Double or Nothing
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. If I did, that story arc in Robin would've ended completely differently. I'm reposting this. Hope this fic turns out as well as its predecessor. R/R.
(Author's Note): For those of you just tuning in, this fic is a direct sequel to my previous one entitled "Shadowboxing". If you want to get the full story on Tim, Cass, and the events that transpired between them then you should probably read that one first. Also, this fic is going to be slightly AU since it's keeping with the continuity of "Shadowboxing".
He studied the murky skyline of Gotham through the night-vision lenses in his mask. Bruce Wayne's eyes narrowed as he continued perching on top of a building ledge. He had just finished stopping a bank robbery. Usually, something that mundane meant that bigger trouble was brewing on the horizon. Batman had spent enough time skulking through the streets of Gotham to know that small-time crimes only meant that bigger criminals were waiting in the shadows to try something huge. Batman smirked at the thought. They weren't safe in the shadows, not from him.
"Armored car," informed Oracle through his radio receiver, "It's the Riddler again. I wouldn't worry, Robin's handling it." Batman gave a slight nod. He had confidence in his partner. Tim had proven himself more than capable of handling almost any situation he had encountered. Plus, in Batman's humble opinion, the Riddler was at most a second-rate villain. Tim had run up against more daunting tasks than stopping a simple armored car robbery.
"Jumper," informed Batman as he tapped the side of his head to get a better magnification on his lenses, "Hang on, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes." He shot out a grappling line and swung away from his perch. The jumper was young, barely even an adult. Batman inwardly sighed before focusing his attention on the task at hand. The boy's body was already rushing to meet the ground. Batman could see the kid flailing his arms helplessly as if something was attacking him. He began making preliminary guesses even as he swung towards the boy. His first idea was drugs. He had seen it often enough in his line of work.
"Be still," ordered Batman as he grabbed the boy in mid-air. The boy didn't seem inclined to take Batman's advice. He continued struggling, yelling and wailing incoherently that there was something after him and that he had to get away from it. Batman had already seen something like this before. Hallucinogens. He didn't think it could be anything else.
"Look at me," snapped Batman as he quickly landed on a rooftop and lightly slapped the boy in the face. This action seemed to jumpstart something in the kid's brain as he gave Batman a look of sudden realization. That look quickly turned into one of terror.
"Get back!" shouted the boy as he suddenly moved away from Batman, "Get . . . get back!" The kid was shaking, trembling with fear. Batman continued his theory. He had only seen one type of substance that could invoke this much terror in a seemingly ordinary person. However, the Scarecrow was still safely locked away in Arkham as far as Batman or the authorities knew.
"I'm not going to hurt you," assured Batman as he watched the kid continue to back up, "Just don't move. I won't hurt you if you just don't move."
"Don't come any closer!" warned the boy as he continued backing up towards the ledge of the roof, "I'm serious." Batman wasn't going to argue with that. It had to be Scarecrow. There was no other criminal that could make people act this irrationally.
"You've been poisoned," said Batman calmly, "I'm estimating that you don't have that much longer to live. If you let me, I can take you to a hospital where they can treat you." Batman let his hands glide over his utility belt, feeling for the pouch where he keep the antitoxin they used to treat Scarecrow's fear gas. He palmed the vial and used his other hand to reach for the injection gun.
"You're all the same," railed the boy, "I'm tired of you! I'm tired of being your slave!"
"You have your whole life ahead of you," warned Batman as he loaded the injection gun, "I'm going to make sure you're still around to live it." He wasn't going to waste time trying to calm the kid down. Scarecrow's victims never thought rationally. He was going to have to take the boy down by force. Batman wasted no time. He leapt and tackled the boy to the roof.
"Get off me!" shouted the boy, "Get back! Get back!" Batman gave the kid a shot of the antitoxin. He waited the requisite few seconds to let the antidote kick in. There was one problem. The antitoxin wasn't working.
"Plan B then," muttered Batman as he gave the kid a sedative to knock him out so he could transport him to the hospital.
"We've got a problem," said Oracle.
