Disclaimer: The characters and concepts in this story are the property of DC Comics and their affiliates. This is an amateur writing effort meant for entertainment purposes only.

Summary: Barbara Gordon witnesses the breaking of Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, and she tries to put the pieces back together again. AU. One-shot.

Rating: K+ for violence and mild language.

Warning: There be spoilers ahead for The Dark Knight Rises. Takes place during and after Batman's fight with Bane.

Author's Notes: I have been looking for a way to write Barbara Gordon/Batgirl into the Nolanverse since Batman Begins, and I think The Dark Knight Rises had everything the character needed to flourish...except that the character would have just been entering her teen years according to the film's chronology. Hence, I upped her age to something a little more plausible for a costumed vigilante, rearranged of TDKR a little, et voila! This was supposed to be a short one-shot. I don't know what happened.

Constructive criticism is always appreciated! Flames will be used for roasting metaphorical marshmallows to make metaphorical s'mores. Mmmm...s'mores...


The Bat in Each Other

Barbara Gordon has never had her ass so completely handed to her in a fight before.

Okay, that's not totally true. Dinah has used her to clean the dojo floors a couple of times, but Babs wouldn't call those 'ass kickings'. That's sparring, not brawling, so they always end up holding back just enough to not seriously injure one another. Or at least Dinah does. She'd be the only one in their melees that would need too, because while Babs is good, she's not Dinah-Lance-good.

Apparently, she's not Catwoman-good either. Even with the element of surprise and a few well-placed blows of her own, Barbara still ends up on the ground. Blood's starting to pool in the back of her mouth from a busted lip and a battered nose, while the scratches on her biceps – because, duh, Catwoman's got claws - sting so sharply they make the tears in Barb's eyes fall. All that fighting spirit, all that undirected anguish has slackened and died, and for the first time ever, Barbara doesn't have any energy to keep going. The only thing left is the black hole in her chest, but even the gravity of that emptiness isn't enough to get her moving again.

And just in case it's not obvious enough that she's lost, just in case Babs misses that memo or clings to any kind of foolish hope that she might prevail, Catwoman brings a foot to rest firmly on the younger woman's sternum. The spike of a stiletto heel jabs at the space between Babs's ribs in a silent promise of penetration should the fight continue a moment longer.

"You've got a hell of a right hook," Catwoman kneels down to get a closer look at Barbara's face, allowing her heel to sink just a little bit deeper. "But your form's an absolute mess, Sweetheart. What's the matter? You having a bad day?"

For some reason, that comment hurts more than the heel against her heart does, and Barbara knees Catwoman in the back. The burglar somersaults over her head, giving Barbara enough time to barrel rool to the wall and hoist herself up to a standing position. She's got a spark now, a faint glimmer of something worth getting back up for, even though it feels like the rest of the world is crashing down and she should just go right along with it.

Barbara has to spit out a mouthful of blood before she can hiss, "How could you do that? How could you just trade his life like that?"

Catwoman's eye roll is audible even through the pounding in Barbara's ears. "Spare me the moral and ethical treatise," she struts through the darkness like a tiger approaching its prey and Barbara pulls herself to her full height so she can give the cat one last pounding before her life ends. "All your idealistic naiveté, how you wouldn't or couldn't have done it yourself."

"I couldn't have done it," Barbara says, the rage building in her again as Catwoman gets nearer.

"Please."

The claws come out again, but Barbara's recovered enough to defend. She swipes Catwoman's hand out of the way, catching the burglar's wrist as she does so, and kicks her squarely in the chest with all the force she can muster. Is that all you got, Cheerleader? Dinah chides in her head, and yes, damn it, that kick is all Barbara has left before Catwoman slams a fist against her face again, sending her head into the rock wall. Everything gets a little fuzzy for a few seconds, but every good cat knows how to get attention, and suddenly that stiletto is back, only this time it's digging into Barbara's neck. She finds Catwoman's face just inches from hers, feels the heat of breath on her cheek, and that emptiness in her chest reaches her shoulders, causing her to shake.

"Listen here, Bat Girl," Barbara grabs Catwoman's ankle only to feel that stiletto get a little closer to piercing her jugular, "You have a mean right hook and some decent form hidden under all that anger of yours, but all your ethics and morality, your devotion to a guy who dresses up like a giant bat is going to open up a world of pain for you. I did you a favour by getting rid of him."

