Cassie: Adults like to drone on about how they expect great things out of today’s youth, and how we have such bright futures ahead of us. That we should be focused on homework, and learning the lessons that they have to teach us that will prepare us to fully embrace our destinies, and move us towards piloting the world into some great, shiny tomorrow. It wasn’t a schpeal I actually ever had to listen to for most of my life, because I was ‘home’ schooled until I was sixteen, and even though I didn’t have powers and the weight of a lot of other things on my mind back then? I still wouldn’t have bought it. I mean, it’s an awful lot to put on someone who barely has come out the other side of puberty. Then you add on a ‘greater purpose/higher calling’?

No matter what grand opinion my AP Calculus teacher might have on the importance of what they’re teaching me? The only thing it’s ‘good for’ is to get me college credit. Thank someone somewhere for my History teacher, because it’s literally the only subject I can stomach so far this year. My tolerance had been thin from the moment I was enrolled (against my will) at St. Mary’s, and lately it’s grown worse. It was always hard for me to want to be there. Finally making some friends had helped, but hadn’t changed the classwork. Now I have not only my powers to keep secret, but another identity to juggle. Two lives, that aren’t exactly what I expected or wanted on either side, but here I am.

If there’s anywhere I can count on Conner to not interrupt me in the middle of something it’s…well. Nowhere. He’s a Luthor, and so in addition to his lack of respect of boundaries and limits comes everyone being totally willing to let him get away with that lack. But if there’s anywhere that it’s less likely to happen, it’s in one of the media rooms at the school’s state of the art library, where I’m pretending to study for my biology test, but in reality using the excuse to use my forbidden cell phone, that everyone blatantly and openly carts around anyway. Last year I would have gotten called on it. This year, well. Somehow this year I’m a Big Deal.

So about those schools you said I should consider…

When Tim and I had our face to holographic face talk before on the subject I’d been more or less in. I’m pretty aware of what a slim margin I skated past getting sucked into the NOWHERE situation, and why I did. On one hand, I’m grateful to Conner for that and on the other? Right now it’s a little grating that it’s because of Conner. It puts me in a kind of unique situation, though. It’s something I’d been thinking about, too. More and more this week especially. That maybe this is something that is literallyand figuratively within my power to do, and that maybe that’s all the reason that I really actually need to do it.

Tim: “Standby.

Normal friends chit-chat with one another. Especially when the subject of discussion is about school. Future, Current or Past. There’s old friends, new friends. New adventures to talk about. Old ones to relive. Casual friends are a thing of comfort. They’re there to take part in your life on the peripheral, to lend solace and spirit, but ultimately they’re ships passing in the night. Rare are those friends you meet in High School that carry on through out the intervening years in to twilight. Rarer still are those who respond with barely a double syllable response to the first time you dial their number.

“School library. Media room. Excellent choice. Place the phone down on a flat surface.”

The moment that she has done this the little ‘Cellphone’ will begin to shift. It’s parts moving, not unlike one of those devices Cassie had seen in the transformers movie that Conner took her to. Reconfiguring itself, albeit not in to a killer robot, but giving itself legs and antenna. A small cone-shape dish forming at the base to amplify signal. The phones cameras shift as well. One remains on Cassie; while the other points to an open space near by. Soon there after it begins to project the image of Timothy Drake. As if she needed more confirmation that this was no ordinary burner phone, the image of her friend is higher definition than your standard iPhone and the picture quality looks three dimensional.

“I took the liberty of upgrading your cellphone on our last meeting,” there’s a hint of charm to the tone that might not always have been there, but it only does so much to mask the fact that he’s again letting her know that he’s anything but mild-mannered Timothy Drake, flunky side-kick to a Luthor. “Yeah. No. Not that meeting, I mean the last time we met in person.”

“You look good, Cassandra. It looks good on you. Wonder Woman. Maybe not my first choice, but it’s certainly applicable.”

Whether she’s seeing a facsimile of the projection’s programming or the real Tim Drake, he’s dressed in a far different way than he was last time. It would seem that he is not that out of place in black, but the style of suit is far more three-piece than costume. He’s been busy, but clearly not as his own alter ego. While some might say that Tim Drake dresses up well, they’d be understating it. Like Conner there’s no doubt that the young man plays the part of millionaire’s son well. Though it’s a stark contrast to Conner in the way that Tim doesn’t seem comfortable in it. Not the same way he did the night in her mother’s office. He wears the burden of ‘Wayne’ far heavier than he does that of Robin.

“As to your question,” as Tim moves there’s a subtle whirring of the cellphone, so that it might track with him and keep the projection fluid, allowing him to draw closer and spread his hands along the media room’s nearest wall. “It depends. Are you feeling up for some sun or is your mood a little more…green?”

Cassie:  “Uh huh, sure.”

Most people would probably say ‘hold on a minute,’ or ‘let me call you right back,’ but let’s be honest here. Neither of us is most people, and we both know that about the other, one of us just had the advantage of knowing it a whole lot earlier than the other. Still. That seems a little bit formal and beam me up, than I was expecting to hear.

“Seemed like the least likely time and place to tempt Conner into coming and checking out what I was doing. I mean. It might but…oh. Okay.”

