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When the Cat's Away

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They tried to keep it quiet.  Bruce was semi-famous.  Barbara wasn't, at least not as far as she knew, but she wasn't sure how her dad would react--now that she knew about Bruce, it was hard to keep track of how her dad felt about Bruce Wayne and how he felt about Batman.

And she was pretty sure her dad had liked Dick.  They'd gotten along, even if they'd both been so nervous around each other in a way that made Barbara smile--especially since she knew about Robin now (which, ugh, was one of the reasons why things hadn't worked out with Dick.  Barbara thought it was completely stupid.  She couldn't even tell if he was irrationally angry about his Secret Identity or if he hated that she was Batgirl.  Maybe both--Robin always tried to pull that deep voiced, "Girls can't fight crime" thing, and Batgirl used to flip his cape over his head.  Now Dick didn't have a cape, and he just scowled at her.)

***

"Oh, crap!"  She'd stayed over and slept late--Bruce was gone, she was going to be late, and they'd been trying to be discreet.  Which was going to be really hard when Barbara slunk out of Bruce's bedroom in last night's clothes.

She should've moved to one of the other bedrooms so at least she could pretend that Batgirl had been too tired to drive home.  Or Bruce should've woken her up when he left to go god only knew where on like three hours of sleep.  But of course it was such a Bruce thing that he didn't--he'd probably looked down at her (for some reason Barbara imagined him in costume, even though that was really unlikely) and decided that she looked tired.  Barbara couldn't decide if that was kind of sweet or obnoxiously paternalistic (which really just summed up being in any kind of relationship with Bruce), but what was much more important was that she had to find someway to do the Walk of Shame to the Batcave without it being incredibly obvious that it was a Walk of Shame rather than the Walk of the Tired Vigilante Who Didn't Want to Drive and Batman Said I Could Crash On His Couch.

There was a light knock on the door.  "Miss Gordon?"

Barbara decided it would be much worse if she tried to hide in the closet or under the bed.  "Uh, yeah...you can come in," she said.

Growing up in a cop's house did not make you used to servants.  Well, there'd been the cleaning service, but that wasn't like a butler.  And Alfred wasn't really like a butler in some ways either--Barbara knew she probably wasn't supposed to feel weird telling him he could come into a room in his own house (which it wasn't, but in a lot of ways she thought it kind of might be.  Sort of).

He didn't seem surprised to see her, not even in that sarcastic, single-raised eyebrow, discreet Alfred way.  When he asked if she'd be staying for breakfast, she said yes more to be polite than anything else.

"You may relax, Miss Gordon," Alfred said as she followed him down the stairs.  "There is nothing malicious about breakfast...unless, of course, Master Bruce is attempting to prepare it."

Barbara considered it like an unsolved crime as the coffee brewed and she picked the crusts off her toast.  Bruce didn't tell anybody anything.  But Alfred knew about Batman, and something like that was a much bigger deal than most people's love lives (well, except for superheroes).  She solved it--Bruce told Alfred everything--just as Alfred asked her how she took her coffee.

Barbara didn't know how she should feel about the fact that she couldn't tell her dad about Batgirl.  Or about Bruce.  Or about the fact that she was kind of involved with Bruce and working for Batman, and that Bruce was Batman.  Maybe Bruce's secret wasn't really hers to tell (and maybe Dad had already figured it out or Bruce had already told him, and maybe it was meaner to think Dad couldn't figure it out or that Bruce wouldn't let him in)

"Does Superman have a family?" she asked.

"Most people do," said Alfred.

"Do they know he's Superman?" Barbara asked.

"As far as I am aware, they do.  And they are under no legal or ethical obligation to discourage costumed vigilantism."

She understood the look he gave her, but it still didn't make her feel better about keeping her secrets, even the one that was completely hers.

***

They'd go out, or at least they'd try to, but when it didn't work out if was more about his business empire and her insane course load and the fact that they spent most of their nights fighting crime instead of sleeping like normal people.

Barbara kept both her secrets.  She was sure that eventually there'd be a good time to mention the whole Dark Knight Damsel thing to her dad, and it was probably too soon to tell him about her and Bruce.  Bruce took everything seriously, and he was serious about her and them.  For the moment, Barbara was happy to know something almost nobody else did, and she smiled whenever the tabloids freaked out over a love bite on Boy Billionaire Bruce Wayne's eligible neck (because only Bruce and Barbara knew where he'd actually gotten it).

***

"Jesus, Bruce," she said when she saw the front of his costume slashed open and the claw marks on his skin.  She gently touched his chest without even thinking about it.  "Is there a tiger on the loose?"

He gave her that faint bat-smirk and said, "Not quite."

His cowl covered up his neck--and the fading hickey from Bruce Wayne's Mystery Girl.  Alfred would sew up the costume or just throw it out, and Barbara'd be the only one who knew about the scratches on his chest and the almost invisible pin-pricks in his cape (as if something with claws had clung to his back), but she didn't smile.  She'd learned enough to know that the scratches were deep enough to have come from somebody who'd been allowed to get very close, and they weren't so much an attack on Batman as a message to Barbara.

They kept going for awhile, and it did get a bit worse, but that was really when Barbara knew it was over.