As the Batmobile came to a screeching stop, it was obvious to Batgirl that Batman wasn’t just driving around frantically out of aimless anger. He knew exactly where he was supposed to be headed, exactly where the Joker had been holed up since he was forced from his last hideout.
A converted warehouse on the edge of town, painted purple.
Batgirl exited the car, mentally kicking herself for not noticing the place before. Joker always had a flair for being blatantly obvious – why should his latest dive be any different?
She suddenly focused her attention as she watched Batman leap out of the driver’s side of the car and head straight for the warehouse, pausing only to fire a steel cable up at the roof and take off. It was well known that entering one of Joker’s places through the front door was a deadly proposition – he made sure to place armed guards and traps to catch those who lacked such knowledge.
Then again…it was also his nature to be unpredictable. The only sure way to catch him was to be thoroughly unpredictable–
Batgirl’s mouth hung open for a moment as her own thoughts led her to a revelation. Joker had been studying Batman’s style! He always knows what Batman would do…and those who follow in his footsteps as well. That’s why Batgirl has been able to come close to killing Joker, while Batman seemed unable to do the same.
To Joker, she was completely unpredictable – an ‘X factor’ that he couldn’t seem to figure out or get a handle on. And because he was a certified nut-case…he somehow translated that to believe that he had a crush on her. No, wait…it wasn’t all insanity. It was because he thought of her as…an equal?
She shuddered at the thought of Joker considering her in the same league of mental instability as himself, placing a cable launcher in her left hand to ready herself. It had been several seconds since she managed to catch a glimpse of Batman on the roof. He was either holding still to stalk someone or…he was in trouble.
But then something else caught her eye…a possibility. A light on the second floor of the warehouse turned on, and she watched Joker walk past a window for just a fleeting moment. She knew exactly where he was…and clutching the cable launcher, she realized that he was within reach.
Batgirl held the launcher at arm’s length in front of her, aiming it directly at the window. Her heart was beating quickly – she planned to let the claw at the end of the cable crash through the glass, and then come flying through herself before they could react.
But the plan changed suddenly…when Joker stepped in front of the window and looked outside. Batgirl knew that he could see her standing outside. It was all too obvious, especially when he seemed to give her a salute through the glass. And worse yet…if he knew she was there, he knew Batman was around somewhere as well.
Her teeth clenched tightly as she gripped the cable launcher with both hands now, reaching for the trigger with her right thumb. She had no choice, it was now or never. The cable launcher fired, a crashing of glass…
…and there was a horrifying scream as the claw dug into Joker’s right shoulder. Batgirl could see a few of his henchmen rush to help…and she reacted quickly again, throwing her full weight backwards against the cable.
Joker began cursing as he tumbled head-first out of the window, a streak of his blood smearing across the windowsill as he fell on a narrow ledge a few feet below.
She tugged hard on the cable again, intent on bringing Joker to the ground hard, leaving him tangled in steel cord and vulnerable. It was perfect, easy…way too easy.
…and just like that, it was over.
As she pulled hard against the cable, she watched helplessly as a Bat Wing thrown from the roof whisked past, slicing the steel cable and sending her tumbling onto her back. She stood quickly, frowning, as Batman came running toward her from having just landed at the side of the building.
“Get in the car!” he said in a low, threatening voice as he climbed into the driver’s side himself.
Batgirl complied…and as the car drove away, she continued frowning at him until they were out of view of the warehouse, waiting for some kind of explanation that would never come.
The silent treatment continued even as the Batmobile came to a stop inside the Bat Cave, and Bruce climbed out. But then he did something unusual which made Batgirl cringe – he tore off his mask and threw it across the room.
As Cassandra slipped her own mask off, tucking it behind her belt, she watched Bruce pace to the far end of the cave, and then back toward her, wearing an angry frown. She gave him a frown of her own…only Bruce’s should have warned her away from pushing her luck any further.
