2012-02-19 - Bat-Breakfast
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|Summary: Is this what every morning is like in Wayne Manor? Sadly, yes. It probably is. Would you like more angst and brooding with your orange juice, sir?|
Cassandra Cain is eating breakfast.
There's nothing uninteresting about this, at least to her; last time she had access to a fully stocked larder was... well, approximately never, and the lavish kitchen of Wayne Manor is enviably well supplied. She's been living here for a few days now, and taken only what she's been offered at mealtimes, picking almost regretfully at her plate and not taking her eyes from her host - ensuring she's not going too fast or consuming too much, trying to be the best little guest she can be. Bruce doesn't owe her anything. He already gave her his coat, and is in the process of giving her a brand new life. Food, too? It was too much.
But Alfred Pennyworth has a way of breaking a stubborn teenager's barriers. He also knows when someone needs a bloody good meal. Cassie wandered down this morning as quietly as she always does, ghosting through the house in borrowed t-shirt and boy-shorts, shyly plucking an apple from the fruit bowl and taking it out to the back porch to quietly munch and meditate. After a few minutes, she found a dizzy cocktail of scents washing through the French windows to assault her nostrils. She sniffed once, twice, and a third time before slipping inside.
"Good morning, Miss Cassandra," politely intoned the Wayne family butler, hiding a knowing smile beneath his moustache as he deftly flipped a pan of fried eggs and bacon. For her part, Cass doesn't talk much; but she didn't have to. Within twelve point three seven minutes she'd been manouevred into a place at the kitchen table, plates and bowls stacked with a cornucopia of breakfastly deliciousness arrayed before her.
Right this moment - about 10:31, the Batman himself apparently either sleeping late or... still working late; CRIME NEVER SLEEPS - the former drifter is munching with blissful contentment on a pore-clogging sandwich composed of fried bread, beans, bacon and lashings of ketchup. It's not healthy, but she can probably stand to put some meat on those bones. And she's not enjoyed herself so much ever, a fact she'd be attempting to hide were she conscious of Alfred watching her from the hall. Purportedly 'dusting', he's decked out in an apron and wielding a pink feather duster, but doing nothing of the sort. The soft-hearted old goat.
It's the kind of adorable scene that just begs to be interrupted by some horrible catastrophe.
Tim gets in /late/ the previous night from his trip to Metropolis. He had a long hard day, followed by a decent trip home. And /plenty/ of time to think, and kick himself about how the bust failed spectacularly into his face and possibly a (not so) innocent mercinary's face. Who is now possibly a walking biohazard, Or nano-hazard. He made sure to send what he had with Raven, who would no doubt report back to the Titans and probably the JL.
So at this time in the morning, a zombie looking Timothy Drake finally shuffles from his room and into his seat at the table. Where he proceeds to stare squinty eyed at his plate and tries to contemplate the concept that nothing is on it, and should probably put food on it.
He also completely misses that Cassandra is /right there/ shyly eating an apple. He only barely mumbles a good monring to Alfred, because Alfred is always there. /Always/.
Apple nothing! By the time Tim considers reaching for his first home-cooked morsel, Cassandra is sinking her teeth deeply into her second breakfast sandwich. So intent on filling her grumbling belly after years of borderline malnutrition, she doesn't notice him until it's too late; she's in mid-bite, egg and sauce dribbling down her chin to spatter against the other four sandwiches she's lined up to follow this one. Never before has a seventeen-year-old master assassin been so horribly embarassed as she is when she looks across...
And sees she has not only company, but strange company. The blood rushes to her cheeks immediately, hazel eyes batting beneath the messy dark tangle of her fringe, and ever so slowly she lowers the sandwich - watching Tim as though he were some ferocious wild animal sat across from her in the toilet. Once the half-eaten morsel is set down, she reaches with equal caution for a napkin and clamps it to her mouth in mute horror, slipping silently from her chair and starting to walk away as she frantically wipes the eggy goodness away.
She's halfway across the kitchen floor before her brain starts working. Peeking sidelong at the boy, she tries to picture him in red and green, mentally slides a mask over his face, and immediately freezes, lips pouted in the agony of realization. If he's-- then she should... but she's only done that for /him/, or when he's been there to at least give her some form of confidence in being halfway human. The question she needs to ask is:
What would Batman do?
Cassie's fairly certain he wouldn't stand there staring and saying nothing.
