Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. Like the summary says, this is the third in the "Shadowboxing" trilogy (or more) so I'm working off of the continuity I established with it. I hope you guys like it.
The rain came in cold sheets that sometimes managed to slip in between the bars on his window, depending upon which way the wind was blowing. David Cain sighed as he lay on his bed and stared at the ceiling. The rain was making a puddle on his floor. After spending almost three years in prison, Cain was used to this. Three years and Blackgate still couldn't brick up one stupid window. It was either a testament to the overall slowness of the entire penal system or a testament to how much the staff at Blackgate wanted him to go insane. Cain didn't exactly care anymore as to which of his theories was the truth.
"Visitor," said the guard. Cain knew it would be his lawyer. No one else had come to visit him in these long, lonely years. He still held out hope that perhaps one day he'd get a different visitor but alas today was not that day.
"I'm afraid I have bad news, Mr. Cain," said the lawyer. David sat up to look at the man. He enjoyed it when people got right down to business. It was the way he liked to work although he hadn't been able to ply his particular trade since he had been locked up. Sure there was that one prisoner who hadn't believed all the hype surrounding David Cain, hadn't believed that he was one of the world's greatest assassins. Cain had merely broken a few of the convict's bones before the man was willing to revise his opinion. However, Cain hadn't killed the man even though the urge was very hard to resist.
"Go on," ordered Cain.
"You recall that the DA's office solicited your assistance with regards to some unsolved murders," explained the lawyer, "In return, they promised to help cut down the severity of your sentence. There was the possibility that you would no longer be on Death Row."
"I remember," assured Cain, "What's the news?"
"Those attempts have failed," stated the lawyer, "Furthermore, the State has an opening in its calendar. There's nothing more I can do to help you, Mr. Cain. You're scheduled to die very, very soon."
"So you've come here to tell the assassin that it's his time to go?" asked Cain with a smirk, "Seems kinda funny to me."
"I assure you that it's no laughing matter, Mr. Cain," replied the lawyer, "I suggest you make your peace because I believe you have only a week at most and that's a very generous estimate on your part."
"My thanks for your generosity then," assured Cain as he lay back down and returned to staring at the ceiling. The lawyer said nothing as he left. Cain knew this was going to happen eventually. His way was the way of the gun and he knew it was only a matter of time before that gun was turned back on its owner. He had very few regrets concerning the choices he had made in his life. He had very little other affairs to put in order. Cain wasn't a man who could afford personal attachments. Indeed, they were probably only two people he could say he would even miss when it came time for him to leave this world. Neither of those people had spoken to Cain in a very long time. David had very little faith that now would be the time for them to reacquaint themselves with him.
Cassandra Cain couldn't recall a time when she had felt happier. She had a successful crime-fighting career after reassuming the mantle of Batgirl. She had the love and support of the always wonderful Tim Drake. She had finally gained some measure of redemption after her brief stint as the leader of the League of Assassins and then her subsequent exile after turning away from that dark path. In short, Cass couldn't imagine a life any more rewarding than the one she was currently leading.
"Someone's in a good mood today," said Robin as he noticed the smile behind Batgirl's mask. Tim had picked up a few of Cass's tricks since they had begun their relationship and enjoyed using them on her whenever he got the chance. Cass had fussed about it at first, her pouting doing little to dissuade Tim from this new game. Now, she simply took it in stride.
"I am," replied Batgirl honestly, "I like it."
"No argument here," assured Robin with a smile of his own, "Night's still young. You wanna take a walk through the park?" It was one of their favorite things to do. It had been quiet lately. Sure there were the normal crooks to deal with and the occasional costumed one to keep things interesting but lately things had been pretty quiet. Neither Tim nor Cass was one to complain about this good fortune. They had mostly been using this lull to spend more time together.
"Home," replied Batgirl with a shake of her head at Robin's suggestion, "We could watch a movie."
"You're not bored with my collection yet?" asked Robin in disbelief, "I think you've seen them all by now."
"Who says we have to watch?" asked Batgirl. It took Tim all of two seconds to understand the not-so-subtle suggestion that his girlfriend was giving him. Since they had started dating, Tim had discovered that Cass had a love of making out. He suspected that this stemmed from her natural tendency towards action and physical communication as opposed to verbal communication. Cass had given him ample opportunities to gather research on this theory since they had a tendency to make out more often than not when they were alone. At the present moment, Tim couldn't say he minded the idea of cuddling up on his couch with Cass and indulging himself in one of the many wonderful perks that came with a relationship.
