What's New Pussycat
Chapter 5: The New Partnership
"Is it me or is this a lot more… bizarre… than anything we used to encounter in the old days?"
"Mad Hatter's tea party was pretty odd."
Nightwing shook his head. "Not like this."
It was four hours into the new partnership. Nightwing had arrived with the proposal just as Batman was suiting up to go out and find him. A new baseline, 'Wing said, one case as real partners – equal partners. He agreed not to weigh every word Batman uttered for some sign he was being dismissed as a junior, rookie, or sidekick. For his part, Batman allowed that he would deal with Wing as the man he was now not the person he was before, and he hoped his son would do likewise. Batman offered his hand…
Having proposed the partnership in the first place, Nightwing realized it would be grossly offensive to refuse to shake hands and instead search his new partner for signs of mind-control or drugs. Instead, he chalked up the impossibly reasonable Batman before him to yet another miracle from the same source as the smile and Bruce's newfound ability to make scrambled eggs… Still, it was odd.
It was odd, but not half as odd as the scene looked on four hours later, perched on a rooftop, a thin surveillance receiver aimed at their quarry so they could hear as well as watch the proceedings…
"There was the time Mad Hatter took over Tweedledum and Tweedledee," Batman suggested as an example of something they'd encountered that was certainly as strange as the scene before them now.
"Not even close."
"Veronica Vreeland dressed as Two-Face at the Drake Halloween party."
"I missed that one."
"Batman, we're looking down on Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Roxy Rocket, Harley Quinn, and Nocturna starting 'Girls' Night Out' at a lesbian pottery shop. When I say 'this is bizarre', you gotta give me something better than a smiling trout."
Batman's mouth twitched.
The "New Partnership" was an experiment, and one on which a lot was riding. Batman and Nightwing chose the case they would work on with great care. They decided on Nocturna and Thief of the Night. There were several sound reasons:
1. They were new. Bruce and Dick had never faced them as Batman and Robin, so there could be no baggage on that score.
2. They were operating in Gotham City (Batman's turf), but it was Nightwing (through Oracle) who learned their identities and set up this surveillance.
3. Selina knew them. She was certainly well-acquainted enough to invite Nocturna along for the proposed Girls' Night Out. Batman and Nightwing could watch, wait, listen, and when the time was right, spring the trap.
"How'd you get her to go along with this?" Batman asked with disbelief.
"It took some doing," Nightwing hedged.
It had. It was dumb luck that Dick learned about Ivy's Girls' Night plans only hours after Barbara told him about Nocturna. Selina wasn't gung-ho about the excursion, let alone bringing a guest, let alone bringing Natasha. Yes, she admitted, she knew 'Tasha from the old days with François, but they weren't great friends or anything. And besides, after that night at the Iceberg, it was doubtful whether Pam, Roxy or Harley would even speak to Nocturna.
"Selina, please," Dick had pleaded, "I need this. I need to be able to bring Batman a case we can work on as partners."
"You don't fight fair," she replied.
Dick smirked. "Gee, where d'ya think I could've picked that up."
"You'll do it then?"
"That's a yes?"
"Okay," she relented, "I'll do it… For a price."
Yes, Nightwing reflected, there would be a price. But for now, here they were…
Fifteen stories below, Pamela Isley was showing her companions around her favorite store: Aurora's Pots.
"You pick a blank over there, paint it however you want, and they fire it. While you wait, or while you paint, it's a place to hang out, have some herbal tea, Thursdays they have poetry readings…"
"It's a lesbian pottery shop," Roxy interrupted with typical directness.
"Tuesday is open mic night…" Pam went on.
"Say, these'd make nice feedbowls for Damien and Slobberpuss," Harley said, picking up a large round bowl.
"Her hyenas," Selina explained to Natasha.
"I thought the hyenas were Bud and Lou," Roxy put in.
"Joker calls them that," Selina corrected. "But Harley feeds them, so they answer to her. And to Harley they're… what was it?"
"Slob-ber-puss," Harley said, painting the word in bright red across the center of the bowl.
"I come here and make a special pot for each of my plants," Pam went on.
"Heya Catty, you could do that for your cats too," Harley enthused.
"I figured we'd go to a bar," Roxy complained.
"And I," Nocturna pronounced grandly, "thought we might embark on a worthier enterprise. Know that I fully intend to confront and enslave the great Batman before leaving this city."
"What is it with you," Nightwing asked, turning to Batman.
"You should talk," was the deadpan reply.
"They're at table three," Batman insisted, pointing the microphone through the skylight of a dance club called STUDS.
"They're at table five," Nightwing countered, adjusting it.
"Table three ordered a martini, a cosmopolitan, a Long Island iced tea, a champagne cocktail, and a Diet Sprite. That's Selina – Ivy – Roxy – Nocturna – and Harley."
