Summary: Perhaps this is what reading is like, for people who've done it all their lives.
Notes: set after Teen Titans 29.
She likes sneaking into Tim's house. He calls it his Robin's Nest. Cass thinks that might've made Stephanie smile, so now it makes her smile. She steals food from his fridge and uses up his hot water. It comforts her to know that someone can tell when she's been in a place.
He's sprawled on his couch, still wearing the lower half of his costume, his chest bare. He's losing weight, and Cass has a momentary fear that she hasn't left him enough food after her raids. But money is not a concern for either of them, and she knows she is not the one to blame for the diminishment of him.
The new bruises are worse than usual. Tim's eye -- and it's only now that Cass notices that his mask is removed, too -- is dark and swollen, his cheek red and puffed. There are splits on his lip, purpled splotches on his arms, and scratches on his chin and throat.
He has, as Alfred might say, been put through the wringer.
Cass reaches out and turns Tim's head carefully, lightly. He doesn't wake, but breathes against her palm and murmurs something too quiet to hear.
She glares, hard, at the injuries. Perhaps this is what reading is like, for people who've done it all their lives. She can look at the bruises and watch the story unfold.
She sees I hate you I hate you I hate you
and Does he love you
and Tell me I was as good as you, tell me they remember
and You aren't enough
and You will get him killed and then I will have to kill you.
Cass kisses Tim's forehead and drapes a blanket over him. Then she goes to catch a train to Gotham.
The city doesn't feel like home anymore, even as it's the most familiar place she's ever been, and that makes Cass sad in a way she doesn't have the words for. There must be words for it, after all. The feeling is too big for there not to be.
He's taking money off a streetwalker when Cass finds him. No mask on his face, except for the one that only she can see. He tells lies with his body.
"A pimp. How noble," she says. The hooker takes a long look at her, at the cowl and the cape and the black kevlar, and pats him on the arm.
"Looks like you got company. See you, Jay. Stay out of trouble."
"You too," he says, and pecks her on the cheek. Cass can see him say to her This city is evil. Be harder than it. Be safe
When they're alone, he says with words "So, you must be... no, wait, don't tell me... Bondage Girl, right?"
"Batgirl." She knows he knows already, but she wants to name herself nonetheless.
He shifts, and she sees him whisper, like a heartbreak, Joker shot her in the spine and then he took pictures and it was like her light went out and I've seen pictures of her now and she looks happy again but the old light is still missing
Then, as if remembering she's there, he shifts again, and now he's saying, viciously, How can you let Black Mask be alive after what he did, when Stephanie is dead and won't ever make you laugh again
. It makes Cass stumble, throws her off her game, but then she looks harder and sees that she's misread him.
He's saying How can Bruce have let the Joker live?
"You need us to be better than you were," she says calmly, remembering her purpose for finding him. "I am."
He smirks. "Are you now?"
"Yes," she answers, and attacks.
He's very good. Trained by the best. He's not completely expecting it, but she only gets two strikes in before he's blocking and parrying her. She swoops low, then jumps high, but he's rarely more than a step behind her.
He kicks her thigh, and she sees him saying We could have been allies.
She jabs his armpit and answers Never too late
His knuckles glance off the chin of her cowl. I'm a killer.
Her knee hits his stomach. Killers can change.
He tries to slam her down against the pavement. I need you to love him best.
Her fingers find the pressure point on his jaw, and press. I do.
His weight falls atop her as he blacks out, and she shoves him off with a breathless grunt. Unconscious, his face looks smooth and tired. Cass touches his cheek, and wonders what will happen next.
Then she sits down, and waits for someone to come take care of him.