"Robin to Oracle," said Robin into his earpiece, "Batgirl and I haven't seen anything unusual. We were thinking of punching out a little early tonight."
"It's a slow night all around," informed Oracle, "You two crazy kids have fun and don't get yourself into trouble."
"Copy," replied Tim, "You know where to find us if anything comes up."
"Will do," assured Oracle. Robin gave Batgirl a thumbs-up as he ended the call. He pulled out his grappling hook and launched it at the corner of a building while Cass did the same. They weren't far from Wayne Manor. A couple good swings put them over the walls of the front gate. From there, they moved under the cover of night to the part of the stables that had been converted into an apartment for Tim. Although Cass still lived in the actual mansion, Tim enjoyed his place and saw it as his own way of attaining some sort of independence while still remaining under Batman's wing.
"I'll pick a good one," assured Robin as he unlocked the door.
"I'll make popcorn," stated Batgirl. She headed around the back, intent on going through Tim's bedroom window so she could change. Robin came through his front door and flicked on the lights.
"Took you long enough," said Batman. Tim almost jumped out of his skin and that was saying something considering all the time he'd spent with Bruce. He quickly managed to return his breathing rate to normal as he took off his mask and unclipped his cape.
"You're getting sloppy too," stated Batman as he judged Robin's reaction with his always critical eye.
"Nice to see you too," said Tim, "Something wrong?"
"I have to speak with Cassandra," said Batman, "It's important."
"She'll be out in a sec," assured Tim, "What's up?" Batman remained silent, a course of action that unnerved Tim. From the look on Bruce's face, whatever the Dark Knight had to say was pretty personal. Tim wondered just what it had to do with his girlfriend.
"Hi," said Cass as she came into the room dressed in one of Tim's dress shirts and a pair of boxers, "Problem?" Batman raised an eyebrow at Cass's attire while she came over and kissed Tim on the cheek. Bruce pulled back his cowl, revealing his face and letting both of them know the seriousness of what he was about to tell them.
"I was told that this news is a few days old," informed Batman, "However, I just heard this tonight. There's really no easy way for me to say this but I feel that you have a right to know."
"Tell me," said Cass. She had a feeling her perfect life was about to come crashing down and that Bruce was the proverbial herald of doom that would set the fall in motion.
"David Cain has been scheduled to die for his crimes by lethal injection," stated Bruce bluntly, "The State would not recant their sentencing even though he provided the DA's office with valuable information regarding several murder cases while he was still on Death Row." Tim felt Cass's body suddenly stiffen in his arms as she tore away from his grasp. Cass tried to understand what was going on. Her father was going to die? Her father was really going to die? She didn't know what to feel. She was angry and sad and she just . . . she felt like screaming.
"I'm sorry, Cassandra," said Bruce. That wasn't good enough for Cass. She clenched her fists tightly and tried not to cry but failed miserably as tears began flowing from her eyes and down her cheeks.
"Cass," whispered Tim as he moved to hug her. She wasn't going to have any of it. She broke away from Tim and ran into his room, slamming the door on her way in.
"You couldn't have done this some other way?" asked Tim as he glared accusingly at Batman.
"I told you that there wasn't an easier way," reminded Bruce, "I'm sorry I interrupted one of your dates but this couldn't keep. We both know that."
"There's nothing we can do?" asked Robin, "I mean we can't get the judge to revoke the death penalty and just leave him in jail?"
"The judge already denied that motion," assured Batman as he pulled the cowl back over his face, "Do you really want to try harder? He's killed over two dozen people, Tim, and those are just the ones the court knows about."
"I know," assured Tim as he sat in a chair and sighed, "I just . . . I mean have you ever seen Cass cry? It's painful."
"Go to her," advised Batman as he moved to the door, "She needs you now." He wished there was something he could do. David Cain wasn't the only father Cass had. Bruce Wayne was her father too and right now, despite the friction between them that still existed, Bruce Wayne wanted nothing more than to use all his skills and resources to make the pain his surrogate daughter felt magically disappear. There wasn't anything he could do though, not this time. This was the ugly side of justice. Even though Bruce didn't endorse capital punishment, he also understood that in his chosen profession you didn't have the luxury of picking and choosing which policies of the law you wanted to uphold and which you didn't. Capital punishment was a necessary evil in his eyes even if he didn't agree with it.
"You ever wonder how such a cruel, evil bastard helped give her life?" asked Robin as he watched his mentor depart.
"Life is full of mysteries, Tim," said Batman sagely as he turned to look at his apprentice before leaving the room, "Some of them honestly aren't worth solving."
