by Lara Wilson

Tim climbed off his bike and quickly scanned the cave while listening for any sound. Bats, computers.

No Alfred.

Batman was at Arkham for his weekly chess move with Two-Face, which could take anywhere from thirty seconds to three hours.

Tim was hoping for the three hours.

Reaching into the saddlebag, he pulled out a squirming bundle of fur that immediately started howling.

"Shhhhhhh," Tim hissed, frantically looking around again as he cradled the kitten against his chest and, for the fourth time since rescuing the scrap of nothing from a fire, thanked god for armor plating.

His tunic, though, was a lost cause from the needle-sharp claws.

The kitten--gray with black stripes, perfect for a Bat--stopped howling, stopped squirming and, when Tim slightly released his grip, clawed its way up to his shoulder and began to purr in his ear.

Tim sighed and, with the kitten balanced on his shoulder, walked carefully across the cave. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, his new friend discovered the communication's earpiece and started to bat at it.

"Stop that," Tim hissed again, sounding more like a cat than the cat. "You break that and I'll never hear the end of it." The kitten's only response was a haughty meow before it resumed its batting and purring.

Sighing again, Tim climbed the stairs, silently hoping to avoid Alfred until he could find a home for the kitten. He was confident that some girl at school would jump on the opportunity. Girls liked cats, right?

Alfred was dusting the library.

Stopping half out of the clock, Tim swallowed hard and tried to smile.

"You appear to have a growth on your shoulder, Master Tim."

"Uh, yeah...Uh..."

One of the older gentleman's eyebrows slid slowly up his face and his arms crossed over his chest. "You will be responsible for its care, cleaning, feeding, and sanitary box. If I find it climbing any of the curtains or clawing the Louis XIV chairs, repairs will come out of your allowance." It was a warning, but also a welcome, and Tim nodded furiously, dislodging the kitten who, letting out a yowl of protest, slid down his front into his arms. As he cuddled the ball of fur, Tim caught a faint hint of a smile on Alfred's usually stern face. "Please don't name it anything remotely bat."

"No problem there. Thanks, Alfred."

Alfred did smile now. "You still have to clear this with Master Bruce."

"Oh, I don't plan to keep it. I'm sure I'll find someone to take it tomorrow."

Alfred's eyes fell to where Tim was petting the kitten almost possessively and gave him a knowing shake of his head before saying with some affection, "Strays are always welcome here."

After Alfred left the Library, Tim looked down at his new pet and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, we know Bruce likes cats..."


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