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My first fic since 2009, and it's... this? I don't even know what just happened. Thanks to dualbunny and trelkez, who still share the blame, and to sisabet for helping work out the timeline for Catbaby's turn as Robin (or rather, Catbird). We're making our own canon, y'all!

Never Let Me Fall by sweetestdrain, illustrated (!!) by dualbunny
Catbaby gen, implied Bruce/Selina. ~1700 words. This interlude takes place some number of years after the events of I Swear; I doubt it will make much sense if you haven't seen the vid.

An ordinary night for Catbaby turns suddenly deadly.




Catbaby can feel the tenseness in her dad’s shoulders even through the kevlar and latex of his suit. The moment they get back to the cave, she jumps to the ground and angrily scratches at her yellow cape, detaching it from her collar, before rounding on him.

Are you going to say anything?

“You already know what I’m going to say.” He peels off his cowl, his jaw tight. “That was unacceptable behavior. See that it doesn’t happen again.”

Catbaby growls softly. I can handle myself. I’m as good as you out there!

Dad scowls. “And a tenth of my size. You’re careless. You may be strong, but you could be seriously hurt if you continue to leap into situations without thinking.

But Catbaby is strong, always has been -- suspiciously strong for a cat, in fact -- and she’s been trained by the best. When they’re out on the streets as Batman and Catbird, they make a great team, and Catbaby’s impeccable balance and heightened senses have helped Batman out of tons of tough scrapes. Dad just can’t stand it whenever she uses her own initiative while they’re on patrol. She’s his partner, but not an equal one, and he refuses to recognize that she can do this!

Tonight was a close call, sure, she starts, but Dad cuts her off.

“One of the Joker’s minions nearly winged your tail with a poisoned Slinky.”

What is this, time for one of Batman’s Very Special Lectures? Things happen! That doesn’t mean--

“Yes, it does,” Dad says.





Catbaby feels her ears go back; it’s one of her worst tells. Why did you even let me put on a cape if you’re just going to shelter me for the rest of my life?

“When we’re out in the field, you do as I say.” Dad crosses his arms. “That was the first rule we agreed upon. If you disregard my orders--”

God, Catbaby spits, furious. Sometimes I wish I was back on the streets!

She regrets it the moment she says it, because her dad’s face goes suspiciously still. He turns away, shrugging off his cape, and begins to do something Very Important on the computer monitors.

Dad --

"Go groom yourself, we have the Haley's Circus fundraiser tonight." He still doesn’t look at her. Fine. Catbaby lopes up the Cave steps, fuming, and hopes that Alfred knows where her good collar is.






*



It’s not the first time Catbaby has been to the circus, but she’s never seen the big top at night before: the red and white of the tent glows against the dark backdrop of Gotham. She sniffs the air--kettle corn, fresh straw, manure--and sighs contentedly.

Dad gives her a little squeeze, his own form of apology, and she rubs her ear against his sleeve, tired -- at least for now -- of being angry at him. A faint smell of perfume makes her ears prick up and she wriggles to be put down. Mom!

"Ms. Kyle."

“Bruce. Fancy meeting you here.”





They wink at each other, maintaining the cautious yet flirtatious distance they always keep in public. Mom’s all done up in sleek black and diamonds, and Dad is way too obvious about checking her out. Catbaby rolls her eyes and twines around her mom’s ankles in greeting. Selina scoops her up immediately.

“And how's my sweet baby girl?"

I wish you wouldn’t call me that.

“Just because you’re a big important crime-fighter now doesn’t mean I can’t embarrass you in public,” Mom asserts, and kisses Catbaby between her ears.

Dad clears his throat. “If you ladies would join me?” He offers his arm to Mom, every inch the eccentric playboy. Catbaby welcomes the change of subject; she doesn’t much want to talk about crime-fighting tonight.

“If you insist.” Mom gives Dad a sly smile as Catbaby climbs to her shoulder, careful not to scratch. A wisp of her blonde hair tickles Catbaby’s nose and she butts her face into Mom’s neck, feeling suddenly homesick for the lustrous high-rise apartment where she and Mom spend their weekends. It’s not that she doesn’t love her dad, but sometimes she thinks Mom gets her in a way he never will.

Once they’re seated, though, she curls up in Dad’s lap. If she thought the outside of the tent was impressive, inside it’s even more overwhelming; there are people everywhere and it sets her nerves on edge a bit, every rustle or flicker of movement attracting her attention. Dad’s hand rests on her neck, a familiar weight.

Mom leans closer. “So how are things, really? I heard about what happened in Metropolis last week.”

Dad lowers his voice. “Just Luthor up to his old tricks. The League took care of it.”

Catbaby tunes them out; she’s read the reports already.

The audience falls quiet as the show begins. Catbaby finds most of the earlier acts unimpressive--it’s not that difficult to balance on horseback or dodge knives, honestly!--but when the Flying Graysons headline act begins, her attention is instantly captured.

There are three acrobats in the act, a man, a woman, and a boy. All three are technically accomplished, and Catbaby finds herself watching them for ideas; the boy performs a gravity-defying twist in midair that Catbaby herself has tried in action. She can see their sweat and hear the muffled thuds of impact and grip that mark real physical exertion, but if she were simply watching their movements, she could almost be fooled into thinking they were flying. She purrs a little, and Mom laughs under her breath at hearing her.

Suddenly, Catbaby’s fur stands on end, and Dad tenses just a second later -- something’s wrong, but what? She scans the crowd, looking for the source of her anxiety, realizing her mistake only after the distant snap of ropes reaches her flattened ears.

Mom gasps out loud, her shocked noise echoed from dozens of other throats. The audience is filled with horrified screams and shouts for someone to call 911. Dad’s face tightens and he stands, dumping Catbaby into Mom’s arms in the same motion.

