This fic is part of a three part series.

Rating: R

Synopsis: A what could have been and what might be for the Bat-clan.

Other Endings I Before Dawn **

The alleyway glistened with freshly fallen rain mixed with motor oil in the moonlight. It was almost attractive, in a dirty, city-ridden sort of way, Robin noted as he shoved the thin, wiry man in the baseball jacket into a slick patch, then put his foot on the thug's sandy head.

"You can either tell me where you're going, or you can tell your boss why you were late." He began uncoiling aircraft cable from his belt, making it evident that he was preparing to hoist the goon, then leave him.

"Fine. Warehouse on Fifteenth, just don't make me late!"

Robin recoiled the cable, letting it snap against his side as it retracted into his belt. "See, that wasn't so hard. You CAN make good decisions when you really stop and think about it." Slowly, the young man took his foot off of his victim's head. "Now get going. Two Face really hates it when his lackeys are late."

There was a pause, and the older of the two scrambled to his feet and took off down the alley.

Robin smiled. He was that much closer to Two Face.

Above, he heard the faintest crackling of a communication system. Looking up, a shadow melted past the edge. Shooting off a line, he went upward two stories, hitting the tar roof and releasing the line in the same instant. He didn't have to chase his quarry far, she was leaning against the door leading off the roof. One heavily booted foot was pressed against the door, and she was grinning, quite happy with her position of being 'caught.'

"You're NOT going to report that to Oracle," he informed his prey.

A sultry smile spread across her face. "Been working on arms case for."

"Batman sent me for that information. If YOU get there first. or at ALL."

"Compromise position." the girl grumbled. Slowly, she pulled out the two sticks holding her thick black hair in place. It fell around her face, then lifted slightly in the wind.

"If Batman discovers my. liaison." Robin muttered as he embraced her. "It'll be bad for all of us."

"Quit playing both sides," Cassandra moaned, feeling his hot lips on her neck.

"Only choice," he breathed, trying to wholly take her in. "I gave you the information on the Falcone case in good faith."

Her hand turned the doorknob just as his lips needily found hers. They both swung backwards, into the stairwell. Sometimes. it could be quite an aphrodisiac to know that Batman could come upon them any moment. But she wanted to take her time for once tonight.

* * *

Batman scowled at his charge. "And it took you two hours to discover this?"

"I ran into some trouble along the way," Robin answered innocently.

"What kind of trouble?" Batman demanded. He began pulling up city maps immediately, trying to get a lock on Two Face's location. He wished his apprentice had given him more than an hour's notice that the arms deal was going down. The kid was going to be the thing that finally snapped his sanity.

"Cat and mouse with Miss Cain," Robin explained.

"Stay away from Miss Cain," Batman ordered.

"I DO. Do you know how long it took to lose her?"

"Fine," Batman conceded. "What are the chances that Oracle already knows what we do?"

Robin ran a hand through his hair, trying to calm himself. Some day Batman was going to figure out where he spent his free time, and then things would be ugly indeed. But Cassandra was like a drug. He couldn't give her up. "I think she'd have tried to reroute the money or the guns by now if she knew."

"That's not what I asked," Batman answered forcefully.

"I'm sure Miss Cain doesn't know. She didn't pick me up until I was almost back here."

Batman nodded once, then rose from the computer. "Then we have fifty-five minutes. We'll be leaving in seven, so do what you need to before then." Turning, his black cape fanned in the darkness, and then he disappeared into the recesses of the cave.

* * *

They hit the predetermined location four minutes before their quarry arrived. It was a warehouse full of various sundry goods, and amongst the marbles, jacks and outmoded childrens' playthings were allegedly two thousand firearms and one ton of ammunition. Batman knew it was going to be a good night.

"We'll run Zeta pattern, once all parties are into place. I don't want anyone getting away," Batman instructed, pulling thick digital binoculars away from his cowl. The lenses in his cowl just weren't high enough magnification for what he needed right now. "If we run into Miss Cain, I will deal with her."

"I can't take Two Face alone," Robin advised.

"I will handle Miss Cain."

"If we worked with Oracle--"

Batman gave Robin a look of death. "We just don't." Robin had a question on his lips, but Batman headed him off. "It was before your time," Batman explained. "She's dangerous."

