Steph’s last memory of Cass was the airport, the night after her best friend had left her in the rain, holding a Batgirl costume.
“Don’t come looking for me, Steph—it’s for your own good.”
Steph had been Batgirl for over a year before Cass returned to Gotham, a long, painfully silent year. Sure, Steph had Wendy and Babs, and made plenty of friends and gone to college and made up with Tim and sort-of started mentoring Nell, but her best friend had been gone. No emails, no phone calls, nothing. Steph hadn’t even known where Cass had gone.
Steph had called Cass’s old cell phone number time after time, listening to the voice mail tone before spilling her guts out about whatever had happened that day, just hoping that Cass would listen and understand just how much Steph missed her. But the messages filled up, and so Steph stopped. Her emails bounced back, telling her that ccain@wayne_industries.net was no longer functional, and so was email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steph swallowed her tears and kept going, not mentioning it to anybody.
But Cass was back, and Steph had to stop herself from running to the Manor when she heard the news.
Instead, she called Wayne Manor, bouncing on her toes, praying that Cass would be willing to talk to her, that she could apologize for whatever it was that she’d done wrong and made Cass not want to talk to her.
“Hello?” Alfred’s perfectly polished voice said.
“Hey Alfred! It’s Steph. Uh, is Cass there?” Steph bit her lip.
“Yes indeed, Ms. Brown.” There was a long, agonizing pause, but then…
“Cass!” Steph felt her face light up, a smile spreading across her face.
“Steph?” Cass said, and it felt so good to hear Cass’s voice again. Steph knew she didn’t have too long though—Cass hated talking over the phone.
“Cass, hey!” Steph felt ridiculous. “I haven’t seen you in forever! How are you?”
“Good, uh, you?”
“I’m good, hey, I know you hate talking on the phone, want to go to that diner on Sixth? The one that makes those chocolate milkshakes you like?”
“… Yes,” Cass said, softly, and Steph felt her heart speed up. “When?”
“Five? Five sound good?” Five gave them enough time before patrol started. And maybe, if Steph was lucky, Cass would want to patrol with her.
“Sure,” Cass replied. “See you.” She hung up, and Steph tried hard not to feel as if she had failed a test of some sort.
The meeting goes… well, it goes. Steph talked. A lot . Because she was nervous, because this was her best friend who had been completely ignoring her for the past year and who Steph had missed .
Cass didn’t say much, but Steph didn’t really expect otherwise. But the silences that stretched out whenever Steph stopped talking were uncomfortable now, even tense, when before they had been friendly and warm.
She swallowed the urge to ask if Cass was angry about her for something, if she’d done something wrong. Steph ate her burger slowly, watching Cass slurp down her milkshake.
“Do you want to patrol?” Steph asked, after insistingly paying the check, despite the fact that Steph is a broke college student and Cass is the daughter of a billionaire with an allowance that could probably pay for Steph’s college and then some.
“Can’t. Taking Damian out,” Cass said shortly, and Steph tried to stomp down on the disappointment rising in her chest.
She watched Cass walk away, and tried not to think about how good Cass looked in her black leather jacket and tight fitting jeans.
That old crush was better dormant. Cass didn’t seem to even want to be friends with her anymore, Cass would probably avoid her at all costs if she realized Steph was attracted to her.
Clearly, just trying to pick up where they left off wasn’t the best idea. They’d both changed, in ways Steph couldn’t quite figure out, there was new baggage for both of them, and, well, they’d grown up. They should probably try to work it out like grown-ups…
Except that would require Steph to ‘fess up to feeling abandoned, and that wasn’t about to happen.
The best option, Steph decided, was to just… try to start over. Recreate the beginning.
Hopefully, she could avoid the broken jaw and most of the bruises this time around.
If not, it was for a good cause.
Breaking into Cass’s apartment was just as easy as it used to be. The technology had gotten better, but so was she.
Cass was beating up training dummies, and Steph grinned at the old nostalgia.
“Want to spar?” She yelled down, leaning against the balcony to watch Cass. Cass was still fantastic to watch—perfect control and grace, lithe and muscular and beautiful as she tore apart the training dummies.
Cass looked up at her, surprise flickering across her face.
Cass grinned slowly, and Steph felt her heart speed up slightly.
“You’ll lose,” she warned, and oh Steph had missed this.
“So?” She replied, launching herself down, landing lightly on her feet. She grinned at Cass impishly, and shed her jacket and scarf. “What, you scared?”
“Of you?” Cass shot back, eyes dancing.
Steph stuck her tongue out. “I’m the goddamn Batgirl, you oughta be!”
She’d made a mistake—something flickered in Cass’s face, shutting down the cheerful expression that had been building.
