Recipient name: Te
Requested character: Fat, Drunk Wonder Girl
Story title: (Not Quite The) World's Finest
Rating: Suitable for teens and adults
Author's notes: Takes place, several years down the timeline, within the 'World Without Young Justice' AU. You can find the WWYJ story in YOUNG JUSTICE #44 and #45, SUPERBOY #99, ROBIN #101 and IMPULSE #85.
Summary: "Ever stopped to consider that maybe it's situations like 'the army of possessed ninja robots need to be contained before they destroy Tokyo' which give people trust issues with you guys?"
(Not Quite The) World's Finest
When the girl sets her shoulders back, it makes the hem of her cape stir at her feet.
"I wasn't here," she says stiffly.
"Of course not," the boy beside her answers.
"And you especially weren't."
It's strange to watch him smile on the monitors. The domino mask over his eyes doesn't shift, and this makes the expression unnerving.
"Glad we've got that clear."
She, on the other hand, probably isn't smiling at all. Even as she banters, her voice is businesslike, and her eyes are narrowed. The lower half of her face is covered by something which probably isn't referred to as a Kevlar kerchief, but might as well be.
Arrowette sighs, and swivels her chair away from the grainy screen. "We have visitors."
"Clients?" Cassie asks, sitting up from her sprawl on the couch.
"It's Robin and Spoiler."
Cassie flops down again, and smothers herself with one of the ratty cushions for a moment. Then, with a disgusted noise, she throws it at the back of Conal's head. "This smells like rotten mayonnaise."
"I'm not the one who orders out for eight-inch subs whenever she's bored," he snipes, not turning around. He's scanning the latest articles about them into the computer, and giving it the occasional encouraging pat as it whirs and wheezes. "Either of you two done anything to get the wrath of Gotham down on our heads recently?"
"They don't look pissed. Well, Robin does, but no more than usual."
"Guess we'd better -" Cassie starts to say, standing up and pushing an errant curl away from her eye. On cue, the intercom buzzes loudly. "One day I'm going to get you back for doubling the volume on this thing."
"You'd never hear it otherwise." Arrowette leans against the wall and smirks. "Might as well answer it, since you're up."
"You're the one on door duty."
"You're the one who's been napping on the couch all morning."
"Will someone answer it already?" Conal asks. "I don't know about you two, but I'd like to spend time with someone who hasn't expressed a desire to give me rectal surgery with a crossbow bolt or a wine bottle."
"You deserve it," Cassie and Arrowette answer in unison, glaring matching daggers at Conal. He coughs nervously, cleaning his glasses on the hem of his shirt.
The buzzer goes off again. Cassie sighs.
"Okay, okay. Don't get your bulletproof panties in a twist," she mutters, stabbing at the open-channel button with a plump forefinger. "Teen Titans. What can I do you for?"
"Robin and Spoiler here. Can you let us up?"
"I don't know. Hold your tongue and say 'I was born on a pirate ship', and I'll think about it."
Robin's sigh is an irritated burst of static. "Just hit 'unlock', Cassandra."
"Just blow me, Birdy," Cassie answers sweetly. Arrowette muffles a laugh against one gloved hand. The line goes dead, and Cassie can almost feel the rays of pure hate radiating from downstairs.
She's counted all the way to fourteen before the buzzer sounds again. "Teen Titans, can I help you?"
"Spoiler. I don't think we've had the pleasure."
"Don't think we have. Wonder Girl here."
"Can you let us up?" He sounds friendly. Or, at least, like he's better at faking friendly than Robin ever has been.
Cassie's always had a knack for getting the measure of people. It took her ten seconds to clue into the fact that Robin was someone whose buttons were worth pushing, first time they met. So she's been doing just that every chance she gets.
"Refreshments?" she asks them as they walk in the door. "The donuts are a little stale, but the pretzels were bought this morning. The red's open, and there's quite a nice bottle of cider around here somewhere as well. Or vodka. We have vodka, right?"
Arrowette shakes her head. "No. Remember? Con bogarted it all after we were done with Klarion."
"It was medicinal. Your secret admirer gave me the headache from hell."
"He's not my -" Arrowette starts to say, snarling at Conal.
Robin clears her throat pointedly. "No, we don't want a drink. Thanks."
"Yeah, I bet Daddy Bat sends you to your room without any cookies if you come home tipsy." Cassie raises the bottle in their direction as a toast before tipping it to her lips.
