Title: Batgirl & Robin: Strategy Sessions (Chapters 1-2) For the purposes of this parody's plot, I assume that almost everything published in the six-year run of Cassandra’s old “Batgirl” title still happened. But I make no guarantees about respecting anything that's been published about her since then! It makes no sense to think it all happened exactly the way it's been portrayed in the comics . . . therefore, I say, something else entirely was going on “behind the scenes!” Here's where we find out what!
Fandom: DCU comics about Batman, Batgirl, Robin, etc.
Genres: Parody, Romance
Spoilers: Very much a parody of the "Robin OYL" issues which I recently read for the first time. If you haven't read that material, this may not be as funny -- and it will definitely give away details of the plots from those 2006 issues of "Robin."
Word Count: 7170
Author’s Note: On Friday, October 16, I bought the “Robin: Wanted” TPB. Yes, that’s the one reprinting the “One Year Later” issues of Tim’s old Robin title; the issues in which he learned that Cassandra Cain had gone very bad during the year that Bruce and Dick and Tim spent away from Gotham after they had survived “Infinite Crisis.” The details of the plot were just as lame as I had heard from online reviews I had seen over the last few years—which is why I didn’t buy that material sooner. But once I did buy it and read it, I found myself facing the question: “Do I laugh or do I cry?” I chose to laugh! If you have also read that material, this parody will probably make more sense!
Title: Batgirl & Robin: Strategy Sessions (Chapters 1-2)
For the purposes of this parody's plot, I assume that almost everything published in the six-year run of Cassandra’s old “Batgirl” title still happened. But I make no guarantees about respecting anything that's been published about her since then! It makes no sense to think it all happened exactly the way it's been portrayed in the comics . . . therefore, I say, something else entirely was going on “behind the scenes!” Here's where we find out what!
Batgirl & Robin: Strategy Sessions
Chapter One: Come, Let Us Scheme Together
It was an ordinary apartment in one of the “quieter neighborhoods” of
She was expecting a friend to arrive soon, and had spent an unusual amount of time (at least, for her) trying to decide how to dress for the occasion. Nothing too fancy—not a cocktail dress or elaborate gown—but nothing too grungy, either. She had read somewhere that many guys thought girls’ bare feet were sexy, so she decided it wouldn't hurt to try that approach. On the other hand, being too obvious wouldn’t go over well. After all, he was coming here to talk about serious business; not just to socialize.
Another member of their little group was showing serious signs of mental illness, but it was a foregone conclusion that the guy would kick and scream if anyone tried to dump him on the couch of a headshrinker. Besides, he was smart enough to run rings about most of the psychiatrists and clinical psychologists in the business, so badgering him onto that couch—even if possible—would accomplish precious little if his heart wasn’t in it.
Anyway, she had settled for a Bugs Bunny T-shirt—not small enough to be tight on her frame; not really flaunting anything—and a pair of jeans. Ideally, her guest would just think she looked “cute” without assuming she was working hard to have a certain effect.
She had expected the doorbell to ring at the agreed-upon time for the meeting, but it was well after sunset and so she should have anticipated that he might arrive in his working clothes. When there was a tapping behind her on the balcony door, she glanced through the window, then opened the door and grinned at the clean-cut young man standing in front of her in his newest costume. “Hi, Robin. It’s really good to see you again.”
“Hi, Cassie! I feel the same.”
She stepped aside to let him enter. After she had closed the door, Tim added: “And I see your sentences have gotten longer!”
From most boys to most girls, that line would have been either a weak joke or just plain snide. But Cassandra definitely wasn’t most girls. Of course he remembered how terse she had always been in the old days—and unlike most people, she could see at a glance the difference between a boy who was really trying to be nice and a boy who was subtly mocking you. Tim’s comment on her syntax was meant as a good-natured compliment in recognition of how she’d been improving herself in the year since they last met, so she accepted it as such.
“Yes, and next week I take the exam for my G.E.D. Barbara thinks I’ll get it on the first try.”
