Night in Gotham.
A lone figure surveyed the street below from a rooftop, as she had many times in the past few years.
Something was different this time, though. The city looked...brighter. Cleaner. Not that that means much with Gotham.
She rubbed her eyes, and realized what was different: it's her eyes, not the city. This is the first time she'd looked down upon the city like this without the darkened lenses that were the eyes of Batgirl.
Now she was just Cassandra Cain again.
Cassandra Cain...the words still seemed hollow to her, even though she'd been learning to speak for three years. Attaching one's identity to written words or spoken sounds was a concept she could now understand, but still did not grasp intuitively. To her, a person's identity was not mere words—it was the way they walked, the way they smiled, the way they fought.
Which was why it hurt so much to watch the man who had almost silently landed behind her. He wore the costume. He could match the voice pretty well. But—though it wasn't for lack of trying—he didn't move like Bruce at all.
"Cassandra. I got the letter. Your writing's gotten much better."
She didn't respond for a moment. Finally, "You walk too fast. In a fight, that's fine. But when he could be, he was always slow. Careful. What's the word—delimited?"
"Yes. He was deliberate." There were a hundred other things wrong with the way he carried himself, but she knew that they weren't things that could be easily fixed.
"I'll keep that in mind. But I wanted to talk to you about what you wrote."
"You can't change my mind. And Stephanie's good enough. She can fight." Not up to Tim or Dick's standard, let alone her own, but the girl had potential. A few weeks of training could get her up to Batgirl grade.
"You still haven't explained why you're leaving. What you told Stephanie was...confusing, to be honest."
"Seems simple enough to me. I fought Bruce's fight. Bruce isn't here any more. So I can't keep fighting."
"But we need you now more than ever now that he's gone." He was slipping further as he spoke; speaking faster, voice just a bit higher, standing a little less straight-backed. "You're a better fighter than any of us. You were better than him. You could at least stay on to help us train."
"No," she responded, more forcefully than she had intended. "Not now, not yet. I just need...time to think."
He nodded. "Fair enough. Care to tell me where you'll be going?"
"Away from Gotham. More than that, I don't know."
They were both silent for a moment as they stared out over the streets of Gotham. Dick finally spoke again. "There was a time when I thought I'd give up the fight, you know."
Cassandra turned to face him, honestly surprised at the statement. "Why?"
"Well, when I was Robin...I never thought it would be a permanent thing. I figured, one day...I don't know, one day Bruce would win his war on crime and I'd be free to do whatever with my life. And then one day, we got in a fight, and he..." He chuckled. "He fired me. No more Robin. And I thought—this was it. I get to be free again."
"But you weren't." Cassandra noted that he'd abandoned all pretense of trying to act like Bruce by then. Cape and cowl aside, he was just being Dick Grayson again.
"I tried to leave it behind. I went back to the circus for a while, and I honestly enjoyed seeing some of my old friends again. But—and this is the part that scares me a bit—it only took a couple days before I realized there was this great big hole in my life that swinging on a trapeze wasn't ever going to fill up. I still didn't want to go back, though. You know who finally convinced me?"
"Superman. I just went to Metropolis, walked up to the Daily Planet's front desk and asked to speak with Clark Kent like an idiot. Could've blown his whole secret identity, and mine too, right then and there. But no, he was okay with it. He made up an excuse to get us both out of there, let me help him stop an assassination attempt on the President, and then took me up to his home up at the North Pole."
"...so Clark Kent is Superman?"
"Oh. Yes, that's his real name. He's a reporter at the Daily Planet when he's not flying around saving people."
"I didn't realize he even had a secret identity."
"Most people don't. It's pretty amazing how well he covers it up—the way he talks, acts, even moves is different. I think you'd be pretty impressed. But anyway—he takes me up to his Fortress of Solitude. He asks me why I came to him, I tell him everything. And he just smiles, and he picks up this old...holopainting, I guess, from Krypton, his homeworld. He tells me about a Kryptonian who became a legend centuries before he was born, who was cast out from the only family he had—like I had been—and ended up becoming a champion of justice, a protector of those who could not protect themselves." Dick smiled. "Apparently, he called himself 'Nightwing'."
"Yeah. There's something in a name...something that just clicks when you find it. As soon as Superman told me that old story, I just knew who I would be and where I would go. I went back to the circus for a couple weeks after that, but honestly, in my heart I was already back in Gotham. Of course, when I finally got back I found out Bruce had already gotten himself a new Robin."
"Right. He's a psychopath now, but at the time he wasn't that bad. Arrogant as hell—a lot like Damian, actually—but good enough to make up for it. I was pretty pissed off at first that Bruce had replaced me so easily, but eventually I realized that was the whole point of me coming back to Gotham. I wasn't under Bruce's shadow any more. I could fight the fight on my own. I was Nightwing now." He burst out laughing suddenly.
"What's so funny—oh." Cassandra almost let out a chuckle. Almost.
"Yeah, I spent so long trying to get out from under Batman's shadow, and...now look at me." The laughter subsided, but the smile remained on his face as he continued. "Listen...Cass. I know you have to do this, and I just wanted to let you know...you're still family. And anytime you're ready to come back, you know how to reach us—any of us."
"Thank you. And...I will come back someday. I promise."
"Soon, I hope." Dick looked up; Cassandra followed his gaze to find the Bat Signal shining across the sky. "And that's my cue." Suddenly, he stood straighter and his expression became went from relatively cheerful to grim. His voice became low and slow again as he spoke. He was Batman again. "The fight goes on. See you around, Cassandra." He held out his grapple gun and shot a line at a building across the street, then swooped off into the night.
"See you around...Batman," she replied softly.
Thirty minutes later, she was on the road. To where, she didn't know. All she hoped was that at the end of the road, she'd find out who she was supposed to be.
Author's Note: [insert comments indicating frothing hatred of Adam Beechen and Dan DiDio here]
And now that that's over with, the author is not responsible for any breaks with DC continuity and blames any such breaks on RETCON PUNCH.
This story hopefully won't be more than a couple chapters, as I know if I drag it out too long I'll lose interest and it'll stay unfinished forever. Like all of my other fanfiction.