Disclaimer – Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir is the property of ZagToon. Catwoman is the property of DC Comics. Both are used without permission.
Marinette arrived at College Francoise Dupont in a pensive mood. She had spent a restless night pondering her encounter with Catwoman, focusing on what the older woman had said. Marinette did not consider herself naive. Sure, she was excitable and over-dramatic at times. She was definitely clumsy. But she never thought naivety one of her flaws. She knew not everything was black and white. Akuma victims were proof of that. Despite all their power and penchant for mayhem, in the end they were simply people whose frustrations got the better of them, allowing Hawkmoth to exploit them for his own nefarious purpose. Akumas demonstrated by their very existence that even the best of people could make mistakes.
But Catwoman was in a different league from an Akuma. While Akuma victims have a choice in whether to accept Hawkmoth's bargains, the super-villain always approached them when they were at an emotional low point and least likely to resist. Selina Kyle had no such an excuse. It was obvious that she chose being a thief because she enjoyed it. The look Marinette had seen on Catwoman's face while chasing her was proof enough of that. She was obviously talented and intelligent enough to make a living in any number of legal ways, but had decided instead to break the law on a regular basis for fun and profit. To Marinette Catwoman was an inherently selfish woman.
But if she was really that selfish, why did she go out of the way to rescue Rose and Juleka, two girls she had never met before?
Marinette heaved out a sigh as she stowed some of her textbooks in her locker. A headache was slowly growing in her head, caused by her constantly circling train of thought. Tikki's comment of 'people are complicated', had not helped matters.
She got to homeroom five minutes early and saw that most of the class had gathered around Rose and Juleka's table. The exceptions were Adrien, Chloe and Sabrina. Adrien was studying a notebook with such an adorable look of concentration that Marinette could not help but smile moonily at him, her cheeks growing pink in the process. Chloe was filing her nails, her mouth quirked in a disgruntled scowl. Sabrina fidgeted in her chair, occasionally glancing over her shoulder at the conversation happening above her.
"What was she like?" asked Alya, practically begging, her eyes flashing excitedly behind her glasses.
"Totally awesome," answered Juleka, smiling dreamily.
Rose nodded rapidly in agreement. "She was so confident! Completely unafraid. She beat up those horrible men without breaking a sweat – they didn't stand a chance against her. And she was very kind and friendly to us. Catwoman was wonderful!" Rose pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Though I think her costume could be a bit more colorful."
"Let me guess – some pink trim, maybe?" said Alix, though her smile softened her sarcasm. "It sounds cool, though, how she kicked those pigs' butts. That would have been awesome to see."
"How are you two feeling?" asked Mylene. "It must have been a scary experience."
Rose faltered a bit. Juleka gave one of her small hands a gentle, reassuring squeeze.
"It was," admitted the dark haired girl. "I had some trouble falling asleep last night, because of it." She shivered a little but then smiled sincerely. "But thinking about how Catwoman saved us really helped a lot. It was comforting, and she's just soooo cool." The smaller blonde perked up at this and again nodded her agreement.
"Could I interview you two about this after school today?" asked Alya. "It wouldn't be for the Ladyblog, but for my other blog, Superheroic." Her two classmates nodded their agreement and Alya grinned brilliantly. "Thanks a lot, girls. I really appreciate it."
Chloe huffed loudly. "I don't get why you're so excited about this, Cesaire. Personally I think one mangy cat running around Paris is more than enough."
Alya glared down at her. Marinette frowned as well, not liking hearing her partner and friend being disparaged. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Adrien sighing quietly and shaking his head.
"Shows what you know, Bourgeois. Catwoman is a major, big league hero. She's teamed up with Batman and Nightwing in the past."
"Hero? Ha! If you're even half the superhero fan you claim to be, then you know that she's nothing more then a two-bit thief. Besides, Ladybug could have saved Juleka and Rose with far more class and style."
"Well Ladybug didn't, Chloe," said Juleka, the normally shy girl retorting with surprising force. "Catwoman did. I don't care if she's a thief or a hero, Rose and I are grateful that she was there for us."
The incipient fight was prevented from escalating by Ms. Bustier strolling into the classroom, clapping her hands and telling her students to take their seats. Alya and Juleka traded sharp glares with Chloe before complying.
"What was that all about?" Marinette asked as Alya settled down next to her. She already knew, of course – far better than Alya did. But it would have been odd if she had not inquired.
Alya grinned excitedly, quickly shedding her annoyance at Chloe. "Juleka and Rose got into some trouble last night. Some creeps were harassing them, were going to assault them, actually, and this American superhero, Catwoman, appeared and stopped them!"