So why is SHE doing that?
Tim finally wakes up enough to realize there is someone else across the table who is not A) Bruce or B) Dick. He stops mid pour of his coffee to notice that Cassandra is already retreating. Um...
"Hey uh.." he starts before she already is nearly gone, Tim is left with a thought of, 'She's too young, even for Bru- oh wait she stopped again'.
"Hey!" he says after she starts examining him.
"Hi...You're...new here right?" Tim says. He looks towards Alfred, before looking back at Cassandra.
"I'm Tim, and you are?" He says, flashing her a easy smile. He was the most /charismatic/ Robin after all. Dick is Dick, Jason is a douche, and Damien (who isn't even CANON) is king douche.
It probably doesn't help Tim's initial conclusion that she's wearing one of Bruce's old t-shirts, a worn promotional gift from some Wayne Enterprises event or another. It's hugely baggy and falls well past the waist; she's neither tall nor thickset even for a teenage girl, though it's not hard to pick out the definition on her forearms and very bare legs. Or the more than occasional poorly-healed scar.
Of course, as Tim looks at her she's looking even more intently at him - in spite of her retiring nature and immediate instinct to retreat like crazy, those hazel eyes hold an intelligence that drinks in every little nuance of her environment when she's not otherwise busy stuffing herself. That's connected to what makes her relax some when, or in fact just BEFORE, he smiles, her shoulders losing a little tension. She still doesn't speak, though his question is met with an opening of her mouth. And a closing. Then another opening.
A frown creases her brow as she tries again, and this time she manages a, "Ca--..."
Followed by a much more certain, "......" as she appears to give up the ghost on that one.
With the perfect timing of butlers everywhere, Alfred is suddenly behind her, gently clapping both hands to her shoulders with a perfect, non-threatening delicacy that neatly bypasses her /other/ instincts. Cassie glances upward as the Englishman's reassuring tone makes the introductions so she doesn't have to.
"Master Tim, this is Miss Cassandra. She's come to join us following a rather difficult time on the street. Master Bruce encountered her on his... travels, and decided this was the best place for her." There's something about the way he says that, curling a fine point on the words without over-emphasising anything. He doesn't even need to raise an eyebrow to give Tim an indication that this girl is not what she seems. Cass hears it too, and drops her gaze to the floor, gently scuffing her bare toes against the fine tiles.
She gets over it a moment later, and glances at Tim, bringing her hands up before her - open palm to closed fist.
It's her version of 'hello'. Certainly beats a punch to the face.
Ca? What kinda name is Ka.
Then Alfred steps in, explaining the situation with just enough detail and subtlety that makes everything crystal clear. Tim, finishes the coffee and takes a very big drink, deciding not to comment right away. Of course, the greeting tips Tim off a great deal to the possible nature of the girl. This goes back to his excursion to Europe for training. With a rub of his forehead he gives her a reasuring smile and points at the left over breakfast sandwiches left on the abandoned plate.
"You gonna finish those?"
Whatever one's opinion of oneself, sleeping in the gutter breeds a certain mindset that's hard to shake. There are rules to survival; certain things you absolutely do or absolutely DON'T do. Among the very foremost is this: when you get food, you damn well fight to keep it. The next solid meal could be hours, days or even weeks away... there's no certainty, no paycheck, no friends to lean on when times are hard. Times are always hard - and the mind toughens in kind. Nobody lives the same way when they've got nothing.
Cassandra moves so quickly that Alfred takes an astonished step back, hands raised in the air as she slips out from under them and ends up back in her chair faster than any normal human being can blink. One hand grips the edge of her stacked plate, and the other is on the tabletop, conveniently over the hilt of a knife. It's not a particularly threatening knife-- it's barely even got a proper edge, but her posture, her demeanour? Most people would shrink back in terror just at the hardness of her gaze. So much for being a harmless waif.
The moment is gone almost as soon as it begins, her fingers pushing against the rim of the plate as she sinks back in her chair with a soft, calming sigh. The other hand lifts from its very domestic weapon and grabs for the treat she was halfway through devouring, the rest of the plate's contents offered across to Tim. Her eyes have already softened considerably when she gives him a shy, encouraging nod and the tiniest little smile.
That's a big deal for her, too.
