Disclaimer: Not mine. Though if the comic book store would call me with the news that my Riddler action figure is in, I'd be a very happy author, oh yes I would.
Summary: Harvard. Princeton. Harvard. Princeton. Harvard. Princeton. Ha—hahahahaha. Maybe the Joker was looking for a new partner. BatMan/Riddler/Catwoman
A/N: I'm not even going to try and explain why I keep writing these. I also apologize in advance if my characterization of BatMan is horrific, I tried as best as I could. Set in the same universe as my other BatMan fics, but you don't need to have read those to understand this.
Selina glared in the window at the two men sitting across from each other inside the pub. Stupid of them both to get a table that could be seen from the street, but not directly her concern and her mood being what it was she really wouldn't mind if someone recognized them and decided to do something horrible to one or both. Trash gusted around her feet, and the call of pan-handlers mixed with the steady honking of horns and shouted epithets from drivers and pedestrians alike. A steady drizzle plodded down from the gray clouds above, dampening her clothing just enough to make it uncomfortable and leave her chilled. The ring tone on the other end of her cell phone buzzed in her ear.
"Yes?" His voice sounded frustrated.
"Eddie!" She cooed, injecting as much false cheer as she could muster into her voice.
"Please don't sound that excited, it's frightening."
"I'm right in the middle of quite possibly the most surreal experience of my life."
"Is that so?"
She leaned against the brick wall of the pub, crossing her ankles and pulling her thin jacket closer around herself. "I've just had lunch with Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent."
There was a half-second hesitation before he next spoke, which for Eddie was akin to being speechless. "And which one of them wound up dead?"
She shook her head. "I need to clarify this. Bruce. And Harvey."
"Never officially renounced their friendship."
"Isn't that a little--"
"You didn't even know what I was going to say."
"Unless you were using some form of uplifting, life-affirming or the most fun I've ever had, then my answer remains the same."
"And how, exactly, did this come about?"
"Harvey called the mansion this morning, apparently. Told Bruce they should catch up. Bruce told me to conveniently be in the area in case anything started happening outside. He's Mr. Paranoid, obviously, and it wasn't like I had plans. But due to a set of circumstances which are just far too strange and which make me far too angry to discuss right now, I got dragged into eating with them. Have you ever spent extended periods of time talking to Dent? It's quite possibly the most depressing experience you'll ever have. You, especially, would suffer. He's brilliant. Arrogant as fuck, and a criminal mastermind, but brilliant. It's really tragic that he's insane. And stop looking all offended, I can feel it leaking through the phone. He's insane in a completely different way than you are. And you're still smarter, bla bla bla. Ego smoothed?"
He ignored her question in favour of asking one of his own. "Selina, this may be a rather stupid inquiry, but... Well. Two Face isn't exactly inconspicuous and the places that would serve him wouldn't be appropriate for the prince of Gotham. Where the hell are you?"
She sighed. "He's in disguise. Bruce, I mean. We're at some sleazy pub, and Bruce is dressed down and wearing contacts and a hat." Eddie snorted with laughter. Selina continued. "And would you like to know what they're discussing?"
"Did you know that Dent went to Harvard?"
"And that Bruce went to Princeton?"
"Have you ever considered which is the better school?"
"No, I can honestly say I haven't."
"I have! Extensively. For two and a half fucking hours." Selina wondered if the way the pitch of her voice was inching upwards was making her sound insane. Shrugging, she added a hiss for good measure.
"Why don't you just leave?"
"Because Bruce might kill me. He doesn't enjoy sitting across the table from... You know. I think he's about to explode."
Eddie chuckled. "Three guesses what he'll be doing tonight."
"Oh without a doubt. Dent took a call during dessert about some shipment coming in tonight. Bruce was practically salivating."
"And what are you doing tonight?"
"He wouldn't ask you, anyway. Dinner?"
"Answer me first."
"Excellent. I'll call you with details later."
He hung up before she could beg him to spontaneously come down with a deadly illness so that she would have an excuse to leave.
