Batman and Catwoman in Cat-Tales by Chris DeeCat-Tales 57: Not My Kink

Not My Kink

Week 6


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Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck.
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All I did was kiss a man in a mask.  That’s really ALL I did.  I know some rubies and Rembrandts changed hands along the way, but that isn’t what set any of this in motion.  It wasn’t pearls or Picassos that did this, it was YOU, you unmitigated jackass Psychobat prick!!!!!!!!
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You want to know why I kept it out of the log?  This is why.  Psychobat.  I knew you would do exactly what you did.  Because Psycobat doesn’t give a shit about your happiness, Bruce.
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And he certainly doesn’t care about mine.
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I do!
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And doesn’t that make me a terrible person!
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Christ.  Could things be any more fucked up?  Riddle me that, Edward.

Once again, the night began with a spat about the armor and I stormed out of the cave.  I stomped all the way to the carriage house and took the long way into town.  I’m getting to have very warm and fuzzy feelings about that Catworthy billboard off the 10th Avenue Bridge.  “Catworthy” as an instant, one-word measure to convey the excellence of jewels!  Somebody out there gets it.

Plus, once I pass that one simple word of vindication, it’s a quick turn into the meatpacking district.  I like getting that out of the way early.  It was a kick at first, having this one little patch of the city that was my idea to keep an eye on.  But it’s started to feel so crimefighter-y—“My city, grunt”—for the same reason.  I’m not blowing them off entirely; it’s not like they’re the East End or anything.  I just do a quick pass, first thing when I get into town, and most nights, I don’t even have to get out of the car.  Then I head uptown and park in my old spot underneath my apartment. 

Jason Blood is so cute.  He doesn’t have a car, so an upside to giving him my apartment was that I got to keep the parking space.  A few nights into the crimefighting gig, these four fist-size stones appeared on the four corners of the space, each one carved with a Norse rune.  I looked them up, and they’re symbols for protection, harvest, victory, and forward motion.  Isn’t that too sweet?  He comes off like such a crusty old cynic, and underneath it all?  Marshmallow.  Hee hee.

So I parked, checked Museum Mile, headed down Fifth Avenue… and saw the Bat-Signal light up.  That’s not my problem; I don’t do Bat-Signals.  I thought it was Robin’s night.  Dick’s night in Bludhaven should mean Robin answers the signal.  But the OraCom went off a few minutes later and Barbara said that Cassie wanted to meet me at the southwest corner of Robinson Park.  I didn’t even connect it with the signal until I got there.  It just never occurred to me that Batgirl would have been the one to answer it.

“Robin busy.  Snake again,” as she put it.

King Snake has always had this obsessive hate-on for Robin, and I knew things had heated up since he shut down a Ghost Dragon operation in Hell’s Kitchen last week.  But still, I don’t care how busy he was, he had no business sending poor, monosyllabic Cassie to answer the Bat-Signal on her own.  I would have bent my rule and gone with her if any of them bothered to explain the situation.  Hell, I’m Catwoman; I BREAK RULES!  Shouldn’t they all know that by now?

So anyway, Batgirl had answered the signal alone, and as it turned out, it didn’t tax her conversational abilities one bit because there was no Commissioner Muskelli to talk to—only a Riddler package.  I wasn’t happy about it, seeing that bright green box covered in yellow question marks, but at that point, I had no reason to think it was anything more than bad timing.  Then BG showed me the contents: there was a little pewter bowler hat that I wouldn’t have even recognized as a variation on the Monopoly piece if it weren’t for the card packaged with it.  It was that very distinctive orange of Monopoly “Chance” cards, the same size and lettering, and the old coot who appears on all those things was pictured wearing (of course) a question mark t-shirt under his tailcoat. 

The riddle printed on it read:
A better game it may be,
Minus three.
Or plus 37.
But good heaven,
Who wants to figure out that one?
Better to take the third chance plus one,
And be done.