"I'm busy," replied Batman as the boy lessened his struggling and Bruce finally managed to get a good hold on him, "This boy needs to be taken to the hospital. The antitoxin isn't working." Undoubtedly, Scarecrow must've invented some new chemical concoction to torment the citizens of Gotham with. Batman didn't waste time with theories. He shot out a grappling line and swung towards the hospital with his struggling passenger in tow. Fortunately, Gotham General Hospital wasn't far from where he was now.
"Sedate him and call the police," said Batman as soon as he landed in front of the hospital, "He's been poisoned by Scarecrow and the antitoxin isn't effective." An orderly who was standing outside quickly nodded and ran back inside to get a doctor. Batman quickly tied up the struggling boy as best he could and then vaulted back into the sky.
"What's the problem?" asked Batman.
"I was about to say the same thing," replied Oracle.
"Scarecrow has some new fear chemical," explained Batman, "He's supposed to be in Arkham. We put him there two weeks ago. I'll compare notes with the police and then we'll arrange a visit to make sure he's still there."
"I'll get on it," assured Oracle, "There's something bigger though."
"What is it?" asked Batman.
"Those fake passports I made for when we need to get out of or into the country unnoticed," explained Oracle, "One of them just turned up at Gotham Airport."
"That's impossible," replied Batman, "None of us have been out of the country since I came back with Robin and Nightwing a year ago."
"That's technically not true," reminded Oracle. Batman slowed his breathing to clear his head and suddenly understood what Oracle was talking about. One of those passports was still unaccounted for. It was the one that had been issued to Cassandra Cain.
"She's back in the city," said Batman, "She's back in my city."
"Robin's heading for home," explained Oracle, "I think it's time you turned in for the night." Batman nodded to himself. The sun was rising and even he needed to get some sleep. Plus if Tim was home then perhaps he could shed some light on why Cass was back in Gotham. Bruce had heard the rundown of the case one year ago. After the Crisis, Cassandra Cain had disappeared. She had turned up again as the leader of the League of Assassins and fought Robin in a savage duel with the fate of the world at stake. Cass had saved Tim's life and the two of them had parted with Cass promising to return some day. That was the story as it had been told to Bruce by Robin. Batman knew that wasn't the whole story. Whatever the case, he intended to find out what Cass was doing in Gotham and whether she was here as a friend or as an enemy.
It had felt like forever since she had seen the mansion. Yet even though it had been roughly two years, Cass still felt like it was home. However, she was quite aware that all in the family weren't going to be as forgiving as Tim was. Becoming the leader of the League of Assassins and then jeopardizing the safety of the entire world wasn't something that was going to be forgotten in a simple year of absence. Yet she felt as if it was forgotten at least in Tim's mind. Neither of them had mentioned it to the other on the way back to the mansion. Cass could tell that Tim didn't really see it as something worth discussing and she wasn't going to do anything to upset this balance. It was going to be hard enough to deal with the others.
"You live here?" asked Cass as she looked around Tim's "bachelor pad" as Dick had taken to calling it. Tim always rolled his eyes at that. With the way his living space was situated, his "bachelor pad" might as well still be his father's house. In fact, Bruce had wanted him to move back into the mansion but Tim liked living in the loft-style apartment that had been constructed for him out of part of the stables. He still valued his independence from Batman and was glad that Bruce respected that.
"Yeah," said Tim as he took off his mask and his cape, "Bruce set it up for me after I got back from our vacation."
"Hungary," said Cass, "Too cold for me." Tim looked at her quizzically. Cass noticed the look and blushed slightly.
"I was there," explained Cass, "I've been . . . around." For maybe the first time in a long time, Tim felt slightly apprehensive about Cass. This wasn't the best way to start any type of relationship.
"I'm sorry," said Cass suddenly, "I . . ."
"It's okay," said Tim quietly, "You're home now." She felt a slight flutter in her stomach at this. Maybe things really were going to work out after all. Maybe everyone else really would forgive her.