"So what's up?" Conal sits himself down on the edge of Cassie's desk, near where Spoiler's sitting. "Not that we don't like it when hot teenagers in costumes show up just for Crisco Twister, but I didn't figure you two were the type for that."
"Crisco Twister?" Spoiler asks.
Robin glares at Arrowette and Cassie, as if it's their fault that Conal's decided to bond with the kid in purple. "Ignore him, Spoiler."
"Careful. You keep the leash too short, your puppy's gonna break it," Arrowette tells Robin, pulling out a nail file and working on the point of one of her bolts.
"For the love of... my brain can't take that noise. Not this early in the morning," Cassie complains. "They're sharp enough."
"You still don't need to scrape metal on metal beside my head, Cis-"
"You'll be shutting up now, if you like your eyeballs unperforated."
"Oh, wait, I get it." Spoiler smiles and shakes his head. "Crisco like the oil. I'm assuming that there's nudity, too."
"Well, I'd hate to ruin your cape." Conal grins broadly.
Robin looks like she's about to have a minor stroke from bottled tension. Arrowette's several seconds away from bursting a lung; it might even be one of her own.
But before any of that happens, Spoiler turns to Cassie. His smile gets wider.
"That's really cool. Your consort's the child of Cadmus. I never realized that before now. I guess some stuff's destiny, huh?"
Cassie blinks. It's like he didn't even notice that Con was mentally stripping him, or that he was flirting back. He can jump from that into making obscure observations about Greek mythology without a beat.
"Can I timeshare him?" she asks Robin. "You can have weekdays and the second Sunday of every month, and I'll have him washed and brought to my chamber."
Arrowette snorts. "This rathole's the closest thing you've got to a chamber, your high-and-mightyness."
"Well, forget the washing, then."
"If we're all done with the lame banter, can we get down to business?" Robin asks.
"What's this 'we', Birdy? You haven't bantered yet."
"Look," Robin goes on, as if she hasn't heard Cassie at all. "It's like this: the League's offworld right now, and I would be perfectly happy if we could take care of this problem before they get back.
"There's a situation in Japan. Some experimental technology has had a non-corporeal entity introduced into its matrix, and -"
"A ghost's taken over a computer, Cass. That about it?" Conal's speaking to Robin, but still looking at Spoiler.
"A robot, actually," Robin answers. "And it would be best if -"
"Hey, didn't I tape over an anime of yours with a plot just like that?" Arrowette rests her arm on Conal's shoulder and pinches his cheek. He swats at her.
"I'm not sure I want to let you anywhere near a robot, Con. Ever."
"Oh, get over it."
Cassie makes a mental note to herself to replace his shampoo with bleach and his soda with cod liver oil.
"It would be best if," Robin attempts to say for the third time, pushing her hair back off her face and glaring at them all. "We took care of it sooner rather than later. The technology is volatile."
"So why do you need us?" Cassie asks, throwing the now-empty bottle onto the pile in the corner, where it lands with a forlorn glassy clatter. "Aren't you guys in your element with this kind of crap?"
"A super-powered being would even the scales, in this situation," Robin says coolly. "We're willing to pay you very well. In cash."
"And all the sake you can drink," Spoiler adds, and smiles at Cassie again.
"Oh, by the grapes of Dionysus, just give me the boy and I'll be your pet meta forever," Cassie mutters. Then her eyes narrow. "Wait. I call bullshit. No way the Girl Wonder comes to Wonder Girl's team for help with an evil robot."
For an endless second, Robin matches Cassie's glare.
Then she lets out a breath, and pulls her mask down.
Her eyes are still chilly, but the rest of her face is deceptively friendly-looking. Her lips are fuller and darker than Cassie expected.
"Can we talk?" the girl who's been hiding behind Robin's mask asks. "In private?"
"C'mon, guys, I'll emasculate you both by beating you at Mortal Kombat while our fearless leaders have a heart-to-heart," Arrowette suggests, ushering Conal and Spoiler over to the other side of the room.
"We can go out on the ledge," Cassie says, and stands up. The hinges on the window only protest a little as she pushes the panes open. "Sorry about the view."
The second story of the run-down building Cassie calls home looks out over a selection of dumpsters, the back door of a cheap Chinese restaurant, and the gutted remains of a blue Volkswagen. The ledge is comfortable and sun-warmed.
