Title: Perfect Opportunity (2/2)
Distribution: Probably at fanfiction.net and the factsofslash group. Anyone interested should just ask, and can expect a positive answer.
Spoilers: Takes place after the New Batman/Superman Adventures, with one alteration - in my story, Ivy's skin never turned white like the Joker's. So she still looks like you and me.
Feedback: Just keep it up. Feedback sent to my email address will almost certainly be returned.
Disclaimers: All characters belong to . . . let's see, DC Comics, Kids WB and the Cartoon Network, the producers of the two Batman serials, the talented artists and voice actors, etc. I have borrowed them entirely without permission, for which I humbly beg forgiveness, but I seek no form of profit from this undertaking.
Summary: Poison Ivy receives a tempting offer, but she's not completely convinced. Takes place between Chapter 5 and 6 in "Life Don't Have to be No Bed of Roses".
Oswald Cobblepot's breath stuck in his throat like a fish bone when he saw who was coming in. "Poison Ivy," he managed to say, wiping imaginary sweat from his brow. "My horoscope _was_ right today, my stars have aligned perfectly."
"Ivy," he said charmingly as he came forward, so that those who hadn't noticed her entrance were now quite aware. "We so rarely see you here. You are certainly a vision of loveliness tonight."
"We?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "You sound like Harvey."
"Consider it a phrase of the industry," Penguin replied. He hesitated. "I have one or two secluded tables for two, if you like," he told her, expecting to be disappointed.
He was not. "I'd like a table with a little more visibility," she said. "Perhaps something in the center?"
Penguin resisted the urge to clap his hands together. "Of course, of course, Ivy! One of the best tables in the house, right near the animals. Don't worry, they're perfectly safe," he added, offering his hand.
"Whereas I am _not_ perfectly safe," she corrected him. Even on this night, she would not be led around like a girl at a cotillion. "And it's just myself tonight, Oswald. Both her doctors and I felt that Harley shouldn't leave the hospital yet."
"Oh," he said, his mood slightly deflated. It perked up again, however. "Having you here is pleasure enough, my dear. Tonight was already shaping up to be a success, but now with you . . ."
"A success? How so?" she asked as they approached the middle of the establishment.
He gestured surreptitiously to a table on the landing above and behind them. "Look who came in just thirty minutes ago."
She glanced over her shoulder. "Interesting," Ivy said. Selina Kyle was also dining alone, apparently.
"I think she's here to negotiate a price for some star sapphires she recently took possession of," Penguin replied casually.
"Always such a fountain of information," Ivy said to him, stressing the last word.
"Indeed," he agreed, not missing her emphasis. He took in her appearance with a newly appraising eye. "Then your patronage tonight is not entirely for pleasure?"
"No," she said. She felt dozens of eyes on her lithe figure. Her tight, form-fitting, jade short-sleeved Oriental-style dress left little to the imagination. "How long before you can spare a few minutes, do you think?"
The Penguin looked at her calculatingly. "What say I join you at your table in an hour or so? That should give me ample time to speak with Ms. Kyle - and to see how my other guests are faring."
She suppressed a sigh. An hour nursing her alcoholic beverages at her table while the socialites and less-savory figures spied on her. By now everyone knew about the titillating scandal of the underworld - how Harley Quinn had left her long-time beau, the Joker, for best pal Poison Ivy. How he had responded by nearly beating her to death. How he was writhing in a cell somewhere in Arkham with a raging skin condition. But mainly, everyone wanted to know about the new couple. There had always been suggestions, but never any real evidence. So why does a woman who was obviously head over heels for a man, leave him years later for another woman? What was their sex life like? Had Ivy always been _that way_? Was it true there was a videotape? Why was Ivy alone, had she already lost interest in Harley? Or was she the dumpee?