Not that the thought actually prepared me for something a whole lot more sci-fi movie than I was actually ready for. Nor does it stop me from thinking that clearly <i>everyone</i> knows more about what’s going on in my life, and where I am, than I feel like I do sometimes. Being good with a computer doesn’t really prepare you for what whiz-kid-genius-Tim can do with one, however. Even when you’ve already seen some pretty impressive things that he’s managed. So I go along, not even being a smart ass and sliding it under the table, just settling my phone on the surface in front of me. And then very nearly smashing it with an incredibly quick movement of my fist. It startles me enough to begin the motion, and my brain kicks in quickly enough for me to stop it again. Good thing my thoughts seem to keep up with my enhanced reflexes.

“What the …?!”

I may have stopped from crushing the little techy marvel, doesn’t stop me from leaning back in my seat away from it with a wary, if interested, look. Nor do I stop myself from leaning in once again, and jabbing a finger at the projection, like I was going to actually poke him in the arm. I don’t even let Conner upgrade my phone, but then I guess Tim didn’t ask, and I didn’t even know he’d done it. The last time we met?

“You weren’t even actually… yeah.”

There. For the last meeting. It had taken me almost the whole time to realize that it hadn’t been him, or at least not in person, but I’d been off guard from the get go. Expecting my Mom, then getting Red Robin and while I’d already put two and two together that they were on and the same? I’d been pretty damn shocked to have him confirm it himself. Wrinkling my nose, I flick at a piece of fuzz on the hem of my blue plaid skirt. I’m not sure that I’d say anyone looks good in a school uniform, except that I see Conner in his everyday, and before he’d left Metropolis I’d seen Tim in one enough times. He looks <i>better</i> in a suit, though I’d say he’s about as happy to be wearing it as I am to have on this wannabe Catholic Schoolgirl getup. The tip of my tongue peeks out the size of my mouth in a grimace when he calls me by my full name.

“Ugh. Don’t. Only my Mom calls me that, and only when it’s going to be followed by something I don’t want to hear. And. Thanks? I mean. You look great, too. I’m not interrupting anything am I?”

If I was he probably would have called me back, and he’s not in his <i>real</i> uniform. I guess it’s daylight out there, too. Getting more comfortable in my seat again, I prop my elbow up on the table. Casual posture because I don’t need to be anything else, and so that if there’s any x-ray laser snooping going on, I’ll just look bored. The next wrinkling of my nose would certainly go along with that, but really it’s at the title.

“You think so? I feel like maybe I could have come up with something better if I’d had more than three seconds to prepare. I was kind of trying to riff off the whole… Super thing. Plus, who doesn’t love a good alliteration, amiright?”

Maybe something based in Mythology? Except knowing what I do about my own heritage, and how very real a lot of those figures were, and are? I wouldn’t want to be stealing someone else’s name and using it for my own. I guess that’s what Conner’s doing, but that seems more like stepping into a mantle than just deciding…hey. I like your name, Titania! How about I use it, you don’t mind right? My eyes dart to the camera, and it’s new parts and features as it makes a sound, but then my attention is back on Tim.

“Um. Usually those go hand in hand. Photosynthesis. So I guess this is an either or kind of thing? Sunny I suppose.”

Tim: There is rarely a time you can avoiding tempting Conner in to elicit behavior. He needs almost zero tempting or provocation. It’s a state of being for him. Easier to accept than now and work around it than try to work against it.”

In so many words Tim has explained to Cassie the entire summation of his friendship with the young Super. Accepting the guy as he is, allows one to work with his short comings and curb them to your own designs. Which is equally great for his friends and certainly Cassie, but it’s precisely what makes him a dangerous creature. Luthor had how long, exactly, to be an impression upon him. Curbing those behaviors in to what exactly? Does anyone know? Tim has an inkling, but it’s only that. An inkling. Cassie perhaps knows the most, but there’s little doubt in Tim’s mind that her feelings cloud judgment where that young man is concerned. At least she’s got the guy’s eye. It keeps his interest squarely away from Luthor’s for the time being, but it is anyone’s guess as to how long the President would accept such a thing. He at least believes Cassie to be harmless, for the most part. Or at worst, he thinks she’s the one under Conner’s thumb. Which works. For everyone involved.

While Tim is working through those thoughts, Cassie seems to be working through some of her own. She’s clearly piecing together what has been said, drawing the conclusion that Tim had not lied when he said before that he’d kept her under observation for a long time. If he’d replaced her phone the last time they’d met, in person, then he means the time before he’d left Gotham. Which says quite a bit about his own protective nature. While also giving a clue in to just how secretive he’s willing to be to achieve the result he’s after. What’s more is that he makes no effort to treat her like some child that needs platitudes and excuses. She was told before that he had been spying on her out of a desire to protect, he now has faith that she’ll make the necessary leaps in logic to understand why he do as he does.

“When I call you that it isn’t for the same reasons, it’s a beautiful name. Worthy of a Goddess. When I say it, you know I’m speaking to you as someone that I respect. Cassie is your mask, Wonder Woman is you aspire to be. Cassandra, is who you are. All three are something to take a measure of pride in.”