She swallowed, and made the first move—normally a mistake when dealing with Cass, but Steph needed to get rid of that blank, emotionless expression that was starting to build. She lunged, throwing a right hook.
Cass dodged it easily, and returned with a nerve strike that Steph ducked under. And just like that, Steph was moved to the defensive, dodging punches and kicks, jumping to avoid roundhouses and managing a few glancing blows every now and then. Cass was pure motion—she doesn’t stand still for a second, constantly battering Steph with a barrage of moves, reminding Steph once and for all just how helplessly outclassed everybody was by Cassandra Cain.
Cass grabbed Steph’s arm and twisted it behind her head, and Steph yelped in pain and stomped on Cass’s foot—a cheap tactic, but instinctual, and one that might work if Cass had been anyone to actually notice pain, but since this was Cass, it wasn’t even noticed. Cass then flipped Steph to the ground, and pinned her there, pinning Steph’s arms above her head.
“I win,” Cass said, grinning widely, and Steph just stared up at her, and realized just how close their faces were.
“Of course,” Steph sighed, and Cass released her, and Steph got to her feet quickly, hoping that any blush she might have was hidden by the flush of combat exertion.
“You got better,” Cass said, watching her closely, her nearly black eyes following Steph’s every movement closely.
“Yeah, uh, I’ve been training. With Dinah and Babs. It helps.” Steph fiddled with the ends of her hair.
“Batgirl… being Batgirl helped?” Cass’s voice sounded odd—small, even. Upset? Steph looked up, but Cass’s expression was something that Steph hadn’t seen before.
“Yeah,” she said, smiling tentatively. “It really did. It—it helped a lot. Thank you.”
“For giving me it,” Steph said, shoving her hands into her pockets so she wouldn’t split her split-ends any further. Mom would give her hell if she did that again. “It… I know it meant a lot to you.”
Cass’s expression didn’t change. Steph wondered if she’d said something wrong again.
“Ice cream?” Cass finally asked, after a long, long pause.
Steph felt relieved, and grinned brightly.
“I’d love some.”
“I’m fucked ,” Steph groaned into the pillow.
“What happened?” Renee asked, patting Steph on the shoulder. Helena and Babs looked on, amused.
“Cass,” Steph said emphatically, voice muffled slightly by the pillow. “Cass happened.”
“What about Cass?” Renee said sympathetically.
“Everything,” Steph grumbled.
“Ah, young love,” Helena said, sounding like she was trying not to laugh. Steph raised her head slightly to glare at the Italian woman, who was smirking and eating an apple.
“She’s still mad at me—I don’t even know what it’s about,” Steph complained. “But she gets weird whenever we’re in costume and she still won’t patrol with me, and she won’t tell me why.”
“Well, of course she’d be weird about the costume,” Helena said, raising an eyebrow. “Bruce made her give it to you—it couldn’t have been an easy transition for her.”
Steph froze. “What?”
Babs was frozen as well, glaring at Helena with narrowed eyes. “What?”
“You guys didn’t know?” Helena said, blinking. “That was Bruce’s message to Cass—he was to give Steph Batgirl.”
There was a sinking feeling in Steph’s stomach. “She didn’t… she didn’t say anything.” She looked at Babs, desperately, who shook her head at her. “I didn’t know!”
“How dare he,” Babs growled. “He had no right—”
“Calm down, both of you!” Renee’s voice was clear and loud, cutting through Steph’s panic and Babs’s rage. “Yes, that was wrong. You can’t change it. But you should talk to Cass about it. And also, probably you’re gigantic raging crush on her.”
“Steph’s gigantic raging crush on who?” Jason Todd poked his head in, a curious expression on his face.
“Cass,” Helena the traitor said, grinning unrepentantly, as if she wasn’t just telling one of Cass’s brothers. What if Jason told Bruce? Worse, what if he told Damian? Steph would never be able to show her face in Gotham again, she’d have to fall into a vat of nuclear waste and get superpowers and run off to find a different city and she’d have to come up with a whole new motif and color scheme, and it would be awful.
“Oooh,” Jason said, nodding solemnly. “Poor girl.”
“Shut up Todd,” Steph groaned, pressing her face into the pillow again.
“Not likely,” Jason said, pulling up a chair. “This is juicy.”
“Leave her alone Jason,” Renee said, levelling a glare at him. “Or I’ll call Donna.”
“That’s just cheating!” Jason protested, pressing a hand against his chest. “Low blow, Montoya! Low blow!”
“Wait, you and Donna?” Helena said, leaning forward. “Oh, do tell.”
“No, don’t tell,” Babs said. “I do not want to hear this.”
“Spoilsport,” Helena sulked.
“Thank you Babs,” Jason said, grinning. “Now, of course, the main question becomes… how do we set up my baby sister and the charming Miss Batgirl here?”
