DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to DC and not me. I'm just borrowing them for a while to spin a tale.
"We're dead. We are so dead we're doomed."
Boomerang Jr stared from the muttering Metamorph to the still slightly stunned Nightwing in utter confusion. "Hey girls?" He turned towards the female contingent of his team, all of whom were eyeing their leader speculatively. "This sort of thing don't happen often, does it?"
"If only." Grace sighed as she started to reach a hand towards Nightwing's head only to snatch it away guiltily and grip his arm in an offer of support instead.
"This isn't a laughing matter!" Rex thundered at them from their leader's other side as he pulled one of Nightwing's arms over a shoulder to help him out of the trashed room. "The Bat is gonna kill us for what we let happen to his kid!"
"'m okay." Nightwing slurred as he tried to push Rex and Grace away to stand under his own power.
"No! You're not 'okay'!" Rex was starting to sound a little hysterical to Dick. "You're so far from 'OK' we need an entirely new language to describe the mess we're in!"
"Rex." Nightwing groaned and winced, his sensitive ears painfully twitched with the close quarters yelling. "I am really ok. You're over reacti--" It sank in right then that something did not feel quite right with his ears.
"Can I touch them, boss?" Thunder asked shyly as she took a step closer. "Are they as soft as they look?"
"Reputedly they are." Katana volunteered numbly as she stared in fascination at their changed leader. "Though I didn't know nekojin could actually exist outside of history and legend."
"I-- what?!" It was at that moment Nightwing realised why his pants were feeling so uncomfortable and thanked the Almighty his new body parts hadn't ripped out of them with the transformation.
"We're doomed." Rex muttered more mournfully as he sensed his leader going into shock.
It was widely known in the Justice League that Batman hated magic. As a man keenly interested in and dependant on technology and trusting in events governed by the laws of physics and science, magic was too unpredictable and immeasurable for him to consider it reliable. Therefore it was little surprise to the League that Batman was furious with the Outsiders when they brought his son to him after what was described as a magical accident of disastrous proportions.
That was not to say Nightwing wasn't monumentally upset in his own right. However, he did not blame his team for his condition. It was, after all, honestly a freak accident.
Their intel did take note of their target's room of 'magical' artefacts. However, no one could have predicted that Nightwing would be tossed through a crack on an upper floor to land on a cat-motif urn which would collapsed under him and bring down the rest of the collection in a domino fashion. By the time the rest of the Outsiders vanquished their enemies and zipped down to check on their leader, the magical energies had settled down and Nightwing was left in his altered form.
Despite the transformation, Nightwing was remarkably upbeat besides being thankful that he wasn't in a worse state. Considering the Hodgepodge of magical disciplines miss-mashed and amalgamated in his accident, he knew he could just as easily have turned out hideously deformed and monstrous.
At the end of the day, it wasn't all that bad a hardship to be saddled with silky black cat ears and long tail, retractable claws on his hands, and a fondness for tuna and sardines (or whatever fish snack he could get his hands on.)
Dick was trying to be patient as the magic users poked, prodded, sniffed, and hovered various wands over him while he reclined on the examination table. He forbore the attention well. However, he couldn't help but wonder if gender truly made a difference in methods within the magical community. For example, the lady magic users seemed more 'hands on' in their examination and all had at one time or another stroked his new cat ears when they examined him. The men were far more interested in the retractable claws on his still remarkably human looking hands.
However, the singular pest during the examination had actually been Robin. It was bad enough having, Jason Blood, the Phantom Stranger, Tempest, Zatana, Zatara, Shadow Pact, and who knew how many other trust worthy magic users the JLA could gather, examining every inch of him without his little brother taking active interest too.
Once he got over the horror and humour of the situation, Tim had been completely fascinated by how Dick's human ears had disappeared leaving smooth skin and hair in its usual place. The boy was also instrumental in helping the magic users learn that Nightwing's new kitty ears were quite expressive, going flat along his head when Dick was upset or angry; which he was with all the poking and prodding Tim was delivering to his head.
One small mercy during the embarrassing examination was that none of the magic users touched his tail. New though it was, to Dick the appendage seemed like it was an intimate part of him and he didn't know if he could stand to have anyone else's hands on it.