Alfred is completely unperturbed by the whole thing, already over by the window looking out, smiling his own mysterious smile. He didn't need to intervene and he knew it-- really, for all the Masters and the Misses he bandies about, is there any doubt as to who actually keeps control around here?
Obviously the one who keeps order around here is The Penguin.
He is the real secret boss of all. Not Darkseid, not Lex. The Penguin.
Tim keeps from reacting by simply still being half asleep, but when he does, Cassandra is already offering up some of her food. Tim shrugs, grabs a sandwich and puts it on his own plate after grabbing a banana. Wait, when did he grab that?
Maybe to defend herself against her butter knife.
"I'm Tim by the way, nice to meet you." He is also reminded that he should probably head home to check in with mom and dad.
"Mmn." It's Bruce's contribution to the situation, or maybe his 'good midday'. Waking up before noon seldom agrees with the billionaire-turned-vigilante. For some reason. He's dressed in a long, navy blue robe, worn mostly tied over black pajama pants. He moves to the counter and pours coffee that Alfred brewed seemingly randomly about twenty minutes beforehand. Wayne is about as engaging as Miss Cassandra, this morning.
"Master Bruce." Alfred greets simply, partly giving away the younger man's near silent arrival. "You're looking positively chipper this morning." Alfred gets /such/ a look. He doesn't even inquire about what his 'kids' are up to, directly. Maybe he doesn't care; maybe he's keenly enough aware even half-asleep.
A banana. It's the closest Cassandra has ever come to actually laughing, her lips quirking a little higher and mouth opening enough to at least express what the gesture might be like, if she did. It doesn't help that he then introduces himself all over again - technically, that's the third time. Any other girl would giggle. This one sits back, raising a sardonic eyebrow over her sandwich as she lifts it and takes a bite.
She's a bit more careful not to dribble sauce and egg down her face this time. Manners.
Just as well she can't talk, because she doesn't yet know about not doing it with your mouth full.
What might turn into a long, long silence - testing the limits of what anybody might find comfortable - is then at least delayed by the apparition of the Dark Knight, in a form his enemies would likely crow to find him in. If they had the first idea that this is what he's like in the mornings... but it's just one more thing he and the raven-haired urchin have in common. Cassie looks pleased enough to see him, if still rather shy about everything under the sun, lifting a hand to wave before she finishes off the last of her sandwich.
And then she suddenly excuses herself with another Chinese-style bow, nipping off down the hall as though it were Christmas morning and someone just yelled 'presents!' Not that she knows what /those/ are either. It's the thought that counts. She comes wandering back in a couple of minutes later, a rolled piece of paper held behind her and a thoughtful gaze settling on Bruce, wherever he might be when she returns.
Tim continues to eat the sandwich, noticing the atmosphere was a lot lighter, that's good. He's pretty dangerous with that banana.
Tim gives no F-s when he eats the sandwich, it is going to be a messy experience for him, until he realizes Bruce finally came down. Swallowing, and then taking another bite, he waves to the master of the house. "Hpfi Brufe" he says with a full mouth, which earns him a stare from Alfred. That 'no eating with your mouth full' look that only the English Butler can perform. Swallowing, he takes another sip of coffee.
"Uh...so we might have a thing we need to talk about..."
Picking an orange out from a second fruit basket near Tim's deadly bananas, Bruce walks to the table and drops himself heavily into an empty chair, wiping sleep from his eyes and sipping at the hot coffee. Ice blue eyes alert despite the late night(s) look to Tim, then follow Cassandra out of the room, a slight smile lingering on his face for both. "What happened?" It's more concerned than forboding, though there's always an intensity to such questions.
Wayne studies Tim carefully, taking what clues he can from his protege's own body language and expressions. "Something in Metropolis?" He doesn't fully expect Cassandra to pop back up so quickly, his attention split partially to her, and the paper. "You two will have to take turns." It's way too early for information in stereo.
Cassandra seems quite content to wait, for her part, her eyes shifting from Bruce to Tim; then back again before she bobs her head in a small, accepting nod. The document is slipped from behind her as she returns to her chair, holding it still-rolled in her lap to reach for a glass of grapefruit juice with her other hand. Beneath her tangled bangs, hazel eyes rove to the Boy Wonder, quietly questioning and interested without inserting herself... at least as much as a mute girl ever could.