"Do you remember... a few years ago..." Robin begins, hesitantly, not looking at Cassie. "There was... I guess you could call it a crisis."
Cassie winces, and closes her eyes, and remembers. Remembers the flashes of the life she might've had. The Cassandra Sandsmark designed for all work and no play, colorless and crabby. No sex in her violence, and no violence in her sex.
"Yes, I remember."
"I do, too. Tim - the Spoiler - doesn't."
"Arrowette and Conal don't, either."
"When it first started, a boy came to you. Do you remember that?"
"Yeah." Cassie shudders at the things she can't shake from her mind. The smell... "That was nasty."
"You killed his parents. In revenge." Robin's voice is flat. She's still staring out at something in the middle distance.
"Hey, it was the least we could do. I didn't even get a chance to molest the poor guy. What's this got to do with anything? And don't give me some crap about crossing a line or anything like that. I haven't had nearly enough to drink to put up with supercilious garbage."
"I've done research. In situations like this, the fact that you took an eye for an eye gives you a certain amount of power. Clout. I don't know what to call it." Robin looks down at her hands and bites her lip. It takes a second for Cassie to realize that the sound coming from the girl is a kind of laughter. "Do you have any idea how many times I've had it drummed into me not to turn to magic to fix problems?"
"I still don't see what this has to do with some robot in Japan."
"He was supposed to be Robin."
"The boy. Jason. In the other world, the one that almost happened. He was Robin before Tim."
"Spoiler was Robin? I don't remember that."
Now, finally, Robin looks at Cassie. Her smile is hard. "There's not a day when I forget it."
Cassie can feel her expression turning sharp and dark, like a knife in a nightmare. "If you've done your research, you already know what the Bacchae did to Orpheus."
Robin doesn't look scared at all. "Greta Hayes."
"Not 'what', who. She's our Tokyo problem."
"I know that name. Why do I know that name?" Cassie scowls. She hates feeling confused if there isn't a nice mellow buzz to temper it.
"Because she would have been one of you. One of your team. At least, I think so. Prior to the crisis, a wraithlike form known as William -"
"All right, Billy. He was what Batman's files refer to as a 'warder'. An unquiet spirit. Did he ever tell you why he wasn't resting in peace?"
They'd never talked all that much. Cassie was still getting used to her powers, back then, and Billy had been a quiet guy at the best of times. "I don't remember. I don't think he knew, to be honest. The past was kinda hazy for him."
"It's likely he didn't. Beings in his situation usually repress as many of their memories of life as they can. He was atoning. He murdered his sister."
There doesn't seem to be anything to say to that, so Cassie shuts up and lets Robin talk.
"Her name was Greta. Ever since the crisis happened, I've been putting together a database of people's memories about the other world. There's a boy in a private hospital down south who seems to have a near-complete recollection of it. Trouble is, his mind's so broken that talking to him is like playing scrabble with Arkham's finest."
Cassie really, really needs a drink. "No, that's not... not Greta. That's not it. Susan? Sally?"
Robin shrugs. "Maybe there. Here, she was named Greta Hayes, and when she was killed something weird happened. She was electrocuted, and wound up getting merged with the energy that had shorted out her system. Got bounced around from one government super-secret lab to another for a while, until she broke free. Since then she's been causing low-grade mayhem all over the place. Crashing networks, frying broadcast towers."
"Paranormal vandalism. I like her already."
"So you'll help?"
"Hell." Cassie shrugs, and tosses her curls away from her face. The ledge gets windy sometimes. "It's not like I've got anything better to do today. And what kind of leaders would we be, if we didn't take care of our teams?"
Robin nods, and looks satisfied in an icy-bitch kinda way. "Well put."
"Off to Japan then, I guess."
24 hours later,
"Warn a guy before you do that, okay?" Spoiler shouts.
"What? Can't hear you!" Arrowette lets off another grenade arrow.
"I said WARN A GUY BEFORE YOU DO THAT!"
"More up high? Thanks!" She looses a volley at the five dark figures on the upper walkway of the hangar.
"Neither of you can hear a word I'm saying, can you?" Conal asks cheerfully, over the commlink. "Y'know, we should work with the Bats more often. This plane has every gadget and toy a guy like me could ever want."
Spoiler ducks, and another pulse beam hits the retaining wall behind him. Arrowette whoops and corners two more of the 'bots, pin-cushioning them with six bolts from her wrist crossbow.
