Batman and Catwoman in Cat-Tales by Chris Dee

Awkward Pauses 
by Chris Dee

Cat-Tale:  Oh my

Tim Drake and Cecily Grenville sat in Gino’s Pizzeria, across the table from Cassie and Randy-quad, all discussing the second installment of The Lord of the Rings:The Two Towers.  Tim made an effort, but the truth was, he hadn’t enjoyed the movie at all.  Not having read the book, he didn’t know there would be treeherds avenging the destruction of an ancient forest.  The sight of giant, sentient trees running around wreaking havoc, so thrilling to the rest of the audience, left Tim wrestling with unwelcome memories of Poison Ivy and her warrior plantlife.

“And when that one big treeguy caught fire and ran to the burst dam to douse the flames!” Randy enthused. 

Cassie smiled. 

Cecily laughed. 

“…Yeah,” Tim said finally.  “That was… funny.” Though in his heart, he had been disappointed not to see the psychotree burn.  

The petite, dark-haired hostess called Raven ushered the ninth job applicant through the Iceberg’s main dining room.  She gave him a judgmental look up and down, then pointed to the office door. 

“Mr. Cobblepot will see you now,” she pronounced, her dour monotone reminiscent of the sinister housekeeper in a Gothic novel.  The applicants were not to blame, but she blamed them anyway.  She was a hostess, not a secretary.  When Mr. Cobblepot asked her to come in to work in the middle of the day, that was one thing.  The club was closed and no patrons meant no tips.  But a job was a job and he was the boss.  So she came in, as requested.  Still, if the slimy birdman made one false move, said one word that could be construed as a proposition, she was ready with the pepper spray. 

Turned out she didn’t need it.  He wasn’t hitting on her; he had scheduled interviews all afternoon and wanted her ushering the losers back to his office like he was some kind of big shot. 

Nurse Chin waited until her colleagues left for lunch, then let Pamela Isley into the infirmary.  It was strictly against policy to let one Arkham inmate visit another this way, but poor Harley Quinn was having such a rough time of it.  Why it took them twenty minutes arranging her pillows in the morning, getting her into a position where she could lie comfortably.  All those bruises.  Dear girl.  If a visit from her friend would cheer her up, Chin could see no reason to deny them. 

And besides, an underpaid junior staffer at Arkham Asylum never knew when she might overhear something… profitable. 

“Harley, my dear, this time you’ve really gone and done it,” Pam chided, “Giving Joker Punch and Judy dolls, it was bound to give him ideas.  What were you thinking?”

“Wasn’t that, Red,” Harley moped, “my Puddin’ is excitable, that’s all.”

Pam swore under her breath, then changed the subject.  She was here to cheer Harley up, not chew her out.  There would be plenty of time to make her see reason about Joker—later.  For now…

“Here, I thought you’d find these amusing.  Clippings from that website,”

Harley clapped her hands, anticipating a treat.  When Oswald, the party poop, whitewashed the women’s washroom at the Iceberg, the graffiti went online.  The best of it, dedicated to the oh-so-delectable Nightwing, was housed at—and it only got better over time.  Pam had spent the morning surfing, and began reading the most entertaining clippings:

“Sculpted.   The man is positively sculpted.  Buns of steel, arms like those thick braided loaves of bread, thighs of a Clydesdale…”

Nurse Chin, hearing this, raised an eyebrow, but kept her eyes on the file she was pretending to read.  Pamela continued to read, unaware of her audience:

“…just the right amount of chest hair…” 

Poison Ivy speaking that way about Nightwing?  Nurse Chin smiled.  Her generosity in letting Isley visit her friend had been well rewarded.  Indeed, one never knew an underpaid Arkham staffer might hear something profitable.  She closed the file on her desk and consulted a small card in her wallet:  Gotham Tattler 212-555-6719 ext.  12. 

“Mr. Fox?” Moira knocked timidly on the Chief Operating Officer’s door. 

Lucius gestured for her to come in as he made a final note and hung up the phone. 

“I’m not sure if you’re aware,” Moira informed him as she sat, “that Mr. Wayne was in the office this morning.”

Lucius nodded.  He was aware; he simply avoided Bruce as much as possible in the month of January. 

“He dictated a letter and a memo.  As you requested, I’m showing it to you before sending the letter out.”

Lucius removed his glasses and massaged his eyes.  Every year it happened:  Bruce in January.  On one of his temperamental rampages, no doubt.   At least this year, Lucius had the foresight to pull Moira from her regular duties and have her act as his secretary.  She was certainly qualified, having served the LexCorp CEO before Wayne Enterprises stole her away, but what made her particularly well-suited to Bruce in January was not her stint at LexCorp, but her pilot program training assistants to deal with difficult people. 