Those spread hands shift once more. It takes little effort to see that Tim is sporting something on his forearms that functions a lot like she’s seeing her phone behave. Wrist mounted gauntlets, that connect him to the supercomputer beneath his clothing. Used to dial in to her phone and direct it in to projecting even more holographic imagery. She might even start to recognize the scenery as those images take shape. Mind you, she can’t touch the images herself, not even the one of Tim, but anyone looking in to the media room would see Cassie being tutored perhaps. Someone using X-Ray vision wouldn’t see anything, as the photons making up the imagery wouldn’t be visible to that level of vision.

“Sunny. Well, pack a bikini then. Honestly, I should have known fate would bend you in this direction. Your first stop should be Fawcett City. Very little remarkable about it, honestly. Except that it was the Home to another … Titan. Of a sort. Batman’s records of subject of Shazam are spotty, at best. Which isn’t something I would normally attribute to Batman about anything. It would seem that Fawcett City was the lucky recipient of a blessing from the Gods. Several of them actually. I’ll transfer what I know to your phone, but the short story is … well… short and the long story isn’t much better.”

“Your contact for the ‘Tour of this particular school’ is going to be a young man. Fred Freeman. Heir apparent to the powers of the Gods. Wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, the power of you Zeus, courage of Achilles, topped off with the speed of Mercury. That’s the good news. The bad news? Well, there’s something about a Trial needing to be passed before his abilities stabilize. Which means that if you don’t make contact with this one sooner than later, if he sneezes wrong.. you’ll be in direct opposition to your boyfriend’s mandate.”

Softening from ‘lecture’ mode Tim’s features slowly become that of a bit concerned for what he’s just said, “Are you sure you don’t want to start with something a little… easier?”

Cassie: “Boy. Don’t I know it.”

What starts as a heavy exhale as I flop against the back support of my chair, turns into a pause, and then a rapid coloring of my cheeks as I realize exactly what I’ve said, and what the connotations might have been in saying them… Tim’s words were innocent enough, and could have meant normal bad behavior. Which Conner certainly is down for getting involved in at most times. Something you can really blame his psi-jacked upbringing for, because it led him to treat so much of everything like there’s no real consequences for anything he might do. There really isn’t. He’s got the powers of Superman, and the power of being a Luthor. There’s really no one that can touch him. But with the tech of my phone, knowing that Tim spent a long time spying on me, I realize he’s probably very, very aware that the other kinds of illicit behavior go on.

There’s a soft, uncomfortable clearing of my throat before I let that subject go, and focus on what he’s actually saying rather than my thoughts.

“Well. Can’t really argue that one. I mean. Goddess. Present. Or demi at least. Uh. Thanks, Tim. I mean it. Also are you aware of how smooth you are, or is this just accidental charming?”

It’s a little funny, I suppose. I know lots of guys (well, relatively for my age and experience, and the fact that I attend an all girl’s school anyway), but those two are the ones I know best. My boyfriend, and his best friend, and they’ve got a lot of things in common. They’ve got a number of incredibly stark different qualities and quirks, but they’re loaded. Good looking. Athletic, attend the same school have incredibly influential families. And they’re both very smooth, though in oddly entirely different ways. Conner would have gone through that speech and left me with the impression that I ought to know how great he was. Tim’s managed to fluff my ego, while deflating any irritation I might have had at his using my full given name.

“In September? I’m pretty sure there’s still one in a bag from my little college road trip tour this summer. Legit colleges, I mean but… yeah, you know that never mind.”

It’d be really easy to think that he’s making this up, or that he’s mistaken. Or maybe even pulling my leg. Listening to a guy that’s so brilliant with facts, and technology talk about Gods and legends. Except I’m a literal daughter of Zeus, and Tim was actually who Conner had introduced me to when I was having a little bit of a problem with someone intruding in my dreams that wasn’t welcome. For some information at least, even though he wasn’t the end solution. So I find myself leaning forward again, chin in hands as I listen in obvious rapt attention. Mouth only pursing in something of a grim expression because he’s right. Conner protected me from NOWHERE because he liked me. He’s not going to be under any such compunction for someone he doesn’t know, or that could be a threat to him. We talked about leading the next generation of heroes at that press conference, but while I love the guy… I also know the guy. So I’m left simply nodding in agreement and understanding.

“So, ASAP. I got it. I can do that.”

There as a lot of playful grimaces, and looks during this brief conversation (and any number of other times we’ve teased before now) , but this time I actually bristle in irritation and indignation.

Why? Why’d you even give me the choice if you really think I can’t…”

As quickly as I’d blushed a minute ago, my expression pales and I pull myself up short as a hand claps over my mouth to physically end the little tirade before I can really get going.

“…I’m so sorry. I’m. I didn’t sleep really well last night I guess. Or maybe I need a snickers. I can do this, Tim.”

