As for all gifts
by Te
December 20, 2004

Disclaimers: No one here belongs to me.

Spoilers: Vague ones for TT v3, earliest issues.

Summary: Cissie's not like her.

Ratings Note: PG-13.

Author's Note: Written for the Jingle Bells, Batman
Smells challenge, for Whitney. Happy merry. :D

Acknowledgments: To LC for a great deal of hand-
holding throughout.


Cassie's restless a lot.

Too much, she thinks -- sometimes. Most of the time
she doesn't even register it until she's already flying,
moving, *doing*.

She's got a theory that most people don't really notice
restlessness -- in themselves *or* others -- unless
they're bored, too.

Cassie doesn't get bored.

There's just...

There's too *much*.

Not in a bad way, because she *likes* having powers
and *using* them, even if she's only doing it because
some supervillain jerk is making a mess. Sometimes
she's a little worried about *that*, because, well, it's
probably pretty much completely wrong to be happy
(just a little) that there *are* so many supervillains
out there, that she really *can't* just stop, and...

Well, maybe 'can't' isn't the best word for it. She's
thought about it -- a few times -- and she's even
*done* it.

(Tried to.)


She can't really get past it -- *it*. Sure, she chose to
have these powers, asked for them and fought for
them and *took* them, but that just makes it *more*
important that she actually *use* them. For the
right reasons, of course, but also just...

She spends most of the time -- most of her *life* --
in a world where people start talking about 'paganism'
and 'lesbian-related superstition' as soon as she
mentions the very real, very *true* things she knows,
but she can't actually do more than pretend she
doesn't hear it, and give people the facts when it
seems like they'll listen.

She can't just go *along* with all the ignorance, and
all the *lies*, and *one* of the reasons for that is
that it's just a really freaking bad idea to scorn gifts
from the gods.

She took this -- it was *her* choice -- and now she
has to live with it.

And that means... this. The roof of her dorm, the
smell of burning leaves from somewhere --

Or, at least, this, too.

Flight whenever she can manage it, or make the
excuses, or whenever she just plain *has* to -- there
are always emergencies.

She *isn't* like Diana. She doesn't worship, or make
offerings, or whatever.

(Most of the time)

But she *also* really does.

Every time she flies.

Every punch she throws. *Every* one.

She kind of thinks *that*, more than anything else, is
what makes her weird. She knows tons of
metahumans, and even a few aliens. None of them
feel like they're connecting with something larger,
something vague and important and strange, every
time they use their powers. And while she has just
a few questions about the speedsters that she'd like
to ask Bart one day...

Well, none of them feel that way because none of
them are *doing* it.

And sometimes it's a little confusing to look at all of
these people who just kind of *have* powers -- huge,
*wonderful* powers that don't actually *mean*
anything, or even *connect* to anything, but...

Mostly she doesn't think about it.

She *likes* living in a world -- and being the kind of
person *in* that world -- where everything she does
is about more than just justice. Where 'the right thing
to do' *means* something.

And *that* makes it even better that she'd chosen
this, doesn't it? That she'd chosen it and *kept*
choosing it, no matter how screwed-up it got, no
matter who died or who... left.

Another good thing about flying -- high enough now
that the air is cool and thin and wet against her
cheeks, like laundry day on Themyscira -- is that
she can get high enough to scream *exactly* as
loud as she wants to.


She *likes* this school. It's good, and her English
teacher throws in stuff like science-fiction and really
cool poetry along with all the usual Shakespeare
and whatever, and the campus is pretty and quiet
whenever she needs it to be, and she's *glad* to
be able to see Cissie (and Greta, yes, but sometimes
she still feels like Suzie, like she should *be* Suzie,
if not Secret) almost whenever she wants to, as
opposed to whenever her life opens up enough that
she can remember to call and see if *Cissie* has

It's just that sometimes she's not so much 'restless'
as having yet another freaking *argument* about
this, about the *life*, with Cissie.

And having it in her *head*.

Because it's not like Cissie yells at her or anything, or
even does more than nod at her when she talks about
her *doubts* -- she *does* have them, sometimes,
she just doesn't ever want people --

She doesn't want Cissie to *agree* with her about
them, or try to convince her to actually *stay* retired
for more than a few weeks at a time.

And Cissie... well, she never does. Ever.

She just...

She totally doesn't have to.

