Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Butch/Tabitha, Tabitha/Barbara, Bruce/Cat
Challenge/Prompt: beattheblackdog 109: Hate and prompt_in_a_box: Haunted
Warning(s): Spoilers for Season 3
Word Count: 1,724
Date Written: 1 May 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to DC Comics, not the author, and are used without permission.
She should hate her. She should have loved him. Yet, even in the aftermath of having done what she had been left no other recourse to do and seeing them both for what and who they truly were, Tabitha still can not change her feelings. She can no more stop loving Barbara than she can make herself love Butch. He deserved love, kindness, and loyalty, but the only man she had ever given any of that to was her brother. Barbara deserved none of it, and yer loyalty to her had gotten Butch killed.
She tosses and turns in her lonely bed. The irony of her situation is not lost on her, and her dark lips twist into a wry, self-deprecating smirk even now. She has made her bed, and she must lay in it. She chose Barbara over Butch, and now she’s alone. Only not quite alone. There is a girl in the next room who seems lonely and fucked up as Tabitha is, even only that were possible.
Tabby flips over again. Once more, her mind plays back the last time she saw Barbara. Once more, she remembers the devastation she’d felt at seeing Butch’s one, good hand, the one hand that had always treated her so kindly, always caressed her so gently, always insisted on gentility even when she’d been so cruel to him. She remembers the anger that filled her and the passion that had clawed itself to the forefront when Barbara had kissed her. She almost hadn’t killed her. Now she both wishes she had not killed her and that she had done the deed sooner. She’d never allowed anyone to use her like that before, anyone but her brother, and he, too, is dead.
She’s alone. She’s never been alone before except for that short time right after her brother’s death. She doesn’t like the echoes she hears the silence. She doesn’t like hearing Barbara’s screams and taunts. She doesn’t like remembering seeing the way Butch’s big, puppy dog eyes had pleaded with her to kill the woman who had eventually killed him. She most certainly doesn’t like hearing weeping in the night, sounds of a broken soul, sounds of Butch’s broken soul.
She sits up and gives herself a mental shake. Ghosts aren’t real. Butch isn’t haunting her. She’s imagining all this. She doesn’t even remember making it to bed. She’s had too much wine. Only he had ever stopped her from drinking too much before. Only he had ever stopped her from doing anything. He had done so much for her, and she’d always taken him for granted. She had not delivered the one thing he’d needed her to do to free him, to free them both, and now he was dead because of it. He was dead because of her.
With a cry of rage uttering from her lips, Tabitha jumped out of bed. She paced the floor for a while like a hungry, angry tigress unsure of which way to snap. Then she heard a sound in the next room, growled at herself, her own stupidity, and her own failures and all but fled her room. She’d see what the kid was up to. Maybe she could taunt her and make her own self feel better. Barbara had been good at that.
She found Cat in the kitchen, drinking a glass of milk, not wine. Tabitha considered joining her for just a moment until the child looked up at her. In those eyes she saw such a reflection of herself that it stopped her cold where she stood. Cat had screwed up too. She didn’t know what the girl’s history was, and before she hadn’t cared to learn it, but it was clear to her in that moment that she was both running from her own mistakes and her own failures and being haunted by something, by somebody.
What was a girl her age doing alone anyway? Tabitha wondered but then pushed the question from her mind. This was Gotham. This wasn’t some fairytale kingdom. Parents abandoned their kids all the time. The strong ones clawed their way through existence -- she’d be willing to bet Cat was one of those -- while the weaker ones, the kinder ones, the gentler ones, the ones like Butch had been at heart were almost always killed before adulthood.
Tab’s own heart ached with a pang that she was beginning to recognize too well. Butch had been one of those. He had pretended to be something he wasn’t. He had pretended to be strong for her. He had pretended to be a bully, to be just another henchmen for people like Fish, Penguin, and yes, even Barbara just so that he could survive in this Godforsaken city.
But Tabby had known the real Butch. She might well have been the only person who had. He wasn’t mean and cruel like all the people around him. He also was not nearly as dumb as they chose to think him, or as weak. It took a certain kind of strength not to let the people who ruled Gotham, who thought they ruled people like Butch, to turn you into smaller versions of themselves.