"Now, how about breakfast?" asked Tim, "You hungry?" Cass nodded. She had mostly slept on the flight back to Gotham. She managed to eat a bag of peanuts while she was waiting for her passport to be checked. There was a slight delay with it. She figured it was because it was an old passport and a fake one at that.
"I should've guessed," said Tim with a grin as Cass began looking through the cupboards until she found a box of Rice Krispies. He sat down at the kitchen table and took a bowl as Cass handed one to him. Tim smiled at her child-like insistence on leaning over the cereal so she could hear it after she put the milk in. Satisfied that her food was snapping, crackling, and popping at optimum efficiency, Cass dug in.
"So where'd you go?" asked Tim as he took a bite of cereal.
"Everywhere," replied Cass simply, "Mostly Asia. It's always nice there." She knew that he would have questions. You don't tell someone you love them, disappear for a year, and expect them not to have questions when you finally return.
"What'd you do?" asked Tim, letting his insatiable curiosity get the better of him yet again. He vaguely realized that perhaps he shouldn't press this subject. Cass's betrayal and semi-redemption was a touchy subject all around.
"Trained," replied Cass, "I did a lot of that. Listened a lot too." She still wasn't as verbally adept as she should be for someone her age. The awkward pauses were gone now, trained out of her thanks to months of work, but she still spoke in short, clipped sentences. It was a habit that was hard to break. Cass could tell that Tim was slightly mystified by her training methods. She grinned as she pulled her spoon back and catapulted a load of Rice Krispies into Tim's face.
"Oh very mature, young lady," joked Tim as he took a napkin and wipe the milk from his forehead.
"You're not an adult either," said Cass as she ducked before Tim's retaliatory shot could hit her. She had missed this the most. She and Tim helped each other have fun and be kids again. Life had been cruel enough to both of them. They helped each other laugh through the pain.
"I am too," challenged Tim as he took cover before Cass could hit him again.
"Are not," assured Cass as she suddenly tackled him to the floor and sat on top of his chest, "Admit it."
"I'm nothing but a mature and responsible adult," declared Tim.
"You're a big baby," responded Cass teasingly. She could see the smile threatening to form at the edges of his lips. She had forgotten how blue Tim's eyes were. It was the kind of blue that you could stare into and lose yourself in.
"I'm grown up enough to do this," assured Tim as he suddenly raised himself up and out from under Cass, kissing her on the lips. He had missed this, missed being able to love someone without fear. He was comfortable around Cass because they had been through enough together that he felt he could be completely honest with her. He couldn't lie to her even if he tried. He knew Cass would catch him at it anyway.
"Maybe," relented Cass as the two separated, "Try it again. We have to be sure." She kissed him, moving so that she was no longer on top of Tim.
"Is this how we're going to stop all our arguments?" asked Tim with a grin.
"Only if it means I win," replied Cass with a smile. Her ears suddenly perked up a little with attention. Someone was coming. She watched Tim and could tell that he heard it too.
"I never told Bruce we were . . . you know," explained Tim as he blushed, "If that's him then . . ." Cass frowned a little at what Tim was suggesting. She didn't like the idea of hiding her relationship with Tim. She wasn't intimidated by Bruce, not like she had once been. Still though, maybe it was best to have a better introduction than this.
"He still mad?" asked Cass.
"Probably," replied Tim. Cass frowned again and looked around as both of them got up from the floor. There wasn't really a place one could hide. Perhaps from an ordinary person but not from Batman.
"Somewhat," answered a gravelly voice. Tim and Cass both froze and looked over as Batman came into the room. Cass had forgotten how imposing Bruce could be. Being in his presence seemed to cause everyone in the room to feel like they were small children again. Her stomach did a little fluttering as she braced herself for the inevitable.
"Bruce, let me explain something," began Tim.
"Robin," said Batman coldly, "I want to speak with Batgirl. Alone."
"Look, Bruce," continued Tim as if he hadn't heard his mentor, "I'm an adult now and I can take care of myself. So if this is about me and Cass then . . ."
"Batgirl," snapped Bruce, "Outside. Now!" Tim opened his mouth to voice another point but Cass gently shushed him.