"Miss Cain says the same thing about you."

"Miss Cain is an assassin." Batman lifted the binoculars to his eyes again, seeing movement outside the building.

Former assassin, Robin wanted to point out. She was also better company than some of Batman's current. friends. There was the flashing of purple cape behind the two black cars that had just pulled up. Speak of the devil, and she appears. "I thought we were alone tonight."

"I said I don't want anyone getting away. Batwoman is running backup."

Robin resisted the urge to sigh. He tried to keep his animosity toward Helena to himself, not to mention his fear-tempered caution.

"Last week. down by the docks with Falcone."

"It was Miss Cain," Batman said too quickly.

"It doesn't seem likely that Miss Cain would be so. brutal or violent." Batman chanced a glance at his apprentice. "I mean. she seems much more. efficient."

"We won't discuss that case now."

There were times that Robin was made to regret his decision to deal with Oracle. He'd told them about Falcone in good faith, but it had backfired. Cassandra's arrival had left Helena's activities in question, and left Batman with the 'out' of blaming Freddie Falcone's death on Cassandra, instead of the party that was most likely responsible.

He knew in his loins Cassandra wasn't responsible.

Just the way Batman claimed he knew Batwoman wasn't responsible.

He wasn't sure if Batman was capable of love. He'd been hardened by battles and loss. If it wasn't love that blinded him to Helena's nature, then what was it? Lust? Robin feared he'd come to understand these intrigues too late to save ANY of them from the dangerous precipice they seemed to be upon.

* * *

The transaction had been broken up by Batwoman jumping the gun. Robin was so entirely NOT surprised. It was only confirming his worst suspicions. She'd seen another Falcone brother, and had flown out of hiding before he could even warn Batman.

A second later, Batman had fled his hiding place to get the jump on Two Face, so the night would be a total waste. Robin sat frozen in his spot for a moment, unsure WHAT to do. He and Batman had worked so well together. They had always known intuitively what the other was going to do next-until SHE showed up.

Catching a hint of movement near one of the upper catwalks, he stepped forward, letting himself be seen. Cassandra did the same. They nodded, devising a half-conceived notion, then flew at the two men accompanying the Falcone family's youngest member. They had gone instantly for the case of money that Two Face had previously relieved them of. Apparently they wanted to keep the money now that their attempt to purchase large amounts of fire power had fallen through. Understandable, and yet, they weren't going to be allowed to get away.

Robin landed on the heavier man's chest. He had assumed right, the larger, balder man was just muscle, no skill. The other guy, wiry and sporting a buzz cut was giving Cassandra half of a workout. It took a few minutes before he was down and unconscious, next to his overweight accomplice.

When he looked around, Batwoman and Falcone were gone. "We have to do something about that," he muttered, pointing to the large garage door at the far end of the warehouse.

"On it," Cassandra said, taking off. As she ran, she pushed a stick back into her now-loose hair. He couldn't take his eyes off of her for a moment, she was too breath-taking.

He managed to pry himself away, however, when a heavy hand grabbed hold of his shoulder and spun him around. "I told you I would handle Miss Cain."

"You were dealing with Two Face. Where is--"

"I'm going after him. Stay away from her. This is your last warning."

Robin locked his jaw and nodded once. "I'll find the weapons," he said, but he was talking to thin air. Batman was already gone. Beginning his search, he began to construe the explanation in his head. He could reasonably place a large amount of the blame onto Helena. She had forced the situation. Then he could follow that up with how lucky he was that he and 'Miss Cain' had wanted the same thing at that moment. Trying to control his ragged breathing, he began opening crates. He could get through this. He had no choice-Helena needed to be stopped and Batman's decisions needed to be held in check.

He told himself once again he was doing this for Batman's sanity, to keep him away from that line he seemed so intent on crossing. His own sins aside- this was for Dick's sake.

* * *

"Didn't say she'd be there," Cassandra answered accusingly when Robin caught up with her hours later.

"I didn't know she'd be." Robin slumped against the edge of the rooftop, exhausted.

"Antonio's dead," Cassandra pointed out angrily, folding her arms over her chest. He was a year and a half younger than she was. Sometimes she didn't know why she put up with him. Then she remembered the way his hands moved.