Tim makes a note that Cassandra speaks very little. That's kinda weird, and nothing immedately pings as 'THIS IS YOU' for her. He nods at Bruce's question, and starts going into detail.
"Got a tip from the Titans about Lexcorp transporting something highly illegal. Met up with Raven, and also ran into some new guy...uh...Kinetic was his name. They were transporting it by train."
"Well, when we were taking down Lex's hired guns, one of them shot the seal on the case...whatever was in there..."
Tim looks rather haunted by this. He's still new, or rather, not as tested as the other Bat-clan. "It was some sort of...nano-tech. It jumped on her before she fell out of the train and into the water. Raven went after her to try and find her..." Tim trails off.
"I dug through what I could in the train, and from the mercs. They confirmed it was nano-tech, but not much more then that. It was also highly dangerous and that Lexcorp was paying them /lots/."
"Not enough to get soldiers who know how to check their fire under stress around hazardous cargo." Bruce notes drily, though really... it's entirely possible no one even knew it was a hazard, when Lex's people are involved. "Who was taken? One of the mercenaries, or.. ?" Important detail, as far as the Detective can see. "There'll be immediate fallout, moves to destroy any evidence of the devices, to neutralize the employees that may know too much." Luthor doesn't make a habit out of trusting many people, after all.
Bruce considers it for a few lingering moments as he diligently and cleanly peels his orange, "Get Barbara, check all the LexCorp data miners for relevant activity. Get eyes on every scientist Luthor employs with the right specialties." This will either take more sets of eyes, or something besides eyes. It's a good chance Wayne knows this. "Find out who hired the mercenaries, and who cut their check." Yes, it's a laundry list.
Present company included, there are maybe half a dozen people in Gotham who would recognize Cassandra with any sense of certainty; and not all of those know her name. Anybody with that knowledge outside of the city limits is probably best avoided, without substantial backup or detailed foresight as to their precise location and status. The Dark Knight can give his apprentice some better idea of that later, no doubt.
At least they're sharing bewilderment in this conversation. The girl in the baggy t-shirt sips slowly on her bitter juice as Tim-- Robin, unfolds his tale, doing her best to be clear on the details. She can understand English up to the point of seeming competence- but she's had no education outside of martial arts and murder, so keeping up with the terms so freely bandied about here is like attempting to read and comprehend the laws of thermo-dynamics. When you can't even read. His body language tells her what she needs to know, though.
Danger. Lots of danger.
Bruce is all business, of course, but so is Miss Cain. What she's actually thinking about, though, is how good the Boy Wonder might be in a fight; a musing which qualifies as gainful employment when you're a living weapon sat at a kitchen table supping on breakfast. The last part may be a little irrelevant. Her gaze flickers away from Tim briefly, taking in the plain-clothes Batman as he delivers his orders. Inbetween all the generically unfamiliar terms, a name stands out and is filed away for future reference. She's not had the full lowdown yet herself; there's a lot to cover, and most of it so far has been related to gadgets and palmstrikes.
Batman knows his target audience.
"One of the Mercs, she seemed to be leading the group." Tim says. He stiffles a yawn as Bruce talks, and nods a few times.
"I already got the name of the PMC, and the Titans are looking into who did the financial work." Tim quips.
"I got footage of the cameras on the train, nothing important though..." Tim says. "I don't think Lex would be so stupid as to try and put it on us...but he'll probably try and quash it." Tim muses. "I already got the miners on Lex's stuff...but I'll get with Barbara on the scientists. I think that maybe the League should work on trying to find her? We don't know if she's...contageous."
There's a sudden exhalation from Cassandra, who barely avoids choking on a mouthful of juice.
Her dark brows lift as she stares across the table, suddenly on edge again.
Bruce nods, eating a wedge of orange as he listens to Tim. "Good." Gotham's Knight acknowledges, frowning slightly despite the apparent satisfaction. Which doesn't last long, for its part, either. "Working on trying to find an unknown woman who was lost even to an immediate search is part of the point. We need information on the devices, more information on the woman's identity. From there, we have a starting point that isn't a waste of time. ... assuming she doesn't turn up -first-." One more reason to hurry, right?
"If it is some sort of nanite contagion, we need to know as much as we can about the project -before- it spreads. Whether we can intercept the carrier or not." Simple math. If a bit disturbing. Wayne looks to Cassandra as she near-chokes, "What is it?" Both his own dark brows rise in query.
