Life is what happens while you’re trying to do something else.
January 8th, A-minus 13
There are women out there who find shoe shopping therapeutic. I am not one of them. The stress-reducing qualities of finding the perfect spectator pump with gunmetal heel just eludes me… Even on sale, even if you have the perfect handbag to go with them. I don’t get the thrill; it’s just plain nuts.
When I’m freaking out, I put on the catsuit. And before anybody says that’s weird, I would ask them to step up and explain the shoe thing to my satisfaction. Then they can analyze Catwoman all they want.
I went back to the opera house tonight—and the museum—and the vault at the auction house. I guess I wanted to put the relationship into some kind of context or something. Who knows… ‘Why’ isn’t a question I ask a lot in the catsuit.
I would have gone back to Bruce’s safe, but it’s a better than even chance that he would’ve found me and if he did, he’d think I wanted to play. I didn’t. Not tonight. And not with him.
The love of my life?! Where did THAT come from? Where the fuck did that come from?
Right after the shoe thing, I’d like somebody to please explain how we got from ‘the right to remain silent’ to ‘the love of my life’ because that was not supposed to be possible.
I was breathing hard.
I’ve been playing with fire, not just for months but for years, and now it turned out this stuff I thought was flame retardant is, in fact, lighter fluid.
Nice bit of sophistry there, Selina. Now can you explain what you mean by it, or shall we go look for a nice patent leather slingback?
It was months ago we said ‘I love you.’ I took that plunge without even thinking… It was like a deep breath after climbing stairs. It was automatic. Easy. Painless. Since then I’ve been going along, letting myself be pulled along …fun and sex… fun and sex… without thinking much about what it meant… fun and sex… Bat and Bruce… but…THE LOVE OF MY LIFE? Jesus, Bruce.
Wait a minute, stop right there—not Bruce, Batman! Let’s try and remember this started with Batman.
THE LOVE OF MY LIFE! No pressure there, Stud.
That’s like: ‘the one,’ your soulmate, your once in a lifetime chance to screw it up for good. YOUR ONE AND ONLY SHOT! Happiness, love, everafter, the music swells, the curtains close, and the credits roll, copyright Paramount 1956.
That’s what doesn’t happen.
That’s what just isn’t possible.
Batman and Catwoman? Maybe. Why not. We’ve done it. It’s doable. But THE LOVE OF MY LIFE?
That doesn’t happen to people like us.
We’ve got to slow down. Hell, we’ve got to back up.
A curious thing happened right then… Catwoman slapped me. Seems there’s a line even I don’t get to cross.
“FIRST,” the cat in me hissed, “’people like us’ are PEOPLE. What can happen to them, can happen to us. What you’re describing may be rare—but it does happen occasionally. Every 10,000 couples or so somebody gets a shot at it. Sooner or later it was going to happen to someone in spandex—may as well be you. May as well be us.”
Yeah right, I thought, may as well be me that gets the rare chance to screw this up permanently.
I’m not sure how she did it, but Catwoman uncoiled the whip. I shut up and listened.
“SECOND,” she went on, “since when do we back down from a challenge? We don’t fold when the stakes are high, do we? We raise the ante.”
For the 65th time since January 1st, Moira Selmon muttered that they weren’t paying her enough to put up with this shit. Then she reminded herself of her new year’s resolution to stop swearing. Desperate for some act of defiance that wouldn’t cost her her job, she opened up her screensaver and replaced LEXCORP: A BETTER VISION FOR A BETTER FUTURE with LEXCRAP: WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME MAKES ME STRONGER.
Lex Luthor, still the real CEO of LexCorp, had taken his private secretary and her staff to serve him in Washington. Moira was ‘promoted’ to serve as the stand-in’s secretary. Moira had no problems with the word “secretary” as a job description, but she objected to it as a name. Yet Miss Head still addressed her this way occasionally—as did that caller. He of the unpronounceable name and the 10,000 rude messages.
..:: Secretary, please inform your mistress that she is to call me at once. ::..
..:: Secretary, inform Miss Al Ghul—What? No, I do not mean Miss Head, I mean Talia Al Ghul—that she is to contact me immediately. ::..
..:: As you still live, Secretary, I assume my messages are being delivered. Tell your mistress that I am most displeased that she continues to ignore me. She is to call at once. ::..
Finally Moira asserted herself. She told Miss Head that the days were passed when “typewriter” referred both to the machine and the woman who operated it. She would no longer answer to “Secretary” or deliver messages from anybody who called her that.
Two days later, Omar arrived. Omar was a courier. Not a deliveryman, a courier. Moira thought that sounded romantic, like something from a spy novel, until she heard Talia call him “Courier.” Then she realized it was just FedEx for people like Miss Head who called people by their job titles.
This morning Miss Head was in a state before Omar even arrived with the week’s worth of “Call Me-NOW” messages: Something in the papers, something she was expecting to find in the papers that wasn’t there. Something about Gotham City.
Like any good secretary, Moira warned her fellow underling that ‘The Suit’ was in a foul mood. Omar didn’t understand such warnings. It was his role to deliver his message if it meant his life. If his message displeased, that meant his life. If he returned an answer that displeased, that meant his life….
