Title: Arrogance and Adorability
Author: DC Luder
Summary: Batman reflects back on the events of Obsidian Age in JLA… with a little help from a friend.
Author's Note: Well, I know I'm always writing about the Cat and the Bat getting it on, so I thought I'd try a different love interest for a change…
Infringements: Recognizable characters belong to DC Comics, not DC Luder. Well, obviously there will be some notations made to the Obsidian Age set of JLA Books. Specifically: 68,70,72,74,75 and 76. No harm done, folks.
Since he was six year's old, Bruce Wayne had always suffered from some sort of nightmare or another. Before he was haunted with the death of his parents, he dreamt of scary caverns and venomous bats attacking him. Those had been a result from him falling into the caves beneath Wayne Manor on a beautiful fall afternoon. His father had saved him by pulling him out of the cave with his strong arms, but not before the damage had been done.
Not before the Bat had changed him; with red eyes, he claimed Bruce Wayne as his own.
Shortly after, his dreams shifted to the ultimatum of tragedy in his life. Night after night for years, he dreaded sleep for he knew what was waiting for him. Insomnia became his only resolve, but it never lasted. When he succumbed to his exhaustion, the dreams would only be worse. It seemed life would always remind him of the past he couldn't escape. That was until the Bat came back into his life for a second time.
As he evolved into the Batman, the nightmares that had haunted a majority of his life lessened. The pain that once welled inside him was released regularly with his assaults onto criminals of all levels. The insomnia had returned however, but only because this new way of life had been so energizing for him. It was if he was given a whole new existence, one that was free of haunted visions of rabid bats and still corpses.
Or so he thought.
He lay in bed, well past noon on a Thursday, not concerned with anything of the outside world. It had been exactly three weeks since his dance with death amidst traveling back in time to Atlantis. They had brought about the salvation of the Atlantean people along with the return of Aquaman, all had been accomplished by the Justice League, but unfortunately at a great cost. The entire League had been killed and then resurrected by sheer luck that the sorceress mage Gamemnae brought them back to only try to kill them again. They had barely escaped afterwards, and only at the hands of the replacement JLA members were they able to stay alive as they recuperated back to the form of the living.
Bruce was now haunted by a whole new series of nightmares, as were most of the JLA'ers. PlasticMan had resigned to be with his family, Kyle had sacrificed himself and his role as Green Lantern, allowing his replacement John Stewart to step up, J'onn had left for a "working vacation" and the new members were uneasy about their status. Not to mention the regular members. Interactions were strained more than ever before between the members as they tried to reconcile what had actually happened.
That they had been single-handedly defeated in the blink of an eye.
"Master Bruce?" a voice spoke from a slightly opened door.
The room was nearly blackened despite the brilliant sun, which was blocked by the massive drapes that sheathed the windows. Alfred entered quietly and illuminated a soft lamp at the bedside table before speaking again, "Sir, do you desire anything? A meal? There is a lovely honey ham fresh from…"
"No," Bruce rasped, keeping himself buried beneath the deep covers. He had been in bed for three days, refusing any form of care from Alfred. The weeks before he had been fine, trying to ease himself back into his regular schedule of patrols and work, in order to get back into the swing of things.
The first night back, he had fallen asleep, exhausted even after a light patrol. Not even into a deep phase of REM sleep, the nightmares began.
Visions of himself, near death, stricken with illness and barely able to breathe. Of Diana trying to care for him, but unable to do so. And then, hallucinations induced by his fevers returned to him. Of his father. Of Dick. Of Jason…
And then they intensified, as he relived witnessing the Gamemnae's barbaric soldiers' savage attack on Wally. They had overlooked Bruce, thinking he had already expired from disease. He had been in the cave, but still had a perfect view of Wally's legs being ripped from his body…
He stayed awake for the rest of the night, as well as the following ones. Mere three days ago, he meditated for relaxation and to recharge his strength. A peaceful way to rest, free from thoughts and stress. His unconscious had other plans.
