Wow. I am amazed. This is the fastest I've ever spit a story out. Within hours of reading the Batgirl and Robin date challenge, I had a story idea and draft from beginning to end. I *think* I met the challenge requirements, I only changed the statement slightly from "And I thought Dick had it bad" to "And I thought Nightwing had it bad." Thought I'd be creative and do it from Cass's POV, and am quite pleased with the way it turned out. This is inspired slightly from me and my friend Rachel's escapades with the NYC pigeon population and the song "Chicken Hunting" by ICP that was playing on winamp when I read the challenge. Whether this is a good thing or not remains to be seen. Standard disclaimer implies. I dunna own anything DC related, and I altered all the other brand name stuff, so it doesn't really matter, I guess. (Ah, my good friend copyright avoidance...)

-Slipstream


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"To Catch a Bird"
By Slipstream



It's cold out. Snowing. White blobs that drift downward against the swirling black and grays of the city. The snow falls in clumps on my shoulders and cape and gathers around the ears of my cowl. Across from me, I can see my reflection in a building window, and I note that the bat-suit does not look good in polka dots.

The wind rattles a flag pole above me and the snow gathered there deposits on me with an ungraceful thump. My reflection now shows a slightly human shaped white lump with pointy black ears and shoulders poking through the fluffy snow. I am Batgirl, bat demon of the frozen north. Fear my wrath.

Barbara says that the one disadvantage to me recovering my speech is that I have developed a slightly odd sense of sarcasm. I see no problem with this.

I wish I could move to get out of this snow, move somewhere and get warm, but that would betray my position. Warn my prey. I have sat here, in the snow, for too long to ruin my chance of catching that which I seek. All I have to do is sit, waiting, for the precise moment...

Now.

I pounce, hands moving lightning fast, fingers wrapping around the unsuspecting body before they can take flight against my attack. A prisoner before he even knows it, the pigeon emits a startled cooing before beginning to thrash in a flurry of feathers. I regard him with a slight smile. The 27th one so far tonight.

It has been a very, very, VERY slow night in Gotham City.

My experiences with people are... limited... but I know that it is common for humans to invent little games to keep themselves occupied under extreme boredom. I have observed Barbara type on an imaginary keyboard during a meeting, Superboy guessing out loud the pant sizes of every passing female during a stint of monitor duty, and I think that Batman is over a third of the way done with mentally counting every cell in his body.

Anyway, when I'm out on patrol with nothing to patrol, I chase pigeons. It takes extreme concentration and skill to sneak up on a pigeon. Trust me. So I think that Batman wouldn't disapprove of my... hobby. It works on my prowling skills. It focuses my mind onto the task at hand. It kills time. It's...

It's pathetic.

I am cold. I am bored out of my mind. I, Batgirl, a vigilante otherwise known only as Cassandra, am not happy at all.

I sigh and let the pigeon escape to fly away into the night air.
Time to begin my hunt anew. I scan the rooftop, but all I find is a completely different kind of bird. Robin is standing next to the air vent, his body hidden by his cape in an attempt to stay warm, hair blown lightly into his face, and an expression that doesn't require my skills in interpreting body language to be understood as "What the heck...?"

He stutters a bit upon realizing I've noticed him. "Um... You were... catching... pigeons?"

"Yes." One word answer. Pretend it's nothing unusual. Come on, Boy Wonder, dare to ask.

He doesn't. "Oh." There's a pause and I can see in the way he shifts his feet that he ponders the idiocy of the situation. "Can I ask why?"

"Slow night."

"Oh."

Quiet again.

Looking at him, I know that there're a million places he'd rather be in short sleeves, preferably in the tropics. And I thought Nightwing had it bad without a cape. "Can I ask why you came?"

He grins. "Slow night." Smart alec.

He settles down next to me in the snow, breath coming out in a steam. "Actually, I'm feeling kinda weird, `cuz even though we've been through No Man's Land together and have been part of the Bat-crew for the last year or so, I still feel like I haven't done enough to get to know you. And after the whole Deadeye thing..." He shrugs. "It's a slow night. I figured we could maybe, y'know, find someplace warm and pretend to be normal. Talk."

"Is that a..." What's the word Barbara uses? "...date?"

He blushes. A first. Out of all my time with the bat family, no one has ever blushed. Batman does not blush. If he ever does, I think I will fall over dead with shock. I know that if I ask Robin about it, he'd blame it on the cold, so I leave him alone about it. For now. "W-well, I was thinking something more along the line of a friendly meeting between coworkers."

I regard him for a moment. "Okay."

He smiles. Nice smile. A true one, not the one I see sometimes. He should do it more often so he doesn't loose it's sincerity. "You hungry? We could get food."

"Nothing... healthy."

"Fine by me. Have you got civvies?"

I pat one of the pouches on my utility belt. I'm still getting used to communicating verbally and not physically. "Sorta."

He smiles again. So nice. "S'okay. We'll make do." He extends an arm and steps onto the ledge. "Shall we be off?"

