Birds of Prey
A Lesson In Ambiguity
The smile on her face stretched from ear to ear. Barbara practically glowed under the soft lights of the candles. It felt a little childish to be taking such glee in a birthday party. She was eighteen after all, an adult. And here she was grinning like a stupid kid. But, there had been few birthday parties in her young life, in even fewer that were as magical and happy as this one. Maybe it was a little selfish, a little childish but she felt no remorse in her giddily happy moment.
She was surrounded by anyone who meant anything to her, the people she loved – Bruce, Dick, Alfred and most importantly, Jim Gordon, uncle now adopted step father. Tried not to muse to hard over the fact that the people she cared most about in her life were men. That she might be missing something without a feminine voice to guide her on her journey to adulthood.
They all sat around the table smiling. Smiling at her. The sole woman in all their lives, or so she liked to believe.
“..happy birthday dear Barbara. Happy birthday to..”
The word accented with a large fist to the jaw, followed with a round
house kick to the stomach. Barbara sailed through the air. Body smashed
against the brick wall, slumped to the ground. The air whooshed from her
desperately tried to suck oxygen into her body.
“Batgirl, can you hear me?”
“I’m fine.” She hissed into her mic. It was a lie of course, but Barbara would never admit when the chips were down. She just hadn’t expected him to be so strong. He was big, lunky. Arms rounder than her thighs. A plug head attached directly to his shoulders, ‘cuz there was certainly no neck. Just a giant lump of muscley flesh connecting his head to his body. Normally, she would have ended him long ago. But he was hopped up on the latest drug, one that turned normal men into beefed up psychotic animals.
She’d heard the call on the scanner. Literally and figuratively. He’d already injured several officers, destroyed a police car before they lost him. Off into the night to do more carnage.
A thick meaty hand wrapped around her neck, lifted Barbara off her feet. With his other hand, he wiped the blood dripping from his nose. Stared at his hand, then back at Barbara.
“You shouldn’t’a done that, girly girl.”
“I ain’t no girly girl.” Barbara brought her hands to his face. Raked her nails across his eyes. Planted both feet on his chest. Kicked with everything she had in her. She fell onto the ground as he howled like a wounded animal. Hands at his face. Barbara rolled into a crouch, ready to attack. He snarled at her, hands balling into fists.
Suddenly, Batman was there. He landed bonelessly onto the ground, planted himself directly between Batgirl and him.
“Wait!” Barbara yelled. He didn’t listen. Batman never listened to her. And suddenly the fight was no longer hers. She could see it in his eyes, in their eyes. She meant nothing anymore. The fight was about ‘them’ now.
The thug slumped to the ground. The fight over. Batman clasping the man into handcuffs, preparing him for delivery to the police. Barbara rushed towards him.
“What’d you do that for? I had him.”
Batman twisted his head towards her, cowl grim in anger. “You had nothing. Another minute he would have killed you. You charged into this with no idea what you were up against. No plan..”
“You could have backed me up instead of taking over.”
“And watch you get yourself killed? You don’t think. You *never* think. Just charge into the fray.”
“That’s MY choice. Not yours.”
“No.” He glared at her. Voice low, gravely, threatening. She could feel herself shrinking under his gaze. “If you think this is all about you, then there’s no reason for me to continue teaching you.”
“I didn’t mean..”
“Go home, Batgirl.”
She’d discovered this place back when she’d first began her secret identity. It wasn’t the tallest building in New Gotham. But the view was spectacular. A place where she could gather her thoughts.
Barbara sat on the ledge. Knees drawn to her chin, arms wrapped around her legs. She didn’t want to cry. Hated crying. But the tears flowed anyway.
“Aww, did someone spank the baby bat?”
Barbara didn’t need to turn her head to know the voice. Could feel Catwoman behind her. Probably leaning against the wall, arms crossed in that arrogant manner of her. If she felt like a super hero, she’d do what was right. Bring the woman to justice. Put her where she should be – jail. Barbara just wasn’t feeling much like a hero at the moment.
“Go away.” She mumbled.