“Great!” he said immediately. “That’ll put you ahead of me—while you were hitting the books, I’ve been traveling around the world, and getting a high school diploma is still lurking somewhere in my future!”
“Which brings us to what I really wanted to talk about,” she said. “Not diplomas—your long trip with Bruce and Dick. Any changes in the situation?” She settled gracefully onto a couch as she expressed the question.
“None,” Tim said regretfully. “And I’m worried about it. You weren't around at the time, but I told Babs how it went a year ago, right after that big Crisis. Bruce finally gathered together Dick and I and said that he was going to force himself to step back and take a long vacation before he got completely burned out by all the death and destruction we’d been seeing lately. Steph . . . my dad . . . Kon . . . Blüdhaven . . .”
There was a long pause while they both remembered the departed. Then Tim shook his head and resumed. “It turned out Bruce had already had a long talk with Harvey Dent about taking over as
“I kept waiting for him to mention Batgirl, though. Were you going to hang out with Babs as a ‘Bird of Prey’ full-time from then on, or had you already signed up with some other team, like the Titans, or had he already invited you to travel around the world as part of a family trip and you just weren’t interested in taking that much time off . . . or what? I even wondered if something terrible had happened to you during the Crisis and Bruce was assuming I already knew about it!
“Anyway, Bruce kept not mentioning you as he talked and talked about his plans for a massive change of pace for our little 'family.' So I finally took the bull by the horns and said, ‘Bruce, what about Cassandra?’
“I’ll never forget how blank he looked. ‘Who? You mean your friend Wonder Girl?’
“Dick and I traded glances. Dick’s expression said that since I probably knew you better, he’d let me carry the ball on this one. That was big of him,” Tim added in an ironic footnote, and then moved back to the main narrative. “I reminded Bruce that Cassandra Cain was Batgirl, a bona fide member of our little family of masked do-gooders! Cassie . . . he hadn’t exactly forgotten you, but he still didn’t seem to grasp my point about any responsibilities he should feel toward you! Didn’t seem any more interested in keeping track of you than he was in any of the hundreds of other superheroes who are active nowadays!”
(She had already heard this story a year ago, from Oracle, and had been hurt by it, but she had long since moved on to curiosity at what would make Batman act so wildly out of character. If Tim felt the need to talk about things she already knew, as males so often did, she was willing to let him keep going. Just having him here for a friendly chat was enough to make her feel pretty happy.)
“Well, you know how Babs and Dick and I all got together and talked it over before Bruce planned for . . . some of us . . . to embark on the first leg of a World Tour. We agreed that any attempt to shoot Bruce with tranquilizer darts and drag him off to a telepath for a mind-probe to find out why he didn’t care about you anymore would be counterproductive, in light of those recent disclosures about what some of his other ‘friends’ had done to him when he caught them rearranging the bad Doctor Light’s mind way back in the day.
“After all, he was already admitting he needed a nice long rest, and that was a great first step. Maybe he’d get this all sorted out on his own, over time, after he had gone a few months without chasing Joker or Scarecrow or any of the ‘usual suspects.’ That was what we told ourselves, anyway.
“But no dice. I swear—in the entire time we were gone, Bruce never mentioned your name; never showed the slightest curiosity about what had become of you! Of course Oracle was keeping Dick and me up to date on how you were working very hard to improve your education, and had put the whole Batgirl thing on the back burner for awhile, but Bruce didn't want to know! For a while there, I thought he was deliberately playing a subtle joke to see how we handled it, but I finally gave up on that one too. I’d refer to you every once in awhile, and see him just look bored, or baffled at why I was dragging old times with ‘Cassandra’ into the conversation.
“On every other subject, he seems as rational as he ever was, without any embarrassing gaps in his memory. Now that we’re back, and he still hasn’t even asked Oracle to give him your current phone number, what do we do about it?”
Cassandra had given that a lot of thought in recent months. “If the ‘force him to submit to telepathic examination’ idea is still off the table, then I see two other methods. One is that I just walk up to the Manor. Ring the doorbell. Alfred shows me in. I ask Bruce why I haven’t heard from him lately.”
