Disclaimer: I don't own most of these characters. Al, Techie, and the Captain are the only ones I'm allowed to use.

This is part of the CATverse. One of the vital plot points, in fact. And I've put off posting it for far too long. Please enjoy it. Please. Don't make me beg.

www. freewebs. com/ catverse

December, 2015 - shortly before Christmas.


CATfight

December 23

The henchgirls occasionally known as CAT had belonged to the Scarecrow for more than three and a half years (including, of course, the time when they had been too dead to do him any good) when the "Unfortunate Incident" occurred.

Not that everything had been beer and skittles before that. The girls were far more overprotective the second time around. Without their protection during the time they had been "dead," he had taken a few serious beatings, one of which had, in all honesty, come within a hair's breadth of killing him. That had impressed them to the point that they seemed afraid to let him set foot outside the lair without at least one of them, bristling with malice and hidden weaponry, to act as his shadow. While it was a relief to be once again shielded from even the gentlest of love taps from men with names like "Rhino," the absolute lack of breathing room began to wear on his nerves in a matter of days. They had relaxed their overzealous protectiveness after the first few months had gone by without his gaining any serious injuries, but they were still stubbornly unwilling to leave him completely alone for more than a few minutes at a time.

But he made it very clear that the rules barring them from his room still applied, so at least he had a place to escape to when he couldn't stand the sight of their smiling faces one moment longer. And because the Captain couldn't always be counted on to keep her promises—being a firm believer in extenuating circumstances, and occasionally a slave to her hormones—he had taken to leaving peanut butter flavored mochas outside her bedroom door on days when he expected her to go into one of those moods, and she had so far managed not to violate his territorial bubble.

He had done the same to Al and Techie, hoping to put an end to the crying and irrational anger, too, but that had been somewhat less effective. He still found himself woken up once every few months or so by deafeningly loud Disney music.

And today was one of those days.

"Oh, no," he moaned as he pulled the blanket up over his head, hoping to silence the sounds of "Cabin Fever." They had bought a new soundtrack. That was never a good sign.

He wanted to go back to sleep, but there was no chance of that now. Even if they went sane and turned the music down, if he didn't wander into the kitchen soon for breakfast, they just might take it into their heads to come and check on him. And even barricading his door with all the furniture in the room probably wouldn't be enough to thwart them in their current state.

He reached for the robe and fuzzy slippers Al had forced on him the first time she saw him walking through the lair barefoot in winter. She had given him a tongue lashing that would have made a lesser man cry. Then she had hugged him. Then she'd bundled him up and made him sit in front of the heater with a cup of tea until he was warm all the way through.

He hadn't even realized how cold he had been until he'd gotten warm.

And that was the way they always did it. They would do something so irritating he wanted to kill them, and then go and prove themselves right by saving his life or making him comfortable against his will. These days, it didn't even seem worth it to fight them.

Maybe he was getting old. Maybe they all were. Even his "girls" were hardly the children they had been when they had first tried to force their love upon him.

He found his glasses and put them on. He really was getting old—he needed a new pair, and soon. But his eyes weren't so bad that he couldn't see the date circled in red on his calendar.

Next Thursday. More than a week away.

So if that wasn't the problem…what was?

He stepped out into the hallway. That was when he heard the screaming. Three distinct voices, raised in three very different languages. He recognized a few random words ("baka" from Al, and "focacta," from Techie) but for the most part, they were going too fast for him to follow.

He would have to get minions who were language buffs. Between the three of them, they could probably survive just about anywhere in the world, not to mention a few places that didn't strictly exist in reality. But they never put those skills to good use, choosing instead to scream at each other in foreign tongues when English just didn't have the words they needed.

The fact that they were all screaming at the same time was a very bad sign, though. The girls bickered often enough, but they seemed to treat every fight like a contest, applauding insults for their creativity and rarely taking anything too personally. But if they were all screaming instead of listening to each other, that meant this was serious. They weren't just trying to top each other, they were genuinely fighting.

He entered the common room, which had been pristine the day before. Now it was a disaster area, with broken glass littering the floor, furniture overturned, suspicious new blood-colored stains on the rug, black smoke billowing in from the kitchen…granted, he had seen it worse, but not often, and never with the three of them standing in the middle of the room, screaming at each other and brandishing a spatula, a coffee cup, and what appeared to be a toilet brush.

He had never seen them resort to physical violence (not against each other, anyway.) As entertaining as that might be, he had better break it up.

"Girls," he said sharply. They all fell silent for a moment, staring at him. Then they all started screaming again, this time in English.

"Squishy—"

"—she broke the—"

"—they had—"

"—and then Al—"

"—we never—"

"—it's not my fault—"

"—Squishykins, listen—"

"—you lying bitch—"

"Shut up!"

The coffee cup went sailing through the air, narrowly missing first Techie, then Jonathan. It shattered against the wall.

"Now look what you did!" the Captain bellowed with rage out of all proportion to the situation at hand. He had to wonder if she was more upset by the loss of her Waffle House cup, or by the fact that it had almost hit him. At a time like this, anything was possible.

"What I did?" Al yelled. "You started it!"

"You started it," Techie snarled. "And don't throw things at me!"

"I didn't start this, y'all did!"

"You!"

"Sujatlh 'e' yimev!" yelled the Captain. "This is pointless! Throwing a stupid temper tantrum isn't going to solve anything!"

"So yell about it, Captain! Yell real loud!"

"Don't yell at her!"

"I don't need you to defend me!"

"Fine! Then I'll just—"

"Will you shut up?" Jonathan bellowed. They all fell silent. "What is going on here? Techie," he said when they all started to speak up again. She gave her friends a nasty, triumphant grin. They glared daggers back.

"We're fighting," she said. He waited. No further information seemed to be forthcoming.

"About what?"

After a split second of silence, during which he realized that they were going to make him do more than simply regret asking, the three way screamfest started up again. He didn't even try to follow the threads of explanations and insults until Techie shouted the fateful words--

"If it's so damn bad here, why don't you just leave?"

Al was so shocked, she fell silent and stared at him as if she expected him to defuse the tension. The Captain was less shocked.

"Why the hell should I? I was here first!"

Al should have spoken up then (technically, she was the one who had invaded his life first) but all she did was stare.

"Fine! Then I'll leave! You think I have nothing better to do than hang around with you for the rest of my life? Good luck piloting your own ship, Mon Capitan."

"Hey, I'm the getaway driver here," Al snapped. Techie flipped her off and walked away. "Drive careful," Al shouted at her friend's back. "Try not to rear-end any Pintos in the parking lot."

The door slammed.

Al sagged, exhaling slowly. The Captain, on the other hand, was a coil of pure tension, bright red, trembling, fists clenched so tightly at her sides that he could see little droplets of blood from where her nails were digging into her palms. He tried a gentle prod to see if she would snap.

"What was that all about?"

"DON'T EVEN FUCKING TALK TO ME!" she screamed, burst into tears, and ran for the door. She didn't even bother to slam it, just left it standing open.

He turned to Al.

"I should…um…" She moved her hands in an aimless gesture.

"Leave?" he asked incredulously.

"Uh…" She shrugged. "We still…love you. Always. I'm just going to…I'm going to go. There's…you're going to need a new microwave. I'm sorry."

She walked away. Closed the door decorously behind her. And was gone.

The Scarecrow was alone in his lair.

He was…alone.

He went to the kitchen to inspect the damage.

Alone.

This was the kind of morning that called for coffee.