Disclaimers: All belongs to DC.
Spoilers/Timeline: Up through the "Fresh Blood" storyline in
Robin and Batgirl. Vague mentions of "No Man's Land,"
"Bruce Wayne: Fugitive," and various other older storylines.
Takes place in some nebulous time after Batgirl #61. Blithely
ignores post-"Fresh Blood" Robin canon.
Summary: You know you're incorrect.
Ratings Note: Suitable for older teens and adults.
Author's Note: Once upon a time David asked me to write
relatively romantic Bruce/Cass. This still isn't it, but it's
Acknowledgments: To LC and Livia for audiencing,
encouragement, and keeping me on a leash.
You aren't injured.
You've checked, using both the tips of your fingers and the
practiced motions your father taught you (almost) before
anything else. Your joints roll smoothly in their sockets,
your muscles are limber and strong.
There are no bruises, cuts, burns, or scrapes which should
not be there, given the last two weeks of patrolling
You aren't injured.
You're just not... correct.
You aren't alone when you visit the place where the
Clocktower used to be, even though there's no one else
there right now.
The shreds of police tape stuck to the pile of half-melted
glass (monitors, and you remember how long it took you to
understand that it wasn't the larger squares which watched
you, as opposed to the dozens of tiny, hidden circles) over
there tell you about the children you know live nearby.
The crumpled ball of police tape some thirty-five feet
northeast tells you, again, about the frustration of the GCPD
arson investigators, and also suggest that there are a few
people there still asking questions. You would like to watch
them do so, because you don't really understand why the
police aren't yours anymore, and watching might help.
You know that's about as likely as your coming *here*
turning out to be helpful. You are frustrated, and there are
other things, too. Other ways of being *incorrect*, but
these are at least familiar:
It's been a very long time since you thought Barbara would
have all the answers you needed, even if she was there
when you *did* need.
Even if she was Oracle at the time.
You wonder if anyone has found the place where Black
Mask tortured Stephanie, and if they are asking questions
Back in Bludhaven, you do a patrol which Nightwing would
call "casual," and which Batman would call "incomplete."
After, you follow Robin on his own patrol until he feels your
presence, and then for another hour until he stops on a
rooftop with shadows deep enough for two.
His shoulders are impatient, and his hands seem confused
without something to clutch, or hit. There are things you
need from him, but Batman sent you here for many reasons,
and so, before you do anything else, you still entirely.
His gaze says 'explain yourself.'
You do so with the point of your toe, and the drag of your
foot between the two of you in a sharp line. When Steph
did this, she meant both 'play with me' and 'I'll get you this
time,' but then, she would also always raise her hands into
a ready position you have never used. You can't do the
same without reminding Robin of her, and this is part of the
other kinds of incorrect, as well:
You learned "grief" when Gotham was broken, in the way
Jim Gordon fell to his knees instead of killing the Joker, in
the way it made you remember every other incorrect you
ever felt, and made them small and shameful. He is another
you think you'd like to watch, and listen to.
He's gone, too.
You spar with Robin for nearly five minutes before you stop,
and your capes haven't yet left the shadows long enough
for civilians to notice. You stop because Tim is showing his
teeth in 'hurt you hurt you stop' and his shoulders are
shaking with 'this isn't right.'
You stop, and you wait.
"What do you want, Batgirl?" he says aloud. 'I don't care I
don't want to care I can't I know it's Steph I can't I *can't*
just go away I know you can hear me I'm sorry stop.'
You touch the air in front of his cheek, because even though
you know Robin wants words from you right now, you don't
think you have the right ones. You're supposed to be
learning from him.
The twitch which shows above the collar of Robin's cape
says 'break your fingers, can't. Won't. Don't touch me. Stop
You say, "I'm sorry. I will go."
You walk in the daytime, now, almost every day. Most days
it feels correct, except for when it doesn't.
The ache in your shoulder has nothing to do with the
healing bruise from a flying brick, or with anything correct
It travels all the way down your arm.
When you stop in the park to sit next to a man feeding
pigeons and whispering 'did I pet my dog (maybe cat.
maybe.) this morning? Yesterday? Am I good father good
husband is she okay' with every toss of donut crumbs, you
force yourself to look at your fingers.