"Next time I hit Luthor up for hush money," Conal goes on "I'm totally getting some of this stuff for myself. And installing miniature cameras in all the costumes. It's a crime against the ancient and noble art of eye candy that I can't watch the pair of you fight an army of ninja robots. I bet you're getting all sweaty. You know how I love to watch that sumptuous chest of yours heave, Arrowette. And Spoiler's gotta be a sweet little mover in the field."
"You know," Cassie says, voice wry. "Some of us still have use of our eardrums, Conal. It'd be such a shame if someone told Arrowette what you've been saying about her."
"You wouldn't dare."
"I still owe you a major dose of hurting, techno boy. Give me a location on the runaway 'bot, so I can stop playing the rat-in-a-maze game through these closed underground train lines." She's several blocks away from the hangar, now. Cassie trusts that Arrowette will eventually stop having fun for long enough to get the situation there under control.
"Robin still with you?"
"Yeah. Don't worry, she turned her earpiece off before you started remarking on our esteemed team mate."
"Aren't the Bats all about collecting as much information as they can?"
"And yet, for some strange reason, she seems to feel that doesn't extend to listening to your discussion of Cissie's breasts."
"Ooooh, careful. She'd be way shittier at you for using the Dreaded Given Name than she would be at me for the cracks about her dirty pillows."
"Signing off. Too much static," Cassie lies, and pulls the small plastic speaker out of her ear.
"Had enough?" Robin asks blandly.
"Needed a break. He didn't have any idea which way we should be heading, anyway. Any sign of our rogue?"
"She came this way. Then turned left."
"You know," sighs Cassie. "Next time, maybe it'd be an idea to mention to the people you hire to help you out that the naughty ghost-robot they're chasing can replicate itself at will."
"You found out soon enough."
"Not really my point, Robin. A headsup about the martial arts programming would've been courteous, too. I can't believe I'm down in these gross tunnels like this. I can feel the cobwebs sticking to my skin."
"If we were in Gotham, this chase would take place in the sewers."
"Aw, Birdy, are you homesick? Miss the homey stench of your wretched hive of scum and villainy?"
Robin shoots her a glare, then snorts. "You don't strike me as the Star Wars type."
"You've met my tech monkey, right? Weedy guy, glasses? Kinda looks like Superman's scrawny little brother might?"
They turn a corner and the tunnel goes from being dim to entirely pitch black. Cassie recoils, but after a couple of a seconds Robin clicks on a palm flashlight and sends a beam down into the darkness in front of them.
"It went this way. Come on."
"So, um, when we catch up, what's to stop it from making ten thousand of itself and wasting us?"
"The energy core will be depleted from making all the doubles that the others are taking care of. She shouldn't be able to manage more than two or three more for the next thirty hours or so."
"This is Batman's technology, isn't it? That's how come you know so much."
Cassie pushes her hair off her face again, missing the daisy garlands she used to braid into crowns. They kept her curls out of her eyes, at least. "Ever stopped to consider that maybe it's situations like 'the army of possessed ninja robots need to be contained before they destroy Tokyo' which give people trust issues with you guys?"
"We prefer working alone."
Robin's the only one who can still make Cassie feel like the furious, hot-headed kid she was back in Young Justice. Maybe Robin's a button-pusher too.
They keep walking. The tunnels are quiet, and claustrophobic. Cassie considers putting her earpiece back in, but decides not to. She loves Conal, but it'll be a while before she's really going to forgive him for what happened last week.
"You don't strike me as the Star Wars type either, Robin."
"You've met my sidekick, right? Skinny guy, smiles a lot, kinda looks like Batman's well-adjusted little brother might? I've seen my share of megaplex marathons."
"So what's his deal, anyway? Spoiler's. Is he really your sidekick? Would that make him Batman's grand-sidekick or something?"
"He's not an official operative in Gotham. Batman wants him to give it up."
"Why? He's pretty good. We'll have him, if you don't want him."
Robin starts walking faster. Cassie switches from walking to floating, keeping pace.
"Honestly," Robin says, as if Cassie could possibly believe that she'd ever tell the full truth. "I think Batman's a little scared of Spoiler. He's a freaky kid sometimes. He notices everything. He's sneaky."
"Um. We're talking about the same Batman, right? Tall guy, dark cloak, likes to lurk?"