Omar had hoped for better things. Indeed, he was raised to be a soldier, to die for the Demon Head in battle, or even to be a palace guard and die defending his master’s interests –but it wasn’t to be. He was strong, but he was too short. A mere messenger, that was his fate.
He returned to his room at the Steven’s Motel.
He had asked for simple lodgings, and they gave him this vast room all to himself. He said this was too much, he was a humble man—the boy at the desk now called him Mr. Humbleman, and he still had the vast room all to himself.
When his affair with Huntress came to light, Nightwing worked out his frustrations in a knockdown-dragout with Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. No amount of psychobabble could substitute for a good adrenaline rush. Life and love were complicated; fight or flight was simple. Reducing himself to that primal core of instinct, blood and bile, that’s what he needed. Except Batman had blocked that particular outlet for everybody just now.
It was Hell Month. Everybody knew it: every career criminal, every street thug, cop and stoolie, every drunken PI in a bad suit that could’ve staggered out of a cheesy film noir. Everybody knew in January, Batman went on some kind of crusade, probably a new resolve for the New Year or something. Whatever it was, you didn’t want a piece of it. You just didn’t. Crime went up in surrounding cities as crooks with bills to pay took their business elsewhere.
Only Nightwing, Alfred, and Robin knew the truth. Batman was inactive during the holidays. There was crime at that time of year, yes, but crime motivated by fear, not the kind he could discourage by instilling fear. The system had to deal with those criminals in its own way.
Batman returned to a full work schedule on January 2nd. The anniversary of his parents’ death was January 21st. The period in-between these two dates was Hell Month, a time in which both Bruce and Batman became increasingly emotional, erratic and, if you were a criminal, dangerous.
Omar had continued to find the great city of Metropolis confusing. At dawn he would make his regular pilgrimage to LexCorp headquarters and deliver messages to the Great One’s daughter. His duty done, he would return to his room until it was time to depart. On every visit to the LexCorp building, the handmaid smiled and talked with him as though he were an equal. One day she offered him ‘coffee and a donut.’
Omar had not ventured into even fast-food restaurants. He was too low to take food prepared by others. He had subsisted thus far on microwave popcorn from the motel honor bar. But if it was presumptuous to pay others to prepare his food, it would be worse to refuse the handmaid’s charity. He’d accepted the coffee and donut.
January 15th, A-minus 6
The handmaid—no, that was wrong, not handmaid, “Miss Head’s
..something”—Moira, had started introducing Omar to the delights of a great city. He had now experienced a donut, a movie, a basketball game, and the view from the observation deck at the Daily Planet. She also took him to “her gym” (better equipped than anything he had seen in the DEMON compound), and if on the next trip he could stay over the weekend, they would go to an amusement park.
Omar now considered delivery of messages to Talia as an unpleasant ordeal at
the start of the day. When it was
over, the day was his to wander, explore, and often to spend the lunch hour
with Moira. They ate gyros in the
plaza across from the LexCorp building, unaware they were watched from far
No sane being could say Superman was a coward.
A conversation with Bruce would be unpleasant, but that wouldn’t stop him if it were pressing. This was not. An agent of Ra’s Al Ghul was making regular visits to Metropolis. That alone wasn’t enough to warrant alerting Batman.
True, if it wasn’t Hell Month, he’d probably make the call anyway. But it was Hell Month. Who
The week saw an escalation in Bruce and Selina’s relationship that bore
closer resemblance to a poker game than a romance. She treated her fears about “the love of my life” as a dare from her old
adversary. She responded
aggressively, moving some personal belongings into a drawer in his bedroom. He answered by giving her a workstation in the cave with a personal password. She took over a shelf in the bathroom. He
gave her a hook in the costume vault.
The sex, however, was not growing more intimate—quite the reverse.
Each had had a revelation about their relationship that made them gulp—their instinct was to slow down and instead they found themselves going faster.
Apprehension and tension were a natural result and, because there was a
game of Relationship Chicken being played, those feelings could find no outlet
in daylight. They found expression in increasingly angry sex.
The embrace that slammed against the wall, Selina chalked up to lust.
The forceful landing on the floor -excessive passion.
The thrusts that were more frustrated than tender awakened the cat. Selina was not one to become passive in the face of aggression.
Her nails found scars on his back that might have been from Catwoman—or might have been anything. She taunted him. “C’mon
Dark Knight, I can take it. That the best you can do? Meow…”
Alfred observed the domestic maneuvers: the shelf and the drawers and the hook, but knew nothing of the Bat and Cat game raging beneath the surface. He inadvertently added fuel to the fire when he began placing the day’s menus besides Selina’s place at breakfast.
That night, Selina was feeling more defensive than usual—Bruce had ‘love of my life,’ the accommodations in the cave, Barbara asking if Pachabel’s Canon was too clichéd for a society wedding, and now Alfred positioning her as mistress of the house. She had some underthings in a drawer of his bureau and a bottle of moisturizer in the bathroom.
And it was her turn.