Robin shook his head in exhaustion. "Why am I not surprised? We have to do something, Cass. He. just doesn't see it. I don't know why. It's like. he's looking at all the wrong things."

Her hand shot out and grabbed hold of his cape, tugging him towards her. He was Oracle's best informant, besides all the things his body could do to hers. "We go inside." Oracle knew what they were doing, but never mentioned it to Cassandra. She had a feeling Barbara was just happy to be getting such reliable information from someone so close at hand. She'd put up with the occasional wall knocking as part of the price.

"I need to go," Robin warned. "I need to get back before Batman. I need to explain why we were working together."

"Don't explain anything," Cassandra said angrily, unclipping his cape. "He's not your master."

"No, but he's my boss," Robin said gently, removing her fingers from his cape and reclipping it. "I can't do this now, Cassandra," he breathed.

Her thin hands closed around his gloved wrists. "Tim."

Robin pulled away. "Don't use that name here."

"No one can hear," she replied in a low, sultry voice. She pulled the sticks out of her hair again, hoping it would have the same effect. She kept one hand on the edge of his cape, seeing he was starting to warm to the idea. "Been a long night. Need to. unwind."

His breath caught in his throat. "We need to talk about Falcone. and Batwoman. Tell Oracle." his last bit of protestation was silenced by her lips closing over his. He realized she was correct-they needed this. The night had been too full of strain, and there was no telling, with their current situation, when they could be in each other's company again.

Somewhere in the distance, Cassandra saw movement out of the corner of her eye. It looked like the barest hint of purple cape, but when she looked, there was nothing. "We go below," she instructed. It was safer that way. "Relax. Then talk to Oracle."

Twisting his gloved hand in hers, he let her pull him to the roof top entrance. Batman would not be happy if he did not return to the cave tonight, but he didn't think he could deal with explanations now. This entire situation was running him ragged, and he needed some sort of release. Cassandra was half his problem, and the only thing keeping him sane.

* * *

A long while later, Robin opened the door of the rooftop entrance, stepping outside. The night air was sticky and warm, constricting around him. It reminded him of how he was pressed up against a wall, and the world continued to close around him.

"Beautiful night," Cassandra said behind him, staring up at the full moon and the hazy halo surrounding it. Her bare arm wrapped around his waste, pulling him to her once. "I'll take over Falcone case," she insisted.

"Batman will never let me get away with that."

"Quickest way to Batwoman."

Robin sighed. He knew it was true. It wasn't that he was without abilities, but his attachment to Batman became more of a hindrance than an asset in these situations. His gloved hand touched her arm, remembering how soft it felt beneath his bare fingers. She was his only consolation. "Solve it fast," Tim warned. "Or catch her in the act. I need conclusive proof."

"Just track her movements. Contact Oracle when she gets close to Falcone family again. I'll handle rest."

Turning in her arms, he embraced her and crushed his lips to hers, tasting her small, cool mouth. When he finally gathered the resolve to pull away, he looked into her deep walnut eyes and answered. "Fine. How will I contact her?"

She slid a small metal disk out of her pocket, pressing it into his hand. "Only has one channel. Range is seven mile." Smiling, she kissed his cheek, attempting to bolster the boy's resolve. He was their only real hope to eradicating Batwoman from the Gotham skies. Going back to the door and exiting, she closed it behind her, hoping this wouldn't cost the boy too much.

As the door closed, Robin sighed, leaning against it, and pressing his forehead to the painted grey metal. Instinctively, he began constructing the lies in his head. How long would it take before Batman chose to see with his eyes, and not with his loyalties?

"I didn't want to believe Helena," a cold, granular voice said from behind him. Robin knew his luck had just run out.

"I won't make excuses," Robin said bravely as he turned around to face Batman. "Batwoman is out of control. She's using her relationship to blind-- "

A hand snapped out, grabbing hold of the boy's tunic. In the same instant, a line shot out of Batman's cape and they were airborne. It wasn't the reaction that Robin would have anticipated for his mentor. They landed at street level a moment later, and he was thrust towards The Car. "Get in," the Bat ground out harshly. When the boy made no effort to move, he was thrust towards the car, and barely missed slamming into it. Only his hands snapping in front of him before impact stopped it.