Tim nodded. “The simple, straightforward approach. Confront him with you and see what happens. I thought of that too. But the way he’s been acting, I think he’ll just shrug and wonder why you ever thought he would bother to call you. That would hurt your feelings and otherwise leave us right back where we started.”
“Then the other possibility is to . . . escalate. Raise the stakes somehow. Shock him out of the mental rut you say he’s in.”
“Ah. What did you have in mind?”
“Suppose we tell him I’ve become exactly what Cain wanted to make me? Ready to assassinate anyone who gets in my way? Heck, even leading the League of Assassins? That might get Batman angry enough to admit he actually cares what I’m doing!”
“But Nyssa Raatko is the ‘new and improved Ra’s al Ghul,’ the head of the League, ever since she killed her own father to create the job vacancy. Bruce knows that if anyone does!”
“Then we might have to confuse the issue,” Cassandra said patiently. “I wonder if she’d be willing to fake her own death and let me take the blame—or the credit—or whatever we should call it?”
“Maybe, but there’s a simpler way,” Tim said, warming to the idea. “We just persuade Oracle to tell Bruce that Nyssa got blown up by a car bomb in
“Or we could tell him the truth by the time it became an issue,” Cassandra pointed out. “If he finally breaks through whatever this mental block is all about, we’ll have to let him know that I’m doing fine and haven’t killed anybody. The trick is to get him to admit he cares first! Then we can straighten out the rest of it!”
“It’s all starting to come together as a plan,” Tim said. “At the very least—if Bruce doesn't react much to the news of your ‘turning to the Dark Side of the Force’ when his back was turned, then we’ll have solid proof to persuade the other big-name superheroes, his old buddies from the JLA, that Drastic Intervention is required, no matter how bad some of them still feel about the whole mindwipe thing. So we set this up like a classic detective story—except that instead of trying to have all the clues point to one logical solution, we make some of the story so outrageous that Batman really ought to wake up and smell the coffee at some point and say, ‘That doesn’t make any sense! Cassandra would never do a thing like that! I'm going to get to the bottom of this!’”
He got a faraway look in his eye. After a minute of respectful silence, Cassandra asked: “What’s on your mind?”
“The detective story thing gave me a new idea,” Tim said. A “good mystery novel has at least one corpse turn up, preferably sooner rather than later. Suppose we do it that way and arrange for Bruce to hear that a dead Asian girl was found in a Batgirl costume? That might rock him enough to overcome his current indifference toward the subject of Cassandra Cain. Even if doesn’t, it might at least soften him up for the later ‘shocking revelation’ that you had actually killed someone else and then stuffed her in one of your costumes!”
Cassandra held up a hand. “But where do we get the corpse?”
Tim said, “A real corpse? Oh. I see what you mean. This will be more convincing if the police actually talk about it on their radios, and the body ends up at the morgue, and so forth. Okay, I admit this will take some careful planning. I wonder if there’s anyone in the Far East who would be willing to sell us a fresh corpse—we’d make sure the poor kid hadn’t been murdered by the seller—and then let us freeze it and ship it over here? No, forensics might figure out the body had been cooled to confuse the time of death. Do we beg someone with teleport tech to let us use it to bring the fresh corpse over here in the blink of an eye? Failing that, maybe we could find a really convincing android somewhere . . . or beg Zatanna to cast a spell and create a simulacrum of a recently deceased girl. . .” His voice trailed off as he mentally explored the possibilities.
Cassandra smiled. This was going well. Batman's mysterious indifference to her really was troubling, but the best part was she and Tim would now be spending hours together as they tried to figure out how to make a crack in it. She had her own agenda where Tim was concerned, but figured there was no point in telling him that just yet!
To Be Continued: The next chapter skips ahead. After feeding Bruce a cock-and-bull story about Cassandra's moral decay, Tim returns to her apartment to bring her up to speed on all the outrageous lies he told, and to describe how the Dark Knight reacted to them.
