Family Affairs (Part Five)
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. After a semi-hectic weekend, I can finally get around to finishing this thing. Yes, this is the last part so make sure you R/R.
The clock was ticking. Literally. Cass could only deal with one crisis at a time though. She had to fix this one first. Batgirl had cornered one of the monks and had beaten the location of the Lazarus Pit out of him. Tim needed her help now. She was the one who had been stupid and had gotten them in this mess to begin with. She hoped Nyssa didn't get smart and change the deactivation code for the countdown.
"My luck," mumbled Batgirl as the foul stench of arcane chemicals suddenly filled her nostrils and let her know she was there. She stared at the Lazarus Pit and shuddered as she remembered what it had been like to come out of that thing. It was like coming out of Hell itself. She approached the edge of the pit and took Robin's limp body off her shoulder, cradling it as she stared at his lifeless face. He had saved her and she would always love him for that. Now she had to save him. Cassandra Cain knew what kind of twisted and corrupting effects the Lazarus Pits could have but she knew she would help Tim fight through them just as he had helped her.
"I need you," whispered Batgirl as she kissed Tim's forehead and then put him in the pit.
The first thing Tim Drake realized once he had enough consciousness to do so was that everything seemed to look a whole lot prettier when you were dead.
"Where?" asked Robin as he looked around and sat up. He didn't have his costume on. He was just wearing normal, Tim Drake attire. Tim looked around, marveling at how bright and colorful everything was. The grass was greener, the sky was bluer, everything felt more vibrant and alive than normal.
"We've been waiting for you, Wonder Boy." Tim knew that voice. He felt a pair of soft hands latch onto him and he turned to see Stephanie Brown lying beside him in the lush grass. Tim stared at her for a moment and honestly couldn't remember a time when she had looked more amazing. There wasn't a mark on her flawless skin and everything about her seemed to radiate beauty.
"Steph," breathed Tim as he looked into her clear, sparkling eyes, "God, you look good. I . . . where are we?"
"Home," replied Stephanie softly. Tim looked out at the park before him. There were some people he recognized but most he didn't. They all seemed quite content and happy. There was a slight problem though.
"Dead," whispered Tim, "They're all dead."
"So are you," assured Stephanie, "Relax, Tim, it's not bad. There's no hellfire or brimstone here. There're no gang wars or cosmic crises or even super-villains."
"It's . . . it's like a dream," said Tim as he exhaled and felt the weight of the world lifted from his weary shoulders.
"You gonna admire the scenery all day?" Tim knew that voice too. He looked over and saw Conner Kent approach him, his attire consisting of his trademark Superman shirt, jeans, and a leather jacket just for a touch of nostalgia.
"Kon," said Tim in surprise, "It's . . . this is all too weird."
"It was for all of us," admitted Conner, "Your dad's grilling some burgers. He heard you were coming and we wanted to make it special."
"I . . . I can't stay," said Tim quietly, "This isn't right."
"It doesn't matter now," assured Stephanie as she sat up with Tim, "You're here whether you want to be or not." Tim looked at Stephanie. He could be happy here, really he could. He could be happy without Gotham, happy without Bruce, happy without ever having to put on the Robin suit and be reminded of all the people he had lost to the Bat-family's war on crime. He was free, completely and totally free.
"I . . . I could learn to like it I guess," admitted Tim.
"You kinda have to," reminded Stephanie with a grin as she pulled him to his feet, "C'mon, you have to see your parents." Tim was about to walk with her when suddenly he felt something ache inside him. It was like he was on fire inside. He screamed in agony as his body burned, pushing Stephanie away. The fire consumed him, burning away all the brightness and beauty of whatever world he had been in. He howled in agony as he was ejected from the Lazarus Pit and returned to a world of grimy grayness. He was alive again and it only made him feel deader inside. He turned and saw Batgirl. This was her fault.
"Put me back!" snarled Robin as he came at Batgirl, "I was happy there!" Batgirl took this declaration in stride. God knows the pit had a very unhealthy effect on her. She had continuously told herself that putting Tim in the pit wasn't the only step to getting him back. Now she was going to have to knock some sense into him.
"There's no time for this," assured Batgirl as she calmly blocked the punch Tim threw at her and twisted his arm behind his back, locking up his other arm at the same time so she could keep him still until he could calm down.
"Steph was there!" snapped Robin as he struggled against Cass's hold, "Conner was there!"
"I need you," whispered Batgirl, "If the code doesn't work . . . I need your skill."
"Everything I could've ever wanted was there," said Robin bitterly, "You stole it all from me."