"People tend to be most uncomfortable around those they can see themselves in."
Cassie blinks. "Okay, that was just downright horrifying. It was like listening to the Bat, only he'd turned skinny and blonde and female."
A pulse beam spits out towards them from the dimness ahead. Robin sidesteps it, and breaks into a run. "Stay near the ceiling!"
"Roger." Cassie flies a little higher. Clattery footsteps, metal on cement, echo dully around them.
"Greta, we don't want to hurt you!" Robin calls, moving at a run.
"Don't give me that 'she's more scared of us' crap. She's shooting pulse lasers at us! She's a freakin' supervillain!" Cassie offers a hand down. "C'mon, it'll be faster if we fly."
Robin hesitctes, then takes her hand. Cassie moves them forward quickly, towards the footsteps.
"I've chased enough nervy muggers and smash-and-grab crews to know when it's fear, not cunning, at work."
"Robin? Could you loosen your grip just a tad?"
"Sorry." Robin sounds genuinely apologetic, and a little self-deprecating. "Habit. Deceleration cables don't bruise if I hold on too tight."
"Careful. You sound almost human when you admit a shortcoming."
A slamming sound reverberates around them.
"Put me down," Robin says, and pulls a palm computer out of a pouch on her belt. The backlighting on the screen is a shade Conal would call 'krypto green'. He likes it when Arrowette gets bored and draws on her nails with high-lighter, because it turns out almost the same color.
"So you had a map of this place at your disposal the whole time," Cassie says, looking over her shoulder. "And instead we were playing hide-and-seek?"
"Tools are to be used when necessary. Not relied on."
"And there you go with the being-a-miniature-Batman again. What's up with that? You weren't this anal back a couple of years ago, when you helped out with that Lobo stuff Young Justice got mixed up in."
"When I saved the three of you from the entire planet bent on turning you into teen hero pate?"
"There's a supply closet up ahead. One door, no air vents. She's cornered herself," Robin explains as she leads Cassie further down the tunnel. "We'll just have to wait until she's ready to talk."
"Or until thirty hours are up, and we get pasted."
"Pessimist." Robin settles into a crouch in front of a door set into the side of the tunnel. "Stay on your guard."
Cassie hovers beside Robin. "I feel like I'm stuck in a b-grade Gamestation level."
"Welcome to my life."
Cassie starts fidgeting after two minutes. At seven minutes, she contemplates listening in on Spoiler and Arrowette's mayhem and Conal's commentary. When it's been twelve, she starts fiddling with the clasps and toggles on her costume.
"You like that outfit a lot." Robin states. She hasn't moved at all since getting into position. Her gaze doesn't shift away from the door as she speaks. "You've kept the same design since you first took up the identity."
"If it ain't broke, as the saying goes."
"You changed your hair."
"I still wear the flowers on ceremonial occasions and stuff. Pam - she's my supplier - didn't like how many garlands were getting mashed in battle. She's protective of her plants."
"We all have our causes, I guess," Robin agrees. Then she raises her voice and addresses the door. "Greta, we promise we're not going to hurt you or try to contain you. We want to talk."
No reply. Cassie sighs, and bends her laced fingers back until the knuckles crack.
"Have you ever met Nightwing?" Robin asks after a few more minutes of quiet.
"Nah, but I've heard stories from Troia. And I've seen photos of him from when he was Robin. Your costume's way better."
"Thanks. Spoiler likes it too." The pause, the hesitation before elaborating, is almost too brief for Cassie to notice. "Batman's not a fan."
"Why, because your legs are covered up? Has he ever considered changing his name to Chicken Hawk Man?"
"Cute." Robin sounds like she's actually entertained for a change.
"Witty quips are but one of the many super abilities I'm known for," Cassie says, and hates that she can't keep her tone light. Now Robin's going to go back to being a broody little jerk, and that'll just make the time fly.
All Robin says is, "You sound bitter."
"Hey, I know the deal. I wisecrack and make with the funny for a few years. Do some work in a minor team. Save some lives, right some wrongs. Have lots of adventures with other goofballs. Die messily at the hands of some loser villain. In ten years' time, you'll be skulking around the shadows at my funeral, listening to Starfire and Green Lantern talk about what a hero I was. As if Kory or Kyle would deign to give a joke hero like Wonder Girl the time of day when she was alive."
Robin looks up at Cassie and meets her eyes, before returning her concentration to the door. "It doesn't have to be like that," she offers quietly.
