CATverse A/N: This is part of the CATverse, the story arc listing for which can be found at catverse. com and is set in arc seven. However, I think the story can stand on its own.
A/N: A few months ago, shortly before I hit the road for a theatre festival tour with the ever mysterious Michigan J. Bowler—which I just got back from, thank you very much oh my God I am SO glad to be home—the Captain and I found ourselves the proud parents of a stray kitten. She is the most…playfully temperamental creature I've ever come across. I've always had a great affinity for felines but this one is the most un-catlike cat you could possibly imagine and has, indirectly, influenced the writing of this story.
Also at fault is a fan of ours who requested something along these lines ages and ages ago .So this one's for you, you know who you are. Furthermore…well, this fic is an excuse to play with my favorite villainess, Catwoman, as well as Detective Harvey Bullock, my third favorite Batman-universe character of all time, whom I don't get to take out of the toy box nearly as often as I'd like.
Third, it should be noted that a certain lovable marmalade colored attention whore of a bruiser I know and adore makes his CATverse debut here. Whether or not he'll turn up again remains to be seen, but anything's possible. I miss that cat almost as much as I miss his 'owner' and I'm just sentimental enough to let it bleed into my fics
And finally, I feel that I should mention the fact that National Bohemian is quite possibly the worst beer in the history of beers. If you're ever in the Baltimore area, have one just for the sake of saying you did. 'Cause really, such an atrocious flavor has to be experienced to believe.
The first faint fingers of morning light etched their way across the sparsely decorated penthouse bedroom, filtering through a set of filmy curtains and casting their beams over the king-sized bed that occupied the space. The walls were bare, save for a single painting: a beautiful grayscale rendering of Simone Simon by some unknown Gotham artist who sold his wares on street corners despite the fact he had such an eye for composition and balance that he should have been hailed as the Next Big Thing.
While the walls were barren, the floor was another story entirely. Strewn all over the lush ash colored carpet were accessories of various shapes and sizes; a leather boot here, an opera-length black glove there, a small satin pouch, a pair of strappy stilettos with an unpronounceable Italian designer label attached, a bullwhip, a black vinyl mask, a pair of cat's eye goggles…
All was still.
A very undignified, very angry snarl erupted from beneath the plush black and silver comforter at the sound of the doorbell. So unexpected was the noise from the quilt that it startled the cat who had been blissfully asleep on it, purring contentedly for no one's benefit but his own. The comforter shifted to one side, the lump beneath it lifting what must have been its head before it immediately flopped back down again. The cat watched the lump with polite indifference before its olive-green eyes slid shut once more.
Silence descended again.
The snarl from under the covers turned into a resentful grumble, which became a number of muttered, muffled complaints, all of them along the lines of "Inhuman to wake a cat burglar before nine, that's what it is." and, "So help me if it's a door-to-door salesman, I'm going to hand him his dangly bits."
The comforter was tossed aside, disturbing the sleeping feline further. The cat—a large, orange ball of fluffy hedonism—stood regally, shifted his shoulders with a slight air of indignation and hopped off the bed, meowing unhappily at being dislodged from his chosen napping place.
"Quiet, Giorgio," Selina Kyle said from around a yawn, oblivious to the fact her hair was sticking up in no fewer than six different directions as she blearily rubbed her eyes. "You weren't out robbing penthouses until five in the morning. You don't get to complain."
Selina fixed her cold, emerald glare on the front door and stumbled gracelessly out of bed, tripping over Giorgio in the process. He looked at her flatly, wrapping his tail around her calves and meowed triumphantly as if to say, That's for allowing the doorbell to disturb my slumber, sub-creature.
"Don't get cocky," she said sternly to him. He looked at her haughtily, flicked the very tip of his tail to show his displeasure at being rebuked for this 'cockiness' thing (whatever it was) and strutted away to find a nice comfy chair to kick one of the smaller, meeker cats out of.