TIM INTERUPT! Tim looks startled and stares at Cassandra. "You alright?"
It's not quite horror that enraptures the raven-haired girl, but it's something awfully close. Her gaze remains at least partly on Tim as she twists in her chair to also take in his mentor; and for a moment she says nothing, trying to muster the resolve and the ability to actually say what she's thinking. Completely tense, utterly still as she tries to push the words out with every pore of her being, she's again forced to abandon ship... instead shaking her head and setting down her glass - far enough along the table that she can lean out across it and /slap/ her piece of paper down between them.
It's only loosely rolled despite being somewhat crumpled, and comes open easily to reveal the apparent concern. The Boy Wonder may not instantly recognize it, but she's fairly sure that Batman should; though the revelation causes her to quiver momentarily as she sits back down, folding one arm across her midsection as the other waves at the piece of paper. She can't put voice to it; but Tim used the word 'League'.
It's a cruel coincidence and a complete misunderstanding, but there's the problem with not communicating.
Renegade interrupt, indeed.
Tim looks over Bruce's shoulder.
"What is that?" he says, not even being the slightest bit stealthy about it. Sitting back down, he takes a long drink of the Coffee, which is starting to work through him. He's a lot more alert now, and gives Cassandra another glance...she IS acting weird. Maybe she lives underground. Nah...
Tim looks purplexed.
Bruce's eyes narrow on the sigil. It takes him back.
~~ "You're a fool, you can't take on assassins, go after the deadliest men in the world, if you won't even finish the job." "Murder doesn't finish anything. Blood begets blood. If you want to build something better, you have to -be- better." "Blood is how the world works. Men have been killing each other over everything from lust to god since they first discovered the killing potential of bone and rock." "/Exactly/ my point." The disapproving mentor, one of the world's foremost assassins, just shook his head. He went back to teaching Bruce about the power of the ambush, the truisms of marksmanship, the arts needed to conceal the body language of a man ready... even eager... to kill. The arts to read someone doing just that. ~~
"David Cain." Bruce intones, as if it made it all as clear as day. For him, maybe it does. It's a start, at least. "One of the League of Assassins' foremost killers. One of the world's most uncompromising sociopaths. You got this at the attack the other night?" Wayne inquires, half rhetorically, of Cassandra. "If Cain's involved, we'll need to tread carefully." Possible someone just wants to imply it, given the fear inspired in those in the know. Bruce doesn't even mention that possibility, though; better the both of them, all three of them, assume one of the world's deadliest assassins is in Gotham. Better all of them watch their backs.
"No..." Tim states, "The League of Assassin's wasn't involved. I meant that the Justice League should try and find the Infected woman." The confused Robin says. Maybe it's because it's still before noon. Tim knew of the League of Assassins...but he hasn't met David Cain.
"The question is...why does she know the mark of someone in the League of Assassins?" Tim asks, looking towards Cassandra with a insightful, but not accusing stare.
It doesn't take Cassie back so far, of course, but... That mark means everything to her. It represents all she is, and all that she's running from.
The idea that perhaps she hasn't gotten away? It's like having the monster from under your bed suddenly step out from behind your curtains one night, appearing when and where least expected. She's not shaking any more, but only because she's internally repeating a wordless mantra, focusing herself on maintaining composure-- at least what she can salvage after so impulsively presenting her piece of gathered evidence. She had half a mind to keep it to herself; until that misunderstanding reminded her, she's not the only one at stake.
Bruce's conclusion draws a nod, the gesture slow and hesitant, Cassandra's lips parting then curling into a twisted pout as she chews down upon her bottom lip. Hazel eyes darken to a near black as she turns inward, glances downward, lifting the hand not hugging her midriff to glance over her calloused palms, tilting it about to examine her knuckles as she makes a fist, the muscles in her forearm bunching with the motion. When she looks up, it's with a long, cool sigh, her gaze finding Tim as he reveals her mistake. That's embarassing, or it should be-- either she doesn't fully understand him, or the weight of what she's about to do...
Is too much to focus on anything else.
Her hand drifts outward, and she looks to Bruce as she taps the sigil at its very centre. Two times, hard and deliberate, the table actually scooting a little beneath her touch. It's not intentional, by any means-- but it shows Robin what Batman already knows, and he should already suspect. More than meets the eye. More than /either/ of them know, until now. Lifting her hand once more, she makes a second fist and jerks it back toward her, stopping a foot short of her chin before raising her thumb. She doesn't need to say it. 'Him' - 'Me'.