"What about me?" asked Batgirl. Robin stopped struggling and shook his head. His brain felt like it was immersed in thick fog, in a toxic haze that warped his memories and his perceptions. He wasn't . . . he wasn't thinking straight.
"Cassie . . . I," said Robin, "I can't think." Everything was so dark here compared to where he had been before. No, that wasn't true. It . . . it had only seemed that way because that was what he wanted to believe. It was easy to believe that death was better than living in a world that had taken away all your loved ones. He couldn't let himself believe that though. He had made Cass see there was more to life than wanting to die. He had made her see that this world could be beautiful too.
"Tim, we have to hurry," pressed Batgirl as she loosened her grip.
"I . . . I know," said Robin as he tried to steady himself and regain his bearings, "You go. I'll catch up."
"You sure?" asked Batgirl as she let him go completely.
"Go," ordered Robin shakily, "Thank you." Batgirl smiled at him before moving off towards the way she had come. Robin stared back at the Lazarus Pit and wondered just where he had been. Tim shook his head to clear the cobwebs, forcing himself to focus on the present. This world was the one that needed him now.
He was running out of ammo. Of course, Cain had been picking his shots but still Nyssa seemed too agile for him. Cain supposed he would give her that.
"Pretty good," admitted Cain as Nyssa's whip cracked through the air and knocked the pistol from Cain's grasp. However, Nyssa just wasn't quick enough as Cain coiled the whip around his arm and yanked Nyssa towards him.
"Your daughter has made you weak," hissed Nyssa as she managed to duck the punch that Cain attempted to deliver and hit him in the stomach.
"Your father's done the same to you," retorted Cain as he took the punch in stride and backhanded Nyssa across the jaw. Cain quickly spun around and caught Shrike by the throat just as the assassin attempted to deliver a sneak attack.
"You made my little girl cry," said Cain as he stared into Shrike's eyes while he choked the life out of the man, "That wasn't very nice of you." Cain squeezed the air from Shrike's windpipe and raised his hand to block the slash he knew was coming. He tossed Shrike aside, grabbing the blade from him and turning to slice off a section of Nyssa's whip as the cord came back at him.
"I thought you were a man of honor," said Nyssa as she pulled out a pair of daggers and came at Cain.
"You wanted me to kill my own daughter," reminded Cain as he blocked one of the daggers with the knife he had stolen from Shrike. He kicked Nyssa's arm aside and swiped at her with the knife, going for the throat but falling short and only managing a slash across her chest.
"Again, your fatal flaw," sneered Nyssa as she kicked Cain in the jaw. Cain backed up and quickly moved as another kick came at him.
"Again, the pot's callin' the kettle black," jeered Cain as he caught Nyssa's leg and swept her other one out from under her. He jammed his boot down onto Nyssa's throat but quickly let up after Nyssa stabbed him in the leg with one of her daggers. Cain howled in agony as he staggered backwards, tumbling to the ground. Nyssa had little time to celebrate. Cain took Shrike's knife and tossed it overhand. The whirling object hit Nyssa in her shoulder, causing her to go down in pain. Cain pulled the dagger from his leg and looked around, crawling towards the body of a fallen monk. He used a piece of the man's clothing to bandage the wound and then looked around for something else he could use as a weapon. He knew he couldn't stay on the floor for too long. That toss had been a survival instinct, a stall tactic so that he could buy some time.
"You delay the inevitable," assured Nyssa as she slowly stalked towards him.
"Says Ra's al Ghul's daughter," muttered Cain as he saw his gun nearby and crawled for it. He could almost reach it when Nyssa's foot came down on his wrist.
"It is time we end this dance, old man," said Nyssa coldly as she raised the knife she had pulled from her shoulder, "You were a worthy adversary."
"Too bad I can't say the same," replied Cain with a grin. A hand quickly grabbed Nyssa's wrist before the League leader could land the killing blow. Batgirl's foot slammed into the back of Nyssa's knee twice, nearly crippling the woman and forcing her to the ground.
"Forget me," ordered Cain as Cass moved to help him up, "Stop the clock." Batgirl nodded and moved towards the computer terminal. Nyssa quickly regained her footing and sprang, grappling Cass from behind.
"Your father is a fool," hissed Nyssa in Cass's ear, "Don't throw away this chance. You can live forever with us."
"It won't be worth it," assured Batgirl as she flipped Nyssa over her and down onto the floor. Nyssa viciously kicked Batgirl in the stomach and then swiped at her with the other dagger she still possessed.
It had taken him a few minutes to rifle through the unconscious bodies of the initiates before he had found the missing utility belts. Robin was starting to feel naked without his. He idly wondered if Cass felt the same way and then automatically knew she didn't. She hardly ever used her belt anyway. She preferred fists and feet over gadgetry.