Selina sighed and started for the door, but stopped dead as a set of black and white paws darted out from under the bed and playfully patted at her foot before the cat they belonged to lunged and cheerfully started gnawing on her ankle. Selina carefully picked up the young stray with tuxedo markings—a cat who'd followed her home from the theatre district less than a month before—and scratched behind the animal's left ear. She started for the door, cat still in hand, and scolded her with a voice roughened by sleep.
"Fosse, believe me, you are not a ninja," she mumbled, suppressing another yawn. Fosse tipped her head and mewed the tiny mew of a cat just barely out of kittenhood and leapt down from Selina's embrace. The cat scurried back under the bed and settled down to await her next opportunity for stealthy ankle attack.
With every step towards the front door, Selina's strides became more fluid. She was only truly clumsy when she was half asleep or drugged, so with wakefulness came her customary physical poise and grace. By the time she actually clasped the doorknob, she was fully awake with an elderly gray and black Persian by the name of Hawthorne wrapped securely around her ankles. Hawthorne was a distinguished old gentleman of a cat in manners—the sort who, if he'd been a human, probably would have worn a monocle and said things like "Dash it all."—and always made a point to answer the door with Selina. He did this, Selina always suspected, for the express purpose of weighing and measuring any new arrivals to the penthouse; and though Hawthorne was terribly polite, just like any good Englishman would have been, he almost always seemed to dismiss anyone other than Selina as being dreadfully lacking in all respects.
The door swung inward and Selina had a moment of wondering whether or not she was still sleep addled or simply hallucinating. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously and her fingers flexed in the manner that would have released her spring-loaded claws had she been wearing her Catwoman gloves, knuckles cracking alarmingly.
"What do you want?"
The Scarecrow's henchgirl, whose name was immaterial—Selina had no need to know these things since she and Crane were hardly on speaking terms—stood soaking wet, holding a dilapidated, emaciated, sand-colored cat in her arms. The poor animal struggled to get free of her grip, to no avail, and finally gave up, hanging limp and glaring the glare of a very, very unhappy kitty.
"I need you to take care of this," the hench replied urgently, thrusting the cat at Selina. "Please."
Selina looked at the cat, who seemed to be trying his hardest to maintain his dignity despite his terribly undignified position and felt a pang of sympathy. She didn't let it soften her expression as she looked back up at the young woman, though. "How did you find me?"
"Penguin," she responded with refreshingly little rigmarole.
Selina's eyes flashed and her mind rapidly concocted and then discarded the image of Oswald Cobblepot minus an appendage or two. He was far too valuable as an ally to go dismembering all willy-nilly. She'd definitely have to make him pay for this, though. Maybe lighten his wallet a little next time she was on his turf…
"The information was expensive, if it makes you feel any better," the henchgirl offered weakly, still holding the cat out to the other woman, urging her to take it.
"Please, Catwoman," the hench begged, glancing down the hallway in either direction, growing more agitated by the second. "Do me this one favor and—"
Selina crossed her arms and Hawthorne made an uncomplimentary sound deep in his chest. "What makes you think I owe you anything even remotely resembling a favor?"
"You…don't," she admitted, "but I hoped the plight of a pussycat in peril would move you to action."
Selina, despite her best efforts to the contrary, found herself curious. "What kind of peril?"
"The perilous kind!" the henchgirl exclaimed anxiously, thrusting the cat in Selina's direction all the more forcefully. "Perilous, perilous peril! Stop yakking and take the damn cat!"
Selina knew in her heart she could no more turn down a cat in trouble than a starving man could turn down a cheeseburger, but she didn't like the feeling of being shanghaied just the same. She gave the hench a cool, appraising stare that usually resulted in something like naked panic. The woman in the hallway merely looked mildly uncomfortable, but even that much was a victory, considering the fact she lived with the likes of Jonathan Crane. "You'll owe me."
