Selina was enjoying a cup of tea and reading the paper while Dick worked through his math problems. She noticed him looking over at her for a few seconds before turning back to his homework. After solving a few problems, he looked over at her again. After the pattern had repeated itself half a dozen times, she put the paper down and moved over next to him

"Got a question, Dick?" she asked. "It's been awhile since I had to solve any story problems, but let's see if I can remember how to do them."

"No," Dick answered. "It's not that. These are pretty easy. I was just thinking about something."

"Anything I can help with?" she offered.

He started to say something, stopped, and then blurted out, "Are you going to be my new mom?"

*****************

Bruce leaned against the edge of his desk and listened thoughtfully as Selina recounted her conversation with Dick. "What did you tell him?" he asked.

"I didn't really know what to say," Selina said. "I just told him that I'd be there for him as long as he wanted me to be, but I didn't know if they'd let me be his mom."

"If it was all up to you, what would you want the answer to be?"

"I've been asking myself that question ever since I woke up here in the Manor," she admitted. "On the one hand, I've always liked being independent, nobody depending on me but me. Being responsible for a child would certainly change that. Besides, there's no way Catwoman could continue to prowl at night, even without the stealing, if there was a child waiting at home. On the other hand ..."

"On the other hand," Bruce finished for her, "Having watched his parents die and having looked into his eyes, there's no way you can just walk away. You can't leave him alone the way you were when your parents died."

Selina nodded before adding, "Besides, I promised him. I told him he wouldn't be alone. I may have been a thief, but I have never gone back on my word. But what happens after Zucco's trial?"

Bruce didn't say anything for a moment. Then he spoke softly. "Hold that thought for a bit," Bruce said. "First, I want you to tell me something. You just said, 'I may have been a thief.' Past tense. Did you mean to do that?"

Selina looked at him in amazement for a moment, and then she said sarcastically, "Silly me! Here I thought we were talking about Dick and how to take care of him, and instead, you have to latch on to a new reason to play America's favorite game show, 'Let's Reform a Rogue'!"

At this point, she leaned forward in her chair, eyes narrowed, and she hissed, "Just to set the record straight, MISTER Wayne, this ISN'T about me! This has NEVER been about me! Haven't you listened to a single word I've said in ANY conversation between us since that night at the circus?"

Bruce waited for her to finish before asking, "Are you quite through?" She didn't answer him and her expression didn't soften, but she did lean back in the chair. "Apparently so," he said. "In answer to your question, yes, I have listened to every single word you've said. More importantly, though, I've watched your behavior change. A year ago, I never would've asked if you had left stealing behind. But you're not the same person you were a year ago. The night we spoke at your apartment, you told me that the Kane Diamond wasn't the only theft you had decided against because Dick needed you more. After you discovered that I'm Batman, you said you were committed to staying here with him until after Zucco's trial, but you never came right out and said you'd never steal again.

Bruce softened the tone of his voice as he continued. "There are different options available to make sure Dick is safe and well-cared for," he said, "But given the role that you're playing in Dick's life now, what those options are depends on whether or not the change you've made is permanent. If there is even a slim chance that, once things get back to 'normal', you might one day return to that old life, then some of those options aren't going to be in his best interest. Now, just so we're clear, and there is no ambiguity, are you telling me that you are prepared to commit to leaving the criminal life behind for good? That's what it has looked like, but I need to hear it from you."

Selina sighed. "I guess I thought it was obvious by now. Yes, of course."

Bruce sat back behind his desk, reached for the telephone and dialed a number.

"Could I speak to Rachel Green?" he asked. "This is Bruce Wayne calling." He noticed the puzzled look on Selina's face. "My lawyer," he mouthed.

"Hi, Rachel, sorry to disturb you," he said. "What does your schedule look like this week? ... No, it's nothing you have to drop everything for. Finish your deposition as scheduled. Maybe you could come out to the Manor the day after tomorrow? ... I've got a friend who has a sensitive matter she needs assistance with, and I'd personally be grateful if you could help her out. ... 2:00 is good. See you then!"