"Sure it does, Birdy. We can't help who we are. You're more like Daddy Bat every time I see you."
"He's not my father."
"I didn't mean it literally."
"My father was the Crypto King."
When she feels a sharp knock on the back of her head, Cassie realizes she's involuntarily levitated up to the ceiling. "Ow. You're kidding, right?"
"Yes. Such a joke would fit my sense of humor exactly," Robin says sarcastically.
"Do you ever get tired of being a snappy little witch? You're skinny enough that you'd be able to wear one of my bra cups as a tent blouse if you cut some holes in it -"
"It's rather obvious that you and supportive undergarments aren't on familiar terms, Cassandra."
"- and you're so snitty all the time. WASP would be a better code name for you than Robin. Chicken Hawk Man and Wasp, the Bitch Wonder. And what's with the Cassandra stuff, anyway? CASSIE. It's not a difficult name to learn. Or Wonder Girl's fine, if you want to be a haughty maiden all the time. Nobody calls me Cassandra except you, Birdy."
"Nobody calls me Birdy except you, Cassandra."
They wait by the door in frozen silence for what feels like forever, but is only another twenty three minutes according to the watch in Cassie's arm-band.
She's about to try getting Greta's attention again, just to break the monotony, when Robin speaks.
"That's why my mask's like this." She gestures to the kerchief portion of her costume. "My Dad's was the same. I didn't want Batman to just shove me into the old Robin outfit and pretend that I was another friendly kid who could help him. I didn't want him to forget what a risk he was taking by trusting me."
"You didn't want him to forget, or you couldn't handle him trusting you?"
Robin snorts. "Most of the armchair psychologists I've met don't smell like cloves and oranges."
"Or chase robots through abandoned Japanese subways?"
"I wouldn't go that far."
Cassie chuckles, landing beside the door and rapping her knuckles against it. "Come on. You're bored, we're bored. If we get back to the States by the start of next week, we can watch the pro wrestling semi-finals on cable. Faux-hypermasculine homoeroticism. What troubled young self-replicating robot doesn't enjoy a dose of that?"
The door, and anyone beyond it who's listening, doesn't answer.
"This is getting old." Cassie can feel her temper fraying. "Greta, we're not handing you back to evil scientists, I promise. You can be a Titan, if you like. If you can put up with Conal. Or not. You can be a sandwich-maker in our kitchenette for all I care. I just want to get out of here."
"I shot at you." Greta's voice sounds like it's coming through a badly turned radio. Cassie can't actually remember anything about the girl from the other world, but she sounds familiar nevertheless.
"You think I'm cranky about that? I'll introduce you to Arrowette. She shoots at me at least once a week, and I still helped her move when she got evicted."
"Why... why are you doing this?" Greta asks. She must be right up against the door.
"I need a reason?"
"If you're lying, I'll kill you."
"Good to hear you don't resort to violence. I was worried you wouldn't fit in with the rest of my team. Gonna open the door now?"
After a minute, she does.
Cassie didn't get a proper look at the robot when the Titans, Robin and Spoiler got to the hangar - there wasn't time before the fight began and 'robot' unexpectedly became 'robots'. It's pretty obviously a Batman-designed thing, all dark and sleek and scary, and Cassie decides not to wonder too much about what prompted its creation in the first place.
"Conal will ask you if you want a design update. You'll tell him 'no', and never let him touch you. For your sake and everyone else's."
The robot nods. "Okay."
Robin approaches the two of them, and holds her hand out. "Hi. We got off to a bad start. Want to try again? I'm Robin."
"Hi." Greta says, and after a second takes Robin's hand in her own. "I'm sorry I tried to kill you."
"You're way too hung up on that." Cassie claps Greta on the back. "Ow. Remind me not to do that again. What's this made of, titanium?"
"It's an... alloy," Robin says.
"Are you even physically capable of just answering a simple question?"
"It wasn't a simple question. It was at least partially rhetorical."
"So that's a 'no', then."
They go back to the hangar, where Spoiler's trying to console Arrowette by promising that she can come blow things up in Gotham sometime. She ignores him, and continues to complain loudly that it's no fun fighting ninja robots if they're all going to self-destruct without her getting to blow them up first.
When they're back in the plane that Robin borrowed from Batman without telling him, Conal gives Cassie a lecture about keeping him informed of her location at all times. She rolls her eyes and smacks him on the side of the head.
