2012-02-11 - Bat & Mouse

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Bat & Mouse
Summary: Cassandra takes her first ride in the Batmobile, en route to the one clinic and the one, kindly medic Batman can trust. After having the hole in her body patched, the mute girl is asked to make a decision. She decides. But will it be her feet, or her fists?
Who: Batman, Cassandra Cain
When: 2012-11-02
Where: Gotham City

"Here." That's the first word. First things first. The Dark Knight extends a bundle of absorbant material, densely woven, to Cassandra. "Put pressure on it." He doesn't even glance over to look if she knows how to do it properly. There's at least that much trust. More, well, there's also more to be said. At least, by one of them. She's given a moment to peacefully comply before the batmobile moves. It's sharp, abrupt, and coupled with a near-ninety degree turn that the Caped Crusader actually accelerates through. The two within the vehicle weaponized into a war on crime are remarkably stable, however. Shifting far more gently as gyroscopic stabilizers work in favor of traction control and g-force nullification.

"Keep firm pressure on it." It's even, rhythmic. Not so much because she doesn't know it, but because he wants to keep the girl focused on it. The car darts down the backstreets of Gotham and up an overpass, charting a brief course down the near-empty late night thoroughfare. During that brief course the batmobile puts drag racing to shame; she'd go airborne were she lighter. "Figure you want to tell me what happened between you and the League?" So he can.. deal with it? The Dark Knight barely glances to Cassandra, there. A quick glimpse to take in her stance, her demeanor, then back to the road. It's safety as much as anything, they exit smoothly around another car and down into Oldtown. "Didn't think so." The Caped Crusader deadpans, bemusedly.

While he may snark, the Dark Knight has his own guesses. "The League raised you." The Batman postulates, "You're rogue, though. No League or Society agent acts selflessly repeatedly, non-lethally, and by a moral compass." He's either relatively sure, or testing her responses. The Dark Knight can see her in the windshield, did we mention?

"No one trains an elite operative without.." Purpose. It's not that he changes his mind, or doubts hers. It's that he fully realizes it. It's older than Ra's himself. Older than the Bible. The perfect assassin is a heartless child. They certainly fucked that one right up. To kill him? To kill... probably more than one target, at that. The Dark Knight sighs, and drives. "You have to be 100% straight with me here. Is there any sign they are after you? Do they know you're in Gotham?"

Apparently, he also trusts her to be a decent second opinion on that rather high priority recon.

Cassandra's fingers are slick with crimson already, and the effort of maintaining firm pressure is difficult as a result. It's with silent thanks that she takes the proferred material with her free hand, making the switch with practiced swiftness. His trust is well-placed, it seems. She doesn't even flinch.

As the Batmobile starts, she glances briefly at the soiled palm, glutinous red flashing to solid black - and back, in the flickering of passing street lights. Her breathing is calmer than it should be; shallow, controlled exhalations expanding her chest only faintly as she keeps the motion focused in her gut. There's no sense forcing the wound to bleed faster, those poisonous fragments of polyester to nestle deeper. Her gaze maintains a hard distance more even than usual as she focuses, already doing what the Bat prompts her to do.

His words are reassuring even if she shows no sign, not invasive to the process she has already begun; and it's another point in his favour, that he seems both to care and react in the proper way. As if he comes from both her world... and the other, the one she's never been able to truly touch. A soft sigh leaves her parted lips, likely inaudible against the whirring of this incredible machine; but he sees it, of course. She knows he will-- because a wise hunter never removes his eye from the prey. Her own seek the point that his watch, finding it and favouring the masked man with a sharp stare as he makes his joke.

When he continues on, she frowns, brow creasing. It's a confirmation of what she knew. Feared? Perhaps.

Rogue, she thinks, mulling the word over. She's not placed labels on herself, simply... running, and surviving, never stopping for long before she resumes either activity. When Batman trails off momentarily, she takes the time to nod, slow and sure, to ensure he sees it. If he knows, she won't hide, because at this point she doesn't believe she can. A flicker of pain runs through her hazel eyes as she makes the mute admission, however, as though it brings to the fore everything she has experienced. Because it does.

She glances away suddenly, looking to the side window and swallowing tightly. Inadvertent, her fingers press a little tighter against her wound; and not in a good way, the pad slipping, scraping ruined flesh. She hisses, a sharply pained sound that catches her by surprise. Proud, she tries to toss it off with a twitch of her head, dark fringe slapping against her forehead, and then her eyes seek the Bat's again.

