i'd rather die than give you control
If she’d had a timer, it would’ve been clicking in her ear, and that knowledge throttled the adrenaline in her veins, ducking into the house as soon as the garage door had lifted itself. Instantly, her hands dragged along the walls, dragging tipped gloves along the surfaces to inspect for hidden seams; the cat burglar was no freshman, and when it came to wealthy Californians living in houses built during the tech boom, there was no telling what whizbangs and features they were equipped with.
“Fuck me,” she whispered, grumbling other obscenities to herself as she worked her way around. “You’re not that smart, kid..” A pang of pain above her right eye. You too?
Something was off. Though he couldn't quite pinpoint what it was, Tony could feel it in his bones. The past few months in this reality had reassured him that he could trust his instincts during whatever odd limbo state he had been tossed into. It figured that it would happen just as he was starting to feel comfortable enough to return to the Avengers as his new self, to be the Iron Man that they knew and sometimes even loved.
With one brow arched over the other, he tapped the 'home' button on his phone to wake it up, eager to check the time. It wasn't like Carol to be late, and yet there he was, sitting solo at a table at a French restaurant in a dress shirt and slacks that he had pieced together from Wyatt's wardrobe, relieved to see that at least the man had some taste. But taste meant nothing as he noted that Carol was now twenty-six--no, twenty-seven minutes late, and he smiled curtly at the waiter who was walking by to throw another annoyed glance in his direction. The time on his phone wasn't the only thing he noticed, however, as a small stack of notifications that he'd missed minutes ago revealed two things: 1) his garage had been opened, and 2) the house alarm had been disengaged. As far as he knew, Wyatt's roommate had other plans for the evening, and that gut instinct suddenly kicked into overdrive. Without saying a word, he threw down a hefty cash tip on the table and rushed out of the restaurant, fumbling with his wristwatch and to trigger the very first, albeit fleeting, public appearance of The Suit.
Carol had told him to wow her, after all.
The flight back to Potrero Hill was quick and uneventful. Throwing caution to the wind might not have been his best move, but seeing as how he may have had a home invasion on his hands, Tony acted on impulse. Wyatt might have just been another kid he had to look out for these days, but he was his kid. A soft landing on to the strip of yard next to the house might not have been the most discreet, but it would have to do for now. With a tap of his watch, the suit's headpiece hid itself to reveal Tony's face as he stepped into his own garage. He hit the button to close the door behind him to alert his unexpected guest of someone's presence; it might not have been the smartest move, but if whoever it was knew how to turn off the security system, then the culprit was likely closer to him than he thought. Moments later, he was standing in his own kitchen in the dark, scanning his home with his helmet for signs of life.
Selina’s eyes slid closed the second she’d heard the garage door. A solid thirty minutes was a decent clip of time to canvas a house this size, she’d done it a time and a half, and the fact that she hadn’t found a single thing in her search was frustrating for someone of her caliber -- her notoriety. Now, it’d have to come to blows; messy resolution was unprofessional and distasteful, but despite her own lack of pleasure with the whole thing, she found herself quietly ducking behind furniture; her movement was soundless as she switched the goggles to night-vision mode, and nearly groaned at what she saw.
He was wearing the suit.
Her eyes rolled so hard, it might’ve been an audible giveaway before she jumped; a black and orange streak of speed and power, pinwheeling a razored punch right for his exposed face.
“Sorry, cutie. Nice stunt, though.”
The punch came as a surprise when the fact of the matter was that Tony should have anticipated the hit. He stumbled backwards, reeling in shock and pain for a few moments as he tried to turn himself upright again and gather his bearings. He blindly felt around the walls for the lightswitch that he knew was nearby and almost immediately regretted flipping the switch once he registered the sight in front of him. That voice, that silhouette, it all screamed Carol. "What are you doing? What are you wearing?" he asked. "And what's with the fisticuffs here?!"
Instincts kicked in once again and he tapped his wrist. Wow, was he out of practice. Helmet on, he glared at Carol, not wanting to risk another blow.
“Is that an actual question?” The reply was acidic, tone dripping with underwhelm and disdain when he’d questioned the entire situation. He should have known this would happen. It wasn’t like it was a secret between them. Iron Man. Catwoman. Problematic situation outside of these freak-weeks of existence. Selina’s eyes flashed, and she made a small noise when the lights blazed into view, head pounding again with her not-so-secret, everyday identity rebelled against it all. Pain. It was definitely pain, and she hadn’t even gotten hit.
Shaking off the spike behind her eye, she bared her teeth again, framed in that telltale lipstick before she sprung -- hands on the floor and legs twisting around what she’d assume was a vulnerable spot in the suit. The neck.
“You had to know I’d try for it sooner or later,” Selina grunted, all but sitting on Tony’s shoulders as she twisted around, digging the clawed fingertips of her suit into any seam she could find.
It had happened so fast. Too fast, really. Had he really let himself get this rusty? Tony made a note to setup some sort of workout regimen that was more his than Wyatt's--but for now, he had other problems on his...shoulders.