Marinette managed to feign a convincing look of surprise. "Wow, that's incredible. I wonder what brought her to Paris?"
"Who knows? But I'm definitely going to try to find out – or at least get some exclusive photos. I'd love to get some more traffic for my other blog."
Marinette frowned slightly. "I think I've heard a little about Catwoman. Isn't Chloe right about her being a thief? Wouldn't that make her a super-villain?"
"Well... it's a bit complicated." It took a bit of effort for Marinette not to sigh at that. Any further conversation on the subject was cut off when Miss Bustier officially began class.
Marinette was listless all throughout the first half of the school day, contemplating her confused feelings about the American thief she and Cat Noir were trying to stop. Alya noticed her odd mood, though she readily accepted Marinette's explanation about not having slept well last night.
Class finally adjourned for lunch, and as Alya was gathering her things to take to her locker Marinette laid a hand on her arm.
"Hey Alya, you know a lot about superheroes in general. Not just Ladybug and Cat Noir."
"You know I do, girl. I started my Superheroic blog years before I made the Ladyblog. I've loved superheroes since I was Ella and Etta's age."
"Then maybe you could explain something to me. What exactly did you mean about Catwoman being 'complicated'?"
Alya arched an eyebrow. "I didn't think you were that interested in superheroes other than our local ones."
Marinette shrugged. "I'm a little curious." She smiled wryly. "I mean, I'm in agreement with Chloe of all people. If that's not proof I could be wrong, I don't know what is."
Her friend chuckled at that. "Alright, what would you like to know?"
"Well, like I said earlier – Catwoman is a thief, right?" Alya nodded. "So doesn't that by default make her a super-villain?"
"I guess it would, if that were all she was. But she does other things too."
Adrien had packed away his supplies in his satchel but lingered in his seat, listening to the girls. Their conversation had piqued his professional interest and he was very interested in what Alya had to say about his and Ladybug's newest opponent.
"Like what?" Marinette pressed.
"Well, like I told Chloe, she's teamed up with Batman and Nightwing in the past. She's helped them out against some of the bigger monsters that run around Gotham City – guys like the Joker or the Scarecrow. There's also rumors that she and Batman are together." She grinned slyly and held up crossed fingers. "Together together. If she was really that bad I doubt the Dark Knight would be romancing her."
Marinette crooked her mouth, unconvinced. "But you said that was just a rumor."
"I did, but there's a lot of circumstantial evidence to support it."
"Alright. But what else does she do that makes her a superhero?"
"She fights crime by herself." Alya starting scrolling through her tablet. "If I remember right she considers the East End of Gotham City her territory. Its a really run-down and dangerous neighborhood, but Catwoman does her best to keep it from getting worse. She also goes out of her way to help women in need. Ah!" She displayed the tablet to Marinette, showing her a news article in English. An accompanying photograph showed a number of women by a large cargo container, being tended to by paramedics and police officers.
"Around last winter Catwoman broke up a nasty human trafficking ring. This gangster called Roughcut had been kidnapping desperate, vulnerable women and was shipping them off to who-knows-where. Catwoman exposed it, freed the women he still had imprisoned, captured his henchmen and put Roughcut himself in the hospital. If those aren't the actions of a superhero, I don't know what is."
"But she's still a thief, right?"
Alya shrugged. "Yeah, but it's not like she targeting poor widows and orphanages. She steals jewels and art from billionaires and corporations – people and organizations that could lose millions of euros and never notice. Personally, I'm not going cry over some old guy having a diamond encrusted necklace he bought for his arm candy getting snatched away."
"I see," Marinette said quietly.
Alya looked at her best friend closely. "Are you alright, Marinette? You seem a bit... I dunno... invested in Catwoman being one of the bad guys."
She shook her head sharply and gave Alya a gamine grin. "Like I said, I'm just curious... I'll see you after lunch, Alya." She gathered up her book bag and departed with a wave. Her best friend watched her go with a half-frown.
"So what do you think of Catwoman, Alya?" Adrien asked as he stood up.
"Eavesdropping, pretty boy?"
He laughed at that and gave her a charming grin. "Guess so, if you want to call overhearing a conversation happening a meter and a half behind you eavesdropping."
"Heh. Fair point. Personally, I think Catwoman's cool. I'd really like to find out why she's here – oh, maybe even get an interview with her! That would be soooo awesome!"
