Batman: What in the World Was I Thinking? Chapter 1: Doubtful Thoughts

by Immortalwildcat

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“What in the world was I thinking?”

Ra’s al Ghul looked out over his operations center, where a dozen men, all fiercely loyal to him, monitored communications signals and network transactions from around the world. To either side of him, two bodyguards watched as a colorfully clad figure darted from one console to the next. Wisely, neither of them answered his murmured question.

“First, he manages to trace the promethium bomb used on Bruce Wayne’s plane back to me, and then he actually finds his way here on foot.” Sensing someone entering the mezzanine behind him, he raised his voice slightly and turned. “I should have killed him as soon as he set foot in our lair, my darling.”

“You have mentioned before, Father, that you wanted to study him, to see how someone like him could be such a challenge to my beloved.” Talia settled into a chair at her father’s right hand. “I read an interview with the magician Zatanna in which she spoke of an eternal struggle between Order and Chaos. Would it not seem as if you and he represent that struggle?”

“Such a struggle may be eternal for magicians and spiritualists, Talia, but not for those of us grounded in the real world.” Ra’s stood and gestured to one of the bodyguards. “Bring the Joker to my study.”

“At once, Master.”

“And if he gives you any trouble, do not hesitate to kill him.”

***

“What in the world was I thinking?

Alfred Pennyworth’s thoughts were interrupted as he looked up from the brass desk set he was polishing to see Silver St. Cloud tossing a catalog onto one of the tables in the Wayne Manor library. “A New Year’s Eve wedding sounded romantic when Bruce suggested it, but how am I supposed to choose a bridal party, get dresses for them and myself, flowers, and everything else in that kind of timeframe. Even with my staff taking care of the reception and invitations, it’s too much!

“Now, Miss Silver, please calm down,” said Alfred as he came over to stand behind her with one hand on her shoulder. “One of the perks of being in the Wayne household is that one becomes accustomed to miracles. Now, what appears to be the problem at the moment?”

“I think I have it narrowed down to these two dresses.” Silver pointed at two books, each of them showing a model in a long, white gown. “What do you think?”

“The Versone is nice, but the bustier is intended to give a slimmer shape to a — shall I say — more substantial woman. Note how it flares slightly just above the hips. However, the choker collar on it would look wonderful with your long neck. The fall from waist to hip of the Van Kleivan better suits your body’s shape, but I think your shoulders may be a bit too angular for the bare shoulder look.” The butler flipped through the Versone catalog for a moment. “Now, here is one with the choker collar, but more a drape to it. Let me see, it’s not yet Christmas, so Salvatore should still be working out of his New York studio.” He pulled out a small notebook from his vest and flipped through it. “Shall I call now to arrange a private fitting, or do you wish to do yours along with your matron of honor and bridesmaids?”

Silver appeared stunned. “Alfred, are you telling me that you deal directly with Salvatore Versone?

“Miss Silver, surely you don’t think Master Bruce has the time to shop for clothes on top of running his businesses and his night-time activities. Besides, if left to his own tastes in fashion, he would still be wearing those dreadful turtleneck shirts he was so fond of a few years back.”

“Oh, thank you. Let me call my sister-in-law and Barbara, and we’ll see if we can do all the fittings together.” Silver closed the other catalogs and stacked them up. “Oh, and there’s something else I’d like to ask you.”

***

What in the world was I thinking?”

Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, better known to the world at large as the Penguin, sat in the dining hall of Arkham Asylum, across from the horrendously split visage of Harvey Dent.

“What’s the matter, Ozzie? You didn’t mean to take the tuna surprise, did you?”

“No, not the food. What was I doing, building those robotic birds last month? (*) I’d been free for months, ever since the alien invasion. Why couldn’t I have played it smart and laid low?”

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Arsenal: Guys’ Night Out.]

“What you should have done is steered clear of Gotham. I never understood why you stick around this burg, anyway. You ain’t like Eddie and I — we can’t help but go after the Bat. You don’t have any psychosis like that.” Two-Face took a bite from the spoons he held in each hand. “You’re just nuts about birds.”