“God,” Catwoman rolled her eyes. “What did HE do this time?”
“Why do you care?”
“I don’t.” She flicked a piece of link off her shoulder. Stared at the young woman, waiting for a reaction. When she didn’t receive one, Catwoman strode across the rooftop. Bootheels clacking loudly. A strange sound, since Catwoman could only be heard when she wanted to. She straddled the ledge, hands placed on the barrier, leaning in close to Barbara. “Or maybe I have a thing for beautiful young women in tears.”
“I’m not in the mood for your games.”
“Who says I’m playing?” She leaned in even closer. Brought her hand to Barbara’s chin, a thumb softly grazing across her cheek, wiping the tear stained flesh. Barbara hated it. Like a piece of metal near a magnet, she was immediately drawn to her. Turned her head towards the woman. It didn’t take a genius to figure out why Batman hadn’t turned her in all these years. Catwoman’s allure wasn’t in catching the prey, but in taming the beast. And she knew it. Beckoned the challenge with her piercing blue eyes, her come hither smile. And just like Bruce, Barbara had been drawn to the challenge. Still unsure as to why. Even though they were foes. Caught in the eternal game of hunter and prey, there was something solemn in her eyes. Empathy. Sympathy. Wishful thinking for something that could never be. Hell if Barbara knew. She could recite Einstein’s theory of relativity chapter and verse, but barely understood the complexities of the human heart.
“Come on.” Catwoman drew the back of her hand to Barbara’s other cheek. “I promise I won’t tell.”
Barbara grimaced. It should have felt wrong, unburdening her soul to her enemy. But the words fell from her mouth in a heated rush. “It’s not fair. It was my fight. My perp. And he just walks right in..”
“And plays his self-righteous savior routine. Been there, done that.” She leaned back onto her elbows, a hand twirling her tail. “But that’s not why you’re up here, is it? What else did he say?”
“It’s not what he said. It was the.. disappointment in his eyes.”
Catwoman snorted. “Why do you want his approval so much?”
“I don’t.” Barbara snapped. Her shoulders sagged slightly. She was right. Barbara did want Bruce’s approval. Desperately craved it. “Sorry.”
Catwoman waved her hand. “Don’t worry about it.”
“I just don’t understand. He doesn’t treat Robin like this.”
“Robin’s not a girl.”
“He’s not like that.”
“Honey, ALL men are like that. It’s as much a part of their genetic code as beer, pizza and pissing standing up.” She sat up again, leaned forward. “Here’s a little tip for you, he’ll always treat you like a little girl as long as you keep treating him like your Daddy. If you want his approval so damn much quit asking for it. Take it.”
A smile stretched across Catwoman’s face. The one Barbara was familiar with, along with the wicked glint in the woman’s eye. Catwoman rose onto her feet. Outstretched her hand towards Barbara. “Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
“You’ve learned Batman’s way. Now it’s time to learn mine.”
Trying to keep pace with Catwoman, Barbara decided, was like trying to rope a tornado. She was wild, fluid, chaotic, powerful – and completely mesmerizing. Catwoman didn’t move in anything resembling a straight line. They criss-crossed over the New Gotham skyline. Catwoman leading. Barbara following, and watching. The way her body moved in lithe, sinuously smooth movements. Muscles accentuated by the tight body suit. Beauty in motion.
Barbara kept up with the woman. Barely. Grinned wildly at the wind whipping through her hair. Had never flown across the city with such wild abandon. With Bruce there were always rules to follow, procedures to adhere to. With Catwoman, the only motto seemed to be ‘if it feels good, do it’.
They ended at the edge of the industrial district. Catwoman landed gracefully on the roof, ending her flight with a high arcing back flip.
“Show off.” Barbara muttered, slightly winded. The older woman smiled, sauntered towards Barbara. Quickly snatched the binoculars from Barbara’s belt. “Hey!” Barbara yelped, then folded her arms across her chest petulantly. Catwoman winked, then strutted towards the edge of the roof. She blushed slightly as Catwoman spread her legs, bending over, elbows resting on the edge. Her hips swayed back and forth, swinging her tail. Everything calculated and seductive, daring Barbara to look.