Tempest truly and honestly tried not to be too fascinated by Nightwing's tail. The Atlantean mage also steadfastly reminded himself that he was a married man with a lovely wife and baby. However, he had to admit he wasn't dead and that if he wasn't already committed...
The tableau which his friend currently presented was just very tempting. Bored and reclining nude upon an examination table with his naughty bits covered by a towel, Dick unconsciously displayed a very alluring figure. Furthermore, to the delight of the ladies (and Garth), he didn't notice that his lashing tail had dislodged the towel over his butt, allowing interested parties the opportunity to ogle the light dusting of black hair on his lower spine leading to the furry tail and a fascinatingly furless pair of well muscled cheeks.
Garth really wished he and Tula had been daring enough to follow through on their day dreams to jointly seduce Robbie way back when. Having fond memories to fall back on would have gone a long way towards dampening his current sudden obsession over his old friend's very interesting new tail.
From her observation post at her base, Oracle was watching the fun at the JLA HQ. She may have broken up with Dick over a year ago, but she still couldn't say if she felt amusement or jealous possessiveness to watch the group of JLA, Titans and Outsiders ladies standing behind an oblivious Nightwing and checking out his long tail which was lashing around in irritation.
She had to admit that Nightwing's sexy, black furred tail was visually irresistible; and furthermore led everyone's eyes from it to one of the sexiest tails within their teams' membership. Barbara was sure Nightwing wouldn't take well the disappointment Grace, Thunder and Katana were furtively expressing to the other ladies over how Nightwing only allowed Rex to assist him in punching a hole in his pants to let out his tail from where it had been earlier bunched up and crammed uncomfortably into his skin tight body suit. It would certainly have mortified Dick to hear the soft but heated discussion the ladies were engaged in speculating whether Nightwing wore briefs, a thong, a g-string, or went commando when in uniform.
A cure, or solution, was unfortunately quite impossible at this first meeting. That being the case, the best Nightwing could do was to lie low until the magic users could work out how to change him back.
It was just as well that Bruce gave Dick a whole wing of Wayne Manor to call his own several months earlier. Essentially self contained with bedrooms, guest rooms, luxurious full baths, a gym, study cum library, entertainment centre and kitchenette, it gave Dick the space to hide out without feeling claustrophobic as he would have been if he'd just had his old room. Also, it allowed Dick a measure of distance from the rest of the Bat Clan if he didn't want company, but still kept him close enough for Bruce's peace of mind.
All the same, everyone was relieved that Dick was still essentially the same man as he was before his transformation. However, he picked up several characteristics of a cat; one being a love of a warm spot on which to cat nap. Now, Alfred and family could often find him sprawled on a carpet napping in a sun beam.
Tim couldn't believe it. In all the years he'd known the man, the former circus acrobat couldn't keep still for very long. Yet all Dick had done at his entrance was to open an eye to verify his identity, before promptly falling back asleep in his sun warmed nest of blankets and rugs. This was mildly disturbing.
However... Tim grinned as he crept nearer to see how close he could get to Dick before he'd do something about it. He got awfully damn close, with Dick's only reaction being a slight twitch of one of his ears. Or so he thought.
"Tim?" The teenager froze at the soft purr of the man he was hovering over.
"Do you like that t-shirt you're wearing?"
"Er-- yes? I like this shirt." Tim swallowed hard, becoming suddenly aware of how sexy his brother sounded with his purr. He, unfortunately, missed the other undertone.
Dick lifted one hand from under the blankets and extended his claws finger by finger. He didn't have to say a word. Tim gulped and left his brother to his nap.
Another cat characteristic which Dick picked up was his new fondness for seafood. Unfortunately, the stinkier the better; such that Alfred kept Dick's kitchenette supplied with his own store of blue cheese, canned tuna, sardines, anchovies, fresh garlic and raw onions so he could prepare his own snacks.
"Good Lord, Alfred?!" Bruce held his nose as he stumbled out of Dick's wing of the Manor with watering eyes. "What died in there? Is Dick all right?"
"Everything is perfectly fin-- well, as fine as it can be given Master Dick's condition." Alfred told him non-pulsed as he dusted the ornaments in the hall outside. "He is just having a snack."