Chapter Two: We're Making Very Little Progress
The doorbell rang.
Cassandra peered through the peephole. Tim. In plainclothes, this time.
He probably thought he was keeping a good poker face, and not letting his shoulders slump in despair or anything like that, but one look told her the general tone of his news.
But she didn’t say so as she opened the door. One of the social skills she’d labored to master in the past year was patience. People usually wanted to tell you good news or bad news in their own way, at their own pace. Or they were hoping to conceal it entirely. In any event, they didn’t like the idea that you might already know most of it just from watching the way their muscles twitched as they tried to find the right words.
They exchanged hello’s.
The last time he’d visited, he’d stayed standing—pacing around the main room much of the time as he talked out his ideas. She had seen he needed that, so she hadn’t argued. This time, though, she decided to steer him into a more relaxed position—so after closing the door behind him, she touched his arm gently and directed him toward an easy chair. “Sit down and relax. Then tell me how it went.”
“You’re so solicitous,” he murmured as he let himself be steered into position. “Am I that obvious?”
Oops! Occasionally she forgot that other people weren’t completely blind to the undertones of her reactions—just mostly. Then someone would show a flash of insight which reminded her that she didn’t actually have a monopoly on reading people’s tells. “Not to everyone,” she said tactfully as she settled onto a couch in a position where he could watch her without craning his neck.
“Okay, okay. In a nutshell—Bruce believed every word of the crazy story I told him!”
Now Cassandra felt as transparent as glass—her mouth actually fell open! (She had expected Batman to believe, say, at least four lies out of every five, at first, but sooner or later he’d spot inconsistencies, wouldn’t he?)
Tim grimaced. “I improvised on various details as I went along, and exaggerated some aspects beyond anything we’d discussed, but I still followed the main outline. I swear I did my best to get him to realize something Badly Wrong must be happening where you were concerned.
“I told him I’d dropped everything and left Budapest without letting him or Dick know where I was going—for the simple reason that I got a nasty anonymous note threatening to do terrible things to you if I didn’t come alone to a rendezvous.”
Cassandra gave Tim a level look.
“Yes, yes,” Tim said impatiently, “at that point he should have read me the riot act about teamwork and letting people know where I was and so forth, not to mention the fundamental folly of letting the mysterious villain dictate all the rules of the game from the get-go! He should have pointed out that if I had gotten myself killed in ambush, our friends wouldn’t even have known where to start looking for the perps! But he didn’t give me that lecture! I don’t think it even occurred to him! I swear, it’s like I just mention your name in a conversation and his IQ temporarily drops a hundred points! Now granted, he’s got more IQ points to spare than most people, but the effect is still painfully noticeable!
“I swear I did my best to make him wake up, Cassie. I told him the body inside a Batgirl suit was Lynx—even though he should have remembered that Lynx has already been dead and buried since she got decapitated during the big gang war that Steph accidentally triggered. I told him the cops were so dumb they didn’t even have a doctor look at the body soon enough to figure out it had already been dead for three hours before I arrived on the scene. I told him the CSIs were so dumb they didn’t even notice a visible-to-the-naked-eye fingerprint on a lens in ‘Lynx’s’ mask; in fact, they might have accidentally blurred it! I told him that since ‘Robin’ was suddenly on the GCPD’s most-wanted list, I decided the only sensible thing to do was invade a police station while dressed as Robin so I could examine the corpse and its costume more closely!”
Cassandra favored Tim with her most skeptical look . . . sensing he wanted to see that reaction . . . and he smiled wanly.
“I really thought that last bit was the straw that would break the camel’s back, you know? Bruce taught me all about the fine art of disguise—he knows perfectly well that I had a zillion other options besides waltzing into that station as Tim Drake or waltzing in as Robin! I kept hoping he’d say, ‘Tim, you’re not making any sense. Maybe you’ve been hypnotized.’ He never did.