Cassie flies a little lower. Not much -- pretty much no
one *but* a metahuman would be able to see more
than a little smudge of red in the sky, assuming they
could notice her at all -- just enough to see if there's

Her senses aren't as good as Diana's, or even
Superboy's. (She likes 'Conner,' a lot, but it doesn't
quite feel *real*, yet, and she's kind of hoping to find
a way to *make* it feel real, and she really, really
seriously has a few ideas there.) But... sirens *carry*.

She heads east and *down*, and it's a fire.

She actually...

Well, it's not that she *likes* fires. They're terrible,
and the people always look so hurt even when she
can get everyone out uninjured -- even when she
gets there before the freaking *goldfish* get a chance
to boil. It's just that it's not a supervillain, which
means that the damage is almost *certainly* going
to be localized -- she's only a few minutes ahead of
the fire trucks, she thinks -- and...

There's something...

Something *old* about this, and she knows it isn't
the word she's looking for, but it works. Something
so *incredibly* right about the sound of a little kid
crying and coughing somewhere behind a wall a fire,
a wall that just skins right over like a hand, kisses
her all over, and she's too fast for it to even *singe*
her uniform, for the fire to even *try*.

And it's -- it's *more* than even that, because the
little kid is a *girl*, and it's not like she was raised
on Themyscira -- total re-freaking-lief -- but it's still
so *much* when the girl looks up, when her
so-brown-they're-black eyes widen and she reaches
up with her soft, chubby little hands.

Not even to be rescued -- Cassie's got her, anyway --
just so she can *touch*.

And Cassie says, "you're all right, now," and she flies
through a wall that was going to crumble anyway,
and the smoke clears like an omen, like a *right*
thing, and Cassie *doesn't* hold the girl up to the
sky for the gods to see, but...

She wants to.

(And they can see, anyway.)

And then it's normal again -- as normal as it ever
gets, anyway -- and there's a father who snatches the
little girl from her arms almost before she can think,
"maybe, maybe I don't *have* to..." and then there's
a lady who has a photo album she *needs*, and
another with a necklace.

And when she leaves again, the firemen look up and
wave and smile as she rises.


There's the moment there *always* is for fires -- when
she has about twenty seconds to wonder just *when*
she'll be far enough away to stop smelling the smoke,
after which she realizes that, no, it's just her.

Her hands are blackened and her hair...

Cassie starts to make a face, and then decides to save
it for later. It's just one of those things -- people are
*going* to give her funny looks when she hits the
showers looking and smelling like she does, and the
RA is going to pretend Cassie doesn't really exist --
and certainly isn't wearing *that* -- and... it's just
always better when she can make herself look
disgusted about it.

A wordless sort of "yeah, I know I'm rank, you're
right, it's freaky."

Even though it's kind of a lie.

*They* all want her to think her whole *life* is
freaky and disgusting, as opposed to just the crap
that means she seriously does *need* every
strong-smelling hair-care product she can find.

All of them.

Even... no.

Cissie doesn't. Cissie doesn't look up from her
notes -- she *always* types them in at night -- just
sniffs the air.

"Where was the fire?"

"About twenty miles that way," Cassie says, and
waves toward the window. She needs her robe. She
*doesn't* need to talk about the little girl, or the
way the edges on the pages of the photo album
were just starting to curl up, or how the firemen
probably would've appreciated Cissie's help with
the emergency services stuff. She just needs her

Cissie makes a small, non-committal noise and
keeps typing.

She doesn't ask if there were any injuries, and it
*isn't* because she doesn't care. It's because she
knows Cassie would've told her. 'I miss you,'
Cassie doesn't say, because there should be a 'still'
in there, and also because whenever Cassie *does*
say anything like that...

"Check the laundry pile," Cissie says without
looking around. "The other one."

"It's not --" It totally is. Under the flannel pajamas that
are actually too warm for Cassie to wear most of the
time, but really are too cute to just shove in a drawer

As opposed to winding up in the perpetual laundry pile
(Cissie has, and actually *uses*, a hamper), because
every time Cassie *does* wear them, she winds up...

Well, they're pretty rank and sweaty. Again.

The robe's fine, though.

And the shower's fine, too -- she'd stayed out just
long enough to avoid the girls on this floor who play
field hockey, and not long enough to get the
night-shower types. She has the showers to herself,
and it's warm and echoey and Cissie should be next
to her, right now.

