Date: Saturday, July 05, 2003 12:54 AM TITLE: endings she called beginnings AUTHOR: girl-wonder (firstname.lastname@example.org) FANDOM: Other (Batman-verse) RATING: R DISCLAIMER: If I owned anyone characters, you think I'd be sitting here? Don't own the recognizables. ARCHIVE: Yes, yes. Just let me know where you're taking it. SUMMARY: This was never about love, but it was about him.
You're nineteen and she has to be older than you because she's fucking Bruce and he wouldn't have sex with a minor (poor Dick, five years too young, and four doorways down the hall). So, she has to be older than you.
It had never occurred to you that she would be so beautiful. True, whenever Dick said her name it was three syllables all said with venom that sounded less like hate and more like jealousy, which is just a shade different from want. And the time that the two of you sat on top of a bank roof, waiting for the burglars to leave the bank, discussing the top five most beautiful bad girls (you tell yourself the feeling in your stomach is jealousy when you think about Poison Ivy and those tall leather boots) he said that she was the most dangerous. When you asked if he meant beautiful, he said, "That, too."
So, the first time you see her, you expect brightly colored polyester, because all of the true bad guys consistently seem to wear circus colored poly blends that look out of place in Gotham's dark dark darker nights.
She's wearing spandex, a dark gray, or maybe purple, you can't tell from the angle of light. When she sees you, standing behind Bruce, always in his shadow, always watching his back, she smiles. After half a year of looking at people through masks you are very good at reading people in eyes and mouths instead of whole features. The expression on her face is curious, you think, and you remember a cat you once had that used to look at a mouse with half lidded eyes before pouncing on it with enough force to break its neck. You later found the mouse in front of your dresser, no blood on the carpet because it had been a carefully controlled break.
Then she's back to looking at Batman, all flirtatious energy and curling lips. "Hey, Batsy."
She's too close to him all of a sudden, but maybe she never moved and you just now noticed that that's how close Dick stands when he wants a hug that Batman would never give him. "Catwoman. Do you have the disks?"
"You men are all the same. Don't notice me except for what you want. It's always about you, you and the disks. I don't even know why I try, you don't even notice I did my nails all special for you."
Long nails, really longer than is feasible for anyone who works at cracking safes for a living, trace up against his face, and it'd be pornographic if he didn't grab her wrist a half second later and twist. There's no crack, but she has to come closer or break her wrist. She hisses because of a feeling you later pretend is pain.
Her fingers are pale half curled against his chest. She's probably got fake fingerprints glued to hers, in a fad that makes Elvis perform more crimes than the dead usually do. Either that, or she doesn't exist, and has no worries about fingerprints giving her away. A ghost performing a dead man's crimes.
Her other hand has produced two CDs. "Someday, Batman, you'll read about a dead burglar and it'll be your fault. They had dogs."
He releases her and puts the disks into a hidden pocket. "When I turn around you'll be gone."
"What no goodbye kiss?" But she leaves. She's close enough to the edge of the roof to just step off and disappear, and by the time he looks back to where she was standing she's gone. A ghost, you think again. You don't look over the edge of the roof, because Batman does the same thing and he survives.
Later that night you think that Dick was right. She is the most dangerous.
For the first two months, you had to prove yourself to him. Just like Robin, he said, even though he means Dick and the two aren't the same in the least, but they are to him. He's stronger, bigger than you'll ever be and he's got you on a tether, or a leash, something that will make you heel until you think that that's what love is. You'll be like Dick, two rooftops away, looking, looking, until he leaves for his route again.
When you see her for a second time, she's leaving a house, an upper class mansion. This is your route, because after you passed all of Batman's tests he let you go your own way. You traveled with Dick for a while, too long for both of you. So you settled into your own rounds. Back to Batman, away, back to Batman, away. It's usually pretty quiet, a ghost of the battles that Batman has when Arkam's inmates are loose.
She is a welcome diversion.
She's got full gloves on this time, and her nails are a reasonable length. Before you say anything she looks right at you. "Hey little bat, where's your daddy? His little girl all grown up?"
She says the last like an insult, and for a moment you hear "daddy" echoing in your head and you think that she knows, she knows about the other life you lead the one that seems less and less like your real life and more and more like a charade.
But she's teasing and the bitter smirk means she's talking about Batman.
Too many retorts arise, but you aren't as witty as Dick and you can't pull off stoic like Batman, so you fall back on what there is left.
"What are you doing here?"
She laughs at you now, one eyebrow raised incredulously. In the building below you an alarm goes off. Then she's standing too close, like she was with Batman.
"I'm not here for anything you'd be interested in." There is closeness and heat. Batman said that before she became a thief she used to be a hooker. He knows more about her than anyone else, so you believe him like you believed your dad when he said that he could protect you. You believed him until ninth grade when Danny Nire hurt you and said if you told anyone he'd kill you.