I knew Bruce would be as pissed as I was that I found it so easy to solve.  I hated it because it was the most Batman-y thing I’d had to do yet, solving a Riddler clue.  He would hate it because it wasn’t any great feat of crimefighting that got me to the solution, it was knowing how Eddie thinks: Go is a much better game than Monopoly, as far as Eddie is concerned, and Go is a square on the Monopoly board.  Go “minus three” means move three squares back from Go, or else “plus 37”/move forward 37 squares, which would land you in the same spot.  But good heavens, who wants to go to all that trouble, counting 37 steps forward when you can just go back three.  I didn’t have a gameboard to reference, but I was willing to bet that the Go-minus-3 square was also one square past Chance.  None of which mattered, because the first part was the easiest to figure out in my head: 3 squares backwards from Go had to be Park Place. 

I was really impressed that Cassie had apparently figured out that much on her own, since she’d asked to meet at the park.  I asked her how she did it, and it turned out she didn’t get it from the riddle at all.  She just pointed across the street.

“Window changed.”

I crossed the street to Bergdorf’s where she was pointing, and she was right: new windows.  Bergdorf Goodman is the best department store in the city, with the most elaborate window displays going.  I doubt Batman, Nightwing, or Robin keep track of what merchandise is on deck at any given time, but I do—and apparently, so does Cassie (Good little Batling, she’s got more potential than you’d think from all the badass fighting rep). 

Anyway, since Monday there had been this 1930s radio theme running through all the windows, showing off some wonderful pastel sweaters and knits (lightweight but layered, so suitable for all seasons, I’d been meaning to stop in and stock up).  Suddenly all the sweaters are gone, and all the theme elements are replaced with a set of windows from months before displaying scarves, belts, and other accessories.  The theme of the new (old) windows?  Classic board games. 

“Saw before.  Windows changed,” Batgirl repeated.

I felt this sinking in the pit of my stomach.  The board game windows were a point of contention between Riddler and Cluemaster during my stint as queen of the underworld.  They both claimed the right to use it for a crime spree, and I had to arbitrate a sitdown.  So why would Eddie restore those old windows, that was the real riddle.  Was it a message for me?

I told Cassie that I would take it from there, and also that she should keep this incident out of the logs for the time being.  I hoped I was wrong, but if this was going to be a personal Eddie thing, I knew I had to control when and how Bruce found out.  Cassie agreed straight away, no questions asked.  She certainly knows what it’s like trying to deal rationally with the Batboys on a subject where they are determined to be irrational.  (Speaking of which, I’ve done my best to stay out of the Jai situation.  Unlike some crimefighters, I am not an obsessive control freak and I tend to think whatever is going on between Robin and Batgirl is their business, not mine.  I stay out of it unless one of them deliberately seeks me out and directly asks my advice—which they have both done six times now.  I swear, if any rogues were privy to what really goes on in the Bat family, they could pull a heist every night and never encounter a cape.  Six times those rascally little batlings have finagled their patrols in order to catch up with me and get Kitty’s two cents on their romantic tangle.)

Anyway, I sent Cassie on her way and investigated the windows on my own.  The Monopoly area seemed too obvious after the riddle box, but I checked the game board anyway, just to see if anything was left on Park Place.  There was: the pewter terrier, i.e. the dog.  Might have been a coincidence, but somehow I didn’t think so.  In my mind’s ear, I heard my own voice say “woof” a thousand times when Eddie was in earshot… and once again, I had this gnawing churn in the pit of my stomach.

The Clue window was next.  That game came up repeatedly during the Riddler-Cluemaster sitdown, and I knew there was a Mr. Green among the suspects.  The Mr. Green mannequin was holding a green glove that didn’t really seem to fit the character.  So I took a closer look and, sure enough, found a little slip of paper rolled inside one of the finger holes.  It read:

Not my birthday, but it is my sign.
Now it’s yours.

And there it was.  I’d been looking for any indication that he wasn’t talking to me.  That this was a bat-riddle like any other announcing a Riddler crime like any other.  That anything more—anything that seemed like something more—was just ego, guilt, and imagination on my part, turning a few stupid little coincidences into a SELF CUR TUCK (as Eddie likes to put it).  But there was no pretending now.  This was a personal message.  “Not my birthday” was a direct allusion to our talk at the Iceberg.  He had solved the riddle of my behavior that night—or more likely, he thought he had solved it but he didn’t want to believe the answer he’d come up with.  He didn’t want to believe it any more than I had wanted to believe his using these windows was a personal message directed at me.  So he devised a test: a riddle that only I could solve.