"He has always faithfully aired out his suites after he's had his snack to make sure he doesn't offend any visitors."
"While it is heartening to know your olfactory senses are working exemplary, Master Bruce, do show Master Dick some consideration in allowing his unfortunate idiosyncrasies.
"The young master is thoughtful about brushing his teeth and eating breath mints after his 'special' snacks. And we did put our foot down on oriental sun dried cuttlefish."
What could the poor man say to that?
One thing Dick's friends quickly learned not to fool around with was catnip. Dick completely transformed into a jet-black panther when under the influence of catnip; a crazed, irrational and dangerously playful panther.
"It was a joke!"
Green Arrow very visibly wilted under Batman and Superman's joint disapproving glare as they stood at the observation deck with the rest of the Justice League. On the other side of the windows, four Green Lanterns attempted to carefully separate a black panther from a catnip-infused Batman plushy.
"I-- should make you-- get in there to personally take that-- thing away from my son." Batman gritted as he was barely held in check by Superman's restraining hand.
Oliver went very pale as he stole a glance into the green hued room where the big cat wasn't letting anything or anyone get between him and his new found toy. Green Arrow gulped as he eyed the almost unrecognisable stuffed doll. However much the four ring wielders tried to untangle Dick's claws and teeth from the by now nearly shredded toy, they just couldn't make him give it up.
"Well... At least there's a tiny bit of a bright side to this." Zatanna ventured as the rest of the Justice League continued to watch the swiftly deteriorating tug of war.
"And what could be good about this?"
The magician flinched when Batman's black glare momentarily transferred to her. She waved her hand between them as if she could disperse the miasma of anger and frustration surrounding the concerned father. "Hey, I just wanted to point out that Dick's clothes transformed with him. You now know that you won't need to worry about him shredding out of his clothes and ending up naked when he changes back."
"What a pity." Dinah sighed, her smile momentarily turned dreamy before she caught herself.
"Dinah!" Oliver shot Black Canary a look of betrayal.
A sudden spray of plushy stuffing caught everyone's attention and they turned back to the green hued room to find themselves looking upon a black panther which was now happily rolling around in bits of white cotton fluff. Batman buried his face in his hands in despair.
"It'll be over soon, Bruce." Superman patted him on the shoulder comfortingly. "See there? Kyle's forming a vacuum cleaner to sipho--"
"Nnooo!" Batman slapped his hands against the glass separating them in alarm. "Kyle! Not a vacuum clea--!"
The warning came too late. The Green Lanterns were fortunate to have their rings programmed to automatically generate armour for them as a last resort protection of their person. Dick's claws were apparently very capable of slicing through Kevlar.
Once he was himself again, Dick graciously apologized to Kyle for attacking him while he was a catnip drugged panther. However, it still took two months for the Green Lantern to stop flinching away from Dick whenever they encountered each other.
Word spread quite quickly in the hero community that bringing catnip or operating a vacuum cleaner in the transformed Nightwing's presence were huge 'No-No's. And there were enough witnesses to tell the story behind the warning to have the tale gain almost legendary status. It was therefore no surprise that from then on, no one else dared to 'test' Batman's son for other cat-like idiosyncrasies. After all, if the father didn't kill you, the son unintentionally might.
Still, despite the adjustments and hiccups he had to go through adapting to his new 'circumstance,' Dick could only stay home bound for so long before the roof tops and open spaces called to him. He surprised Selina and her protégé the first time he appeared dressed completely in midnight blue.
Selina nearly bust a gut laughing when father and son paid her a visit. "This is too rich!"
"Selina." Batman sighed as Dick glared at her while his tail lashed about behind him in irritation.
"The ears! Oh my God! Your ears are so adorable!" Holly squealed to see them flatten along Dick's head in annoyance for their laughter.
"And he's got bigger ears than me-- Catwoman or you!" Selina continued snickering as she pointed at Batman.
"Selina." Batman growled again. "Look, the cat-motif is very much your expertise and dressed like this..."
"Oh, he's looking vvveerrry nice indeed." Holly purred, though having taken note of the lashing tail, she had enough sense to keep her hands to herself.
"Mmmm." Selina purred in agreement. "I never did understand why Blake went the route of orange, yellow, and brown in an urban setting."