She wanted to hit something. She wanted to rip the whole world in two. The sad thing was that Cassandra Cain didn't know why she should care so much that her father was going to die. It wasn't as if he had been a good father to her. He taught her how to kill people for God's sake. What kind of man turned his own daughter into a killing machine? Furthermore, what kind of girl still pitied a man for doing that to her?
"Stupid," snarled Cass as she hit the pillow on the bed, "You're stupid for caring!" Why did she care? She had never cared enough to visit him in prison except once when she wanted information about her mother. She never called him, never wrote to him, never bothered to even think about him more than half the time. So why should it bother her that he was going to die? It never bothered him when he killed people.
"Cass," said Tim quietly as he opened the door.
"Not now!" snapped Cass as she shot Tim a murderous glare that made Tim really wonder whether or not she would follow through on that threat. How much difference was there really between David and Cassandra Cain? Robin remembered how Cass had snapped, had broken under the pressure of losing people close to her and discovering that Shiva was her mother. She had almost destroyed the world out of grief but she had pulled herself up out of the darkness and into the light again. Was this her destiny: to swing back and forth from light to darkness like an out-of-control pendulum?
"Please," whispered Tim. Cass looked at him and saw the apprehension in his stance, the fear in his eyes. She never wanted him to be afraid of her, never again.
"Why?" asked Cass tearfully, "Why does it matter?" Tim was on the bed in a second and quickly enveloped Cass in the biggest, tightest hug he could. Cass returned the gesture with equal intensity and for a few seconds the young couple sat there squeezing each other like sponges.
"You care," whispered Tim, "That's why."
"He was a bad father," explained Cass, "He made me . . . I killed for him. He never cared about me. I was . . . I was his weapon."
"You're not him," said Tim forcefully as he stared into Cass's eyes, "You're not him, you're not Shiva, you're not any of them. You're Cass." Cass let a ragged sob escape her lips as she nodded. She had tried so hard to not be like her parents and tonight was more proof that she was winning the war. She cared about people, even when they were the same people that had tried to turn her into a murderer.
"I want to see him," whispered Cass quietly as she pressed herself closer against Tim, "I want to prove it."
"I'll go with you," assured Tim softly as he kissed her forehead. He held her close, listening to the sound of her breathing. The two heroes held each other for what seemed like forever. Tim had almost nodded off before he realized that Cass was already way ahead of him, sound asleep in his arms.
"I love you," whispered Tim as he tucked Cass into bed after disentangling himself from her. He could make do with the couch for one night. He knew she needed the rest more than he did.
Cass took a very deep breath and braced herself. This was going to be the hardest fight of her life. Forget Shiva or Ravager or even Tim. This was the challenge. Everything else she had done would be cake compared to this.
"I'll hang back," assured Tim, "I'll be right in the room if you need me."
"I know," assured Cass, "Thanks." She squeezed his hand before she stepped into the visiting area. She had only seen places like this on television. The few times she had actually been inside Blackgate Prison, she had taken a very unconventional method of entry. She had also been in costume whereas now she was just in jeans and a t-shirt.
"This way," said the guard as he led Cass over to a chair. Cass reluctantly let go of Tim's hand and followed the guard, sitting in the chair and staring ahead at the large wall of Plexiglas with a little intercom in it so she could talk to her father. Cass hated intercoms. She and her father spoke a different language and they sure as hell couldn't speak it over intercoms. She remembered the last time she had seen her father. It had been Father's Day and she was looking for information about her mother. She had broken into this place as Batgirl and had confronted him. They spent a little while talking, which meant they kicked the crap out of each other. In the end, she hadn't learned much. She wasn't here for information this time though. She was here . . . to talk.
"Dad," whispered Cass as she saw David Cain step into the room. The guards led him over to a chair across from Cass.
"Your conversation will be monitored," assured the guard behind Cass as he turned to leave.
"Doubt it," said Cain as he looked at his daughter and gave her a little smile. He knew she would catch the meaning. The Cain "family", if one could grace it with that term, could say a thousand things with just one movement. Half of what was going to be "said" during this conversation wouldn't be recorded because there would be no words spoken. Both father and daughter knew this.
"You look good," said Cain after a few moments of silence, "New clothes since the last time I saw you."
"Last time was business," reminded Cass as they studied each other intently and saw that both of them were nervous and unsure how to act around the other.
"This time?" asked Cain.
"I heard . . . you were going to die," explained Cass. David Cain shook his head and gave his daughter a sad smile. She truly was the most beautiful failure he had ever set eyes on. He knew it was his own fault. He had pushed her too hard. Eight was still too young for a first kill.