They say, 'I am not touching anything,' and expect you to
do something about that.
You wonder if you should have a dog.
The answering machine Alfred left you is mostly silent,
except when people actually call. Then, it beeps atonally --
and loudly -- at you until you push the buttons Alfred told
you to press.
You know that many other answering machines do not do
You know that Alfred knows you know this.
You let it beep until your left hand starts telling you how
easily you could smash the thing, and then you press the
"Cass, I..." Tim sighs at you -- it *is* Tim -- through the
machine's speakers, and your right hand wants to smash
the machine, too, now.
You *know* that sigh -- you've seen him use it with
Nightwing, with *Dick* -- and what it means. If he were
here, he would let you see him, and the tautness of his
shoulders would be saying 'I know you see me. It's okay.'
You hate the machine, and you can feel your face yelling at
Tim with your eyebrows and the jut of your chin, because
*Tim* knows the machine won't let anything like this
You *are* learning from him.
The silence lasts for long enough that you wonder if he'd
forgotten he was on the phone, if normal people did that
or if it was just you. But then,
"I just wanted to apologize for being a jerk last night. I
was... I was distracted. Anyway. You know where to find
me if you. Want to talk."
You can only guess what his body is saying, and you ball
your hands into fists to keep from smashing and
"I... good-bye." He hangs up.
You know by the light in the sky that Tim is asleep now,
and you know from experience that were you to wake
him up, you would get only Robin.
You don't know if that's a correct thing or not.
Sometimes, it's like being a child. Your strong right hand is
in your father's strong left hand, and the tightness of his
grip says 'watch learn look, watch learn look know.' The
other people on the street are blank and gabbling and
strange until they aren't, until you know that that one will
soon hurt a woman he knows, and that this one is hungry,
and that this one wants your father to touch him, but not
in any way *you* understand.
Every time you hear feel know one of the other people,
you squeeze your father's hand, and want very badly for
the gabbling to never come back again.
Sometimes, it's *just* like this, even though your father is
in prison, even though you're alone in an alley or on a
rooftop or in a warehouse, and even though you're holding
nothing at all.
It's almost *here*, the reason for your incorrectness.
Barbara would've said it was on the tip of your tongue,
even though it's actually almost on the tips of your fingers,
almost pressed to your skin.
You're still not sure if this means that it's just a misleading
phrase people use, or if it's just more proof that you are
*fundamentally* incorrect. It doesn't matter to you, not
It's just something to distract you from being able to learn
Not touching, your hands say. Not protected, your back
says. Not in danger, *not*, your chest insists, but the rest
of your body won't listen.
Robin makes you tea, because he's pretending to be Tim.
You let him, and the tea is just like Alfred's.
If he were being Tim, he would've given you more sugar,
and he wouldn't be looking at you directly, and his
eyelashes would say 'I know you don't like it this way, but
I think we're supposed to try anyway you're listening,
you're always listening.' Right now, he's looking at you
directly, and you wonder if he ever looked at Steph this
Batman looks at you this way all the time, and sometimes
Bruce does, too, but it's different, it's --
Your fingers twitch against the teacup and say yes yes
that's it, and you stare at them. You know your face is
saying I-don't-understand when, out of the corner of your
eye, you can see Robin's eyes drawing down into 'there's
something wrong with you are you dangerous always been
dangerous don't trust don't.'
This is where you should be Cassandra, and say 'I'm fine,'
even though you're not. If it were Nightwing, you think
you would. It's not, and so you say "I'm not injured."
Robin nods, curtly. 'More.'
You close your eyes. "I feel incorrect."
You nod, and watch the long muscles in Robin's thighs flex
and demand escape.
You watch them stop, and then Tim sighs. "Tell me how?
If you can."
You tap your throat, your forehead.
"Try," he says, and there is amusement trembling at the
corner of his mouth. "You can't possibly be worse at this
than I am."
It's so clear that it takes a moment for you to realize he'd
said it aloud. When you do, you take a deep breath, and
then Tim squeezes your bicep, releases it, and pats your
You wonder if you both need a dog.
Out loud, you say "I am lonely?"