Before Bruce could even prevent himself from doing so, he fell asleep, the fatigue of his activities finally catching up to him. The dreams were much worse the second time. Dreams of finding the League fighting for their lives and losing. J'onn, an inferno of pain. Wally laying, limbless and bloody. Clark in the throes of a hopeless battle. Eel, trying to stop the unstoppable. Kyle, his willpower fading into hopelessness. Diana being stabbed by a savage…
And then the unimaginable pain as they tempted their fates and fought on until…
And since then, Bruce had laid in his king sized bed, reveling in the fact that he had died. That they all had.
J'onn, Wally, Clark, Eel, Kyle, Diana…
"Master Bruce, is there something I can do?" Alfred asked as he sat himself on the edge of the bed.
Bruce shook his head and rolled away from Alfred. No matter what his capabilities were, Alfred had no power to change what was done. Bruce felt he had to deal with this his own way. And brooding seemed the most appropriate, almost as it had when he was a child and had no desire to go to school. He sat with Bruce for nearly an hour, in complete silence. After and hour, Alfred retrieved a book from the bed stand and skimmed it quietly, still ignoring his charge.
At two-thirty, Bruce finally sat up in bed, his joints stiff from inactivity. His hair was roused into a frightening disarray and his dark jaw line held three day's worth of scratchy beard. His stomach growled in hunger and his kidneys ached from dehydration. All in all, he felt like Hell warmed over.
Alfred glanced over his reading glasses at Bruce's now somewhat vertical form. "Good morning, sir."
Bruce growled and rose from the bed, stretching his legs and arms as he walked into the bathroom. Alfred got up as well and removed the bedding and pillows as a deterrent from having Bruce return to his sulking. At least from doing so in his bed for another day. Or three.
He took the new addition to his laundry out of the master bedroom and then walked down towards the end of the hall. He then took the service elevator to the basement and tended to washing the sheets. Before he left the laundry room, he took out the recently dried garments, folded them and proceeded to carry a small basket to the elevator with him. By the time he returned to the master bedroom, Bruce was standing at an open bay window, staring out across the ocean. He had showered and shaved, to Alfred's surprise. However, he still had not dressed and only wore his bathrobe and a pair of leather, fleece-lined moccasins.
"Aren't we looking chipper?" Alfred announced his return as he set the basket aside the main dresser on the far side of the room.
A soft grunt was Bruce's only reply.
"And quite the talkative one as well," Alfred harrumphed quietly as he began to set the clean clothes in their appropriate drawers. After a bit of silence, he asked, "Will we be adventuring outside of the bedroom today, sir? It drastically needs a scrubbing. This dank smell is no atmosphere for anything short of bacteria."
Bruce remained silent and then turned to face his companion. With as solemn an expression as he had expressed in far too long, Bruce stated, "I'll need your services this afternoon."
Without explanation, Alfred nodded, knowing full well what his charge meant. "Services" generally applied to a complete physiological assault on a broad level of treatments. Chiropractics, deep tissue massage, aromatherapy, herbal meals and teas as well as hydrotherapy and acupuncture. Totaling upwards to four hours, the treatment was a desperate measure to recharge Bruce's strength. Alfred withheld a smile, unable to remember the last time he had treated Bruce for "stress".
Not that Bruce would ever admit he suffered from stress. No, no not at all. He was only a multi-billionaire, in charge of numerous businesses, countless employees, not to mention a fortune in real estate and stocks. Aside from that, his only son was a police officer in a vicious city, not to mention that he himself was a vigilante in a city as corrupt as Hell itself. And recent events, including a romantically tense event between a colleague and his own "death", Alfred couldn't see where any remote chance of stress being a factor in Bruce's most recent gloomy epic.
After setting the empty basket outside in the hall, Alfred returned and asked what Bruce desired for lunch. After a moment's thought, Bruce replied, "Vindaloo."