There's no thought in what comes next; as soon as the distraction of pain is abolished she shakes her head.

It's the adamant denial of a child, all wide-eyed honesty. She's been careful. She's been /good/.

Confirmation is another thing entirely. On several fronts. Her own origins, if not any of the details of purpose, come together at least in part in the Detective's mind. That the Society of Shadows does -not- seem to know they have a loose operative here also matches up with what the Batman has seen when trailing Cassandra's motions, thus far. The little vigilante does keep busy. "I don't know how long you've been running, but I suspect you're a little tired of it being so all-consuming." The Dark Knight notes simply, slowing down smoothly as he pulls down the side streets towards an old clinic occupying a quiet building in a neighborhood not many criminals bother with. Some, because of frequent patrols despite its economic state. "I can protect you, give you time to get your bearings again, but you have to decide if you trust me." This seems to be a rhetorical question he isn't expecting an answer on -right this minute-. After all, they have pressing business here.

The batmobile cuts openly down the streets hither and yon. It makes the Caped Crusader's presence ominously clear. Then, the vehicle vanishes, and the pulls around to conceal itself in an alleyway behind the starting point, almost back to where the little run began. While everyone is looking back the other direction, trying to see where he went, in all likelyhood. The car is fully darked before the stealth system gives out. "I've brought you to a doctor you can trust. I can fix you up but bullet wounds like that are delicate." The multitude of scars and wounds on his own body that -weren't- properly treated.. well. Let's just say he has expertise. "Stay with me, focus past the pain just a little longer." The canopy opens again, and the Dark Knight vaults out smoothly, coming around to Cassandra's side to assist the unusual urchin.

Trust. He keeps using that word, the echo of it still ringing in Cassandra's skull when it's spoken again - along with a demand. She has to, she must. It's familiar, that expressed sentiment, and her eyes darken as they slip sidelong through the techno-gothic gloom of the Batmobile. She's found his body language hard to read precisely since that first happenstance encounter, but there are clues in all men - even those who know how to conceal them, to work their innermost away from their motions. Those who trained this mute teenager did not do so in order that she perform parlour tricks...

She doesn't nod, frown, or otherwise indicate her emotions until Batman stands beside her on the outside of the vehicle, her eyes still upon him; she only lost sight when he moved briefly into the blind spot created by the ebon bodywork. As he reaches to help, she finally offers a reaction, head shaking brusquely - just once - and her near, bloodied hand lifting to splay that gory palm outward. 'No'. Slowly, but certainly, she moves herself from the seat, legs powerful and sure-footed as she avoids doing damage as best she can. In truth, her motions are those of a soldier; veteran of many wars. She's been shot before.

Likely, many more times than she's had anybody /help/ her.

Blinking back a few unavoidable tears of pain, she nods to the Bat, gathering her oversized coat around her with a shrug of the shoulders, keeping the pressuring hand upon her ribcage. She'll follow again-- though she hesitates a little before moving further, as though she WANTS to say something, her mouth opening and closing with the withdrawal and release of another uncertain breath.

Then she smiles, a tight little thing; a gesture between brothers in arms, going off to die. But it's a concession to the level of trust she's willing to give, allowing a man she's been trained to counter and kill walk her into a strange place. Where another stranger will manipulate her body. It's the only body she has... and the only thing she has. Her health, and a coat. She carries her world upon her shoulders.

The sheer amount of /brutal/ training already foisted on Cassandra hasn't really dawned on the Batman, yet. They're so alike, and yet, where he was forged in an unpredictable instant of tempering thunder... she was carefully honed to that moment. Perhaps not even entirely not-to-plan in her flight. .... at least, until now. The Dark Knight frowns. It /is/ Ra's al Ghul. He's not going to rule out the madman planning on Cassandra finding her way to him; but he's not going to turn his back on the girl either.

The Dark Knight scouts the course perfectly, without missing a step. Shadow to shadow in the span of moments, and in the door with such decisive precision that he stands in the frame propping it open for Cassandra, and addressing a rather kindly old woman already prepping a table and curtain in the back of the room. Batman doesn't bother asking Dr. Thompkins is she got his message.

"Oh for heaven's sake, what happened now." When a kindly old woman who was too compassionate to let a little orphaned boy go uncared for happens to half-adopt Batman, she winds up seeing a lot of things that she'd probably be happier not knowing about. It's something they both already know; injuries happen. "I'll be back." He doesn't tell Leslie to take care of Cassandra. He knows she will. The Dark Knight gives a reaffirming nod to the knight-errant of an Assassin, and slips back out the back.