It was Scarecrow’s first Halloween shindig and I had very foolishly eaten a petit four—which I freely admit was a damn stupid thing to do.  What can I say, it was Jonathan’s first party and none of us knew the hazards yet.  There was a cute black cat on top in the icing, and, anyway—BOO! Eddie turned into this giant black panther-grizzly bear-dragon-scorpion thing.  Trick or treat.  The effect only lasted a few seconds, but that was long enough to swing the Eddie-dragon-bear into a headlock and ram its head into the wall a few times.  We were sitting together, licking our respective wounds, when Madame Zodiac came around passing out these cards for a fortunetelling game.  Line 1: Aries—March 21 to April 19.  Eddie got terrifically excited because Aries the ram, the sign of Mars, has the anagrams for “ram” and “Mars” right there in its name.  It was so right and perfect, he decided that must be his sign.  Birthdays be damned, HE was an ARIES! 

Except “Aries” A-R-I-E-S doesn’t have either of those anagrams inside it.  No M.  He kept taking the M from March.  Remember the headlock and skull ramming?  The great Nigma brain hadn’t quite recovered from the jostle, and for ten minutes, he couldn’t wrap it around the notion that there is no M in Aries.  That was my doing, I banged his head into the wall, and it’s been our little joke ever since.  Aries is his sign because of me.  Once he even said the M came from Meow. 

So it was a test.  “Not my birthday, but it is my sign.”  He was testing me, the little shit.  Batman would never know what it meant.  The only way he could know, the only way anyone could know this riddle points to an Aries crime, is if I told them.

I didn’t.  I didn’t tell anyone.  I just pretended that a ram was a cat and tried to work out what the best theme target would be.  It wasn’t hard.  There are four gemstones associated with Aries: the diamond, ruby, bloodstone, and carnelian.  Aries is also the god of war, so a thief who was merely toying with the idea of a theme crime for a lark but whose primary motivation was greed had a few more options.  He could hit one of the defense contractors headquartered in Gotham, steal a prototype weapon (or the underlying software for one, much more portable) and ransom it back or even sell it on the black market.

But Eddie was not driven by greed; he was driven by the game.  And this time, he was playing against me.  He would go for the gems.  So… diamonds, rubies, bloodstones, and carnelians.  We all know where the money is on that list.  I thought through the biggest concentrations of diamonds and rubies in Gotham, eliminated a few whose security was beyond Eddie’s capabilities, and came up with one he would really like: Adamas.  The Greek word for “invincible” is where our word “diamond” comes from.  Eddie would love that.  And the Adamas Exchange, in the northeast corner of the diamond district, does a healthy business in rubies as well.  That was going to be his target.  I didn’t know if there was some more specific psycho-chronological cipher drawn from the bi-fractal indices of key items in the store window that a crimefighter like Batman would feed into a chain of linked Crays and come up with the exact longitude and latitude of the Adamas Exchange, but I knew, the way a Rogue knows, that Adamas was the place to hit for the Aries crime.  Meow.

And woof.  I might be Rogue enough to know that Adamas was the place to hit, but I wasn’t the one going to hit it.  I was the one… I was the one going there to confront a friend.

Now there are basically two kinds of security setups in the diamond district: the ones that put all their faith in technology and have people as a backup, and the ones that put all their faith in people and have the technology as a backup.  Adamas was the latter.  They have the best armed guards that money can buy, and rather than upgrade from a Phoenix 8000 to a 9000 when a catburglar comes around with razor tip claws to defeat it, they put the money into extra guards.  Instead of retinal scanners at the vault entrance, the security staff gets a pay bump.  Instead of heat detection cameras at the windows, 401Ks.  It’s really nice from a human resource perspective, but it’s a vulnerability all the same.  Mefentanyl is mefentanyl and it’s going to knock them out no matter how much you pay them.

Fact is, neither approach is going to keep me away from their sparklies.  Thieves on my level, it doesn’t matter what they do.  If we want to get in, we get in.  Biometrics, sensor nets, infrareds, bring it on!  That’s why I still break into the Ross Exchange once a month just for fun.  There is also a level of criminal who will be defeated no matter what.  The sheer size of the prize intimidates them.  They know that whatever a building in the diamond district has for security must be beyond their limited abilities, so they don’t even try.  And then there is the middle level, Eddie’s level.  He hasn’t developed the skill set to defeat any security setup anywhere the way I have, but he’s good enough to be good enough.  If he picks his targets carefully, choosing only those that he can really nail, he can appear to be in my league. 