Tomorrow morning everyone would gossip about who they saw last night at the Iceberg, the reclusive Poison Ivy, and all next week business would boom as people hoped to see her again. In short, it was the cheapest coin she could offer Penguin in exchange for information about the al-Ghuls, aggravating as it was for the antisocial Ivy.
She still had two-thirds of her Chardonnay left when the first person dared to approach her table. Ivy groaned inwardly, not quite prepared for the gossipy rudeness of polite society.
"Mind if I sit down for a little while?"
Ivy looked up, surprised. Deja vu, if the speaker weren't so different from this morning. "Sure," Ivy told her, "although you may want to reconsider. People might think I was cheating on Harley with you. You know how promiscuous all us gay people are."
"The day I care what empty-headed debutantes, or anyone else for that matter, think about me," Catwoman replied, calmly sitting across from Ivy, "is the day I hang up my claws."
"No claws tonight, I see," Ivy said, admiring Selina's own fashion selection. "Penguin thinks you're here to negotiate over some merchandise."
"I don't negotiate," Selina said. "I name my price, and I walk out with either the money or the goods. Harley's still at the hospital?"
"Yes," Ivy responded. "She's not fully healed yet." She glanced sidelong at Selina. "Thanks for the note, by the way. That was you, wasn't it?"
Selina nodded. "I'm as grateful as anyone that I don't have to watch the Joker use her for a footstool any more."
Ivy wondered what made Catwoman come over. They didn't speak too much. Part of the reason was that she had spent a sum total of zero days in Arkham, which despite the rise of the Iceberg remained the top spot for socializing among most of the Rogues. The other reason was that despite being two of the most prominent female criminals in Gotham, they didn't have much in common. Ivy thought Selina considered herself better than the rest of them, and she knew Catwoman thought she was a shrill extremist.
Still, that could be overlooked. Besides, she realized, Selina's name came up in connection to the Batman even more than Talia's did. Surely Catwoman must have some thoughts on a woman who some might consider a romantic rival.
And Catwoman provided her with the opening. "What brings you here tonight? If you were here with Harley, I could understand, but it's like you're putting yourself on display for a roomful of leering men and snobs. If you don't mind me saying so, it's not like you."
"You're right, it isn't, and I _am_ on display," Ivy told her. "Penguin will have to tell me whatever I want to know now."
"Information," Selina understood. "I thought so. About what? The Joker?"
"No," Ivy said casually, although she felt the familiar twinge at hearing his name. "Ra's al-Ghul."
Selina had absolutely no expression.
"I met his daughter today," Ivy went on. "Tell me, what do you think of her family?"
The briefest tug at her lips was the only sign Ivy had that Catwoman had heard her. Idly Selina fingered her glass. "Do you want to know my impression of Talia al-Ghul?" she asked.
"Please," Ivy answered.
"Do you ever read Oscar Wilde?"
_That_ had been something of a non sequitur. "I don't think so," Ivy admitted. "I didn't have much of a liberal arts education."
"In his play _The Importance of Being Earnest_," Selina explained calmly, "one of the characters, Celia, hears all sorts of tales about her ward's younger brother, Ernest. And so, without ever meeting him, Celia decides that she is madly in love with him, and she composes wild fantasies about their courtship and engagement in her diary."
"How childish," Ivy said.
"Trust me, it's a lot better than it sounds. At any rate, I think Talia is like Celia," Selina said. "From what I've learned, Ra's spent months, _months_, studying the Batman. Apparently he wanted the Batman to be his heir."
Ivy blinked. "The Bat, heir to a criminal empire? What chapter did Ra's forget to study?"
Selina permitted herself a small smile. "I think Talia spent so much time studying Batman's pictures and deeds that she told herself he was her 'beloved'. Or perhaps her father told her she was in love with him." She shrugged. "All I know is, I don't put much stock in those rumors about them when Talia decided they were destined to be together before she even got off the plane to Gotham."
Taking her glass, Ivy downed the rest of her wine. "Thanks," she said.
