Dry Clean Only

Author's Note: Written for the livejournal batfic_contest prompt "Chance Encounter" in less than 500 words; first posted there on 16 February 2009.

Alfred stepped out of the queue and stooped to pick up the fallen items. "Two tickets to the opening night of the new production of Oliver at the Gotham Central Theatre?" he read the printed description as the young woman on rollerskates ahead of him looked around in confusion. "Someone has a pleasant evening ahead."

"Oh! Thanks so much!" The blonde gushed, grabbing the proffered tickets from his hand and shoving them back into her oversized-purse. "I'd be for the high-jump if I lost those. My… uh, boss, he just loves the theatre. He can't wait to see all the kiddies' excited little faces tonight when their opening show goes with a real bang."

Alfred smiled politely, happy to make conversation as they waited in line at the counter. "I hope you've got good seats."

"Oh yeah – right in the heart of the action." The woman turned back, seeming distracted as she fidgeted with the catch of her purse. She craned her neck to look for the assistant who had disappeared to fetch her dry-cleaning order. "Probably close enough to smell the gunpowder."

"Gunpowder?" Alfred's brow creased slightly in confusion. "I don't recall explosions in any production of Oliver I've seen before…"

"No?" The young woman's hands dropped from the catch of her purse as a flicker of something crossed her face. She turned around to smile at him. "Well I heard there was in this one. Must be some artsy post-modern reinterpretation or somethin', yanno?"

A teenaged assistant appeared on the other side of the counter, wearing a doubtful expression as he handed over a dozen opaque garment bags.

"Sorry but the supervisor said if you bring suits that badly stained again then next time you'll need to pay extra for special treatment." He lowered his voice slightly. "And just outta curiosity, we all wanted to know exactly what sort of film you were making that needed that much fake blood? It looked real gruesome."

The woman smiled nonchalantly. "A romantic comedy. With a twist."

The assistant's expression grew more doubtful, but he was ignored as she scooped the garment bags over one arm.

"Anyway, thanks again for spottin' those tickets, hon," she said, addressing Alfred whose suspicions grew as she wheeled towards the shop door. "You're a lifesaver. Maybe I'll see ya'round next time!"

"Enjoy the play."

He watched as she skated backwards under the arm of a middle-aged man at the door who'd quickly jumped to one side to avoid being knocked down. As she turned to wave, one of the garment bags slung over her shoulder gaped open, revealing a suit in a very familiar looking shade of purple. Alfred narrowed his eyes further.

"Do you have your ticket, sir?" the assistant behind the counter asked, drawing his attention away from the rapidly disappearing woman.

"Certainly," he replied, handing over the slip of paper. "One dinner jacket in the name of Mr Wayne. I do believe he may now require it for the theatre this evening."

Author's Note: Probably not a very mysterious chance encounter to anyone who has seen my profile and knows that Harley tends to turn up in just about everything I write... ;D