So I checked the Phoenix and saw how the recept hub been fiddled with so the harmonics were shifted out of phase.  It wouldn’t be detecting anything less than a 747 taking off from inside the showroom—which was a damn clever way to get the job done, in my opinion, and I made a mental note to compliment Eddie (right after I punched him in the mouth).  I figured whatever gas he used had probably dissipated by now, but I put on nose filters just to be safe.  Went inside, stepped over the guards where they fell, and made my way to the night vaults.  And that’s when the evening took a turn from vaguely bad to downright shitty.

“Riddle me this, Catwoman.  Which of us would you say is least happy to see the other right now?”

I noted the formal address.  I didn’t go in expecting “’Lina,” but I didn’t exactly expect “Riddle me, Catwoman” either.  I didn’t know how to answer such a flamboyantly tacky opening, so I just gave him that look women give men watching The Three Stooges.

He clicked his tongue.

“These sacks are too big,” he said offhandedly.  “I brought two, one for the diamonds and one for the rubies.  Dumb idea.  I can carry them out together and sort ’em out later.”

“You want my professional opinion on transport?  Mark Cross shoulder satchel, strap worn diagonally, Lara Croft style across the chest, with an extra loop of velcro stuck on the back so you don’t go raining diamonds all the way down on 47th Street when I lash your ankle midswing and twist you into a pretzel.”

He tilted his head like a dog hearing a new noise—looked a lot like Azrael, actually, except more bemused than stupid.

“That sounded like a threat, ‘Lina.”

“That’s because it is a threat, Edward.”

“You’re pissed,” he noted.

“Oh, I’m pissed,” I agreed.

“WELL, SO AM I!” he screamed.  Then he… he swung his sack of rubies at my head!  I ducked, and he kept going.  Spun himself around almost a full 360 and spilled a few rubies on the floor before he caught his balance, and then skidded on one and fell on his ass.

“Mark Cross,” he said, opting for dignity as he got up, and then straightening an imaginary tie.  “Does it come with the velcro or…?”

“No, I get Kittlemeier to put it on.  Breaks his heart, too, ‘cause it’s really good leather and he hates to mutilate it.”

“Woof,” he said.

“Woof,” I agreed.

Nothing more was said for almost a minute.  I started to think maybe I was wrong about the gas.  Possibly there was some still floating in the air and he was just stalling until it took effect.  But then he rubbed his tailbone where he’d fallen, and that pretty much shattered the image of Machiavellian guile waiting out an opponent while an odorless, colorless gas renders them unconscious.  It was just that guy thing when they don’t want to talk, that’s what he was pulling.  Then he rolled his foot back and forth over a few fallen rubies, like he was testing the skid (or, knowing Eddie, coming up with anagrams for “falling on my ass”).  I was trying to come up with a way to break the silence when he finally did speak:

“So I’m hurt and pissed.  You’re just pissed.  And when you get pissed, somebody’s gonna get hurt, right, ‘Lina?”

I thought about that for a long moment, and tried out my best bat-glare.

“What right do you have to be hurt, Edward?  You PUT ME in this situation.  If you didn’t want me here, why in the flaming fuck did you send an Only-‘Lina-Can-Solve-It clue?”

“I couldn’t help it,” he hissed.  “I had to solve the puzzle.  You beat up Jervis, you’re asking about Russians, there had to be some explanation.  I had to figure it out.”

I sighed.  Eddie and his had tos.  What is a 5-letter word for a walking criminal compulsion that likes country music, murder mysteries, and Ed Wood movies?

“I had to figure it out,” he repeated.  “But I couldn’t!  There was only one explanation I could think of: you’d gone to the Dark Side.  You were doing BATMAN’S JOB for him, and it couldn’t be that.  It just couldn’t.  It wasn’t possible, not my ‘Lina.”

“So you had to prove the negative, that’s what all this is about?”

“Do you know how many anagrams there are for ‘Lina White Hat?’  A Tail When Hit, I tell you.  A Tail When Hit Alienated Good Thinkers.”

“Eh…” I winced, having no idea where to begin decoding that one.