"Table five is discussing my ass - literally. Don't tell me a bachelorette party from Westchester is going to be talking about 'that Nightwing's darling tush.'"
"'Wing, I hate to be the one to break the news, but there are entire websites devoted to the subject."
"Of my tush?"
"Selina says there used to be a wall in the women's washroom at the Iceberg. When Oswald had it whitewashed and coated with a graffiti-proof polymer, it went online. www -dot- HotWing -dot- com."
"Tell me Barbara doesn't know this. Lie to me if necessary."
"Dick, what do you think they mean when they say 'estrogen solidarity'?"
"Fight crime, you told me. Justice, you said. Battle evil-doers. You didn't mention this part."
"Must be quite a cross to bear."
"Just don't tell Barbara I know."
"Testosterone solidarity… It's them; it's definitely them at table three. Ivy is complaining that after all the Haagen Daaz…"
"…and cookie dough I choked down whenever you and 'Puddin' fight, and you can't free up a single evening when that brute Two-Face went and murdered Ivan!"
"Pammy," Roxy cut in, "If you've really decided you and Two-Fer are though, would you mind if I had a go? I always thought the way you slapped each other around looked like a rush, and that was just in public. I mean, if in private, there's even more going on -hic-"
"Roxy, how many of those have you had?" Selina asked, pointing to the Long Island iced tea.
"Three. I needed change. I need small bills for Zorro."
Batman and Nightwing looked at each other in stunned horror.
"Did they say Zorro?"
"It's not like a change machine," Roxy continued, "You can't just pop a twenty in his pants then take back change."
"Why would I want to 'pop' money of any denomination into a man's trousers?" Ivy asked testily, "A leaf of poison oak maybe, but not a twenty."
"Pammy, you've simply GOT to get into the spirit of the thing -hic-," Roxy insisted. "If you don't tip them, they don't grind."
"I did not need to hear that," Nightwing remarked.
"Think of it like conditioning," Roxy concluded, gesturing with a bill folded neatly between her fingers, "Here, Zorro. Here, boy. Do your trick. Goooood boooooy."
For a moment, Nightwing stared through the skylight, speechless.
"Who knew Roxy had so much going on? She always seemed like such a flake."
"She doesn't seem like a flake; she IS a flake," Batman countered.
"I don't know, sounds like she really knows how to communicate with Poison Ivy. Seems on the ball…"
"At Christmas, she got drunk on Jello and slept with Penguin."
Nightwing thought for a second. It was true. Batman really did know everything. He spoke this thought aloud, and saw Batman's chest swell with pride.
Not that this information was the result of great detective work, Nightwing quickly added.
"Not that that's why you're dating Selina, of course," 'Wing mentioned.
"Of course not. A happy byproduct."
"If you want to stay in the gossip loop, you might have to rethink the whole 'no more Iceberg' rule, though."
"If the alternative is going to be her spending her nights like this, yes. What's that they're saying under the static: 'Work it Zorro?'"
"I have a question," Nocturna, who had been quiet, finally spoke up. "Do performers of this sort ever don the apparel of the true denizens of Gotham Night?"
"She means," Selina translated for the waiter, "are there dancers that dress like Batman and Robin, or Joker, or Two-Face?"
"There used to be a club like that in the Village," their waiter answered. "It kept getting blown up."
Nightwing looked at Batman.
Batman looked at Nightwing.
Ten minutes later, Pam went to the powder room with Roxy:
"If I have to listen to one more round from Elvira Mistress of the Dark about how she's going to enslave Batman, I'm gonna hurl. Does she think this never occurred to any of us, or that we're not up to the job?"
"I know," Roxy whispered, scandalized, "I didn't want to say anything until Catty did, she sort of has first refusal where the Bat is concerned."
"I'll talk to her first thing," Ivy fumed.
"I think that gown's a knock-off," Roxy speculated, fixing her lipstick.
Five minutes later, Harley went to the powder room with Selina:
"ONLY a sidekick! Roxy said I shouldn't be here tonight cause I'm only a sidekick!"
"Don't be so sensitive, Harl. She's having a mood is all. She's not crazy about Natasha being here. A newbie, and she's already in the inner circle…"
"Natasha. You mean Nocturna. I thought we said no costumes, too conspicuous."
"We did. I guess she figured her 'costume' is non-themed enough to sneak through."
"That's not a real Vera Wang is it?" Harley asked, fixing her lipstick.
Fifteen minutes later, Roxy powdered her nose while Nocturna chattered:
"This Ivan that Pamela's other lover Harvey killed for her sake, I do not understand why she is so bitter."
Roxy rolled her eyes and explained that Ivan was not Poison Ivy's lover, but her pet flytrap.