“What are we doing here?” Catwoman turned her head slightly. Her lips the picture of seduction as Barbara’s face immediately snapped from Catwoman’s backside to her face. Catwoman tossed the binoculars over her shoulder.
“Look for yourself.”
An irritated sigh exhaled across her lips as she snatched the binoculars out of the air. Joined Catwoman at the ledge, peering through the binoculars. The view led directly over a small warehouse sandwiched between two larger buildings. A van was parked at the back, illuminated by the open back door. A swath of men surrounded the vehicle, armed to the teeth. Barbara whistled.
“That’s an awful lotta fire power. What are they loading in the van?”
“You have three guesses and the first two don’t count.” Catwoman rolled onto her elbow, facing Batgirl. “You should lose the cape.”
“You don’t like the cape?”
“I like what’s under it more.”
“What?” Her head snapped towards the woman next to her. Hands clumsily fumbled with her binoculars. Barely caught the look in Catwoman’s eye as the older woman turned her head towards the warehouse. She leaped onto the ledge, kneeling down into a crouch.
“Ready for what? What are you up to?”
“You always go for the obvious. To play fair. By the book. No hitting below the belt. You do what’s expected of you. Good, sweet little Batgirl. The princess in a cape. You want Batman’s respect? Do something he’d never expect. Everyone expects you to apprehend the bad guys. Not whack’em across the knees with a crowbar. Believe me, taking Falcone’s money will definitely hurt him.”
Falcone. The word carried into her ears like a missile. He was the biggest crime boss in New Gotham. Hands in every little pot. Her father, Commissioner Gordon, and Bruce had spent years trying to bring Falcone to justice and here was Catwoman handing a little something to her on a silver platter. She eyed the woman suspiciously. “And what do you get out of this?”
“A couple more hours with you and your hot little bod.”
She didn’t have time to ponder the last point. Catwoman disappeared from view, jumping off the ledge.
It all happened suddenly. Catwoman leaped into the middle of the fray, Batgirl right behind her. There was kicking, punching, grabbing, tossing. The yells of surprised men that turned into yelps of pain and frustration. Feats of acrobatic wonders as the two women attempted to outdo each other, even as they fought side by side.
In the end, twelve men with guns were no match for a cat and a bat.
They all sat in a giant tied up lump of human beings on the hard concrete. Catwoman went from man to man, pinning their rap sheets to each of them.
“Too bad we don’t have a bow, don’t you th..”
Barbara turned her attentions to the van. This seemed an awful lot of work for a bunch of thugs. And despite the strange bonding she and Catwoman had shared, she still didn’t trust the woman. She’d been burned by Catwoman before, had no intention of letting it happen again. Barbara pulled open the doors to the back, her eyes wide as saucers staring at its contents.
Money. Lots and lots of money. Sure, it was stuffed in black hefty bags, but she could tell just by the square lumpy shapes of them all. Hands reaching inside, she ripped open one of the plastic containers.
“There must be a hundred million dollars in here.” She gasped.
“A hundred fifty.” Catwoman smirked, jumping into the middle of all that money. She stretched languidly, a seductive smile spreading across her lips. “Have you ever had sex on a giant bed of cash?”
Barbara grimaced. Slammed the doors shut. Along with the seeds of temptation. She hustled to the driver’s side in an effort to beat Catwoman to the punch. The sounds of approaching sirens adding fuel to her retreat. She hopped into the driver’s seat, gunning the engine. A soft purr from the rear floated into her ears.
“Where are we going lover?”
“You’ve got to be kidding me?” Catwoman gaped at the younger woman. “Haven’t I taught you anything?”
“More than you know.” Barbara grinned. They both stood at the railing of an overpass. Illuminated by the dozen trashcan fires from below. Cardboard boxes and makes shift tents dotted the grassy landscape. It was quiet. There were people milling about. Taking turns at night watch, or just enjoying the company of others around the fire.
Barbara walked towards the back of the van, propping the door open. She grabbed the first bags in sight, hefting them over her shoulders. Walking back to the railing, she ignored the irritated stare of her companion.