Her mouth is a grim line, eyes wide and drifting with a thousand painful emotions she won't show.
There's a very good reason she was happy to wait. She'd have waited another ten years, if she could.
"Because they trained her." Bruce's calm, frank admission is one of a realization long processed. He already knew it, has known it for awhile now, but should Tim really be surprised? Still, the deceptive lack of raw emotion does little to disguise the fervor of Cassandra's explanation, does carry a few surprises for the Dark Knight. "Because... he trained her." Wayne concludes, a little bit alarmed as the piece clicks into place. More for the girl, than for the implications. Blue eyes narrow, intent on Cassandra's face.
It's as if he sees her for the first time; not with renewed distrust, but renewed curiousity. Every line, every nuance of structure and skin, committed to comparison against a distant memory, in a formidable mind. Wayne grunts lightly, considering to himself, rather than aloud to either of the others. "Odd for him to have sent in amateurs, if it is Cain." Bruce settles on deductive reasoning of a different sort, as if it were what he was thinking about already. "Maybe seeking to draw out and identify resistance and resources. Maybe just distracting from his real goals here. Maybe just someone dropping his name to frighten this Gibraldi. We need to have more words with that man, and his men." Wayne is apparently satisfied that the assassins themselves know one step shy of jack all, at the moment.
Tim nods after a moment, he looks sad. A lot more makes sense...a lot more Tim processes with his brain.
Then sudden realization...
Then a weiry look. Followed by a less weiry look. Then Tim looks very thoughtful again...
"The last guy from the Society I met could talk...talked alot." Tim thought outloud. He took a look at her trying to understand her better.
He makes a series of odd looks at her, attempting to look friendly, but have an aggressive sitting posture, before changing it up, always polorizing what his face and his posture looked like.
Cassandra doesn't break eye contact with the Dark Knight, but she does blink twice in rapid succession - an odd break in her otherwise air of deadly if barely-held calm. It's not the first time she's been uncertain if Bruce Wayne may know more than he's letting on, so she absorbs his careful examination without haste or panic, lowering her pointing hand to settle that arm across her body with the other. Beneath the table, her knees draw up, easing close to her lap as the inner child demands some foetal comfort. That was the best she could do; if he doesn't understand now, maybe he will soon...
Her gaze finds the Mark of Cain again, staring long and distant as painfully-exact memories flash through her mind. Each and every scar on her body could well bear the same shape as that stylized wolf's head. How many times was she cut, shot, or otherwise subjected to his brutality? Bruce knows, she thinks, and then she looks up once more with a sudden frown. No. He /knows/. The League employ many among their number, but only a few approach the level occupied by two of the people sat breaking their fast in Wayne Manor.
His technique. His immediate comprehension of hers. She'd already /been/ found. By perhaps the only person in that mess who might not subject her to... herself.
Cassie isn't sure whether she wants to hug him or run away rather than try and deal with the emotional onslaught that brings. It was one thing knowing of his connections to the League, but nothing could be more personal than this; David Cain's a hateful man, but the way he teaches... there's nothing held back. Did Bruce Wayne go through the same thing? Were they so close? Anybody more entitled might feel jealous at that. She's somewhere between mortified and grateful. Thankfully, a third option presents itself.
Hazel eyes shift to Tim, the girl unwinding her arms from her waist, hands resting on her palms as she leans forward gently. Squinting, she focuses on Tim's shifting expressions, head tipping to one side halfway through. She waits and she waits, quite patient and unerringly observant, until he tries a smile. In that moment, she doesn't even seem to actually /move/; she just goes from nudging against the table's edge to standing on the base of her chair and extended right over the surface to poke the Boy Wonder with perfect precision right between the eyebrows. She's firm without being forceful - it's gentle, but the kind of gentle that tells a person, 'I could have hit you as hard as I wanted to'. That would be worrying.
Maybe it still is, but behind her stretched-out arm Cassie is quietly smiling.
If she could speak, she'd say, 'Stop. That's the person you are.' He may be a boy genius, but Tim's not so hard to read.