"No problem. I didn't know she was in town. What did she want?"
"Her father wants me to work for him."
Selina looked surprised, and then slightly concerned. "You're not actually considering it, are you?"
"Your worrying touches me, Selina. Are you my new platonic best friend?"
Catwoman's face slammed shut.
Ivy mentally cursed herself. The wine, combined with the sensation of having a hundred greedy eyes on her, was shortening her temper. "I'm sorry," she said. "I don't think I'll have that second glass after all."
"It's nothing," Catwoman said flatly as she got up. She stopped, however. "Just think about this, Ivy. I know enough about Ra's - I even had dinner with him once, if you can believe it - to know that his daughter probably pointed out that you shared similar goals. That you were maybe kindred spirits. Well, if any of his previous plans had succeeded, your 'kindred spirit' would have killed you along with everyone else on this planet. Ra's doesn't have partners or friends - only servants."
"Ah, if it isn't my two favorite ladies," Penguin said expansively as he appeared at Ivy's table.
Ivy arched an eyebrow.
"Not including Miss Quinn, of course," he added, hastily amending his first remark.
Selina slipped him a piece of paper. "While I have you, Oswald."
He glanced at it. "Now, my dear, this will be a good starting point, but . . ."
"I walk out with the money, or . . ."
"She walks out with the goods," Ivy finished for her.
Both looked at her, surprised.
Ivy turned slightly pink. "Sorry. I think the Chardonnay may have been too good a year."
"Just come to my office, my dear," Penguin said to Catwoman, and guided her away. "I'll be back shortly, Ivy."
"How are your guests tonight?" she asked.
His eyes twinkled. "I believe the main topic of conversation is some kind of movie that is floating around the black market," he said, as if there was _anything_ he didn't buy or sell on the black market.
Ivy only smiled, however. That forty-five percent was looking better and better.
"Over here," Ivy called quietly as she saw Talia approach her usual place.
Talia approached her at the corner table. "Feeling a need for privacy?"
"You seem to know that I always sit over there. Just how long was I being watched before you approached me, anyway?"
"About a week, I believe. Not by me, mind you. My father - "
"Has servants," Ivy finished for her, echoing Selina's comment. "Everywhere?"
Talia cocked her head slightly at the coolness of Ivy's words. "Not everywhere, but close enough. Is there a problem?"
"No, not really," Ivy replied casually. "Well, I am rejecting your father's offer. Wait, is that a problem?"
Ivy watched her. "You know, I'd think you could handle surprise better. I can see it written all over your face."
"I am . . . sorry," Talia finally told her, frowning slightly as her features smoothed over. "I will go."
"Hold on," Ivy said, stopping her. "That's it? Nothing more?"
"There is nothing more to say," Talia answered. "You said no. The offer is hereby terminated. I have other uses of my time."
Ivy smiled. "You don't even want to know why?"
"Such petty reasons do not concern my father."
"No wonder you'll never leave your father's side," Ivy said. "You really don't think for yourself, do you?"
_That_ cut her, and for the first time she flashed a little of what Ivy suspected was her father's temper. "You don't know me at all," she retorted. "You think a few minutes with the Penguin gives you a clue as to who the al-Ghuls are?"
"You don't strike me as excessively complicated," Ivy responded.
Talia got up to leave, but Ivy's fingers brushed against her wrist, stopping her again. "I'm not finished yet."
The demon's daughter looked shocked. "Excuse me?"
"For starters, I know why your father waited all this time. He was waiting for something to hold over me. But all I ever cared about was plants, and an environmentalist like your father couldn't exactly threaten _that_ with any credibility. But now I've got Harley." Ivy's eyes burned. "I already have one madman who wants her dead. Do you think I'll let another one use her as a hostage?"
"I told you . . ."
"Yes, you told me she wasn't in any danger from you. Nice evasion. So who _is_ she in danger from?"
Talia said nothing.