“You’re not going to do what I think you are?”
“Yes, I am.” Barbara winked at the woman. “And so are you.”
Catwoman groaned, accented with an eyeroll as she stomped towards the van. Barbara waited until Catwoman returned. Sure the woman wouldn’t make an attempt run off in the van.
“Do I have a choice?”
They ripped open the bags. Feverishly tossed the money over the side. The bills rained down onto Shanty Town. The first sounds were scant. Sporadic. But word spread like wildfire. People poured out of their homes. Ran towards the bottom of the over pass. Celebrated in a rainstorm of cash.
Catwoman had never been one with an altruistic nature. But, she couldn’t help the feeling’s of ‘good’ within her. She laughed, along with Batgirl, infected by the celebratory nature of the people below. The last bag emptied, she leaned across the railing to watch the show.
“You tell anyone I did this and I’ll beat the crap outta you.” She eyed the girl standing next to her. “You think this’ll do any good?”
“Maybe not all of them. Maybe not most of them.” Barbara mused. “But, if there’s one person this will help, it’ll all be worth it. Besides, it’s not everyday that money falls from the sky. These people need it more than you or I do.”
“Says you.” She patted Batgirl on the shoulder. “Come on.”
“Where’re we going?”
“We gotta ditch the van.”
The warehouse was empty. Abandoned. Untouched by time or vandalism. Barbara winced slightly as she hopped out of the van. The adrenaline rush masked her injuries. With the thrill of the fight gone, so did her high. They were minor in the grand scheme of things. Didn’t mean they didn’t hurt like Hell.
“You’re hurt.” Catwoman reached out. Grazed her fingers over the gash in Barbara’s arm.
“It’s nothing. Another addition to my collection.”
“Uh-huh. C’mere.” She pulled the first aid kit off Barbara’s utility belt. Once again, Barbara found herself in very close proximity to an arch nemesis treating her like a friend. Catwoman daubed the wound with antiseptic. She watched fascinated at the procedure. Catwoman’s gloves were pointed with razor sharp claws. Claws that could jam into cement. Rip flesh like butter. Yet, here they were, dancing across her skin in the softest of movements. Barbara was used to Catwoman being caustic, abrasive, violent. She wasn’t used to this soft, gently caressing woman beside her.
“Why do you do it?
“We both know the answer to that question.” Catwoman returned her gaze. “The question is, why do you do it? You wanna help people? Be a firemen, or a cop, or a lawyer. Less hazardous. More rewards. Or so I’ve been told.”
A pregnant paused filled the air. Catwoman continued dressing Barbara’s wound. Barbara mulled over the question. Why did she do it? “For the same reasons Batman does.”
Steely blue eyes squinted. “Batman does it because he believes all people are inherently evil and they need protection from the evil inside each and every one of them. Is that what you believe?”
“That’s not true.” Her mouth clamped shut. It was mostly not true. Batman believed in good. That people were worth protecting. But he also had pain, and rage. A rage that lived inside Barbara as well. “Is that why he does it? Is he protecting me from myself?”
“Do you think you need protecting?”
“No.” She answered firmly.
“So, we’re back to the question – why do you do it?”
“I believe deep down people really are good. And that’s worth protecting. That’s worth fighting for. No matter the cost.” She paused again, searching for the words. “It’s who I am.”
“And this is who I am.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“Why Batgirl,” Catwoman cocked her head playfully. “Are you trying to save me?”
Barbara did something she thought she’d never do. Not in a million years. Her hands shot towards Catwoman’s face, clasped around her jaw, pulled the taller woman towards her until their lips crashed together. It wasn’t soft and gentle. It was hard, wet and sloppy. A battle of tongues and heat. She wanted it, her, that thing Catwoman had that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. She wanted it because it was inside her. Wanted Catwoman to draw it out of her. And suddenly hands were clasped under her backside and Barbara could feel her legs working on her own, wrapping around the taller woman’s waist. They slammed against the wall, kissing, writhing, moving against each other. Barbara had experienced love, romance. Never pure animalistic lust. Driven completely and soley by her desires. She wanted her. For one moment in time, she would have her.