In the past year, Bruce was doing better, all things considered: more focused, less of a flake.  And the support staff at the upper echelons of Wayne Enterprises had responded favorably.  They had a far better caliber of employees assisting them at this level than ever before.  And all it would take was one of Bruce’s typical January episodes and it would all be shot to hell.  That was not going to happen again. 

Lucius replaced the glasses on the bridge of his nose and read:

F.B.  Publicists, Suite C, Robinson Building
Dear Sirs:
In reference to your letter of January 3rd regarding alleged misspelling of Zatanna’s name in promotional material for the Wayne Foundation Gala, December last.  We beg to inform you that no literate person regards the use or not of capital letters throughout a word as misspelling.  Furthermore, if your goal is to see your client’s name in print more often rather than less, you would do well not to antagonize her presenters in this fashion, to say nothing of the press, by insisting on these ludicrous marketing gimmicks. 
If, on the other hand, your goal is to gain attention by being as obnoxious as possible, and assuming you don’t feel it’s pretentious enough that Zatanna has no surname, why not try changing her handle to some unpronounceable glyph.   
Yours truly,

Lucius winced.  Typical Bruce.

“And the memo?” Lucius asked wearily.  Moira handed it over.     

To:  Lucius Fox
From:  Bruce Wayne
RE:  Moira Selmon

Moira is an exceptional employee in every respect, and I certainly must admire her poise in this absurd position she’s been placed in.  She is, as you know, fully occupied with her duties implementing the assistants’ training program and DDP (Dealing with Difficult People) Seminars.  A program for which she has particular insight because of her stint assisting Talia twitterHead at LexCorp.

“Talia twitterHead?” Lucius looked up. 

Moira said nothing.  After a pause, she nodded.  After four drafts, that was the politest term Mr. Wayne had come up with.  Lucius continued to read. 

… assisting Talia twitterHead at LexCorp. 

Anyway Lucius, it seems some damn fool has taken her off this worthy assignment, the job for which I hired her in the first place, and has her assisting me.  Of course I have no complaint with her, but this is an egregious waste of her many rare talents.   
Do see that she is reassigned A.S.A.P. 

Picking up Selina at the airport this afternoon, so I shan’t see you until tomorrow.  Let’s schedule a LONG lunch and you can bring me up to date on things.      

Lucius looked up again.  Moira had stood and was smiling down on him. 

“As my final act as Bruce’s secretary, he had me put that lunch on his schedule for tomorrow and make sure Gale did the same for yours.  D’Annunzio’s.  Try the shrimp, it’s to die for.”

“ … ” was all Lucius could reply. 

“I like your friend,” Randy confided when Cecily and Cassie went to the powder room.  “She listens.  Not like those debs.”

Tim said nothing.  He could tell Randy was quite taken with Cassie, but Tim had more experience with Cassie and her silences.  He could tell she was not having a good time.  Though she talked more than she used to, each day acquiring more of a vocabulary and a sense for how and when to use it, she still expressed more in her looks and shrugs than in words.  And her manner suggested to Tim that she was bored to tears, both with Randy-quad and the dating experience. 

Assuming she even realized she was on a date.  When she’d shown up for this, her first date as far anyone knew, in jeans and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer t-shirt, Tim realized his oversight.  He had invited her casually, “Come to the movies with me and Cecily and a friend from school.” Any girl their age would have known what it meant.  Any girl not saddled with a David Cain upbringing.  But Cassie, who knew what she understood?  Nuance, particularly social nuance, was still beyond her. 

“So,” Randy asked hopefully, “think she likes me?”

“…Eh…” Tim sputtered between pauses, “Shh, later, they’re coming back.”

“Your name?” Oswald asked the latest applicant, without looking up from his desk. 

“Giggles, sir,” the young man replied. 

Oswald looked up. 

“Surely not.”

“Excuse me, for the last year, sir, it’s just been Giggles.”

“Ah, you’re the chap that’s been working for Joker then.  I told you on the phone I don’t need a henchman, I need a bartender.”

“Begging your pardon, sir, you need me.  Anyone can pull a tap or pour from a bottle.  Not everyone can handle your clientele, Mr. Cobblepot.  I can.  Mr. Joker’s henchman for a year, and here I stand, breathing, sane, and only smile on my face is what God put there.”

Oswald’s eyes narrowed.  He said nothing for a long moment.  Then put the pen into his mouth like a cigarette holder.  “Giggles” took this as encouragement and continued. 

“Well, maybe not God,” he said with a between-men smirk.  “Truth is, was that little Raven that showed me in here.  She’s a cute little bird.”