“So I moved on to the Lady Shiva bit.” Tim looked embarrassed—even a normal girl could have seen it—and Cassandra realized he must have heard about the blood tie between Shiva and herself. From Oracle, probably. It must be awkward to try to tell a friend that you had invented a tall tale about her long-lost birth mother, the cold-blooded assassin. (She couldn’t say from experience—she didn’t know anyone else with that sort of mother.)
“Go on,” she said calmly. “Oracle did her part?”
“Oh, yeah, Babs came through like a champ. Before I was reporting all this to Bruce, Babs had ‘just casually mentioned’ to him that she had accepted Lady Shiva as a pinch-hitter Bird of Prey, filling in while Black Canary was over in the Far East trying to relive some of Shiva’s old experiences. Babs didn’t mention that Shiva is already wanted in a zillion jurisdictions for the murders she's pulled over the years, but she sure expected Bruce to ‘remind her’ of that little detail! Loudly and angrily, in fact!
“Only he didn’t. My current theory is that since he gets stupid whenever you’re mentioned, and Shiva is known to be your mother, he now gets stupid wherever she is concerned, too. Anyway, where was I?”
She played along. “After Barbara planted the idea that Shiva is our ‘ally’ now, you told Batman something else about Shiva?”
“Right, right. Shiva (in my fairy tale for Bruce) was the one who told me that Nyssa had died in a car bombing right around the time I was being framed for murder—and that it all fit together because some outsider was trying to stage a coup to take over the entire League of Assassins. Then I told Bruce that I found a piece of paper with a coded message inside the ersatz Batgirl mask. It was written in a Navajo-based code, I said. Then I ‘reminded’ him that over a year ago, before the big Crisis, he taught you and me how to read Navajo.”
Cassandra blinked. “Why would he try to teach me a different language . . . last year . . . when I was still having such a hard time with reading and speaking English?”
Tim shrugged. “He wouldn’t. I was ready to say that it must have something to do with the same Cosmic Alterations which brought Jason Todd back from the dead around that time, so that now Bruce and I remembered history differently . . . but Bruce never even thought to ask the question.
“Anyway, I told him I sat down and did eleven hours’ worth of geometrical calculations so I could do an acrobatic routine exactly right in order to get through 120 feet worth of criss-crossing ultraviolet beams in a sewer tunnel leading into Blackgate. The purpose of the exercise was to extract David Cain. He was supposed to be the other key ingredient in an ‘exchange of hostages’—the father for the daughter. (Yeah, like simply giving in to extortion is exactly the way Bruce trains us to behave? As opposed to having someone else disguise himself as Cain and be ready to ‘break out of his bonds’ at a moment’s notice?)
“Then I told Bruce that when I entered Cain’s cell, the man was wide awake, on his feet, and saw me coming – but I was still able to take him out with one flying kick before he could get his act together to block and counterattack!”
Cassandra giggled before she could stop herself. For an instant, she worried she might have hurt Tim’s feelings—but he grinned back at her. “Ridiculous, right? It was supposed to be ridiculous. I barely managed to keep my face straight when I was telling Bruce, but he seemed to swallow it!”
Tim made gestures meant to indicate what he had (allegedly) done next. “I hog-tied Cain so he couldn’t possibly hurt me after he eventually woke up. Then (I said) that after I had carried Cain out of the prison—which would be a neat trick all by itself, if I’d been dumb enough to risk a hernia that way—I woke him up and started interrogating him. Working on the assumption that all this murder and extortion had been an elaborate scheme on his part to engineer a prison break.”
She blinked. “Wait—if you had to do fancy jumping for a hundred and twenty feet, never putting a foot wrong, on your way in, didn’t you also have to do the same routine in reverse on your way out? What did you tell Bruce? That you were carrying Cain on your back while you were doing all that jumping and tumbling? He weighs a lot more than you do!”
Tim looked sheepish. “To tell you the truth—I didn’t even think of that one until I was in the middle of the story! By then it was too late to come up with a half-baked rationale—so I decided to just talk fast and keep going, since by then I was pretty sure Bruce was not in any fit condition to notice such a gaping hole in the plot of my story!