“‘Lina White Hat, ‘Lina gone to the Dark Side,” he explained quietly.

“Ah,” I said.  “You do realize that, technically, it would be the other way around.  Crimefighting would kinda be the light side.”

He glared—which was fair.  I found the notion as disgusting as he did, and since I couldn’t glare at myself, I was happy someone was doing it.

“I had to work out what the real answer was,” he said.  “There was no way you’d gone ‘Postal,’ so there had to be another explanation, and I had to figure out what it was.  I had to.  I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t solve it.  It would be hanging over me, this giant question mark, hanging right over my head everywhere I go.  ‘THIS IS THE ONE THAT BEAT YOU, EDWARD NIGMA!  THIS IS THE QUESTION YOU COULDN’T ANSWER!  THIS IS THE PUZZLE YOU COULD’T SOLVE!’  I’d be the dot!  Don’t you see that, ‘Lina?  I’d be the dot underneath this giant unanswered question mark!”

“…”

“…”

“…”

“I'd be miserable,” he ended lamely.

“Good.”

Wasn’t the nicest exchange in the history of vault-front banter, but it was from the heart.  I knew I wasn’t holding up my end of the conversation, as a crimefighter or as a friend, and I was beginning to see why Batman craved action.  Fists would be so much simpler than this.

“Oh, don’t worry, ‘Lina, I’m still plenty miserable.  That I could live to see this.  The constipated crusader is out of action for a spell, and you’re filling in.  You’ll be happy to know Jervis hasn’t worked it out.  Has there been anyone else who… who we know?”

“The Cadaver,” I told him.

“Well, not like he wasn’t already aware of your connection with Bats,” Eddie chuckled.  “So he’s not talking, and the Postish East End ‘she’s-a-crimefighter’ rumors stay dead—unlike him.”

At which point it was my turn to chuckle.  Eddie just… he has a way about him.

“Still, there is that other question,” he said grimly. 

I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I knew I wasn’t going to like it.  And I really would have thought by now he’d have learned not to ask it, whatever it was.  But I also knew it was pointless to say so.  It would just be another had to.  What is a 5-letter word for a walking criminal compulsion?

“So I’ve got this vault open,” he said with this even, soft-spoken tone that was somehow apologetic and assertive at the same time.  “I’ve got these sacks.  And there are these shovelfuls of diamonds and rubies I was planning to take away with me.  My question, ‘Lina, is this… Are you going to stop me?”

Yeah, he has a way about him all right. 

Was I going to stop him? 

The question just hung there in the middle of the vault. 

Was I going to stop him? 

“I was having the best week I've had in a very long time,” I told him tersely.  “I’m sleeping in a damp cave with squeaking furries over my head, but I’m balancing what I do and what he does, and I’m making it work.  I’ve made him laugh, he’s made me smile, and getting home at night and sharing it all with him has become this high point of my day, like cashing in the chips after a huge win at a casino.  And you WRECKED IT, you obsessive, egomaniacal, my-compulsion-outranks-my-own-happiness little troll!  Not only am I going to stop you, Edward, I am going to tie you in a knot so tight, Arkham will have to hose you down with petroleum solvent just to get you into the straitjacket.”

He got that “I just went too far, didn’t I?” look.

I answered with a “Yes, you did” bat-stare.  I wasn’t proud of myself, but I can’t deny, it was a bat-stare.  A smug, hostile, humorless, thou-shalt-not-burgle-in-my-city bat stare.

Quoth the Nigma: “Ouch.”

He slunk away… or at least he started to.  He got as far as the door, and then he spun around, this strange little smirk curling the corner of his mouth.

“You conniving little bitch, you almost had me,” he pronounced.  It was said quietly.  He wasn’t shouting or anything, but I could tell he was livid.  His whole face had turned pink, and the forehead and cheeks were actually growing red while the pink was moving half way down his neck.

“But I think you forgot who you’re dealing with,” he said, brushing past me as he went back to the spot where he had been standing when I first came in.  He carefully picked up the sacks he had swung at my head and seemed to weigh them in his hands.

“Questions are my thing, after all, like you and the puddy tats.  One would hardly expect to trip up the great Catwoman with a bit of cat trivia she didn’t know, like say, how many LIVES she’s supposed to have.  Same with me when I pose a question.  It’s not often anyone can get away with NOT ANSWERING ONE that I set before them as a challenge, not without my noticing.  But you almost pulled it off.  Not because you’re a clever puss, don’t kid yourself there.  It’s only because I was a little distracted attempting to remove the knife from my back.”