Oswald’s mouth dropped open and the pen fell to his lap. 

“Particularly when walking away,” Giggles concluded. 

“If you made such observations about Ms. Quinn when working for Joker you would not be standing here now,” Oswald observed coldly. 

“Actually, Mr. Joker specifically instructed me to learn as many blonde jokes as I could find and accompany him—”

“Oh, kwak-kwak, that was you, eh?  Well that’s a little different.  Giggles, hm.  What was it before?”


“Your name, my good man.  You weren’t born ‘Giggles,’ were you?”

“ … ”

“Come, come, out with it.  What’s your name, Boy?”

“I will be happy to accept any designation you wish, Mr. Cobblepot.”

“Your NAME? Kwak-kwak.”

“Brady, sir.  Greg Brady.”

“ … ”

“ … ”

“ … ”

“That sounds familiar,” Penguin said finally. 

“I’ve heard all the jokes, sir.”

“Yes, I’d imagine so.”

Nightwing crept into the dark, still bedroom with as much stealth and caution as he would entering a criminal lair.  The fact that it was his own bedroom—and the room’s sole occupant his own wife—made no difference.  It was Barbara’s attention he so desperately wanted to avoid attracting just now. 

He couldn’t hope for much of a reprieve.  Barbara was Oracle; Oracle found out everything.  She probably knew already. 

But at least if he didn’t wake her, the fireworks could wait ‘til morning. 

He tiptoed into the closet, stowed away his costume behind the false door, returned to the bedroom, and slipped silently between the sheets.  He stared at the ceiling.  Maybe he was overreacting.  It wasn’t a story any woman would be happy hearing about her husband, but Barbara wasn’t stupid.  She’d know to take that kind of thing with a grain of salt. 

The rumor mill was what it was.  Every few weeks, it linked some male and female—the more improbable the better—just to see what would stick: Hawkwoman and Mad Hatter, Lady Vic and Catman, Batman and Wonder Woman.  It was only the galactically clueless, the emotional twelve-year-olds, or the clinically insane that latched on to any of that nonsense.  It took a special kind of stupid to believe such garbage.  Barbara was none of those things.  She wasn’t insane, depraved or emotionally stunted, and she certainly wasn’t clueless.  She would laugh at it.  Any sane woman would laugh at it.  What was he worried about?  So the tabloids picked up some story about Nightwing and Poison Ivy.  That didn’t mean he was neck deep in fertilizer.  Dick smiled at the ceiling, gathered the blanket to his throat, and turned over.  Then the light clicked on. 

“Dicky, my sweet,” his wife addressed him, “it’s one thing to be the subject of idle gossip, happens to the best of us, and with a luscious bod like yours, speculation is inevitable.  But you really don’t help the situation skipping your shower after patrol, sneaking into bed this way, and laying there brooding for half an hour.”

“ … ”

Oswald sipped the concoction Greg “Giggles” Brady set before him. 

“An adequate igloo,” he proclaimed, setting down the signature drink and regarding the prospective bartender shrewdly.  He was, at least, one of them.  A patron could sit and tell his troubles to a former Joker henchman as he could not to Joey, the applicant from the Waldorf, or Susannah from TGI Friday’s. 

“It was Nigma who brought on this crisis,” Oswald said, cupping his drink and sitting at the bar like a customer.  “Edward Nigma, the riddling excrescence.  It’s not like he’s the first criminal to take a vacation in January, mind you, it’s always a bad month for business.  Bats goes batty and everyone lies low.  Nigma, being a genial sort, sends a gift basket:  oranges, marmalade, some key lime wine that was quite palatable.  It was good of him.  We received no such gesture from Ms. Quinn when she went to France last year.”

“She’s cheap,” Raven pronounced from the doorway, “just like Joker.”

“Now, now, my dear,” Oswald waved her in, “Don’t be bitter just because they tip you in monopoly money.  Come meet our new bartender, Greg Brady.”

“Groovy,” was Raven’s only response. 

“Anyway, to resume the narrative,” Oswald continued, feeling his new bartender was indeed very easy to talk to, “the trouble with Nigma is that he thinks he’s so terribly clever.  And he always has to be proving it.  So with the basket of this and that—that key lime wine was surprisingly good—there was a letter.  A long, detailed letter which I suppose he intended to be entertaining, effervescing about the many pleasures of this lush tropical paradise:  Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square, colorful characters, live and let live attitude, taverns everywhere, a party town, warm tropic climate, and so on.”

Oswald paused, reflecting that perhaps he shouldn’t go into such detail with the new bartender.  Seeing where this was going, Greg covered the awkward hiatus by refilling Oswald’s glass. 