Barbara's body quakes even more, because the sound of her heart pounding sounds an awful lot like the sound of bones breaking, and that scene plays over and over in her mind. She tries to stare a message into Catwoman's eyes, one that tells the thief everything from the moment that Batman first appeared to now, what could be his last minutes of life, how he saved everybody and was treated like a criminal because of it. For a second, Barbara thinks she sees a glimmer of recognition in Catwoman's eyes, maybe just a hint of bitterness and regret, because they both know that this isn't a favour, not in the slightest. But then it's gone.

"Now I could kill you, right here, right now," the tone in Catwoman's voice says she considered it with the same gravity and morality as killing an insect, "but I already did my one good deed for the day, so here's what's going to happen next..."

She lowers her leg, replacing the feeling of her heel with the feel of her fingers, claws scraping the flesh on Barbara's throat as she tightened her grip into a chokehold.

"...I'm going to let you go, and you're not going to follow me. You're going to go home to Daddy, and while you'd be smart to leave the city, you're probably going to put all those good morals and ethics into practice and you're going to stick around, hoping that mean right hook and all that anger will save you. There aren't many people who can lay a hand on me, so you'll probably make it at least a couple of months before Bane gets his hands on you."
Catwoman punctuates her sentence by kneeing Barbara in the gut before releasing her. The wind knocked clean out of her, Barbara falls to her hands and knees on the floor, trying and failing to inhale. She tries to focus on Catwoman, but her vision is only getting grayer and her head is only getting lighter the longer her diaphragm refuses to work.

Barbara feels a hand ruffle her hair condescendingly. "Don't let me know how it turns out," Catwoman says, and with a final flip of Barbara's hair, she sets off down the tunnel.


Miraculously, Barbara doesn't pass out. She gets quite close for a second, but just before her vision can darken completely, her diaphragm descends, her lungs expand, and she drinks in air like a dying woman. The tunnel is empty, of course, but Barbara's past the point of following Catwoman anyway. She'll hunt the tigress down on her own terms, and this time, there won't be any escape or mistakes.

She stands, still shaking, dizzy with grief because she's too destroyed to feel physical pain for the time being. The hollowness in her chest is the only injury she is aware of, but it doesn't feel unfamiliar. Barbara has felt it simmering beneath the surface, that emptiness, ever since Batman tackled Harvey Dent off the charred floor of the building, saving her family but facing the condemnation of an entire city. No, Barbara realizes, even before that, she's always felt like something was missing from her, like when God put her together he missed a vital piece of her anatomy. Or maybe it's just Gotham that makes people feel that way. Whatever the reason, she's spent her life trying to fill that space with everything from computers to ballet to martial arts, and each has felt like a step closer to being whole. But Gotham isn't a city for the whole, and Barbara always found herself hungry, starving to find out just what part of her, exactly, is missing.

Barbara doesn't give herself a chance to probe that any further. She can feel the tears coming upon her, the sobs climbing up her throat hot, hard, and heavy, and her whole body shakes with the renewed vigor of defeat. Still, she manages to get to the exit, but only by focusing every ounce of her not unimpressive intellect on walking instead of remembering.

She emerges into a quiet, peaceful Gotham, and the contrast of it with the chaos she just witnessed is enough to break her in two. It's sheer stubbornness holding her together now, to make her way from the tunnels to the narrow city streets where there's crowds to hide in, alleys to slip though, weapons to scavenge, and safe havens. Barbara whips her cell phone out of her pocket and thanks her lucky stars it wasn't destroyed by one of Catwoman's killer kicks, but her happiness is quickly overwhelmed by the realization that there's no one to call. Dad's not in any condition to hear about the Batman yet, and if the reflection in the shop windows is any indication, Dad's probably not ready to take a look at Barbara yet either, not while he's recovering and she very obviously lost a fight. The only other person she thinks about calling is Dinah, but even that's a dead end. Dinah's absconded with that new boyfriend of hers, Oliver, and the two have been MIA for over a week.

And that's about when everything starts pissing Barbara off. Everything. The people milling about on the sidewalks, promenading from shops to cars to home. The cars on the street trailing obliviously through Gotham. The chill in the air. The way the world seems to have tilted off its axis in the past couple of days. The way she can't seem to catch her breath and, try as she might, can't quell the urge to burst into tears. She's pissed off that there's no one she can call or turn to, that the people in her life who were helping to save the city are being stripped away from her, one by one. She's pissed off at herself for needing someone to call or turn to. She's pissed off at herself for getting too caught up in being pissed off to do something useful. How many minutes has it been, she asks herself, since Catwoman took off? More importantly, how many minutes has it been since Bane...?

