DC owns. I borrow. They profit. I don't.
Thanks to Kathy for the beta!
Free from the Maddening Crowds
"Robin said you were up here." Nightwing took a running leap from the top of the next highrise over, caught the low parapet and cast to handstand before dropping to a forward roll and landing on the flat surface of the rooftop.
She wasn't startled, of course. She'd spotted him from a half-block away—but then he wasn't trying to sneak up on her. She waved a greeting, realizing that he wouldn't see her smile beneath the full-mask of her cowl. "Yes," she said simply. "It's okay?"
The older vigilante grinned. "Sure. He was just a little surprised you're not down in the park to watch the fireworks. This building isn't really the best place to get a good view."
Batgirl shrugged. "First building near park without roof-house… um… I mean… penthouse. If I stand in their gardens," she touched the black Kevlar suit. "This scares people."
Nightwing nodded. "Okay. But why not change back to civvies and meet us below? Even Bruce is joining in for once—Wayne Enterprises is sponsoring the display and Lucius convinced him to show up."
She shook her head.
"Oh, come on. You can patrol later. Don't you ever have fun?"
She turned away. "Crowds… aren't fun. Too much shouting."
That brought him up short. "Maybe at a pep rally," he said. "But tonight, it's not going to be a lot of talking. Aside from cheering the fireworks, I mean."
Batgirl turned back to face him. She wished she had the words to explain. "No, not that kind of shouting. It's… shouting for me. It's…" She hesitated. "Alfred. When he talks, his words are different."
Nightwing frowned. "His accent, you mean?"
"More. Just now, you asked me question. 'Don't you ever have fun?' You asked. But if you were Alfred and you wanted me to say why I'm up here… you would use different words." She pulled off her mask. "Only you see me," she said as Nightwing's eyes widened. "Now… for you, I'm 'Cass'. But for Alfred I'm 'Miscasandra'. Is okay. I know you both mean me. But you and he both call me different. If everyone I meet say my name different… is hard for me to remember. Especially if everyone talk at once."
"Okay," Nightwing said slowly. "But I don't think everyone's going to be shouting your name down there. I mean, no offense, Cass, but how many people do you know?"
"Nobody," Cass said. "Just you, Tim, Barbara, Alfred. Barbara's father. A few others from… from when Gotham was…" What was the word she needed? "…Different," she finished lamely.
Cass sighed. "I don't always listen to words. For so long, words were just noise to me. But the way people move is also… talking. Not everyone moves the same way, like not everyone speaks the same way. It's not just accents but accents too. Batman always moves like… like warrior. Even if he dresses to be Bruce. Maybe not so obvious then, but is always warrior. Is okay. We fight on same side. But other people also move like warriors. And if I don't know them… I prepare." She frowned. "Not all warriors move the same. And sometimes with everyone around me moving or… or standing still differently… It's like I'm in dark nightclub. Everyone talking at once. And I don't need to know every conversation. Just the… important ones. But it's too much all at one time. I can't sort. I…" She turned away. "I hate crowds." Her shoulders slumped. "Sorry."
She knew that the hand was going to land on her shoulder a split-second before it connected, so she didn't jump when it did. Nightwing's other hand pointed to a taller apartment building, almost half a block closer to the fireworks launch site. "Bruce owns that one. He keeps the penthouse in case he needs a place to crash and can't get back to the manor. It's empty, now—I can guarantee it." He grinned. "You don't have anything to be sorry about. I don't mind going out in front of a crowd once in awhile, but I feel a little claustrophobic when I'm actually part of one." He hesitated. "Claustrophobic means—"
"I know." She was smiling as she replaced the mask. "Means you hate crowds, too."
Nightwing laughed. "Close enough. Show starts in about fifteen minutes. Let's head over there."
"Okay." She hesitated. "Nightwing? My… problem with crowds. You won't tell Batman?"
"Not if you don't want me to." He paused. "Mind you, I think he'd probably understand." He grinned. "You have NO idea how hard Lucius had to twist his arm to get him down there."
"Oh." She thought for a moment. "So ask him to come too. Is his building." Even though she knew he wouldn't see it, she still grinned beneath her cowl. "Tell him to tell Lucius is… Independence Day. So has freedom to go where he wants, yes?"
Nightwing started to laugh. "Cass, don't change." He waved her on. "Go. I'll make that call and catch up. Save me a spot."
"Save you… oh!" She fired off her de-cel cable. "Sure. Both of you." She leaped off the parapet.
Nightwing watched her, still grinning. Then he activated his comm-link and waited for Bruce to respond.