The Titans were gone. The warehouse stood nearly empty again. Tim sighed as he glanced around one more time to make sure they hadn't left anything vital lying around. It was nearly four hours after the defeat of Johnny Warren and, after the short meeting and a longer, if impromptu, celebration, the team had eventually broken up and his friends had returned to their respective homes. Now the warehouse echoed with each step, magnifying every sound to eerie proportions. Reaching the conclusion that nothing had been left behind, Tim heaved a sigh, wincing at the twinge in his ribs, and sat down on a packing crate, chin propped on his hands.
It was in this position that Cassandra found him a few minutes later. Seeing that his earlier lightness had deserted him and he was staring rather morosely into space, she shook her head and crossed the room towards him. He showed no indication that he noticed her approach, but didn't jump when she laid a hand on his shoulder.
"You didn't kill him, you know." He shrugged away her remark, straightening after a quick glance at her face.
"I wanted to." He meant the words to shock her, but she remained unaffected, only giving him a slight smile and nudging him over so that she, too, could sit on the crate.
"Yes. But you didn't. The demon did. He did it to himself, too."
"Yeah…he did that before. Disintegrated…made me think I killed him." Suspecting that Tim was wondering if Warren had tricked him again, Cass tried to reassure him.
"But Raven said he really is…" she broke off as a glare was aimed in her direction.
"I know that!" he said, scornfully. "I just…" he flashed her a covert glance, "…I thought it would…I dunno…"
"Would make you feel better?" He flushed, but nodded. "Oh, Tim." She shook her head at him sympathetically.
"Well I knew it wouldn't…but I couldn't help…hoping, I guess. But Warren's death won't bring back my dad." She nodded silently. "I thought I would be content with 'justice'…but I wanted him to die and yet, now…it's empty. Pointless." He closed his eyes, saying, "I'm empty…pointless."
"That's not true!" she cried indignantly. He shrugged. "It's not. You are Robin. That's not pointless. And even if you weren't, you're Tim…and…and that's even more!" He glanced at her in surprise, seeing moisture threatening in her eyes. He blinked in stunned amazement, then searched for a tissue or something in some panic. The look on his face made her laugh, dispelling his fears that she was going to do something he had been sure, up till now, was completely foreign to her. She stopped giggling and sighed.
"Um…you ok?" Tim asked warily. She nodded.
"Yeah. You just…you're so stupid sometimes!" she said, lightly punching his shoulder. He winced, reminding her of his injuries and she quickly apologized.
"Nah. Doesn't really hurt that much...I guess." He grinned at her, and she was relieved to see he was coming out of his depression. "I supposed we should probably be heading back to Gotham." It was said with some reluctance, and she realized she still didn't know what had happened on his brief trip back…though whatever it was, it seemed to have been pretty bad for him to be loath to return home.
"Yeah." She agreed, though she remained seated as he rose. He glanced back at her, eyebrow raised, and she shrugged and stood. She supposed it didn't really matter…and she was mostly sure he'd tell her…sooner or later. But a slight hesitation on his part at the doorway changed her mind and she reached out, laying a hand on his shoulder.
"What?" He glanced at her quizzically, put on his guard by the serious look on her face.
"Before…we go back…" she bit her lip nervously, then took the plunge, pulling him towards her and catching him off-guard with a much-more-passionate kiss than the one they'd shared…was it only two days ago?...out on Cairo's crowded streets. For a few seconds Tim's brain nearly shut down…he certainly wasn't thinking about any negative aspects of returning to Gotham. His hands came up to grip her arms convulsively…but instead of pushing her away, he simply held on. It had been too long…far too long since he'd had someone to hold onto…to give him the emotional support he would swear to his dying day he didn't need.
Cass pulled back, ending the kiss with a sense very similar to abject terror…fearing the blow to come. Oh, not a physical blow…not as Cain had responded to any attempt at physical signs of affection… with violence…fighting. But the emotional blow of rejection...after all, she'd only really kissed, or tried to kiss, one person before, and he had been too terrified at the time to really pay attention…and though the Bat-clan was close, she certainly hadn't kissed any of them. Well…not until now, that is. She knew Tim wasn't going to backhand her or anything so brutal…but the fear was still there…fear that rejection from him would be more painful than any of the cruelties Cain had put her through.
Realizing that her mind was babbling, she swallowed nervously, and sneaked a peek at Tim's face, startled and relieved to find he looked just as nervous and unsure as she felt. She felt a smile tugging at her lips as Tim drew her back for a second kiss…much in the manner of someone trying a new food…tasting it again, having been surprised to like it the first time around. This mental image almost had the ruinous effect of sending her into giggles, except that Tim was so much better at kissing than she was…making this kiss even more distracting than the one she'd just bestowed on him.
"I…" the kiss ended, Cass was at a loss how to proceed. Faltering she took, in her mind, the coward's way out…she changed the subject. "Tim, what's wrong? Really?" Not surprisingly, this had the effect of throwing Tim into confusion, and he stared at her blankly for a few moments, thinking she'd thought something wrong with the kiss.