She went back inside. Her eyes drifted pointedly down at her watch as she settled back into her chair, fake smile firmly in place. Neither man acknowledged her return. Everything floated in a haze of cigarette smoke and the leers from the men around the pub were almost as irritating as the conversation of her companions. They were still on the same topic of conversation. Harvard. Princeton. Harvard. Princeton. Harvard. Princeton. Ha-- hahahahaha. Maybe the Joker was looking for a new partner. She could go for some mindless violence with her coffee. Coffee which she was drinking because she was the only member of their trio who didn't have a driver to pick them up. Ok, she thought bitterly, so Bruce wasn't actually drinking, but it was only thanks to her that his order for brandy had been replaced with iced tea.
She waited for the meal to end. And waited. After another half hour she calmly gathered her bag, rose from her seat, stretched and cleared her throat. "Well boys, this has been fun, but I've got to head home and slit my wrists." She walked away before either could comment, waiting to sigh with relief until they could no longer see her.
She was half way back to her apartment before her cell rang. Bruce couldn't exactly jump up and run after her without making it very clear that they were not, in fact, very distant acquaintances.
"That was immature," he said as soon as she picked up.
"Because that conversation wasn't. At all."
"I want to be there tonight when that shipment comes in at the docks."
"I'd like you to be there, as well. With Batgirl and Robin doing surveillance on the Joker's latest activities, I'd feel better if I knew I had back-up."
"We've talked about this. I don't see any mass-murder on the horizon. I'm not helping you run a drug bust."
There was silence on the other end. "Selina..." A low growl in his voice now.
"No, Bruce. Besides, if I were to show up, it'd be easy enough to make the connections between you and BatMan. He's crazy, not stupid. And I'm sure you've thought about that, so why take the risk?"
"I thought you didn't get caught?"
She glared at the car in front of her, super-imposing the image of his smug little not-smile on the bumper. "That's not what we're discussing here."
"That's exactly what we're discussing. One-thirty, near the docks. I'll find you."
He hung up. She did not throw the phone out the window.
She followed Eddie home after dinner like the stray she wasn't and watched TV while he made tea. It was all sickeningly domestic and she drew a tiny bit of pleasure from the fact that she was burrowed under a blanket on a sofa while BatMan was preparing to head out into the night. The thrill of the dark called to her but she stubbornly ignored it, not trusting herself to go out and not end up by the docks. She had entertained the idea of slipping into one of the high society mansions and cleaning out a jewelry case or two, but dismissed it as too petty. Clearly, watching TV when BatMan was expecting her help, just because she hadn't liked his phrasing or his assumption of her willingness to help him, wasn't petty in the slightest. She wondered if Eddie would mind if she raided his liquor cabinet.
"So are you going to tell me what Bruce and/or Two Face said to you?" Eddie entered from the kitchen, carrying two mugs emblazoned with question marks.
"I may possibly be destroying my relationship with Bruce as we speak," she replied, stretching up to take one of the cups from him and shifting her legs down off the cushion so he could sit down.
He arched an eyebrow. "Usually, I'd say you aren't the sort of person who indulges in over-dramatics, but... What happened?"
"He wanted me to help him deal with Two Face tonight. Said he'd feel better if I was there as back-up."
"He admitted that?"
"And you have no intention of going because you don't have a death wish and your moral compass does not point to the same North as his."
She nodded. "Gold star."
"I'm also assuming that you didn't actually have a conversation with him explaining any of this. Which one of you hung up first?"
"And so he thinks you're coming."
"World's Greatest Detective. I think he'll figure it out."
Eddie didn't even make a scathing comment about the superiority that the 'world's greatest' implied. Selina very much wished he would for the soul purpose of getting them off their current topic of conversation.
"Selina, what is the most important part of making a relationship work?" She hated very much when he took that condescending 'I'm smarter than you and you know it' tone with her. Which he did. Often.