"Ah, I do believe there is a nice lamb in the freezer."
Forty-two minutes later, Bruce sat at the dining room table, his palate on fire from the spices of the Indian dish. Alfred had even toned down its intensity with a dash of paprika instead of his usual full tablespoon. Now nursing a cup of green tea, he sat quietly by himself in the massive room. Soft sounds resonated from the kitchen as Alfred washed his wok and utensils. Other than that, it was pure silence.
Until the phone rang.
With a growl, Bruce rose and retrieved the phone from the hall. On the third ring he answered, "Hello?"
"Bruce? Hi, it's Diana."
He paused, and waited for her to continue, unsure as to why she had called.
"Um, you there?"
"Yes. Sorry, you caught me in the middle of something."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I can call back later if you want," she said softly, almost too quickly as if she really hadn't wanted to talk to him. Just checking up on him, making sure he was okay. They hadn't spoke since their brief chat in the Watchtower, in a small space between the conference room and the commissary. Where Clark the Boy Scout had put his fat Midwestern nose into things before they really could even talk about what had happened between them.
Specifically about the kiss.
Before he could let himself drift back to his emotions, Bruce decided to reply, "No, Diana. It's all right. Really."
"You sure? You sound a little off, you feeling all right?" The concern in her voice snapped his attention up another notch. Alfred always showed concern, but not in such a sultry tone…
"So, what are you doing, I haven't seen or heard from you since…"
"I know. The Watchtower. Sorry."
"Stop apologizing, Bruce, you're scaring me."
He allowed himself a brief smile and a sigh. She laughed a bit and then they went into an awkward silence.
A two-minute awkward silence.
"Listen, Bruce, I called because I wanted to talk about, well you know about what. I was trying to find out when you're free."
Bruce hesitated, not really wanting to face the topic any sooner than he absolutely had to. That and he felt horribly fatigued and uncoordinated and not in the mood for a heart to heart with an Amazonian princess. He was still silent when Alfred returned to the dining room with his head cocked and a slight smile on his face. Had he been listening in?
Sneaky British spy….
"Bruce, I have the patience of the gods. I think it's the reason why I can put up with your crap. So don't think you can intimidate me to back off."
"If you only knew," he muttered absentmindedly, then instantly regretted doing so.
"Oh, I know. Trust me I do. I know that you aren't about to step forward and do anything about what happened between us…"
Bruce growled, "We don't even know what happened."
"Don't you want to find out, Bruce? Wouldn't it be nice to know what is going on?" she paused and offered her own sigh when he didn't respond, "Listen, I need to know for my own sake what is going on between us. One way or another. I can't keep avoiding this like you can. Hell, I can hardly stop thinking about Atlantis, about all of it… But it keeps clicking in my mind that there was something there. With us. Seeing you sick… And then the battle…"
He paused, "Diana?"
"Can I speak now?" When she didn't reply, he continued, "I'm free today. To talk."
"This can't be done over the phone Bruce."
"Fine. Here. At six."
"Don't even start."
"Ha, Bruce. I can't wait."
She hung up, leaving Bruce's jaw dropped in the realization of what he had done.
A date. To talk. About them. Oh, boy.
"I take it we are having company this evening, sir," Alfred smiled as he paused behind Bruce's standing form.
Bruce nodded slowly and set the phone down. "Diana…"
"Ah, Miss Prince. How lovely. I'll have to whip up a splendid Mediterranean dish…"
"She won't be staying long. Just need to talk."
They locked eyes for a moment and Alfred smiled, "But of course, sir. In the meantime, sir, I believe the medieval torturer in me cannot wait any longer," he stated as he cracked his own aged knuckles.
"Easy, Alfred!" Bruce snapped as Alfred popped the lower discs of his spine.
"My apologies, sir. I seemed to get carried away at times," Alfred responded as he continued his assault on Bruce's backbones.