The question never finishes itself in her mind. The memory is like Pandora's Box: open it up and chaos reigns. Barbara will lose herself entirely to the feelings of bitterness and anguish and emptiness. He's gone and she did nothing but pick a fistfight like a common criminal. He's broken and all she did was watch. Eight years ago she had an excuse for being useless, but now Barbara's all grown up, and every reason seems cheap and flimsy. She could have beaten Catwoman if she hadn't given in so easily to her own darkness. She could be tracking Bane right now instead of pacing in an alley. She could be doing something, anything else, but she's made all the wrong choices for all the wrong reasons, and there's nothing she can do now.

Her head hurts, and Barbara traces the source first to her numerous regrets about the night and the fear for Batman's life and then to a growing bump on the base of her scalp where her head hit the ground. And the wall. It's a perfect match to the welts on her cheeks from Catwoman's fist. The thought that she might be concussed – just a little – occurs to her and passes quickly, which Barbara takes as a pretty good indication that she might not be as fit for duty as she thought she was a few seconds ago. But that idea fades even faster than the first.

The only thoughts that do stay with her are the ones she doesn't want at the moment: there's the look in Catwoman's eye when she claims that killing Batman was a favour, a flicker of humanity that Barbara can't quite place; there's the sight of Batman's broken cowl. Her heartbeat echoes the explosion in the chamber, and Barbara feels herself coming apart, being torn asunder, because even though she closes her eyes and wishes very, very hard that this is all just a bad dream, she can still see Bane raise Batman overhead and knows exactly what comes next.

A sob tries to claw its way out of her throat, but Barbara won't let it. She slams a fist against a nearby dumpster once, twice, three times, four...willing herself to focus on everything she can do instead of all the useless things she's already done. But not even the fresh pain from fresh punches can keep her from looking back, and every new strike sounds like the Batman's pulse, sounds like the Batman's death rattle, sounds like the Batman's spine snapping in two.

It takes a black SUV to rouses Barbara from her reverie. The vehicle sidles up to the curb beside her and a driver immediately leaps out. Even though she's been bested once already, Barbara's pretty confident she can take down one very slight looking driver, and even if she can't, she refuses to run away from one of Bane's minions. That would give up the opportunity to interrogate his sorry ass, and then formulate a better plan than "Try to Beat the Living Hell out of the Bastard that Broke Batman" before going after Bane. She whips around, fists raised, but her arms are caught by Officer – er, Detective John Blake of the GCPD.

"Barbara! Barbara, it's me!"

She stops thrashing. Stops fighting. Feels the world slip back into place a little bit right before her eyes. Feels her knees start to buckle and her head start to reel because she doesn't have to save the world all by herself anymore. Barbara pulls Blake into a desperate hug, so fierce that it's possible she might crush his lithe frame in the process. She tries to crumple him up inside that vacant space of hers, feed him to the black hole so that she can feel anything but empty ever again. The blackness is already filled with one memory in particular though, and there's no room for Blake next to Bane and the Batman.

Blake doesn't complain, doesn't pull away. He hugs her right back...with a fraction of the intensity, of course. He's muttering all the sweet nothings he can think of into her ear, telling her it will be alright, everything's okay now, she's safe. Barbara doesn't believe him, but her body does, sagging even more heavily against him.

When a minute passes and Barbara still doesn't pull away, Blake breaks the silence. "We need to get you to the hospital, get you checked out."

"No," Barbara says. "No hospital, no police...Bane has Batman. Bane...hurt him. Badly. I don't know if he's dead or alive. I need you to get me to my computer. I need to track him down."

She returns to her full height and slips her arms away from Blake, but her legs don't like the sudden shift in weight and she stumbles back towards the young detective all over again. He holds her up with a strength she wouldn't have expected from someone so slight. Somehow, impossibly, everything feels even more wrong than it did just a moment ago. Signals are firing from her brain but her limbs aren't responding. Her fingers are tingling. Hold it together, Babs, she tells herself, because there's work to be done and only one person who can do it. Don't you dare pass out.

