The three girls- or rather, women- stood there in silence for a moment, staring at the spot.
Finally, Cass spoke in a hoarse voice. "Where'd he go?"
"Maybe he went back, like Steph told him to, and found peace," Babs suggested.
"Or maybe his little self fulfilling prophecy came true and a Batgirl with the strengths of the three of us ended up killing him," Steph suggested bluntly.
Barbara frowned as Cass bit her lip. "Now that's an awfully pessimistic way to look at it."
"Depends on your point of view," Steph shrugged. "Though I like your explanation better. What did you do with that time box, Babs?"
"Well," Babs sighed. "Like I said, I remembered being Oracle thanks to his little mind tricks, so I hacked into the box, which was meant to contain his abilities and all. I mean, it was also future technology based off old computer schematics, which was why I'd been able to hack into it in the first place. Knowing that, I was able to use my mojo to finish his patch job and I also tried to get it to where it would nullify his power. As you can see, that didn't work out too well. In my defense, I had no idea what I was doing."
"Well, I'd say it worked out pretty well," Steph said, gesturing at the city around them. The sky was blue and the smoggy streets were completely intact. It was clear the time stream was back to normal.
"But he might come back," Cass frowned.
"If he was going to, he would have already," Steph assured her. "He is a time traveler after all and we're vulnerable right now."
"So…we won?" Babs asked, as if she hardly dared believe it herself.
"Yeah…we won…" said Steph, and her knees promptly gave out. She fell to the ground, her body shaking with suppressed sobs.
Cass was instantly by her side. "Are you hurt?"
"No," Steph choked, squeezing her eyes shut, her face flushed as she tried very hard not to cry. "No…i-it's just…all that we saw…happen to us"
"Oh," Cass said, her voice tinged with melancholy. "Yeah."
"It…it just makes me wonder… is that really what being Batgirl is about?" Steph took a deep, shaky breath and opened her eyes. "Getting knocked down again and again?"
Cass seemed to consider this for a moment. Then her eyes went hard and sharp.
"No," she said, getting to her feet. "Getting back up again." She stuck out her hand for Steph. Babs walked up and offered hers as well. Stephanie allowed herself a smile, and grabbed on to both hands, letting them pull her to her feet.
"Of course, there is still the problem of me and Cass still stuck in the wrong time period," She couldn't help pointing out, once the moment had passed.
Babs ran her hand exhaustedly through her hair, wrinkling her nose when her fingers came out covered in blood and grime. "We'll figure that out later. Right now, we need some rest and medical attention." She pulled down her glove to check her watch. "And I'm late for work Perfect."
"Oooh! I've got it!" Steph said waving her arms as Babs shed her cape and then deftly reversed it so only the yellow side showed. "You can tell them time just wasn't on your side.
"You didn't just say that," Babs groaned as she rolled down her boots.
"I've got a million of 'em," Steph said cheerfully. "How about you say you were wasting ti- okay, Babs, can I ask just what the hell you're doing?"
For Barbara has now tied her cape around her waist like a skirt and was folding her utility belt into…a purse?
"Quick change," Babs said shortly, detaching her symbol from her shirt with one hand while she fixed on her glasses with the other. Steph gaped at the yellow skirt over black shirt and leggings ensemble Babs was suddenly sporting. Heels even popped into place for the rolled down yellow boots with the click of a button. "Now I'm free to get you two a change of clothes.
"You have got to teach me how to do that! Why can't Cass and I do that?" Steph demanded huffily.
"It's just something I built into the costume…" Babs said, as she led them down the street.
"Well, why didn't you build it into MY costume?" Steph asked, gesturing at herself.
Babs stopped short. "I designed that?" She examined Steph disbelievingly. "What's with all the purple?"
"She likes purple," Cass stated.
"Damn right I do!" Steph said proudly, planting her hands on her hips. "I am the Eggplant Avenger, after all! The Aubergine Queen!"
"You don't seriously call yourself that in public, do you?" Babs giggled. "We have a reputation to uphold."
"Like Dominoed Daredoll is so much better!"
"I didn't come up with that name…"
"Hey, Cass should have a name too!" Steph interrupted excitedly. "I was thinking Duchess of Darkness!"
"Don't need a name," Cass interjected hastily.