Tim: Boy, doesn’t she know it. Where there is normally a schooled look of dispassionate intellect, is now a smooth grin that threatens to become a rueful smirk at any moment. Banter is not something that he’s a stranger too, but it’s not something he does when he’s actually trying to ‘tutor’ someone on a matter of importance. There’s rarely a missed opportunity for flirting though and right now the threat of giving in to it, is pretty high. Enough so that it’s only because Cassie finally clears her throat that I let her off with a single slow, but appreciative whistle. ‘Damn, don’t you know it, girl.’

As fun as it might be, to be the one actually teasing her for once? Tim is quick to let her off the hot seat, when she follows it up with something akin to a genuine compliment. “Philanthropist, Playboy, adoptive father as my role-model. While you were taking classes at the foot of a master in history? I was learning the seven deadly arts of charming the pants off of debutantes. Quite literally, if I’m being honest. Bruce had a way of getting what he wanted, no matter what, no matter who he was wanting it from.”

“But. For once, I wasn’t being suave. You never give yourself the credit you deserve. I’ve seen you tame a superman. Navigate uncharted waters with your parentage. Not to mention the way you’ve stood up to those nightmares from a literal God you overcame. Some people might toot your horn, Cassandra, out of some desire to stand near you. It’s how the Gods became Gods in the first place, if the stories are true. Which is why you’re having such a hard time at school this year. You’re discovering another facet of your power-set. As your confidence and competence rises, so too will your spirit. People will feel a need to cater to you. They’ll bend to your will, give in to your wants, lavish praise upon you. Everything is going to be easy, too easy.”

“It’s your first trial. Much like this young man ‘Freddy,’ your life is going to be a trial for a time. Each new power you discover if going to test some part of you. Your ‘Presence’ as a Goddess, will be a trial. To see how you handle it, to see how you deal with it. Only if you pass that trial, will you unlock the next ‘gift’.”

Which is exactly why Tim had said this might not be the best target for her to approach. Given her recent college road trip, he’d naturally assumed she would want to take a little different approach. Leading her with a choice, that he would hypothesize on her taking the natural selection. But, Cassie is not one to follow the statistical standard of life. She’s anything but predictable most of the time. It’s not just part of her charm, it’s what keeps her from being crushed beneath the chaos of the life she lives.

Does he explain any of that? No. Because Cassie is all too quickly apologizing for the snappish response. There is something to be said for self-awareness, but Cassie doesn’t get to close the door on it that simply. Tim’s face shows a different sort of look to it. One Cassie hasn’t seen before. She’s under a different type of scrutiny than he’d normally brandish with her.

“Don’t. Don’t apologize. You do that too much. When I offered you the choice, I wanted to see where your mind was. Your boyfriend likes to watch you at Cheerleading practice. He’s scoping you out, because that’s the tantalizing part to him. On the other hand, I happen to like seeing how your mind works Cassandra.”

“Which is to say, you’re right. I shouldn’t offer you a choice, if I don’t think you have an equal chance to complete both tasks. I not only think you can, I believe you can. I believe in you or we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But, it hadn’t occurred to me just how close to home this assignment might be for you. I’d been to focused on… other hurdles you’d encounter on this one.”

There’s a certainty that if Tim were actually there, in the room with her, that he’d have approached. Maybe even offered some sort of consoling touch. As it is, he’s unable to do that any more than she was able to poke him moments earlier. His photonic self is a necessity for avoiding her boyfriend, but in yielding to that necessity it denies him the opportunity to be the friend he wishes to be at times like these. Leaving him to cant his head, to show his concerns in a more visual way. Luckily for them both, Tim is also quick to realize when he’s playing his hand too openly. Sending him back to business, with a clearing of the throat similar to her own just moments before.

“This is where things get ‘tricky’ for you. I wish I was there, but… business in Gotham is taking a protracted turn.”

Cassie: At least I have that going for me. The fact that usually only I can embarrass myself, and most of the time I can deal with other people doing it. It wasn’t always the case, I’ve just gotten a lot better at reacting to, and dealing with, the sort of situations my boyfriend might try to wrangle me into in order to get a reaction. In a way, I kind of miss that time because things were weirdly simple then. In comparison, I mean. I was just learning my powers and how to use them, and dealing with attention from my Superboy but that was really all my worries. Now I’ve got to convince a whole lot more of the world that not only do I know what I’m doing with my life, but that I know what I’m doing with their lives. As much as I don’t like NOWHERE, or what it does, I guess I can marginally say a silent thank you to them that most of the bad deeds of people like me are handled or dissuaded so I don’t have to take on more than I’m really ready for right now.

“It makes me miss my eating lunch solo in the corner days, sometimes. That’s just not how life’s going to be for me, and at least I’m usually perceptive enough to pick up on the difference between friends and the people that just want some of… I don’t know. The glow. I think it just feels like this isn’t my life right now because it’s so new, still.”

And from what I’ve learned, or pieced together so far? I’m probably going to have a very, very long time to have that balance flip on me. Where the sixteen years I spent as a ‘normal’ girl are going to have been a heartbeat. I don’t ever know if that’s encouraging or sad to consider, and I’m definitely not going to dwell on it right now in front of him. Instead I fix on the task, and the way I’d reacted to what I intuited as him doubting me. Maybe he’s right, I do apologize for a lot of things, things that aren’t even my fault. Things that aren’t even Conner’s fault sometimes, too. But it still leaves me feeling really out of sorts. I spent a pretty good chunk of my first year at St. Mary’s being bullied mercilously and I managed to hold my tongue, and temper despite knowing I could crush any one of them if I wanted to.

