It was almost impossible to find Bruce Wayne amidst the flock of models that had descended upon him. Pictures would soon be all over various social networks as guests pretended to take selfies, though it was unlikely Mr. Wayne would have stopped anyone from taking photos outright. At least one of those photos was going to end up a meme sooner rather than later.
It wasn't hard to see why. The man himself, dressed in an impeccable suit, had taken a seat to give himself a break from mingling. A very large fellow with an earpiece kept the area under his poolside awning free of those his boss didn't care to speak to. All around him the party continued, with more than one person leaping fully-clothed into the pool. And slowly, like moths to a flame, slender women with fashion-shoot faces had gathered around Wayne. No one stopped them. A few had enough decorum to sit in adjacent chairs. Some sat on the couch beside him, one with her legs draped sideways over his lap; some stood behind the couch and bent half over it to talk to him, doing dangerous things to their necklines. A few, shameless, sat on the tile of the patio near his feet.
Not that any of this was particularly unusual. It was difficult to find a picture of Gotham's favorite son at a public event without a throng of women. The fact that he had never been known to date anyone seriously did not dissuade them.
"I don't know why I even come to these things when he just hogs all the hot chicks," one guest complained. Someone—he did not see who—pushed him into the pool, and gave him something better to complain about.
"Bruuuce," Cindi said, looking up from where she sat on the ground. "Seriously, you should come."
"What would I even do?" Bruce asked, as Laura took his glass to steal some of his champagne. She was standing behind the couch, and wasn't actually old enough to drink.
"Play with us, obviously," said Adia, legs draped over him for no apparent reason whatsoever. Bruce took his glass back from Laura before she could take a second sip, and she pouted. He frowned as he wiped lipstick off the rim.
"I don't even know how to play Street Fighter," he said.
"Who doesn't know how to play Street Fighter?" Cindi demanded, scandalized. "Didn't you go to college?"
"Is that what I was supposed to be doing?" Bruce asked. "In that case, I made things much more difficult than they needed to be."
"I bet you studied really hard and went to bed at a reasonable hour," Nickie accused from where she sat beside him.
"I've never gone to bed at a reasonable hour in my life," Bruce said, "and quite frankly, I am offended." He drank more champagne as Nickie giggled.
"We can teach you to play Street Fighter," Adia pointed out. "And! Anita has a big yard, so we're all going to bring our pets."
Bruce raised an eyebrow at Anita, who had taken her heels off to sit cross-legged in one of the chairs, her skirt pulled down over her knees. "Really?" he asked. "Chairman Meow is okay with that?"
"I told you he's friendly!" Anita said. "I don't know why you don't believe me."
"Because he looks like a confused Austrian peddler," he said, and Anita gasped. "He looks like his parents were a pug and a slipper. In every single picture you have ever shown me of that cat, he looks like he's going to tell me stories about the war."
Cindi had a distinctly horse-like laugh that Anita did not appreciate when her cat's honor was at stake. "You're going to feel really bad when you meet him and see how nice he is," Anita warned.
"I'm going to feel bad when he turns out to be a wish-granting hobgoblin," Bruce corrected.
"He really is nice," Cora said. "Wanna see a picture of him cuddling with Pigglesworth?"
Cora, standing behind him and over his shoulder, held out her phone in front of his face so that he could see her lockscreen. A Himalayan cat was wrapped around a potbellied piglet on a pillow, and they both seemed to be sleeping.
"That," Bruce said seriously, "is adorable."
"So are you going to come?" Cindi asked.
"Do it for Pigglesworth," Cora added, wiggling her phone encouragingly.
"I'm going to have to see how I feel next week," he said, and there was a collective groan of frustration. "I don't want to get your hopes up and then have to cancel. You know how it is."
"All I know is, usually when you say that it means you're secretly planning to do something dangerous that might get you hurt," Adia said.
"Mister Do-What-I-Say, Not-What-I-Do, No-You-Can't-Come-BASE-Jumping-With-Me," Nickie added.
"I don't think that nickname is going to catch on. Yvonne, watch your drink."
Laura set the margarita back down like she'd been burned, and Yvonne took it back with narrowed eyes, curling up in her chair.
"Snitch," Laura accused.
