A/N: It's CATverse. But you know that already, don't you? You smart person, you. The story arc listing can be found at freewebs. com/ catverse. This story takes place in arc two.
WARNING: This story contains a scene that skirts very close to non-con and may trigger some readers. Beware.
Revision A/N: I'm going through this phase at the moment: a revisionist period, if you will. This story has received a major overhaul. By major overhaul, I mean it's been almost entirely rewritten. The plot may be the same, but it's been expanded, improved upon and generally given a facelift.
Originally written/posted August 2007. Revised March 2009.
If there was one thing to be learned from living in Gotham city-one lesson to be gleaned about the pitfalls in the dark, sprawling metropolis-it was that there were certain places you just didn't go if you wanted to live long enough to see your children graduate high school. Dark alleys were one that the sharper citizens deemed unsafe, but another locale, one that didn't make the news quite as often as alleyways did, was also avoided by people with an IQ higher than that of a rutabaga.
Gotham was famous for some of its labs, and even more notorious for its lab accidents. Accidents of the secret-government-testing-facility-mutant-super-power-granting variety.
Even most of the more famous faces in Gotham only dealt with labs on an as needed basis. After all, it could be rather distracting to find yourself suddenly hybridized with a molecularly unstable variety of limestone when you were trying to plan the crime spree of the century.
Thusly, labs were about as desirable as villainous playgrounds as a field of shattered glass was for use as a dance floor. General convention in Gotham stated that these places were off limits to even the most desperate of criminals and thieves.
The Captain, Al and Techie were neither desperate, nor thieves, and while whether or not their combined intelligence was greater than that of a common garden vegetable was a matter of some debate, they still decided late one night that poking their heads inside Darck Labs' new Gotham facility would be an interesting way to break up the monotonous pattern that they'd fallen into since their big city debut.
It's not that they didn't enjoy their time with Edward Nygma-quite the contrary, they adored him and doted on him in a manner that would have made other villains question just how he was staying warm at night-instead, it was the fact that they were the sort of characters who grew restless very easily. They'd been with him for nearly two weeks and sitting still was making them antsy.
Edward was a planner. The girls, with few exceptions, were doers. Occasionally, they thought out what they were going to do, but for the most part, they just reacted in whichever way the situation called for, opting to deal with the consequences later rather than plan ahead more than a few steps.
It was that ambitious nature-some would say foolhardy-go-get-'em attitude-that sent them to Darck Labs that night. Darck was known for many things, but first and foremost, they were trailblazers in the use of genetic engineering and the creation of pharmaceuticals.
Before they left, they offered Edward the opportunity to accompany them on their madcap caper, but he declined, opting instead to stay home. Genetic engineering held no intrigue for him, nor did prescription drugs, so he wasn't really missing anything. Besides, two weeks was a long enough recovery time for him to start slapping together some fresh riddles for his next brilliant scheme. The three had been invaluable when they'd rescued him, had proven very apt protectors and even the occasionally engaging chess partner, but he had work to do.
He thought he'd be glad for a bit of quiet, used to being a more solitary creature by nature, but after a little while, he was aware of the fact there wasn't anyone looking over his shoulder curiously or making offhand comments about palindromes and anagrams that could be formed to suit the task at hand.
Edward rather missed it...but he shook it off and returned to work, reveling in the opportunity to craft some choice riddles and clever puzzles to baffle the Bat when he decided to strike again.
For several hours, he sat hunched over the small rickety work table in his latest lair, drawing up the master plan to end all master plans (or at least, the plan to end all master plans until he came up with the next one). Techie would have scolded him relentlessly for his bad posture, but since she wasn't around, the only thing he had to contend with was the ache in his lower back that started as a twinge and had grown to a throb.
They left him something for dinner-hot dogs, potato chips and chocolate chip cookies-so he munched as he worked, quite content.
Sometime after midnight, the door to the lair slammed open and Edward jumped from his chair, at first fearing that it was Batman knocking with his customary battering-ram style. It was three surly girls who stomped through the doorway and Edward breathed a sigh of relief.
They smelled like pesticide and were covered in blue goo.
He didn't ask.
He wanted to-inquisitive nature and all-but they looked like all they wanted out of life at that particular moment was a good hot bath and some quality sack time, not incessant questions about what had happened at Darck.
Besides, Edward knew from experience that there's never been a question that couldn't wait to be answered until morning...
Though his curiosity was liable to eat him alive by then.
The next day, Edward tumbled gracelessly out of bed to find that things were much the same as they had been since the girls first literally leapt into his life. He smiled sleepily as he puttered out of his bedroom and into the kitchen, remembering. That had been quite the daring rescue on their parts. At the small table where the four took their meals, the girls sat, a platter of sandwiches already waiting. He took his customary seat and grabbed one.