"He's a sprout."
"This Harvey was so overcome with jealous rage, he denied her affections to be shared even with plantlife?"
"No, look, it wasn't premeditated. He screwed up the sunlamp."
"Not a crime of passion then?"
"Only if you count what Pam did afterwards with Ivan's pot."
"Say, is that a real Vera Wang?"
After STUDS, Max's 49th Street Station was the next logical stop. It had a video rental next to a liquor store, and only three blocks from the HA-HAcienda West.
As they walked, the girls debated what films to rent. Ivy wanted Thelma and Louise. Harley said anything with either Steve Martin or Colin Furth. Roxy was not enthusiastic about renting movies of any sort.
"I just don't see the point of watching things blow up on a screen. It isn't the same as feeling the waves of heat racing up your back and flames licking at your heels."
"When Selina and I used to have girls' nights back in the day," Nocturna mused, "We always watched old movies: Casablanca, Jezebel, great romances all. And of course, we discussed the men: Anton, François and… what was that boy Anna ran with?"
"That's François as in Zogger-François?" Nightwing asked with a smirk.
"Shhh, I want to hear this," Batman hissed.
:It was Bobby: Selina's answer could be heard over the microphone before she added, :Ladies, don't look now, but we're being followed.:
"It's good to be home," Nightwing smiled.
"She did that on purpose. She made that up to deliberately change the subject…"
"No, she didn't. Look down there."
At street level, a familiar figure could be seen closing in on the party.
"It's Pheromones," Selina whispered.
"Barney Fife," Roxy repeated.
"Azrael," Harley provided the vigilante's real name for Nocturna's benefit.
"Who is this Azrael?" Nocturna asked.
Ivy and Selina's eyes locked, and they instantly and silently agreed on a strategy.
"He's the catch of the county," Selina began.
"Absolutely," Ivy enthused, "The catch of Gotham City. The catch of the Eastern seaboard. You want to seduce a hero worth seducing, that's your man."
Nightwing looked at Batman.
Batman looked at Nightwing.
Roxy caught on next:
"Why yes, Azrael actually took over the mantle for a while. But it diminished him. His own persona is so much more dashing and charismatic."
Harley began to voice her confusion, and Selina clamped a hand over her mouth. "We'll wait in here," she confided, dragging Harley into the video store.
A moment later, there was a mad cackle from inside the store.
"Obviously Quinn approves of the plan, now that it's been explained to her," Batman remarked.
"I wish someone would explain it to me," Nightwing answered.
"What was that?" Nocturna asked, looking towards the video store.
"Oh, nothing," Pam soothed. "The mad laughter, that's her trademark."
"You are sure this Aztec…"
"Azrael," Roxy corrected.
"…Azrael is the hero to ensnare?"
"He is THE man of Gotham City," both women assured her.
"Many have tried," Roxy added. "The great and wonderful Azrael, we all quiver at his might."
"Damn, that's cold," Nightwing winced, "those women are evil."
"You're just getting that now?" Batman queried.
"And what exactly is your plan of attack," Pamela asked with matter-of-fact professionalism.
"I shall expose him to the bewitching wonder that is me," Nocturna answered, burying her total infatuation with herself in a naïve innocence that was rather pleasing.
"Go get him, Tiger," was Roxy's final word of encouragement before joining the others inside the video store. While Nocturna hid herself in the ebon folds of the night beneath midnight's dark canopy – otherwise known as that dark patch under the burned out streetlight – her companions inside the store made a startling discovery:
"Oh, my god," Roxy gasped, holding up a video jacket from the adult section, "Look at these titles: Goddess of Mystery and Passion, Darkness's Dewey Tears. This is the stuff she's been spouting all night, it's off these movie jackets! Listen: Tess Tits in Beautiful but Ever Dangerous, Lolita Lippstick as 'the Mistress of Darkness… offering her pale flesh to the caress of night's dark breath.'"
Meanwhile, Azrael walked into the street to see where all his quarry had disappeared to…
"We going to do anything?" Nightwing asked, knowing the answer already.
"Let it play out," Batman answered. "Let the targets eliminate each other, fewer to collect once it's over."
It was a lie. Batman wanted to see what would happen, just as Nightwing did.
The nice thing about partners was: neither had to say it out loud.
She emerged from the blackness looking like, depending on your point of view, a vision of dark allurement in a shadowy mist of her own seductive aura, or a Goth chick in a Vera Wang knockoff that looks a little like that dame from Rocky & Bullwinkle.
Azrael was of the former view and ran behind Jean Paul's mortal psyche like a cartoon rabbit diving into its hole.
