Bruce Has A Problem

By Adrian Tullberg

Tim's first clue was Alfred looking particularly perturbed. The second was the strong smell of alcohol following the normally impeccable Englishman.

The second sign was that the hidden entrance to the Batcave was left wide open. In fact it was near impossible to leave it open even accidently, given the safety features built in.

Tim walked cautiously down the stairway, to the throne like chair near the Batcomputer. Yes, there was Bruce, slumped in the chair, haggard expression, and refilling a glass of his special stock of twelve-year-old bourbon.

When Bruce wasn't passing off ginger ale as Dom Perignon, this was his drink of choice for two good reasons. First, it was expensive and strong, and given the years of hard work invested in destroying the image of one Bruce Wayne, it wouldn't surprise anyone if seen in his hand.

Second, the stuff did the job with brutal power and efficiency. During his younger days first wandering the mansion, Tim had happened upon an opened bottle of this bourbon and took a cautious sniff. It felt like his nose hairs had caught on fire and ruined his sense of smell for a day afterwards. Now, Tim kept a small amount to use whenever he caught a cold and needed a nasal decongestant.

"Bruce ...?

"Hey kiddo!"

Tim whirled around, Batarang at the ready ... which he promptly dropped.

A small woman. Blonde.

Wearing a costume.

A Robin Costume, specifically, Dick's first Robin costume.

And this woman ... he knew her ...

"Harley Quinn?"

"In the flesh, Timmy boy!" She walked past him, and gave Bruce a big wet one on the cheek.

Tim had never seen Bruce's left eye twitch like that.

Quinn draped her arm around Tim's shoulder, and put on the tone when she tried to sound serious. "Now I want you to know that even though Bruce and I have gotten serious about our relationship, and we're going to be spending more time together, he's still your father and loves you very much, okay sport?"

Tim looked at the earnest face of the repeat Arkham Asylum inmate with a growing sense of dread.

"Having said that, me and him will be performing a number of activities that two adults usually do when they're alone, and we're going to need some alone time then. Unless you like to watch. But don't worry, that's a lot more normal compared to some of the rumours I've heard about Brucie and his Robins. Anyways ... in short? If the Batcave's rockin', don't bother knockin'!"

It took Tim a lot longer to get his jaw working to deliver the words. "Thanks for the heads up."

"No problem!"

"Can I ... talk to Bruce?"

"Sure! Boy talk! Male bonding! Normal, healthy relationships! It's been a while since I've seen one of those ..."

Tim looked Bruce in the eye.

"What. The. Hell."

Bruce looked up at Tim.

"She worked it out. Who I was. She successfully profiled me."

"Your big announcement, B-Babe!"

Wha ... oh. Bruce Wayne giving the worldwide announcement of his 'secret funding' of Batman, and extending that concept to creating Batman Incorporated.

Harley had casually dropped herself into Bruce's lap. "Seriously, anyone who knows Batman knows that it'd be a little fishy that he'd let anybody else control his cash?" She gave Bruce a big smile. "I mean, face it honey, you're just a bit of a control freak." She then turned to Tim, cupped one hand around her mouth, and started whispering in a tone that could be heard across a crowded stadium. "I'm probably going to need a safeword."

Tim was desperately remembering the focussing mediative techniques that were taught to him to fight off the Scarecrow's toxin. They weren't helping. "And how did you ..."

"Here I was, realising that Bruce had told anyone with training in psychiatry and gotten up pretty close and personal with Batman who he was, and I was wondering why ... when it hit me."

Quinn curled up in the lap of the frozen still Bruce. "All this time, when I'd shot him, given him a whammy with a big mallet, put him in all those death traps, and he still ensures I get a fair trial, a parole hearing, saves my life when I make a teensy miscalculation in placing explosives."

Quinn then enveloped Bruce's head in the kind of hug normally used to strangle lifelong enemies. "This big emotionally stunted man-child was trying to tell the world he loves me!" She swept her arm out to encompass an unseen future vision. "No more abusive relationships with bleached skinned wackos! From now on, Doctor Harleen Quinzel is embarking on a new life of vigilante justice alongside her one true love! Saving Gotham while publicly reasserting his heterosexuality!"

Harley leaped off, measuring the Cave with her fingers. "But we've got to start redecorating first."

Tim moved to whispering range of Bruce's face. "How can we get rid of her?"

Bruce looked up, a gaze devoid of all hope. "What can we do to her that the Joker has already done to her, and she still wouldn't get the message?"

Tim opened his mouth.

Then closed it.

Opened it again.

Nothing came out.

Tim elected to grab Bruce's glass and take a healthy swig.

Bruce didn't mind, because at that point, he'd elected to eliminate the middleman by chugging direct from the bottle.

"Bruce? Honey? I want to be totally honest in our relationship, and I've got to point out that you might have a teensy bit of a problem ..."