I just flew off the handle at one of my best friends, over something I may have taken the wrong way. That’s not like me. I’ve just started to get so… frustrated with feeling like nothing is in my control, or of my choosing, so to have him question a choice I did get to make had just triggered something kind of ugly. So I drop my hand from my face, and hold it up palm out to stave him off interrupting me.

“I mean. You’re right. I do. But I was also raised with some manners, and I am sorry for not responding a bit better than that. Maybe it being hard will be good, and I know we wouldn’t be. Other hurdles?”

But I have to kind of wonder… if he didn’t have me to believe in and trust on this then who does he actually have? Conner? Obviously not or we wouldn’t have been having to meet up secretively like this, and have conversations that he’s intentionally excluded from. I need to not think like that. Tim came to me on this, tipped off his secret to me, because he knows I’m the one that’s going to do be able to do this.

“I won’t lie and say I don’t kind of wish the same. Not just for me. I’m pretty sure he misses you. I’m guessing you don’t need me to tell you that he doesn’t exactly have what I’d call a lot of real friends. Or that he wouldn’t understand at all why you don’t want that bull in your china shop.”

He’s not the only one looking like maybe there was some ability for contact, because I wish I had some means other than the verbal to comfort him. It’s a lot easier to do that kind of thing, I think, just with a well meaning hand on the shoulder than to go in-depth into what someone’s going through emotionally or situationally. Also a bit less awkward. My mouth’s pulled to the side a little as I cock my head in a kind of mirror of his own body language.

“No progress, or just not enough to satisfy?”

The guy just lost his Dad, and mentor in more than just one aspect of his life and now he’s probably trying to figure out what to do, as well as sort out what happened. And worrying about me, and all these other metas. Frankly, even if I didn’t already want to do this for their sake, and because I dislike NOWHERE so much? I’d do it for Tim.

Tim: “No. It doesn’t.”

There it is. One of those moments when someone contradicts Cassie about something they shouldn’t have any right to do so about. Except, normally it happens from people who think they’re better than she is. At some facet of life or another. In this instance, it is a guy who just confessed to being a little awe-inspired by the majesty of what she is. Or what she will one day be. Tim isn’t the sort to take an attitude with her, nor with most anyone else, unless they’re a criminal. He’s a little more apt to sarcasm, than serious rebuke normally. But this? This he takes a stance with.

“You think you miss those times. Almost. Except, I knew you then. Probably better than you anyone else, including Conner. You didn’t enjoy those lunches alone. You were miserable then, just a different sort of misery. Now instead of ‘Why am I here,’ in reference to St. Mary’s, it’s ‘Why am I here,’ about this new life you’ve been thrust in to. If you really, really think about it? We’re both just experiencing the same woes we had a couple years ago, on a different level. Except when we were having them the first time, we’d never had them before so we lacked the perspective on how good we had it at the time.”

“You’re going to have a long, very long, life Cassandra. In ten years time, you’ll be telling me about how you miss these problems. Because you’re completely tired of all this Goddess attention and worship, you get from mere mortals. Or you’ll have discovered how difficult it is to train in Olympus, where they don’t even sell brassier much less wear them.” For but a moment he pause, considering what he’s just said then finally smirking for some reason, before continuing on. “I’ll be telling you about some new case that is confounding me. Some new girl that I’m having trouble getting to notice me.”

“Don’t forget. Conner is only four or five years old, in ten years you’ll be going through puberty with him. Talk about a new level of problems to commiserate over, you’re going to need an Olympic shrink.”

Whether it’s a surprise to hear that she misses him, that Conner does as well, or not is actually masked by the previous comments. There was a chance of Conner going off the rails while Tim was in Gotham, but some things were simply too important. He’d known the moment news of Bruce’s death came, that he had to trust Cassie. He already believed she could manage the super clone, but now he had to trust her to actually do it. He’d done so and so far she hadn’t let him down. What Cassie doesn’t know, of course, is that Tim had actually his doubts. Not in her ability, but in her whims. Would she be able to stand up to the whims of a Luthor, such as her boyfriend, or would she crumple and give in to his every desire?

It was that gamble which lead to the original offer. To the trust he displayed in sharing his secret. She’d passed a test that neither of them exactly knew she was taking. Leading them to this point, right here. Where he was so quick to dispute whether he believed she could do something or not. Tim believes in her. In no small part because of her ability to overcome his so-called Best Friend. It leaves him with more than a little guilt. He knows what test she’ll have to face in seeking out this Freeman fellow.

“There’s been very little progress at all, much less any that manages to be satisfying. Everyone is blaming everyone else. From the good guys to the bad guys. There’s little proof, pointing to anyone definitively. About the only person I’ve pulled off the suspect list is the one person who’s most likely to have done it. But the Joker has shown himself to be consumed by finding the culprit. More so than any of the rest of us.”