"We've already compromised on practically everything! We don't do anything that gets us killed. We don't talk about criminal activities in front of him or Tim or Alfred. If he catches us, we return whatever we've stolen and he doesn't turn us in. We don't help him. I think we've got a fantastic arrangement. Like... The military. Don't ask, don't tell."
His eyebrows went up. She met his gaze, daring him to comment on her outburst. "I'm not saying that he's right in what he did, but I think you have to choose your battles."
"I am. My personal issues aside, it's stupid. Two Face knows I overheard his call, and he knows I don't have any interest in drugs or weapons or whatever the hell he's bringing in. If I showed up tonight and he saw me right there with BatMan, he's either going to think I soled him out or that Bruce is BatMan. I mean, it's not that big of a leap."
"I'm wondering about that myself. Bruce doesn't make emotional mistakes. Unless he knew you wouldn't come."
"Which he probably did."
He shrugged. "He wanted to put you through emotional pain because of he had to have lunch with his best friend turned nemesis and he's lashing out."
She blinked. "Bruce wouldn't do that."
"Not consciously, no. I'm sure he invented some very logical excuse."
"I'm not going."
"I'm not suggesting that you do." He turned away. She swore under her breath and buried her face in the arm of the couch.
BatMan arrived sometime after three. Eddie left Selina in bed where she was refusing to acknowledge BatMan's appearance, and went to talk to him in the kitchen. She did not wonder what they were talking about. She rolled over, pulling the green quilt over her head and trying to go back to sleep. It didn't work. Twenty minutes later, Eddie and Bruce finished their talk and entered the room. Or... Didn't finish their talk, if the way they were completely ignoring each other was any indication. She wondered if it would be better for all involved if she went back to her apartment. That thought lasted about two seconds -- she was done being childish and petty and she needed to talk to Bruce. After she'd slept and preferably when she was sure that Eddie was on her side.
"I know you're awake, Selina," Bruce said.
"I'm not, actually. Shut up."
"I'd like to talk to you." His voice was as hesitant as she'd ever heard it -- admittedly not greatly so -- and she lifted her head to look at him. He was in street clothes, standing just to the side of the window.
"Can we do this in the morning?"
And there went the hesitation. He may have been out of costume, but he was still BatMan.
"I think you should, Selina," Eddie said from the other side of the room.
"I'm not going to get back to sleep, am I?"
"No," they chorused, and promptly glared at each other.
"Fine." Selina pushed back the sheets, strolling unselfconsciously across the room to grab a robe. She didn't want to have this conversation, but if he was going to force her into it, she couldn't afford to appear any less in control of the situation than she already did.
Bruce walked out of the room, not looking at either of them. Selina followed, pausing a moment to smile sweetly at Eddie. "Thank you so much for your support in that."
"I prefer all my limbs intact. Remember that when you take your revenge, please."
She pursed her lips. "I'll think about it."
Bruce was waiting, hands resting behind his back. She leaned against the counter, facing him. "So."
"Before you say anything, Selina. I want you to know that I understand why you didn't come tonight, and I accept that."
Her eyebrows shot up. "Did you just... try to apologize to me?"
She smirked. "Oh yes you did."
"Selina," there was a warning in his voice which she blithely ignored.
"That is all I needed to hear. We've got a lot to talk about, it's true, but not right now. Soon, but not right now. I'm going to get dressed and head home. You're going to work out whatever the hell you and Eddie were arguing about, and I'll call you both tomorrow."
She darted over to him, kissing him fiercely. He tried to wrap his arms around her, but she ducked away. "Tomorrow. Everything's emotionally charged right now, I don't want any of us to fuck it up."
"Selina, I don't know what you think I have to apologize for."
She walked away, refusing to acknowledge his words. As long as she knew that he understood what her thought processes had been, it meant that he didn't hate her and she had nothing to feel guilty over. And that, she decided as she tugged on her shirt, was the precise logic she was going to use until she had to actually sit down and talk through all the issues that had spawned the day's events. And for now, that was good enough.