"I know," the henchgirl responded as Selina gingerly took the cat in her arms and cradled it to her chest. He started to purr from the moment her warm, dry hands touched him and then, as if remembering himself, ceased his Ferrari-like rumblings. "I'll owe you big, but you're the only person in the world I'd trust with him, so it's worth it. Guard him with your life."
Selina eyed the shabby cat with interest. "Why, is he worth something?"
"Only to me," the henchgirl muttered, as if ashamed of the sappy sentiment. Selina felt her heart warm against her will and her chilly disposition slip ever so slightly, to be replaced with something akin to very faint fondness. Anyone who loved a cat as much as the hench seemed to love this one couldn't possibly be all bad, no matter which undesirable circles she happened to run in. "Take care of him."
Without so much as a goodbye, the henchgirl turned and ran down the hallway as though the devil himself were at her back, her wet sneakers squealing on the imported tile.
"What's his name?" Selina found herself calling out down the hallway.
The henchgirl paused briefly as she opened the door to the emergency stairs and shouted, "Um…Rags. His name is Rags."
Then, with the slam of the heavy steel fire door, she was gone.
She stared at the door for a few moments before Selina retreated back into her penthouse, careful not to step on Hawthorne's tail as she went. She made her way to one of the posh living room chairs and plopped down on it, holding her new acquisition firmly in her lap and running her fingers over his scruffy fur.
"What an atrocious name to saddle a cat with. Rags," she mumbled, checking him over carefully for any injuries that might've needed attention. She noted that there were several old, faded scars crisscrossing the fur of his back and belly, which is what made his coat look so terribly patchy and uneven.
"I suppose I can see the logic," she continued, smoothing her fingertips over the scars. The cat purred again, though the sound seemed to come as a surprise to him. Selina smiled. "You are a rather raggedy looking fellow."
Rags seemed to take offense and glared up at her with brilliant blue eyes that should have belonged to a Siamese.
"But handsome nonetheless," she assured, stroking his back comfortingly. Rags appeared mollified by her words and leaned more fully into her gentle caresses. He was startled when she picked him up tenderly and put him on the floor. She stood, stretched in a patently feline fashion and started towards the kitchen. "C'mon stud. I've got a can of albacore with your name on it."
A few hours later, Selina woke for the second time, long after the sun had gone down. After feeding Rags—and then all the other hangers on she'd collected since taking up residence in this particular safe house—she'd slithered back into bed for a few more precious hours of shuteye. She had a heist planned tonight and she needed to rest if she was going to be on top of her game. Nothing flamboyant, just a simple LexCorp animal testing lab raid, but one could never be too careful. She could only make the job look effortless, after all; she knew that every heist, big or small, was hard work, even for someone with her skills and practice. The day she got cocky enough to think otherwise was probably the day she'd screw up so royally she'd wind up either dead or in jail.
Selina crawled out of bed and puttered to the bathroom adjacent to her bedroom. After a quick shower and running a toothbrush over her teeth, she slipped into her costume and looked over her blueprints of the lab facility once more.
"Laser security systems, silent alarms, blah, blah, standard, standard, standard—"
Had Selina Kyle been anyone other than who she was, she might have jumped six inches in the air—or perhaps even right out of her skin. Instead, at the sound of a furious, hissing cat, she shook her head and rubbed the bridge of her nose. Cats were cats were cats, she knew, and though most of hers came and went as they pleased and left each other alone, a few had egos so big that their clashing was all but inevitable. She assured herself that they could take care of themselves—that was one of the things she loved about the species, after all—and returned to her blueprints with renewed purpose.
That is, until a small beige streak of bloodied, matted fur dashed between her ankles and cowered there, trembling. Selina looked down in alarm at Rags—shaking with fright in a way she'd never seen a cat behave before. She heard the distinctly fat baritone 'meow' of Giorgio and he strolled into the room, flanked on either side by several of the other cats she shared her home with.