Adrien laughed again. "Well, I sort of doubt she'd be willing to sit for one, but if anyone could get an interview with her, I'm sure it'd be you."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence. How about yourself, Adrien? What's your opinion on her?"
"I'm not certain," he answered quietly. "Give me a few more days and maybe I'll know."
"Hey dude, you coming?" Nino called through the classroom door.
"Sorry, Nino. Be right there. See you soon, Alya."
After returning home Marinette told her mother she was not hungry and was going to lay down for a bit. She draped herself on her chaise lounge, hands pillowing her head as she stared thoughtfully up at the ceiling. Tikki perched on Marinette's desk, nibbling on a cookie as she watched her protege with solemn blue eyes. When she finished she floated over to the young heroine.
"What are you thinking, Marinette?" she inquired softly.
Marinette did not answer right away. She continued staring at the ceiling for a minute before heaving out a sigh and sitting up. Tikki settled down on her shoulder.
"I've been trying to make up my mind about Catwoman. I think I've come to a conclusion."
"And that is?"
Her face firmed into an expression of determination. "It's great that she acts like a hero most of the time. But just because she does a lot of good deeds doesn't mean she can break the law when she wants to. Stealing is still stealing, even if the victim is rich and won't be hurt by the lost. I'm just..." she let out a soft huff of breath and shook her head. "I'm just trying to convince myself I'm not being unreasonable about feeling that way. If it hadn't been for her, poor Juleka and Rose would have been... Ugh!" She grimaced and shuddered. "Part of me wants to give her a pass because of that. But then I remember she came to Paris to commit a crime. And then there's a third part of me that just wants to get back at her for making fools out of Cat Noir and myself." She smiled ruefully and glanced at Tikki. "Is that petty of me?"
"Maybe a little, but it's a natural reaction, and I don't blame you for it."
Marinette nodded. "Do you think I'm being, I dunno, a stiff about this? Maybe acting a little like an Inspector Javert?"
Tikki snorted. "Hardly. You're not persecuting a desperate, starving man who stole a loaf of bread. You're attempting to stop a skilled and dangerous woman from committing an act of grand larceny for her own personal gain. There's quite a bit of difference there."
Marinette smiled gently. "Good point." Determination settled on her face again. "That settles it. Even is she is one of the good guys a lot of the time, I will stop her."
The little red sprite beamed at her. "You will," Tikki agreed. "I have all the faith in the world in you, Marinette."
A while back Selina Kyle had decided that performing a good deed was often like having a one night stand – it felt real nice at the time, but all too often you ended up regretting it in the morning.
Case in point: the video she was watching on her cellphone as she walked to the Louvre jewelry store to do some scouting. It was footage of her rescuing those two teen-aged girls from that pack of morons last night. It was grainy and a bit shaky, taken from a high angle, probably from a second or third story window, but anyone with knowledge of the superheroic world would easily be able to identify her.
Typical, she thought sourly, thinking of the bystander that had posted the video, her face cold and stony as she stowed her phone away in her purse. Can't be bothered to call the police when those two sweethearts were about to get attacked, but all too happy to post a video of me saving them. Even after fifty years, the ghost of Kitty Genovese still haunts the world. Dammit. She shook her head sharply.
She did not regret saving those girls, of course. She would do it again in an instant, with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. But the sudden publicity of the rescue unfortunately complicated the heist. Selina's biggest concern was that Batman would notice and come to thwart her. The Dark Knight usually stayed in his own territory, unless he was on a mission with the JLA or the Outsiders, but if nothing serious was happening in Gotham right now chances were good that he would come to Paris to investigate. Despite her boast to Ladybug and Cat Noir, Selina was realist enough to know that her continued freedom was due to Batman's leniency and affection for her, as well as her ability to stay off his radar.
It'll have to be tonight, she thought. Outlast the kids, go in, make the snatch, get out, then leave France right damn quick.
She spent an hour at the jewelry store, scouting under the guise of shopping, legitimately acquiring a necklace and a bracelet that caught her eye. She noted that the store had made a couple of changes in their security, but nothing she could not handle. They either were not taking her abilities as a thief or Ladybug's warning seriously – a mistake, either way. She left the store, satisfied and confident that the Dreaming Tiger's Eyes would be in her possession by the end of the night.
But three blocks north of the store she spotted someone approaching her and realized her luck had gone straight to hell.
You gotta be kidding. I'd rather it had been Batman swooping down on me than have to deal with this asshole!