“Then, of course, I said that when a zillion members of the League of Assassins showed up at the exchange point, dressed like ninja, it turned out that you were the ringleader. You were wearing an outfit remarkably similar to what Shiva was wearing when she dropped in me on the night before!”
Cassandra made a face. Tim said placatingly, “I know, I know—you never saw her as the perfect role model. Not even for fashion sense. But I had to describe something!
“Anyway, then I had you going into that big rant about how betrayed you felt when you just recently learned about Annalea—this (imaginary) rival protégée of Cain’s. You were absolutely right about that one, Cassie—a year ago Bruce didn’t pay any attention to Babs’s status reports about you, so now he doesn’t remember (if he ever really knew) that you’ve already known for a year that you weren’t the only poor kid Cain tried to turn into a body-language-reading killing machine.
“By the way, I ad-libbed a line from you about how you had turned the whole world against me just to show me there’s no real justice unless we darn well make it happen the hard way without being bound by other people’s arbitrary rules!”
She was having trouble with the logic. “The whole world? What about Batman and Alfred and Dick and Barbara and the Titans . . . and the billions of people who don’t really care what happens in
“Yeah, yeah, if we were being strictly logical and accurate about this, I should have claimed you said you had only turned the Gotham cops against me . . . for the time being . . . and mostly by sheer luck, since they supposedly were too stupid to find out when the corpse had actually died . . . but that sort of carefully qualified statement just doesn’t have the same ring to it of ‘traditional supervillain hyperbole,’ you know?”
“Not really,” she said patiently. “I didn’t usually let them talk all that much before I hit them.”
Tim waggled a finger at her. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself, young lady, interrupting their big moments that way! Don't you realize some of them work on those Dramatic Monologues for weeks before the Real Performance?”
He was kidding and she knew it, so she just laughed for a few seconds before saying, “All right, go on describing my sins. What else did I do?”
Tim gazed off into space for a moment. “Lessee . . . um . . . right, we were just getting to the part where you tried to recruit me into the League. My initiation test would be to take a gun and kill your own father, David Cain, while he was bound and helpless. You remember that bit; you suggested it!”
“Did Bruce . . .” She let the words trail off.
“No, he didn’t seem to realize that you should have known, from one glance at my body language, that there was no chance in he—“ Tim broke off. “Er, no chance in heck that I’d go ahead and kill anybody just to make the League of Assassins happy with me. Not even if the target was a convicted murderer. I tried to rub it in as hard as I could—I described you talking at length, as if you were sure you just had to find the right words to sway me, by trial and error.”
“That almost makes sense,” Cassandra said generously. “I can see people’s attitudes constantly shifting as I talk or other people talk. If I went crazy, I suppose I’d still see that—but be more hopeful about my chances of gradually nudging you a little bit further, and a bit more, and so forth, until you ‘went over the edge’?”
“Maybe. Anyway, I didn’t shoot Cain. I fought my way through a bunch of your ninja guys, and then—I told Bruce—I even managed to land a few blows on you during our subsequent fight, instead of you just scoring a knockout in the first round!”
(Cassandra didn’t giggle this time, but it was a near thing. The only way Tim was likely to score on her in a one-on-one would be if they were fighting in pitch darkness so she couldn’t possibly see it coming . . .)
“Anyway, then it all ended with a huge explosion and I lost track of you. In theory, you could be dead. More probably, you crawled off into some dark cave to lick your wounds until you feel up to a rematch.”
Cassandra glanced around her comfortable, well-lit apartment, several stories above ground level, and said deadpan, “Right. I can barely stand it in here, it’s so damp and dark and crowded . . .”
Tim snorted. “You’ve been working on your irony, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” she said agreeably, and then stared at him. “Now tell me the rest of it.”
“Around the time you were summarizing my 'sins,' you hesitated . . . and skipped over something you decided I didn't really want to hear. Go back and fill it in!”
