Title: Homecomings

Author: Jade Hunter

Disclaimer: Batman Beyond does not belong to me, and neither does anything from the Batman comics.

A.N: One day, I was just contemplating all the different Batman worlds, what with the comic-verse, the animated-verse, the Batman/Superman Adventures verse, and now Batman Beyond. Since the comic-verse was the original, I always preferred it, especially the third Batgirl, Cassandra Cain. I realized that since BB occurs in the future, there were ways to stir some comic-verse elements in there.

"talking"

thoughts

emphasis

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The Wayne Manor was exactly as she remembered it.

It was a clear night, and had it been the old days, she was sure that the stars would have been visible. She missed it, the days when cars didn't hover and genetic splicing was appalling, because those days had been simple, even for her.

Especially for her, perhaps.

But the technology expanded, and soon took over the world, as many people had predicted it would, shaking their heads and clicking their tongues but never actually doing anything. Technology made their lives easier, and they liked that, even if they didn't like the technology itself.

Gotham had changed. It should've come as no surprise; she had been gone for a long time. She had been young when she left, a few months into her twenty-sixth year. She had been reckless, impetuous, all those things, thinking that there was nothing for her here, but most of all she had been a girl who hadn't wanted to loose her father.

Cassandra hadn't thought about how they would feel about it – Bruce, who had taken her under his wing, accepted her, been like a second father to her; and Barbara, who had been the mother she had never had, the older sister she was lucky to have. She had loved them both, her mentor and caretaker, despite the expectations, the sometimes harsh words, the health food, but her loyalties had been divided, and in the end had chosen to leave – for the man that had raised and taught her to kill.

She wondered if they forgave her.

Wondered if the would be there to meet her.

Will they be happy to see me? she wondered.

It was strange to think of it, this rift that was now tense between them.

She had spent years watching the rift between Bruce and Dick grow to epic proportions, despite the efforts of Barbara, Tim, and herself to play mediators. And when something had happened between Barbara and Bruce…Dick had broken his ties for good, never coming back to Gotham and never contacting them except to curtly ask Oracle for some information. Even those times had been rare, because eventually he had done that himself.

That had been the beginning of the break in their little family, strange though it had been, and Cassandra knew it. Tim had gone after another few years, to a college out of state, moving and leaving Robin and Redbird behind him. A taste of normal life had taken Timothy Drake, never again to return. Cassandra herself had stayed, for ten years, in Gotham, steadfastly loyal to the two who had taken her in and given her a home. Every day, she would spend hours training with Bruce before returning to her home with Barbara to eat, rest, and talk with the older woman before their nightly change happened.

She avoided the front, went around, looking for that hidden passageway she knew so well.

For ten years, Batman, Batgirl, and Oracle had watched over Gotham. During those ten years, many technological advances had been made. After she had turned twenty-six, the three of them had heard of a surgery that could help Barbara walk again, thanks to the new technology. At first hesitant, prodded and encouraged by Bruce and Cassandra, Barbara had undergone the procedure.

There had been a great celebration, she remembered. Alfred had outdone himself.

Alfred. Thought of the kind old butler who had always been ready to lend an ear or a plate of freshly baked cookies made her want to cry, despite how long it had been. Always the Batclan's most trusted confident, Alfred Pennyworth had passed away due to old age, four years after her departure. She had been duly informed, and had returned for a last goodbye to an old friend. For Alfred, everyone had come, even Dick, and for Alfred, tensions had been lain aside.

It was afterwards that tempers flared and accusations hurled. Bruce had argued with Dick, Dick had yelled at Bruce, Barbara had tried to interfere, Dick ended up yelling at her as well. Cassandra tried to placate him, them all, but had been curtly dismissed by Bruce, now angry with her as well. She hadn't taken his words well, had retaliated with her own, Barbara interfering again, and Tim, the only one without grudges and old anger, and had stood by, helplessly.

Cassandra took in a deep breath, smelled the familiar dampness of the Batcave.

That fight, the hours after Alfred's funeral, had been the last time she had seen any of them. In her heard, she had known that Bruce and Barbara hadn't truly been angry with her, that Bruce hadn't meant many of the things he had said – he always had a fierce temper. They had been hurt, four years hadn't been enough time, and seeing her had made them sad again. But she had been hurt as well, her pride injured by Bruce's words, and one thing had led to another.

She recalled the reason she had left, the night that everything had exploded.

A week after Barbara's successful surgery, a note had come for her from her father. She was surprised – he had never attempted to communicate with her before. She couldn't recall what the note had said, but the next thing she remembered was planning to go overseas to him. Bruce had been opposed, and Barbara hadn't been so pleased, either. Their discussion had rapidly diminished into an argument, and when Cassandra heard someone of the things they had to say about her father, she had snapped and had said things that she regretted, even then.