Tim's entire body is tensing, flexing back and forth between
'oh dear God' and 'don't laugh.' After a while, he says "I
wish we drank."
When you are Batgirl with Robin, you cover so much
territory that you almost can't believe it.
More than you ever did with Batman, but the things Robin
does on patrol that you can't are different from the ones
When he feels you looking, he says, "It's just that it's faster
to direct victims to local hospitals and therapists than it is to
perform actual detective work," even though the line of his
back says 'this *isn't* my city,' the frown at the corner of
his mouth says 'I miss Nightwing,' and the deeper frown on
the other corner says 'Bludhaven doesn't deserve it.'
And then you patrol more, and more, until the stitches
under Robin's tunic pull and the inside of your cowl feels
slick and cold with sweat.
When you stop, he follows you back to your home, and then
into your shower. It's not as large as the one in your Cave,
or the apartment you had back in Gotham. There is only
one nozzle, and it's not possible to share it efficiently.
You know Tim knows this, but...
He doesn't say anything, or do anything but continue to use
your soap to scrub himself clean.
Finally, you say "I don't understand" out loud.
He squeezes the soap so hard that it begins to lose its
shape. He strikes backward with his other hand, and you
know that he has bruised the heel of his palm. He shakes.
And then he laughs, and says,
Later, when your buttocks are touching Tim's own and your
hair is brushing against the backs of his shoulders, you
know that neither of you are sleeping.
'This isn't what we need,' he says with the defiant press
You arch back enough to brush your shoulderblades against
his own to let him know that you know.
You are silent together, and wakeful.
You don't sleep until he leaves.
You feel another presence in your home when you get back
from your daytime walk, and you wait until you can hear
the person's movements well enough to know that it's
He is adding things -- food -- to your cabinets, and you
He doesn't stop adding food, and you belatedly remember
that his hearing isn't as good as the others', and clear your
He still doesn't stop, and you frown again. "I shopped.
"Miss Cassandra, you had half a loaf of bread, a can of
*condensed* milk, and three cans of artichoke hearts in
your refrigerator. While your cabinets were somewhat more
heartening, woman cannot live on corn flakes alone," he
says, and doesn't turn around.
You like the rooster. It reminds you of the time before your
father, even though you're not sure why. You thought you'd
done well, but you hadn't. The artichoke hearts had been
green, like a lot of the foods Alfred used to make for you.
The bread had been very good and filling. The food at the
diner tasted better, anyway.
You sit on the couch and wait for Alfred to leave.
He sits beside you after he's finished, instead, and hands
you a glass of orange juice. You'd forgotten how much you
liked orange juice.
While you drink, he says, "The last time I left Master Bruce
alone for more than a week, the oven had scorch marks,
the refrigerator had spawned four different life forms whose
origins I remain unsure of, and he had lost eight pounds."
He rests his hand on your shoulder, warm and firm.
You don't want to listen to the way he's telling you to
forgive yourself. He squeezes until you do, and then he
pats you. You wonder if he's ever had a dog. (Maybe a cat.
"I wonder," he says, lying, "how Master Timothy is eating
You're not sure if you're supposed to answer the real
question or not -- you're rarely sure what the real question
*is* with Alfred -- and the skin of his neck is soft, loose,
and ambiguous. You frown.
He sighs, and it means 'I like you' and also 'you are not
normal.' He sighs like that all the time. Out loud, he says,
"You have both suffered losses, and are both apart from
most of your loved ones. In times like these, one must
hope for... connection." His eyes, when he looks at you,
are startling and bare. You know, now, that he misses
Tim even though he sees him as much as you do.
You know that *he* knows you're incorrect.
You know that he's frightened, and sad, and you know that
this is about Nightwing, too. And Batman. Or maybe Bruce.
You want to fix it, more than anything, whether or not it
fixes you, too. You squeeze your hands together between
your knees and try to make your face say all of this,
Alfred's sigh has no words behind it at all, or maybe just not
words you know. When he hugs you, you think of roosters,
and even though you still don't know why, it feels good.
After a while, he says, "You *are* spending time with
Master Timothy when you can," and the sharpness of his
voice is a threat, though not a specific one, you think.