Catlike, feeling herself in an inferior position, she overcompensated.
She searched for something deeply personal, not just intimacy, but
vulnerability. She told him about
her past. ..
It was true, what she’d answered when he first asked: She had no “origin” in the sense of one defining moment that made her Catwoman. But she hadn’t sprung out of the sidewalk at age 23 wearing a catsuit. She had a past. Now she told him what it was.
Bruce was stunned. It seemed to
him this revelation must have taken the same resolve and soul-searching it took
for him to tell about his parents.
“There’s something I should tell you,” it began.
“Hm?” was the only encouragement he got. Selina was half-expecting a bat-like pronouncement that he already knew about her history.
“I think it’s time I tell you the truth about me and Talia.”
In the last moments observing a culprit, in that final second before Batman and Robin descend on their prey, there is an electric charge in the air which Dick once described as “fleas mating,” a silence that isn’t truly silent, an intense emptiness that draws attention to the slightest sound.
“I think it’s time I tell you the truth about me and Talia,” Bruce had said. And a fleas mating silence dropped like a tarp over the drawing room.
The silence continued until the fleas might be raising a family. ..
This was going to be a very sore subject, and Bruce hadn’t rehearsed what he would say. He paused to choose his words, and Batman’s danger-signals lit up the control panel.
Just spit something out, Damnit!
his thoughts roared Saying
the name and letting it lay there is playing with gasoline and matches.
“I never loved her.”
The unbidden image that came to her was Rhett and Scarlett—“Ah nevah luved Ashley…not really.” Surprisingly, Selina found herself cast as Rhett: “Well you’ve certainly done a remarkable imitation up ‘til now.”
Bruce knew none of this, he just saw her staring quietly, so he continued.
“She was…intriguing, beautiful, fascinating. I won’t pretend otherwise.”
“The bad girl thing,” Selina whispered softly, almost seductively, looking away into the fire.
“Maybe,” he admitted. “Maybe she kept insisting we were in love so often that I let myself believe it a little.”
She looked up skeptically. He
“I think we all buy into the idea of tragic star-crossed lovers a little. That two people who are so totally wrong for each other must share some kind of doomed passion.”
“So she said you were Romeo and Juliet, and you bought it, is that what you’re saying?”
Bruce sighed. He never should have begun this without working out what to say.
“Look, Talia comes from a world of arranged marriages: you ‘love’ who you’re told to. So, for her, this constant yakking about it is—”
The tension broke suddenly as Selina stopped him with a gentle touch on the wrist and an enormous grin:
He went on, unaware that it was the choice of words and not the concept she questioned:
“She has to say ‘Beloved’ at least four times in a typical paragraph. Haven’t you ever noticed, forty percent of our conversation has to be her pining how in love we are and she’s my destiny.”
He was stopped this time by a malevolent glare.
“No,” Selina said flatly, “I’ve never actually had occasion to do a Beloved-count in your conversations with the demonspawn.”
In Bruce’s mind, the glare from Selina wasn’t half as threatening as the one from Batman. If he didn’t pull out of this, but fast, he’d be sent to the showers and Batman would finish the conversation himself.
“What I mean is: she thinks declaring herself my ‘great love’ will make it so. She wants a way out with her father and thinks I’m it—so she’s decided she ‘loves me’ and she thinks she can impose what she wants on reality. If she just says it often enough, it’ll be true.”
The glare softened a little. He was getting through.
“Why are you telling me this?”
Selina asked gently.
Selina asked gently.
“I don’t know. Needed to be said, I think, after…”
“…after ‘the love of my life?’”
“Yeah, that was…that was… ah…” Bruce rubbed the bridge of his nose as though trying to squeeze the thought out. “That was more the kind of thing she’d say. It’s not my style.”
“Oh, I noticed that immediately,” Selina commented with some flippancy.
He was about to remark on the difference. With Selina—with Catwoman—their feelings were more evident the more they denied them. He never got to say it, because her demeanor changed abruptly…
“Wait a minute, let me get this straight: you callously encouraged that pitiful little twit’s deluded fantasies, which you didn’t fully believe in yourself—Why? To keep a foot in the door at DEMON HQ?”
Put that way, it sounded cruel…
Batman could be cruel.
He would use a criminal’s fear for his own ends, and he would use this one’s romantic obsessions. He did try to hide it from himself with the notion that he might truly love her—but that illusion was no longer possible. He was in a real and loving relationship that made him happy; it was impossible to not see the sick, dysfunctional one with Talia for what it was.
Selina’s remark still hung in the air:
Reluctantly, he nodded.
“You preyed on that dimwit’s credulous simplicity?”
Ashamed, he nodded again.
He glanced up.
She was joking.
“You said it yourself, once,” Bruce groped for something to say and stumbled over the truth. “I’ll use anyone or anything to achieve the goal.”
“You led her on.”
“I did very little leading on. I may not contradict her much but that’s not the same as actually initiating…” He stopped at a pair of familiar green eyes reveling in his discomfort. It struck a chord: “Why am I explaining this to you of all people.” He was smiling now, and got a smile in return.
To be continued…