Ivy leaned back in her chair. "I will not be a slave to the mercies of a tyrannical dictator, Talia. You can tell him that. If he wants to try more hardball tactics, let him."
"He won't," Talia said. "You're not worth worrying about."
"Ooo, harsh," Ivy sneered.
Talia was still standing, and she turned to leave. But then, startling Ivy, she hesitated, looked around, and then turned back, sitting across from her. Ivy, however, was much better at disguising her surprise, and she managed to look uninterested.
"He may even be glad you said no," Talia began.
"I realize," Ivy said dryly, "that this is usually the moment when you betray your father, but in case you haven't noticed, I'm not Batman."
Talia actually flinched in her seat. "This is not a betrayal," she finally said. "Despite what you said earlier, I _can_ think for myself. I choose to share my thoughts with you."
Ivy tried not to yawn.
"My father," Talia resumed quietly, "was not sure he wanted someone like you under him."
"Because I'm 'unpredictable'?"
"Because you're a lesbian."
That pierced Ivy's front and her mouth fell open. "You can't be serious."
Talia smiled humorlessly. "My father has lived for centuries, Ivy. In many ways, his views are quite antiquated. He views your relationship with Harley Quinn as one more sign of the growing depravity of what he calls the 'menace of humanity'. In the end, however, he also saw your relationship as more of a plus than a minus."
"How intriguing," Ivy replied, gritting her teeth.
Talia suddenly looked guilty. "I have to go. I must see my father soon, and . . ."
"Hoping to snatch a few minutes' time with the Bat?" Ivy asked.
The other woman looked past her. "My beloved - "
"Can't you even say his name, Talia?" Ivy interrupted. "Father. Beloved. Is everything a title to you?"
"As someone who has tried to kill my bel . . . the Batman a dozen times," Talia shot back, "you could not understand our relationship."
"I wasn't aware you had one," Ivy said. "I thought it was your job to lure Batman into traps, then help him out of them."
Talia's hand clenched into a fist. "You know nothing. _Nothing_."
"My old doctors at Arkham would have had a field day with you, Talia," Ivy went on. "Didn't get enough approval from your father, so you sought out a father figure in Batman? Still playing them off each other, trying to decide who will need you more?"
"Shut up," Talia hissed, although it was more of a snarl.
"Then again . . . actually, I think they're both using you. For someone who serves at the right hand of a megalomaniac that wants to destroy civilization, Batman must really cut you a lot of slack. He uses you to get to Ra's, and Ra's uses you to get to him. Justice, a heir - that's what they want. You're just the means to the end."
"I said . . ."
"That's why you can't choose one or the other. Without Ra's, you're nothing to Batman. Without Batman, you're just a daughter to Ra's. Someone he'll marry off to the first retainer who asks. Beloved, Father - why don't you wake the hell up?"
"STOP TALKING, YOU BITCH!"
Talia planted both her palms on the table and leant over, so that her eyes were right in front of Ivy's. What Ivy saw in those eyes was a mountain of denial . . . and underneath, something that told her Talia had known all along.
Ivy felt a brief, contemptuous stab of pity for her. "Go on," she said. "Get whatever minutes the Bat can spare you before you run home to Daddy. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's just that you're a rebellious little girl." She leaned back. "Go on," she repeated. "My answer is still no."
Noticing that the few people in the cafeteria were watching them, Talia quickly stood up and brought her hands behind her back. Without another word, she walked unsteadily out of the room.
Shrugging, Ivy went back to what she was doing. The doctors had suggested that Harley could leave in a couple days. There were options to consider, and the al-Ghuls were already forgotten.
(Author's Note - While I certainly do not consider this series to be a Cat-Tails spinoff, I will admit that my thoughts on Talia are at least partially inspired by Chris Dee's stories and certain discussions I've had with her. Credit must go to her for that. My depiction of Catwoman/Selina was also influenced by Chris' work. So big thanks to her.)