"No-Nothing!" he stammered. She scowled at this response and he hastily backtracked. "I…I mean…um…well…" giving a short laugh, he shook his head. "No, really, Cass. Nothing's wrong. Nothing at all." This last was added in an under voice, almost as if he hadn't meant to speak aloud.
"Then why don't you want to go back to Gotham!" she demanded. Understanding lit his face, and he laughed again, shortly, then grimaced. Sensing correctly that he was wincing, not in pain, but from the wish that he didn't have to discuss the subject, Cass held his gaze with a baleful stare. Tim ran a hand nervously through his hair and turned away from her, pacing to the door and back agitatedly.
"I…I don't know. It's just…this whole time…especially since we left Gotham, you know? It's been unreal. I knew what had happened. I knew my father was…well, that was the point, you see? But it was still…now I'm going to have to go back. To take up life as if nothing happened? And that life…! Ha!" that mysterious but cynical utterance made no sense to Cass, but as for the rest….
"You don't want to return to 'that life?" she swallowed the fear that he meant to abandon his role as Robin. To quit as he once had…which meant no more nighttime adventures, no laughing at stupid crooks or knowing the satisfaction of a job well done. And…since Cass didn't really have much of a civilian identity…it could mean he'd walk out of her life forever.
"No…" Tim, oblivious to the jumbled thoughts racing through Cass' mind, pondered the subject. "No, it's just…when my dad died, it was like something inside me broke. Shattered into a billion pieces. And…I know that it can be put back together, but…but it won't be the same. Everything has changed." Relief that he didn't mean to quit coursed though Cass, but one thing caught her attention.
"Sometimes…sometimes change is good?" She ended the comment with a query…hoping he'd agree with the statement, but not sure he would. His eyes met hers, startled, and she wondered about it…until she realized he was thinking about the kiss. Their relationship had changed, too. And, hopefully, that was a good thing.
"Yeah…." He drew the word out, the gave a half-grin. "Yeah. Sometimes it's good." They fell into a comfortable silence, just trying to absorb everything. After a few minutes, Tim shuffled his feet and cleared his throat. Cass waited, but he didn't say anything.
"What?" she asked, rolling her eyes at his sudden reticence.
"Well…you know those changes we were talking about?" She raised an eyebrow in affirmation. He swallowed. "There…there's another one. Kind of a big one." From his demeanor, she supposed it was a bad one, and braced herself.
"What is it?" Her voice must have cued him in, because he raised his head and hastened to reassure her.
"No, no! It's not bad…well…that is…I don't think it is…exactly." He was slipping back into incoherence, and Cass sighed.
"If it's not bad…what is it?"
"Well…it's just…Dana didn't have any legal rights to me…never adopted me and so…" he took a deep breath, the rest of the words rushing out of him in a way that rivaled Bart's delivery. "And so she and Bruce were talking and since she knows about Robin and everything and they didn't want her to have to go through a whole long court deal especially since I'll be eighteen in just over a year and so they decided that Bruce is going to smooth it all over and adopt me." This said, he half-winced and waited for her judgment.
Recalling that Tim had already felt guilty that he had looked on Bruce as more of a father-figure than his own dad, Cass could see how this would be causing the inner turmoil Tim was exhibiting.
"This is…good, though. Right?" Tim shrugged. She persisted. "He won't try to replace your father, Tim. You know that."
"Yeah. I know he won't." She shook her head.
"And neither will you. They are different people. You can't try to compare. Not how you feel about them. Your father was…human. He had flaws. You still loved him, even if you couldn't express it or relate to him. Bruce…is human too." She grinned suddenly. "You will fight, you know." He chuckled.
"Um…what about…Dana?" She knew Tim had cared for his step-mother, and Cass hoped that she wouldn't just abandon him.
"She'll be around. Still living in Gotham…but she wants to sell the apartment." Understandably, Cass thought. "And…she said she still wants to be involved…you know, be kept in the loop and everything."
"Good. She is good for you." Tim nodded.
"Yeah." Another few moments passed without speaking. Cass shuffled her feet, her mind wandering as Tim gathered his thoughts.
"So…can we go home now?" He looked up at her question, and smiled. He reached down and took hold of her hand, squeezing it a little in an unspoken message.
"Yeah. Let's go home."
I just want to thank everyone who's been patient enough to stick with me as I took forever writing this! I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks to everyone who reviewed…reviews are the life-blood of an author, you know.
As for me, I have a bit of an announcement. As much as I love fan-fiction, life has it's way of interfering (hence the incredible amount of time it took to write and get this story written). Add to that the increasing desire to be able to write something that may, someday, be able to be published (read: no copyright laws to impede) I have decided to take a break from fanfic and am going to try my hand at creating my own characters, stories, and worlds. Perhaps I'll still find time and inspirations to do some "shorts", but as for these epic Fanfics, don't look for new ones any time soon.
Thanks again to everyone who has supported me and my stories!