“So the only progress I’ve made of late, is rescuing a co-worker a mind-controlling jerk and trying to be a good influence on someone that reminds me of you. She’s a good kid, I want to save her from this life especially because of what I’ve seen you going through. But she’s defiant. Willful. Sarcastic. And blonde. If she was half as pretty as you are, I’d be in trouble. Luckily, I’m mildly positive you’re at the top of the gene pool in that regard.”

As quickly as that, Tim subtly shifts the subject away from his own pain. The loss of his ‘Father,’ is a subject that lingers like an open wound. Having no closure only means bitterness about it. Which is not a side of himself that he’s willing to put on display here. Not now, not when there’s every chance he’d both need and accept a hug from this particular woman. At a time when it’s actually not even possible. Instead he shifts the topic to something more comfortable. Then lightly settles it back where they came from originally. Suave.

“Listen. We’re getting pretty far abroad from the topic of Fred Freeman. There’s one thing you need to know before you go on this mission. According to Bruce’s files, the reason that this kid is being put through the trials of the Gods? Is because his predecessor ran afoul of your boyfriend’s employers.”

Cassie: “Okay. I’m not going to say you’re probably right because you are right. But it’s easy to be wistful for a time when your ‘why me?!’ pity party was a party of one, when you’re still psyching yourself up in order to be mentally up to the task of that pity party meaning a lot of people’s lives. Knowing I’m a total badass doesn’t necessarily mean I’m completely cool yet with putting that into action. But I guess that just means I’ve got a conscience that I’m worried about it at all.”

It’s not that I’m insecure because really, I’m not. I never have been. Confused maybe, but I’ve never doubted whose opinion’s were important, and what voices did or didn’t matter. Like he said, it’s on a much larger scale now however. Knowing there’s other people counting on you. Maybe a lot of other people. I’ve never really needed to feel needed. Maybe these other metas don’t even know they do need me, and what help I can give. Heck, maybe they won’t want it either but that isn’t really going to change anything. Tim asked me, after the news debut, if I’d meant it. I may not have been the one that actually said ‘it,’ but soon as Conner had said the words at the press conference? They were basically my new paradigm. I’m just…having a little bit of growing pains with fitting into it.

“Maybe there’ll be bigger, badder Goddesses around by then and I can pass the peasants off to them. And…how do you know they don’t wear bras? Wait. Some new girl? Is there one you’re having that problem with right now? Should I come over and slap some sense into her?”

All I can do at the suddenly very vivid mental image of my boyfriend going through puberty, if he’s not already gone through it and this is just his ‘child’ state? Goodness gracious.. I don’t think I can survive the mood swings. Then there’s the physical development and… I pull another face, though this grimace is a much better humored one, as I can’t help laughing a little. The lightening of this particular mood was probably a good thing, and welcome in the moment at least before we’re back to something a little more serious. We may be a pair of teenagers with the weight of a whole lot of big problems on our shoulders…but we are still just teenagers.

“The Joker? Is… there any chance that maybe he did do it and doesn’t remember? Or is he like. Not the multiple crazies in one head kind of crazy?”

I’m not as up on my knowledge of Gotham’s creeps as maybe I should be, given who my friend is, but he’s also made it abundantly clear that I, and Conner as well, should stay the heck out. While my approach wouldn’t quite be as scorched Earth as ‘Superman’s’ would be… I can understand wanting to solve your own problems. And this particular one is surely something a whole lot more personal than any other crime he might end up fighting.

“Yeesh. Well, it sounds like you’re finding some things to keep you busy anyway. And I am a Goddess, so I wouldn’t hold that against her. It’s not very fair. If she’s like me, though, you telling her she shouldn’t be doing something isn’t really going to work. Not if she thinks she needs to or it’s right.”

I know how I respond to that kind of thing. As our conversation bounces between serious, painful, light and teasing, it eventually is cycling back to why I had actually called in the first place. The ‘mission.’ This Freddy guy. And when I’m being told ‘there’s one thing I should know,’ given all the other information I’ve gotten so far? I pay attention. Maybe even a little more sharply when I hear what it actually is. Blue eyes narrow in suspicion that’s not directed at the image of the boy in front of me, but at the who he’s referring to.

“And. That means there’s every reason to suspect they’re aware of this guy, or if they aren’t that they pretty soon will be. And I know how they handle powerful people they’re aware of.”

Ran afoul. I don’t need that spelled out for me. There’s a lot of things it could mean, but maybe it’s Tim’s situation with his deceased father being such a fresh topic that leads my thoughts to one place. That they probably killed him. If that’s not reason enough for me to feel the need to do this? Nothing is going to be.

Tim: Tim likes being right. The smug look is very telling of how much he likes being told about being right. Most especially by this particular person. See the way those dimples plunge that much further in to the set of his jaw over being told not once, but twice in one setting that he’s right. This is a very good thing for a young man’s ego, at a time when he might just need it most. Try as he might to change the subject, she was still right about the weight of Bruce’s death and the constant source of frustration that comes with it not being a solved case yet.