Dick grinned. "This is from someone who once pranced around in a purple cat suit?"
"Be nice, junior." Selina wave him off. "You coming here means you wanted help.
"So, what's the problem? Apart from the obvious, that is."
Holly snickered. "She's already hit it, hasn't she? You look like Catwoman Jr."
Dick sniffed indignantly. "The uniform's not black. It's got a sheen of blue, and I chose it to matched the colour of my ears and tail."
At the end of the day, Selina was helpful in offering a hero name for Dick since 'Catman' was long taken by another and he didn't want to consider the absurdities that were 'Nightcat' and 'Catwing'. It made Bruce frown, but that didn't dampen Dick's enthusiasm over being called 'Catspaw.' And the criminal element in Gotham City was to fast learn to fear this new hero on the prowl with his inhuman cat-like grace, speed and razor sharp claws.
When he is able to, Deathstroke liked to stay informed of the movements of both friends and enemies. Over the last year or so, however, Slade had admittedly lost track of Nightwing when he disappeared with the Outsiders. So he sat up and took notice when Calculator sent him a titbit about strange stirrings in Gotham regarding the appearance of a new seemingly familiar hero.
If asked, Slade wouldn't have admitted to having any expectations on his visit to Gotham. What he found though went beyond anything he'd ever imagine. He hadn't even realised his mysterious quarry had sensed his attempt to stalk him when slashing claws greeted his arrival on a roof top Slade had been sure the hero departed from minutes earlier.
The mercenary looked down at the tatters left of his Kevlar reinforced tunic. He was quite amazed to note that his skin had remained untouched despite the ferocity of the assault. Understanding, therefore, that the attack upon him wasn't completely hostile, Slade allowed a bit of levity behind his growl.
"This was a three thousand dollar armoured suit." He glared at the culprit of the damage.
"So? It's a small price to pay for poking your nose where it's not invited. " The figure in the midnight blue cat suit stretched sinuously on the wall in front of him before looking upon his claws. "You didn't have to sneak up on me. You could have called and saved all the unpleasantness."
Slade stared at the hero. Apart from the slight rumbling purr in the voice, he thought he recognized it. "Grayson? What the hell happened to you?"
"Magical accident. And call me Catspaw."
"It must have been some accident." Slade didn't know whether to be horrified or amused to see the man's cat ears flatten along his head in annoyance while his tail start to wag.
"What do you want, Slade?"
"Keep enemies close, kid."
Catspaw didn't even look at Slade as he flexed the claws on one hand. "How close do you think you need to get?"
Slade was taken aback. It didn't sound to him like he was being warned off. It was more like-- flirting? The mercenary couldn't imagine Dick forgiving him for Bludheaven's destruction. On the other hand, could Grayson be somehow manifesting a cat's fickleness?
"Should I be worried about this?" Slade pulled at his shredded upper body suit.
"Oh, I was just satisfying a curiosity." Catspaw shrugged as he stretched sensuously. "And exerting an equal opportunity prerogative.
"You've seen me without my shirt numerous times. I thought it just fair to have my turn, especially since I've got these nifty new accessories."
For some reason, the hero's entire demeanour made Slade feel nervous and hot under the collar. Dick Grayson never made him feel like that before. Not even in his guise of Nightwing. However, under Catspaw's gaze Slade felt like he was being sized up for a meal. One which in truth he probably wouldn't mind providing if he was reading the signs right. The idea sent all the blood in his body rushing to his groin as images of receiving a blow job from this dangerous creature suddenly flooded his head.
"Ssoooo, you are interested in equal opportunity fair play?" Catspaw purred to Slade while he continued to flex and retract the claws of one hand. All of Slade's attention, however, was on the fingers of the other hand which were playfully tracing the hero's lips. Slade almost groaned when a tongue flickered out to lick at an index finger.
"Kid--" Slade's voice had turned heavy and dangerous. "Don't tease if you're not going to put out."
"Now why do you think I wouldn't put out, hmmmmm?"
Slade turned tail and ran. It was a close call, but he suddenly remembered that he was in Gotham city and for all his bravery, he wasn't suicidal. It was not wise to test Batman's patience over his son, especially in his own city. Given how stressed out Batman must be for what happened to Nightwing, Slade was quite sure the man would come down like the wrath of God upon anyone who dared to mess with his kid.