“Idiot,” Cassandra said in a low whisper, gritting her teeth, her voice seething with anger as her mind relived the scene of the Bat Wing snapping the cable which would have led to the capture of Joker. “Why?”
Bruce seemed even angrier now as he leaned close to Cassandra becoming intimidating enough to force her to lean away. “I will capture Joker, and I alone. Is that too much for you to understand?”
“What’s your problem?” Cassandra asked, this time in a more accusatory tone. “You’re as crazy as he is!”
Cassandra cringed as Bruce pulled one of the monitors out of his research station and threw it across the room to shatter against the concrete floor. He had an angry, fiery look in his eyes when he turned to face her again…and she squinted and turned away, almost sure that she would be the next object thrown across the room.
But instead…he just silently left. Cassandra stared at the closed door, her heart still beating quickly. All of the anger she felt had slipped away by that moment, and had been replaced by fear. Not for herself – for Bruce. If he was indeed crazy, there was no telling what he would do next.
“That wasn’t too smart.”
Barbara’s voice was calming, as usual, tinged with a little humor as she spoke. She was always the voice of reason of the Bat team, someone who was very good at resolving conflicts with nothing more than a little wisdom and a smile.
“Why not?” Cassandra asked.
“Because he’ll never let go.” Barbara rolled her wheelchair closer to Cassandra, spinning around quickly to face her just as Cassandra sat down in an office chair.
“Deep in his mind somewhere, he’s still that little boy who’s parents were killed in front of his eyes…and one look from the man who was once Jack Napier terrifies him. He knows he needs to face that, but he can’t if someone gets there first.”
“That’s crazy,” Cassandra said, “What if someone else kills Joker…or he kills himself? Will Bruce go insane?”
The solemn look and sudden silence from Barbara gave Cassandra her answer…and her heart sank when she realized just how sad Bruce’s situation was.
“Damn–” Cassandra whispered, shaking her head slowly. She stood and headed toward the stairway up to the house. “I have to tell him I’m sorry.”
“Hey, Cassandra.” Barbara announced as she rolled after her, “You’re a lot more mature than Bruce gives you credit for. Always remember that.”
Cassandra nodded and raced up the dark stairway to come out behind a clock in the study inside Wayne Manor. She snapped the clock shut carefully and headed straight to Bruce’s office – she knew he would be there, it was the one place he went to seek solitude.
When she entered the office, Bruce was sitting at the desk, elbows on the blotter in front of him, his hands clasped behind his bowed head. In front of him sat a small crystal glass filled with a clear liquid which, even across the room, smelled like alcohol. The room was dark with the exception of a small amount of light from a lamp on the desk.
She sat on the edge of the desk silently, reaching between his elbows quickly to snatch the crystal glass from next to Bruce and place it just out of his reach. “I’m sorry I was such a jerk to you.”
Bruce looked up slowly, staring at Cassandra before reaching for the glass…which she just moved farther away. “No need to apologize. It’s just something you just don’t understand.”
“I want to understand.” Cassandra picked up the glass again as she noticed Bruce eyeing it. She dumped its contents onto the carpet next to the desk. “So tell me…what’s it like?”
Bruce sighed, looking at the empty glass for a moment before picking up a letter opener. “I believe I’ve told you that story already.”
“No, not the story.” Cassandra shook her head. “Your feelings. What did you feel?”
“Cassandra, I will tell you the same thing I told Barbara when she asked the same thing. You’re not a professional therapist, and if you were, I wouldn’t need one.”
“You wanted to kill him, didn’t you?”
A few seconds of silence passed between them…but Cassandra was already sure of the answer. The letter opener Bruce held was being subjected to torture between Bruce’s fingers, twisting and bending as he was lost in thought for a moment.
“Yes,” he finally answered, “Yes, I did. But I was only a kid…so I didn’t stand a chance.”
“And now?” Cassandra asked.
Bruce gave Cassandra an icy look, dropping the letter opener onto the desk. “I think you know the answer to that.”