The moment Giorgio entered the bedroom, Rags immediately began desperately clawing at Selina's leg, trying to climb the slick black vinyl/Kevlar blend. His claws found very little purchase, but through sheer determination, he got up enough momentum to hurl himself at her torso. She caught him and held him tightly, stunned by just how much his tiny, skinny body was shivering. His eyes darted to each of the approaching cats in turn and sheer dread was clear in every inch of his tightly coiled frame. One of his ears was tattered and a fresh scratch adorned his face, oozing enough blood to be upsetting, but not enough that the gash would require stitches.
Selina soothed Rags and cast a disapproving glance at Giorgio. "Bruiser."
He flicked his bottlebrush tail as if to respond, Yes, and?
They'd had this discussion before. Giorgio was a bit of a bully, especially when it came to newcomers to Selina's lair, but he usually only swatted the new kids around a bit to assert his dominance and never, never had she seen the cats rise up as one to harass her latest companion. What about this scrawny, unkempt cat had her normally docile family of strays in such a tizzy? Surely he hadn't started anything; not with him being as terrified as he was now.
The alarm clock that sat on the bedside table rang suddenly, reminding Selina that it was time for Catwoman to get on the job already, chop, chop, time's a'wastin'.
She looked down at Rags, then at the other cats and made a snap decision she knew she was going to regret. She gingerly set Rags down amongst the blueprints and tugged her mask on, tucking her hair into it with great care, her eyes never leaving her cats. She then picked up Rags and encouraged him to wrap himself around her shoulders like a ratty mink stole. He clamped onto her so tightly that his tail wrapped itself around her head and tickled her nostrils.
She couldn't very well leave him alone with Giorgio and his gang. She'd come back to find him mortally wounded—or at the very least, cowering in a corner in need of kitty-therapy.
But he wasn't trained for going on jobs, either…
With a wary backwards glance, Catwoman opened her bedroom window and slipped outside onto the ledge, climbing carefully up to the rooftop. The night air helped clear her head a little as she leapt from roof to roof, Rags hanging onto her for dear life.
Now, who could she trust to cat-sit for a few hours?
"A kitty!" Harley squealed, scooping the beleaguered, bewildered Rags into her arms. "Oh, he's ador—"
She held him up in front of herself and looked at him critically. "He's not very cute, is he?"
Selina started to question her decision more so than she had before she actually found herself knocking at Harley Quinn's door. And that was a lot. She and Harley were on…relatively friendly terms, their messy, mingled pasts aside—after all, the dippy blonde could hardly help it that she was as crazy as she was—but maybe she wasn't going to be that great of a babysitter…
Harley shrugged and hugged the cat to her chest. He turned wide, pleading eyes on Selina that she could have sworn were horrified. "Oh, I don't care. He's a kitty and he's cute by default, even if he looks like he's been through a Chinese laundry."
"It's only for a couple of hours," Selina reminded, "can you handle that?"
"Ha, is Bismarck a herring?" Harley rolled her eyes. "'Course I can. It's a cinch!"
Selina was not the least bit comforted. The cat seemed even less so and meowed with profound unhappiness as Catwoman started slinking back into the shadows.
"What's your name, pussycat? Huh?" Harley cooed, snuggling with the increasingly anxious animal. He thrashed about, trying to dislodge himself from Harley's smothering embrace, but she was too strong for him.
Catwoman fought down the urge to snatch the cat and take her chances with him in tow on the heist, but she was more practical than that. Besides, it was only a couple of hours. A hundred twenty measly minutes—a hundred eighty, tops. He'd be fine. At least he wouldn't have to deal with Giorgio and his posse…
"His name is Rags," Catwoman answered as she disappeared into the night, hoping against hope that she'd done the right thing.
"Rags? Blech!" Harley exclaimed in disgust, making a face. She brought Rags up so that they were nose to nose and wiggled him back and forth. "You don't have to have that nasty old name anymore, kitty-cat. I'm gonna give you a better one. How 'bout…Tawny? Like the tawny, scrawny lion?"
