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In a Place Like This

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The first time Tim met Catwoman, he was nine, and she was robbing a party.

It was one of those incredibly boring cocktail parties that his parents dragged him to sometimes, full of loud, self-important men and women who wore too much perfume. The older women tended to pinch his cheeks and say things like, "Aren't you the cutest little thing?" Tim hated being small for his age.

He'd escaped from the noise and the press of the crowd out onto the second-floor balcony that stretched along the length of the ballroom. The house-- mansion, really-- was old, with lots of carved stonework that he could climb easily. He liked climbing, liked getting into little spaces that no one else could fit into; it was the one good thing about being little. Perched in the shadows at the end of the balustrade like a miniature gargoyle, Tim watched couples and small groups wander out onto the balcony, talk for a while, and eventually be driven back inside by the insidious damp and chill of the October evening.

Tim almost missed her at first. The misty night beyond the balcony provided near-perfect cover for her, and only a quick flash of deep purple in the shadows alerted him to her presence. She was perfectly silent, scaling the wall with a speed and agility that he desperately envied. Bypassing the brightly lit balcony entirely, she ascended to a dark window on the third floor. He couldn't quite see what she did, then, but the casement window swung open and she disappeared inside without a sound.

Tim considered the possibility that he should alert someone that there was a thief on the premises. But that would mean that he'd have to give up watching for her descent, and he really wanted to see how she would get down from there. Besides, he didn't much like the people who owned the mansion-- a bluff, over-hearty state senator who always clapped him on the shoulder too hard and called him "Timmy," and his shrill, mean-spirited wife. They could afford to lose a few baubles, anyway.

Tim hunched his shoulders slightly against the chill and waited for her to reappear at the window.

"Hi there, cutie." The smoky, purring voice in his ear came out of nowhere. Tim jumped, startled, and nearly fell off his perch. She chuckled and steadied him with one small, strong hand. "Whoops. Maybe I should've given you a little warning first."

Tim stared at her, speechless. Her eyes were the first things he noticed, large, rich green and tip-tilted, fringed with dark lashes. Her purple mask covered the upper half of her face and the front part of her hair, topped with cat-ears that should have looked silly, but didn't. She wasn't just a thief-- she was Catwoman. "Hi," he eventually managed, flushing bright red.

"Cat got your tongue?" she asked, grinning wickedly. Tim fumbled desperately for something to say to her, but before he could come up with something that would impress her with his intelligence and quick wit, a light flicked on up on the third floor. Catwoman glanced up quickly, frowning. "Thought it'd take them longer to figure out someone got through their security. Oh well, gotta run."

Tim finally figured out something to say. "I won't tell anyone I saw you, Catwoman," he promised.

She smiled, looking surprised and pleased. "I think I already like you, kitten. Thanks." She leaned forward briefly and kissed his cheek. "Oh, and-- you might want to get back inside before they sound the alarm." With that, she disappeared down the wall, leaving Tim with his hand cupped to his cheek and a dumbfounded expression on his face. She liked him.

A plan formed in his mind as he slipped unobtrusively back into the ballroom. He had a birthday coming up, and he knew now what he wanted for it-- a strong pair of binoculars and climbing gear. He'd tell his dad it was for bird watching or something.

Whatever it took, Tim had to see Catwoman in action again.