The Dark Knight Rises: Weapon of the Shadows

Chapter Ten

Cassandra leaned her weight back and stretched her legs out. She pulled her body even with the chains, tucked her legs, and enjoyed the momentum of the swing. Children on the other set dared each other to jump off the seat at higher points. The motion soothed her like meditating. She didn't need to show off. Besides, she could flip off the swing and land on her feet. The other children couldn't do that.

She looked straight ahead. Her retreat gave her the perfect vantage point. Selina lay on the blanket spread under a shade tree. Bruce's lap pillowed her head. In the weeks since they left Hong Kong, Selina and Bruce had dropped their guard with each other and her. No outsiders were trusted, even though no one had shown unreserved interest in them. That much was the same as it had been with her father. But everything else was so different.

Training stopped with bruising. Bruce showed them techniques he had adapted to not kill. He emphasized defense rather than attack, but when attacked, retaliate hard. Selina's upper body techniques needed more improving, but her kicks put Bruce on the ground. Keeping him there was a problem neither of them had solved yet.

Selina taught Cassandra other skills Father didn't, like how to fix her hair and pick a lock. They spent a whole day finding spots that allowed entry into the villa while Bruce took notes.

And no fights to give hugs. Cassandra wrapped her arms around Bruce and Selina, and they both returned the gesture. She always had to pin Father before kissing his cheek and then run away before he hit her. She hadn't tried to kiss Bruce or Selina, but she had watched them kiss each other. No fighting before or after. Their kisses made them happy.

Happy always surprised them. Bruce hid it better than Selina, but they both reacted the same way. Like now, he combed his fingers through Selina's loose hair. His muscles were slack and his attention focused on Selina's face. His slight smile widened when Selina touched his arm.

Cassandra's hair fluttered. She no longer had to circle around these two to avoid a blow. They only wanted to be happy and for Cassandra to be happy too. Father only cared how well she could hurt other people.

She shook her head. Father was gone and would never hurt Selina or Bruce. Or her, but that was harder to believe. She pulled stronger on the chains and the swing moved higher. There was something else underneath everything that she couldn't read off the adults. Cassandra thought it was about Gotham, but wasn't sure. Selina and Bruce didn't talk about how bad Gotham hurt them, so Cassandra wouldn't talk about Father. One day, they'd all stop flinching.

Selina laughed and wrapped her arms around Bruce's neck. He feigned pulling away. Selina laughed again, kissed him, rolled away, and stood up. "Cassandra, time to go."

Selina said not to show off. Cassandra launched herself out of the seat at the swing's highest point and didn't flip. Her feet landed past the stick marking the furthest leap in the contest. She ignored the impressed Italian behind her as she headed to Selina and Bruce gathering their stuff.

The lunch and meditation time at the park had come after a morning walking through a museum, so Cassandra felt no guilt about leaving Bruce and Selina to lie on her bed. She opened up the computer and played Gordon's speech for the Batman statue. Bruce had helped her save it, even though he stopped himself from moving restlessly while doing it.

"Anyone can be a hero," sad Commissioner Gordon said. Cassandra wanted to believe him and believe Batman. She wanted to do good. She turned on GCN's website. A new video was up with the Commissioner's face. She pressed play.

Gordon stood behind a flimsy metal podium. It was night-time because harsh lights sharpened the shadows. "As of eleven forty-five tonight, Gotham City Police Department took Jonathan Crane into custody. Crane, also known as the Scarecrow, escaped Blackgate Prison during the Occupation of Gotham City."

The reporters shouted. "Is it true that Nightwing captured Scarecrow?"

"The investigation into Crane's post-escape activities is ongoing and I will not add to speculation."

"Will Crane be tried on his involvement in the tribunals during the Occupation?"

"That's a question for the District Attorney. I just wanted to assure the people of Gotham that another dangerous criminal is off the streets."

The camera suddenly tilted and scanned the crowd gathered around the podium. Cassandra gasped. Outside the ring of police officers were reporters and other people, Father among them. The video ended and she replayed it. It was him: same cropped hair, same thick neck, and same crooked nose she had broken twice--once in training and once when she ran from Father's mission. Father was in Gotham City.

Her legs tightened to spring into a run as her skin goose-pimpled. Selina made a map picture of Gotham and Florence. Cassandra opened it, and rubbed her arms while looking at all the blue water between Father and her.

The League knew she left with Selina. So Father went to Gotham looking for them. But no one knew where they really were because of Bruce. Cassandra grinned as her shoulders and legs relaxed. Selina and Bruce were safe from Father.

"Cassandra, come down please," Selina called up the stairs. She headed down.

Bruce sat in an armchair in the living room, but Selina sat on the floor behind a cardboard box. "Titanium-dipped tri-weave fiber offers more protection than polyurethane-coated spandex," Bruce said.

"But it's not on the market anywhere." Selina waved Cassandra closer. "Come open it up. It's for you."

A mass of textured black fabric sat inside it. She gasped as she pulled out her very own catsuit. "Selina no forgot!"

"I didn't forget; it took longer than expected." Cassandra wrapped her arms around Selina's chest. "Go try it on." Selina said as they ended the hug.

"My dangerous girls," Bruce said behind her.

"You like us dangerous," Selina said.

Cassandra peeled off her shirt as she ran upstairs. She tossed what she had been wearing onto the bed, tugged on the catsuit, zipped it up to her throat, and looked at herself in the full-length mirror in her bathroom. She didn't want to hurt Selina but it needed something. Batman had worn his symbol across his chest.

Other than that, it fit as smoothly as the unitard did, thicker than her new gi, but no annoying bunching of fabric at her joints. She ran halfway down the stairs, and somersaulted off of them.

Bruce laughed as he tightened his arms around Selina sitting in his lap. "I think she likes it."

"You're not supposed to do that in the house," Selina said.

"Sorry? Gym?" She bounced, which was bad form, but she couldn't help it.

"Go test it out for an hour. Then you come help me with supper," Selina said.

"And don't do anything you need a spotter for," Bruce added.

"Yes." Cassandra ran through the dining room and up the tower stairs. Now she needed a mask, because heroes like Batman wore masks.

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