Rags declined comment.
"Or…or…" Harley frowned. "Chester! You look like a Chester to me. Yeah!"
She hugged Rags-Now-Chester again. He meowed in distress and kicked out at Harley, a last ditch effort to get the hell away from the madwoman. He failed and she squeezed him tighter, turning to go back inside the hideout.
"BABIES!" she screeched at the top of her lungs, slamming the door behind her. "Come meet your new brother!"
"And that's what happened," Harley finished, sniffing slightly. 'Chester' sat in the circle of her arms, too exhausted to do much other than breathe. He'd been bundled up in Sesame Street band-aids, Oscar the Grouch plastered across his nose and Bert and Ernie covering his right ear, bringing his grand total of injuries to a whopping four. "I don't understand it, Red. Bud and Lou are usually so sweet."
"Maybe they mistook that bag of bones for a chew toy," Poison Ivy responded, eying the cat dispassionately.
"Mistah J. said I can't keep him anyway," Harley said with a sigh, "but I promised Catwoman…"
Ivy knew exactly where this was heading and she didn't like it. Not. One. Bit.
"Will you watch him?" Harley looked at her friend, turning on the doe-eyes as expertly as a child actress would.
"It'll only be for an hour or two," Harley continued pleadingly, "and he's such a good kitty. Quiet as a mouse and you'll hardly notice him at all. I mean, lookit him, he's so skinny, he hardly takes up any space!"
She held him up to demonstrate his leanness and 'Chester' endured the humiliation of being inspected like a side of beef with an air of resignation. "Pleeeeeeeease, Red?"
Ivy sighed the sigh that always accompanied going along with one of Harley's crazy schemes and held her arms out to receive the increasingly grungy cat. Harley grinned from ear to ear and threw her arms around both Ivy and Chester. "You're the best, Red! Just the best!"
The blonde pulled away and bounced right out the door, tossing carelessly over her shoulder, "Take care, Red! I gotta go! Be a good kitty, Chester!"
Ivy stared at Chester. He stared right back. Neither party seemed to like the other very much, purely on instinct.
Roughly thirty seconds after she was sure Harley was out of earshot, Ivy walked to one of the boarded up windows in her lair, creeping ivy vines following her like faithful puppies the whole way. Half a dozen of the meaty vines pulled the plywood away from the window for her, while still another dozen relieved her of the burden of the cat, holding it immobile until the window was open. They wrapped tightly around his bony little body, giving him a particularly mean squeeze or two just out of spite.
"So long, furball." Ivy wiggled her fingers in an arrogant goodbye wave as the vines tossed Chester right out the second floor window.
With a sproingy thump, the cat came to a halt on a decaying awning below, miraculously without breaking a single bone and furthermore, landing squarely on his feet. This surprised the cat almost as much as the man passing beneath the awning.
"Good heavens," Jervis Tetch exclaimed in wonder, sweeping off his hat for a better look, "would you look at that? It's raining cats. How absurd!"
Rags-or-Chester looked over the edge of the green and ivory awning and if one were to attribute human traits to a feline expression, one might see the thought, Oh, you have got to be kidding me, flashing across his face.
"Here, kitty, kitty, kitty," Tetch ventured, holding his arms wide to await the cat leaping into them.
The cat glanced heavenward, as though expecting laughter from the sky at his expense and then looked back at Tetch. In what could have been the equivalent of a shrug, he accepted his fate and jumped. Tetch caught him deftly and proceeded to pet him adoringly.
"Oh, this is jolly good. Frabjabulous day! I've always wanted a Cheshire Puss." Jervis tucked the animal into his coat as rain began drizzling down and placed his hat back on his head. "Tell me, Puss, do you enjoy board games?"