They stumble back to the vehicle together. Well, Barbara stumbles, and Blake staggers to compensate for her. When she's safely in the passenger seat – the lad's kind enough not to try and buckle the seatbelt for her, but he looks like he's thinking about it - Blake rushes back to the driver's seat and drives.


People forget that there's a man under there.

Barbara doesn't. She never has. The second footage of the Batman started appearing on television, she felt compelled to figure him out, to turn him into something real, tangible, instead of wraithlike and menacing. She stripped him of ideology, peered through his darkness, and saw that beneath the cape and cowl was a man, a flesh and blood man, one who hid behind his intelligence and resources. She empathized with the Batman's loneliness, his secrets. When he allowed himself to be blamed for Harvey Dent's crimes, Barbara didn't get to pretend that it was okay like her brother did. She knew better, she knows better, because she knows that Batman isn't just a costume, isn't just an idea.

So when she hears the gate close up ahead, when she hears Catwoman's dispassionate explanation and Batman's understatement of an observation, Barbara's heart bleeds anew. She peers around the corner to where Catwoman is standing, and the only thought she has is that she wishes the Batman really were more than a man. If he was a demi-God or a phantom, he could win by sheer will alone.

The fight quickly falls out of her line of sight, and Barbara instinctively retraces her steps through the tunnel for another point of access to the chamber. A single armed guard stands at the end of the new corridor, and Barbara takes him out with a chokehold and a well-placed punch to the kidney. He crumples, folds, and she drags him into the darkness, then takes his place at the wall of the cage to see the melee below. She knows, peripherally, that this is a terrible idea, because unless this battle ends well, Barbara will have to live with the sight of the Batman being defeated forever, eidetic memory and all. But she will not look away, will not retreat, because she has borne witness to his truth and will continue to do so. It's not like Catwoman or any of these thugs will do it for her.

Bane speaks like a philosopher, has the patience of several saints, has the restraint of a monk, which makes his brutality all the more frightening as a result. Bane is Batman's opposite. He is all man, all the flaws and imperfections honed into the perfect mind, the perfect body, the perfect weapon. Barbara's blood runs cold as she realizes that Bane might just be the best her species has to offer at whatever it is her species has to offer, but only if the cynics are correct.

When he's thrown into the water and goes still, Barbara has to pull her hand away from the grate. She's shaking now, muttering prayers under her breath, whispering to the Dark Knight to get the hell up, get on his feet. He rid the city of crime with a single sacrifice. He can't just lie there in the water, can't just give up and die now, not when there's a greater, more formidable force than the mad dog trickster and his tortured DA progeny. He can be a man when he gets home and takes the mask off, but for right now, he needs to be something bigger, better, stronger, at least more so than Bane.

"GET UP," she orders him, but fortunately or unfortunately, her words covered up by the explosion overhead. Barbara ducks down, hides her face against the stone and the grit, but she keeps her eyes trained on the Dark Knight's face, wanting to remember this moment, to hold it with her. He'll get up, she's convinced. Every story she's ever read, every library book she's ever shelved, every movie she's ever watched or video game she's ever played always has this moment: when the hero lies near-defeated, when the villain makes one final threat, only to see hope rewarded in the end. Barbara has seen her hope rewarded a thousand times in this city; survival itself is a promise kept for Gothamites. And even as the Batman's face crumples from the realization that Bane has been using his own armoury against him, that Bane will eventually use that same armoury against Gotham, Barbara's sure that he'll come through in the end. He'll see something worth fighting for and damn well start fighting.

He starts to rise. Barbara's heart goes with him. She grips the bars of the cage, breathless, because she's been hyperventilating this whole time and only just noticed.

"Ah, yes: I was wondering what would break first!" Bane shouts joyously.

"He's not broken," Barbara mutters to herself. "He can't be."

Batman throws a punch.

And misses.

Bane throws two punches. He lands each of them. Barbara feels them both against her heart. "No..." she breathes, but the universe doesn't listen, Batman doesn't hear her, and Bane doesn't care. The Dark Knight ends up on the ground again, and this time, he doesn't get back up, not until Bane takes him by the belt and cowl and heaves him up, up, overhead.