Feelings were hurt that night, she sighed, her footsteps silent. Though older, she had lost none of her stealth, her speed, her skill. And at Alfred's funeral. Can things every be right again?

She remembered packing her clothes, her weapons, her Batgirl costume, because those were rightfully her property. She remembered calling a cab to the airport, booking a flight, using her own money because her temper had still been up and she had been too proud to use the money from the account Bruce had long ago set up for her.

As she neared the main area of the cave, where the Batcomputer was set up, Cassandra heard voices, hushed but being carried by the cave.

"Why are we here?" she heard an unfamiliar voice, belonging to that of a young man, ask. She could guess who he was.

A grunt, one she recognized as coming from Bruce, and then Barbara's voice, changed with age but still familiar, answered. "We're here to meet an old friend."

There was a significant pause.

"Oh," the young man, a boy really, said. "Which one?"

Another pause.

"What? But I thought you were Batgirl?" The frown of confusion was obvious in his tone.

"I was," Barbara answered. "But I was in an accident…"

"The Joker shot her, got her spine," Bruce interrupted brusquely. "Paralyzed her legs."

There was an annoyed noise from Barbara, shocked silence from the boy, and the Commissioner continued, "During that time when Gotham was known as No Man's Land – "

The boy interrupted, "Hey, I remember that from History!" Then, "Sorry."

Cassandra smiled. She could just imagine the death glare on Barbara's face.

"I won't go into details, but during No Man's Land, we met Cassandra when she stopped her father, David Cain, from assassinating my father," Barbara said. "I passed my former mantle onto her, and she became the new Batgirl."

She understood why Barbara had kept it so short and edited, because from the clueless tone in the kid's voice, Bruce was still not the one to overshare. Explaining everything meant explaining his absence, meant explaining Huntress, who would obviously lead to Catwoman – a topic Bruce always avoided to the best of his ability.

"What happened?" the boy asked, softly, as if sensing there was a story. If he knew anything about the former Batclan, then he would know there was always a story. They were like a crimefighting soap opera, but with kevlar.

An uncomfortable silence reigned for a few moments as Cassandra finally was close enough to see them. She noted with disapproval that Bruce hadn't sensed her – back then, he had been one of the only ones, besides her father and Lady Shiva, who she really had to work to sneak up on.

"We had an argument," Barbara finally said. Her voice was weary, as if the mere thought of it drained the life out of her. "She left, took everything with her, including her costume."

"You mean that's not…?"

Barbara laughed. "No," she said. "That was my costume only. The…Cassandra redesigned hers to fit her personality better. Made Batgirl look a helluva lot more menacing than I did, let me tell you."

That brought a small chuckle from Bruce. And although it wasn't technically true – the leather costume she had worn had been taken from the Huntress to be given to her – it still made Cassandra smile.

"It wasn't just the costume," Bruce interjected. "She was one of the best fighters I've ever known."

"She certainly kicked your ass enough times," Barbara snorted.

The boy seemed interested. "Yeah? Schway."

Bruce was disgruntled, and protested, "She did not."

"Oh please," Barbara rolled her eyes.

Bruce began to look outraged. No one seemed to believe him, and Cassandra took pity and decided it was the right time for her to make her dramatic entrance.

"I didn't," she said, loudly. "I came close, a few times, but…"

The three started, and Cassandra smiled.

"Cassandra," Barbara breathed, placing a hand on her chest. Behind her spectacles, her eyes seemed to shine brighter.

She nodded, her own eyes feeling suspiciously moist. "Barbara," she said, and found her voice to be unsteady, teary.

Drawn together, the two women hesitantly headed towards each other, then hugged like long lost sisters when they finally could reach the other. In their hearts, that's what they were.

After a moment, both withdrew, and turned to face the others. Cassandra smiled uncertainly.

Bruce simply looked at her, his gaze unreadable. Then, he cracked a small smile. "I told you," he muttered to Barbara and the boy, a young teenager. He stood, still very tall, despite the cane. "Terry, Cassandra," he told the boy, gesturing to her. "Cassandra, Terry."

The boy, Terry, stepped forward to shake the hand that she offered, and she read curiosity in his movement. She could practically see him thinking how someone as physically diminutive as herself could have held her own against the seedy underbelly of Gotham. Well, more or less, and not in those exact words.

"The new Batman," she acknowledged, a small smile on her face. At his surprised look, she said, "The last time I checked, Bruce was not a tenor."

Terry flushed, and if Cassandra didn't know better, she would think that Bruce was embarrassed as well.

"Well, you haven't lost your touch," Barbara commented, having regained her composure.

"I never did, unlike some people," Cassandra smiled, a tad smugly. She cast a sly glance at Bruce, to let everyone know exactly who she meant. "You should have been able to sense me – you would have, before."

Bruce made an annoyed sound, a cross between a grunt and a growl, and Barbara laughed outright as Terry stared.

Cassandra smiled again.

She was home.

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~Jade Hunter~