"It's okay," whispered Cass as she walked towards the door. She may not be as intimidated by Bruce as she once was but she was still ashamed of what she had done. She had to face the consequences of her mistake. She didn't look at Bruce as she walked through the door.
"We'll discuss it later," assured Batman as he looked at Tim. Tim didn't say anything as he watched his new girlfriend walk to the gallows. Bruce shut the door behind him and looked to find that Cass was still studying the ground.
"Look at me," said Bruce, trying his best not to yell at her. She had come back. Tim had told him how, when it had mattered the most, Cass had made the right choice. It had taken some of the sting out of her betrayal. Cass raised her head until she was at eye level with Bruce.
"I took you in. I trained you," said Bruce, "I gave you a home and a family. I let you wear that symbol. Why?"
"I made a mistake," replied Cass simply, "I'm not proud. I did some horrible things. I want to try again now." Bruce stared at her. She had turned her back on everything he and the others stood for and now she was asking for his forgiveness. What guarantee did he have that she could be trusted again?
"Give me a reason I should trust you," said Bruce, "One good reason is all I ask."
"You shouldn't trust me," explained Cass, "I hurt you. I hurt Tim. I hurt everyone. You shouldn't trust me after that. I just want one chance. Please let me try again." She couldn't give him a good reason. It took her an entire year to even start trusting herself again. There was no way she could expect him to move any faster than that.
"This is against my better judgment," began Bruce, "Tim trusts you and believes in you. That says a lot about you in my book. You should thank him."
"So I'm . . ." began Cass hopefully.
"You will go out on patrol," stated Bruce, "You will check in with Oracle every hour on the hour. Your only excuse for missing a check-in is being dead. If you miss a check-in, I will send someone to find you. If you try to disappear and pull another stunt then I will track you down personally. I will find you and when I do all the training in the world won't save you from me. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes," replied Cass.
"This is a gift," stated Bruce, "I would take it as quickly as I could. Aside from a place to live, this is the last gift I will give you. You'll be staying in the mansion until I'm satisfied that you won't stab us in the back again."
"I understand," said Cass, "Thank you." Bruce stared at her. He would've never admitted but he had thought of Cass as his own daughter. It had hurt when Tim had given him a rundown of the case. A year of absence couldn't exactly erase the pain of a daughter's betrayal.
"You're coming back to the house," stated Bruce as he saw Cass make for Tim's door, "That is something we'll discuss when I've had enough sleep." Cass knew what "that" was. She didn't care what Bruce thought of her though. She would've assumed some other superhero identity if he had forbidden her from being Batgirl again. She wanted to prove to herself that she belonged here, that all the things these people had given her weren't a waste. Even if Bruce disapproved of her until the day he died, she wasn't going to stop fighting.
"He loves me," said Cass as she followed Bruce back towards the manor, "I love him."
"I said we'll discuss it later," repeated Bruce as he ushered her inside the manor.
She hadn't lost her touch. It had been a few days since Cass had put on the suit again and hit the streets. She was all business from day one. It was strange to be with Tim though. Bruce hadn't let her near him while they were both in costume. He said he wanted to keep things professional. Cass could understand that. Being around Tim made her feel different. She didn't have to worry about keeping up her guard when she was with Tim. That wasn't exactly the kind of mindset she needed when she was on the streets. Out of costume, they spent a lot of time together either at Tim's place or inside the manor where eyes were always on them. They had taken to walking through Robinson Park, sometimes at night while they were in costume although neither of them told Bruce. Still though, Cass couldn't wait to get off parole.
"BG here," said Cass into her radio, "Mugger needs pickup."
"Got it," replied Oracle. Batgirl was glad that Oracle had moved back to Gotham. It helped her feel like nothing had changed since she had left. It helped her forget what she had done.
"It's kinda quiet," said Batgirl, "Anything huge happening?"
"You're still grounded," reminded Oracle, "Let Batman and the others handle the big stuff."