“As amusing as it might be to see you slap yourself, I’m not that sort of masochist, Cassie.” At this there’s an even deeper level of pleased, smugness to the look than before. As well as two holographic hands demonstrating his intangible state. “But, I’m obviously not going to stop you if you’re determined…”

Without being there in person it’s slightly more difficult to see if Cassie is putting together the pieces of the puzzle as they’re being laid out before her. The truth is though, Tim is confident that she’s getting the jist of it. All flirting aside, all floating of ego aside, Cassie Sandsmark is intelligent. She was smart before all of this ‘super’ stuff started to impact her life. If there is one thing that Tim respects even more than super-powers? It’s intelligence. Batman proved that a mind driven by the charisma and necessity can overcome any super power. Cassie’s got them both. Smarts and Powers. She tends to favor one over the other, thankfully enough.

“It’s my understanding that Bruce was only a few steps ahead of them. He’s been gone for weeks now. So to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how much, if any, of a head start you’ve got on this. Which leads back to why I was apologizing before about giving you this case. I had only been thinking of your similar situations were with Freeman,I hadn’t really even considered how this one is going to impact your situation with Conner. I feel like I should I apologize again, but I don’t want you to think it’s you I’ve got doubts about.”

“As for the Joker, if you knew him, I think you’d agree with me that anything is possible. But forgetting that he managed to kill Batman? Is extremely unlikely. If anything, I think he might be mourning the loss even more than we are. Than I am. It’s like he’s lost a part of himself. The two of them were connected. Two sides of a very warped coin. The Joker was every bit the Chaos, that Batman was the Order. I think Joker, and maybe Bruce, were not really even aware of how they might exist without the other. Batman would have handled it. Order would prevail. The Joker? I think the Chaos is going to consume him and if he doesn’t get closure, it might consume the rest of Gotham too.”

“Which… is why I haven’t really got a choice. I can’t leave. I’ve got to protect this city. Even if it meant losing Mister Freeman, he’s one man versus an entire City of souls. Lucky for me, there’s someone I know can handle it, huh?” There’s a small smile to that. Everything that has been said; from the Joker to the Chaos and the threat to Gotham, has left Tim drained of much of the humor he’d been feeling only moments ago. In it’s wake though, comes pragmatic awareness and an idea. “Actually. If you need a distraction for Conner, I’ve just gotten an idea. Better you not know the details, for plausible deniability, but… let’s just say I know someone. Who’s very distracting and can take care of their self.”

Cassie: “Slap myself? Why would I… Oh. No. I’m good. Thanks.”

That smug look on his face pulls me up just as short on that line of questioning, as the pieces clicking into place in my mind does. And once again, the pink tip of my tongue makes an appearance as I stick it out at him. I’m very aware of a lot of the things that I am, and what I am to a lot of people. That just isn’t a frame of reference that I ever have for myself, however. I didn’t quite catch on with Conner at first either, and he was a whole lot less subtle about spelling it out for me. Part of me is really inclined to argue with him, but that won’t end well for me. The fact that he’s smirking is a pretty clear indicator that I kind of followed exactly where he was attempting to lead me with those words. And insisting that I do notice him is kind of moot, just like reminding him that I have a boyfriend. Which he is very aware of. So the juvenile expression is what I settle for.

“If it goes anything like it did for me, and I think I got more leeway than most..” At least most on my power level. If someone’s metahuman ability is to give teeny papercuts with supreme concentration I’m not sure that they’d bother. “Then the first time there’s any real display of power there’s a chance for some knocking at the door. So I need to get out there before that happens.”

I don’t know if Conner’d been watching, and just happened to pick when I had flown myself up to that rooftop for a shake and fries in privacy and peace to interrupt me, or if it was the act of flying itself. It doesn’t really matter to me at this point enough to have ever asked him about it. There’d been lots of little things up till then to get attention, but nothing so blatant as that.

“I’ll handle Conner. It’s okay. His morals might be a little…iffy, but I’m pretty sure he wants this for me. After that really, super public setup he really can’t fault me for pursing it, either. He just doesn’t need to know you were pointing out the targets right now.”

Do I like keeping things from him? No, not really. Especially since a lot of the control I do have over my Superboy comes from the fact that I’m upfront and honest about what I’m doing, and how I feel about what he’s doing. I’ve got to be the moral compass for both of us sometimes, either because he can’t or won’t differentiate between what he wants and what he should do. But Tim wouldn’t have asked me not to if it wasn’t important, and I wouldn’t still be doing it if I didn’t agree.

“I guess anyone can get so used to their life being one thing that they have a hard time knowing what to do with it when it’s not. I’d say they’re in good hands if it were just you, but I know it’s not. Still. I’ll say it again. Not that I think I need to but… if you need our help… that’s kind of what we’re trying to build towards out here. Folks that can and will help.”

It’s a hell of a choice to have to make, even knowing that tens of thousands of people are going to always have to outweigh one. No matter who that one is. And it’s really, really crappy that he needed to possibly make it just the same. It’s also really unfair.

“Hey, that’s what friends are for, right? Especially ones with ancient Gods as parents. Well. Parent. My mom’s kind of a force to be reckoned with too, though.”

