Summary: Nightwing tries to console a distraught Batgirl, and gets some shocking news along the way.
Location: The Clocktower
Rating: PG-13 for scantily clad Batgirl and repetition of her new word.
Note: This takes place shortly after 2010-08-21: Not As Batman
A late summer evening storm has blown into Gotham, drenching the cityscape in torrents of water and punctuating the evening with peals of thunder and flashes of lightning. It was already a rough commute between New York and Gotham for Nightwing, and he didn't -quite- manage to make it into the Clocktower prior to getting a pretty good drenching. He's glad he's on the "approved visitor" list because Barbara doesn't appear to be home. A note affixed to the refrigerator with a magnet explains for any passers-by: "Dinner with Dad, back later, B."
Of course, not being able to read, Cassandra just had to assume Barabara would eventually be back. She knew the piece of paper said something important - but, who the heck knew what? She didn't. It only added to her frustration. The sign, for Dick, that she's here is the fact that there's a strewn Batgirl costume out on the floor, just after the entryway as a blaring indication she couldn't -wait- to rip it off her body.
Hoo boy. Is this going to be another awkward nudity moment? Still, the evidence, as it were, causes concern to outweigh modesty for the moment, and the ex-Boy Wonder calls out, "Cassandra? You in here?" He'd imagine she must be, if the costume is here. "Everything all right?" He starts to make his way through the living area, keeping an eye out for the Bat-Family's newest member.
Not -quite- nude. She's still in her sports bra, and sporting a pair of matching black panties. But, she hasn't put any clothes on. She's curled up on one of the chairs, facing away from the entry point. And, when Dick sees her, it's pretty apparent she's been crying. "No," she says, sharply, and turns her face away from him. It's not Dick she wanted to see. Like a five year-old might, she twists away from him, not wanting -him-. She wants -Oracle-. Duh.
Oh like -that's- going to work. Nightwing peels off his mask, tucking it away before removing his gauntlets as well, setting them on one of the side-tables and moving over closer to Cassandra, "Hey, what's wrong? What happened?" He glances around, as though expecting the source of distress to be immediately evident. He moves over near the chair, reaching out at first to try to place a hand on her shoulder, but thinking better of it and pulling it back for the moment.
Good call, that last thought. It's likely it wouldn't have ended well, for either of them. She crosses her arms, and looks relatively uninjured. There are no marks, that'd suggest she had a bad night and was injured, or anything on patrol.
She rubs at her stinging eyes again, "No," she says. She doubts Nightwing will understand. And, she doesn't know him all that well. For all she knows, he'll just yell at her too.
Actually, it doesn't take long for Dick to put two-and-two together. After all, what's often been the greatest source of frustration and friction for -him- within the Bat-Family as well? He's silent a couple moments, and then a sour expression crosses his face as he shakes his head, but it's replaced with an expression of genuine sympathy as he crouches next to the arm of the chair, putting himself more on eye-level with Cassandra, "It's Bruce, isn't it? Did he say something to you?" Because it usually comes down to words with him, after all.
It's funny, sometimes, how 'little kids', or people learning how to speak can pick up the most interesting of sayings, when nobody thinks they're really going to, or listening well. Her mouth forms the words, "Goddammit!" She retracts further in the chair, if that's possible. She sniffs again, pointing, "Yes. -Loud-." She doesn't know the word for yell, or how to correctly express it. "Angry."
"And you see that better than anyone else." Dick comments, frowning, knowing that Bruce...doesn't have outbursts like that very often. It must have been serious. "Do you know why?" He can't imagine it's really Cassandra's fault. There's usually something else underlying it when Bruce goes off-script, so to speak. "Hold on...." He knows what always used to make -him- feel better...he moves to the kitchen to play his own version of "What Would Alfred Do?" by warming up a pot of hot water, the better to make some tea. But while that's warming up he moves back to Cassandra's side, and this time, he does, rather carefully and slowly and deliberately move to try to just place a hand on hers.