Barbara's mind reels, calculates, formulates, sifts possibilities. There's a way out of the hold, she knows there is, because Batman knows all the hiding places. He has given Bane the illusion of having the upper hand, and now he's going to struggle, he's going to flail, he's going to pull some handy tool from his utility belt and break free. He'll shrug, and like Atlas shrugging the weight of the world, the Batman will fall back to his feet and finish Bane off.

Except that metaphor doesn't work, because in this case, Bane's Atlas, the weight of the world is just the weight of the Batman, which doesn't feel very heavy at all except to Barbara.

She captures the moment in pitch perfect clarity, like she captures every moment, and even as Bane's hands start to lower, as the death knell starts to rattle inside Barbara's skull, she holds the Batman's eyes and tries to tell him that he is not alone. She is with him, and they're falling together.

Bane tears Batman straight down into his knee. The snap is louder than the explosion from moments before. Barbara holds her next breath and stops dead, lost forever in the sight of Batman's limp body hitting the ground. She puts a hand over her mouth to keep from shouting, but her cries have already been swallowed up by the black hole where her heart used to be. This isn't happening, she tells herself, though the lie only makes the truth hurt more.

She watches Bane snatch the cowl off the Dark Knight's face, a parting gesture, the last part of the Batman he has left to break. Instead of shattering it beneath his heel though, Bane just tosses it aside into the water. Behind him, four of his thugs carry Batman's broken body out of sight.

Barbara wants to tear Bane apart. Wants to break him to pieces. Wants to unleash all kinds of hell upon him. But this isn't a fair fight, not on this terrain or against that opponent, and since Barbara's not up for dying just yet, not when the Dark Knight needs help, she wills herself to take several steps back from the cage, giving the thug on the ground a final parting gesture of her own, straight to the stomach.

The sound of Catwoman's heels echo down the tunnels.

Like Batman, Barbara's body is the first to break.


There's a cold spot on her scalp and a trickle of water working its way down her neck. Barbara imagines it's from the ravine, that she got thrown there after the fight by Bane and took the same trek as her father to the outside, but then it all comes rushing back to her: Blake, the car ride home, tracking Selina Kyle, trying and failing to track Bane, Blake telling her, "Your ear is bleeding" followed very quickly by a concerned shout of "Barbara!"

Everything gets fuzzy after that.

The fuzziness still lingers, as does a slow burning ache where her head connected with the ground (and the wall). The chill is helping with both somewhat though. Barbara worries, at first, that Blake ended up calling an ambulance following her fit, but she recognizes the texture of the pillow under her head and the smell of the blanket pulled all the way up to her nose as her own. She's on the couch in her father's living room, exactly where she was working last night, though now the world's an awful lot brighter and she feels an awful lot better than before.

Physically, anyways. When Barbara allows her eyes to open, she still feels like her chest in an empty shell, and her face is moist in a way that can't be accounted for by the pack of frozen peas Blake improvised into an ice pack. She raises a hand to wipe away what's left of her tears and hisses when she finds all the remnants of her fight with Catwoman have swollen and started to really, really hurt.

"You've got one hell of a shiner," Blake observes. He's just come back into the room, but Barbara can't bring herself to look at him just yet, not even as he offers her a glass of water and some Advil. She accepts with whispered thanks, and downs the pills and the water through a wince and a moan.

Blake settles into a chair in front of the couch, presumably the chair he's spent most of the night in. "You never did get around to telling me who happened to you last night."

"It was a cat."

"Excuse me?"
"It was a big cat," Barbara pushes herself into a sitting position, wincing as aches and pains dance like Whack-a-Moles across her chest. Her right wrist also has a tensor bandage around it, yet another nice gesture on Blake's part. "Her name's Selina Kyle. She's a thief with a pretty hefty record."

Blake removes a pretty hefty folder from his coat and sets it on the table between them, right next to Barbara's laptop. "Selina Kyle's criminal record, although I take it you already know what's in here."

"I know a few other things you can add," Barbara mentions, rubbing the back of her head for emphasis.

"Well, you can add them the next time you hack the GCPD," Blake replies, sounding more impressed than annoyed. A gleam has returned to his eyes that makes him look boyish instead of world-weary, and Barbara wishes they were living in simpler times when she felt like flirting with young officers...er, detectives. "I kept an eye on the programs you were running while you were out. She hasn't shown her face anywhere yet."

"She will," Barbara lifts the bag of frozen peas to her cheek and holds it there, relishing the chill against her swollen face. "My money's on the airport."