Catwoman ripped a glove off with her teeth. Snaked her hand between them. Unclasped Barbara’s belt. Barbara groaned at the sensation, of expert fingers sliding across her heated flesh. A shiver ran down her spine at Catwoman’s moan. At the realization that SHE was making the woman moan. Sharp teeth nibbled along Barbara’s pulse point, clamping down a little harder. Barbara had been marked. Claimed. And she didn’t care.
She’d roped the tornado. Rode the storm. Arms wrapped tightly around her neck. Teeth clamped onto Catwoman’s shoulder as her body bucked and writhed. Muffled the scream erupting from her throat.
A hearty chuckle filled her ear. Catwoman pulled them apart slightly, gazing into Barbara’s eyes. Her gloved hand drifted to Barbara’s face, a pointy finger tracing Barbara’s lips. She sighed softly, seductively. “The things I could show you.”
Barbara winced as the tip pricked the flesh of her lip. Catwoman brought her finger to her own lips, piercing her flesh. She brought their mouths together again. Lips and tongues merging together, saliva mixed with the tinge of blood.
The kiss ended. Foreheads pressed against each other, panting into each other’s mouths. Catwoman grazing her lips across Barbara’s skin. “I’m a part of you now.”
“And I’m a part of you.”
“Yeah, but are you sure it’s the good part?”
“We’ll see.” Catwoman winked. “Catch me if you can.”
With that, she was gone. Barbara felt no need to chase after her. Maybe she hadn’t exactly tamed the beast, but she hadn’t been left scarred and torn.
The sounds of fingertips dancing across a keyboard filled the confines of her room. Along with the muted strains of her stereo. A couple more paragraphs and Barbara would be finished with her report. Another ‘A’ to go along with her perfect scholastic record.
A knock on her door added to the din.
Bruce Wayne entered Barbara’s bedroom. He stood leaning next to the wall, arms folded across his chest. Barbara could feel his eyes boring into the back of her head. Before, she’d acknowledge his curious gaze. Today, she continued typing her report.
“Apparently,” Bruce broke the silence. “Someone apprehended several members of Falcone’s gang last night.”
“Yeah, I heard.”
“Did you also hear that this person wasn’t working alone?” He was using his slightly patronizing voice. Barbara cocked a half-smile, still facing her computer. “Something about a cat and yellow boots.”
“Huh, hadn’t heard that part.”
“Yep. The DA’s having a field day. All that was missing was a giant red bow.”
“That’s great Bruce.” She stopped typing, turned towards the man. “But, I’m kinda busy right now.”
If it wouldn’t have tipped her hand, Barbara would have slapped herself on the back. Bruce stared down at her, mouth agape at her nonchalance.
“About last night..”
“Don’t worry about it. You were just doing what you do best, protecting the city.”
“Yeah, okay.” He ran a hand through his hair. He’d conceived several outcomes to this conversation, all of them rather heated. He wasn’t expecting this. Tossed off his verbal equilibrium, not quite sure how to get it back. “Right. Anyway, this person also, apparently cleaned out all of Shanty Town by dumping large sums of money onto it.”
Barbara sat stone faced, staring blankly up at her mentor. “Anything else?”
“No, no. That’s it.”
“Good. It’s been great talking to you,” Barbara rose from her chair, motioning Bruce towards the door. “But, I gotta lot of work to do and stuff.”
Bruce stood on the outside of Barbara’s door. “Ya did good, kid.”
“I know. And Bruce?” Barbara allowed the hint of a smile to play across her lips. “Quit calling me kid.”
With that, Barbara closed the door. She was eighteen years and one day older. And what a day it had been. She wasn’t one for self-introspection or existential journeys, but she’d changed. Didn’t question the why, what or how much. It was a lesson in ambiguity. Of light and dark and the many shades between. Where Catwoman could be an ally and a lover. All of which ended with the desired outcome.
She’d earned Bruce Wayne’s respect. In the process, learned something about herself and the woman that claimed them both.