There's company in the batmobile, after all.

Ready to follow Cassandra may be, but she does not do so lightly. When Gotham's protector moves, she glances in either direction - not moving her eyes, but ensuring any peripheral motion is detected and tracked. His awareness is not something she can rely on; but were any following her-- following them, they would be depending upon a certain reliance between the girl and the Dark Knight. What wounded teenager would watch their own tracks when accompanied by a man like that? Of the many teachings she not only remembers, but have become an undividable part of her being, one rings clearest now. Watch what your enemy does not.

They cannot watch themselves. Another lesson: use what they don't expect. Prey upon their inadequacies.

They'll not be watching her eyes.

Satisfied in an instant that she's safe, the girl follows in the Bat's trail, not employing the stealth and speed that he demonstrates, but moving as she naturally should. Placing aside the wound and her companion, she becomes the vagrant skulking across the street, missed by bystanders by nature of her existence. Why look at a person like her? She's nothing. Nothing at all.

Slipping in past the Bat, she is as quick to take in her new surroundings as she was to scope the street, staring mutely about the room then settling her sharp, dark eyes on the unassuming woman who greets her. Slowly she bows her head, never removing her gaze from Leslie, assessing her even as she makes gracious pleasantry. Her ministrations are met with pliant goodwill, in a most businesslike sense. Cassie's hand leaves her chest, gently lifting away the ichor-soaked pad and allowing it to be taken from her - shrugging off her coat in the meantime. As Leslie moves her into the position she requires, Cassie is already a step ahead, reaching for the hem of her jumper. It's surprising, of course; how trusting the cagey girl suddenly is, and how willing to remove her clothing so the wound can be tended. Gritting her teeth, she lifts the garment away.

She's wearing nothing underneath, and that's when the extent of her miserable past is revealed. Not only is the girl no true waif - she's athletic, incredibly well-toned muscle lining her frame, even moreso in the absence of several hundred hot dinners - but she bears the marks of a dreadful history. Scars line her torso, though nowhere more than her back, which is covered in ugly jaggedly-healed holes, rips like claw marks and other trophies so numerous it might turn the stomach of any who pause to consider it.

It's almost enough to distract from the even uglier fresh wound, lined with ripped cloth and polyester.

He's screaming, thrashing around in his bindings, thwacking off the interior of the armored compartment, now. Batman smiles, and approaches the batmobile. He thumps twice on the trunk, the vaultlike space sliding open anew and casting light - and fresh, winter air - in for Morice for the first time in some long minutes. "I was hoping you'd be awake. You're a really lucky man. Go out like that, can leave a man with lingering brain trauma." It's not so much true the way the Dark Knight took Morice down. It's true of a number of men left for the ambulances and police tonight, though. The Dark Knight drags the grown man out of the compartment one foot first, tossing him roughly to the ground, "/TELL ME ABOUT HOOD/." Morice whimpers, and scrambles backwards.

"I... I don't know /shit/! He don't tell us /shit/! Oh god man, come on man." "/Where/ is he?" "He t.. told us to meet him..." "Where does he get his men, /how/ does he get his men." "Look I'm just a nobody, don't know shit!" By this time the poor guy is having the worst night of his life, really, backed up against the wall with the Dark Knight looming a little bit closer every time he scrambles farther away. It's about this time that Batman hits him. Right in the breadbasket, dropping the recently risen mook back to the asphalt with one almost boredly efficient stroke. "/Think/. Where did he hire you. What did he /offer/ you. Start /there/." The Dark Knight picks the thug up, and pins him to the batmobile, now eye to eye.

Outside, the Batman deconstructs. Inside, Leslie quietly mends. She offers more smiles for the mute, scar-ridden teen than she does words. The questions on who did this, whether she needed help... they're not unlike those the Caped Crusader asks of Cassandra. If a fair bit less menacing, as a rule. She's a careful professional indeed, the doctor carefully cleaning the wound and seeking out the bits of bullet. Mending what she can; it's certainly miles beyond any field medicine. "You'll be alright, dear." Possibly the most meaningful single words. It's not long before she'll be good as new. Better, even.

