CATverse A/N: This story is part of the CATverse, an extensive, massive, frighteningly HUGE Batman fan fiction project that I'm starting to believe will never end. The list of stories can be found at catverse. com. For those who've been following the universe, know this story takes place in arc seven.
Also, frighteningly enough, the Blue Kangaroo does exist. It's only marginally less bizarre in person than it is in fictional form.
It was an incontestable fact: Al was the undisputed laundry queen. She might not have been very fond of doing dishes (on occasion, she was known to just go out and get a new set of flatware rather than washing the old one), or mopping floors (sometimes, Captain and Techie actually fought over who got to scrub the floors--not who had to, but who got to) but there was one domestic chore that Al didn't mind doing in the least and that was laundry.
Twice a month--sometimes more often, depending on how quickly clothes were soiled--Al gathered everything that needed to be washed and set out for the nearest seedy Laundromat. The Sud Bucket had been a favorite for a while, but Robin had started staking it out, so the Scarecrow's laundress moved her business to The Blue Kangaroo Washeteria. The place was half Laundromat, half amusement park, and trendier than anywhere that sold detergent by the cupful had any right to be.
Sure, it had washers and dryers, just like any other Laundromat in Gotham, but it also had an arcade and several televisions. The clerk that would make change for you and sell you dryer sheets would also let you pick a movie from a catalog and, for a minimal fee, you could watch the flick of your choice while you fluffed and folded your delicates. There was also a corner of the building set aside for an old fashioned malt shop, complete with counter, chrome stools and an honest to God jukebox.
The owners really went all out to make sure the place was successful, which made its backslide into failure all the more ironic. People didn't go to Laundromats to socialize or watch movies or drink milkshakes; shock, horror, dismay! People went to Laundromats to do--gasp--laundry. Fancy that. Logic works, who knew?
Most potential patrons of the Blue Kangaroo came in with their arms loaded down with a basket of laundry, took one look at the vinyl records hanging from the ceiling and made a hasty exit. People were creeped out by the place, pure and simple.
Of course, this made Al like it all the more. It was just as private as the Sud Bucket had been because there was no one in it, but since it was a less sleazy place in a sickeningly picturesque neighborhood, the Bat was less likely to look for her or others of her ilk there.
With a spring in her step and a big garbage bag full of clothes in her arms, the henchgirl entered the Blue Kangaroo, whistling some happy little tune to herself. The Captain was home with Kitten and Techie was off running an errand with the Squishmaster, so that left her to complete her task in solitude. She didn't mind; much as the girls loved each other, they were still very separate individuals and they needed time away from each other--if they didn't get it, they'd more than likely rip each other to pieces. They were about due for a little bit of breathing room.
The Blue Kangaroo was completely empty, save for the soda jerk and the detergent clerk. They looked like they were bored stiff. Al gave them both a nod and a smile and picked out a bank of washing machines in the corner furthest from the entrance but close to the emergency exit. An air force blue plastic table sat next to the row of washers and Al emptied the contents of her bag onto its surface, making quick work of sorting whose clothes were whose.
Captain's clothes were first, small t-shirts, boy jeans and matching pajama sets were all tossed into a pile. Kitten's clothes came next, bibs, rompers, all the typical toddler stuff. Techie's attire, an eclectic mix of flouncy blouses, button downs and ratty band t-shirts, were tossed into a pile of their own as well. Her own clothes were gathered into a heap and the leftovers, by process of elimination, were the Scarecrow's.
With methodical care, she treated the worst stains, most of which belonged to either Kitten or Jonathan (that fact made her smile a little) and started loading each pile of clothes into its own washing machine. A few things hadn't been worn in ages, just shoved in the back of the Frohike--or in the trunk of the Enterprise/Deathcoaster/Ashmobile--and left until they had time to get to them. Some of them must have been buried for months at a time--at least, that's the only thing that Al could come up with to explain the crumpled piece of paper that fell from a pocket in a pair of Jonathan Crane's pants.
At first, she didn't take any real notice of it, thinking it was probably just a list or a receipt or something equally unimportant, she didn't bother to stoop and pick it up when it fluttered to the ground. After she loaded all the clothes into their respective washers, she still didn't bother with the paper. She did ask the detergent clerk to slide good old Re-Animator into the DVD player, if he would be so kind, though.
Through one wash cycle, the ball of crumpled paper remained in her field of view. She continued to ignore it even after she loaded all her clean clothes into a few industrial sized dryers. She was too occupied with the movie to pay it any mind.
However, when the credits rolled and she saw the dryers still had a good five minutes left, she finally shrugged and gave into curiosity, scooping up the wrinkled document and smoothing it out.
It was a letter, addressed to Squish.
The penmanship looked vaguely familiar…
It seems cliché to write this, but--if you're reading this letter, we're gone.
Al blinked and stared at the letter without seeing it for a moment. Then she snapped out of it and scanned the page.
Yeah, there was Captain's handwriting, then Techie's, the ink faded in spots…
She remembered the day they wrote this letter--the day they'd cried and signed it. She remembered the day they delivered it to Oswald Cobblepot in a safe deposit box and begged him to please, please, please make sure the contents got to Jonathan Crane…
She certainly remembered the five thousand dollars they'd paid him to convey it.
She frowned and flipped the paper over, even though she knew there was nothing on the other side. She had assumed that Cobblepot, thinking they were dead, had welshed on the deal. Jonathan had never said anything about receiving it…
And yet, it was in his pocket? After all this time?
The dryers all beeped, one after another and Al set the letter down, her brow still furrowed.
She unloaded the clothes and folded them with ease, the familiar movements associated with the activity quieting her thoughts.
How many years had it been since they'd written that letter? Six? Seven? He'd been carrying it around with him all that time? Or at least, he never threw it away…
She picked up a pair of slacks and stopped abruptly, looking at them. A slow smile spread on her face and she reached for the letter. Al crumpled it--not exactly as it had been crumpled before, but close enough--and stuffed it into the left hand pocket of the pants. Maybe he'd notice the lump, maybe he wouldn't…
But if Squishykins was turning into a sentimental old fool, who was she to expose him?