"Well, I'm glad to see you're all intact and in good spirits," a cheerful voice sounded behind them. The three girls spun around to find a man with a shiny gold costume and even shinier smile grinning down at them.
"Who are…" Babs sputtered.
"You?" Cass finished, her hands automatically springing up into fists.
"Booster friggin' Gold!" Steph shouted before he could finish. "Where the hell were you when we needed your time-travelling ass!"
Booster looked taken aback. "You know about me?"
"Babs knows about you," Steph snapped. "She knows everything."
"Future you, I mean," Steph assured the bamboozled Babs.
"Look, ladies, aside from me being phenomenally busy, Time Lapse was causing way too much disturbance for even my best Pope-mobile to get through," Booster said, putting his hands up defensively. "Fortunately, it looks like the three of you handled it perfectly, and without any fancy superpowers to aid you. Congrats!"
Steph couldn't help but smile. They had done well, hadn't they?
"Anyway, I can take the two of you back home, so maybe you should be a little more grateful about my arrival," Booster huffed, gesturing at Steph and Cass.
"You can?" Steph exclaimed, her voice catching in her throat. Part of her had wondered if she was going to be lost in time forever.
"Yeah. But we're going to have to erase Barbara and Cassandra's memories, or else Rip will bust a nut about the space time continuum," Booster admitted.
Babs tugged on Steph's arm. "Can we trust this guy?" she hissed suspiciously.
"Yeah," Steph whispered, turning away from Gold so the three of them could converse. "I mean, at least you seem to trust him in the future. And it's true, you two shouldn't go back to your lives knowing what you know about what's coming. It'll mess things up…and it's not fair to either of you."
"But I…" Cass struggled, her eyes those plaintive pools of misery that always made Steph's heart break in two. "I don't want…to forget."
"When both of you catch up to the moment after Stephanie comes bac k from here, your memories should come back as well," Booster interjected helpfully over their shoulder.
"Excuse me, eavesdropping is rude," Steph growled.
"Anyway, you hear that? You'll remember. And until then, I'll remember for all of us," Steph assured her friend.
"Well, okay," Barbara said hesitantly. "So I guess this is goodbye for now?"
"I guess," Steph said, and she felt a lump in her throat. True, she would see Barbara again, but not the same Barbara that stood before her now. And who knew when she'd see Cass again?
Cass seemed to read what Steph was thinking, and she grabbed her arm. "I'll come back. Always will."
Steph smiled shakily. "I know. And I'll be there to welcome you."
"Listen…" Barbara said awkwardly. "I just…I don't know how to say this… I mean when I wore this costume for the first time…it was just a gag at a party and it just sort of blew up from there…it wasn't about emulating Batman or anybody…"
"And then people end up emulating you," Steph smiled.
"Right. That's what blew my mind when I saw you, and I know I didn't exactly handle that well," she nodded at Cass. "For me, I never had much connection to Bruce and his reasons. It wasn't about holding onto tragedy in the past, it was about doing it, well, doing it because I can. For this city's future. And when I look at you two as that…well, I'm glad." She smiled. "Because you get that. And the future looks bright."
"Thanks." Steph absolutely refused to get choked up. She'd done that too much already.
"Yeah," Cass looked over at Steph and put her hand on her shoulder. "Think I know why…I handed…it over to you."
"Really? Because I sure as hell don't," Steph said curiously.
"I bet I was…holding on…to the past," Cass told Steph, tracing the symbol on her chest. "Fighting…for him…not this…and I realized…you needed this."
When Cass smiled, her whole body seemed to smile with her, and she reached over to touch Steph's symbol as well. "Cuz…you are…this. This…is all of us," she gestured expansively at the circle they made. "I can't…do the words."
"No, no, I get it," Steph said, and she could barely get the words out for fear of embarrassing tears. "When…I started out as Spoiler…it was about being independent, a rebel…and that was fine, I'm glad I started out on my own two feet…but I ended up being a black sheep. And when I was Robin…" Babs raised her eyebrows at this, but let Steph continue. "…it was because I so desperately wanted Batman's approval. But being Batgirl…it's actually about being a part of something. It's about being part of the only two people who ever accepted me and taught me and took me in. So thanks for that."
