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Chapter 4

I landed on the terrace, pure instinct getting me the last few yards—home—stumbled inside—heart still racing.  I half-closed the glass doors, vision nearly blurring from the adrenaline—blood pulsing behind my eyes with the force of small rockets, limbs burning from the need to draw more oxygen than was currently available—collapsed into the nearest chair.

>>>>YEAOWRL!<<<<  A blur of fur squirmed out from under me.  Sorry Whiskers, I’ll make it up to you—cream in the morning.

Goddess almighty… still breathing hard … If I became Catwoman for the thrills, I could quit now.  That was about as intense as it gets in one lifetime…

What happened was this: I decided I had been thinking too much, way too much.  After the Catitat I saw that the only way I could continue to look myself in the mirror each day was to just get out there and DO IT.  Damn the consequences, to hell with weighing all the whys and whatifs.  DO IT!  The thought was like a drug.  All my frustrated rantings: DAMN DAMN DAMN turned to LIVE LIVE LIVE! And LIFE was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I drove back to the city, changed into Catwoman, and waited impatiently for dark to fall.  I went straight to the auction house, zipped into the vault, and found my way to the celebrated Cat Icons.  There were five that were truly exceptional, and that was just about all I could handle without loading myself down.  I had the third neatly stowed in my bag when this sick feeling came over me… I turned, and there he was, watching.

“Well that was predictable,” he said finally.

I found I couldn’t meet his eyes.  I said the kind of thing you say when Batman finds you in the vault of an auction house filling a sack with icons:

“I don’t look at it as stealing as much as observing practical socialism.”

I never would have seen the slap coming.  

The gloved arm just materialized at my cheek. 

But he stopped himself.

Our eyes met then, and what I saw there I won’t forget ’til my dying day.  This wasn’t Batman.  This was …how can I put this… a real person.  A man whose wants and needs always came last, whose feelings Batman ignored and rode roughshod over more relentlessly than he did mine or Nightwing’s or anyone else’s.  A man so used to being in pain he’d forgotten there was any other way to be.

The arm that only moments ago might’ve backhanded me into the wall now caressed my cheek.  I heard my voice speaking:

“It would seem the ‘accept the relationship for what it is’ scenario isn’t entirely workable.”

“No,” came the whispered reply.

Let me be clear about this—I did not intend to ram my knee into his gut when I started returning that kiss.  He leaned in, and I may have let out a breath or something that he took as a go-ahead, because all of a sudden our lips were touching and there was this hand on my waist and another stroking my hair, and it was very pleasant for a few moments.  But then, just as suddenly, it was way too real.  I mean, just when I should’ve been thinking: Wow, Finally, this is Batman, this is the fantasy, I was acutely aware that this wasn’t “Batman” at all.  This was the guy inside Batman, and a very real and vulnerable man who could obviously be hurt very badly, and what the hell was he doing getting mixed up with somebody like Catwoman of all people—and that’s when I kicked him in the stomach.

He chased me, of course, not one to be put off for more than a second by a li’l knee in the stomach, not our Dark Knight.  During the chase, I won’t say I panicked but some kind of primal instinct took over.  It was necessary that I not hear whatever he was calling behind me—that I be too focused on running to hear—that I be too far away to hear.  I’ve never run so far and so fast in my life.  I was paying for it now though, now that I’d caught my breath, my calves and thighs were on fire.

Whiskers, the cat I had evicted from the chair, looked up at me accusingly, and a horrible thought crept into my head: He was right.  I am the one with more rigidly absolute, black and white ideas about right and wrong—not law, not crime—Right… and Wrong… There are things you don’t do.  There are Rules.  Tonight, I broke the rules, big time.  If I’d seduced Batman and then took advantage of the moment to hit him and escape, well god knows Batman can take care of himself.  But tonight I was wholly aware that it wasn’t Batman I was dealing with… more of a civilian… more than a civilian, an innocent… an innocent and vulnerable puppy of a person that I let kiss me and stroke me and then rammed my knee into his gut.

Shit.

In my mind’s eye, I stand toe to toe with Catwoman back in that vault:

“It would seem the ‘accept the relationship for what it is’ scenario isn’t entirely workable.”

Y’know what Catwoman, you cold-hearted bitch, It would seem the ‘Don’t think—Just do it’ scenario isn’t entirely workable either!

I’m aware this conversation was a good deal more psychotic than talking to my reflection in the bathroom mirror.  How did I ever come to a place where I was kicking Batman in the stomach to protect the guy inside from getting hurt by Catwoman?

The thing is: I know who that guy was.  I don’t mean I know a name or a face but… now that I’d made the distinction between them, I realized that he hadn’t been Batman with me for some time.  I couldn’t say for sure when he stopped… Wait, yes I can.  It was when he stopped calling me Catwoman.  When was the last time he called me anything but Selina?  Selina or that brazenly diminutive endearment…

“Kitten.”

Almost against my will, I swiveled the chair around to face the terrace.

“I’d say it’s been pretty obvious I knew where you lived since I slipped that note into your coat pocket.”

An hour ago, I had stopped thinking of him as Batman.  Apparently, he stopped thinking of me as Catwoman some time before that.  Subconsciously, I knew that.  That’s what had spooked me in the vault.  I guess I’d always thought, deep down, that it wasn’t really me he wanted; it was just the forbidden bad girl.

It appeared we were moving beyond that.

This was terra incognita, uncharted territory.

I could tell because there wasn’t one blessed cat analogy that came to mind to put the moment into any kind of context.

I slid the door open farther and considered this familiar stranger—I’d been so caught up in my own thoughts I had to play back the last thing he said to form any kind of rational reply: right, the note in my pocket, obvious he knew where I lived…

“Yeah,” I said, fully aware it’s not at all the sort of thing Catwoman would say to Batman.  “I guess I would have thought of that if I’d been thinking clearly.  Would you, um, like to come in and ah, have some coffee?”

To be continued...

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