence she had wanted to exploit. 

“Like I said once,” Harvey declared with a worldly air, “not girlfriend material.  A wild night—or two.  But not what a man wants to come home to.”

Bruce raised an eyebrow, unable to disagree, and took a discreet sip of his drink.

“Same with Roxy,” Harvey added, and Bruce’s scotch took a detour at the top of his esophagus. He coughed sharply.  “You okay there, Buddy?  Yes, those Iceberg women.  Not a high cuddleability factor.”  

With the aid of a napkin and several sips of water, Bruce had regained the use of his windpipe.

“Oh, not Selina, of course,” Harvey corrected quickly.  “I’m sure she’s amazingly cuddleable.  I mean… we mean… oh shit.  Um…  Did you hear the one about the octopus and the bagpipes?”

To be continued…


 

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