As a result, Slade regretfully placed 'having sex with Catspaw' right at the top of his list of things to avoid while in Gotham City. Thinking further on it, Slade realised it was probably far safer to avoid Gotham all together rather than be exposed to the temptation of satisfying a curiosity to see how far Grayson would take his teasing. Now if Catspaw were to be agreeable to a tryst in another city though...
Slade considered the possibilities. The Titans were situated way across the country from Gotham City and Robin was close to Grayson. That was probably as far outside Batman's bailiwick as he could go while staying in the same country...
Bruce steadfastly told himself that Dick was a victim of the entire situation and therefore really had little control over his magically altered nature. But male cats didn't get in heat, damn it!
This current situation was worse than the time Dick debuted his black and blue Nightwing gear. At least then, his son only attracted the attentions of the female population of their select community. However, as Catspaw...
Bruce had already delivered one stern warning to Deathstroke by way of (a traumatized) Robin. And he'd even seriously talked to Jordan about cradle snatching. Given the situation of their last encounter at the JLA headquarters, the Green Lantern really should not have taken the blatant flirting seriously. It had only been an unfortunate side effect that Dick became extraordinary affectionate and playful while he was coming down from catnip euphoria.
Damn, damn, damn! Bruce knew he was over reacting, but he just couldn't help being more protective of Dick lately. Especially when he knew how miserable Dick was for having lost a great deal of freedom with his transformation.
Dick would be absolutely mortified if he ever found out how transparent he was now, but with the new expressive ears and tail, he didn't have a snow ball's chance in hell of hiding his feelings from Bruce. Sometimes on the ride back to the bat cave after their patrol, Bruce would surreptitiously watch Dick as he stared out the window. He was quite sure his son was completely unaware of how his ears would droop and his tail start to wave half heartedly behind him the further they got away from the city.
For all that he was making the best of a bad situation, Dick really missed being able to leave the Wayne estates like a normal human. But he certainly didn't want to endanger Batman's identity by allowing anyone outside their trusted circle learn that Dick Grayson had become a were-cat.
It was under the most innocent of intentions that Roy learned how sensitive Dick's cat ears were. At the onset, Bruce had engaged his services to help Dick find a hat or some sort of suitable head gear his son could wear to hide his ears. Roy was to discover that it really wasn't as simple as he thought to have Dick flattened his ears and jam a hat over them.
Dick's furry ears were very expressive, and he couldn't always control their movements. Thus an unconscious twitch could easily send a hat flying. A suggestion to tape the ears down wasn't well received either. Dick informed him then that his ears were incredibly sensitive and couldn't take that kind of abuse.
Initially, Roy was too ready to scoff at Dick's claims. It thus led to Roy sitting behind Dick and challenging him to discern if the archer's hands were hovering around, near or away from his ears.
"Hey! No fair moving your ears to tell where I'm at." Roy protested as Dick's ears twitched against his fingers again.
"It's not like I can control it." Dick groused grumpily as his ears flicked against the archer's hovering fingers again. "I'm telling you, Roy. They've almost got a life of their own and they're reacting to your hand's proximity."
"Why? It's not like you've got a lot of hands trying to pull your ears."
"Only on Thursdays at the JLA, when the mystic crew take another crack at breaking the spell."
Roy immediately paid attention when Dick's ears started drooping with his statement. "Hey, Robbie. Cheer up. We have the best and most powerful magic users on the planet working on it."
"What if they can't break the spells?" Dick asked softly. "I've heard them discuss it at length. There are more than half a dozen spells and curses of different disciplines tangled together in this-- thing that transformed me. They've not managed to theoretically duplicate the process, much less work out how to untangle the spell strands."
Roy unconsciously rubbed Dick behind his ears in comfort. "Yer gotta have faith that they'll crack it soon."
Dick started to lean into Roy's hand and a rumbling purr rose from his chest. The sound surprised Roy enough to make him stop moving his fingers. "Dick?"
The man froze and turned to look back at Roy. "Wha--?" He blinked at his friend. "Do that again?"
