Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. This is the end, kids, so love it or hate it. I've really enjoyed working on this story. Hopefully you enjoyed reading it. R/R.
She had a routine. It was automatic, as involuntary as breathing. She couldn't remember when she learned it and the same could be said about a lot of things in her life. But Cassandra Cain was tired of learning and being taught how to live. So when she did the routine now, she just let her body move on its own.
For the past year, at least she thought it was a year, she had been traveling the world. She had contacts and influence, money that meant she could afford to disappear. Currently, she was living in an abandoned temple in the Tibetan Himalayas. It was quiet in the mountains, quiet enough to hear yourself think. She liked that. She began this day, just like the others since she had left Gotham, with a new routine. It was not her father's routine or her mother's routine or Batman's routine. It was her routine, a series of motions she picked completely at random each and every day. The routine was letting her body flow naturally. The routine was in not having a routine, a set pattern of moves.
She often thought a lot while performing this new routine. With her body virtually operating on autopilot, her mind could reflect on things. She thought about her parents: David Cain and Sandra Woosan. She thought about her surrogate parents: Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon. She meditated upon her life and the choices she had made. A few times, she thought of Tim Drake and had the urge to return to Gotham. The urge, however, was immediately stifled and because of this reflex, Cass knew it wasn't the right time yet. When her inner self wanted her to return, it wouldn't fight. That was what she told herself.
This particular morning, Cassandra Cain did not think about anything. Her body simply flowed in an elegant and graceful dance as she moved through her "not a routine" as she had come to call it. She trusted her body now, trusted its impulses and desires. Her mind was clear today as she danced on through moves that she was aware of but she did not design until her body moved to do them. When her body felt like ending the dance, the first real thought of the day entered her consciousness.
"Not a kill," whispered Cass to the empty room. The voice echoed off the stone walls, reverberating back to her as if the outside world was affirming her statement. Many times during this morning "not a routine" she would use lethal force. If her body chose to do so then that was what she did. She often took the performance of these moves as signs, signs that she had not yet shed the yoke of her training and therefore she was not ready to return. But today . . . something different had happened today.
"No killing," said Cass as she smiled. She hadn't used a single lethal move throughout the entire dance. She had put herself completely on autopilot, tuned out everything so she could just be, and she hadn't executed one killing blow. She knew what it meant. You could teach people a lot of things but it didn't mean that was who they were inside. Cassandra Cain was not a killer in her heart and she knew this absolutely.
"I'm going home now," she said to the large statue at the end of the room, "Thank you for the space." She often spoke to the statue when she felt the need to talk. Truthfully, it was more an exercise in talking and listening to herself but having something to direct the words at helped. She bowed silently to the statue and went into the room where she slept. She put on her coat and filled her only bag with her meager belongings. She was going home now because it felt right in her heart. She felt like herself and for the first time in perhaps her whole life she finally knew with absolute certainty who she really was. She just hoped there was still a family to come home to.
He had reached the point in his life where he thought it best if he didn't think about Cassandra Cain. It had been over a year since Tim Drake last saw her. He had never doubted her return but he had doubts about how he should react to it. By now, it was no secret to any of the family what Cass had done. Like any family, their opinions on the matter varied greatly. Bruce, as always, had been the loudest voice of displeasure, taking the news the way any father would react if their teenage daughter had committed some "unforgivable" sin. Dick was more sympathetic, having briefly danced on the shady side of things before and knowing that support was what Tim needed. Barbara had been somewhat neutral, discomforted and slightly angry but choosing not to voice it as often. However, while the family disagreed about Cass's actions they all had come to agree on one thing. Cassandra Cain needed an identity and she was the only person who could find it. Once she had settled that, the rest of them would deal accordingly.