"You're delivering your respect-your-team speech from a very glass house, on top of a mountain of kettles, Con."
"I was worried, Cass. Give me some slack."
"I'm a superhero, genius. You don't have to worry about me."
"I hope there was a comma in that first sentence, because otherwise you're just full of it. Hey, do you think this Greta chick will let me redesign the robot? I could put -"
"Aw, but I promise I wouldn't -"
"No." Cassie crosses her arms, and glares.
"One day you're going to develop heat vision, and I'm going to wake up castrated, aren't I?"
"Who says we need to wait for the heat vision?" She gives him a vicious smile. "Get up the front with Spoiler and get this thing on course, okay? Even you can hit an 'autopilot' button."
Cassie sits herself down by one of the windows and closes her eyes, listening to everyone else's chatter as they take off. She gets airsick if she flies this high by any means other than her own power. It feels wrong to be up in the air without feeling the wind around her.
Arrowette and Greta have gone up to the front of the fairly small cabin space, and are telling Conal about their battle in the hangar. It sounds far more grandiose than the way Cassie recalls the events, but Spoiler's not correcting any of the details.
They can all give this up some day. If they want to. They're normal, underneath the confusion and dismay which has colored Arrowette and Conal's lives, and whatever situation led Spoiler to become who he is despite Batman's discouragement. They're ordinary human kids. When they want to walk away from all this, they'll be able to.
Well, not Greta, but who knows what magic and science will manage to dream up next? She might get a second chance.
But Cassie's going to be what she is for the rest of her life. She's the champion of a god.
A gift like that tends to stick.
She stares out the window of the plane, at the tiny world below, and remembers a tearful late-night conversation with her mother.
Cassie had been fifteen, and she didn't even like wine back then, and her hair was falling out and growing back red and shiny and curly, and her breasts and stomach and thighs were swelling with muscle and fat.
She'd made herself sick with crying, and screamed, and bent a quarter coin double, and cried some more.
Her mom sat down on the bed beside her, and stroked that weird two-color hair, and spoken quietly.
"When I look at you, Cassie, do you know what I think?"
"'There's my big weird metahuman daughter who can't keep down anything non-alcoholic'?" Cassie had snuffled into the pillow.
"No. I think of a Latin word. Sacer. It has two meanings. Sacred, and cursed. Because they believed that to be touched by the heavens was to be both these things."
Cassie's mother went on stroking her hair. "Yes, sweetheart. You're blessed and burdened, and you won't have an easy life. But you'll do amazing things. And I'll always be proud of you. You're my girl. My wonderful girl."
The words had comforted her then, and they comfort her now, but it's a passing feeling. Sometimes Cassie feels really lonely, and more than a little lost.
She digs through Conal's bag until she finds the bottle of Brunello di Montalcino she knows he packed. Even when they haven't had income for months, there's always a bottle handy when Cassie needs it.
There are plastic cups in the bag, as well, and Cassie takes two of them before walking to the back of the cabin, to where Robin's sitting on the floor.
"I," she tells Robin. "Am going to get you very drunk. No ifs, ands, or buts allowed."
Robin pulls her mask down and gives Cassie a small smile. "Nice try, Wonder Girl, but you'd have about as much luck getting me drunk with one bottle as I would getting you to come lurking in the shadows on the top of a high-rise."
"Oh, come on, you don't look like you weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet. I could get you drunk on a glass of grape cordial."
"Cassandra," Robin says in a flat voice as Cassie sits down beside her. "I've lived with Batman since I was fourteen. What makes you think I haven't trained my body to withstand large doses of intoxicants?"
Cassie pauses mid-pour. "Are you telling me that Batman and Robin have drinking contests?"
"We used to, when I was younger and first getting the hang of it. Maintaining my tolerance is a job he expects me to do on my own time."
"You're so weird."
"They were a lot of fun." Robin sounds nostalgic.
"So you are capable of having fun, then. I wondered."
"It was a long time ago." The retort is acid-laced.
"So what happened to you?"
"Life. Death. Same things that always happen." With a sigh, Robin leans back against the wall of the plane. "Speaking of, we'll have to arrange a date for you to come over to Gotham, so we can work out resurrection stuff."
"What? Oh, right. Raising the dead. Slipped my mind." Cassie gulps the wine gratefully, and sighs.