After he hung up, Selina tilted her head and asked quizzically, "Um, why is your lawyer coming here?"

"You were right, Selina," he answered. "You've been right from the beginning about Dick needing something better than the Gotham Youth Home, and you were right when you said that you've done many things but you've never lied to me. So I'm taking you at your word. Once Zucco's trial is over, in order for you to continue to care for Dick, you're going to need to have your legal ducks in a row. Rachel's good at that, and you can trust her."

"But why are you doing all this? I mean, taking me into your home, that I understood because it was about protecting Dick. But getting your lawyer involved is much more than that. You have the resources that you could apply to be Dick's guardian if you wanted to. You don't have to go to bat for me to help him. So why are you?"

Bruce got up and turned to look out the window. "Dick has something special with you," he said. "You aren't in his life because you were expected to be there. You chose to be there, and that's good for him."

He turned back around and continued, "And it's been suggested to me that I don't trust people enough, that I use the secret identity as an excuse not to trust people. Well, with you, that particular cat is out of the bag, no pun intended. So I'm taking that as a sign. I choose to trust you."

*****************

The next day was much like the others. Alfred noticed, however, that Selina seemed a bit distracted. He brought her some tea while she sat in the garden with a book, but when he returned an hour later, the tea hadn't been touched, and her book was on the table next to her while she gazed, deep in thought, at the far trees that marked the end of the garden.

"Was the tea not to your liking, Miss?" he inquired.

"Hmm? No, it was fine," she said, reaching out and taking a sip before setting it back down. "I think I'm going to go for a walk."

Selina's thoughts were a bit jumbled by the events of the previous day as well as by the anticipation of what was to come the next day. Was she to be a mother, a big sister, a friend, a guardian? And what of her former life? Although she didn't have any regrets about her commitment to leave stealing behind, she also didn't have any ready answers about what she would be if not the world's pre-eminent cat burglar. Her musings had reached no conclusions by the time Alfred announced that dinner was being served.

After dinner, Dick was in his room and Selina settled in front of the TV.

"Later tonight on the Gotham Eyewitness News Late Edition," the anchor announced breathlessly, "we'll have the latest updates on the hunt for Tony Zucco, the mob boss who made a daring escape this afternoon while being transported back to jail after an appearance at the Gotham County Courthouse."

She turned the TV off and moved swiftly to her bedroom. From the bottom drawer of her dresser, she retrieved the uniform she had been wearing when she was shot, which had since been mended, washed, pressed, and folded. Grabbing it, she hurried to the kitchen where she knew Alfred would be.

Alfred saw the uniform in her hand and said, "Miss Selina, I thought you were going to remain here safety's sake until after the trial"

"Change in plans, Alfred," she said. "Zucco's loose."

"Oh, my word," Alfred replied. "What are you going to do?"

Instead of answering him, she turned and, as she was leaving, said, "If Dick asks, tell him I had to go into town with Bruce and I'll be back later."

When she reached the Batcave, Bruce was already attired in cape and cowl. "Wait for me. It'll just take me a second to suit up."

"You heard" he said.

"So did you," she answered back, pointing toward the TV monitor which was frozen on an image of Tony Zucco.

"Let me handle this," he said. "Stay here with Dick."

"Not a chance," she snapped. "Now do you really want to waste time on an argument you're going to lose?

*****************

"I'm a little surprised you waited for me," she said as she came out of the vault, coiling her whip and affixing it to her belt.

"You seemed determined to come," he replied, "And there's a garage full of cars. Even if I had time to change all the locks, it wasn't going to stop you."

She followed him to the Batmobile and buckled in just in time for the sudden acceleration to throw her back into her seat. She watched the trees fly by in silence until they reached the main road and headed toward Gotham.

"So where are we going?" she asked.

In response he handed her a printout of hideouts Zucco had been known to use in the past. She raised her eyebrows as she saw that half of them had a "B" next to them and half of them had a "C".

"You know I was going to come?" she asked. "Why didn't you just tell me firsthand so I didn't have to hear about it on the news?"

"I didn't know," he answered. "But I knew it was a possibility. I prepared for that contingency."