Cissie should be using Cassie's conditioner, because
her own isn't tough enough to handle post-fire
scrubbing trauma, and being all hardcore about
whatever bruises she'd come home with, because
her uniform wasn't nearly as well-armored as it could

There's a story she hasn't told Cissie -- for a lot of
reasons. Robin (and he's going to feel like 'Tim Drake'
pretty much *never*.) had left this notebook... well,
he *hadn't* left it lying around so much as left it on
the table when Superboy had grabbed him and
started a tickle-fight. And Cassie hadn't really
*meant* to eavesdrop -- is that even the word
when you're just reading? -- but it had been right
there, and open, and she'd only had to flip a *few*
pages to find sketches of them.

*All* of them, really. Their uniforms, and
incomprehensible -- Robin's shorthand pretty much
*had* to be Bat-standard -- notes on them, or maybe
just on their powers or something.

The page for Cissie, though, was covered in all sorts
of additions and question marks. Robin had pretty
much redesigned her uniform from the ground up,
and, well. It's Cissie.

She *would've* taken Robin's suggestions, because
it was Robin, and never mind the huge freaking
crush she had on the guy -- and Cassie remembers
when talking about things like that was just what
they *did*, and now they just don't, because Cassie
can't tell the football team apart from the soccer
team, and Cissie, of course, doesn't seem to
*care* -- it was *Robin*.

And Robin... He probably would've made the new
suit himself. It was just the kind of thing...

Cassie wishes she *had* told Cissie about it at the
time, because it was pretty much *right* after
she'd quit, and Cissie had *let* her do stuff like
that back then. Just keep talking and complaining
and *wishing* at her until it was out of Cassie's

Until Cissie had decided it *should* be.

And there isn't... there isn't even anyone she can
*ask*. Robin *had* quit to be Tim Drake, but
*everyone* knew that it wasn't really his choice,
and, anyway, he's *back* now.

And Cassie *does* get it. Cissie hadn't chosen
the life in the first place, and she didn't have any
powers it would be wrong for her *not* to use --
and there *is* a difference between 'talent' and
'power' -- and Cassie has never...

She's never had one of those moments. The kind
the older heroes never talk about and the kind
Superboy had told *her* about after Cissie had
left. Just a day in the woods and two murderers
full of arrows and Superboy had been so frightened

Cassie *knows*. Cissie could have -- and would
have -- killed them. (She had every right, and none
of the gods *she* knows would've said different.)
And it's not like Cassie's ever killed anyone, or
even really wanted to, and she doesn't think it's
*wrong* or anything that Cissie freaked out. ("She
was... she'd *tortured* them, Cassie...") It's just
that it seems kind of wrong that she hasn't, well.

"Get over it," probably isn't how she really wants
to put it, even in her own head.

Especially since Cassie really was right the first
time they'd really -- *really* -- talked about it.
About how much of how Cassie feels is all on
*her*, and what she wants, and how this life isn't
the best thing ever even though it feels like it
more than it doesn't. And how it could be even
worse than that for someone like Cissie.

Cassie frowns and turns the water off, wrapping
her own towel around herself and using one of the
cheaper school ones for her hair -- blow-drying at
this point would just piss her hair off more.

This conversation -- this *argument* -- she's been
having with Cissie in her own head is long past
old, and there still isn't any real way to have it out
loud, much less to stop having it like *this*.

Cissie's not *like* her, and that's obvious in so
many damned ways that it really *hurts* that Cassie
keeps tripping over it. *Smacking* into it like a wall
that's actually hard enough to stop her.

Cassie *should* be able to talk to her about this,
and do it in the *real* way -- to *convince* her.
*She* knows where the old Arrowette suits wound
up, even if Cissie's managed to make herself forget.
Cissie is...

She's still on the computer, but it looks like she's
just surfing, at this point. Checking the stats for
the few other archers out there who are actually
good enough to matter, or maybe just searching
for .mp3s.

Not crime statistics, not articles about the rest of
them, not *anything* like what she should be
doing. The monitor casts a faintly blue glow on
her face, and sometimes Cassie just stares and
watches and *wants*.

The old Arrowette cowl would be a little tight if
Cissie didn't take the scrunchy out of her hair.
The one Robin had designed would've hidden
Cissie's eyes behind lenses like his own.

Cassie doesn't remember everything about it --
she hadn't been able to read the notes, after all --
but she remembers *enough*. And Robin

Would he have kept it?

It doesn't really matter if he had or not. He's
Robin, and he'd remember it. He'd probably fax
the designs directly to their *room* if Cissie ever
went out again, and not just because he'd
probably always *meant* to do it anyway, and
*not* just because the new suit would be safer,
and better, and more *practical*. He'd do it because
*he* knows that you never really leave, even when
you think you have to, even when you maybe --
*maybe* -- should, even when you haven't really
gotten over anything at all.