On the third round of the "treatment", Bruce had suffered enough agony to last him a lifetime. He hadn't realized how off his entire system had been until Alfred had cranked on his arms the slightest bit and threw his whole form into a throe of pain. So much so that Alfred had to alternate in between realigning his bones and massage. After two hours, they were beyond half done, with only acupuncture and lounge in the Jacuzzi remained.
And then the real battle would begin when Diana came.
Until then, Bruce laid out on the padded table, face down as the pain in his lower back faded with each of Alfred's manipulations. He had always been shocked by the limited pain he ever had in his back, considering what had happened with Bane. Usually it was after a blow to the area or when he was ill that it ever caused him any harm.
After another few minutes, Alfred switched to massage. As his blood circulated, tension was released and ebbed away out of his system. Although not truly asleep, for he feared to do so, Bruce allowed himself to drift quietly in and out of the present.
Alfred recognized the slowed breathing and relaxed nature of Bruce's form with ease. After he was sure Bruce was in a soft doze, he applied a series of acupuncture needles along Bruce's back, shoulders and the backs of his arm and leg muscles. Once finished, he left to prepare a meal for his master and his… colleague.
Following a quick tour of the pantry and the fully stocked freezer, Alfred changed his plan of Mediterranean to a nice dish of pilaf and steak paella with tomatoes, onions, peppers and mushrooms. The dish was flavorful and spicy and a known favorite of Diana Prince's. Master Bruce preferred the seafood variety of the dish, but guests received top choice in meal preparation.
He had just combined the seared steak strips into the skillet of vegetables when the doorbell rang. Alfred wiped his hands and then walked to the main door, opening it with a slight smile on his lips. He needn't look through the peephole for he had known who the visitor was. Someone who had flown and not driven up the main drive.
She stood poised, her long dark hair was down and a bit wind-whipped. She wore a tailored blue skirt and jacket over a white silk blouse. Alfred could see the metallic reflection of her bracelets just beyond the cuff of the jacket.
She walked in past him and looked up at the atrium's ceiling. A look of awe took over her face before she turned to face him, "Am I early or did something 'come up'?"
"No, not in so many ways, madam. Master Bruce is here, but not yet ready for dinner. May I get you something to drink?"
She shook her head, "Is he down in the cave?"
Before he could reply, the telephone rang. He excused himself and retrieved it. Looking at the display, it was listed as an in-house call, "Yes?"
"Alfred, you let me fall asleep."
"Not really sir, there was nothing I could do."
"Whatever, come take these out when you get a moment."
"At once, sir."
After hanging up, Alfred turned to Diana, "If you'll excuse me, I will inform Master Bruce of your arrival."
She stepped forward and hooked her arm around his, "I'll come with you. I always love your company, Alfred."
He chuckled, "If only that attitude would rub off on him."
They walked down the hall towards the rear bedroom that had been converted into a medical/treatment bay after Bruce's round with paralysis. There, Diana smiled at the sight of Bruce lying on the table, a towel draped over his backside and countless needles protruding from his back with a rainbow of colored tips.
She signaled Alfred to stay quiet and then walked over to Bruce and proceeded to gently remove the needles. Bruce only flinched slightly as they were removed from his flesh. As Alfred approached her side silently, she nodded at him.
"How are we feeling, sir?"
"Better. Thanks," Bruce mumbled quietly.
"Anytime, sir. After all, what good is an indisposed master, especially when it comes to my pay."
Diana smiled and plucked a few needles out a little harder than necessary.
"Apologies, sir. Must have been a slip."
"Must have been. I haven't been that cranky."
Alfred replied, "Now that's an understatement."
Bruce sighed, stretching his now needle free arms out to his sides, "Has Diana called?"
"Yes, sir. She will arrive any moment."
After a moment, Bruce stated, "I'll need to change. Hopefully I can hit the spa sometime later tonight. Depends on how long Diana stays. Might have to put it off until tomorr—OW!"