Of all the things Batgirl was expecting to see in the lair of the Mad Hatter, finding the supervillain engrossed in a game of chess with a cat wasn't one of them. Maybe it should have been, but for some reason, she'd never planned ahead for this particular event. She didn't exactly lie awake nights concocting Batgirl vs. Villain scenarios that went so far as to include insanity of Jervis Tetch's degree..
"Be with you in a minute," Tetch said carelessly, waving the vigilante off, "he has me in check."
Batgirl blinked. She'd come here to arrest the man, but this threw her off her mission just long enough for the game to continue. When faced with something so blatantly illogical, a logical mind like hers had to have a second or two to catch up. In the meantime, Tetch let out a triumphant sound and moved his remaining knight. "Your move, Puss."
The cat considered--the cat considered?—and then the scruffy animal patted at one of the chess pieces until it occupied another space on the board.
The Mad Hatter's expression morphed instantly from smugness to distress and he wailed, "Checkmate? Checkmate?!"
Batgirl blinked again and wondered idly if her eyes had gone crazy. Surely she couldn't be seeing what she was seeing…right? One of Gotham's most fearsome villains playing chess with a cat, okay, she could buy that if she absolutely had to; but the cat playing back? That…that would just be crazy.
But no, no, the Hatter slumped in his chair, his face in his hands and the cat looked on, disinterested. It yawned and swept its tail over the tabletop, knocking all the captured pieces aside. They clattered noisily as they hit the floor and Tetch's head snapped up, his demeanor instantly altered. His gaze slid over the scattered chessmen and his face contorted with rage.
"Adding insult to injury?" he angrily shouted, lunging for the defenseless creature seated opposite him. "Beating my army on the field of battle isn't enough, you must finish off the wounded and imprisoned?!"
Her senses finally returned with Tetch's show of violence, Batgirl struck, tackling the small man and dragging him to the ground. She cuffed the Mad Hatter with ease, thus saving the grubby cat from being throttled within an inch of its life. She shook off the idea that the cat had actually been playing chess and chalked it up to the fact that Jervis Tetch lived up to his chosen villainous moniker a little bit too well. He was just crazy and the cat was just…being a cat. Sure. Cats liked to swat at things and make them move; why not a chess piece?
With the Mad Hatter detained, Batgirl turned her attention to his disheveled companion. The cat looked up at her dully, as though this entire affair was terribly boring and leapt from his chair to her shoulder. She looked at him curiously, one eyebrow lifted. "And just who gave you permission to hitchhike?"
Not being a cat herself, Batgirl couldn't successfully translate the cat's fatigued meow. She just shrugged, allowing the cat to keep his place, and tugged the Hatter up off the ground as he howled about the ugly, ugly atrocities of war and how the white queen was now a widow, poor thing, poor thing.
"They'll never believe me," she muttered under her breath. "Not that I can tell anyone, but if I could, they'd never, ever believe me."
Outside Arkham Asylum, Detective Harvey Bullock stood in the drizzle, his trench coat hanging limply on his massive frame. His enormous belly overhung his belt by a good three inches and his jowls jiggled as he chewed at the stump of his cigar. It was a downright miserable night in Gotham City, the sort of night that would result in lots of suicides being reported. Thunderstorms in Gotham always felt like earth shattering events, the air alive with electric current and a sense of danger. A constant sprinkling of spitting rain, on the other hand, was just depressing.
"What's with the cat?" he asked, taking the Mad Hatter into custody while warily eying the young, redheaded vigilante. He immediately handed the psychopath over to the Arkham guards who were waiting to collect him—the presence of a police officer was merely a formality when it came to receiving the crazies at Arkham and tonight, Harvey had drawn the short straw.
"He belongs to Tetch, I think," Batgirl replied, peeling the cat off her shoulders and handing him to the detective.
"Whatcha givin' him ta me for?" Bullock asked, clumsily hanging onto the animal the way someone with only a stump of an arm might try to hang onto a bag of potatoes. It occurred to Batgirl that under absolutely no circumstances should Harvey Bullock ever be handed a baby to hold. Ever.