"Yes," answers Cassandra, bluntly. "-Is-," she says. "No." She's too angry to try and even gesture. It's going to take Dick a lot of paitence, to get the fully story. "Goddamit." Then she slams her hand onto the chair's side. She doesn't reject Dick's light touch, though her eyes go, warily, to that. She's never used to people touching her. Ever.
Dick is starting to get that, but he's keeping it light. Just a (literal) touch of nonviolent human contact, his hand resting on hers, but it'd be easy enough for her to withdraw if she chooses. "It's not your fault. Whatever it is, I'm sure it's not." His expression (and body language, for that matter), remains sympathetic, "He's...difficult sometimes. Stubborn." Fortunately, Patience is something that Dick Grayson has learned to cultivate. You kinda have to when you're trying to herd a group of teenage superpeople through their most hormonal years (while suffering through them yourself at the same time).
She jerks the hand away from his touch, to gesture, as she stands up, frustrated, angry, humiliated - and unsure how exactly to express it all so someone can understand her. At least she's not pounding her head against the wall.
She folds her arms over her chest, stalking back and forth, bristling. And, eventually, she points to one of the pictures on the wall. Right up to the glass. On the color 'Red'. She looks pointedly at Dick, until he gets it.
Dick watches intently as Cassandra stalks away, tilting his head and rising back to his full height. It does take a couple seconds, before finally he queries, "Red? Like the color Red?" It's kind of like playing Charades, but simultaneously more and less difficult at the same time. He does move over as the water starts to boil, though he keeps most of his attention focused on Cassandra, at least as much as he can while fixing up a couple mugs of Chamomile Tea.
"-Yes-." The word comes sharp. She then stalks over to the Batgirl cowl, and picks it up. She shakes it, violently, then points at it as well. "Red." She says, as if trying to remember the word that goes with it.
"Red...mask? Red cowl?" Something there is tickling on the fringes of Dick's memory. A very old case with a link to something much more horrible. He's just finished pouring the tea and is letting it steep when the connection is made, "Wait...Red Hood?"
"Yes," says she, at the last. "Is." Pause. "Robin." She shakes her head, throws down the cowl, in anger, her face contorting, "Goddammit," she says again, and pounds her fist down. "Listen! Dead!" She shakes her head, and shouts, "-Is-." Then, she flops, legs all akimbo, down onto the floor, wiping at her eyes again. "Is," she says, softly, sniffing.
"Wait...Red Hood is Robin? That...doesn't make sense." He tries to follow the rest of the "conversation" as it were, but she's losing him a bit on that one. Still, he moves over and offers up a steaming mug of hot tea, keeping one for himself. "Red Hood is Robin. Listen. Dead." He sits down Indian-style in front of Cassandra, frowning deeply, "Wait...Red Hood is Dead Robin?"
Remember how Elaine used to slap-push Jerry, on Senfield? "Yes!" Luckily for Dick, she does this after the tea is set down. She scowls, "-Loud-. Goddammit." Yes. She's not forgetting that word. Ever, likely. She shakes her head. "Angry. Loud." She sniffs. "Babs?" Yeah. When is 'mom' coming home. That's who she really wants.
OK, this is starting to make much more sense now. Dick frowns, setting his own tea aside, "Jason? Jason Todd?" He didn't even know there -was- a new Red Hood. But he's been gallivanting with the Titans for a week or two. "OK..." It sounds outlandish, but Dick isn't -quite- as emotionally compromised when it comes to Jason as Bruce is, and he remembers Bruce's own lesson of considering ALL possibilities before you start eliminating them. "You told him that Red Hood is Jason Todd, and he got angry and yelled at you?" It -shouldn't- be possible, but well...he's seen a lot of "impossible" things. Or of course there's always the possibility of a very convincing, well-informed impostor.