“Stay here,” he snaps, and melts into the bewildered crowd.

“Bastard,” Mom mutters after him, and smooths Catbaby’s ruffled fur with slightly shaking hands until Catbaby shakes her off. She doesn’t want comfort.

It’ll be only moments before Batman appears on the scene. She should be with him. She feels a cold lump of dread in her stomach, but can’t tell if it’s because she’s been left behind or because of the two bodies lying crushed on the circus floor. It could have been an accident, but she trusts her instincts, and her instincts say it wasn’t. She stares at the bodies of the Graysons for a long moment before glancing up at the young boy still clinging to the trapeze platform, who is staring at them, too.


*



Catbaby can hear her dad in the other room, still talking with the police. Mom made her excuses and left not long after they showed up, but she gave Catbaby a tight hug before she did, still shaking her head and muttering about strays. Arrangements are still being made, but Catbaby knows how sneakily persuasive Dad can be even when he’s playing dumb as Bruce Wayne. He’ll get what he wants. And what he wants, apparently, is -- another stray.

She should have known even before Mom said it, really.

The boy--Dick Grayson--held it together through most of the night as the police asked him questions and tried to find a next-of-kin, but as soon as Dad and the others left the room, he started to cry. He was probably waiting until he was alone, and, well--she’s still here, obviously, but it’s okay. She’s used to not being noticed.

She’s also been trying to leave him alone, but his sobs have turned into little snuffly gasps, and her guts are too twisted up from the sound to keep her from trying to comfort him. She leaves her post next to the door and pads over to him, meowing softly like a good, normal cat, and rubbing against his legs a bit. Hopefully he’s not allergic.

It takes him a minute to respond, but he finally uncurls a bit and raises his head from his knees. His nose is running and he wipes it on his wrist before offering Catbaby his hand to sniff. Eww. He takes a shuddery, tearful breath before skritching behind her ears a bit. He has nice boy hands.




“Hi, pretty cat,” he says to her, and he sounds a bit watery, but sincere. Catbaby’s kind of glad, all of a sudden, that she’s a cat and can’t blush; that’s the first time anyone’s called her pretty who wasn’t Dad or Mom.

He pauses, looks at her more closely. What? She looks back at him inquisitively.

“I’m Dick,” he says, and then stops. Catbaby doesn’t bother to reply, but -- something must have already given her away, because he clears his throat a little and continues, “You're... not just any cat, are you?"

Oh, Catbaby says, surprised. You’re smart.

"Yes, he is," Dad says from the doorway.

Dick startles, his human ears not sharp enough to have heard Dad come in. “Oh.” He blinks and scrubs his arm across his face again. “Sorry, Mr. Wayne, I was just--”

“Dick,” Dad says gently, “I’d like you to meet my daughter, Catbaby.”

Hi, Dick.

Dick gives her a tiny smile. “Hi. Umm. This should be weirder.”

Dad comes closer and lays a hand on Dick’s shoulder. “We’re kind of an odd family. But you’re welcome to stay with us, for as long as you’d like.”

Dick looks hesitant at first, then nods. “Thanks, sir. I’d like to stay at least until they--at least until they catch who did this. Sir.”

“And they will catch them,” Dad says. He claps Dick on the back, then looks at Catbaby, his face still friendly and warm, but his eyes fierce. Determined.

She knows, as she meets his gaze, that they're thinking the same thing.




THE END (FOR NOW) / ( click to read on AO3 )

Feedback is welcomed.

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
rhoboat
Sep. 26th, 2011 02:10 am (UTC)
OMG Catbaby fic! With pictures! ♥

Edited at 2011-09-26 02:15 am (UTC)
renenet
Sep. 26th, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
Oh my GOD!!!!11!1
talitha78
Sep. 26th, 2011 02:38 am (UTC)
This is the cutest thing ever!!!
musesfool
Sep. 26th, 2011 02:50 am (UTC)
Aw, this is adorable.
sisabet
Sep. 26th, 2011 03:20 am (UTC)
My love for Catbaby is eternal.
svmadelyn
Sep. 26th, 2011 03:28 am (UTC)
Okay, so you know what you need here? This needs to be the origin story for Laser Cats on SNL - like, you have this cat and she's half-Kryptonian so LASERS and...

That's all I've got. You know, I approve of people who, when they do things, do them right.
sol_se
Sep. 26th, 2011 04:29 am (UTC)
I'm stuck between giggling, awwww, and being honestly invested in their storyline. Also, Catbaby's superhero name is Catbird?? THIS IS THE GREATEST THING EVER. <3 <3 <3
amothea
Sep. 26th, 2011 05:16 am (UTC)
rofl...this was so awesome. :)
obsessive24
Sep. 26th, 2011 07:19 am (UTC)
There is nothing about this that isn't 100000% awesome ♥
serrico
Sep. 26th, 2011 07:26 am (UTC)
This makes me so HAPPY. :D
silveronthetree
Sep. 26th, 2011 11:08 am (UTC)
I love everything about this.
naturelf
Sep. 26th, 2011 01:11 pm (UTC)
I can't explain to my office mates why I'm grinning like a madwoman, but I'm okay with that.
danegen
Sep. 26th, 2011 04:57 pm (UTC)
GLORIOUS.
settiai
Sep. 26th, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
Have I mentioned in the past few hours that I love you guys? Because, if not, I really love you guys. ♥
nelisce
Sep. 27th, 2011 12:26 pm (UTC)
This is all kinds of AWESOME. :D
blue_meridian
Oct. 8th, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
werty30
Feb. 15th, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
This is so adorable. ♥
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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did not catch sight of you yet
sweetestdrain
allowed to randomly offer accidental insight.
sweetestdrain.com

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