Karma (Cassandra Cain)
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Her body screams at her, screams to high Heaven that she is an idiot. Cassandra Cain doesn't care. She feels the fist collide with her jaw. It's all she can do to take the punch. She knows at least a dozen ways to send this man to the ground in more pain than he thought possible to feel. She knows more ways to simply end his life now and here. Those ways, the killing ways, will never happen at all and on this night the crippling blows she could deal will come slowly. She instantly hates the idea of living like normal people do, of seeing and moving like them. It's so . . . clumsy and slow. It's blind and stupid. But tonight is important so Batgirl takes a little beating before giving better than she got. Cass figures she's earned the beating, earned it fair and square considering what happened . . . that night. This night? That night? Both are one in the same. Cass knows it and hates it.
Her foot comes out and finally collides with the mugger's jaw. He's out like a light after a little sissy kick. On any other night, this fight would've lasted all of five seconds. Not this night though. Not on the night of August 8th. Batgirl ties the mugger up and sighs. Sometimes, it never feels like it's enough. Cassandra Cain believes in a lot of things. She believes in the value of life. She believes in honor and justice. But Cass also believes in karma and sometimes it feels like she can never make up for what happened on August 8th so long ago. It's getting late enough to call it a night. A grappling line shoots through the air and she's off into the night. Cass figures a bath will help as well as some meditation before she sleeps. Physically speaking, she's punished herself enough tonight. Mentally speaking, she's punished herself enough for a hundred murders. She knows there are a dozen people she could slay and they would deserve more grief than the man she killed. Even so, every life carries an equal value in the eyes of karma. When it comes to cosmic justice, everyone deserves a right to live and no matter whose blood she has on her hands, Cassandra Cain still feels every ounce of guilt for what she did.
Her body still thinks she's an idiot as Batgirl trudges wearily into her cave. She stares around at the cave and sighs. She's sure that one of her ribs is cracked. She's got a bruise on the side of her face and some scratches. Cass almost wants to collapse on the floor and try to sleep till tomorrow. She idly wonders if she can sleep until August 8th is forgotten but that would mean sleeping forever and she's not ready for death yet. Karma still has to exact revenge on her for the horrible thing she did.
"I'm . . . I'm sorry," whispers Batgirl to herself as she takes off her mask and looks down at her hands. She still sees the blood. Even after all these years, she can still hear the gurgling noises the man made when he died. They disgust her and sicken her. Why? Why did I do it? She asks this every day and still no answers come. For approval? For the thrill? She doesn't know but she does know something. She knows she's not alone in this cave. Cass can sense the movement and she reaches to pull her mask back on.
"Come out," she states as she firmly places the cowl over her face, "Now." Cass sees color where none should be. Robin steps up to her, rubbing the back of his head and attempting to offer an explanation.
"Batman . . . he said I should check up on you," explains Tim, "You've been . . . different the past couple of days."
"You're a bad liar," says Batgirl. Robin grins sheepishly. He came tonight because he was the one concerned, not Bruce. Cass is his friend and something isn't right with her. Tim knows this and wants to help.
"Yeah," admits Robin, "I just . . . are you okay?"
"I'm fine," replies Batgirl as she moves past Robin, "Bad date." Robin arches an eyebrow gently grabs her wrist, lightly enough to make her pause without looking confrontational.
"Date?" asks Robin, "Bad date?"
"Day," says Batgirl, "Bad day. I said that."
"You said 'date'," states Robin.
"Said 'day'," snaps Batgirl in an irritated tone as she yanks her hand away. She could break it in one motion. It would be so easy and both of them know this. The two friends look at one another before Tim's hands become brave and he gently pulls back Cass's cowl. His eyes grow cold as he touches the bruise on her cheek. She registers this shift in his mood and can see the grimness in his eyes. He wants to hurt the people that hurt her. Cass never fully understands why she deserves things like that.
"How?" asks Tim, "Nobody . . . you never get hit."
"I let them," says Cass as if it's that simple, which in this case it really is. But she has to remember that Tim doesn't know the full story. His brain's not wired like hers. He could never see what she saw nine years ago.
"Why?" asks Tim.
"Today," whispers Cass, "Today is different."
"Tell me," presses Tim gently.
"August 8th," says Cass simply, "Everything changed. I changed. No more father. No more home. No more killing." It dawns on him and he touches the bruise again. This is the price she pays to make the universe balance out but sometimes it never feels like it's enough. He knows that feeling well enough.
"Don't do that anymore," says Tim, "You promise?"
"I . . . I just want to make it . . . right," explains Cass, "Equal. Even."
"That's not the way though," explains Tim, "Letting yourself get beaten up won't make everything right. They only way you can balance things out is by saving people's lives."
"I know," assures Cass with a smile.
"Lemme get you some ice for that," says Tim as he moves away, "You need some bandages?" Cass just nods. She doesn't deserve this. The universe is still going to be out of whack. She's not worth this. She knows it.
"Here," says Tim as he hands her an icepack, "Bandages?"
"Ribs," replies Cass as she lets Tim pull up the suit so he can tape them.
"Ouch," says Tim as he grimaces, "Doesn't look pretty."
"Not supposed to," reminds Cass, "Why . . . why are you doing this?"
"You deserve it," says Tim simply as he looks up at her. He says it because, at least in his mind, it's true. Cass looks down at him with a smile. She doesn't know if she can ever make up for what she did. She doesn't know what she can do to balance the scales. But in the end, she thinks that as long as she gives it everything she's got then maybe, hopefully, it'll be enough to make up for the life she took. The world's not always so balanced and sometimes karma works out in weird ways. Cass knows that sometimes it's quite alright with her.