Part of a Bart/Cass series which is over at YJ.

Reflections and Carnivals


As the merry-go-round started up, Bart Allen grinned at his date. Not knowing what to do, the girl grinned back with wide, brown eyes, impossibly happy. Around her the bright lights began to swirl as the tooting organ played its tune. She clutched on to the wooden pole with one hand, letting her other come to rest on the fiberglass mane of the pink and purple pony upon which she now rode.

There was a contentment with the company she now found herself in. There was also a certain relaxation brought by the swirling lights and sounds as she went up and down and around, her belly squishing protestfully after having been stuffed with too much cotton candy, funnel cake and hot dogs.

The short auburn-hair boy beside her radiated so much joy and pleasure she could feel it. That feeling, mixed with a full belly and the blurring lights and singing calliope lulled her into a state of happiness she couldn't recall ever experiencing before.

Cassandra Cain hadn't had a normal childhood. What she had experienced couldn't even be categorized as a childhood. There'd been training; there'd been simulations. Many involved real bullets and blades and Cass still wasn't sure how that was a 'simulation' but she'd give her trainer the benefit of the doubt.

She wouldn't call him her father, though, even if that were what Cain fancied himself to be. She didn't know if she really was related to him, or if he had merely claimed her. All she knew was that she'd grown up as his prize and his possession until that one act she'd been forced to perform that had pushed her into the adult world. Soon after, she pushed HERSELF out of Cain's life, and out into the world—and on her own.

Cassandra remembered all the places she'd been, the cities with all of their lights. She remembered how hard she'd tried to stay hidden among the other human refuse. She also remembered how Cain had pursued her everywhere she went, hounding her in an attempt to force her back into his tutelage.

All of that had stopped in Gotham. She slept in the same place every night now. Cain made occasional appearances, but mostly, she didn't have to fight him, and she didn't have to run.

In Gotham, she'd found herself in a unique situation. She'd found a lady who'd given her a bed to sleep in, and who'd wanted to teach her things to make her 'normal'. She loved Oracle for that.

Even better than a bed to sleep in, though, was The Bat. He knew Cassandra could take care of herself, but he still stood as a protective barrier between the girl and Cain. She liked the Bat. He gave her a place of her own to live and train in. He gave her his symbol and let her be Bat too.

Oracle kept telling Cassandra that she couldn't live all her life under ground, she needed to have friends--she needed to meet people and be social. Oracle had told her that she'd never learn how to talk correctly if she didn't exercise her speech on others. That was why she'd gone to get Robin. Batman wanted Nightwing to go, but she said she could do it. Then she could tell Oracle that she went to some place with other people—people she didn't know yet—and talked to them. And then Robin could vouch for her.

And she just liked scaring Robin. He'd said once that he was intimidated by her. He didn't go on missions with her often. Nightwing spent more time with her than Robin did. So when she did see him, she used the opportunity to make him squirm. She liked the way he did it. His neck would dip to the left ever so slightly, and his stomach muscles would ripple from bottom to top. Like when she'd shown him her bullet scars. She didn't know why she liked it, or why he squirmed, but it seemed like her duty to make his stomach muscles do that.

Then she saw Impulse. He was so fast, and happy, and she wanted to be happy like that too. And he had such pretty yellow eyes. She didn't know people could have eyes like that. And his hair was big. Her hair was so straight and dark, but his was like a big bush of brown. And he made HER squirm. Cassandra decided then that she liked spending time with people even if Oracle didn't force her to spend time with them—as long as Bart was there.

All of these things were things she'd never experienced with Cain. He'd called himself her father, but he was just her keeper. The Bat protected her, and Oracle nagged her. Nightwing seemed happy to see her, and Robin was scared of her. They were her family and they made her normal. Bart made her happy.

After thinking about Bart for a long time, and trying to think up ways to get herself inducted in to Young Justice, or to get Impulse to Gotham, she finally went to Oracle. She sat on the floor for half an evening, waiting for Oracle to stop talking and typing. Then, when Oracle stopped typing, she asked Oracle what a boy was, if your father and his father was the same person. She said he was a brother. Then Cassandra popped up off the floor and dove out the nearest window to go find Nightwing. Her brother would help.

Nightwing had asked why she hadn't asked Oracle. Oracle just knew what she thought boys liked. Then he asked why not Robin. Robin didn't know anything about anything at all, Cass decided. He still liked Spoiler way too much. She was very dumb. Even if she DID know how to read.

Then Nightwing had asked why not Batman. That was an easy one to answer. He was her father now. He protected her and gave her a place to live. But Batman was dumber than Robin about girls. He kept Spoiler around, didn't he?

Nightwing was the brother to ask. And he told her some good things to know about Bart, and about boys, and boys and girls spending time together. He didn't stand between Cain and her, like The Bat did, but he was still a very good brother.

He'd showed her how to win Bart, hadn't he?

And aside from Nightwing being a good brother, Bart was a good person to go out with. Robin called him a 'boyfriend.' She didn't like that word though. Yes, he was a boy, but he was more than a friend. Or at least, she wanted him to be. He was as bright and warm as the carnival lights, and he was just as loud and excitable.

She'd wanted to die for a long time, even tried to hasten her demise by placing herself in certain situations. She hadn't been prompted to give up the night life, yet, but lately, she'd found herself wanting to live. There was something to be said for Bat-dads, brothers, and brown-haired boys with mirthful amber eyes.

"Hey, Cass."

His soft, alto voice cut through her thoughts, and she realized the ride had stopped. "Huh?"

"Time to get off," he said, nudging her playfully. "We gotta eat more, then go on the Tilt-A-Whirl." With a gesture towards chivalry, Bart held a hand out to her and helped her down.

"Won't make me puke," she said with great resolve as they weaved through a menagerie of painted animals. Light bounced off their shining hides, and they looked almost alive.

Bart shrugged, then hopped off the gray wooden platform. "I gotta at least try." He took her hand and pulled her beyond the gates and into the rest of the fair ground.

Cass smiled, allowing herself to be pulled along. "I'd like that."