At the query of Babs' whereabouts, Dick glances towards the clock, frowning a touch, "Uh...probably a couple more hours. She's with her father. Their dinners usually go late." Because they don't often get the chance to sit and catch up with each other, what with both having busy schedules.
"Yes," she says, to Dick's assessment of the situation. She shakes her head, then, and eyes the tea, suspiciously. She knows what sorts of things can be put in tea, afterall. She frowns, when she learns it'll be even longer, before Oracle gets home.
Well, there's nothing in this tea but tea, of course. Nightwing picks up his own and sips it, frowning, "Jason...is hard for him to deal with. It's..." Dick pauses, trying to think of how to explain it. "He sees it as his greatest failure. It...hurts him." Dick notes, frowning, "He should be dead, but..." admittedly, he hasn't seen the evidence yet, but he does recall, "Some of our enemies can raise the dead."
Cassandra's concept of death, perhaps, is not absolute finality that others have dealt with. And, she certainly hasn't gone through what Batman or Nightwing, or even Babs has. Still, she is certain she's right. And it's hurt her as much that Batman didn't trust her, as the fact he -yelled- at her. A brutal thing, for a young woman with nearly no paternal influences, whatsoever.
Dick tries to think of how he can explain, sipping his tea once more, and setting it aside, before scooting a bit forward, and holding his hands out, palms upward, towards Cassandra. "Listen, Cassandra. For Bruce....Jason is...hard. Even harder than words." He shakes his head, "He didn't mean to hurt your feelings. He just...sometimes doesn't realize how important he is to all of us, and how what he does can affect us."
Taking a sip of the tea, tenatively, Cassandra sets it back down. She doesn't seem to quite believe Nightwing, she -saw- how angry Bruce was. Heard it. She merely shakes her head. "Angry." She points at herself. "No Batgirl."
"Yes, he was angry. I'm sure he was...but it wasn't really at you. It was...at himself. It always is where Jason's concerned." Well, with a good dose of "Joker" thrown in there, but still. "What?" Dick blinks at the latter part, "Did he tell you that?" Dick shakes his head, "It's not true. He "fired" me from being Robin plenty of times. He gets over it."
Shaking her head at the query if Bruce had told her she was 'fired', but, she seems to think it, just the same. Or, maybe she doesn't want to be it, and she's just too humiliated, and sulking to listen to reason, right now. "No." She says, frowning.
"It'll get better. But we've got to find out more about this Red Hood." Dick sips at his tea once more, "Does Barbara know about the Red Hood? Anyone besides you and Batman?" He queries, leaning back on his hands, trying to mull over what little he knows of the situation so far.
"Yes." She frowns, trying to formulate the words she heard Batman say. "Know." Is all she can correctly verbalize. She's not as troubled, now. At least, not for now. And she seems to unclench from herself, at least a little bit. And she's still not meeting Dick, in the eye.
Well, a little better is better than not better at all. "Cassandra." He comments, once again reaching quite slowly and deliberately, to try to tilt her chin up so he can, in fact, look her in the eye, "This is -not- your fault. You didn't do anything wrong."
The elevator doors open, and Barbara wheels in. She looks surprised to see Nightwing and Cassandra there already. And then she looks concerned when she hears Dick's words to the girl. She leaves the Clocktower for a few hours, and something goes wrong. "What happened? Cass, are you alright?"
A few other things Barbara will notice: The entrance to the Clocktower that Cassandra uses to access it? Right by there, she's torn off the Batgirl suit. She's currently just in her underwear, and a sportsbra. But, hey, at least she has -some- clothes on. Her eyes are slightly red, puffy.
She pushes Dick's hand away quickly, and hears his words - but it's then that Barbara wheels in, and Cassandra is on her feet, and running over to the Wheeled One, and stops short, biting her lips. She sits down, and leans up against the wheelchair, sniffs, and looks expectantly to Dick. He can tell the facts better than she can.