You wonder what made her give up streetwalking. How she was able to switch from one screw to another kind of screw so easily. You once asked Batman about it and he looked at you the same way he does when Dick stands too close, when Dick wants to go with him on rounds.
He didn't say anything for a while and you thought he might not answer. Then he said that she does everything easily. With her, he says, screwing people is a way of life. You never saw yourself as much of a john, but people change.
The last time you saw her, she leaned into Bruce this way, like you're lovers in a story only she knows the beginning of. And the end to. She leaned into him, too, like she was about to kiss.
Her lips are close enough to yours that you smell the hint of Chanel no. 5 and Chinese food and something else under all that, something that smells exactly like her. Cat, maybe, or desire.
If you were Bruce you would push her away and move on. If you were Bruce you would know how to be stronger than this. If you were Bruce you would not lean into her mouth and you would never whimper into her mouth, "Yes" when you meant "No."
If you were Bruce she would slide her leg between yours and mean it. If you were Bruce it would be more than sex, she would know your body, she would know your suit. If you were Bruce it would not be this subtle, this slow.
If you were Bruce you would fuck her on the rooftop later instead of dreaming about it all night.
Dick tells you that they are not having sex. He says, quite firmly, that if they were, he would know. He lives in the same house, after all.
Quietly, you think to yourself that he would never know if they were having an affair (soundproofed walls, you know he checked because even saying it quietly, moaning, "Bruce" in the shower is akin to shouting "Superman" in Metropolis). And honestly, if they were, they would never do it in Bruce Wayne's bed.
But you aren't certain any more who is right and who is wrong.
Harley Quinn, while being more philosophical on a ride back to Arkham, tells you that it doesn't matter if they are fucking (but she says making babies and does so wistfully) all that matters is that they've managed to convince everyone else that they are. She pauses and then adds, including themselves.
After a while you decide to go to the source. Catwoman smiles softly, as she gets closer and closer, "Jealous, kitten?" Feather light kiss against your lips, like breathing in a sigh, like saying, "yes." She draws back a little and whispers, "Who're you more jealous of?"
She slides her leg between yours and kisses you again. There is a slight rocking motion.
The answer is definitely Batman, because she has enough people jealous of her. Dick once yelled at you after you said that Bruce sure was busy. He grabbed your shoulders, and said desperately, "They're all... whores. Cheap whores." The word sounded strange coming from his mouth. You heard, "not fair" even though he didn't say it.
When you don't answer, she pulls back, leg gone so quickly that you stumble forward.
"Sleeping with me, isn't sleeping with him," she says. The certainty in her voice makes you realize that Dick once tried to sleep with her.
She's still close enough that when you reach to pull her back it isn't a stretch. When she comes back she doesn't fall into your arms so much as lean, lean back into you, back into dreams you only half remember in the morning.
"Don't want him," you gasp, because that seems to be the only coherent thing you can say when she's sucking on your neck so hard that even through the costume, it will leave marks.
Two nights after a bank heist gone so, so wrong, she appears. You never had sex with her, you never saw her face and when Dick asks if you want to talk you say you're having trouble with your dad. He pats you helpfully on your shoulder and nods like he knows.
Since the attempted robbery that has two civilians dead and three more slowly bleeding in hospitals, Batman has been quiet. Silent, really, and the news reporters take pleasure in blaming him. He's broken five arms and four legs, and your dad hasn't turned on the light for him in two days. A fifty year old drug dealer will never walk again.
No one heard from Catwoman, despite the fact that the robbers and everything that they stole turned up in front of the police station with what looked a lot like claw marks on their faces.
She's waiting at what usually is his half way mark, and you see her because you're trailing Batman. You and Dick trade off, trying to help with damage control. She's wearing her usual costume and the way she's standing makes you think of the girls in east Gotham. Cheap whores, you hear Dick say.
She stands too close to him, and when he starts to move away, she reaches out with claws and digs them into his shoulder, his bicep, keeping him in place. He yanks her forward then, and the kiss is hard, too rough to really be anything but fury. It's passion and you think of the first time you saw them, erotic in a powerful hungry way.
Desperation makes them both a little clumsy, as if they haven't done this before. But they must have, because everyone says they have and because once you saw them, much later than you were usually out, kissing softly. It meant something, and you'll never tell Dick about it, and when you woke up you pretended not to remember her lips on yours. Because there are rules. You don't play with the Batcar, you don't touch Batman's batrangs, and you don't touch the only villain that Bruce can't, shouldn't, does love.
Two nights after a bank heist gone wrong, she lets herself be pushed up against a building, hard, because fucking her is like punishing himself. You leave before they answer every question you've ever asked (do they do it rough? Do they wear masks? Does she call him Batman?) and quickly you find Dick. For a half hour you and he chase an imaginary villain through the streets.