"We all have to go some day, Cassie," assured Cain, "You and I know that better than most."
"Are you sorry?" asked Cass. She knew it was a question that needed to be asked. In all those years, Cass had never tried to imagine what her father was or had been thinking. She didn't want to know what was in his head because she was afraid that everyone had been right all along and David Cain really was the most cold-hearted bastard to ever breathe the air of this world. She knew there had to be more to him than that. Cassandra Cain knew what everyone thought about her, that she was a walking time bomb just waiting to explode. She wasn't that and he wasn't a monster either. She had to see it for herself to know that maybe there was still hope for him and for her too.
"I have my regrets just like any other man," assured Cain, "I'm sorry for what happened to you, Cassie. You were too young and I pushed you too soon."
"You shouldn't have pushed at all," said Cass somewhat angrily.
"A man has to make sure that his legacy is taken care of," explained Cain, "When you have children, you'll understand about things like that." He could tell she was angry. Cain saw in his daughter the same beautiful fury and fire that he had seen in her mother, in Lady Shiva. People could think of his relationship with Sandra Woosan as a business arrangement if that was what they chose to think. Cain had never given a damn about the careless thoughts of others anyway. However, it didn't mean he hadn't loved Shiva. He remembered seeing so much potential in Cassandra when she was born. It was the same potential he had seen in Shiva. David Cain was a man attracted to destruction, to violence and death. He loved what killed.
"I heard you were running with a bad crowd," said Cain.
"I was," stated Cass, "I got better."
"Good," said Cain. People could also think whatever they wanted to about David Cain's feelings towards his daughter. The fact was that he was proud of her despite that she had turned her back on all the plans he had made for her. Parents were parents, no exceptions. All parents were proud of their child's successes.
"I'm proud of you," assured Cain, "You've made a nice life for yourself. You deserve it, Cassie." She stared at her father for a moment as if he had granted her the only thing her heart ever desired, which in a way was true. Had Cass heard right? Was her father really . . . proud of her?
"Really?" asked Cass skeptically. Cain saw the conflicted feelings inside his daughter. She was angry at him for taking away her childhood but at the same time she was happy to gain his approval.
"That's another thing you'll understand when you have kids," assured Cain with a smile.
"I'm seeing someone," said Cass quietly, "Someone from . . . work."
"That boy who came in with you?" asked Cain. Cass nodded. Cain's eyes darkened slightly. He didn't tie himself up in romantic entanglements. Sure, he indulged in the vice of lust and sexual attraction but romance wasn't for David Cain. It dulled his senses and interfered with his work. In a profession such as his, love was a rare and mostly unwelcome occurrence.
"He saved me," explained Cass, "He saved me from . . . the dark."
"You don't need my approval," stated Cain, "You never did."
"Doesn't mean I don't want it," replied Cass, "You're really . . . going to die?"
"My time," reminded Cain as he stood up and turned to go, "Sorry, Cassie." She didn't say anything in reply. A thousand words had been spoken between them. She knew her father was conflicted. He loved her and yet he had screwed up her life so badly. Since the day she had left, Cain walked a tightrope and he was always one misstep away from total collapse. Cass couldn't help feeling like a failure in his eyes. It made her angry because she knew that some part of her father thought she was a failure while another part of him was so proud of her. Cass didn't know what to think but she knew one thing for sure. David Cain needed someone to believe he was a good man. He needed a second chance. Maybe she could help him get it.
It seemed like such a long time since she had been in this city. Nyssa supposed she was grateful to be in any city period. Death always did have an interesting way of putting life into perspective.
"We have been keeping watch over her just as you instructed, Mistress Nyssa," assured the League operative with a bow as Nyssa exited her private jet. Shrike wasn't far behind her, eager to stop the pretense and get down to the real fun.
"Good," said Nyssa, "Cassandra Cain's insolence cannot go unpunished but I wish her to remain somewhat unharmed. I have a different plan in mind for her."
"Mistress, we thought you should be informed of the matter concerning David Cain," explained the attendant as he escorted Nyssa and Shrike to the waiting limousine, "He is scheduled to die this evening."
"Yes, a true shame," agreed Nyssa, "David was a valuable asset to my father and a great boon to our organization as a whole. I wouldn't fear though. Death has funny ways of being circumvented."
"What do you wish of us now?" asked the attendant as the three League members climbed into the limo.
"I believe a tour of the local wildlife is in order," replied Nyssa with a cruel grin, "There is a certain red bird that I for one can't want to hunt down and kill with my own hands."
(Author's Note): More on the way.