Hide and Seek
Summary: "Everyone knew it was Bruce's birthday." There's always that one person who comes up with the stupid surprise party idea. BatMan/CatWoman/Riddler
A/N: Oh dear goddess, what have I done? Set in the same universe as my previous BatMan fic, Switzerland, but it is entirely not necessary to read that first. I'm totally doing this for my own amusement and satisfaction now…
It was a horrifically doomed idea.
It had been a bad idea to begin with, Tim Drake presenting it over dinner when Bruce was out of the room to take a call, and by the time it had gone through Alfred and then Eddie… well, no one was getting out of it unscathed. Selina knew that Bruce's birthday was coming up. Everyone knew that Bruce's birthday was coming up, including, seemingly, every newspaper in Gotham and surrounding areas. If she had to walk past one more black and white image of his idiotically smiling face she was going to start planning the destruction of the press as a whole. This persistence did nothing to dampen the spirits of the tragically insane individuals with which she surrounded herself, even perhaps egging them on in their ill-fated scheme.
"Robert and Emily Smyth," Eddie called out from where he was barricaded behind stacks of phone books and Bruce's personal address books. She checked the names off on her list as Eddie added the invitation to a growing stack on his left. Selina refilled her wineglass.
Tim's initial idea had been a small gathering of those closest to Bruce as a sort of informal birthday party. Selina and Eddie had exchanged glances of disbelieving glee, at which point Tim wondered if it would be a good idea after all, with everyone having to remain in costume. The silence that followed was awkward in the way that can only be achieved by a teenager having to deal with his mentor's not-quite-ex-criminal lovers and not having the faintest idea how to go about it. Alfred had given them five minutes to attempt to work it out on their own before the gentle suggestion of a rather larger get-together of people Bruce knew outside of his life as BatMan, followed later by a more intimate gathering. The fact that neither Eddie nor Selina were invited to said post-party celebration remained unspoken. Up to this point, it could be blamed on the Bat family,. …it was Eddie who suggested that it be a surprise party, and Eddie who suggested that it be a costume party, and Eddie who had volunteered them to help set everything up and Eddie who was going to wind up lying eviscerated in a ditch somewhere before the week was through.
Alfred was sorting through recipe books, making notes and looking a little bit like a mad scientist. Selina stared balefully at the screen of her laptop which displayed listings for every single flower shop in Gotham. She'd never agreed to this and wasn't quite sure why she was still expected to help out with a plan to which she was so unequivocally opposed. "I just wanted to have a quiet dinner in," she muttered as she dialed the phone. "Some wine, candles, good food, better sex…"
"Uh, should I come back later?" Tim dropped his school bag by the doors to the kitchen and cocked an eyebrow. Selina waved him off.
"Hush, I'm making a very important call."
The kitchen had been designated official party planning headquarters due to the likelihood of Bruce ever setting foot inside of it –that being somewhere in the range of zero and negative-ten—and served as an excellent source of snacks and alcohol, both of which Selina felt she would end up consuming to excess before the plotting came to a close.
"Madam Fleur's Flowers, how may I be of service?"
Selina checked the list which Alfred had provided her with. She wasn't entirely sure why the butler insisted that certain breeds of flora be purchased from different shops, but as much as she hated making the calls, she hated the idea of facing off against Alfred even more.
"So what did you think of my idea?" Tim asked the men, making a weak attempt to keep his voice down. Selina arched an eyebrow, but continued reciting the list of flowers into the phone.
"It has some rather intriguing possibilities," Alfred looked up from his recipes long enough to give the boy a smile. Selina truly wished everyone would stop humoring the crazies.
"And what fantastic blackmail material," Eddie added, tossing another envelope onto the pile.
Selina was put on hold, and took the momentary reprieve to arch a curious eyebrow at him. "What are we talking about?"
"A theme for the costume party," he replied. She felt a tiny knot of dread form in her stomach.
"And what sort of theme would this be?"
He had that sparkle in his eyes. The one that clearly indicated that someone was about to lose their will to live and he was going to find it hilarious. "Upon which deck does one find diamonds, spades and clubs yet not one good heart?"
Selina came very close to spitting her drink across the room.
"I am not dressing up as a pirate. I am not dressing up as a pirate. I am not –shut the fuck up, Timothy—I am not dressing up as a pirate!"
"Uh… Ma'am?" the voice on the other end of the phone sounded appropriately intimidated. The three men laughing with varying degrees of helplessness were not.
There was a child. Probably about five years old, her cotton-candy pink dress and stuffed parrot incongruous against the backdrop of heavy brocade gowns and flowing silk shirts and velvet breaches. Selina didn't know why there was a child; she did not want to know why there was a child. The fact that her parents had left her completely unattended and free to torment Alfred with constant questions was good enough for the moment.
"Aging widows with wandering hands should not be permitted to drink," Eddie announced under his breath, snatching her wrist as he hurried past and dragging her along with him toward a decorative potted tree. "Hide me."
He actually managed to conceal himself behind the greenery with a great deal of success. Selina was left chatting to a tree. "Have you seen Alfred's new shadow?"