"Why do you say that?"

"Trains and buses are common, and Selina Kyle doesn't have common tastes. Even on the run, she still has her vanities."

"What about Bane?"

Barbara purses her lips into a thin line and grabs her laptop off the table, scrolling through program windows. She keeps the security camera footage from the Gotham Airport in the bottom corner of her monitor while she pans through some of the information she searched through last night. "I watched all the traffic cams. Unless they smuggled Batman out in an economy vehicle, they didn't drive. There were two small commercial flights that left the airport early this morning. One was a former asset of Wayne Enterprises, which is where Bane was getting the majority of his supplies. Both planes filed flight plans with the air traffic controller though, and neither were heading anywhere notable. My guess is they'll change their route mid-flight if they do. I won't know until their ETAs come and go."

"You're sure they left the city?"

"I don't think he'd risk Batman escaping."

"Can't you hack a satellite or something?" Blake asks, half-joking.

"I can hack the Pentagon if need be," Barbara replies, gesturing towards her laptop, "just not on this."

"Gonna need a bigger boat for that, Quint?"

It takes her a second to realize that's a quip. Barbara feels her mouth curving just slightly into a smile despite the mess they're in. "Gonna need a much bigger boat for that, Brody."

Barbara switches back to the video streaming from the airport and sets the laptop back on the table. She's settling herself into a lying position again when a tall woman in a black dress and hat, immaculately coifed, walks up to the counter to make a purchase.

"She's at the airport," Barbara sits up again, turning the laptop to show Blake. He's already on his feet, straightening his new sports coat and tie so he looks like a proper detective instead of a boy in his father's clothing.

"I've already got officers posted at the airport. I'll have them hold her up," he's reaching for his cell phone, preparing to dial the airport when he stops suddenly. A look of genuine concern, or as close approximation as Blake's sharp features can muster, appears on his face. Barbara feels something warm and weird pool in her stomach and the tips of her toes as Blake's eyes soften. He asks her, "You gonna be okay?"

The warm, weird feeling dissipates, replaced with the chill from the night before. No, Barbara thinks, not until we catch that bastard Bane, rescue Batman, and save Gotham. A rematch with Catwoman wouldn't hurt either. But Blake's losing time and Catwoman's bound for another continent, so instead she says, in a most assured tone, "Yeah, I'll be okay."

"You were pretty out of it."

"Good night's sleep was all I needed," she smiles softly, wincing as the edges of her smile pull against the bruises. "Thank you for..." she hesitates, because saying 'taking care of me' sounds far too intimate, and they don't have time for special moments or romantic silences or personal reflections of 'what if?'. Instead, Barbara ends up stammering, "...last night. Everything. Now." All of which sounds stupid but gets Blake on his way as quickly as possible.

He nods. "You're welcome. I'm just happy you called when you did."

The wet hairs on the back of her neck stick up. Barbara's eyes narrow. "I called?"

"Yeah. You called my cell phone, said you needed help. You don't remember?"

She scrolls back through her memory. Barbara certainly remembers pulling out her cell phone, but she has absolutely no recollection of calling Blake. She didn't even consider him a viable ally at the time.

"Hey," Blake puts a hand on her shoulder, "don't worry about it. Kyle gave you a wicked blow to the head. It's not surprising you don't remember much."

"Sure," Barbara agrees, which is a lie. Like an elephant, she never forgets, especially not phone calls to the GCPD boy wonder.

Blake heads for the door. "I'll let you know when we've got her. You take it easy, Barbara. We'll find him."

"I hope so," she says quietly.

Barbara wishes that was enough.


The first thing Barbara does after Blake leaves the house is check her cell phone. In an act of gentlemanly kindness that would have earned him a second date under normal circumstances, Blake has folded her coat, socks, and sweater neatly and left them in a pile on her father's chair. She makes a mental note to thank him later before swiping up her phone from the pocket and checking her call history. Just as Barbara suspected – her memory is never wrong – she never made the call, which means another young woman had alerted the detective on her behalf.

Barbara wonders, sarcastically, who that could be.

She pockets the phone and deliberates. Nothing to do about Bane until he lands the plane somewhere, if that is his plane, and even then, there's only so much that the servers in Gotham will allow before she gets picked up by federal law enforcement. The GCPD probably has the Selina Kyle thing under control too. Dad believes in Blake, which lets Barbara believe in him too. He's not going to let Catwoman slip through his fingers.