Roy's lips quirked in a smile as this time he used his nails to skritch Dick behind the ears. Dick's responsive purr was much louder. "Thhisss-- issss nn--ii--ccce--"
Roy gulped, Dick's voice had dropped an octave and he sounded-- this was entering dangerous territory. And-- "Hey, Robbie? You're not gonna turn into a panther and want to-- eat me, are you?"
"Oonnlyy-- iiff-- yoouu-- ssstttoooppp." Dick pushed his head towards Roy's scratching fingers and purred even louder. He started moving to press against Roy's very responsive body.
"Hey, Dick! Roy." Tim strolled into Dick's living room to join them. "Bruce said you were trying out different hat--" The teenager's eyes went wide as saucers when he came upon his elder brother purring and rubbing sensuously against a grinning Roy.
"Wwaaaahhhhh! Damn it, Bro! TMI! TMI!" Tim covered his eyes and started backing blindly towards the door. "It's bad enough that Deathstroke's trying to make dates through me and Bruce is passing warnings the same way. Lock your door or move to your bedroom!"
As it turned out, Roy discovered Dick's new ears to be a huge erogenous area. And that nibbling or licking the ears made the man shiver with delight. Dick's tail was even more sensitive. And Roy found he could make Dick come just by rubbing the base of his tail.
For Roy's safety, Dick had him chain his wrists to the bed head when they had sex. He understandably didn't want to risk accidentally shredding his lover to bits. Having been one of the witnesses to Dick's attack on the hapless Kyle some weeks earlier, Roy was grateful for Dick's concern.
Roy very quickly realized that he had quite a catch in his hands if he could handle it. Dick's breath alone could be a trial for his ordinary friends if he wasn't very thorough in brushing his teeth that day. Fortunately, Roy was quite fond of sardines and onions. However, he put his foot down on blue cheese, garlic and anchovies before bed time.
Bruce wasn't sure if he should feel pleased or disturbed to have gained a new 'boarder' with his daughter. To be fair, he realized that he had been the instigator to bring Dick and Roy together, and Dick did seem far happier with the archer than Bruce could recall him ever being with anyone else. Lian was also a delightful little girl who could brighten up the manor with her presence.
Still, Bruce did worry about what would happen after the spell on Dick was finally broken. At the least, Roy sought him out to talk about the situation before he moved his family into Wayne manor. In that, Bruce had his assurance of Roy's seriousness in the relationship.
Besides, Bruce would never admit it to Harper, but Dick was becoming devastatingly good at employing drooping ears with wide bright eyes to underhandedly get his way at anything he desired. And it was a matter of self-preservation to want more voices in the household who'd help to steadfastly uphold Alfred's ban on oriental sun dried cuttlefish.
For now, Wayne manor had settled into a comfortable warmth of contentment Bruce couldn't recall ever experiencing. The evenings often found them gathered in the family room with Tim reading a story to Lian as she sat at his feet staring up at him worshipfully, treating him like an 'awesome' elder brother. Roy and Dick would be on the couch as they read books or magazines, with Dick's head on Roy's lap and with Roy's fingers either idly playing with Dick's hair or stroking his ears. Bruce would be in his chair reading, or chatting with Alfred if he could persuade the man to take a break and sit with them.
Altogether, Bruce had to admit that his family couldn't be said to be 'suffering' for Dick's magical problems. So as long as Dick was happy, Bruce decided he wasn't going to get stressed out over the situation.
After all, Dick was adjusting to his new 'accessories' and finally settled on using headscarves and tying a sweater around his waist when he wanted to get out into the city during the day. With Red Arrow on the alert, Batman didn't have to worry too much about Deathstroke trying to lead his son astray. Batman and Catspaw's no nonsense reputation had risen quite spectacularly, especially since no one could be 100 sure what might or might not trigger Catspaw's transformation into a panther. Though in truth, Dick worked out how to control the change shortly after the catnip incident, but why let anyone else know? Besides, it was more fun to let the others continue to tip-toe around the Bat Family.
And at the end of the day, Bruce was sure he would eventually get over the disquiet he felt about Dick's new ability to purr. After all, it was quite soothing to hear the throaty rumble in the evenings while they relaxed as a family.