Cassandra suddenly frowned as Bruce leaned back in his chair and stared at her over the top of the desk. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing – Bruce was actually admitting failure? He believed that he still didn’t stand a chance at catching his ongoing nemesis? Then again…he was probably still reacting to having just missed catching Joker again.
“Why didn’t you let me capture him?”
Bruce frowned again, nearly launching into another lecture…but he paused and seemed to calm himself as the door to his office opened wide, and Barbara rolled in without saying a word.
“He would have forced you to kill him,” Bruce said calmly, his confidence seemingly boosted by Barbara’s presence, “And if it came to that…I’m reasonably sure you would have.”
“He…what?” Cassandra looked at Barbara, seeming confused, as if to verify with her whether Bruce was correct, or simply paranoid as usual.
“See this wheelchair?” Barbara spoke softly as she wheeled closer to the desk. “I was put in it because I wasn’t willing to kill Joker…and because Bruce didn’t.”
“But–” Cassandra shook her head and slid off the edge of the desk, looking behind her at Bruce. He suddenly turned silent, and was looking down at the desk’s surface.
“Cassandra…the longer Bruce fights with Joker, the more he loses. His parents, his friends…and maybe one day his sanity.”
Bruce looked up as he heard that last part, prompting a weak smile from Barbara. “You’ve seen what happened to Barbara,” he said, “I don’t want the same to happen to you.”
“And,” Bruce added, interrupting Cassandra with a raise of his hand, before she could reply, “I’m certain you wouldn’t allow it to happen to you. Which is why I believe you would have killed Joker to protect yourself.”
“Who will protect you?” Cassandra looked at the sad expressions on the faces of both Bruce and Barbara. She sighed and closed her eyes for a moment before quietly slipping toward the door.
As she turned to close the door behind her, she gave the two of them one last look. “Let me know when you decide to trust me.”
Bruce sighed out loud as he leaned back in his chair. Barbara sat across from him, giving him a sly smile.
“What?” Bruce asked.
“Oh, nothing. I just remember saying the same thing to you once.” Barbara turned her wheelchair around, intent on leaving Bruce alone in his office…but paused along the way. “She’s a smart girl, Bruce. Maybe she just needs a chance to prove it.”
“She’ll have her chance–”
“–when it’s ‘safe’…right?” Barbara indicated toward Bruce’s computer with her chin. “There’s your daily journal. Read through it…and when you find something that looks ‘safe’, you be sure and let me know.”
It was pouring down rain when Batgirl went out again, lightning flashing like an out of control strobe light, thunder crashing loudly enough to set off car alarms on the streets. She drove the Batmobile into a dark alley between two tall gothic designed buildings downtown, only one of which was her destination.
She figured that Bruce could learn that she had taken the Batmobile at any moment, so she had to use her time wisely. The canopy of the car opened quickly, and then shut, leaving her only a second or two to clear it. She did so on purpose, to minimize the amount of time she had to spend in the rain.
Her destination was the Gotham City Public Library. Ironic, however, that she was entering at such a late hour…because during the daytime it would be an ideal place to seek shelter during a storm. She wasn’t there to seek shelter, however…she was attempting to satisfy her curiosity by doing some research.
Bruce’s computer in the Bat Cave was very efficient with its task – to store and organize information in as pure and as dry a form as possible. It was all raw data. But she wanted more.
Cassandra slipped off the mask once inside the library, reasonably sure that no one would be inside the dark building at that time of the night, especially during a storm. She headed straight to a computer which indexed the newspaper archives, immediately searching for any article referencing ‘Wayne’.
Newspaper articles contained more than just raw data. They contained eyewitness accounts, interviews…feelings. The facts of what happened to Bruce’s parents were terrifying enough. But she had to know more…like what people around him thought, or whether he was well taken care of after it occurred. That’s what the Bat Cave computer was missing…and what Bruce held close to his heart.