Diana ripped a few needles out of his leg, taking a few leg hairs with it. Bruce rose suddenly, his face lit with anger, "Alf…. Diana?"
"Sorry, stress does things to people."
"How long… The whole time?" he stammered, trying to regain composure as he wrapped the towel around him tighter.
She nodded as she attempted to refrain from blushing. He's just Bruce, she told herself, your friend. Your friend with every muscle on his body sculpted to perfection…
Alfred moved behind Bruce and removed the remaining imbedded needles on his back. Bruce cleared his throat as he stared at Diana. As always, waiting for her to make the necessary move.
She removed her suit jacket and laid it over the back of a nearby chair. She then walked over and jumped up on to the table and sat next to Bruce, mere inches from him. One way or another, she would upset him enough so he would at least talk with her.
"So what is this, like the male vigilante version of a day spa?"
"Not quite. More like a therapeutic approach to improve physical peak in an aging individual," Alfred commented.
After a curt growl from Bruce, Diana laughed, "You two are so funny. I've never seen adults act this way, bickering like children."
"Only one of us fails to act his age," Alfred grinned as he walked away from the table. Before he went out of the room, he turned, "Dinner will be served in twenty minutes."
"Thank you," Bruce said sarcastically. Once alone, he spoke, "I wasn't expecting you this early. I thought I said six."
"You said dinner was at six. Never said anything about before dinner." She sat and watched as he slid off of the table and made his way to the counter that ran the length of the far wall. On it, was a folded bathrobe of which he put on, discreetly covering himself. "So, am I going to join you in the spa or do I have to wait in the den by myself?"
His eyebrows rose questioningly, "I beg your pardon?"
"You were talking to Alfred about 'hitting' the spa. Part of your treatment here, I suppose. Putting it off until tomorrow will only defeat the purpose of all of Alfred's hard work. And that's not very nice." She walked over to him, smiling ever so slightly. A mere foot from him, she stopped and began chewing on her lower lip. "So?"
He stammered, "So what?"
"Are we going or not?"
"Diana, I don't think that it's very appropriate--" he replied as he turned away from her.
She reached out and touched his forearm, "What? Two adults stressed out of their minds can't soak their troubles away in a super-powered Jacuzzi. That's not appropriate?"
He grunted incoherently and remained facing the back of the room.
"Bruce? What was that?" her smile grew as he tilted his head towards her.
"Extra suits are in there," he directed a hand towards the closet across the room, "Towels too."
"That's what I thought you said."
V WW V
Ten minutes later, changed into a black two-piece, Diana wrapped a towel around herself and walked through a side entrance to the pool room. It was a massive portion of the rear of the house, with high windows allowing the brilliant colors radiating from the sunset to pour in. Potted trees were sparingly placed along the perimeter of the room, aiming for a sense of outdoors. The pool it self was oval in shape, with a sloping base that lead to a depth of fifteen feet. A lap pool was adjacent to it, offering a rectangular sliver of blue water.
The Jacuzzi was in the rear of the room, surrounded by glass windows with a magnificent view of the surrounding property. Bruce was seated with his back to her, his arms outstretched along the rim of the in-ground tub. A bottle of opened wine sat just out of his reach, as did two empty glasses.
For a moment, she felt a wave of uncertainty wash over her.
Maybe he had been right, about it being inappropriate. Maybe this was too much, too fast. Dinner, okay, she could handle dinner. Chatting over common experiences, maybe even feelings, that was no big deal.
But sharing a bottle of twenty-year-old Merlot and a hot tub?
"Diana," he said quietly, without looking at her.
"Don't be shy, now."
His voice had changed. It was deeper, but not as raspy as his usual tone. If she hadn't known who he was and what he was, she would have mistaken it for a...
She walked over and paused before letting the towel fall. Although her Wonder Woman uniform was a bit revealing, she felt bare in front of him in the bathing suit. But who did she have to blame other than herself?