Then again, that's exactly the thought that went through Barbara's head last night right before she got the stuffing kicked out of her by an angry broad in a catsuit.

The gravity of the situation makes Barbara's head spin, and she paces the living room to keep from suffering another fainting spell. What advice did d'Anconia give Atlas about the weight of the world? To shrug. To brush it off. To cast it aside. Like Bane did to Batman last night. Barbara doesn't have that luxury though. She believes it's important to feel the weight of the world. She doesn't like pain, but she knows that pain is necessary, that it's valuable, because as an athlete and the Commissioner's daughter and a girl who was saved by Batman, pain lets her know that she is alive, that she is connected, that she is a part of something.

So Barbara doesn't shrug at that moment. She doesn't plop down on the couch and wrap herself up in the old quilt and go back to sleep while Blake tries to capture Catwoman. She'll find the Batman, but first, she has to go thank the woman that saved her life last night.

It's the moral and ethical thing to do.


Selina Kyle leaves the cop lying unconscious behind closed doors and stalks off down the terminal, praying that the rest of the force is just as incompetent. She's very nearly at her gate, very nearly out of Gotham. All she has to do is avoid any more security guards and cops, hop a plane, and she's free.

Well, almost.

The hand that grabs her is familiar, but unlike last night, when she was grabbed by the neck, this time Selina is taken by the arms and pushed out of the corridor into the chapel nearby. There are no cameras here, no windows, and no prying eyes. When the door hisses shut behind them, that will be it.

"Didn't you learn your lesson last night?" Selina swipes around, fist raised, but her assailant ducks to dodge it, tripping Selina in the process. The thief hits the ground but immediately leaps back to her feet, taking several steps back as a precaution. Her assailant remains crouched between her and the door, ready for their rematch.

"I wanted to thank you," the younger woman says.

"You couldn't have just written me a card?" Selina takes a few steps towards the rows of pews in the chapel, lining herself back up with the door again. Her pint-sized attacker turns, always keeping Selina in her line of sight. "Hate the new outfit, by the way. Black leather and masked vigilantism are so last season."

"I was improvising," Barbara replies. Not to mention in a hurry. She had to head off both Kyle and the cops, so her black balaclava is a mess of hackneyed cuts and her pants are black skinny jeans that are a size too small on her waist. The leather motorcycle jacket she lifted from her brother's room is about the only article of clothing that looks even remotely badass. James Jr. sewed a bat logo onto the front pocket four years ago during his punk phase. Everybody was scandalized. Barbara figured she'd use the jacket to make a point.

"You gonna hand me over to the cops?"

"It's the moral and ethical thing to do."

Selina smiles calmly. "I should have killed you when I had the chance."

"Yeah," Barbara agrees. "You should have."

The cat attacks first. Even in a pencil skirt, Selina Kyle is absolutely vicious, all sharp edges and wild curves. Barbara's got a clearer head this time though. She's abandoned her punch-first-aim-later strategy and starts with the defensive stances she learned in aikido, tempting Selina's blows and then sliding right around them. When she finds herself slipping closer and closer through Selina's offensive manoeuvres, Barbara elbows her in the throat, wraps her leg behind the thief, and then takes her down with a punch to the gut.

Barbara's right wrist hurts like hell. Her head throbs. The bruises on her cheek pulse. Still, she grits her teeth through the pain, grabs Selina by the neck of her jacket, and drags her towards the chapel pews.

"I could kill you, right here, right now," Barbara shakes the rest of the fight out of Selina before she can break free. "But I wanna get my one good deed out of the way for today, so here's what's going to happen next..."

Dad always leaves an extra pair of handcuffs in his dresser drawer. Barbara swiped those too when she was assembling her costume. Now she snaps one cuff onto Selina's wrist, weaves the chain through the legs of the pew, and closes them on the thief's opposite arm.

"...I'm gonna let the police drag your sorry ass to jail, Catwoman, and you're going to tell them everything you know about Bane and his plans. You're going to rot in Blackgate, and while you're probably going to put all that immorality of yours into practice and escape, I want you to remember that I'll be on the outside just waiting to get my hands on you."

Barbara kicks her in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her.

"Do let me know how this turns out."

She tears off the balaclava and the jacket off on her way out the door, muttering to herself, "I am so gonna need a better costume."