It's a safe bet that Bruce didn't undergo the same harsh treatment at Cain's hands. For one thing, he was much older. For nother, not the scion that the assassin wanted to forge into the perfect weapon, the perfect legacy. To David Cain, the driven prodigy with a fortune and an attachment to secrecy was never his opus. Never meant to be, at least. Not like his daughter; not like the other children subjected to a similar regimen. Bruce's trials came largely at the hands of other taskmasters... Cain could rarely touch him. Not really; not like Cassandra.
Still, it's true that few excel to the levels of training and near-mystical skill that Cassandra and Bruce possess... one the epitome of a killer's knowledge and ignorance, the other the 'fallen' heir of Ra's al Ghul himself. "She doesn't speak... often." Bruce explains to Tim, "Not with words. I suspect they were... discouraged, during her upbringing. She's been on the streets for some time now." He's learned a lot about her, even as she shares little. Wayne says a lot about her, even as he shares little. Tim can do the math. Years on the street for a girl Cassandra's age means her prolific, near-unmatched training happened earlier. Probably much earlier. "I want you to teach her to read." Yes, he's noticed that, too. Cass will just have to move past shame quickly, it seems. One more item for Robin's laundry list. It never really clears itself, for that matter.
Tim nods even as he is being poked in the forehead.
Tim is somehow pointing a banana at her again.
How does he KEEP doing that?
However, he gets the message and keeps the smile on his face. "Teach her to read? I'll have to grab some books from school." Tim comments. Luckily Tim is very shameless, or else this might be bad. Robin looks back to Bruce for a moment, "So anything important happen here while I was in Metropolis?"
Traumatic as her life has been, Cassandra's not ashamed of everything. Her recent history is something she's content to hear told; it is what it is, bearing no particular pain or even attachment. Like an animal, she has had to survive, though her own jungle may have been urban in nature. The rest of what Bruce explains; that's true too. She makes no sign of either affirming or denying it, but the former is easily construed from the complete lack of change in her expression. Instead, she glances down at the banana, smiles wide enough to just briefly show a flash of teeth - and then sits back down. She likes him.
Which does nothing to stop the blood rushing to her face a moment later, her jaw going slack and eyes gaining a hint of panic only now as she slides her gaze to Bruce. Learn... to read? It goes against everything she's been indoctrinated with, and it's not as though she hasn't tried. After meeting Bruce Wayne for the first time, in his public persona, she managed to scrounge up a newspaper and carried it around for days looking at his picture and then trying to make out the words. It's just a mess to her. Scrambled nonsense.
Then there was the poster she used to find Mitsy. She knew there must be an address on it. But encrypting that address - even walking around holding it up against street signs in the area gave her no clue whatsoever. She shakes her head now, remembering the pain she's experienced every time this has come up. No matter what she thinks of Tim... she can't. She finds the Boy Wonder's eyes across the table and keeps shaking her head. Her eyes are beseeching him, 'please don't make me do that'.
"Clearly." Is Bruce's initial, helpful answer to Tim's question. Something's always happening in Gotham. Batman's almost always in the center of it. Just from the inhabitants of the Manor, it's clear that things have been in motion. The paper Cassandra puts so much weight behind is slid towards Tim, "For one thing Ra's may have one of his foremost assassins operating in the city, for purposes as yet undetermined." Which seems to fascinate Wayne more than scare or worry him... not that he's dismissive in the least of the very real threat.
Cassandra's earnest reluctance and focus on getting Tim to agree with her draws Bruce's attention more on the periphery, like he's aware of it without ever fully looking /at/ her. "I suspect the written word would have eminently interfered with your training and single-mindedness." He notes, pensively, studying and breaking apart the remnants of his orange more than either of his comrades, for the moment. "I don't need single mindedness, I don't need another weapon; I need... I want you to learn to think for yourself. To find out all the thoughts and stories that are out there. You're filled with knowledge, skill of a very specific and focused sort. Time to learn what it all means, to shake off the confusion and decide what you are, what you will be.. with more information than what you have now." Her self-doubt and denial is not something Wayne is buying.
"You know what your life means to David Cain. You fear what that life might still mean, with or without him. You're not the first with these doubts; look deeper, decide what this -does- mean for Cassandra. Open your eyes, embrace the fear, ride it to your core."
Tim finishes the banana, and the realization of how serious this situation is...
"Well, we ARE overdue for another run into Ra's." Tim says a bit sarcasticly. "I guess this means we need to find out why and stop him before anything goes horribly wrong." Tim surmises... He doesn't ignore Cassandra's plea.