The boy spun around, facing his mentor. "I'm not getting in," he answered angrily. He knew if he got in the car, he'd be compounding his worries. "You're my only friend in the world. I'm doing this for you. So you'll see." Dick had looked after him after the Obediah Man had murdered his parents. Dick had given him direction in his life. He thought he was returning the favor.

Batman's hand flashed again, instantly closing around the young man's throat, but he did not squeeze. "You're doing this for your whore and her mistress. You do NOTHING for me."

Robin's hands closed around Batman's wrist to ease the pressure, but he didn't fight back. This was his teacher, after all. "Helena is a killer," he said simply, trying to maintain his footing on the ground.

Instantly, Batman's other fist connected with his midsection. "NEVER speak of her like that."

Robin would have doubled in pain, but for the hand still attached to his throat. "She's." he took in a painful gasp of air. "Not who you think."

"She is Batwoman," the Dark Knight ground out tersely. "She will have your respect."

A tear welled in Robin's eye. He didn't want to go through this, but he knew it was happening, and there was no turning back. "She's poisoned you," Robin replied as one leg kicked up, pushing Batman away from him. One arm wrapped around his damaged stomach; he tried to make haste away from his mentor.

Batman didn't even hit the ground, he turned in the air as he fell and shot off the cement and at his young quarry. "She's given me. everything," he said as he tackled his partner. Spinning the boy around, Batman grabbed him by the jaw, his grip near-crushing. "But you. you traverse with the enemy. You. with an assassin." Picking up the boy's head, he let it slam against the sidewalk. "An ASSASIN!" he thrust Robin away, afraid of doing worse. "Get out of my sight."

Robin rolled to one knee, clutching his stomach. "Cassandra has more honor. than. a cold-blooded murderer. She.Helena. is a blight to the Bat." Before he could register what had occurred, Batman's fist connected with his head, and he was thrown backwards, against the clock tower's stone façade.

* * *

"Not on the roof," Cassandra reported, scanning the area. Oracle had reported another presence on the roof and had sent her to inspect, but by the time she'd traveled the short distance up, they were gone. They could be anywhere by now, with their equipment and resources.

Her stomach twisted as she searched the sky, wondering what the Bat was going to do to his protégé. To whom would she go for comfort in this war, if not the red-clad young man who'd become her companion?

"They're at street level. Side entrance. Get down there, Cassandra," Oracle ordered. She had no love for the Bat, and right now her best informant needed protection. They did protection.

Without hesitation, Cassandra leapt from the building, feeling the air catch her in that brief moment of weightlessness before gravity took over, then dove towards the street below. A decel cable slowed her decent with a sudden tug, and she landed the rest of the way to the street with the grace of a bird.

She was seven yards off of Batman's location when she took a few steps then threw herself at him, prepared to land a kick square in his back. The Bat sensed her presence and turned, but she adjusted, landing a blow to the head. He staggered backward, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw Robin slump forward. Landing, she placed herself instantly between the Bat and his prey.

"Leave him," Cassandra ordered, turning herself instinctively to a fighting stance. She did not kill, but in the Bat's case, she didn't have a qualm with crippling.

"You need the protection of your whore?" Batman asked tersely.

"Cassandra. just go," Robin muttered weakly. "Not your fight."

"My fight," she called behind her. Angrily looking back to where her quarry stood, he was gone. "FIGHT ME!" She called out into the darkness. "Come back and fight me!"

The Bat stepped out of the shadow of the Car, inspecting his former charge and his protector. "You've made your allegiance clear," Batman told Robin. "Expect no mercy in future."

Stepping into the car, it sealed around him and roared away.

"Oh God." Robin muttered painfully, sliding down the wall. He didn't know if it was his injuries, or the heaviness of his heart that made keeping his composure an impossible task. He felt Cassandra's arm slide beneath him, her thin body easily hoisting him to his feet.

"Will get you inside," she promised. "Then take down the Bat."

"No, Cass," Robin said, pulling away from her and leaning against the wall for support. "I can't."

"Would have killed you."

"He wouldn't have. I know him. He wouldn't." With the last, Robin's voice lost some of its certainty. Grabbing hold of the wall, he pulled himself away from her. "He's my. I can't. It's her."