"We aren't... what we need," you try, and Alfred stiffens
and lets you go. "I'm sorry. Tell me how to do better?"
Alfred stares up at your ceiling for a long moment, lips
moving in something which looks like a prayer. "Miss
Cassandra -- *child*."
He closes his eyes for a moment, and then shifts on the
couch until you are facing each other again. "What do
*you* need, Cassandra? Do you know?"
Your fingers flex and twist against themselves, and you
remember the press and rush of water all around you,
everywhere Batman wasn't holding you. Everywhere
*Bruce* wasn't touching you. "I miss Batman," you say,
and your hands separate and rise in front of you, fluttering
without your permission, demanding that Alfred realize
that you aren't saying everything, even though you don't
Alfred blinks at you. "I --"
You rise and pace and pace, and you wonder if a dog
would think your home is too small, too closed. You've
seen them all over Bludhaven. The happiest ones walked
like they could go anywhere at all, even if they were on
leashes. You touch your throat and pace and move.
"Miss Cassandra... you do realize that you are *allowed* to
visit, don't you?"
Alfred sighs his usual sigh. "Of course you don't."
You are wearing clothes Barbara had purchased for you.
You'd worn the skirt once before, when Batman had sent
you to a coffee shop to do daylight surveillance on a barista
he knew had some small connection to the Burnley Street
Massive. The other clothes are stiff and new and smell like
the laundry detergent Alfred uses for you.
He uses a different brand for all of you, and you wonder
how he chooses.
You are sitting in the room in the manor they all call the
study, and you know you are only thinking about clothes
because those are the only thoughts which make any
No -- all of the other thoughts make sense. To your hands
or your thighs or the back of your neck or the place
between your legs or all of them at once. They just don't
make sense *inside*.
Bruce is sitting next to you on the couch, an arm's length
Bruce is wearing Bruce Wayne clothes and pretending to
be Batman. You are both absolutely sure about this and
absolutely unsure, because the way it makes you feel is
different from the way it used to make you feel.
You aren't confused, or indifferent.
You are other things, and the worst part is that the other
things don't feel incorrect even though you don't know
exactly what they *are*.
You don't know if they feel correct or if there's some other
way for them to feel that you just don't have words for.
"I need you in Bludhaven," Bruce says in Batman's voice.
You remember the first time Bruce showed himself to you.
You remember that it had nothing to do with the fact that
he was unshaven, or that you had met him in a place
where you hadn't been supposed to meet. You remember
the way he asked you to understand him, and his need to
be away from all of the family -- not *just* you.
You remember being surprised that Bruce was a person
who could ask things, instead of expecting them.
You remember fear.
"Cassandra." He means 'Batgirl.' It's just that he means
"I'm going back to Bludhaven tonight. I live there," you say,
and you mean it.
The frown is nothing at all like Batman's. Batman is never
confused, even if he doesn't understand something right
"I missed you," you say, and you don't understand why this
simple fact makes you afraid until he touches your face
with Bruce's fingers, Bruce's palm, Bruce's *warmth*. And
then you *do*.
Your hands grab at his shoulders, and your thighs clutch
hard, fast at Bruce's hips. You are pressed to him so quickly
that you might as well have kicked him, or struck at some
vulnerable bundle of nerves.
The clothes between you are too thick, except for how they
are much too thin. The tension in Bruce's body is
demanding that you pull away, and you know it. You know
it inside *and* all over your skin. You know that you can't,
You know this even before the tension becomes something
else and he kisses you, and now you know that *he* knew
Your hands insist that the feel of his hair is the most perfect
thing, the best thing, your lips bleed confusion, your thighs
and the place between say more, more, and your back
flexes in fear.
You know what it means to stammer.
Back in Bludhaven, you know that Robin sees everything, or
enough of everything to know what he can't see -- or
When he leaves you to begin his own patrol, you know that
Tim won't say anything at all, unless you ask.
You know that asking will feel, to him, like forcing.
It makes you angry.
You make a point of not waking Robin until you are on him,
over him. You want him to know that you can do this, to
*remember* that you can.