She watched him remembering how it was almost impossible to tell her a direct lie and get away with it. Then he seriously considered just refusing to answer. After all, he didn't really think she would beat it out of him. Then he began to realize she could find out anyway, if she asked enough leading questions and waited to see which ones touched on hot-button issues. (Like that game where one person is looking for something and the other keeps saying: warmer, warmer . . . now it's colder, colder . . . except it really wouldn't matter much if Tim stubbornly kept his mouth shut, as long as Cassandra could see him!)
“It was dumb,” he finally said. “I was trying to imagine it all in my mind's eye as I told Bruce, as if the story were a
“And if it does?”
Tim closed his eyes for a moment. “All right.” He opened them again, but seemed to be trying to avoid her gaze as he said, “When I was talking about your recruiting speech, I hinted that you were . . . kinda . . . trying to put the moves on me . . . and talking about having a dream involving the two of us, together forever as partners . . . like there was some sort of creepy Fatal Attraction thing going on in your head.”
Cassandra froze. That one wasn’t so funny.
She had started feeling . . . interested . . . in Tim when they were working together in Blüdhaven for a bit. But at the time, he’d just recently lost Spoiler and another girl he knew at school and liked, and she knew darn well he was still grieving, with zero interest in trying to find another girlfriend so soon. Meanwhile, Cassandra had known she still had a lot to learn before she’d have any business trying to latch on to a serious boyfriend. (Kissing Superboy a few times had been fun, but it wasn’t going anywhere.) Besides, Tim hadn’t shown much sign of being attracted to her—at that point he was still trying to get over the squeamish feelings which arose when he looked at her and thought about the whole “raised to be the perfect killer” thing.
Eventually she had figured out that Tim’s skittish attitude was all tangled up with his painful memories of Jean Paul Valley, whom she’d hardly ever met, but who—she’d eventually learned—had been “destined” for the role of “carefully bred and conditioned assassin” from the day he was born. (Could she ever relate!)
Long before Cassandra came to
Anyway! When Bruce had announced his year-long vacation, taking Tim and Dick with him, Cassandra had thought it was a great idea. It would give her time to try to narrow the gap between Tim’s education and hers, and it would give Tim more time to stop fretting about her odd childhood and pedigree. (She’d even known it was possible that she would lose interest in Tim, as she got “older and wiser” in his absence, much as she had quickly lost interest in his buddy Kon-El. Hadn’t happened this time around, though!)
She had waited this long without dropping any serious hints, but she wasn’t planning to wait forever. Once they got this thing with Bruce straightened out . . .
Tim saw her stiffen, and misinterpreted the reasons. His cheeks began to color. After a few seconds in which she still hadn’t said anything, he blurted out: “I’m sorry! Was that in bad taste? Over the line? If you want, I’ll go back and tell Bruce that after thinking it over, I realized you were just flirting ‘for practice,’ or to mess with my head, and that it’s a hundred-to-one odds that you aren’t seriously interested. Or if that doesn’t work for you, tell me what does!”
There was a fascinating double standard here.
Tim had been willing to go along with telling Bruce, as a joke or a test, that Cassandra was committing murder, framing Tim for murder, taking over an entire organization of murderers, using extortion and other dirty tricks to lure Tim into a trap, and then trying to persuade Tim to join her in doing more murders and such from now on—but it still embarrassed him to admit that he had also implied she might have so much as hinted at a sexual interest in him. Apparently calling “a nice girl” a murderer was far more excusable than calling her a seductress. That was a peculiar place to draw the line . . .
Meanwhile, though, poor Tim was nervously waiting to see if she’d slap his face over this. (As if!)
She smiled at him. “It’s okay, Tim. Really, it is. You just surprised me when you said that. But it didn’t ruin anything. Stand up and let me hug you to show there’s no hard feelings.” (It was as good an excuse as any!)
Tim’s confused body language suggested he thought there was something shaky about that logic, but he didn’t put up a fight as she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him. He had a nice, warm, solid feel to him . . .