“Yes, that very excellent key lime wine, I must remember that,” he said quietly. 

Finally Raven continued the story, picking up where Oswald had left off. 

“Whenever someone that knew Eddie came into the bar, the letter was read again.  And I guess after the sixth or seventh repetition…”

“Sly quit,” Oswald said flatly. 

“At first, we thought something happened to him,” Raven moaned, “he just didn’t show up for work one night.”

“Like when Kittlemeier disappeared,” Oswald said confidentially, remembering Greg was a Joker henchman and would know about Kittlemeier and the mugging incident.  “Then the letter arrived.  His resignation.  Postmarked Key West.  He’s opened his own bar.”

Not knowing what consolation to offer in the face of such dire news, Greg Brady remained silent. 

At four o’clock in the morning, an awkward “ … ” was the best comeback Dick could devise for his wife’s comments.  At nine o’clock, having made the pilgrimage to that fountain of inspiration, the Mr. Coffee, he felt he could do better. 

As expected, Barbara did not rant like a jealous harpy because of the deluded fantasies of The Gotham Tattler.  These things happened, she said.  Her objection was that he’d tried to hide from it, which he certainly wouldn’t have done unless the story struck a nerve.  Last night, he didn’t have an answer.  Now, revived by Mr. Coffee’s elixir of reason for beleaguered husbands—with milk and two sugars—he knew what to say:

“Babs, I didn’t want to get into it in the middle of the night, that’s all.  I’m cool with it; I really am.  It’s no different than that ludicrous Nightwing-Catwoman story a few years ago.”

“Except you laughed that off,” Barbara objected, sipping her own elixir, splash of milk, no sugar, “Cucucachoo, Mrs. Robinson, and all that.  Whereas with this, you brooded like a bat.”

“It’s easier to laugh when you’ve got Selina standing on a stage, mocking the idea in front of a cheering audience,” Dick insisted.  “Somehow, I don’t think Ivy is so accommodating.  If she has a sense of humor at all, I don’t know anybody who’s seen any indication of it. 

“Fair enough,” Barbara conceded.  She’d reached the same conclusion in the time she’d spent eavesdropping on the rogue’s IM network. 

“I swear, I don’t know where they get these stories,” Dick sighed, relieved that the storm had passed. 

Barbara laughed. 

“You DON’T?  You obviously haven’t seen the cover of the Gotham Post this week, have you?”

Dick stared, not understanding. 

“They’ve got their highest circulation in YEARS, my dear,” Barbara crowed.  “This bit about you and Ivy in The Tattler is obviously a ploy by their chief competitor to get a piece of the action.”

“I don’t get it, what kind of picture could the Post be running that could possibly lead to a Nightwing and Ivy pairing—”

Barbara pointed to her monitor where she had pulled up the picture from the Gotham Post website. 

“…Oh… …my…”  Dick gulped after a strained pause. 

Bonjour, mon chevalier noir adoré,” Selina gushed stepping past the customs gate and throwing her arms around Bruce, “Tu m'as tellement manqué, tu n'as pas idée.”

“Watch your language,” Bruce chided lightly.  He meant her addressing him in public as chevalier noir, ‘Dark Knight,’ and realized too late, only when she laughed musically, that his words seemed like a joke about her speaking French. 

“I missed you too,” he whispered, kissing her cheek, “I missed your laugh.”

In the time it took to walk past the Duty Free, the ATMs, the tourist information booth and the food court, they caught up on those aspects of their lives it was safe to discuss in public.  They turned the corner, heading for the elevators to the parking garage.  Bruce explained that he didn’t have Alfred or the limo with him. 

“I came straight from the office.  I just hope there’s room for your bags in the Jag, otherwise we’ll have to get a taxi to follow—”

He stopped speaking and turned slowly to the left.  From long habit, Bruce constantly scanned his surroundings, unconsciously processing whatever his peripheral vision detected.  In this case, it was a newsstand, a common enough sight in a busy airport, but something…

Gotham Times.  Herald Tribune.  Daily Planet.  London Observer and then…  There they were… in living color on the front page of the Gotham Post…  Batman and Catwoman…  in one of the most spectacularly passionate clinches ever portrayed on newsprint…  Her arm wrapped around his neck, she was pressed tight against his body from chest to knee… his left hand cupping the back of her head, while the right grasped her waist… the cape whipping around their legs… a glorious full moon above, golden cityscape behind… It was… Wow

He felt warm breath on the back of his neck and turned to see Selina behind him, looking where he had looked. 

“…Well…” she said finally after a lengthy pause, “There’s something you don’t see everyday.” 

To be continued…


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