He looks at you funny for a while and you know he wants the real reason, but if you told him he wouldn't believe you. You won't take the chance that he will believe seeing limbs tangled together, panting and heaving.
The next night, Bruce seems to be calmer, almost normal. At least what passes for normal with him. For a while you watch him carefully, because gluing things back together is only good as long as you don't break them again. Still, she shows up more often, being nearby, smiling and waving when a theft report comes in. No one is ever hurt when she steals things.
You're involved in a game they've been playing, and you're starting out in the middle of it without knowing the rules. At night, you dream of long black hair, and green eyes. In your dreams she's always smiling.
You can't name what she gave him, but getting it from her instead of Dick meant that he could look himself in the eyes in the morning. The fact that they are in love never mattered to either of them.
There is a girl at school with blonde hair. She looks at you and then looks down. Blush spreads over her cheeks when she looks back at you. She grins easily when you banter with her and she understands your jokes about Aristotle.
At a coffee place she chose, she has something that looks like it's half whipped cream. You have a plain coffee and she teases you about being a coffee head. As she reaches out to touch your hand, you pull back. You have to go, you say. Can you get together later?
Later Cynthia says your name when she comes, her nails biting your back. She's gentle in bed, completely attentive and she looks up at you when you shudder to make sure it's pleasure.
You giggle when you find out she's a natural blonde, and she laughs at you for questioning it. Between the two of you, it's gentle and sweet and you think that this is the type of relationship you're supposed to have.
You think about rooftops and spandex when she kisses your stomach.
Bruce Wayne is seeing a woman named Selina Kyle. Selina doesn't like getting her picture taken, and the paparazzis respect her wishes, after Bruce sends a certain amount of advertising to their papers. He sees her for two months and six days. During that time, Dick fights a little harder and speaks a little less. He says that Selina hasn't slept with Bruce, in the same way he said that Catwoman isn't sleeping with Batman.
When the two of them arrive at his house, hours after a party, smiling and holding hands, Alfred doesn't comment. Coming from Alfred, the silence sounds a lot like approval.
For a while you don't notice that Catwoman is gone. If it were Two Face or the Joker it would have been noticeable immediately. You would have been worried. Batman says that she's probably on vacation.
After two months, you start looking.
When Selina breaks up with Bruce, it's in all of the papers. Most of the local reporters had begun to see them as fixed, as if by having caught him for two months and six days it was a guarantee. A breakup like this demands a reason.
Selina Kyle puts out a restraining order on the press. She does not put one out on Bruce Wayne. While she removes herself from public life, Bruce submerges himself into it.
That's the end of their story.
Later, trying to remember her, all you can think about is the one time you met her. She was in the background of one of Bruce's parties, glowing on Bruce's arm. You remember liking her.
You don't find Catwoman for three months. She's been missing for six.
Cynthia likes to go to bookstores. She loves old movies. She laughs at jokes that cultured people make. She is blonde haired and blue eyed.
The end comes when you break up with her on a Tuesday. She sobs and asks you, "why" over and over like the answer will change anything, you just tell her it isn't working. "It isn't working out," you say over and over like this time it will make it true. The trouble has always been that it did work.
You're crying, too, more out of habit than real pain.
Dick puts a hand on your shoulder when you tell him. "I'm sorry," he says, already scanning the sky for Bruce. "I'm here for you."
It sounds less hollow when Bruce asks you to help him catch an escaped lunatic. You take both tokens as sympathy.
In the end, it was remarkably easy to find her. You wonder if Bruce connected the same dots you did and realized the same thing you did. If that's the reason that Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne did not complete reporter's predictions.
It is remarkably unfunny to you that the two of them consistently play Romeo and Juliet with split personalities, and manage to fall in love in all of their incarnations.
When you arrive at her window, open despite the cold, she smiles. "Kitten. I wondered how long it would take."
It's the same voice you remember, the same throaty drawl. She's sitting up in bed, reaching for the light. With a startling certainty, you realize this is completely her game and it always has been.
Once you and Dick decided that she was the most beautiful of all the Gotham bad girls. She was unchanging, she was Aphrodite. But people change, and the only thing that comes into your head is, "Does he know?"
It's a stupid question, because of course he knows. He knows everything. She laughs, low, like you meant it to be funny.
"It's due in three months." She says, standing. While you watch, she puts on a robe, a silk or satin or something that looks really good on her, even though her midsection is much rounder than it should be.
"Three months," she says again, reverently, because she's just caught sight of herself in the mirror. She watches herself rub over the growing person, hand slow.
Before the sun rises, you leave and return later, every night now. Just to look. Sometimes she'll wake up and sometimes not. She leaves the window open.
In a month of visits, you remember that your mother said that no one should have to have a baby alone. She was talking about your neighbor, whose husband left.