Diana slowly stepped down into the tub and sat across from Bruce, who stared at her silently with a small smirk on his lips. His eyes were surprisingly focused, the blue irises contrasting brightly with his dilated pupils. Diana had seen Bruce without his top before, but still was amazed at the physique he had made for himself. By sheer will power, he had molded his muscles to excellence, from the deltoids all the way down to his... lower abdomen. She stopped herself from staring at his lower half after she caught him staring at her upper half.
"So, we going to ogle each other or actually have a meaningful conversation?" she asked, crossing her arms across her chest.
"We can talk. Wine?" he leaned over and grabbed the bottle and proceeded to fill the glasses. After he handed hers over, he raised his, "Toast?"
"Sure. To the arrogant and the adorable."
He smiled as they chimed glasses, "Which one am I?"
"Both," she replied and then took a sip of the potent vintage.
"Oh, I'm only adorable."
"That's a crock if I ever heard one."
She frowned and stated, "You don't think I'm adorable?" she asked, batting her eyelashes.
He grinned, "Hardly." He tossed back his glass and then refilled his and offered her more.
"No, I'm good."
"Don't tell me. Afraid to get giddy?"
After another sip, she replied, "Hardly."
Bruce finished his second glass and set it aside. He then sat motionlessly as he studied her, his eyes growing more intent with each moment passing. Diana felt strangely uncomfortable under his glare, as if she were being criticized. A feeling that she never had taken kindly to.
"So," she broke the silence.
"I need to know... Did you mean it?"
"Mean what?" he asked, allowing his eyes to shift towards a window.
"Any of it. The kiss. I know it was the heat of battle, but did you do it to say goodbye? Or, for another reason?"
"It's more complicated than that."
"Really? Well I would love an explanation."
"Diana. I'm not a very-- emotional person. I don't get along well with others."
"You can say that again," she smirked.
"Diana, please, this isn't easy to explain."
"Why not? How hard can it be, Bruce? It was either for love or for the hell of it. One or the other."
"Why not both?" he replied.
His words drew her breath out quickly. She felt her throat constricting with anxiety and a quickening in her pulse. Did he mean it? Or was he playing another game with her? She watched as he crossed his arms across his chest and sighed heavily. He hadn't been lying when he said it was difficult for him to explain things. He had never sociable or amicable when it came to talking about himself, especially his more intense feelings.
She bit her lip briefly and then spoke as she shifted closer to him, "Bruce, for me, it was more than a goodbye. When you were ill, they way you talked to me, smiled even, I knew something was there, I just didn't know what."
She risked touching him gently on the upper arm. Diana expected him to jerk away or at least to scowl. She was pleasantly surprised to find he did neither. He didn't react at all. She continued, "And then when we left, I had these great fears that if we did return, you would have died alone, and would have never known what I-- What I felt for you. That's why I was so shocked when you arrived at the battle."
Bruce remained physically placid, but Diana saw the emotion rise in his eyes.
"Everything we've been through...That seemed to be the climax of it all. Everyone dying around us. And then you were telling me that death was, in fact, our only way out. God, Bruce, I almost thought you had gone mad, until I realized how much sense it made. But even then it was hard to accept we were just going to... well, you know.
"Worst of it all, I didn't want to watch you die. That was the first thing that came to me when I saw you fall. I stood there, watching you go down, and I left myself wide open."
"I know. I saw," Bruce stated with just a hint of softness rising into his voice.
Diana paused before continuing, making sure he had ample time to speak if he chose, "I was hit from behind, nearly knocked out. Every fiber in my body hurt. But I still couldn't stop replaying that image of you falling in my mind. How they kept stabbing you afterwards. I couldn't move, I tried, but I couldn't. Couldn't even look away when they--" she drew an unsteady breath, "But even after they left to move on to the others, you came to me. Barely alive, bleeding to death, but you crawled over to protect me."
Diana felt a tear slip down her face as she watched Bruce's lower lip quiver.