"You stuck a knife in my gut," said Robin as he came up behind Shrike and put his hands over him, pressing his bo against the assassin's throat, "You know, if I did the same to you you'd be getting off easy." Shrike didn't have a retort as Robin managed to choke him into unconsciousness. Tim then turned his attention to where Nyssa and Batgirl were still going at it. He quickly attached a grappling line to the ceiling and used it to vault up and over the dueling women so he could get to the computer terminal.
"O," said Robin into his communicator as he began punching the keyboard and checked the clock, "I need your help."
"Where in God's name have you been?" asked Oracle, "I've had everyone out all night looking for you and Batgirl."
"Dead," answered Robin simply, "Look, I don't think I can crack the security on this thing by myself. Help me." Robin pulled a device out of his belt and plugged it into the computer terminal. The device served two purposes. First of all, it would create a door so that Oracle could get access to the League's computer network. Second of all, it had a program on it that would start hacking the password system on the countdown program's security so that he and Barbara could do a little rerouting. Frankly, Tim was tired of the satellite network even existing in the first place. That chemical concoction was too dangerous for anyone's hands.
"I'm in" said Oracle, "What're you thinking?"
"Blow up the satellites," replied Tim simply as he continued to pound on the keyboard, "It's not enough to crash the whole network and deactivate them. I want this nightmare over with for good."
"I'm slogging my way through the satellite security," assured Oracle, "Electrical overload?"
"Give it everything you've got," ordered Robin. The device he was using was done hacking into the interface and Robin quickly stopped the countdown program.
"Back in my day," said Cain as he managed to get back to his feet, "we didn't have to deal with this crap."
"Don't think your little change of heart means I'm not going to take you in," said Robin as he turned to Cain.
"The way I see it," said Cain as he held up his gun, "You'll be busy with other things." Robin ducked as Cain fired and emptied his clip into the computer. The terminal sparked and sputtered, some of the access panels blowing out completely.
"What was that?" asked Oracle, "Was that Cain talking?"
"Later," muttered Robin as he quickly moved away from the terminal, "Are you still in the grid?"
"Yeah, no problem there," assured Oracle, "I've got this covered, R." Robin nodded. He knew Oracle could do her job.
"You think I'll let you walk because I'll be too busy with this?" asked Robin as he gestured to the scrap-pile that was the terminal, "It's not gonna happen, Cain."
"It ain't me you should be worried about," reminded Cain, "I wouldn't worry too much, Timmy. Sure I could kill you any time I wanted to but we both know that would make Cassie pretty sad. Besides, after tonight I don't think it'll matter much."
Nyssa would've been good if she was fighting a normal person. Unfortunately, she was squaring off against Cassandra Cain, which meant that being "good" wasn't going to cut it.
"Give it up," ordered Batgirl as she hit Nyssa in the face again, "I'm getting bored."
"I'll come back," assured Nyssa with a cruel grin, "You even killed me and I still came back. I'll keep coming after you again and again and again. Next time, he might not be so lucky."
"I'll stop you," stated Batgirl, "Always. You'll never win." She knew there wasn't a huge amount of difference between her and Nyssa. All that remained was a choice, a choice to walk in the light or dance in the darkness. On any given day, Cass could become Nyssa or become Cain. That was her choice to make though and she chose to walk a different path. She couldn't choose whose blood she had in her veins but she could choose whether or not she became enslaved by the legacy of her parents as Nyssa had by her father's.
"I choose," stated Batgirl as she knocked Nyssa out cold, "It's my life." Batgirl looked up from Nyssa and saw Robin in a standoff with her father.
"We need to get out of here," said Robin as he moved towards Batgirl, "Your father shot up the terminal and now it's probably going to blow."
"You two leave," ordered Cain, "I told you before that it wasn't going to matter. When this thing goes it'll take me and Nyssa with it."
"No," stated Batgirl as she grabbed Nyssa's body, "You're coming with us." Robin could see that Cain was going to argue with this. He quickly hit the older man with a couple tangle bombs to tie him up and then grabbed Cain while Batgirl took Nyssa. The young heroes quickly hauled the two League members out of the room and made it for the exit.
"All that alcohol made you fat," muttered Robin, "You weigh a ton."
"Yer a dead man, kid," assured Cain, "I told you ta leave me and Nyssa behind. We've caused you and Cassie enough pain already."