"He's evidence," she answered with a smirk.
"Evidence?" he said with disbelief.
"Yup." Batgirl climbed aboard her Bat-cycle and revved the engine. "Just don't leave him in some evidence locker to suffocate."
Harvey Bullock's apartment was nothing spectacular. It was kind of a dive, honestly—a place that could charitably be called a hole in the wall—but he hardly spent any time there, so it didn't really matter. He entered, didn't bother to wipe his feet on the doormat which proclaimed, "Beat it!" and dribbled rain water all the way over to the ratty burgundy recliner that was his sole piece of real living room furniture. It had been repaired with duct tape at least four times, but that didn't matter either. It was for sitting in, not looking at, after all.
He unceremoniously dropped the cat on the chair and tossed his keys on the TV tray that served as an end table. He muttered curses as he stripped out of his coat and tossed it in the general direction of the coat rack by the front door. It landed three feet short of its target but Bullock didn't bother to go pick it up. "Sassafrassinfrickin…take the cat home, Harvey, she says. Animal control can't pick him up until Monday, she says."
Harvey took off his hat. "Suppose you eat things, cat?"
The cat meowed loudly.
For a split second, Harvey thought maybe, just maybe the cat had answered him, but then he shook it off. "Just a dumb cat. You'd probably meow if I asked if you wanna get put to sleep, so long as I emphasize the question mark just right, right?"
The cat remained silent.
The detective loosened his tie. "All right, so maybe you're not as dumb as you look." He started for the tiny kitchen adjacent to the equally tiny living room—actually, not so much adjacent as it was a part of the living room that happened to have linoleum instead of carpeting. He opened the refrigerator. "What do cats eat, anyways? Milk, ain't it?"
Harvey dared to pick up a carton of milk, opened the spout and gave it a sniff. He recoiled, his eyes watering, but rather than pouring out the rancid stuff, he just put the carton back in the fridge. He looked back at the cat, who was watching him with interest. "I've gotten attached to it," he explained unnecessarily. "Kinda got used to it bein' there, I guess."
The cat offered no comment.
"Milk's out, cat. How 'bout a beer?" The cat answered with a vehement meow and if he wasn't terribly mistaken, the meow sounded…grateful. Harvey's upper lip twisted into a wry smirk. "We might get along after all."
Harvey pulled a beer from the fridge, shoved the cap underneath one of the kitchen drawer pulls and gave a sharp yank. The cap popped off, spilling at least a sixth of the foamy brew on the discolored linoleum. The cat leapt down from the recliner and crossed the room, cautiously approaching the spill. It looked at the spill, then up at Harvey, and it flicked its tail rather than lapping up the puddle of beer.
"Wassamatter?" Harvey asked, taking a swig from his bottle. The cat looked at the wet floor, then at Bullock's bottle and sprang, climbing up the detective's baggy pant leg, scrambling up his shirt before finally coming to a stop and perching on his broad shoulders. The cat leaned over and sniffed at the mouth of the bottle and Bullock chuckled. He grabbed a dishtowel off the counter and dropped it on the floor, mopping up the puddle with his foot, while reaching for a shallow bowl in the dish rack. He poured a portion of his drink in it and set the stoneware dish on the floor.
The cat was much more amenable to this arrangement and hopped down off Harvey's shoulder when he bent down. Immediately, he began lapping at the beer and Harvey wondered idly just how much it would take to get a cat drunk. He spent a good thirty seconds trying to figure what five percent alcohol would do to something that only weighed ten pounds, tops. When he realized figuring such a thing would require math, he decided it wasn't worth the effort.
With his new furry buddy happily sucking down a cat-sized portion of National Bohemian, Harvey scoured the kitchen for something solid to feed him. Given the fact that most of Harvey's meals were eaten either on the job in his car or in greasy diners, the cupboards were rather bare. But, there was a single donut left from a dozen and he dropped that on a saucer, along with half a leftover hamburger patty and a handful of stale crinkle-cut potato chips. He set the plate down carefully and filled another bowl with water, adding that to the makeshift floor buffet.