But to her dismay, she learned that much of the newspaper articles were a lot like Bruce’s computer’s archives. Not much was really known about the Wayne family itself – they kept a shroud of secrecy around themselves, no doubt because of their wealthy status in Gotham City. The only witness interviews mentioned just what the police reports already had – gunshots, and fleeting glimpses of a possible perpetrator.
A flash of lightning quickly put an end to her research as the screen flickered off and on, causing the computer to restart. She shoved the screen hard…and it slid off the desk to crash to the floor.
The last image she saw on the screen stuck in her mind. It was a specific newspaper, published on a specific date. Something prompted her to dig through the microfilm file for it…but it was gone. The slot for that date was clearly marked, but there was no film.
Before the computer had been knocked out, she had paged forward through a few days’ worth of newspapers published after Bruce’s parents murders. One thing in particular caught her attention – a single rose placed on the site of the Wayne murders days later. The caption below claimed that it was placed by a man who’s description sounded a lot like Alfred’s.
“We need to talk.”
Alfred turned around and smiled at Cassandra, who stood behind him wearing jeans and a black long-sleeved shirt. Her clothing was dry, yet her hair was wet – it didn’t take a genius to figure out that she had just returned from an excursion in costume.
“Certainly, Cassandra. Would you like some tea?”
Cassandra nodded as she sat down on one of the couches in the study, staring into the roaring fireplace until Alfred returned with a tray carrying two cups of tea. He sat down across from her, placing the tray on the table between them.
“Tell me how Bruce felt after his parents were killed.” Cassandra took a sip of her tea as she looked across the table at Alfred.
“I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Alfred responded quickly, seeming to be unaffected by the weight of her question, “Master Bruce is entitled to his privacy.”
“It’s very important to me.” Cassandra leaned toward Alfred, keeping her eyes steadily on him as she placed the teacup on her hand back on the table. “I have to know.”
“Very well.” Alfred took a deep breath. “However, if I betray Master Bruce’s trust, you will have to betray your own secrecy. Agreed?”
Cassandra blinked once and nodded, leaning back with her tea cup, eager to listen to every word Alfred would tell her.
“At first, he simply cried. For days, weeks…I honestly can’t recall. But I do remember that he seemed to fear leaving his room. He even took his meals there. It was almost as if he believed if he waited there long enough, his parents would return and ask him to come out.”
“How did you get him to come out?” Cassandra asked.
“I didn’t,” Alfred continued, “Eventually he did so on his own. He began asking me lots of questions about death, and about heaven and hell. He told me once that one day he would die…and he hoped it would be soon, so he could see his mum and dad again.”
“But just when I had begun to worry about him, he suddenly returned to normal. He returned to school, and excelled in his studies. He became driven to success at the expense of his childhood – it seemed he was obsessed with leaving it behind.”
“As he aged, however, the anniversary of his parents’ deaths haunted him more and more every year. He would eventually spend weeks surrounding the date miserable, and deeply depressed. He never would tell me why, but I suspected it was because his parents never had the chance to be proud of his success.”
“Is that when he became Batman?” Cassandra interrupted.
“Yes, in a way, it was. One day, he read an article in the newspaper about a child who had been killed in a gang dispute. He cried for days after reading it, as if he had returned to the moments following his parents’ murder.”
“Literally days later, he started channelling a lot of his time and resources into a strange project – remodeling a cave which was adjacent to the Manor. He begged me to help him without asking a single question – and I did so. The cave was outfitted with impressive technology, computers, furnishings…but one item which arrived finally caused me to break my promise of silence.”
Alfred nodded. “Smart girl, Cassandra. The costume. I confronted him about it, telling him that his behavior was bordering on insanity. I still remember what his answer was – ‘Insanity is allowing murderous criminals to rule the streets while we hide in our homes, afraid. It’s time they were afraid.’ It was a rebuttal to which I could not, in good conscience, argue with.”
Cassandra’s eyebrows raised with interest. “So then you agreed to help him?”
