Handle With Care

By TheLostMaximoff

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. R/R.

A lot of people think I'm paranoid. I guess it kinda comes with the territory. I mean look at Bruce; he's not exactly very trusting. So I guess when people see me go into overly cautious mode, they think I'm paranoid. But I'm not like that, really. I'm careful about things, really careful. Maybe that makes me look paranoid but it's only taking the necessary precautions to keep myself as safe as possible.

I think about all this in the few seconds before I dodge the fist that's flying at my face. I put my hand up, catching the incoming arm by the wrist and moving it aside so my own punch has a better chance of connecting with my opponent's face. Unfortunately, the opponent has equally quick reflexes. She manages to block my punch and break my hold on her wrist. The next thing I know, both my hands are pinned to my sides.

"Having fun?" asks Cass with a smile.

"Always," I reply as she lets me go and I back off. Sparring with Cass is always fun in a strange, quasi-flirtatious way. We don't actually fight, which is why I have to come to her cave to spar with her since Bruce would have a cow if he found this out. Heck, we barely even really spar at all. I know what real sparring is. I've done it enough with Bruce, Dick, and God knows who else to know that sparring is basically actual combat with less intent to hurt one another. It's not like that when Cass and I spar though. It's like . . . it's like we're playing. We joke, we goof around, we have fun. I like it that way.

"Getting serious now?" I ask her as she comes at me. I manage to duck a roundhouse and get her other foot in my stomach for my troubles.

"Can't always . . . be fun," says Cass as I block her next kick and trip her, sending her to the floor.

"You okay?" I ask. I'm overly cautious, more so where she's concerned. She's had a rough childhood and an equally harsh life. I don't want to treat her like everyone else in her life has. It's hard to be a girl and have this job; at least I suspect it is. Girls aren't like guys. Girls can break easier.

"Fine," assures Cass as she grabs me and pulls me down, hitting me in the gut with her knee, "You?"

"Peachy," I gasp when I get the air to do so. I roll away as we both get back to our feet. Cass isn't like most girls. She's tough, the toughest girl I've ever seen in my life. She has the ability to make some of the toughest-looking guys I've ever seen cry like little kids but even though she's tough as nails, I always treat her with care. I know the world expects Cass to be tough and unbreakable and she's been trained to be that way but I can't do that with her. She's soft inside. It's not in a weak way, just in a gentle way. I know what Cassandra Cain is like behind that mask. She's kind, caring, funny, beautiful. I know what she's like on the inside and I treat her with the appropriate amount of care because inside I know she's more delicate and breakable than she seems.

"You hold back," says Cass, "You don't have to." I smile as I charge, executing a flying kick, which is easily sidestepped. I punch and she dodges it. I take another swing and come up with strike two. I swing a third time and she blocks. Cass twists my arm behind my back and then flicks me on the back of my ear before letting me get away.

"Ow!" I say, trying my best not to sound whiny but doing a really lousy job, "That hurt."

"Baby," teases Cass. I grin. She is so asking for it now. Maybe I can't outfight her but I can outsmart her.

"Truce?" I ask as I extend my hand and turn on the old Tim Drake charm.

"Ha," snorts Cass, "Big bluff." Drats, foiled again. That tactic usually works on Dick.

"Alright fine, you win," I tell her as I plop down on the mat, "I give up." Cass arches her eyebrow. It amazes me when she uses her talent to read people. She'll make a great detective some day, I know she will.

"Party-killer," whines Cass as she comes over and sits beside me, "I was . . . having fun."

"Hey, kicking my butt can't be that much fun," I tell her with a smile.

"Everything is fun . . . with you," replies Cass. I lightly punch her arm, not too hard so she gets the intended message. I don't have to worry though, she gets it.

"You too," I reply simply as she hits me back. So much of this job is acting older than you sometimes really are. Cass and I, we help remind each other how young we are.

"You're really asking for it," I tease as I hit her again.

"Bring," dares Cass as she suddenly tackles me down. I see her smile as we start rolling around on the mat, wrestling with each other playfully. I take care to keep my hands where they should be. I end up coming out on top, pinning her hands to the ground. We lock eyes and for a few moments I wonder what would happen if I stopped being so cautious with her and took a chance or two.

"You win," says Cass, "What now?" I stare into her eyes and wonder if she's daring me to take a chance. Being this close to her . . . it feels so right but I can't risk hurting her. I'd never want that to happen to her.

"I need to leave," I tell Cass as I get off of her, "Bruce will want me back at the cave for patrol tonight."

"Be safe," says Cass, "Have fun."

"Promise," I reply with a smile as I look at her. She's tougher than a lot of girls but she's still fragile inside. As long as I can, I will always be gentle with her. I will always be careful with her. Maybe that's not a good thing sometimes, to be so cautious with her or my feelings for her but it's who I am and both of us know that. I like seeing the gentleness inside her, the fragile heart inside the iron shell. I'll always treasure that and as long as I live, I will always handle her with the utmost care.