“Oh my God stop existing already.” Steph screamed into the pillow, refusing to look up.
“Isn’t Cass older than you?” Helena asked curiously.
“Not relevant. The point is, this is going to take some effort.”
“Go away Jason,” Steph said, closing her eyes and praying for oblivion.
“Like I’ll be stopped that easily.” But Jason was getting to his feet. If Steph hadn’t been hiding in the very nice paisley cushion, she would have seen the conspiring smirks and meaningful gazes of everyone present.
Operation: Matchmaker had just been initiated.
Operation No. 1: The Blind Double Date
“Why did I agree to do this with you?” Steph asked, shifting uncomfortably in her high heels. The dress she was wearing was much nicer than the disaster she had worn last time she and Tim Drake had been forced to dress up, but the fact remained that Steph wasn’t much for dressing up.
“Because Tam said her friend needed a date, and you’ve been groaning about being single as it is, so…”
“God, let’s just get this over with,” Steph said, tugging at the hemline of her dress.
Tam Fox was already waiting for them at the table, chatting cheerfully with.
“Wait, you two know each other?” Tam said, looking at them, bewildered.
“Cass is my sister, Tam!” Tim exclaimed, looking just as confused as the other three.
“She is? I met her in my yoga class!” Tam looked around. “Gosh, I’m so sorry, I…”
“No need to apologize,” Steph said, sitting down. “It’s just… unexpected.”
“Very,” Tim muttered, sitting down as well.
Things went… fairly smoothly for a little while. They ordered food, at bread, talked about hilarious first meetings…
And then the ninjas attacked.
Things went downhill from there.
The conversation about Batgirl was… messy.
“Do you want it back?” Steph asked Cass, sitting on a rooftop with her, staring up at the moon.
“… No,” Cass said quietly. “I… grew out.”
Steph turned to look at her. “I didn’t mean… I didn’t mean to take it from you. I thought you didn’t want it.”
Cass closed her eyes, and Steph thought, for just a moment, that she’d seen something bright and wet gathering. “Bruce asked.”
“He shouldn’t have,” Steph said, drawing her knees up to her chest. “It was wrong.”
Cass didn’t say anything for a long time.
“He meant well,” Cass said eventually.
“He always does,” Steph said bitterly. “We all do.”
What else could be said after that?
Operation No. 2: Abandonment at the Movies
“I’m glad we can all do this,” Jason said, walking beside Wendy, Helena, Cass and Steph. “This movie is supposed to be great.”
“I’ve heard good things,” Cass said, smiling.
“Same,” Wendy said, although she seemed distracted, constantly checking her phone.
“Something wrong?” Steph asked, frowning.
“Babs needs my help,” Wendy said, tensing up as she read the next message. “We’ve got a hacker.”
“I’ll drive you,” Helena said. “She’ll probably want all the Birds on standby as it is.”
“Thanks,” Wendy said, and there was something wrong in Wendy’s voice, but Steph couldn’t quite figure out what it was…
The two women left quickly, leaving Steph with Jason and Cass.
They found seats and settled down, when Jason’s phone went off.
“Crud, sorry, Kory’s having a crisis, I better go help…”
“Wait you’re leaving?”
“Sorry, gotta go!” Jason smirked at Steph once before taking off, leaving the two of them in the movie theater.
They looked at each other and shrugged.
The movie, as it turned out, had a gratuitously disgusting torture scene that was still accurate enough to trigger Steph. Cass and Steph left the movie early, Steph pale as a ghost and Cass pissed.
They also had to walk back in the rain, since Helena and Jason had taken the only vehicles.
Operation: REALLY FAILED
Theoretically, of course, nobody knew that Stephanie Brown, sophomore criminology major, was Batgirl.
“You were Robin, right?” Riley, a lanky Korean boy in her Gender and Heroics 213 class (hey, it fulfilled her gender requirement for graduation, don’t judge her!) whispered as the teacher began to discuss the politics of Themyscira.
“No idea what you’re talking about,” Steph said easily, doodling Wonder Woman’s symbol as she took notes.
“And you’re Batgirl, aren’t you?”
“No comment,” Steph yawned, her traditional answer which absolutely no one ever even bothered to acknowledge. Riley, keeping up the longstanding tradition, continued.
“So if I were to, say, know about the Alchemy Club’s plans to attack the campus with gigantic fungi…”
Steph sighed. “Fungi? Really?”
Riley shrugged apologetically. “Sorry. But they are.”
“Not that I’m Batgirl or anything, but do you happen to know when and where they are planning to do that?”
Riley grinned. “Well, you can tell Batgirl that it’s going to be happening in the plaza tomorrow night at nine.”
“I’ll tell her,” Steph said blankly.
“So if you’re Batgirl, does that mean you know Superman?”