Alfred shook his head. “Not ‘help him’. Rather I forced myself upon him. At first, he thanked me for understanding, and told me I needn’t become more involved. But I insisted upon it.”
“I suppose it was the excitement of the whole thing. The sense of adventure.” Alfred looked down at the table and sighed. “And because I knew…deep down…that he was absolutely correct. We Gotham citizens have been afraid of criminals for much too long. We’ve been hiding like frightened children while they turn our streets into their own private playground.”
“I haven’t been hiding.”
“And that’s the next topic, Cassandra.” Alfred sat up, placing his empty tea cup on the table. “Why are you not afraid?”
Cassandra shrugged and looked down. “I used to be. But I stopped being afraid when–”
“When your parents were killed.” Alfred nodded when Cassandra suddenly looked up, giving him a quick nervous look. “Do you feel any remorse at their deaths?”
“No…no, I don’t.” Cassandra shook her head slowly. “They deserved it. But I feel bad that I had to be the one…”
Alfred turned slowly as he noticed Barbara entering the room silently in her wheelchair. Cassandra had stopped speaking as soon as she entered.
“Continue,” he said.
“It’s kind of like–” Cassandra took a deep breath and purposely looked away from Alfred. “I knew something bad had to happen to them…because of everything they did to me. It’s almost like…the fire was meant to happen.”
“Why did you find it so easy to kill them?” Barbara suddenly asked. She noted that Cassandra seemed to cringe at her question.
“I didn’t at first. I cried…but because I was the cause. But then–” Cassandra gave Barbara a sad look for a moment before returning her gaze to the table in front of her. “–then I felt…free.”
“What about the ‘bad guys’ you killed on missions?” Barbara asked. Alfred gave her a warning look, telling her that she could possibly be digging too deep.
“I…I remember the freedom I felt. And I want it for other people, too. I can’t let an innocent die because I was afraid to kill.” Cassandra calmly stared at Barbara as she spoke. “You understand…right?”
“How do you know those people were going to kill?”
“Because I grew up in that world,” Cassandra whispered, “I know.”
“I’m really sorry if it seems like I don’t understand,” Barbara said, wheeling backwards a little, “But I just can’t think that way. I worry about if someone I’m faced with has a family, or loved ones, or someone who cares–”
“Is that what you think about the Joker too?” Cassandra asked, rising from her seat on the couch and kneeling next to Barbara’s wheelchair, “Or do you want to see how many more he can put in a wheelchair?”
“Wh-what?” Barbara leaned back in her chair slightly.
“He shot you, and put you in this chair. He took your whole life away.” Cassandra leaned her elbow on the arm of the chair, noting the look of anger which swept across Barbara’s face. “Would you like to see him do the same to someone else? Like me, or Bruce? Or would you rather see Joker die?”
She looked at Alfred for a moment as Barbara hid her mouth behind her trembling right hand. It was clear that Cassandra had hit upon one of her worst fears.
Cassandra rose to her feet quickly and frowned at Barbara, and then at Alfred. “That’s what I thought.”
As she headed out into the hallway, Cassandra could hear whispers from inside the study. Barbara sounded truly shaken…and Cassandra’s heart sunk as she heard Barbara’s voice asking Alfred if Cassandra even understands what happened to her.
She bowed her head and slowly walked back into the study, heading directly toward Barbara, noting the fact that she looked away. She kneeled next to the wheelchair and looked at Barbara’s eyes. “I’m…sorry I said that. I don’t want you to be angry with me.”
“I’m not angry, Cassandra. Not anymore.” Barbara smiled slightly as Cassandra stood again and left the room. She was glad that Cassandra had displayed evidence of a strong conscience. It meant that she was more reasonable than Bruce, in some ways.
She looked up slowly to watch Alfred stand and head toward the doorway with the tea tray in his hands. “I was right all along, Alfred. Do you believe that?”
Alfred turned and nodded. “Yes. Master Bruce will be pleased to hear that.”
“I don’t think it’ll be long before he does,” Barbara said, as Alfred left and headed toward the kitchen. “Right Bruce?”