"Eat some sushi first and I'll get you your own glass."
Laura pouted again. "It's too many carbs."
"She doesn't want to eat because she has a beach shoot tomorrow morning," Cindi revealed. She'd already eaten entirely too many California rolls, and Bruce probably would have let her get away with drinking if she'd wanted to.
"Then you shouldn't be drinking, either," Bruce said. "You don't want to be hungover. And you should still eat."
"But if I drink enough, and stay up all night, I can be drunk instead," Laura said, sitting down beside Cindi.
"You're really not selling me on this," Bruce said.
"Who's the shoot with?" Cindi asked.
Laura made a face. "Hugo."
Cindi made a face to match. "Oh, ew. No wonder."
"Hugo?" Bruce repeated. Laura and Cindi exchanged a glance.
"It's not really that big a deal," Laura said.
"I never said it was," Bruce said. "I'm just curious." Despite his claims, there was something about his face that made him seem more focused than he'd been.
Nickie giggled again, then put her hand to her mouth for a stage whisper away from Bruce. "Observe," she said, "a Wayne in his natural habitat. This one has scented prey, and so the hunt begins." Adia cackled.
"I'm not that bad," Bruce protested. "I've just never heard of the guy."
"Hugo Wegner," Yvonne said, squinting at her empty margarita glass as if that would refill it. She was older than Cindi and Laura, if only barely. She was also much better at following the unspoken drinking rules, and so Bruce didn't police her the way he did them. "He's an up-and-comer."
"He's not, like, a super-creep," Laura said. "He's just obnoxious."
"He does this thing where he gets really picky about poses and ends up moving you around with his hands," Cindi said, making a face again.
"He's gross," Alex said, the first thing she'd said all night. She was sitting on the very end of the couch, nearly off of it. She was the youngest at barely eighteen, and she spent most of her time staring at her phone.
"Huh." Bruce finished off his champagne, handed the empty glass off to Adia and moved her legs off of him so he could reach into his pocket.
"Uh ooooh," Adia announced. "He's getting his phooooone."
"I'm just checking the time," he said, as if he was not wearing a perfectly good watch.
"Papa Bear Bruce is gonna maul a motherfucker," Cora said.
"There are at least five things wrong with that sentence," Bruce said. Cora practically set her chin on his shoulder to try and watch what he was doing, and he tilted the screen away, turned his head to raise an eyebrow at her. "Can I help you?" he asked.
"I wanna see what it looks like when you ruin a man's life via email," Cora said.
"Coretta Lee, you are being very melodramatic today."
"Oooooh," Anita said with a wince. "You got full-named."
Cora dropped down behind the couch as if she were hiding. "I can't believe I got Coretta'd."
"They're not going to cancel my shoot, are they?" Laura asked.
"No," Bruce said, no longer bothering to deny the nature of the email he was composing. "You'll just get a different photographer."
"What if they know I complained? I don't want people thinking I'm difficult. They won't want to hire me."
"You're not difficult," Bruce said, thumbs still moving over the touchscreen keyboard. Cora peered over the back of the couch, her eyes just barely visible. "Karen knows better than to try that, anyway."
"I can't believe you call Mrs. McClelland Karen," Cindi said.
"It's one of the perks of adulthood," Bruce said as he hit send, put his phone back in his pocket.
"Because you're so old," Anita teased.
"Ancient," he agreed. Nickie tipped sideways and sprawled out, resting her head on one of his legs and making herself comfortable. "… and I'm furniture again. Go right ahead, Nickie, thanks for asking. I'm just the guy who owns the place."
"It's not my fault you don't have any throw pillows," Nickie said.
"You are the only person in the entire world that uses throw pillows," Bruce said. Cora leaned back over Bruce's shoulder and held her phone up. "Please don't take a picture with her head in my lap." Nickie made a peace sign for the camera as Cora did exactly that. "At least don't post it."
"I'm posting it everywhere," Cora informed him, and he sighed. "I need to share this milestone with the world. My first selfie with Bruce Wayne where he didn't smile for the camera." Nickie feigned shock.
"That's how you know you've made it," Anita said.
"You know," Bruce said, "I could have sworn some of you used to be nice."
"That's what you get for making fun of my cat."
"It's a price I'm willing to pay."