He then handed her a small earpiece and an even smaller throat mike.

"Work through the places marked C from top to bottom. Use the mike to stay in touch," he said.

She bristled, "I've never needed you to cover me on the streets before, and I don't see why --"

"It's not for you," he interrupted. "It's for Dick. So far he's handled the death of the two people closest to him in the world about as well as can be expected. If something happens to you now, though, he might never recover. Think of it as a safety net you probably won't need but you should have anyway just in case."

She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment before placing the earpiece and mike in position.

*****************

The next two hours flew by as Batman and Catwoman methodically worked their way through the list. One by one, they were all crossed off until he swung toward the warehouse on the docks where she had been shot by Zucco before while she approached a midtown loft.

A quick survey of the warehouse indicated that there was nobody around except for the guard sleeping in the office. Activating the mike, he said, "Nothing here. Joining you at midtown shortly."

"Take your time," she answered back. "It doesn't look -- wait a minute! Jackpot! He's got the windows covered, but one of the curtains drooped enough to see in. The sonuvabitch is packing a suitcase!"

"Wait for me," Batman barked.

"No way I'm giving him a chance to get away," she hissed. "I'll try to leave a big enough piece for you to identify."

*****************

Tony Zucco snapped the suitcase shut and set it by the door. Then he went to a framed picture and pulled it away from the wall to reveal a hidden safe. He spun the dial to unlock it and had just reached in when there was a whirring sound and his wrist was jerked away.

"What the - ?" He looked up to see Catwoman holding the other end of the whip that was wrapped around his wrist.

"Hello again, Zucco," she said.

"You?!" he spat. "I knew I should've taken care of you!" He reached with his free hand toward a gun sitting on the bed, but a quick yank on the whip pulled him away from the weapon.

Catwoman grabbed him by the back of his collar and threw him onto the floor where a well-positioned boot held him in place. "We've been through that already, remember?" she hissed. "Nobody gets a second shot at me."

She swiftly tied his arms behind him and pushed him into a chair before picking up the gun from the bed. She held the gun by the barrel, lifted it in the air, and said, "As I recall, that's the position I was in when one of your goons hit me over the head. Let's see how hard your head is, shall we?"

As the butt began to descend, Zucco closed his eyes and cowered in anticipation of the blow. However, the blow never landed. He opened his eyes to see Catwoman still holding the gun, but now holding it by the handle and lining him up with the barrel.

"On the other hand," she said, "You had other plans, didn't you? It wasn't enough to put my lights out. You had the boy tied up, too, didn't you? Only you weren't headed to the warehouse to hit him with the gun. There he was, a defenseless child. You had already stolen his parents from him, but that wasn't enough. Would you like to see what it's like to be on the receiving end of what you had planned for him?"

She pulled the hammer back and fired a shot two inches about his left shoulder. "Oops, I missed," she said.

"That's enough," came a voice from the window as Batman entered the room.

"She's crazy!" Zucco screeched. "Do something!"

"Put the gun down," Batman said gently but firmly. "He doesn't deserve this."

"What?!" she snapped. "After what he did to the Graysons? He deserves this and a hell of a lot more!"

"Look, I'm sorry about the kid losing his folks," Zucco babbled. "They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. You know how the protection works. It wasn't anything personal against them!"

"He admits it!" Catwoman exclaimed. "And you still don't think he doesn't deserve this?!"

"I wasn't talking about Zucco," Batman replied. "I was talking about Dick. He's lost his parents already. He doesn't deserve to lose you, too."

After a moment she handed him the gun. "But we can't stop Zucco from talking. What's to keep him from hiring somebody to go after Dick, even from behind bars?"

The mobster realized that his moment of mortal danger was passed and said, "I'm sure we can work something out. I mean, it's not like they've got anything on me except your word."

"Wrong, Zucco," Batman replied. He pulled a small recording device from his belt, and pressed a small button. The confidence on Zucco's face dissolved as he heard his own voice.

"Look, I'm sorry about the kid losing his folks. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. You know how the protection works. It wasn't anything personal against them!"