Dick doesn't seem too put off by having his hand "rejected." He rises to his feet as Oracle makes her way inside, looking, well...actually mildly angry, "Bruce had a major meltdown on her." His expression grows more somber, "So we need to talk...later...about Jason Todd and I'm guessing a new Red Hood, and whether they're the same person or not."
Barbara addresses the Cass problem first, and reaches up to draw the girl into a hug. Times like these she really misses being able to stand up to do things like this. She frowns as she listens. "He's right, it sounds like Bruce is having some... issues. He tends to be like this when something's stressing him," she tells Cassandra, then looks up to Dick. Her eyes widen a little. "It... may not be an imposter?"
Guess what, Babs? Cassandra learned a new word today, to express herself when she's angry, or frustrated. "Goddammit. -Is-!" She says, slapping a hand, hard, into the floor to punctuate her words. Why won't anyone trust her?
"-Same-." She insists. She points to her eyes. She saw it. She saw the similarities. And, it's darn hard to fool Cassandra's understanding of movement.
Dick points at Cassandra as she makes her emphatic statement, "She doesn't think so, and She's the only one here that can look at the issue completely objectively." He moves over to stand next to the pair, "Remember the first thing Bruce taught us about Detective work: We have to consider -all- the possibilities before we can start eliminating any of them." He adds, "I don't know what the truth is yet, but I trust her instincts. If it's not really him, it's so perfect a copy that it may as well be him. Either way, it's bad news, and either way, Bruce is going to be too emotionally compromised to handle it while keeping his cool, which is probably exactly what whoever-is-behind-this wants."
"Let me guess. You told Bruce the body language was the same, and he flipped out at you?" Barbara says to Cassandra, smoothing her hair a little. Her hand shakes just a little as she processes this information. She sighs. "I don't know how it's possible, but I know you know these things as well as I know these," she says with a hand towards her computers. She looks to Nightwing, and adds, quietly. "It might explain something. One of the men the Red Hood took from the police van, one of the Joker's henchmen. He was there when he..." she pauses, and looks down at her legs.
Just nodding to Barbara, Cassandra is glad at least someone understands her, trusts her. She's not even looking at the Batgirl costume, at present. Right now, she doesn't want anything to do with it. Or, maybe she thinks she lost the rights to it. She also senses Barbara's sudden memories, and returns the touch, albiet a bit more copycat than naturally. As Dick just experienced, Cassandra doesn't simply have that much experience with physical contact with other people that isn't violent.
Dick reaches over and twines his fingers with Barbara's free hand, "We might be on our own on this one, Babs. Might have to try to keep Bruce out of the loop as long as we can." Because Nightwing well knows it'd be impossible to keep him from finding out eventually. "He'll be angry when he finds out, but that's the price we're going to have to pay." He moves back over to pick up his gloves, starting to pull them on, followed closely after by his mask. "Time to start collecting some evidence."
Copycating or not, it's the thought that counts, and Barbara appreciates it nonetheless. "You're right. He's not going to like this, but..." she shakes her head and trails off. "We can handle it. It won't be the first time I've worked on something without telling him." Like, oh, her first few months as Oracle...
"Help?" Asks Cassandra, to Oracle, quietly. She stays close to the woman, almost clinging, who helped her find herself, and who is giving her a new life. And certainly, she'd do anything for Barbara. At least she's no longer sulking.
"Definitely." Nightwing comments, even though the question was posed towards Barbara, "Like I said, you're the only one able to look at things from an outsiders' perspective." Dick wasn't as close to Jason as he is Tim, or Bruce, or Barbara, but that doesn't mean his loss didn't affect him. "We'll go to Bruce with all the evidence we need to prove her right." Because it doesn't make sense that anyone would be able to fool Cassandra, and even less that they'd know enough about the Bat-Family's newest member to know -how- to fool her (to say nothing of the amount of training that would be required for an "actor" to pull off that level of performance). "I'll be on the comm. Cass...take care, and get some rest." And with that, the Ex-Boy-Wonder is off to start his own investigation into these matters.