“I’m not Batgirl,” Steph said automatically, grinning slightly. Riley rolled his eyes at her and turned his attention back to the teacher, who was discussing Wonder Woman’s roles as an ambassador, diplomat and superhero.
Operation No. 3: Operation Undercover Married Couple
Cass and Steph agreed to never speak of that again.
For very bad, not sexy reasons.
Operation: REALLY FAILED, JASON WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?
Gigantic mushrooms, as it turned out, were a perfect excuse to call up Cass to help her.
“Does this happen a lot?” Cass asked, setting one particularly annoying cluster of brightly colored mushrooms on fire before they released their spores.
“What, the Alchemy Club wrecking mayhem? Not too often. The Zetas are worse.”
“They’re a frat. They really like Batman.”
“Well, only for me. They think I’m Batgirl, so they keep trying to get me to give them “private tours” of the Batcave.”
Cass laughed. “I could stop them,” she offered.
“Thanks Cass, but I sicked the Summer Society on them. They’re Wonder Woman fans. They had lassos and everything. It was beautiful.”
“Are you a member?”
“Can’t make the meetings.” Steph sighed dramatically.
Cass blew up another series of mushrooms, and Steph stared at her for a moment, enjoying how Cass looked while she was laughing at Steph’s stories.
“I am so fucked,” she muttered to herself.
“What?” Cass asked, looking up.
“I said,” Steph said, jabbing an electric probe into another mushroom, “Someone needs to stop the Alchemy Club, because this is fucked up.”
Which was very true.
The Alchemy Club wasn’t stopped, of course.
Steph didn’t mind that much—they were relatively harmless.
Operation No. 4: Jealousy
“I heard a rumor that you were supposed to be dating Conner Kent,” Steph told Cass.
“You’re dating Kara,” Cass told Steph, an amused expression on her face.
“Really? People need to tell me these things!” Steph said, raising her eyebrows.
“Superheroes are weird,” Cass said fondly.
“They gossip like a knitting circle, it’s hilarious.”
Operation: Failed (Jason stop watching soap operas and reading romance novels for your ideas)
“So, I was thinking we give Cass a makeover, put her in a really fancy dress, and make her walk down a staircase, with Steph waiting at the bottom.”
“No,” said Renee, not even looking up from her book.
“Okay, so what about getting them both to sign up for online dating, and arrange for them to go on a date through hacking?”
“No,” Babs said, working on some sort of complicated coding project.
“We lock them in a closet and don’t let them out until they make out.”
“Cass would just break down the door,” Dinah said, raising an eyebrow in amusement.
“We fake a conversation that they just happen to overhear about how much the other one cares about them—”
“You stole that one from Shakespeare Jason. We are not recreating Much Ado About Nothing,” Helena said with a stern expression.
“We could always do Romeo and Juliet instead,” Jason offered innocently.
“No,” all of them said at once.
“Let them just figure it out on their own!” Renee said. “They’re big girls. They’ll work it out.”
Operation No. 5: Jason Bypasses Subtly
“Cass likes you,” Jason said to Steph. “Like-likes you. She has a crush on you. She wants to have your babies.” He turned to Cass, who was staring at Jason in wide-eyed horror. “Steph likes you. Like-likes you. She has a crush on—”
“Oh my god shut up,” Steph said, blushing furiously, the red creeping into her hairline. “You’re the worst person ever.”
“Worst person ever,” Jason imitated, making his voice high pitched and squeaky. “Yeah, yeah, whatever, I’m just tired of you two being oblivious to the sexual tension. It was giving me a headache. Go run off into the sunset or something.”
Steph and Cass looked at each other. For a long, long time. Neither of them were willing to say anything. Neither of them wanted to be the one to ask. Or to confess.
“Fuck it,” Cass declared, and kissed Steph. Steph made a slight squeak noise, and then there was more kissing. Enthusiastic kissing. And happy noises. And Jason laughing. And then the kissing stopped. And then Jason was being punched. By both girls.
“Asshole,” Steph said, still blushing. Cass nodded emphatically, her ears red.
“Oh, c’mon! You two have been waiting to do that for months.”
“Oh… my… god,” Steph said slowly, her eyes widening. “You guys! And Tim! And Babs! Assholes!”
“Your coherency and eloquence astounds me,” Jason said, smirking.
“I’m going to kill you,” Steph declared, eyes narrowing.
“I totally just got you a girlfriend! You can’t kill me, you owe me!” Jason said, raising his hands up in the air.
Steph and Cass looked at each other. They looked at Jason. They looked at each other again. And then they started to grin.
“Better start running,” Steph told him, eyes gleaming with mischief.
“Fast,” Cass added, smirking.
“Well, shit,” Jason said.
And then he began to run.
They chased him.