"Carol, I swear to god," he mumbled from underneath the helmet. "I'll blast you if I have to." The struggle in his voice was palpable as he tried using all of his strength to pry her off of him. The urge to ponder his life choices was strong, but that would have to wait. "I...have...so many feelings right now," he gasped as he tried to literally flip her off. "But mostly: what the FUCK is happening right now?" He stumbled clumsily as he struggled with her and crashed into the kitchen table, easily demolishing it with his armor in one go.
“Who the hell is Caro-..”
She never got to finish that one; shrieking out something that sounded like goddamnit before they crashed through the kitchen table, unable to help the grunt that came with having an armored Iron Man collapse partially on top of a woman in a catsuit. Selina managed to loop her hip over his shoulder, forcing her eyes open after the blonde twit pushed again. It hurt, but she wasn’t about to let this one slip through her fingers. No.
“Give me..” A breathless glare laced every single syllable, “.. The suit,” she demanded, working her way into a seated position. This body was soft -- it wasn’t angular and fierce like her own. Cara Davies had round eyes and full cheeks, a perfect picture of vibrance and warmth to foil the shadowy Selina Kyle that’d taken the wheel. It wasn’t matching, and the gears were grinding out of sequence. Her control was off, and with it, went her precision.
The heel-kick she tried to aim at the chin of Tony’s helmet whiffed. Completely.
Tony groaned, momentarily stunned by by his collision and eventual collapse into the table. He wasn't able to stay down and out for too long before Carol tried her next move, and he couldn't help but smirk as she kicked at him and completely missed the opportunity to connect. He struggled against her as he tried to sit up but her words hit him like a ton of bricks. "You want...?" He began to laugh almost maniacally. That was all he needed, and suddenly, he was on his feet again, standing in the pile of rubble that was formerly a table while she scrambled to pick herself back up, heaving her body a few feet away. "Yeah, right," he sneered a little too smugly. He began to levitate just a couple of feet off the ground, ready to aim a laser at her if needed--even if they both knew he wouldn't use it on her unless the circumstances were dire, and even then... "What. Has. Gotten. Into you?"
Selina was wincing again, squeezing her eyes shut every few seconds and shaking her head -- as irony would have it -- like a dissatisfied cat trying to shake off an itch. For every second that she wrinkled her nose and stared daggers at the giant tin-can in front of her, the pressure behind her eyes built and ebbed in a way that stoked every ounce of anger she had in her body.
Spoiler alert: it was a lot. Echoes of confusion were starting to blur into her periphery, but the fury hid them all, reaching the back of her hand up to wipe away a small trickle of blood.
What was he talking about? Rather than dig for the answer, she reached for her waist, closing her fingers around a thick, leather bullwhip.
“You made me smudge my makeup.”
It cracked in the air as she jumped up, using the countertop as leverage to whistle the whip down and around his legs, pulling with everything she was worth.
Tony had to roll his eyes. Makeup. It dawned on him, suddenly, that the feeling he'd had earlier, the one that told him that something was wrong? Its source was on the ground in front of him, trying to lasso him back to the kitchen floor.
"Oh, come on," he sighed. He flew a few feet higher, suddenly grateful for the idea of an open concept layout with vaulted ceilings when he'd hardly had an opinion on the matter before.
"I'm not a kite, Carol, and you know I could send both of us through that roof in a matter of seconds." He pointed raised a hand towards the bullwhip as he watched her struggle against his suit, a small barrel appearing from a compartment near his wrist, ready to fire on his command.
"Don't make me do it."
“I’m not Carol, Tony!” Selina cried, both out of frustration and confusion, pulling one last time before she caught the sight of the open barrel. With unrelenting, blinding pain behind her eyes, her hold on the bullwhip had faltered, sending her crashing to the ground in a graceless tangle of limbs and black leather.
It took maybe half a second before she righted herself, ripping the goggles and skin-tight mask from her head, to stare straight at where his eyes would’ve been, had the helmet not been locked into place. The contact, Selina found, wasn’t something she could physically hold. With the goggles gone, at least, she was able to grind the brunt of her hand into her eye socket, willing the second personality within her to sit down and shut up for just a few seconds.
“I-I.. I dare-..” Catwoman started with a sneer, spitting the words like her guts were threatening to spill themselves out instead. They didn’t, but something else did.
The bitter edge to her gaze disappeared, if only for a few seconds, and it left a determined, terrified pair of wide eyes in its wake.
“WYATT. W-Wyatt.. don’t!”
His sights were set on the bullwhip. That was it. Not her, not Carol. Never Carol, and thus, never Cara, whose sudden reappearance nearly sent him crashing to the ground. Just like that, his field of vision was filled with a blinding white light that made his head hurt like no migraine had before; Tony was able to lower himself to the ground and deactivate his helmet before gravity got the best of him.
He squeezed his eyes shut and groaned upon landing, and the sight that greeted him upon opening his eyes nearly caused Wyatt to fall to his knees.