A grandfather clock on the study swung open, and Bruce stepped out, closing it carefully behind him. “You knew I was behind the clock all along?”
“It was a guess.” Barbara shrugged.
“What are your thoughts on Cassandra’s behavior?”
Barbara took a deep breath and frowned. “She’s cocky, even a little arrogant. She may be even more dangerous than you–”
“More dangerous?” Bruce interrupted.
“–But she’s also more sensitive, too. She seems to know when she’s pushed things too far…but sometimes, she doesn’t care.”
Bruce sighed. “That makes her an extreme risk to herself…and to me.”
Barbara shrugged again. “Maybe so. But with her watching my back…I’d could be sure that I have nothing to fear.”
“What I’m saying, Bruce,” Barbara yelled after him as he turned to leave the room, “Is that it’s good thing that she’s on our side. What we have in her is some of what makes your worst enemies powerful…but controlled, and with a sense of what’s wrong or right.”
“And what makes her so powerful?” Bruce raised an eyebrow.
“Always go to the heart of things, don’t you?” Barbara smiled. “She doesn’t let fear cause her to hesitate. It’s something that’s caused each of us to fail. Me, you, Dick, and even Tim.”
“Sometimes, lack of fear can be worse.”
Barbara shook her head. “She feels it. She just never lets it slow her down. And yes, it can be dangerous – but so far, she’s managed pretty well.”
“Until she gets shot.”
Bruce and Barbara cringed in unison at his words. They both knew what it was a reference to. Barbara looked down, sighing loudly. “Let’s pray she doesn’t.”
Cassandra shut the door of her room and launched herself onto the bed, to lie on her back and stare at the ceiling, her hands lying across her stomach. She knew that Bruce and Barbara were talking about her down the hall…about how dangerous she was, and how much of a risk she was to the ‘team’.
She wanted so badly to explain herself…to answer their persistent questions. But she didn’t know the answers herself.
Her eyes closed as her mind went backwards through time.
she remembered feeling anger as she pushed a man off a building…and then the feeling of terror as she realized she had just sent him to his death. She tried to capture her thoughts at the moment when she pushed him – that she was smaller than he was…and if she allowed him to get too close, he would hurt her.
Cassandra’s mind went back even further…to a time when she was even smaller. She sat on the carpeted floor below the window in her bedroom, holding something in her hand…it was a dictionary. She felt anger, and someone…her dad…stood in the doorway, screaming. She was threatening to throw the dictionary at him if he came closer – so he cursed at her, and then shut the door and locked it. He thought he was punishing her by locking her in. But she felt safe in that locked room, protected.
She took a deep breath as she finally began to realize what had been plaguing her for so long – a need for control she had been lacking through her childhood…and a feeling that she required solitude whenever she felt trapped. A feeling that was so powerful, she was willing to kill to achieve it.
But should she tell Bruce and Barbara? Or would that just lower their opinion of her further? She knew that they never truly listened to her – they asked her questions, but then came to their own conclusions. Asking questions for them was simply a test of their own theories.
No…it would be better if they didn’t know. The mystery Cassandra left for the two of them was one of the few things that kept them interested in her. Otherwise, Bruce would simply go back to treating her like a child, making up nonsense rules and insisting that she follow. As long as he saw her as a confusing mystery, he would be more careful with her.
She smiled and moved her palms behind her head, still staring at the ceiling. She felt a little bad about purposely misleading them…but she also feared that the truth about herself could be much more damaging.
“They think you’re gonna get yourself killed.”
Cassandra didn’t even look up as she heard Tim’s footsteps and voice enter the room. He closed the door behind him to make sure no one else could sneak in behind him.
“Good,” she replied.
“Good?” Tim sat down on the edge of the bed, looking down at Cassandra with a questioning gaze. She didn’t seem to notice, as she continued staring at the ceiling. “It’s not good. You don’t really want to get yourself killed, do you?”