"That should hold ya," Harvey said with evident self-satisfaction, wiping his hands on his shirt. The cat abandoned the beer and dove for the hamburger patty, chomping down on it greedily. Once it tore the hamburger apart, it started licking the salt from the chips and the honey glaze from the donut, dipping its face into the water bowl periodically and occasionally taking a lap of the beer in between bites. Bullock leaned against the counter and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Yeah, we're gonna get along just fine."
Harvey Bullock awoke in his recliner the next morning with a lapful of slumbering cat. He'd passed out after ordering a pizza and watching some late-night made-for-TV action movie the name of which he hadn't bothered to catch. He wiped the drool from his chin, scrubbing his hand over the stubble that had gathered since the last time he'd shaved—three days earlier—and yawned widely. He ruffled the scruffy cat's fur, garnering a purr from the sleeping feline before he shoved him off into the floor.
"Scram, cat. Gotta drain the lizard."
The cat yawned and stretched as Harvey shambled to the bathroom and went about investigating his surroundings while the detective was otherwise occupied. It was uniformly dull, as far as apartments went, if one didn't count the world's largest dust bunnies lurking under the TV set.
Harvey returned and quirked a brow at the sight of the cat patting at one of the Monster Dust Bunnies.
"I think I kinda like ya, cat," Bullock admitted, giving the animal a pat on the head that might have qualified as affectionate, provided anyone could bring themselves to believe that Bullock actually had the ability to feel affection.
BANG, BANG, BANG!
Bullock swiveled toward the front door and stomped over to it, not even bothering to look through the peephole. "If it's about the rent, I'm paid up!" he shouted. "Through September!"
A woman's voice came through the door, "Excuse me, Detective Bullock? I…believe you have my cat?"
Unconsciously, Bullock ran a hand through his greasy hair and straightened his shirt a little before opening the door. Sure, he was a self-proclaimed slob, but still. A brunette who looked vaguely familiar stood on the stoop and looked at him expectantly. She was only five foot two, and Bullock virtually towered over her even though he wasn't a terribly tall man by any measure. He knew he knew her face, but he couldn't place from where.
"Yeah. He…ran off a few days ago." She smiled genuinely, the expression causing her whole face to light up.
"He doesn't have a collar," Bullock replied suspiciously. It was pretty early, but he was still a detective. How did someone track a cat he'd only had for twelve hours? A cat who'd been brought in with the Mad Hatter?
"He's a skinny, sandy cat with blue eyes?" she ventured hopefully. "His name is Rags."
Bounding feet sounded and the animal that Bullock had already simply dubbed 'Cat' in his head practically flew at the young woman, climbing her jeans like a tiny, furry mountaineer might.
"Rags!" she exclaimed, hugging him to her chest. "I was so worried about you!"
Bullock felt a momentary pang of disappointment, but he ignored it. It's not as though he expected to keep the dumb animal anyhow. After all, he was only going to keep him until animal control could take him.
"I can't thank you enough, Detective Bullock," the young woman said sincerely, reaching for Bullock and wrapping an arm around his neck. She pecked him on one rough, stubbly cheek, causing him to blush terribly. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for taking care of my kitty."
Al descended the steps down from Harvey Bullock's front door and started down the nearest alleyway where the Enterprise was parked. Halfway down the alley, she stopped and looked around herself and when she was satisfied she was alone, she grabbed the scrawny beige cat by the scruff of the neck and held him in front of herself.
"You are in such trouble, Mister. You were supposed to stay with Catwoman while we worked to find a cure. Instead, I've spent the past thirty-six hours chasing your tail all over Gotham! Anything could have happened to you! I was so worried!" She only barely kept herself from shaking him senseless. "Don't you ever run off like that again, Squishy!"