One night, before you think about it, you take off your mask. She looks at you curiously, and reaches across the inches to trace your cheekbone, forehead.
"Let me help you," you say.
The next day you move in with her.
Everything falls into a routine. You wake at seven and make it to the campus in time to catch the early lectures. She wakes later and has lunch ready for you. You spend the afternoons together, watching tv or reading. At night, you get dressed and go patrol. Neither Batman nor Dick comments, but you're pretty sure that they know about her. When you come home, she doesn't usually wake now, but does move a little into your embrace when you crawl into bed beside her.
There is some comfort in knowing that even though she loves him, she's sleeping with you.
"You're still here," she says one afternoon. She's reading Jane Eyre, and is marking the page with her finger.
You place her drink on the coffee table, and study her pedicure.
"Where would I go?" you ask.
She shrugs, and you watch the motion travel through her whole body. "If you're trying to prove a point to him, you've probably already proven it. He gets subtle."
Dick sleeps four doorways down from him and you think she's overestimating him.
"This was never about him," you say. You try to look her in the eye when you say it, because it's the truth, really. But everything is about him, and she knows that better than you do.
She nods once, like you've answered her, and goes back to reading. You never talk about it again.
After the initial discomfort, it's reassuring to find someone there for you all the time. From places you don't ask about, she has more money than you thought and lives in luxury because she can. When you go to pay for your tuition, you find it's already been taken care of. At home, when you come in a little angry (you're here for her, not for her hand outs) she says softly, "Could you make some more tea? Mine's cold."
Harley Quinn breaks up with Joker. You heard that she's living with Poison Ivy, but the rumor mill also says that you're Robin's love slave, so you don't really trust it. Whatever the truth is, she's taking out her broken heart on the city. Some breakups, you think, are not over when the press stops filming or when the last box has been moved out of a dorm room.
She's doing nothing when you find her, sitting on a rooftop, bumping her feet against a gargoyle. She mimics the statue's posture when you approach. "Three wishes, young bat," she crows.
"I have to take you in," you say, sighing.
She shrugs, "Well, every good thing comes to an end, unless it doesn't." She leaps off the gargoyle and falls straight down, catching herself at the last minute. "Who said that? I don't think Pookums did. Maybe I did?"
She runs, and you chase her. These roles were scripted long before you donned a cowl. You have no choice in how you play your part, you think.
When you slam her up against the wall, with more force than necessary, you say, "Everything ends." It sounds like a plea.
Once Selina leaves for half the day, and you worry, because she's never left. Never disappeared where even her cell phone can't reach her.
When she comes back, she's carrying a rosebush and she says, "The baby's fine. Ivy says hello."
And that answers your questions about a doctor, although you still protest that seeing a botanist about a baby is not ideal.
You run into Cynthia and her new girlfriend when you're out with Selina. Supermarket lights have bleached her skin, and Selina looks vaguely yellow. During the exchange, she keeps her hand on your back.
"It's good to see you," you say to Cynthia, and smile like you mean it. On the ride home, Selina doesn't say anything, but her hand feels warm against your thigh. You think about the word possessive and how it is never applied to you.
Her name is Helena and she looks perfect. Selina looks tired, and when you reach the hospital, they won't let you in until she yells, "Let her in, damn it! She didn't cause it, but she's going to care for it!"
Until she sees Helena, red and screaming, Selina refuses to call the baby anything but it. If she weren't squeezing your hand tightly, you would ask if that's why she called Bruce Batman.
After Selina drifts to sleep, a nurse hands you Helena and you say, "Hello" when you mean, "I love you." Out of the corner of your eye you think you see something in the window, but when you look up there's no one there.
The flowers without a card, you lie, are from you. You find no satisfaction in her smile.
Helena grows. After a year, Selina finds a job she doesn't need as a security advisor, so that no one will ever ask questions about money. You still go to school, and when your tuition is paid for semester after semester, you stop being worried.
Your father doesn't understand at first, but he likes Selina after a while, and he always wanted grandchildren. When Selina tells you that police patrol through your neighborhood more often than they patrol anywhere else, you think that your dad still thinks he can keep you safe. Once, you saw him showing off pictures of Helena that you sent him.
At night, she still curls into you, and you still leave and come back. Batman once asks softly, "Is she happy?"
You almost pretend you don't hear him, and viciously you want to ask him to repeat it. Because she still does love him, even though you sleep in her bed.
"I don't know," you say instead. The truth sounds worse for both of you.
The end of the story is hard and painful, because Helena grows up, and you film her birthday parties. All of the PTA moms love Selina and you. Selina learns how to make chocolate cookies. She never really goes back to her old life and you think that she starts to love you.
So, the ending is more than painful, because she dies and you're paralyzed and Bruce leaves and Helena never gets over blaming any of you.
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