As far as villains go, Cass thought, the Red Hood wasn’t so bad. Yes, he killed people, and that was inexcusable, but at least he didn’t kill innocents. Plus, having once been Robin had to count for something, right?
Which is why Cass didn’t turn around and leave when she saw Jason Todd sitting in the café on the corner of 15th and Larimer right where her “blind date” was supposed to be.
The date had been Stephanie’s idea. Cass needed some “normal socialization,” according to her, and Barbara had agreed. So the three spent an afternoon taking photos of Cassandra from every angle and describing her in flattering half-truths (“How do you spend your free time?” “Fighting criminals.” “… Studying martial arts sounds better.”). It didn’t take long for people to start contacting her, which Cass quickly learned was not always a good thing. Quite a few people – mostly older men – sent her some very unsavory messages, often accompanied by unwarranted images of their supposedly impressive genitals. One man in particular, a 54-year-old named Brad, had sent a message so vile that Cass had to physically restrain Stephanie from tracking him down and smashing his face in.
Several people, though, had sent nice messages and seemed to genuinely want to get to know Cass. She got to chatting with most of them, and found that she actually enjoyed conversing with these strangers, though the textual communication was downright aggravating. More than a little bit was lost when body language and emotion couldn’t be read.
So when one of the strangers, who used the moniker ‘noprideallprejudice’ suggested meeting up in person, Cass jumped at the chance. They agreed on a time and location, and Cass spent the morning being poked and prodded by Stephanie, who’d insisted on helping her friend get ready.
“Now remember,” Steph had said, pulling half of Cass’s hair into some sort of braided bun, “just be yourself. But not too much! I mean – don’t go all ninja-assassin-badass on him, you know? Actually,” she paused and made a contemplative face in the mirror, “do be a badass. Guys dig that. But don’t, like, beat people up or anything. Unless they deserve it, of course! But be careful about it.
“Also!” Stephanie was now rifling through Cassandra’s wardrobe, searching for a top to match the skirt Cass had chosen. “Be careful about the guy! Not that I don’t think you can take care of yourself – because you can, obviously – but we don’t know him, and his profile pic is super blurry, and that can be a huge red flag. I mean, we don’t know that he’s a creep, and he does seem really sweet and all, and in all likelihood he is just a great guy, but still. Don’t let him do anything you don’t like and be prepared to run or kick his ass.” She pulled out a black tank top with a red flower design and threw it on the bed, turning to face Cass. “What was his name again? Jason? Should’ve gotten a last name, done a background check.”
Cass had chuckled lightly and picked up the shirt. “You,” she said over her shoulder as she moved towards the bathroom, “sound like Barbara.”
A background check would’ve been entirely unnecessary, Cass mused as she drew nearer to the café. They already knew everything there was to know about Jason Todd. Every terrible deed he’d done, all the horrors of his past – it was all laid out neatly in a file that Cass couldn’t read in Oracle’s systems. The good things weren’t lost either, just recorded differently. They were present in the stories Barbara told of her Batgirl days, in the memorial case that stood in the batcave, in the way Alfred’s eyes still crinkled fondly at any mention of Jason. Cassandra knew that Jason loved Neapolitan ice cream, and that he was the reason that the chandelier in the foyer of Wayne manor was missing a light.
There had always been a disconnect between Jason Todd, the child from Bruce and Barbara’s memories, and Red Hood, the ruthless killer. Cass had seen photos and footage of Jason, and thought she would recognize him when she inevitably met Red Hood.
She was wrong.
Batgirl and Red Hood had faced off exactly once, little over a month ago. If Cassandra hadn’t known that the Hood would be wearing a leather jacket and a red helmet, she wouldn’t have known him to be Jason. Gone was the child who stood beside Barbara in the old framed photograph on her desk, whose hair was being ruffled affectionately by Dick, who had drawn life from helping people, who stood straight, loose, and proud, whose energy and compassion were strong enough to be captured and immortalized by a polaroid. Red hood stood tense, exuding a carefully constructed aura of false confidence born of anger and righteousness. Tiredness was written into every line of his posture, and he seemed closer to death than any living person Cass had ever seen.
Red Hood clearly wasn’t Robin, and Cassandra almost didn’t see why Batman still wanted to save him.
But Jason Todd sat alone at a table in a crowded café, wearing the green polo shirt noprideallprejudice said he would, running his thumb nervously over the brim of his drink. His posture was tense, weariness apparent, but the anger and righteousness were muted, almost absent. Cass could even see a trace of the compassion, if not the energy, that had marked Jason before his death.
He looked up as Cass approached and smiled nervously. “You’re Cassandra, right?” he asked, and Cass marveled at how much softer his voice was outside of the helmet.
“Only if … you’re Jason.” Somebody had said that on some tv show, and it seemed appropriate. It made Jason laugh, at least, and a small amount of tension left his shoulders.
“Great!” He leaned back, grin widening into something almost cocky, and gestured for Cass to sit down.
They spend nearly two hours in the café, talking about everything and nothing. Jason spoke animatedly and passionately with Cass about every topic from classical literature to current celebrity gossip to their favorite kinds of cupcake. Not once did either of them mention or ask about their pasts or family. Cass realized this was so Jason did not have to lie to her, but she didn’t mind.
He hadn’t recognized her as Batgirl. He didn't know they were siblings.
That was okay, Cass decided. She’d tell him sometime; they were sure to meet again, even if Cass couldn't in good conscience call it a date. After all, as far as villains went, Red Hood wasn’t that bad. And this outing may not be the “normal socialization” that Stephanie had hoped for, but Cass was certainly enjoying it.