What happened after that was a rather awkward three way hug in which Cass nearly broke Steph's ribs again, Steph especially didn't like realizing that Booster Gold had been hovering over them for that whole sappy moment, but she wouldn't have traded it for anything. Even though it did involve her crying again.
Thanks to the ministrations of Skeets and Rip Hunter, Babs and Cass had their memories suppressed. Steph couldn't stand to be in the room during the procedure; instead she went to the far end of the time sphere.
Barbara Gordon was dropped off back at her house, injuries healed, not quite sure why she was late for work. But she felt a weird sureness in what she was doing at night, and a sudden desire to buy even more computer hardware.
Cassandra Cain was similarly dropped off at her cottage in the middle of nowhere, unchanged except for weird nostalgia for the suit she had sworn to give up forever- and a desire to return to Gotham that would manifest in force after the Crisis hit.
And Stephanie Brown was taken directly to the Batcave. Oracle looked more harried that surprised when a time sphere popped into the Batcave and discharged her slightly mussed pupil. From the way she addressed Booster, Steph guessed she was the one who had called him after her.
"Where were you? What happened? Are you all right? Did he find you in time or did you have to take care of Time Lapse yourself?" Barbara demanded in rapid fire. "I was getting ready to call the JLA, you had me worr-" Babs suddenly stopped midsentence as her green eyes glazed over briefly. "Never mind. I just remembered."
"Thank God, I wasn't sure how much more of that I could take," Steph quipped.
"Shut up, you," Barabara said, pulling her into a one armed hug. "You did well."
She nodded at Booster. "Thank you for bringing her back."
"Yeah, thanks," Steph agreed. "Sorry I yelled at you and stuff."
"No problem," Booster said, flashing them a thumbs up. "Try not to drown in the timestream again, and we'll call it even." He shuffled back to his time sphere.
"By the way, Michael," Babs trilled after him. "Next time you take another little adventure in my tragic past, have the decency to talk to me about it afterwards, won't you?
"Aheheheh. I sure will," Booster said with a nervous laugh. Then he whispered to the floating yellow robot next to him. "Damn, she's good.
"I could have told you that, sir. Now let's skedaddle before she tries to hack into me."
And so, at long last, the Batcave was time traveler free.
Somewhere in Hong Kong, Cassandra Cain had a sudden flash of memories restored to her. After standing a few seconds in shock, she allowed herself as small smile…and she continued to move forward.
She'd see Steph again soon. Until then, it was good to know she'd made the right choice.
Stephanie Brown stood on the rooftops of Gotham as sky opened up to let loose waves of rain and jagged lightening. This was an edge Barbara had bounced across in heels. Cassandra had glided across it effortlessly. Steph, meanwhile, could barely keep herself from sliding off in rain soaked boots.
But that was okay.
She stood looking down at Gotham with her feet planted firmly, Oracle in her ear and Cass in her muscles as she prepared to spring off the ledge just like she'd been taught a long time ago. She heard a high pitched scream down below. Someone was trying to make some poor woman their victim. They were about to find out that she wasn't going to the victim much longer.
Steph sprang to the sky, allowing her cape to flip out so she was silhouetted in a super cool way against the lightening. There was no going back…just moving forward.
Criminals of the world beware…because Batgirl will never die!
A/N: THE END. THE MORAL OF THIS STORY IS I LOVE BATGIRLS. ALL OF THEM. I DEMAND THEY WORK AS A TEAM AND ALL BE RESPECTED FOREVER.
Ahem. Hope it doesn't look like I was bashing Booster here, I buy his book and love him, he's just easy to make fun of. Also, the whole thing with Babs and going back in time and then discussing it with Bruce and Dick but NOT HER was pretty shitty.
Credit to jbadgr for "Aubergine Queen". Read her awesome Steph comic!
Thanks to all of you for reading and sticking with me. I'd especially like to thank parsimonia for betaing chapter one, Bluejay for betaing two and three until things came up and for her encouragemnt, and k9feline and the_narrator for encouragement and awesome. You're all Batgirls in my heart! (Even the last two, who are guys. YOU ARE GUY BATGIRLS, THERE IS NO SHAME IN THAT.)
people who faved this, I wouldn't mind a few reviews! I like to hear people's thoughts and concrit, also having more than one would make me feel like less of a gigantic loser. Though obviously this was for the love. And the Bats.