His eyes say that he knows all of this, and that he expects
no better from you. "Batgirl," he says, and the muscles of
his chest order you to leave. His pulse is steady in the
wrists under your hands, and his fingers twitch with the
consideration and rejection of fourteen ways to hurt you,
three of which would be crippling. Two of those, you know,
he learned from Shiva.
There is so much you want to talk to him about which has
nothing to do with why you're here. The words sit
motionless at the back of your throat, glaring and clear and
useless. You release him, and kneel above him with your
You feel the way his glare becomes something else, but
you don't allow yourself to look, even when he brushes
the hair back from your face.
"Sometimes I think we'd get along better if we had
*actually* been raised by wolves."
"It wasn't easier when I didn't have words," you say. "I only
thought it was."
The firm grip on your chin orders you to stop apologizing
look at him stop *apologizing*. Aloud, Tim says,
"Interesting," then lets you go. "What do you want to talk
about?" The tightness at the corner of his mouth demands
that you don't say Bruce.
"Bruce," you say, and smile. He had *told* you to stop
He snorts, and scrubs a hand over his face. "I know this
doesn't stop you from reading me," he says, voice muffled
by his own palm. "Allow me to pretend I still have
"Yes," you say, and wait.
He digs his fingers into his own forehead, his cheeks. Then
he moves his hand away, showing you that his eyes are
still closed. When he opens them again, you know it's time
"You miss him, too."
"I'm also angrier than you are," he says with his mouth. His
fingers twitch with something uglier, and equally true.
You have never met anyone who lies as much as Robin
does. You never knew it was possible to say so many
things which all managed to be true at once. You've always
liked to watch him. This last thing would be the easiest
thing to say out loud -- the *truest* thing, but you don't
think you should.
You're not sure.
"When will you... visit him?" you ask, instead.
The flesh of his lips tighten with 'never,' while his hands are
closer to 'not again' and his shoulders to 'go away.' "I don't
know" is what he says aloud.
He turns away, resting his cheek against the pillow. You
can see that he has a fresh cut behind his ear which will
scar, whether or not he lets you give him the two or three
stitches he needs. You can see that he doesn't realize
what he's showing you, and look down at your hands
before he can. Someone had gotten much too close to
Your hands ask you if you should touch, and you don't
know what to tell them.
When other people sigh, they're usually finishing a
statement, or completing it in some other way. Sometimes
the sigh *is* the statement, as with Alfred. When Tim
sighs, it's always just to say 'I don't know what to say to
you.' You know that this is a statement, too, and you don't
know why it feels different.
He shifts, and you kneel up so that he will have room to
move. He turns on his side, giving you the warmth of his
bed and the length of his back. He stiffens when he feels
your breasts pressing against him, but allows the arm you
drape over his waist.
After a moment, he brushes his fingers over the back of
your hand and says, "Batgirl." It's one of the times he says
it in the same way other people say 'Cassandra.'
You want to tell him how sometimes you think the way he
says your name is like eating good food. You want to tell
him that you think the two of you are supposed to do
better, that Alfred wants them to. That Bruce does. You
want to know if there's another Tim who goes to San
Francisco to be with the Titans, just as the Tim who was
in Gotham is different from the one he is here.
You won't say any of it tonight, even though the effort of
not doing it is making you want to choke, a little. Instead,
you say "I want to be your friend."
"Believe it or not, you are," he says, and means it.
"More," you say with your mouth and the press of your
palm against his sternum.
"I know," he says, and sighs again.
You are silent together, but not as wakeful as before. You
feel him willing himself to sleep, demanding himself to
sleep, and you do the same. You are both good at this,
when you try, because you both have to be.
After the fourth time he fails to do more than doze for a
few moments -- and the second time you do -- he stops
breathing and swallows.
"Ask," you say.
"Was it what you needed?"
You know he isn't sure what he wants you to say. You
know it hurts him. You remember Stephanie, and you feel
"Steph. She was. Was." His voice is thick, and choked.
"She was very good at this," you say.
You duck your head until you can crush your nose a little
against the back of his neck, but not enough to cry on him.
"I don't know if it was what I needed or not," you say.
He squeezes your hand, and relaxes against you.
You know he doesn't think either of you will ever have
what you need.
You think he might be right.
And you sleep.