The man approaching her was tall and broad-shouldered, walking with athletic grace. He was well-dressed in a dark-red polo shirt, light jacket and white trousers, all expensive brands and tailored to fit. He was Caucasian, his skin tanned a dark bronze indicating he had spent much of his life outdoors. Keen blue eyes peered out beneath jet-black bangs and a gleaming smile adorned his face. He looked muscular and fit, but Selina noticed, despite his expert tailoring, that his stomach was slack and somewhat bloated. That his strong chin was beginning to sag. That his nose was much too red for a warm spring day.
"Selina!" he said, opening his arms for a hug. "It's great to see you again."
"I'm sorry I can't say the same, Blake," she answered coolly, taking a step back.
Thomas Blake stood still for a moment, arms still spread and his smile twisting into an expression of pique. Then he chuckled and shook his head, letting his arms dropped.
"Still a prickly kitten, aren't you? Some things never change."
"You're right about that," Selina answered dryly. She looked him over again with critical eyes, not bothering to keep from frowning. "What are you doing here? And why the hell did you dye your hair?"
He ran a hand through his thick mane of hair. "Felt like a change. Beside, black is cool. It's a tough color."
"As for what brought me to Paris, well, I was staying over in London when I caught a very interesting video. After thinking about it for a bit I thought I'd pop over the Channel and see if my partner could use a hand."
"We haven't been partners for five years, Blake."
"Which is something we should correct. We made a great team."
Selina snorted contemptuously. "Yeah, right. A team in which I did the lion's share of the work while you tried to take the lion's share of the profits."
Blake grinned at her. "Hey, it works for lions..."
"But it doesn't work for me. I'm a lone cat now. No partners wanted."
He grimaced sharply and ran a hand through his hair again. "C'mon, Selina," he said with a hint of a whine. "I'm a bit hard up right now. I could use a bit of cash to help tide me over until some opportunities open up. Can't you do an old friend a favor?"
"Sure I could – if you were an old friend. Which you are most definitely not. It's not my fault if you're short on money, so you can pull yourself out of whatever financial hole you dropped yourself in."
Blake's eyes narrowed dangerously. "You're making a mistake here, Kyle."
"The only person making a mistake right now is you." She was in his space in an instant. He let out a pained grunt as she pressed the knuckles of her right hand hard into his stomach. She positioned her leg so that she could lift her knee and crush his groin before he could react.
Selina grinned cruelly. "Even if you weren't a raging asshole, with the shape you're in I'd be stupid to take you on as a partner, Tommy. Five years ago I would have had to have worked a lot harder to get you at a disadvantage like this." Passersby had started to slow down, noticing the tableau with concern and curiosity. She shifted a bit to whisper in his ear. "I'm just going to tell you this once, Catman – what I'm planning is mine and mine alone. You mess with me, and I'll will kick your ass into the Seine. Got it?"
"Yeah, I got it," he answered hoarsely. She carefully stepped away from him. Blake's face was flushed and twisted with embarrassment, his blue eyes glaring murderously at her. "You're a goddamn bitch, Selina."
She smiled back at him. "You got that right. Biggest bitch in the world, and damn proud of it. Oh. One last thing before you go – you really need to lay off the booze. Keep drinking the way I think you are, you're not going to be able to fit into your working clothes. Au revior, Blake."
Selina turned and walked in the opposite direction, cool but alert. She was confident Blake would not be stupid enough to attack her in public, but one could never tell when a man got embarrassed by a woman – especially when said man was a sexist jerk like Catman. When she traversed a block she relaxed a little and glanced over her shoulder. She spotted Blake storming off into the distance.
Selina sighed deeply. Here was a complication she had not even idly contemplated. She hoped Blake would heed her warning, but frankly she was pessimistic about the odds. It was time for her to consider contingencies.
Author's Notes: Thomas Blake, aka Catman, was, along with Killer Moth and Owlman, one of the first 'anti-Batmans' to enter Batman's rogues gallery. More modern examples of this archtype include the Wrath and Prometheus. Like Killer Moth, Catman was started to be considered something of a joke and a loser during the 90's. Gail Simone rehabilitated the character during her initial run on Secret Six, transforming him into a complex, thoughtful and dangerous anti-hero who straddles the line dividing hero from villain. In this continuity, he hasn't yet experienced the epiphany that made him reform himself, though his abilities have not quite yet degraded to the point where Green Arrow can beat him in less than a page.
The incident Alya told Marinette about is detailed in the animated short Catwoman, available for free on YouTube.
I'm sorry it has taken me so long (over a year!) to continue this. Hopefully it won't take as long for me to finish chapter five.
Thanks once again to the wondrous and talented PurseMonger for pre-reading my work.