"Yeah well you know the mood Cass gets in about killing," replied Robin, "You wanna take it up with her? Be my guest." Cain muttered a few curses under his breath. He couldn't believe his daughter was willing to risk her life for him after all he had done to her. He didn't know whether or not he should be grateful. Robin and Batgirl made their way out of the building before the computer terminal exploded and managed to catch the whole building on fire. They quickly vaulted into the night sky via grappling hooks and deposited their cargo on a nearby rooftop.
"You talk, I'll hang," said Robin as he moved to tie up Nyssa. This left Batgirl with her father.
"Too much ta ask that ya get me outta this crap?" asked Cain as he gestured to the sticky goo he was still entangled in.
"You look fine to me," replied Batgirl with a grin.
"You could've left me fer dead," reminded Cain, "God knows I deserve for what I've done, Cassie. Why didn't you?"
"You're my father," replied Cass simply as she pulled back her cowl so he could look her in the eye.
"I meant what I said," assured Cain, "I'm proud of you, Cassie. You stick with the kid. He'll take care of you."
"I love you," said Batgirl as she saw that Robin was finished and the duo was ready to depart.
"Love you too, darlin'," assured Cain, "Now go." Batgirl nodded as she put her mask back on and she and Robin departed.
At this point, Tim wanted nothing more than to collapse into his bed and sleep for at least a full day. It took almost all his remaining strength just to swing home with Batgirl. As soon as he managed to make it to his bed, Robin fell into it. There was a rustle of movement as Cass peeled off her costume, leaving herself in her underwear, before she joined Tim in bed.
"Long night," mumbled Tim as he looked at Cass. Oracle had told him about the satellites. She had managed to create a system overload that fried the entire grid, causing all the satellites to explode. Their poisonous cargo had been incinerated during said explosion. All was as it should be now.
"Yeah," agreed Cass sleepily, the battle fatigue starting to finally set in. She felt the weariness in her muscles slowly drag her towards sleep.
"Cassie," said Tim quietly, "I didn't . . . that stuff I said to you after the pit."
"Sssh," whispered Cass as she put a finger to his lips, "I know. Just go to sleep." She lazily let her arm drape across his chest and felt her eyes get heavy. Tim pulled her closer and the two of them drifted off to sleep together. There were no words of passion. There was no exchange of "I love you" and "I love you too" because it wasn't required. Both of them already knew they loved one another and that nothing would change that. All they needed was just the assuring closeness of the other's body to let them know that they were never alone. That was all the "I love you" they could ever need.
"I had heard you were dead." Cain had finally managed to get himself free from the sticky goo he was trapped in. He was in the process of figuring out how to slip away while his injured leg severely hampered his movement. That was when Lady Shiva had chosen to make her presence known. He didn't know at first why she was here. He hadn't spoken to her since they had parted ways after he took Cassandra. That was part of their agreement.
"You know me, Sandra," said Cain with a rueful smile, "I don't go down without a fight." Shiva snorted and gave Cain a smirk. She should've known that he was too stubborn to really die.
"You'll be interested to know that, as of five minutes ago, it's Father's Day," said Shiva, "Should I expect this type of thing next year for Mother's Day?" Cain laughed and shook his head. He had forgotten that Fate had a cruel sense of humor when it came to him and his family.
"You'll be happy to know our daughter's in good hands," said Cain, "He's a good kid. He can't fight worth crap but still he's a good kid."
"He never could," assured Shiva with a shake of her head and a small grin, "Perhaps, though, she will turn out better than we have. Here, to treat your wounds." Shiva tossed Cain a pouch that she removed from her belt.
"I knew there was a reason I loved you," said Cain as he took the pouch, "You came back to Gotham just to pay your respects to the great and powerful David Cain?"
"Please," snorted Shiva as she turned to leave, "I was simply amazed that you were finally going to die. I do not owe you anything, David. Our bargain was finished a long time ago."
"Of course," replied Cain with a nod, "You woulda been proud of her tonight, Sandra. We have an incredible daughter."
"I know," replied Shiva simply as she turned and smiled at Cain, "I know." Parents wish many things for their children. It's been said that having a child makes parents realize their own faults or limitations for they come to see them in their children. However, that never means parents stop wanting their children to mirror their own successes. In some cases, the child will live up to those successes but in other cases, children will carve out their own paths and surpass their parents. It is this act, this quest for identity and individuality, that signifies the transition from child to adult and, regardless of the child or the parents, it is this self-fulfillment and maturation that is a parent's single greatest joy to watch unfold.
(Author's Note): This is the final chapter to the final piece of the trilogy. I may write a few oneshots based off of this continuity but for now I consider this a finished masterpiece. My deepest thanks to all those who reviewed this one as well as Shadowboxing and Double or Nothing. I wasn't really sure how far this was going to go but I'm glad I did it this way. Again, thank you for all the praise.