“Still friends?” she asked pointedly.
“Still friends!” he assured her, and then took the hint and—very gently—reciprocated the hug, putting his arms lightly around her waist, not trying to squeeze at all, just self-consciously going through the motions of showing “friendly affection” and afraid to press his luck any further. She could tell the difference, all right, but it was still a step in the right direction!
“So,” she said, without letting go of him, “what do we do about Bruce now?”
“I’m giving up,” he said frankly, and she could see it hurt him to say it. Made him feel like a failure, and yet relieved at the same time, at the thought of handing the problem over to someone else, and then ashamed of himself for feeling so relieved, and around and around it went! “Now we’ve got to talk to Superman and some of the other ‘big guns.’ My friends in the Titans, too. If this is some sort of artificially imposed mental block, and I think it must be, then that’s been done to other heroes before, and they’ve generally managed to pull through—with help from their friends. We need magicians and telepaths and that other spooky stuff that can play games with people’s memories and emotions. Or if there’s something physically planted in his head, we may need Cyborg to help figure out its programming so we don’t do more harm than good. What Vic doesn’t know about chips configured to interface with human brain tissue ain’t worth knowing!”
“Well, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help, Tim,” she finally said, keeping her tone light, “and in the meantime, I think you can let go me of now.”
“Oh!” He hastily did so, dropping his hands to his sides as he stepped back from her, still afraid he might have offended her somewhere along the line, even if she wasn’t admitting it.
That wasn’t surprising, but it wasn’t the reaction she’d have preferred. Ideally, he would have noticed her careful phrasing meant she wasn’t ordering or even requesting him to let go right away. Then he would have said reasonably: That’s an interesting hypothetical point—I sure could. Do you want me to? And then she would have said: Heck, there’s no big hurry as far I’m concerned, if you’re not getting bored, and then . . . well, that chain of events obviously wasn’t going to happen right away. Too bad!
But she hadn’t really expected him to leap to the conclusion that one friendly hug, when they were both worried about Bruce, meant anything extravagant. She knew Tim was starting to be aware of some attraction to her, but he was far too much a gentleman to assume it was mutual (and he couldn’t see at a glance that it was!). Telling him flat out at this early stage didn’t seem like proper flirtation technique, as near as she could tell from tips she had been perusing on the Internet lately. This was the sort of thing mothers were supposed to teach their daughters, but asking Lady Shiva for advice on romance just didn’t seem prudent . . . the idea triggered some interesting images, though . . .
“You’re laughing again,” Tim observed, keen detective that he was. “Something I did?”
“No.” She shook her head quickly. “Sorry. A train of thought went off in a whole different direction. Never mind.”
He visibly throttled his curiosity. “Been there, done that. Let’s move on, shall we?”
Author’s Note: For any of you who are wondering about my other (and already much longer) Cassandra Cain fanfic serial, I just want to assure you that I’ve been working on it as recently as last week. But even though I know who the mystery villain is, and what will happen in the next couple of chapters, and how it ends, I’m still having some trouble getting the words to come out the way I want them to, for the right effect. Last Friday I finally decided to break down and buy that TPB I mentioned at the start of this story, and read it, and then I found myself typing out this parody for a change of pace.
(Incidentally: I never took the idea of a Tim/Cass romance in the DCU very seriously, although I had no screaming objections to it either, but I found using that concept could fit in remarkably well with my ideas for where this parody is going. Since I only started writing this silly thing about 9 days ago, those ideas definitely have been in flux as I went along, but I feel I now have a fairly good idea of what’s wrong with Bruce and how it might be fixed. However, I don't know when "Chapter 3" will be forthcoming. For one thing, I still haven't read the Teen Titans stories which revealed "Evil Cass" was actually "the drugged slave of Deathstroke through no fault of her own," or however it went. I've just heard about that revelation in general terms. Once I read that material, I'll have a better idea of whether or not I want to adapt the major plot points for a future installment of this parody!)