Dr. Thompkins does believe it, most days. Enough to believe that, at least for this girl, her first impression was erroneous. This isn't a child the Batman got injured. Not a bystander in his unending and often rather violent and dangerous war on crime. Cassandra's been caught up in it from the first; in one sense, longer than Bruce Wayne. "There, there." It's repeated here and there, no pun intended, as the process is gently conducted, "I think I have a fresh shirt, back here." Leslie offers, her voice muffled by the fact that she's already digging in the clinic's cabinets for the remaining charity inventory. Her back is to the assassin, next to the tray of medical tools.

It's something of a contrast. "G..g... godddamn man!!" Morice half-squeals, "I worked for the guys runnin' guns on the harbor. Irish crew. Hood shows up, kills all the bosses but one. Hires that guy. Th... took a few of us..." He doesn't seem to want to talk about this much. The Batman palms his wallet as Morice as dropped to the ground unceremoniously... but more gently.

"I know where you live." The Dark Knight notes, plucking a driver's license out of the mook's billfold, then flicking it into his face. He tosses over a prepaid cellphone, "Take an hour, decide. Me, or the police." It's a fair offer. Most of them call the police.

Inside, Cassandra is supplied with shirt and fresh bandages, and offered her coat back. The Batman seems to have a pretty good sense of when to show up at the clinic's side door again just as she's prepared to leave. Who knows what other terror he inflicted in the interim. "Leslie." The Dark Knight offers in deceptively gruff, warm thanks, and looks to Cassandra. He doesn't offer any communication until they're back outside, and he turns back to the shadow-veiled batmobile.

"You're good. I'll leave it up to you for now, but now I need to know. No changing your mind later. Running, or fighting?" Also, a totally fair offer to make to a 17 year old. Desperate times. Or maybe it's more a matter of the situation in question. In wars, you devise any number of weapons; small ones, medium ones, large ones. Ones that counter other weapons directly, particularly the enemy's most powerful or advanced options. However admirable her aims seem to be, Batman knows exactly what he's dealing with.

That she's already someone like him, capable of doing all the great and terrible things they can will.

It's the mark of what she isn't, that Cassandra waits patiently for the kindly nurse to return. Neither flight nor the other, bleaker option crosses her mind as she is left to her own devices, the wound now cleaned and patched enough that she's unlikely to gain an infection - if she were to make her own way now, she'd live. For another week, another month... who could say? It's never been a case of time for her. When one's only pressing goal is survival, time is measured by the minute and the hour, at worst from meal to meal; the body's state of decay the best alert mechanism to be found in the natural world. More than any other race, a human being knows when time is past to gain sustenance.

When Leslie comes back with the shirt, and the bundle of bandages, Cassie hasn't moved an inch. Her body hasn't needed to, but it's more than that this time - her brain has told her not to, something higher and greater than the mere need for continued life insisting that she remain. As the shirt is pressed into her willing hands, she tips her head to one side, birdlike and curious as she peers across the room into a mirrored cabinet - closed, her sweaty, tangled bangs and grimy face visible in the glass.

Her brow creases before she busies herself pulling on the shirt; it fits much better than the abandoned sweater, reasonably snug upon her athletic form. In a way, it's a statement itself. She's not hidden any more, not a tiny urchin inside dirty, oversized clothing. But she certainly won't abandon the coat, large as it is. That's pulled on also before Batman arrives, a final tip of the head going to Leslie before Cassandra moves toward him, tucking the bundle of bandages into one oversize pocket.

Where not an hour ago, a picture of a kitten resided. It crosses her mind now.

It's already crossed her mind; like every event of the past few days...

Outside, she stops at the instant he does, meeting his cowled, penetrating stare with her own just as unyielding - the light of consideration passing quickly. She's been thinking this entire time, of course, processing what she's seen and heard; plotting the best course of action. An assassin is more than a physical, violent beast of a creature. It's a hunter in every sense. A survivor and a force of nature.

She moves forward, Bruce's coat snapping behind her, boldly /striding/ to the Batman. Her gaze never leaves his, not for one instant, as she crosses the distance and then abruptly, with a devastating grace /twists/ into her right hip. Her left arm flies out, propelled by the centre into a strike that very few men could stop or evade - even telegraphed as it is. Behind her thrusting palm, her mouth is a taut line, eyes dark and hard.

And there the tableau remains, frozen, the taut and calloused flesh aimed to stop a half-inch from impact.

Whether he stops it or not; that's up to him. If he doesn't, then she'll more than adequately stop herself.

It's an answer. But what will he make of it?