Jean Paul, on the other hand, was a recent graduate of the Oliver Queen School of Woman-Handling. Under Queen's tutelage, he'd watched thirty hours of Sex and the City, and media images always made a deep impression on him. He recognized Nocturna immediately as an attractive woman attempting to seduce him, and he took refuge in the example of Carrie Bradshaw's paramour, Mr. Big: Do not respond to the attractive woman by panting, drooling, or tripping over your tongue. Instead be - what was it Carrie always said? – 'emotionally withholding.' Yes, that was it!
Jean Paul not only grabbed the helm with confidence, he whirled on his own alter ego with equal confidence: So what if she's lumpier than other criminals! Arrest her anyway, or I will.
"Holy shit," Nightwing exclaimed on the rooftop.
"Holy shit," Ivy remarked in the store window.
"Well, that was unexpected," Roxy added.
"Holy shit," Nightwing repeated.
"I'll say," Selina agreed with Roxy.
"Barney Fife did it," Harley noted.
"Captain Lugnut did it," Nightwing murmured.
"Well, now what?" Ivy asked.
"We go home," Selina answered. "After that, Steve Martin would be a letdown."
"Well, now what?" Nightwing asked.
"Grab the Night Thief at his hotel, then go home," Batman answered.
The bats were used to the roar of a turbo engine echoing off cavern walls at odd hours of the night. They were not used to the rumbling blasts being followed by melodic humming. Yet tonight, the dark man who emerged from the armored car tripped through the cave with a spring in his step and a song on his lips.
The New Partnership was a success. It wasn't a record-setting evening: hours of fruitless surveillance followed by the apprehension of a single costumed felon and a pair of muggers. But they had worked together, Batman and Nightwing, Bruce and Dick. They worked together as partners, they brought down the bad guy, and they did it while maintaining a tone so amicable 'Wing had signed off with a lighthearted jibe.
It was a lighthearted jibe, after all. It was a joke. Dick was like that. As soon as he was old enough to understand about Catwoman, he had to make his little jokes.
Things were different now. Dick knew that. Bruce Wayne was sleeping with Selina Kyle. It was silly to think Batman still had the same obsessive attraction to Catwoman, and if he did, he certainly wouldn't have to deny it like he used to.
It didn't stir him particularly, seeing her with them, plotting with Ivy, setting up Azrael. His bad girl.
It didn't excite him, and if it did, he would certainly admit it.
Dick just wanted to rib him like he used… to…
The thought hung in the air as Batman stood in the costume vault, eyes riveted on a small, hand-written note:
Don't get changed yet.
Might want to investigate that prowler outside your window.
"Meow," Batman mouthed softly, then turned.
The other half of Nightwing's parting taunt: Catwoman. Dick was certain she would be wild at the thought of Batman watching her all night. She wouldn't let on, Dick had speculated, but at the first opportunity, she'd be all over him.
Batman moved quickly but didn't race - out of the costume vault, out of the cave, to the grounds outside the house - an electric tension building at what Zen masters call the one point - a tension at once nervous, excited and needful - building - until - ZING! - Purple - the excitement ripped outward from the one point through every muscle in his body.
In four seconds, he had her pinned – albeit not a pin recognized by any martial art – her arms held fast behind her back, fingers intertwined in his, ass perched precariously on a thin railing outside the east balcony.
"Bad Kitty," was all he said.
The emotional pull towards her had never felt this way before. Perhaps because he had the cowl on. He was still Batman. They were both in costume, the same costumes they met in and teased each other in for years… as their mouths met and locked, Batman felt his fingers release hers. His hands moved with a will of their own, reaching to cup the round softness beneath her hips. He picked her up without breaking the kiss. Her legs encircled him and they moved indoors…
Like any well-trained butler-valet, Alfred collected the items he found in a trail leading to his employer's bedroom and discreetly put them away in an appropriate location. It made no difference to him that the trail consisted a cape, a clawed glove, a utility belt, a whip, a cowl, and high-heeled thigh boots. He returned the items to the vault, added a second cup to the breakfast tray, and ran a hot iron over the newspaper.
A half-hour later, a purring Selina Kyle lay on her stomach on Bruce's bed, the newspaper spread out before her while Bruce stroked the back of her thigh and sipped his coffee.
Abruptly, the purring stopped.
Gotham Times, August 23rd
Hermoine's Society Chit-Chat
There goes the neighborhood. Bunny Wigglesworth's drawing room used to be a glittering salon where socialites met cognoscenti. But last night's little gathering was quite the hodgepodge. On this end of the spectrum, the crème de la crème, the British Ambassador and his new wife Lady Newbury. And on that end… The Trashography Trio: F. Miller, M. Newell & D. Cooke…
©2002, Chris Dee
F.Miller, author of Catwoman: An Unauthorized Biography
invading Selina's turf at d'Annunzio's?
Get ready to rumble in Cat-Tales 22