Cassandra knew it wasn't just Batwoman. Batman had let himself be deluded. He had grown angry and sloppy because of it. Whatever demons tormented him, others were now being made to pay the price. Saving herself the argument, and Robin the emotional torment, her hand shot out and connected with his neck, bringing instant unconsciousness. "Is for the best," she promised him, gathering his broken and bleeding body into her arms.

* * *

Consciousness came slowly to Timothy Drake, and he was sure he was Tim now. He couldn't seem to sense any clothes upon his person. The pillow felt so soft and sympathetic beneath his head, as though it cradled him to take his troubles away. The sheets were cool and crisp, smelling sanitary and sterile.

It was also bright. Not daylight, but the blue haze before dawn. Tim opened his eyes. The room seemed to be used for storage, by the excess of boxes stacked up around him. Perhaps the bed he lay in was being stored as well. This wasn't the only room he'd ever been in at the old Gotham Clock Tower. That had been Cassandra's and he'd never gotten to see much. It was always pitch black. He knew it wasn't her room though-Cassandra preferred to sleep on a matt on the floor, and that was where they performed most of their exertions.

He stared at the chipped paint on the ceiling for a few moments, before gathering the strength to swing his legs over the side of the bed, and sit up. The effort was painful, and as he grabbed the old iron frame, hot agony shot into his head and chest, but he still pulled himself to his feet. Slowly, he wrapped the sheet around him, then tucked the edge inside. A hand held his painful side, as though it's presence could make his insides stop hurting. Dodging boxes, he made his way to an old, over-painted door. He twisted the ancient knob and opened it, cautiously looking down the hall, noting the whitewashed bricks.

Moving out into the cramped hall, he began trying door knobs, searching for egress.

He wasn't sure about what had happened after Batman had left. He only knew that he needed to find his clothes and get out of there. He needed to find some way to explain to Dick what was going on. Dick was his partner. Dick and Dick's crusade were all he'd known for the last several years of his life. It wasn't his friend's fault that he'd been deluded by a deadly siren. Maybe he could fix things.

"You have a concussion. You shouldn't be moving."

Slowly, Tim turned around. At the opposite end of the hall was a woman in a souped up wheel chair. In the twilight, he couldn't make out more detail, but he was sure she was glaring at him, and he was sure she was angry. "I have to leave," Tim said. "I have to get back--"

"He'll kill you if you go back right now."

"He wouldn't-Batman has never--"

"He isn't the man either of us knew."

Tim swallowed. "He needs help. He shouldn't be alone."

"He is NOT your burden."

Tim didn't respond. He suspected that this was Oracle, the faceless creature that Batman loathed so deeply. He'd spoken to the Oracle before, but had never seen her. Not even on past trips to the tower.

The chair approached him, and as the distance closed, he could see the fiery gaze of the woman before him, and he knew she cut a more imposing figure than Mycroft Holmes, that literary armchair thinker. No wonder Batman did not wish to speak of her-her eyes were haunting.

"I can't just leave him. He needs to be stopped.. But I can't just abandon him. Not to her." Tim had known for a long time that his quest was futile. It was impossible to play both sides, and still remain close to Dick. But somehow. he couldn't make himself stop trying.

"He is not worth your effort, or your loyalty," Oracle informed him venomously.

"Why do you hate each other?" the boy asked suddenly. He didn't understand the conflict. It seemed that they both wanted the same things, but they were always at odds.

Oracle shook her head and sighed. "If you'd have known him. back then. Before everything. He was a different man. A kinder man. And I loved him," Oracle confessed. "Now he abuses children and gives another woman my name just to hurt me." The chair spun suddenly, and she went back the way she came. "Come here."

With great effort, Tim followed. Limping behind her, he entered into a dark room lit only by a dozen computer monitors and displays. "Search-file. Batgirl. Second search-file: Batman I. Third search-file: Robin I. Key parameter: Disappearance of Jason Todd-Wayne."

Even as she spoke, images and files began to appear on several of the monitors. He could hear several harddisks grinding away at the information. The voice recognition software was more advanced than what they had in the cave, and worked faster. "What is all this?" Tim asked.