"Okay, okay, so you got a recording," Zucco said. "We can still make a deal. You let me go free, I get out of town, and I'm not here to do anything about the kid. A little quid pro quo."

"No deal," Batman growled.

"Wait a minute," Catwoman said. "You were expanding your protection rackets, weren't you?"

"My insurance interests were growing," Zucco acknowledged. "Sign of a successful businessman."

"But your growth means somebody else takes a loss," she replied. "If Penguin knew you were horning in on his turf, you wouldn't be here for us to have this conversation, would you?"

Zucco's face turned white and he looked over at Batman in an unspoken appeal for help.

Catwoman leaned forward to place a claw under his chin, redirecting his face toward her. "Uh uh, Tony," she admonished him, "he's not the one you should be paying attention to tonight," and she pressed the claw a little harder into his skin for emphasis. "Here's the deal: you're not going anywhere but back to jail, where you'll keep your mouth shut. And your quid pro quo? Penguin doesn't know what you were doing, and, as long as nobody goes after Dick Grayson, then he won't hear about it from me."

*****************

"Here you are, Miss Kyle," Rachel Green said. "The custody papers are final. The judge said it was rather unusual, seeing as you're a single woman and you're not related to Dick in any way. But it helped that you'll be able to understand what it's like for a child to lose their parents. And having a prominent citizen like Bruce Wayne vouch for you never hurts."

Selina smiled as she looked over the documents and then she said, "Thank you so much, Miss Green. I wasn't sure the court was going to be okay with Dick and me living here at Wayne Manor."

"In a lot of cases, that might be an issue," Rachel replied. "But given the unique circumstances of Dick losing his parents, the higher level of security at the Manor worked in our favor. And it's not like you and Bruce are 'living together' in the normal sense."

"Oh, no," Selina hurriedly replied. "No, we're just friends. At any rate, I can't thank you enough."

Rachel rose to leave and said, "Well, if you can pry the secret of that chateaubriand out of Alfred, we'll call it even."

*****************

The dedication of the Martha Wayne Memorial Youth Sports Complex was a festive occasion. The mayor gave a speech. Members of the Gotham Knights were on hand to sign autographs. Even the cheerleaders from Gotham State University were there. But the major event was the Little League baseball game between the team from the Gotham County Youth Home and the team sponsored by Wayne Enterprises.

As Bruce, Selina, and Dick walked to the diamond, they passed the bus where the team from the Youth Home was getting off. One of the players looked vaguely familiar to Selina. The kid saw Dick and called out, "Look, everyone, it's circus boy!"

Selina felt Dick grip her hand tighter and heard him mutter "Nate" under his breath. She felt herself tense up as she remembered what she saw that night she had checked on Dick at the Youth Home.

Having failed to get a response, Nate continued, "Hey, circus boy, what makes you think freaks can play baseball?"

Selina started to turn toward the boy, but Bruce gripped her arm. "Just ignore it."

"But that's the boy who was bullying Dick!" she hissed.

"That doesn't matter," Bruce said. "If you give him the satisfaction of getting a reaction, then he wins."

Selina muttered something under her breath, leaned down, kissed Dick on the cheek, and said "Go get 'em kiddo.", Dick headed for the field and Bruce and Selina found seats. When Nate took the mound for the Youth Home to warm-up, she just leaned back and glared.

In the second inning, Dick came to bat. The first pitch came in high and inside, sending him ducking. Selina started to rise up, but Bruce put his hand on her arm. "Look, the umpire is warning him. It'll be fine."

As Nate prepared to throw the next pitch, they saw Dick's lips mouth something. Bruce grinned and it turned into a full-fledged smile as Dick sent the next pitch high over the left field wall.

After cheering as Dick rounded the bases, Selina turned to Bruce and said, "What were you grinning about before he hit the ball? Didn't you see what that brat from the Youth Home tried to do?"

Bruce nodded, still smiling, and said, "I did. But I also read Dick's lips, and I know what he said."

"What was that?" she asked.

Bruce leaned back. "He said, 'Freak this.'"