She shook her head ‘no’. “Of course not.”
“So why don’t you tell Bruce the truth, then?” Tim asked, his voice sounding more desperate. “Or at least me?”
She shook her head again. “You’ll tell Bruce.”
“If you don’t want me to tell him, I won’t. Just…I’m worried about you is all.”
Cassandra sat up suddenly and eyed Tim suspiciously. “You won’t tell him?”
“I promise I won’t. Even if it’s something he really should know.”
“Okay.” Cassandra nodded and straightened herself, taking a deep breath, purposely acting as if she were about to say something Earth-shattering. It worked, she could see the anticipation in Tim’s eyes. “It’s very simple. Bruce has his mind games, I have mine.”
Tim sat with his mouth hanging open, half an expression of horror, and half an expression of surprise, for several seconds. He almost spoke a couple of times before finally gaining enough coherence to put together a sentence. “You’re trying to outplay the master, are you?”
“I’m winning, too.” Cassandra looked down, trying her best to stifle a laugh. “Look, Tim…I’m not crazy, really. I don’t want to die. Every time I’ve killed was either to protect myself…or you.”
“Oookay.” Tim pressed his hands together and held them to his mouth for a moment as he took a deep breath. “What I’m not clear on, Cassandra, is why you react so violently to danger. And why you take so many dangerous risks.”
“I do get scared out there, you know,” she responded quietly, “Just like you do. When I get scared…I become protective. Of myself, and even you.”
Tim nodded. “And the risks? Why do you keep coming back here with bruises and broken bones?”
“Because I want to be the best,” Cassandra replied. “I can’t if I hold myself back.”
An amused smile formed on Tim’s face. “You know what? Everything you’ve told me makes perfect sense. Why didn’t you say something before?”
Cassandra shrugged. “I guess I didn’t really know the answers myself.”
Tim slid off of the bed and nudged Cassandra’s shoulder. “None of us do, really. So tell me…how has Dick been getting along with you?”
“We got some ice cream and talked.” She shrugged again. “Nothing special.”
Tim turned and headed toward the door. “Just keep one eye on him. He kind of has a reputation with the ladies.”
“How about you?” Cassandra smiled as Tim stopped suddenly and turned to face her with a look of surprise. “You know an awful lot of blondes.”
“That’s none of your–” Tim stopped himself and sighed. He expected Cassandra to be honest with him, and yet he lashed out when she asked him to do the same. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess I do. Does that bother you?”
She shook her head. “No. Just something I noticed.”
“Kind of like when I noticed you were growing your hair longer?”
Cassandra laughed, bringing a smile to Tim’s face for a moment before he turned to leave again.
But then he paused again, and pointed toward Cassandra. “It looks nice. Don’t let Bruce talk you into cutting it short again.”
“Hey, Tim,” Cassandra said, as he opened the door and headed into the hallway. She slid off of the bed suddenly, holding the television remote in her hands. “You’re a good friend.”
Tim smiled and stepped into the hallway, sticking his head into the room again to add one last comment. “For a dark haired girl, you’re not so bad either.”
She laughed again, pretending to throw the remote at the door as Tim closed it quickly. Then she switched the TV on, sitting on the edge of the bed to watch some mindless entertainment and relax for a while.
Cassandra needed to unwind – it had been a long, stressful night. While she liked matching wits with Bruce and playing mind games to occupy his time, it took a toll on her nerves – because he also supplied the tools she used for her late-night ‘recreation’ atop the buildings of Gotham City. At any moment, she could push things too far…and be left as a boring civilian as a result.
She couldn’t allow herself to be left as weak and helpless again as she was the day before she left her childhood home. She couldn’t allow it. What she was now…as Cassandra, and as Batgirl…gave her a feeling of power, and gave her a purpose. It would be hell to lose it.
Her mind drifted away as boring late night television began to hypnotize her, finally bringing her racing mind to silence. Sleep then overtook her quickly…and she could only wait for tomorrow.