I take the crook of his arm, still unsure of what to do, but I can feel the corners of my mouth tugging upward beneath my mask. "Yes. Let's."

With that we leap into the darkness.

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We must have made a sight when we walked into McDoland's at about one in the morning. My "sorta" civilian clothes are a pair of baggy black jeans over my leggings and boots and a black tech vest zipped up to cover the yellow bat on my chest. My gloves, cowl, and cape are tucked into various pockets of my utility belt, which I have slung over my shoulder and across my chest like Rambo. My eyes are hidden by wrap around shades and my hair is pulled back in the ponytail I keep it in while in costume.

Robin looks about as mismatched. He too has baggy black jeans over his tights and boots and is wearing face fitting black glasses, but he's pulled his green undershirt on over the rest of his costume to cover his red tunic and belt. The cape he's folded up and stuck between his skin and the tunic in the small of his back. The gloves and mask are stashed in a pocket somewhere, I think.

Anyway, we look like reject mannequins from a New Navy store. A couple of seasons out of style. But the guy behind the cash register doesn't seem grounded enough to care or notice that the baggy clothes are covering key areas of our hastily concealed costumes. From behind the sunglasses, Robin's eyes flash mischief at me and he takes a dramatic regard of the menu. "So, `Cass,' upon what item from this delicious five-star menu do you wish to dine."

"Double bacon cheeseburger. Fries. Dr. Paprika. Super-size it."

"Shouldn't you be watching your girlish figure?"

"I live... with Babs. We never eat out. Give me my food or die."

Laughing, he adds to the order a home-style burger meal with fries and a Zesti, super-size. Grabbing our food, we take our pick of booths from the otherwise almost completely empty restaurant.

I will give the boy this, if he could fight just as well as he could wolf down grease saturated meat products, Batman would be out of his league. I guess he normally doesn't eat like this, not with Batman or Alfred around. It must be that we're so much closer in age, so he feels more comfortably about acting his 15? 16? years. I don't think about it, really. We're only a year and a half apart, at most.

"Maybe you should... be watching... your figure." Damn. I wish I talk as smoothly as I'm thinking.

He snorts some of his Zesti and blushes again. Cute. When he's finished getting the carbonated beverage residue out of his sinuses he regards me with a baleful, but subtly happy expression. "Wow. Beneath the dark, quick, and spooky exterior you have a sense of humor. I am not alone!"

Looking at him, I realize a few things I'd never noticed before, like the slightly strained pull on his face or the tension around his neck and shoulders. "You joke... to not be... alone?"

He shrugs, dumping about half the salt shaker on his fries before drowning them in ketchup. "Sometime. Yeah. But mostly so that the job doesn't get to me. S'funny. Around the `family' I'm the joker, but when I'm with YJ I'm the serious one. I'm not sure if it's a personality shift or just a reflection of company. You?"

I shake my head and try to wrap my tongue around what I'm trying to say. "I'm just... me. No difference between... the mask... and... me. Same person. You... are split. More ways... than one. Identities... personalities... emotions. You're a teenager, like me... but... argh!" I slap my forehead and mentally berate my lack of a vocabulary. "Can't say..."

"It's okay. I understand. Philosophy's hard to spit out around a mouthful of junk food." Robin looks somewhere over my left shoulder and that grin returns to his face. "Hey," he nudges me with his foot and gestures across the restaurant. "Betcha I can nail the trashcan from here."

Grin back. "Bet you... can't."

"Ha! Watch this." He crumples up his trash into a ball and takes careful aim, face screwing up in concentration and tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth. He tosses it overhand and it sails through the air in an arc, a perfect shot, until at the very last second when a rival paper wad hits it and knocks it off course. His trash lands inches from the lip while the unseen assailant sinks with a thunk into the garbage.

Mouth agape, he looks at me. "Did you...?"

I look up at him, an expression of mock innocence across my face. "Me...?"

"Yeah, you!" He's indignant now, pointing at me accusingly. "You threw that! You made me miss."

"No proof."

"Liar!"

I laugh evilly and take a long drag from the last of my Dr. Paprika. The balding manager in the corner is looking at us rather pointedly and making loudish comments on proper restaurant behavior that I know are directed our way. Taking the hint we wrap up the rest of our meal and crunch our way outside into the cold snow. We walk in silence for a while before Robin sighs and speaks up again. "Pretending to be normal is just as boring as a slow patrol night. And nowhere near the exercise."

I ponder this a moment and look longingly up toward the rooftops. "We could... chase pigeons." I fish the still half-full carton of fries from my pocket. "I saved... some fries. We could... use them... as bait."

His eyes are laughing again and he regards me with mock surprise. "Why Cassandra, is that a date?"

"I was... thinking... something more... along the line... of a... friendly meeting... between... coworkers." I rattle the fries in temptation in front of his face.

"Okay. But the *instant* one of those birds takes a dump on me, I'm outta here."

"Fine by... me." We take a quick turn into the nearest alley and I begin to teach him the finer points of pigeon hunting. It promises to be an interesting night.


-Fin