"I felt myself fading. But then I felt your hand on mine. I heard you, Bruce. Saying it was okay, that you were there. That we were leaving together.
"You couldn't have done that if you didn't love me."
"Diana," he spoke quietly as he drew his arms around her. She moved over to him and wrapped hers around his broad shoulders, and rested her face into the crook of his neck.
He continued, speaking quietly into her ear, "It wasn't a goodbye. When I kissed you, it wasn't-- I don't know what I was thinking. I didn't have the time to tell you what I wanted to. After you left the cave, when I regained my strength, I realized I had to find you. To tell you--."
"Tell me what Bruce?"
He paused and drew back, so that they faced each other, eye to eye. "I had to tell you... You're not that funny."
She gasped, shocked be his cruel humor. A sudden urge to hit him came over her, but faded as a grin broke out on her face. "Well, you're not that human, so there."
"Fair enough," he smiled slightly, "I mean it though."
"What, that I'm not funny?" she asked jokingly.
His face turned serious, "No. That I had to find you. I had to make sure you knew what was going on. That we needed to-- We needed to die to win."
"Well, I never did find it enjoyable to be kissing bald green Martians."
"Bruce," she warned.
He sighed, "It had to be you, because you were the one I cared about. I couldn't let you go without knowing we would come back. The others died without hope, but we didn't. They passed with fear in their hearts, but we had--."
"Love in ours," she interrupted.
"Among other things," he added.
Diana let the words sink in before replying, "Why didn't you tell me earlier?"
"I guess I didn't even realize until now. I tried going back to that way I was, but I can't."
"I know. I've tried as well. Horrible nightmares keep me awake at night. I keep praying that it was all just one big nightmare, but I can't forget, I never will."
He nodded in agreement and then went motionless.
She tightened her arms around him, pulling them closer, "So what's this not having time to tell me what you felt?"
"Oh, that. I think what needs to be said has been," he replied as he looked at her.
"What about what has to be done?" she said with a smile.
V WW V
After fluffing the paella, Alfred readied servings on two orange porcelain plates. He then carefully topped each with the grilled vegetables and slices of steak. After dashing on a bit of ground pepper and a sprinkle of shredded cheddar, he smiled contently at the meal. He then carried the plates to the dining room and placed them at their respective settings. There, he had already set up the utensils, napkins, water and wine glasses. After lighting a few of the centerpiece candles, Alfred agreed with his culinary side that everything was good to go.
After removing his apron and washing the cheese off of his hands, Alfred moved on to inform his tardy company that dinner was prepared. On his way he checked the phone service for messages and was happy to find one from Dr. Thompkins, inquiring to his personal schedule for the evening and if he would enjoy going out for a movie. After rousing Master Bruce, he would return her call in short order, delighted to spend an evening in such fine company.
Just outside of the poolroom, Alfred heard the splash of water, uncustomary for those in a hot tub. Then the music of a glass being tipped over and rolling on the ground. And finally a soft murmur followed by a delighted giggle only an Amazon could make.
For Heaven's sake.
Not even about to interrupt, Alfred turned on his heel and returned to the dining room. There he took the plates of food back into the kitchen and set them in the oven. He then wrote a message on the memo pad. It read:
You will find yours and Miss Diana's meals within the oven. To warm, preheat oven to 200 degrees and warm for ten minutes. Although uncustomary in practice seeing how she is a guest, please allow Ms. Prince to do this, for we both can appreciate your lack in culinary talent. I have gone out for the evening with Dr. Thompkins and should return around 11. I expect to find the house in one piece upon my return.
He then added:
P.S. Do behave yourself, sir. I would enjoy seeing Ms. Prince some time again.
He secured the note to the kitchen door with a tab of removable tape and then went upstairs to change into dark brown slacks and a long-sleeved shirt. With that, he found his hat and a sweater from his closet. After one last look in the mirror, he gave himself a quick smile and then trotted down the stairs and quickly made his way to the garage.
Leslie would never believe him.
V WW V