As he took a bite of tuna and cucumber on whole wheat, he noticed that, instead of their usual happy chattering, the Captain, Al and Techie were silent. He frowned around a mouthful of sandwich and looked at them each in turn, trying to determine from their facial expressions whether or not they were giving each other the silent treatment due to some quarrel.
It was then that he noticed the how very…strangethey seemed.
Even with his extensive vocabulary, strange was the best word that he could come up with to describe it.
The Captain was paying absolutely no heed to anything going on around her. She simply stared at her glass of water as though she were trying to intimidate it. Her eyes flicked with interest every few seconds to any other movement in the room, but she stayed primarily focused on her water glass. He couldn't tell if she was angry or not.
Edward swallowed. "Captain?"
She didn't bother looking up at him but her glare intensified. "I don't want water."
Edward's brow puckered as she went on. "I don't want water, I want milk."
"We have soymilk," he supplied helpfully.
"I want moo-cow-fucking-milk!" she exclaimed, slamming her fist on the table and making the silverware clatter.
This vehement huff was rather out of character. As far as Edward knew, the Captain only drank soy or almond milk. That's certainly the only thing she ever came home with…
"I don't think we have any," he replied, unnerved by the way she wouldn't look at him during her outburst.
"But I want it," she whined.
Edward's eyebrows rose clear up into his hairline. If there was one thing the Captain simply Did Not Do, it was whine.
"We may have cre-"
He didn't get to finish the word. With a scrape of chair legs across linoleum, the Captain lunged for the refrigerator. The ancient aquamarine machine rumbled angrily as the Captain yanked the door open and plunged an arm into its frigid depths. Her hand immerged with a pint of coffee creamer in a paper carton, which she ripped open and started drinking. Edward watched, wide eyed, as her throat convulsed with every swallow. She didn't even pause to take a gulp of air, just continued guzzling.
When she was finished, she carelessly tossed the empty carton away, licked her lips noisily and moaned appreciatively.
He stared at her for a moment in total confusion, before turning back to look at Al and Techie. He was expecting them to look just as muddled, but they were too busy with their own pursuits to have noticed their friend's unusual behavior. The Captain's lust for dairy products was odd, but it was nothing in comparison to turning around to find Techie straddling her chair as she performed various acrobatics. She flexed her shoulders, twisted her neck to one side and bent at angles that Edward didn't think were possible.
In the middle of this impromptu yoga session, she leaned back so far that she was nearly bent in half and braced her palms on the floor behind her.
She made a noise low in her throat as she sat up again. "This chair isn't cushy enough."
Without warning, she slithered out of it and landed on the floor near his feet. She curled her knees inwards and supported her weight on her hands, shifting her shoulder blades predatorily.
"And the floor is better?" he asked with bewilderment.
Her answer came in the form of a threatening growl.
Hoping to find the last bastion of remaining sanity not his own, Edward looked at Al.
She paid less attention to him than the Captain had. Her head was tilted to one side, as though listening intently to some far off sound that only she could hear and her eyes darted this way and that, scanning the baseboards beneath the kitchen cupboards. In one magnificent, sudden motion, she leapt from her chair and dove for the floor, hands outstretched, fingers bent.
There was a tiny distressed 'squeak' as she hit the linoleum and her hands closed around something beneath the cabinets. She came up, looking extraordinarily pleased with herself, dangling a tiny brown mouse by its tail. She chuckled-an unsettling sound deep in her chest that didn't even remotely resemble her usual uninhibited cackle-and gave the poor rodent a grin that was all teeth.
Edward Nygma was a bright man. You couldn't work puzzles as effectively as he did without being sharp as a tack. So, when he looked at each of the girls in turn, put their bizarre actions together in his head and added a dose of logic, the sum came out to 'CAT'-and not in the traditional 'Acronym of Their Nicknames' way, either.
Whatever they'd done and whatever they'd gotten into the night before at Darck, it had somehow managed to change them. They were exhibiting feline tendencies.
A series of distraught mouse noises pulled him out of his reverie and he looked over to see Al tormenting her new pet. She'd released its tail and let it skitter, hand over hand, again and again, as it tried fruitlessly to escape. The Captain and Techie were watching with keen interest.
Without warning, they both sprang at Al in unison, knocking her onto her back. The mouse went flying and landed several feet away, startled but unharmed. Once it got its bearings, it streaked across the floor, aiming for the safety of a hole in the baseboards.
Like cartoon characters, the Captain, Al and Techie fought their way apart and charged towards the terrified little animal. Lightning fast, the mouse dove through the opening in the wall and all three girls crashed into it. The timing was so perfect that Edward would have cheered if he hadn't been so shocked.
They struggled up off the floor and shook themselves. They didn't look the least bit upset that the mouse had gotten away. In fact, if their matching airs of boredom were to be believed, you'd think they meant to crash into the wall like that. They preened and stretched leisurely. When Techie fluffed her hair and both the Captain and Al reached up to bat at it, they pounced on each other like a bunch of kittens, swatting each other with playful blows.