“You sure you want to do this a cappella, Eddie?  Because it really seems like you’re building to something that cries out for a swell of violins.”

“Best week you’ve had in a long time, was it?  I wrecked it?  That’s your answer?  Oh yes, your personal animosity toward me for messing up your happy little Hallmark holiday, that would have provided a very convenient excuse, at least for tonight.  But I caught you out, ‘Lina my pet, and I’m not letting you off so easy.

“I wasn’t asking ‘Will you stop me because you’re mad at me?’  The real question, the exquisite essence of the unknown represented by that particular question mark is this: Would you stop me anyway?  If you weren’t mad, if you didn’t have a nice, pat, Selina-acceptable reason to tell yourself…

“Oh, you answered my first question the moment you stepped through that doorway.  A Tail When Hit Alienated Good Thinkers.  You’ve gone white hat all right.  But as usual, solving one puzzle only uncovered another.  So riddle me this, Catwoman: What happens now?  Will you be chasing the idiot friend who messed things up between you and your bat beau, or will you be chasing the criminal who dared to –gasp– perpetrate a crime in your city?

“It seems to me, there's an easy way to learn the answer…

He slowly took one step toward the doorway of the vault, his eyes never leaving mine.

The bags landed at his feet with a soft tinkling thud as his smirk changed into an arrogant snarl. “No evidence, no crime.  Your move.

With that, he bolted out of the vault, leaving the jewels behind.

Asshole.

I’m sure to his mind, it was a perfect little corner he’d painted me into: Leave the jewels behind, no crime in progress, nothing for a crimefighter to do here.  So if it was just me, if I wasn’t Batman’s stand in, if I was really motivated only by anger, then I should still go after him—Hell, I should tie him into TWO knots since I was now twice as pissed as I was before.  The thing Eddie doesn’t understand, thank god, is that you can’t test a cat.  She makes her own rules, and she always keeps them.  If she appears to break one, that means she has invented a new rule and you better figure out what it is if you want the game to continue.

I cleaned up the rubies, closed up the safe, and double-checked the security closet to make sure there were no cameras or anything recording what had happened in the vault.  (That’s his influence.  I didn’t used to be so cautious.  Woof.)  Then I locked up, went back to the Phoenix hub, and ripped out all of Eddie’s rigging.  It would be a shame to let them find it in the morning.  It’s too good an idea to waste that way. 

I was half way home when I realized I forgot to tell him how much I liked it.

Walapang squawked at me when I got back to the cave.  I hissed at him, and Bruce heard.  He guessed I’d had a bad night.  I said I didn’t want to talk about it, and he grunted.

Eddie is wrong.  There is no “white hat” or “dark side” for a cat.  I do what I personally feel like doing, regardless of how any dog or man would classify that behavior.  That’s why his test ultimately fails to answer the question.  I went to the Adamas Exchange initially, not because there was a crime being committed in my city that I had to put a stop to.  I went, ultimately, because Eddie asked me to.  I went because cats are curious, and I wanted to see what would happen.  He is so obsessed with his compulsion, he can’t think in any other terms.  He NEEDS to know an answer the way Batman NEEDS to stop a crime.  A cat’s curiosity is different.  It’s not a burning need to know, I want to know.  Cats also indulge their wants.  It’s playful (most nights) and it’s fun (most nights).

I said I’d make the cocoa.  Usually Bruce makes it while I’m typing up the log, so he had to know what I meant.  But still, after we had our nightcap, he went and asked: wasn’t I going to write up a log? 

I said no, I wasn’t. 

He rubbed my neck and asked why.

I repeated that I did not want to talk about it. 

I should have just lied.  I should have realized you don’t let the World’s Greatest Detective glimpse the edge of a mystery any more than you let Whiskers glimpse a bag of catnip.  Getting into it becomes the mission of his life. 

He went on rubbing my neck.  Didn’t say a word for probably ten minutes.  Then he pronounced:

“It was Nigma.” 

“You got that from the knots in my neck?” I asked.