"No hurry. It's not like he's getting any deader."
Cassie snorts. "You're one of those girls who wears a ton of eyeliner and crocheted black sweaters, and hangs out at the mall talking about how classic 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' is, aren't you?"
"You think I'm a Wes Craven type?"
"Or David Lynch, maybe."
Robin smirks a little, and takes the remaining cup and the bottle off Cassie. "So I guess that makes you Fellini, then?" she asks as she pours.
"Not likely. Try Tom Green."
"Yeah? Me too. Spoiler says I'm juvenile."
"Because he's such a sage ancient himself," Cassie says, glancing at the gang at the other end of the cabin. "So what happened to you?"
"What do you mean?"
"What was the life and death stuff?"
Robin sips expensive wine from a plastic cup and shrugs. "A bad guy. Did bad stuff. I knew some people who got hurt because of him. A couple who died.
"Gotham's crime families thin each other's herds from time to time, and this time it was him. They had his feet in cement and were about to throw him off a pier and..." she presses her lips together and looks at Cassie. "I let them."
Cassie knows that saying 'hey, you already know that I believe in revenge, that's how this all started' isn't the correct reaction in the circumstances, so she keeps her mouth shut.
"He had a daughter. My age. Batman believed me when I said that I didn't get there fast enough to save the guy, but she never did. She blames me. She's not in school anymore; she spends her days orchestrating her father's crime syndicate and answering to the name Viper. I thought I could make the world a little less crappy, and instead I made a supervillain." Robin lets out a deep breath and takes another swallow from her cup. "That answer your question?"
"Wow. It really does suck to be you, huh?" Cassie pats Robin on the leg. "I'd probably be a nasty little ice queen if that happened to me, too."
"It doesn't suck to be me. Not really. I just... that's not going to happen again. Ever."
"I'm glad you've got Spoiler to keep you sane. Batman wouldn't be the best guy to do the cheer-up thing."
"He's not as bad as you think," Robin protests. "Really."
Cassie's sure she looks dubious.
"If I'm spilling my guts, you've got to do the same. Only fair. What's Conal done to make you and Arrowette so angry at him?"
Cassie chokes back a laugh. "It's not all that deep and meaningful. Really. He's just a geeky little pervert."
"Well, it's like he said: us Bats always want to know all the info."
"You were listening?"
"I'm always listening."
Cassie drains the bottom of her cup and refills it. "Well, what happened was that Arrowette and I were out dealing with this whole stupid radioactive zombie dinosaur thing, and Con got really bored while we were gone. He was doing his hacker mojo, and he found a bunch of old schematics for a specialized security system. Decided to make one."
"Let me guess: custard in a bucket over the door."
"Better. A spankbot."
Robin splutters into her drink. "A spankbot?"
"A spankbot. A robot that spanks intruders. Took three hours to deactivate. Hence us wishing Conal dead."
"And you say my team's weird." Robin pours herself more wine. "You're lucky. You seem like you have a lot of fun, even when you're hating each other."
"Yeah, we do."
"I don't have a lot of fun," Robin says with a tired smile. "I don't think I remember how."
"Well, provided you don't mind dealing with spankbots, or Gamestations being thrown at your head when you forget to buy milk, you're welcome to hang with us."
"I'm not... I'm not Dick. Nightwing. I'm not really Titans material."
"Yeah, and I'm not Donna, and Arrowette's not Roy. Who gives a damn? It's a job that needs doing, and we're doing it. Isn't that all that's supposed to matter?"
"Mm." Robin spins her drink between her palms.
"Hey... what's your name? Who are you when you're not Robin?"
"I'm always Robin, Cassie." Robin's tone makes Cassie wonder if the Bats can read minds, too. Robin couldn't have known what Cassie was thinking just a minute ago, right? "It's not a day job."
"Duh. You guys are allergic to sunlight or something."
Robin smiles, a little nervously. Her gaze skitters over to Spoiler and the others for a moment before settling on Cassie again. "Stephanie."
Robin nods. "Stephanie Brown."
"I thought you'd be, like, I dunno. Vivian or Ophelia or something. Lenore, at the very least."
"Pleased to meet you, Stephanie." Cassie grins. "That's not going to start feeling normal any time soon, I can tell."
"Call me Steph. Or..." Another tiny smile. "Birdy's okay, too."
Reference images taken from YOUNG JUSTICE #45 and ROBIN #101.
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