Because your *real* friends are in the life *with*
you, and they're the only ones who *get* it.

The door bangs open, and it's Greta with a stack
of notebooks and a few CDs in her hand and,
"Found it! You *have* to put this one on *now*,
Cissie, it's -- hey, Cassie! -- like I told you. He
sounds *just* like that guy from Creed."

Cissie turns in her chair, resting her elbow -- she
still has the best biceps Cassie's seen *off*
Themyscira -- on the back and grinning. "That still
doesn't make me eager to *hear* it, Greta."

Cissie never has a problem calling her that. And she
shouldn't, because it doesn't actually matter who
she *should* be, Greta *is* Greta now.

And no one else.

She doesn't move like anything but a teenaged girl,
and she doesn't say things that give you nightmares,
and she pushes on Cissie's shoulder to shove her
out of the way of the CPU just as if *Cissie* isn't...

It's a little hard to be around Greta.

When Cassie had first gotten here, she'd thought it
was just one of those things. Cissie and Greta had
been together at this school for months, and had
spent more time just *talking* than either of them
had done -- or done with *her* -- back when they
were all in Young Justice.

But it *isn't* just about two people getting closer
without the third, and it *is* about...

Sometimes you only think you know a person, when
really all you know is what they've told you, and
shown you, and *let* you have. And it doesn't have
to be a big, nasty shock when you find out the
truth -- at least, Cassie's pretty sure it doesn't have
to be that way -- but sometimes it just *is*.

The music starts -- it's loud, but not ugly or anything --
and Greta pulls Cissie out of the chair and dances
her around the room. Cassie has to fly up a few feet
to avoid getting trampled -- or bruising Greta and
Cissie when they hit her -- and, when she lands, it's
just a better idea to relocate to the bed.

Greta is giggling, and Cissie is smiling at Greta, and
daring her to try this in those new heels they'd picked
up at the mall, and Arrowette is in the flex of Cissie's
arms, and the tiny scars showing beneath Cissie's
sleep shorts, and the sweep of her hair.

Except for how she really isn't there, at all.

Anywhere except in *her*, anyway, and that doesn't
really count.

Even when the smile fades off Cissie's face when she
looks at Cassie, when Greta's busy with the next CD
and there's no one to see but the two of them.
Everything Cassie hasn't said out loud is in Cissie's
eyes, because she's Cissie, and she *knows*.

She just can't -- won't -- do anything *about* it.

"Okay, wait, I think it's the fourth song. Or the sixth.
Or... gimme a sec..."

"Sure, Greta," Cissie says, and moves until she's
standing in front of Cassie, hip-shot like she's about to
shoot on the fly.

Or like she's about to just start dancing again. Her
gaze drifts to Cassie's pillow, where she'd shoved the
lasso before taking her shower, and then back to her
again, and she says,

"Going out again tonight?"

Cassie has to. "Yeah. Probably just a flight." She isn't
going to ask if Cissie wants to come, because she
always says no.

Cissie nods at her, and the smile on her face should
be the one on Robin's whenever Superboy starts talking
about how he always knew Robin would be coming
back, all tight and small and agreeing and just a little

But it's just a smile, and a,

"Have fun," and then Cissie shuts the door -- Greta
always forgets -- and the music starts up again.

Cassie puts on one of her spare suits, and smiles back
when Greta smiles at her, and heads for the window.

She can give this to the gods, too, even though she
isn't sure whether they're listening *that* closely.

She doesn't, actually, want to be sure.

The sky is dark and cold and the air is thin the way it
should be, and in a few days it'll be time to head
back to the Tower and the *real* world.

Even though there's another real world out there
with music and smiles and people who don't believe
in anything, because they don't *have* to. A world
that's five miles behind her and receding, just
waiting for her to... no. It isn't waiting for *her*, at

She's okay with that, most of the time.

There's a darker patch of sky to the west that means
there's a storm coming, or maybe one already there.
There are parts of herself which reach out at times
like these, and they're the same ones which make
her want to hold little girls up to the sky and *need*
to fly through fire. She isn't close enough to really
feel the storm, though, or even smell it -- yet.

But she can be, easily.

And she will.


... For this gift, as for all gifts, you must
suffer: those from the underland
will always be with you, whispering their
complaints, beckoning you
back down; while among us here
you will walk wrapped in an invisible
cloak. Few will seek your help
with love, none without fear.

- From "Procedures For Underground" by Margaret Atwood