"Think of it as a new challenge. Anyway, least you don't have to worry about school right now. Ms. Crabshank," Which is totally not her name, "Is enjoying torturing the new students with Shakespeare..." Tim says.
"Not even the good stuff either, just makin' us read it, not even really explaining the nuances."
"And besides, it's not like I am going to bother with the Future perfect progressive forms of verbs. Only school teachers are that evil."
They're harsh words, the ones the Dark Knight offers, made all the harder by his idle focus on the remains of his breakfast. Key words leap out, aligning themselves in Cassie's mind - at least by their non-verbal counterparts, images overlaying sensations - to form a picture she finds it difficult to argue against. Behind it all, there's the Mark, reflected in reality before her. It's this that drives it home; the man she wants to run from would not want her doing this. The only person who's ever truly shown care and concern for her wellbeing, to understanding the whys and wherefores of Cassandra Cain? He wants it.
He doesn't owe her a thing in this world, but he's given her a home and a place. He's given her back her name. The fact that his request is as good as an order, that doesn't bother her. She's heard worse, and - though it might be judged twisted by most - she appreciates it. It's honest. Honesty she likes. Honesty doesn't pretend that everything's okay when it isn't, like the charity workers she's run into over the years.
Nothing is ever 'okay'. Bruce Wayne understands that.
Sighing long and hard, she looks across the table to Tim. "Fear," she says suddenly, the word coming almost unbidden, enough that she blinks in surprise, "Yes." She's terrified. No point hiding it. But she's much more afraid of losing everything she's found in the past few days, she's afraid of being what her father wanted.
It's this, or running away from herself forever. Shaking her head, she slips from her chair, glancing between the two men as she starts to walk away. She doesn't stop until she's framed inside the doorway, putting out a hand as though to steady herself, turning around to face them. For all she's been through, she should be bigger - there should be something imposing about her. But in her baggy borrowed t-shirt, with her slender legs and bare feet, she couldn't look any smaller. Just a girl, in spite of it all.
Her chest rises as she inhales, holding the breath as she steels herself...
And then she releases it with a firm, decisive nod, lips twitching into the ghost of a smile.
"Yes," she says again, this time with aquiescence. Tim gets the last, surprisingly warm glance, and then she's gone. Her feet can be heard pit-pattering up the stairs a moment later, followed soon after by the quiet 'click' of her bedroom door closing. She won't be out for a while; she's got a lot to think about...
There's certainly something twisted to insisting that a teenage girl overcome her fear... more than that, that she -use- it to delve into the very facets of herself that frighten her. That she use it to push past the boundaries drilled into her over years of harsh treatment, and dehumanization. It's harsh, but yes... it's also honest. Dick would call it utterly manipulative, particularly for all that Wayne leaves /unspoken/. In the end, it's only marginally about his desires, his intentions, but it's an easy way to break through Cassandra's shell, right now. Easy because she's been conditioned to take it to heart. Bruce sighs, and deeply.
Wayne doesn't look up until every section is its own unit, laid out in a little spiral on the plate in front of him. Sometimes, the efficient path leaves him feeling a little bit scummy. It's part of what keeps him anchored, in the end. "Look what you did." He settles for criticizing Tim. Granted, the tone is anything but serious, a half-smile quirking Bruce's lips as he pops a section into his mouth, and slides the plate and its remaining contents to Drake.
As soon as Cassandra is gone, Tim looks at Bruce.
"Me?!" Tim says, looking aghast at Bruce. "I'm not the one operating the orphange." Tim retorts.
"Everyone needs something." Someone. Bruce notes more somberly, rising slowly. It counts for Tim, it counts for Cassandra. What they both seek from him is somewhat different. It's just as true for him, even if he's not going to detail all the hows and whys easily. "And there are people out there who need us. I've got to go to work." No doubt what /that/ means. Particularly with the deepened tones in which it's spoken.
"So do you." The Detective reminds his protege, glancing back from the door himself.
Tim yawns and finishes the rest of the sandwich. He looks up at the clock. "Crapcrapcrap! Better get back home!" he says, jumping up and grabbing his bag. However, the words do resound to the young man's heart, he pauses, looking towards Bruce. He nods, once, before bolting for the door. His dad was going to kill him.