Unfortunately, Tim didn't mention to the others the part where he and Cass had confessed their love for one another. After all, it was neither integral to his case report nor was it the best of times to mention his romantic attraction to what could possibly end up being a super-villain. Once again, he would probably get some brotherly sympathy from Dick but not so much approval from the rest of the family. Plus he knew that this lifestyle wasn't conducive to a healthy love life and Tim himself was so nervous about it that he never felt the need to mention it to anyone. It never stopped him from longing to see her and hold her in his arms again. He had made a promise that he would wait. For over a year, Tim Drake had relearned how hard keeping promises was sometimes. That was why he chose not to think about her. Unfortunately, Tim's brain had the proverbial mind of its own and the more he attempted to forget, the more his mind made him remember.
He certainly wasn't thinking about her as he ducked behind a stack of crates. There was a series of pops as the bullets from the Colt .45 hit the wall behind him. Riddler was at it again. Tim had already forgotten what exactly the master plan was this time. Maybe there wasn't one this time and that was the answer to the riddle.
"Question," muttered Robin to himself as he let one of his R's fly out and connect with Riddler's gun, "When is a Robin bored out of his skull?" He didn't bother answering his own riddle as he leapt from his hiding place. The three goons Riddler had hired met him before he could jump the Puzzle Prince. Robin ducked the incoming punch and hit the man in the stomach. The other two struck from each side and were blocked easily enough. One received Tim's bo across his head while the other got a kick in the jaw. He was losing his main concern. Sloppy on his part. He knocked the third goon out and moved towards where Riddler had run off to. He was probably trying to slip out the back of the warehouse.
As Robin approached, there was a thud and a clatter. He looked into the fading shadows but couldn't see anything until someone came out. That someone also happened to be dragging Riddler's unconscious body with her.
"I hate riddles," stated Cassandra Cain as she let go of Riddler and smiled at Tim in the pre-dawn light, "Hey." Robin stood there dumbfounded. There were a million different things he could say to her but only one seemed the most appropriate.
"Hey," replied Robin as he approached her, "How . . . how've you been?"
"Like myself," said Cass with another smile, "It . . . it's good to be home." She had no clue what to say. Both of them knew that she had done something very wrong. She had betrayed her family. They had trusted her and loved her and she had betrayed them. But in the end, they were still family and that was what mattered the most. In the end, she had found the road back home.
"I waited," said Robin.
"Thank you," said Cass as she kissed him. No matter how old he lived to be, Tim Drake would never forget the way Cassandra Cain kissed. It was like the kiss was the only thing in her mind that mattered at that moment. Everything else in the world melted away when she kissed him.
"We should get this cleaned up," said Robin as they separated and he gestured to the Riddler, "You wanna come back to my place for breakfast?" Cass smiled and shook her head at Tim.
"Why?" asked Cass, "Why do you still care so much?" She had expected him to be bitter or hurt or distrusting of her. But if he was any of those things towards her then he wouldn't be himself. That just wasn't who Tim Drake was.
"I know who you are," replied Tim simply, "You're the same person I used to fight over the remote with. You're the same person who used to sneak into my place and eat all my Rice Krispies, which I have a new box of by the way. You're the same person who used to let me ramble on about my crappy life even though I had no right to complain to you. You're still Cass and I still love you. Nothing changes that."
"I'm so sorry for . . . everything," apologized Cass.
"You're still that too," said Robin with a grin, "The family doesn't exactly like what you did. I don't care because they'll have to put up with you anyway."
"You . . . you still want me for a partner?" asked Cass in surprise.
"Always," replied Robin as he knelt down and began tying up Riddler, "and possibly more than that if you're willing." Cass blushed and shyly nodded. She should've already known he would forgive her. After all, he was Tim Drake.
"I think . . . I think I'd like breakfast," said Cass as she moved to help Robin with his work. She leaned over and kissed his cheek.
"So where've you been all this time?" asked Tim, blushing as he finished his task and stood up.
"In the dark," replied Cass as she suddenly held his hand, "but I think . . . I think I found the light now." Tim smiled and gripped her hand. Dawn was breaking outside as the sun peeked up over the horizon. The day was young and so were they even though they had long ago abandoned being kids. But the one thing they couldn't stop being was who they were inside. It had taken them a few long years to figure that out, a few long years of groping in the darkness and dancing with the shadows that haunted them. Now it was time to step out into the sunlight and let the darkness and the shadows fade away.