Chapter 1: Hangover
I was in the mood to celebrate.
Lexcorp was pulling out of Gotham City! As soon as I saw the headline, I headed over to a popular coffee shop in the financial district to eavesdrop on the brokers. The rumor mill was saying Lex Luthor got wind of the enormous sums Talia was spending on the war with Wayne Enterprises and ordered her to knock it off. Meow – Purr – and Hot Damn, Yippie KaiYay!
'Course Luthor had no idea why she was in Gotham in the first place, probably assumed she was just following his lead during No Man's Land. If he knew she was focused on Wayne Enterprises because of a personal obsession with Bruce, or that she was spending so much because she was chasing bogus research and products we deliberately planted for her to uncover, he'd have fired her worthless ass. But we can't have everything. The important thing was: she was gone – at least until she makes it up with Daddy (and she will, let's not kid ourselves about that).
So anyway, I was in the mood to celebrate. Picked up a bottle of champagne and headed out to the manor. Now Alfred answers by the third ring, always. So after five rings and six knocks, I was quite sure he'd taken the day off. If Bruce was home, he was probably in the cave and didn't want to take the time to change into civvies to answer the bell. I went round to the side of the house, deliberately tripped the alarm on the French doors to get his attention and waved at the security camera, then let myself in and headed for the cave. Before I got to the clock, I heard a soft "in here" from the library. Bruce was there all right, slumped in an easy chair. He did not look in the mood to party.
"If you say I look like something the cat dragged in, I will have to throw this at you." he growled flatly.
It wasn't clear what "this" was, but it was clear he was in no shape to play.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Chloroformed. Twice. Hangover."
"Oh, poor baby" I soothed.
He winced. "For heaven's sake, don't shout."
I smiled. I've been there. Those drug hangovers rank up there with seasickness and kidney stones on the list of things you don't want to experience more than once in a lifetime.
"Alfred's got himself involved in amateur dramatics – rehearsals this afternoon and tonight. He offered to stay, but I told him go. Nothing he could do but bring aspirin. I've already taken nine."
"He could've cooked," I said, pointing at the end table next to him. I realized the "this" Bruce threatened to throw was… ulgh… what appeared to be a bowl of egg drop soup that had grown cold and – ulgh – gelatinous. I was not hungover and the sight of it made me gag.
"Tell me you didn't try to eat that," I said, forcing down the gag.
The thing with the condition Bruce found himself in is that no matter how long you postpone it, you eventually have to face the prospect of eating. Those of us who have to cope with the problem on a regular basis, discover through trial and hideous error the sometimes-weird chemistry of our own best cure. I've heard everything from malted milk shakes (the idea being to "line the stomach") to steak tartar.
Bruce looked at the muck in the bowl and nodded sadly.
"I couldn't face marinara sauce or kung pao. The only places that deliver out here are pizza and chinese."
Poor guy… I decided to baby him a little, just this once.
"Okay then," I announced. "We'll postpone my news and champagne for another time. Come to the kitchen and keep me company while I make you something nice."
One eye opened a sliver.
"You can cook?"
I laughed. I figured he must be in bad shape if he didn't realize I wasn't the one that was hungover. I threw together a cold yogurt soup that always soothes me in that condition, added a drop of vanilla, a little honey and some minced mint leaves. The idea, psychologically if not physiologically is to please the mind as well as the stomach and seduce you back to the land of the living. While Bruce ate, I prepared a piece of plain chicken and a poached pear. During this process, Bruce observed twice more that I can cook.
"I'm putting these in the refrigerator for later, they should chill for a few hours, then you've got dinner, okay?"
"You can cook."
"For the fourth time, yes. Is there any point in my suggesting you don't patrol tonight?"
"How do you know how to cook?"
"Look, I think what's happened is when they knocked you out, you hit your head on something hard. If you just take the night off and get a good night's sleep, in the morning you'll see there's nothing miraculous about cooking a piece of chicken."
"I can't do it."
"Right now I don't think you can recite the alphabet, but come morning—"
"No, love, I can't cook. Under any circumstances."
"You mean – at all?"
"I made a sandwich once…."
I admit it. I started to giggle. By the time he finished I was wiping tears from my eyes. I don't care who you are, if somebody tells you their butler banned them from the kitchen, it's pretty funny. If halfway through the story you realize it's Batman, professional badass, most dangerous man alive, telling you how he put the lunchmeat and the lettuce back in the wrong place ("it seems they have special drawers") and scarred the counter because he failed to use a cutting board, take my word for it, you too would be doubled over laughing.
...to be continued...