"...Cara?" he sputtered out, realizing that it looked like he was about to take her out with a goddamned cannon. He scrambled to deactivate the rest of the suit; "I'm sorry, I didn't--he wouldn't have. This is... What are you wearing?"
Cara said nothing in immediate response, lost in the flurry of angry sensations and words flying from one end of her mind to the other; there were too many voices and instincts that weren’t hers -- weren’t Carol’s.
“Something’s wrong,” she managed through the pain, focusing on Wyatt’s face in front of her. Hearing, but not listening to the questions he’d asked; he was the anchor to every tie Selina was trying to slice in her brain.
“Something’s wrong, I don’t.. It’s not Carol, I.. Hide the suit.”
He instinctively reached for her hand, as if he were naive enough to think that familiar human touch could help, if not nearly undo, the mess that had just unfolded in his own kitchen. (He was skeptical enough, however, to use his right hand and not his left, a little fearful that the seemingly normal wristwatch could easily be swiped away without much effort.)
"Hey, look at me," he said in a forceful but concerned tone. "What's wrong? What's happening? What do you mean it's not Carol?"
“It’s not her. It’s not me,” Cara managed between breaths, reaching out for Wyatt just before pain crested to a new level. “Fu-.. It’s Catwoman,” she coughed, eyes rimmed with red from the sheer effort it was taking to hold her back. Far from a woman that’d submit to Selina’s games, Cara ground her molars together, turning her head to let out a distinct noise of fear and pain, seeing stars in the corners of her vision by the time she’d gotten her eyes to focus back on Wyatt.
“She wants the suit. And she’s gonna get it if you don’t get it out of here.”
Catwoman. A name that Wyatt knew. A notorious thief who'd shacked up with Batman at one point, but that was neither here nor there. His brow furrowed in both concern and confusion and he struggled to think quickly. The suit needed to be somewhere safe but somewhere accessible in case Tony needed it--and if today was any indication, that time would come sooner rather than later.
A heavy sigh escaped him. "We can't be here right now. Neither of us can."
Cara shook her head, gulping down another wave of nausea and pain as Selina pounded at her consciousness like an angry neighbor at the back door. When she sucked in a second breath, she leaned forward, pressing her forehead against Wyatt’s for a beat before squeezing his hand.
“I love you,” she whispered into the small space between them. The single thing she’d said that night that didn’t have a quake to it.
He knew he needed to get out of there, and fast--and that if they were lucky, none of his neighbors had called the cops given all of the noise. He tilted his head down and leaned his forehead onto hers, returning the gesture and closing his eyes for a moment. "I love you, too."
The words came so easily and naturally that he didn't even think twice before opening his mouth. He tilted his head further so that he could kiss her, but he had barely allowed their lips to meet before he pulled away. "I'll see you in a couple of days."
Cara nodded, whispering and repeating an okay between them before she sucked in another inhale; to say that she reluctantly pulled Selina’s mask back down over her head was an understatement, because as if she’d hit a switch in doing so, the cat sliced her figurative claws into her spine. In one final move of defiance, Cara pushed herself backward, spinning on her bottom on the floor to face the wall opposite Wyatt.
“Go now,” she urged, holding onto the hood with both hands, pulling it down further than necessary -- blocking her own vision. Selina didn’t like that at all. It took everything in Cara’s body to remain upright, and for one last trick, she pulled the night-vision goggles down as a temporary blinder. Captain Marvel she was not, but she was a smart cookie, and Selina bit back down into Cara without mercy. The blonde twit would pay for that one.
We can do this, she repeated to herself, closing her eyes. We can pull this off, she repeated, breathing through the grimace of pain that came with Selina's mental assault.
He hesitated for a split second before turning on his heel. The kitchen was a disaster zone and he made a note to text his roommate about it later on, whenever it was that he got to where he was going. The routine was simple: open the door leading to the garage, push a button, get in the car. He followed it to a T, and just like that, he was driving Tony's Ferrari into the great unknown.
It took every last shredded bit of courage Cara had to keep herself quiet, holding the goggles to her face until she heard the Ferrari roar out of the garage and into nothingness. And then.. More nothing. The release that came with knowing Selina’s plan was foiled hit her like a rush of cool water to an angry burn, and every exhausted part of her accepted that power’d be relinquished to the more insidious of the two women.. At least for a while.
When Selina rose to look at her reflection in the shattered glass of a nearby cabinet, she couldn’t help but laugh, straightening her cowl and lifting her goggles to a point where her eyes’d be able to adjust. There was a bloody lip, and blonde curls stuffed haphazardly into the cap.. There was even a button nose that’d been running, but that was purely because Cara Davies was an emotional wreck.
“You’re making it fun, kids,” she teased, speaking to no one in particular when sirens started to wail in the distance. Time to go. With a flick of her wrist, the bullwhip was brought into a coil at her side before she exited in the same way she’d entered, bounding over to the black motorcycle -- purring it to life before throttling the accelerator.
Onto the next.. But first? A bath.