"Grounded sucks," said Batgirl, "Oracle . . . you know I'm sorry." Cass had to admit that if anyone tied with Tim on her list of important people then it was Barbara. She hadn't exactly known what to expect when it came to Barbara's reaction. Barbara was good at being neutral and being professional.
"I know, kid," assured Oracle, "You can't blame us though."
"I don't," stated Batgirl, "Trust me." She needed some movement. A quick deployment of a grappling line and she was in the air, swinging through Gotham's skyline. It would be another hour before she had to check in. She wondered if she could find Tim. Being around Tim always made her feel better.
"Bank robbery," said Oracle, "Couple blocks up."
"Got it," said Batgirl as she swung onto the scene. There were two goons outside. They opened fire the second she hit the pavement. Batgirl flipped sideways and whipped two batarangs towards them. She didn't wait to see if they connected. She knew they would. She leapt towards the goons. They barely had time to realize they had been disarmed before her foot caught one's jaw while her fist took care of the other one. There was no time to celebrate. The real problem was inside.
"Should've known," muttered Batgirl as she kicked the doors open and was greeted with a round of gunfire, "Always more guns." This seemed to create general panic as hostages dove for cover. Batgirl lobbed a few smoke bombs at the bank-robbers and checked to make sure everyone was out of the line of fire. She then dove into the smoke, fists and feet flying. When the vapor cleared, she had KO'd three out of four of them.
"Drop it," ordered Batgirl as she saw the fourth one had drawn another weapon. The thug looked nervous. His hand was shaking and Cass could tell he was sweating beneath his mask. He was a nervous wreck. That only meant he would probably do something completely stupid.
"Back off," shot back the thug, "I need this."
"You need to move," stated Batgirl. The goons had rigged a charge to the vault's door. The thing was going to go off at any moment. She had to take him now.
"You see this?" asked the thug as he nodded to his trembling hand, "I need this money! I need this so back the hell off!" He was an addict, a desperate addict. The clock was still ticking. Batgirl rolled forward, ducking the shots she knew he'd fire. She came up at him with an uppercut that knocked him silly. Batgirl kicked the gun from the robber's hand and then grabbed him. That bomb was going to go off at any minute.
"Get clear!" shouted Batgirl as she leapt backwards with the thug. Most of the hostages were already gone. The timer suddenly went off, blowing in the safe and tossing everyone backwards. The police were in the building seconds after the dust settled. Batgirl knew it was time to go. She turned to check the thug. He . . . he was dead. She checked his pulse again, trying not to have flashbacks to her childhood. He couldn't be dead. She hadn't hit him that hard. She couldn't have killed him. She couldn't have.
"Pills," hissed Batgirl as she felt the bag inside the pocket of the man's jacket. She took it out and checked it. There were only two pills left. It was the drugs that killed him. That had to have been what happened. No blood on her hands this time. Cass knew she already had enough.
"Have to leave," muttered Batgirl. She didn't know what the drugs were. She could give the bag to Bruce or Tim and have them find out. The police could find out enough from the body to know the same thing.
"No," whispered Batgirl as she shot a cable through the bank's skylight and zipped up onto the roof. It wasn't her fault. She hadn't . . . she hadn't murdered him. The death was still on her conscience though. If she had moved with more finesse then maybe he wouldn't have died. If she had acted quicker then the bomb could've been disabled and maybe he could've gotten help. Maybe. Too many maybes.
"Oracle," said Batgirl shakily, "One of them . . . he had drugs. He's dead now." She knew what they would think. None of them would admit to thinking it but all of them would've immediately suspected her when she said that.
"You sure?" asked Oracle.
"I know," said Batgirl bitterly, "I know . . . when someone's dead. It wasn't me. It wasn't my fault."
"Hey," said Oracle calmly, "Relax for me. Leave him for the cops. The autopsy will show what really happened. Get the pills home and we'll look at them. Batman's being trying to crack a new drug ring that's been operating in the city. Maybe you found something."
"Alright," said Batgirl shakily. She stuffed the bag into a pouch on her belt. After that, she started swinging home. She hoped she could find Tim. She needed to forget the past now and focus on the present.