Yet Barbara had almost done that very same thing to Tabby. She had almost turned her from a lover into a sister, into a person very much like herself. The realization chilled Tabitha to the point she was rubbing her arms before she realized it.
“Cold?” Cat asked, snapping Tabitha out of her reverie. She quirked an eyebrow at her and smirked.
At first, Tabby thought about slapping that smirk off the kid’s face, but her conscience reminded her in the next instant that that wasn’t what Butch would do if he was alive. He might have a smart remark for her, but he wouldn’t just hit her. He never just hit anybody without a reason, and he damn sure wouldn’t just hit a girl without a solid reason.
She opened her mouth to answer and then shut it again. She wasn’t about to admit to the child or anyone that she was lonely. “Just thinking, bored,” she said again.
Cat sighed into her nearly empty glass of milk. “Join the club.” She followed Tabitha’s gaze to her glass, then jerked her thumb toward the empty carton sitting on the counter behind her. “That’s the last of it.”
“You’ve got kitties to feed somewhere, don’t you?”
She had cats and pigeons to feed, but Cat wasn’t about to admit it to her. Tabitha was still largely a stranger, and she didn’t trust anyone. She had almost come to trust Bruce and Alfred, but that, too, had been a mistake. It was always a mistake to trust anybody but one’s own self. “What’s it to you?” she snapped.
Tabitha shrugged her slender, bare shoulders. “Nothing. I’m just bored. I thought we could maybe go feed them together.” She picked up the whip Cat had been practicing with earlier that night and snapped it through the cool, night air. “Maybe get some more practice in.”
Cat failed to hide her grin. It proved to be infectious instead, making Tabitha actually smile at her for the first time. “There’s a lot I can show you with this, Kitten.”
“It’s Cat,” Selina quickly reminded her with a scowl.
“Okay,” Tabitha relented. “Cat. Hmph.”
“What?” Cat watched her suspiciously.
“Nothing. I just . . . “ Tabitha actually grinned. “One of my nicknames is Tabby.”
“Tabby and Cat.” This time, the grin that flashed across Selina’s tired, lonely face was wide indeed. “I like it.”
“Let’s go start making our mark together, Cat.”
“Tabby and Cat. We’ll take Gotham by storm.”
“By the claws.”
“By the balls.”
Surprised, Tabitha laughed.
“What?” Cat questioned. “The only way to have any man is to grab him by the balls and bend him to your will.” She should have remembered that rule with Bruce and Alfred. Maybe then, she wouldn’t have let her heart get involved. Maybe she wouldn’t have made the mistake of caring. Maybe his dejection wouldn’t hurt so damned much now.
“Whoever told you that was a wise woman indeed,” Tabitha said, nodding.
“I taught myself,” Cat admitted. Shrugging into her jacket, she walked out before her.
“Smart kid,” Tabitha muttered. She looked around at the empty kitchen. She shivered. She could still hear Barbara’s screams, the fizzling sound the electricity had made as it ran rampant through her body and the water, and Butch -- poor, dear Butch’s sobs which he had only ever allowed her to hear. She should have been kinder to him and crueler to Barbara.
Her heart hadn’t been tied up with him. That should have been a warning right there; it should have told her to side with him and run the Hell away from Babs. Man or woman, the only way to have anybody else was at your beck and call. Being at anybody else’s could only bring trouble.
As she walked, she spotted Cat waiting a small distance ahead of her. She’d let the girl be her own girl, and she would again find out what it meant to be her own woman and not at anybody’s beck and call. Cats were aloof creatures. They could cuddle when they wanted to, but they were also fiercely independent and, she’d heard, always managed to land on their feet. Well, she and this girl were going to land on their feet too. They were not going to let the events that haunted them keep them down or change them. They were their own women, their own cats, and very soon, Gotham City would hear them roar.
With a smile, Tabitha headed out beside her new ally. Together, they would find a way to do more than survive in this city. They would bend the rules until they broke and they made new ones. They would forge their own paths. For a while, they may stay together, or they might not. Regardless, they would do more than survive in this city. Tabitha was still going to rule, and when she was Queen, she’d make a monument to Butch, to the only gentle heart she’d ever known, to a good heart corrupted and eventually felled by this cruel city, to the last person she’d ever dare be stupid enough to call friend.