“No, I’ve been expecting it,” he said with that impossible “I’m Batman” assurance.  “Nigma was always the most likely to realize something was amiss with you, and once he did—”

“I know, I know, he’s got this compulsion to solve the puzzle.  We discussed it at length.  I would be this giant question mark hovering over his head wherever he went, and he’d be the dot.”

That’s how he’s framing this?” Bruce asked.  The neck rub had abruptly stopped, and I could hear the astonishment in his voice. I had to turn around and see the face that went with it.  He was dumbstruck. 

“It never ceases to amaze me how little criminals understand of their own minds,” he graveled finally.  “It’s not Riddler’s obsessive need to answer the unanswered question that drove whatever he did tonight, Selina.  It’s his friendship for you.  I have no such compulsion about puzzles and riddles, but if the situation was reversed, I would have to know if a close friend was switching sides.  Not even for safety’s sake, just because the very idea of it being true would be upsetting to me.”

“Don’t look now, Dark Knight, but you just acknowledged Edward Nigma’s humanity.”

“If I did, I’m the only one,” he said sharply.  “It sounds like the two of you have taken denial to a whole new level to avoid…”

He broke off and there was an abrupt density shift.  I never got to see my own bat-glare, but now that I could observe the original, I am forced to admit I overstated my version’s battitude.  Even without the mask, Bruce’s could reduce an entire planet to ash.

Luckily, I am not a planet and it’s never had any effect on me.

“Finish that sentence, I dare you,” I told him.

He shook his head.

“Denial is a reflexive response when personal feelings conflict with the demands of the job,” he said clinically.  “The conflict can only exist if there are two sides.  Vanish one and you vanish the emotional turmoil arising from the conflict, at least superficially.  You can’t ignore the crime being committed but you can put on some powerful blinders about your own feelings…  Hence, Riddler sees only his ‘compulsion’ to answer a question rather than consciously acknowledge his feelings about fighting a friend.”

I couldn’t believe it.  I literally could not BELIEVE what I was hearing.  I mean, I was WEARING the catsuit, so there’s no way he could have temporarily forgotten this was Catwoman standing in front of him.  Catwoman who he wanted for years—YEARS—it’s not like he ever hid it well.  I called him on it a thousand times.  We wanted each other, he would never admit it—“Denial is a reflexive response when personal feelings conflict with the job”—my sweet purple ass!  We set each other off in the best ways imaginable, and we both felt it every second we were on the same rooftop.  Every second we were together, no matter what the circumstances, it was there, this electric needful excitement, pulsing off him in waves.  I FELT IT.  You couldn’t possibly NOT feel it.  This HEAT that was all dark, boiling volatilty.  Pure Batman.  The same intensity he had about everything, and this time, it WANTED, it wanted with a ferocity that could bend light.

And he tossed a cape over it and pretended it wasn’t there.  Because he was a crimefighter and I was a thief.  “Denial is a reflexive response when personal feelings conflict with the demands of the job…” 

“You know that line we’re not supposed to cross talking about the past, Bruce?  Look behind you.”

“I knew when the time came, this would be the hardest part of the job for you to accept: putting the personal aside and doing what you had to.”

I don’t think I have EVER felt such a burning desire to claw a chunk out of that impossibly chiseled cheek.

“If you are referring to your rigid, self-righteous, pathologically stubborn insistence on being alone and miserable when we could have been together and happy, then yes, you’re quite right, I won’t be doing that.”

“Then you’ll never be a crimefighter,” he pronounced.

I wanted to scream “THAT’S FINE WITH ME!” but you know, at that point, I was just too OVER IT.  I have had that same fucking argument with him 984 times, and I just couldn’t summon the will to go back and do it again.  If the last few years have proven anything, it’s that I was right and he was wrong. 

We’re together and it’s good.  And it takes a special kind of crimefighter-stupid to go dragging that idiotic old argument out of the hellmouth closet, drag it past these years being happy together that prove it all wrong, and plop it right onto the floor between us in the middle of the Batcave! 

The Batcave!  If there was one iota of validity in anything he was saying, I would never have SEEN the … … … … :: Duty Log OVERRIDE: Batman :: … … …

 

       … … … … :: OVERRIDE CHANNEL: Batman :: … … …
If we’re going to have this fight, could we NOT do it in the log?
       … … … … :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: … … …

To be continued…


 

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