"If you knew who he was-who he had been. perhaps you'd be a little more inclined to let him go. Or leave him to us." Oracle pointed to one screen and a digital photograph of a girl that looked like her, but in a Bat- costume. "That was me. Four and a half years ago, to be exact. I was Batgirl." She clicked on an 'advance' button, and a new image flashed. Tim squinted at the text below it, but it was too small to see. "That is the Joker. He is the one who. precipitated my career change. Dick stopped talking to me then. I suppose. he didn't know what to say." She flashed to a picture of a slightly younger Dick Grayson, this time in a Robin costume, versus the black Bat suit that he now wore. "I didn't blame him for that. I blamed him when he stopped talking to the rest of the world."

Tim couldn't picture Dick as anything other than the grim mantle he now wore. He couldn't fathom a Dick Grayson not constantly lock-jawed by pain and worry. He'd been happy for his friend, when he'd shown interest in Helena. He had mistaken her presence in their lives as a sign of hope for Dick. He'd been wrong about so many things. "What happened to him?"

"The Joker happened. And in true Gotham fashion. he blamed himself." Another image flashed on the screen, a gray Bat costume, and a different wearer. "I'll bet he's never told you about Bruce."

"The guy who owned the house above the cave." The house that Dick never used. When he'd first known Dick, it had been a little different, but then the guy who took care of the place had been killed one night in Crime Alley while visiting a friend. Then the house had been closed up, and Dick whittled most of his existence away in the dark.

"His estranged father," Oracle confirmed. There was another Robin on the screen, suddenly, someone who reminded Tim of himself. "This would be his sort of psudo-brother. Jason. Jason disappeared about four years ago. At the same time, the Joker escaped again. Batman had no choice-he stayed to bring in the Joker, and lost his life because of it. The only good thing. is that the Joker did too. Dick looked for Jason but never found him. Then he came back to Gotham. You came into the picture a few months later. By then. the damage was done."

She turned her chair to face him more fully. "He hates me because I kept trying to talk to him after that. I kept trying. well, until that bitch showed up. That was all the notice I needed, that my efforts were no longer welcome." There was cold hate in her voice, but Tim noticed a wetness in her eyes. "He didn't talk to Alfred after Bruce died. but what is unforgivable is not even showing up at Alfred's funeral. He's beyond reach. THAT is the person you're trying to get through to. Someone beyond hope."

"No one is beyond hope."

"Is his redemption worth your life?" The first bit of compassion entered her as she gently touched his arm. "He fights recklessly. The company he keeps. will destroy him. You're young and he's playing with your emotions, your loyalties, and your life."

Tim clenched his eyes shut, then backed up slowly, letting her hand fall away. "I have to try," the young man said. "Even if it kills me. Even if HE kills me."

Cassandra announced from the doorway behind him. She was wrapped in a black silk robe, and there was still an aura of sleep around her. "You're no good to the cause dead."

"This was never my cause," Tim said, waving a hand at the screens. "HE was my cause. And he will continue being."

His lover reached out and pressed her thumb into the bruise on his cheek bone, but he didn't wince. "He's a lousy cause," she informed him.

Oracle sighed. "Cassandra's right--"

"He's my reason for being," Tim said stonily as he grabbed Cassandra's hand, pulling it away from his face. "I'll help you take Helena down. But because he can't see what she is. Not for revenge, not for anything else."

"He said no mercy," Cassandra pointed out. "NO mercy next time."

Tim nodded slowly, accepting his fate. "I have betrayed him. Be it for his own good-but I've betrayed him."

Oracle shook her head, not encouraged by the boy's words. Cassandra's shoulders slumped as she listened to him. If he reached adulthood, he would find himself treading down the same lonely path as his mentor. His innocence would kill him or corrupt him, and if the latter happened, he'd be on the other end of her sword.

"I have to go," he said, trying to get around her.

Stepping out of his way, she let him go, knowing that only he could dictate what would happen next. "Make the right decision," she whispered, watching him trudge away.

Slowly, he turned around. "NO decision is the right decision," he informed her. "I'm sorry."

The small window at the end of the hall emitted the first golden rays of the morning. Robin squinted against them and their painful intrusion into his life. He would lose both of his rocks before this was over, almost as certainly as Dick had lost his own foundation. In that, at least, they were the same.

THE END