This was all too odd for Edward to handle, so without rousing their attention, he slunk from the kitchen and returned to his bedroom. There, he placed a call to the only man he knew of who could possibly handle something like this.
If there was one man in Gotham who knew about genetic mutation, it was Kirk.
If there was one man in Gotham who didn't really want to know about genetic mutation, that was Kirk too.
Better known to all of Gotham City as the villain Man-Bat, Robert Kirkland Langstrom had been a brilliant zoologist who'd tried his hand at chemistry and failed, epically. The result of his labors, a serum that mutated his DNA and turned him into a giant bat, scrambled his mind as well as his genetic makeup. He'd been dosed with an antidote, sure, and could now pass for human, but the damage was irreparable.
Still, even though he wasn't exactly high up on the food chain villainy-wise, he wasn't exactly a D-Lister. Whenever the other rogues needed a scientist they could trust, they generally called on Kirk, whether he wanted them to or not.
Edward was on pretty good terms with Kirk-as good as terms between criminals could get, anyway-and on learning of Edward's plight, he agreed to help with only the minimum of prodding necessary. He couldn't promise when exactly he'd be able to come by and have a look at the girls, but he did promise to, and Edward trusted that.
So, for three days, he watched as Al shredded the furniture with her fingernails, the Captain tried to climb the living room curtains and Techie amused herself for hours on end with a ball of string. So long as the fridge was well stocked with milk and they got a can of tuna twice a day, they were happy. It was bizarre, certainly, but Edward adapted pretty easily.
And then, things got really weird.
On the fourth day of their catlike conduct, Edward made his way out of his room and was immediately tackled by three yowling young women. Without so much as a "How's your father", "Bob's your uncle", they started rubbing up against him and purring. At first, he tried to struggle out from under them, but they were persistent and quite heavy as a team, so he gave up and flopped back as he tried to formulate some kind of plan.
When someone's fingers closed around one of his shirt buttons and pulled it loose from the fabric that kept his collar together, he was hit by a sudden flashback.
For a short time as a boy, Edward had owned a cat (a cat that his father drowned, but leave us not go down that particular lane marked 'memory') and during his brief stint as the owner of that feline, she'd gone into heat. She yowled, she bit and she rubbed herself on all available surfaces so roughly that he thought some of her fur would come off. Only when he'd let her out of the house for an evening so she could find a Tomcat did she start acting like her old docile self again.
The second button popped and Edward snapped back to reality so quickly it was like being doused with ice water.
He didn't have to let the girls out to find a Tom, because they had one right here.
He started struggling again. Under ordinary circumstances, he wouldn't have minded a little foursome action, but they weren't in their right minds, and if he was going to sleep with anybody, it was going to be of their own free will, not as the result of a mishap of genetic engineering.
"Now, girls," he said with a grunt as he pried the Captain's arms from around his neck, "you don't want to do something you'll-ungh!-regret later."
They didn't listen. In fact, Al exclaimed in a deep, throaty growl, "Pants!" and went for the aforementioned article of clothing.
The sound of a can opener tearing through tin saved him. All three stopped scrabbling at him and sat up, eyes alert, heads turned towards the source of the sound.
Edward craned his neck to look and saw Kirk, ragged and frazzled looking as ever, standing in the kitchen. He didn't know how the other man got in, he didn't care. Kirk held the can opener in one hand and a freshly opened can of tuna in the other, which he waved enticingly.
"Here, kitty, kitty."
They were off Edward in a flash, diving at Langstrom. In a movement that was almost too fast to see, Kirk dropped the tuna and the can opener and flung two spherical containers of knockout gas at the floor. They burst on impact and a gray cloud enveloped the girls, their target and the Riddler.
Everything went black.
Edward came to and found himself tucked safely in his own bed. He sat up too fast and grabbed his head as the blood rushed to it. He jerked his hand away instantly, finding a painful goose egg where he'd bumped his head on impact with the floor. When his feet found the rug next to his bed and he stood, he found himself still a little bit wobbly from the after effects of the knockout gas.
He wearily staggered from his bedroom and found, to his surprise, the Captain, Al and Techie sitting around the kitchen table with Kirk. They were doting on him, much the same way they doted on their Eddums, and pushing his plate closer to him. Langstrom looked only mildly uncomfortable. Edward noted that each of the girls had a brightly colored Band-Aid on their arm and they were acting just as normally as they ever had.
Satisfied that all was well, he returned to bed. Edward knew in his heart of hearts that the worst was over.
Of course, he hadn't seen the vinyl cat suits they'd brought to Gotham with them yet.
Wondering what happens next? Go read my story 'Season of the Witch' to find out.