“But I still end up fighting the Batman.” Cobblepot sat up straight. “Hey! That reminds me — you fought him recently. (*) Did anything about him strike you as, well, different?

[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman: Double Elimination, Book 2: Justice.]

“Mister, when you’re looking at everything from two sides like I do, everything looks different. What are you talking about?”

“The way he talks, the way he moves. Almost like it was someone else under that cowl.”

Dent was about to reply when one of the guards interrupted them. “Cobblepot! Dr. Phillips wants to see you in his office. Come on!”

A few minutes later, Oswald was sitting in the sparse office of Arkham’s associate director, Frank Phillips. “Cobblepot, we’ve got a problem here.”

“What are you talking about, Doctor? I haven’t done anything since I got back.”

“That’s true, and that is weighing in your favor.” Seeing the inmate’s puzzled look, Phillips stood and paced behind his desk. “Cobblepot, you were one of several hundred people abducted during the alien attacks last summer. Among those numbers were several convicted criminals, both costumed and petty. What you may have been unaware of is the fact that the President’s life was saved by a group of costumed villains who have been working as a sort of strike force for a government agency.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Invasion, Book 3: The Return.]

“OK, so what does this have to do with me? I’ve never been part of any group like that.”

“In a gesture of — I guess you’d say gratitude — the President issued a blanket pardon for any and all felons who were abducted, save those serving time for murder or terrorist-related crimes. You were eligible for this pardon.”

“I was, eh? Might have done me some good if I hadn’t slipped away when we got back to Earth.”

“It still does. After conferring with the Gotham Police, the FBI, and yes, even with the Batman, it has been decided to grant you a conditional release.” Phillips opened a file folder on his desk and pulled out a typewritten sheet. “It’s not a full pardon; if you do so much as get a parking ticket in the next two years, you will be back in Arkham. But for now, Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, you are a free man.”

***

“What in the world was I thinking?”

“What’s the matter, Dick?” Bruce Wayne stood in the door of his one-time ward’s office in the Wayne Foundation building.

“Bruce, take a look at these plans. How can we shoehorn a community center into the retail development at Adams and Park Row? I let myself get talked into it by Jesse Clinton when he was in town last week, to serve the people in the subsidized housing tract here on Adams. But there’s no way we can route the traffic for the businesses there around so that pedestrians can reach the center safely.”

Bruce chuckled. “And here I thought you were having second thoughts about taking on managing the Park Row redevelopment. If that’s your biggest worry, then I know I picked the right man for the job. Speaking of which, I need to talk to you about another job.”

Dick Grayson looked up from the plans. “I don’t know, Bruce. My plate is kind of full with this one.”

“Oh, I think you’ll find time for this. Before we went away for the weekend, I asked Silver to marry me.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman: The Return, Chapter 3: Alive.]

“Yeah!” whooped Dick, loud enough that his assistant stuck her head in the door to make sure everything was all right. “We’re fine, Cindy. But why don’t you check around to see if there’s any champagne in the office — Bruce is getting married!

“Congratulations, Mr. Wayne,” said Cynthia Morningstar, before running off to find something to toast the news.

“Bruce, that’s great! When’s the wedding?”

“New Year’s Eve. And I’d like you to be my best man.”

“I’d be proud to, Bruce. But what about Jason? And Alfred?”

“I’ve asked Jason to be my groomsman. It’s a small wedding party, you and Jason, Silver’s sister-in-law as her matron of honor, and I think she is going to ask Barbara to be a bridesmaid.” Bruce smiled. “Sorry, old friend, you won’t be paired up in the wedding party.”

“I think we’ll get over it. But I always figured Alfred would be in your wedding party, too.”

Bruce chuckled and sat in one of the overstuffed side chairs in Dick’s office. “Silver beat me to it. Her parents and her brother have all passed away, so she’s asked Alfred to give her away. She just called me before I came in here to say he was, and I quote, exceedingly proud to be given the honor.”

“Less than five weeks, eh? Guess I’ll have to move fast on planning your bachelor party, won’t I?”

“Please, Dick, you don’t have to–“

“Wait until I tell Roy and Ollie. They’ve been waiting for this chance for years!

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