"I believe that the only people who haven't are her parents."
"I'd feel a little more sorry for him if there were chocolate anywhere to be found on the dessert table."
"And Bruce? Have you spoken to him?"
She shook her head. "I've been playing it inconspicuous all night."
"By which you mean stalking an elderly man and a little girl for your own entertainment."
She kicked the general area of his legs and connected with the heavy pot instead. "That wasn't all I was doing. I mean, have you seen some of the lengths these people go to in order to appear like real treasure looting pirates? One man was actually carrying around a chest of rubies and emeralds. Meow."
"You've really got to work on your 'ooo! Shiny!' urges."
"Obviously, you can talk, being declared criminally insane and all."
"Actually, I'm all better now. There's a piece of paper that says so."
"I think even the Joker got one of those once upon a time."
A shadow fell over Selina, and she looked up into the slightly drunken leer of a man in a long black coat covered in silver coin-like buttons. "Ahoy! A pretty lady all on her lonesome? What a horrible state of affairs. Please, allow me to rectify this dire error."
"I'm afraid I will be horrid company," she said with as much sugary sweetness as she was capable of at the moment. "I've got a terrible headache and just wish to have a moment to catch my breath."
"Would you like to come outside with me? Surely all this music and chatter can't be good for a headache."
"Thank you, but no."
"Yet I would be enchanted to see you by moonlight, my dear."
"I'm sorry, but my answer remains the same. Enjoy the rest of the party."
"You're playing that silly game which women seem to enjoy. I understand. Ah, worry not, fair maiden, for I love a good chase."
Selina clenched her fists. She could hear the sound of Eddie's choked off laughter and decided that as soon as she got rid of this idiot she was finding as many old women as possible and sending them his way.
"I think she wants you to go away," a new voice spoke. Selina looked around, then down. A head of blonde curls bobbed up and down next to the toy parrot perched on the girl's shoulder. She stared up at the man with the defiant attitude which only a young child may pull off.
Apparently the man had some semblance of decorum left, for he smiled down at the little girl and tipped his hat. "And so I shall, young lady. Good evening."
Selina stepped behind the potted tree as soon as his back was turned, pushing Eddie behind the draperies of the window to keep them both out of sight. "Thank you ever so much for your support in that," she muttered.
"You were handling it admirably. I didn't dare interfere, I know how possessive you get over people you've designated as victims."
"Mother told me that grownups don't play hide-and-seek."
Selina smiled widely at Eddie. "I leave this completely up to you."
Eddie looked down at the girl where she had popped up amongst the leaves of the tree. "Well, we're… checking to make sure the windows are clean."
Selina's mouth dropped open. There was no way that Eddie would come up with such a transparent lie. The girl scrunched up her nose. "Why would you be checking the windows? You're guests, not maids. You're all dressed up."
"We're actually alien criminals planning to rob everyone at the party," Eddie said in an over-exaggerated stage whisper. Again, the girl's face showed signs of consternation.
"That's not true either, you aren't wearing silly costumes."
"That's a matter of opinion," Eddie muttered, tugging at the sleeves of his pirate shirt. Selina elbowed him.
"You are not allowed to complain. You came up with the costume ball idea in the first place."
The girl turned to Selina. "Why are you playing hide-and-seek?"
She hadn't realized until that second what Eddie had been doing. By making his answers implausible, he had defaulted the responsibility of explaining their situation to Selina.
"Well… Obviously, we're hiding. I guess you found us, you win."
Eddie shook his head at her in disappointment. "Pathetic, Selina. I expected better from you."
"Anna-Maria Lopez!!" The little girl's face went white, and she began struggling to pull herself out of the tree without tearing her dress. The woman's voice sounded absolutely furious, but Selina couldn't think of a better time for the woman to take charge of her offspring. The girl's flailing sent a spray of potting soil across Selina's outfit. Her face became even more terrified. "I'm sorry!"
Selina brushed at the soil absently. "Don't worry, I wasn't planning on wearing this again, anyway."
Eddie smirked. The little girl vanished from sight. "What?"
He shrugged, the picture of innocence. "I think Bruce and I are good for you. You were positively mommy-like with that girl."
She shook out her skirt vigorously. "Your death is coming, Edward. You just don't know it yet."
They could hear the girl being scolded on the other side of the plants, and her plaintive cries of "There were people behind the tree and the curtain! There were, just look!"
"Don't be ridiculous. Now hush, you're embarrassing me. People are beginning to stare."
"But they're there! A man and a lady…"
"I said stop that!"
The argument faded away into the other conversations going on, and Selina let herself relax. "It was a really stupid idea to hide behind a tree, Eddie. Really juvenile."
The curtain was drawn back. Selina hadn't even noticed footsteps approaching.
"Enjoying the party, I see?" Bruce asked. Selina decided that she was moving to the Antarctic and never showing her face again.
"I didn't know what else to do, Bruce. I think our girl had a bit too much to drink. She was babbling about window cleaners and aliens…"
She needed to have a talk with Eddie. And by talk, she so very definitely meant torture session. Then, and only then, Antarctica.