Tilting my head at his image once again, my expression grows curious as he potentially presents a solution to the only immediate problem I was really concerned with. I can’t take Conner with me. Not only would NOWHERE likely get suspicious, but then he’d be on scene to act in…maybe not the way I want this thing to go, because he’s supposed to thanks to the marching orders of those awful acronyms.

“…who can take care of themselves when we’re talking about Conner? I’d ask who but… yeah. No details. And that’d be great.”

Tim: For the second time in the same conversation Tim is left looking at Cassie in that strange, ‘Are you really that blind?’ sort of way. Eyebrows up. Lips thinned. Head canted to the left, akin to the way a dog looks when not understanding a command. The little froof of his hair dangling just such a way as to frame his face in almost cute curiosity. Leaving nothing said about the slap, nor about the way people react to life-changing events. There’s just muted silence, consideration of whether she really is that blind. Then…

“Okay. This is the second time we’ve gotten together and both times you’ve totally missed the obvious. Have you ever read the actual stories of the Greek Gods. I’m talking about the actual History, not Wikipedia or a Google Search.” Both hands immediately rising to stem the tide of another Cassie verbal lashing, staving them off with an unoffensive motion of putting his hands out plaintiff. “You father was part trout, if even half of the tales are true. Spawning more off-spring than even a king fish.”

“But he only ever got ‘romantic’ with a handful of mortals. Each of which was either special before he touched their lives or were special afterwards. I don’t mean the special Olympics, nor do I mean really great in their field of work. I mean special. One of Kind type of people. To put it in the vernacular of more modern day religion? They achieved near saint-like levels of special. Now don’t take this the wrong way, but either your Mom is the most unremarkable mortal that your Dad has ever gotten ‘romantic’ with.”

“Or you’re still not asking her the right questions. Because, I’d be willing to wager a large sum of money that ‘Force to be reckoned with,’ does not quite cover it. There’s more to her story and take it from me, Cass, you only have so long to get that story from your parents before they’re gone.”

That last question though? Is definitely the right sort of question. Once more there’s a shift in the conversation. From the stark serious disbelief in Tim over Cassie continuing to refuse to really question her mother, to the almost cat-who-ate-the-canary look when she puts that rhetorical question out there. Who can take care of themselves when you’re talking about Conner? Not many people, truthfully. Maybe not even Tim. But if there’s one person who can do the job and live to talk about it? He’s got an idea. Two years spent as the guy’s ‘side-kick’ were spent studying more than the books after all.

“You are definitely right about that. From everything I can see, he definitely wants this for you. Normally I would question his motives, but they’re fairly obvious this time. He wants you safe from the very thing he works for. There isn’t really any other way for him to achieve that, unless you can either join them or achieve some manner of immunity from them. He’s got Alien Brains enough to know you won’t join them willingly. Being coerced or brainwashed is going to change the person you are. So he’s left with the only thing that holo-upbringing really taught him. Manipulate the System, to achieve the result he wants. The trouble with this is that we’re not living in a predetermined virtual reality here. In that virtual reality whenever he caused a systemic destruction, someone pushed the reset button. We don’t have one of those out here.”

“For now, let’s just focus on the things we can control in this moment. For you that’s a visit to Fawcett City. For me, that’s a visit with leggy loud mouth meta, who’s going to give your superboy a reason not to be watching you for the next day or two.” On his side of the projection, Tim reaches for the transceiver phone on his end, only to hesitate just before touching it. “Cass, you do look good. I’m not even flirting for once. I wouldn’t have deduced that you hadn’t been sleeping as a reason for snapping at me. You look good, more confident and comfortable than I’ve ever seen you.”

“If you start having the dreams again,” you know the dreams Tim shouldn’t even know she was having once upon a time. “Let me know. I know a guy.”

Cassie: He doesn’t need to speak his skepticism. I can pretty much read it loud and clear from his posture and facial expression alone. It makes me not feel even a little bad for my exaggerated sigh, or the way that I roll blue eyes at him.

“Uuuh, yeah. I have. I knew them better growing up than I knew freakin’ Disney Princesses. I also know that there hasn’t exactly been a lot of well. Me’s that have been talked about in the even close to recent history, and I have a feeling there would have been at least a little blurb about something crazy happening. Which means that not only did he not screw around with a whole lot of mortals, but it’d been a long freakin’ time since someone even tempted him so. Yeah. I thought my Mom was the most amazing thing before I woke up with Godpowers. And I mean. You’ve met her right? It’s pretty clear where I got my looks from.”

Maybe I’m not asking the right questions. The truth is I haven’t asked a whole lot of them period because I don’t know where to start. Where I should stop once I do. She kept the truth of my father from me for my whole life, and even once I had powers only talked about it when I confronted her. Maybe everything else going on has taught me that there’s probably a reason that’s got nothing to do with embarrassment or shame, and a lot more to do with protecting me and maybe some self-preservation. It kind of feels like a box I shouldn’t open until I have to. At the same time though, Tim’s right. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe it’s something to do with why she’s pushing me away.

“You know. You badgering me about smoothing things with my Mom is one thing. The fact that Conner’s said it, too? Makes me want to say you’re both in on it. Because the other option is that it’s really that obvious. And I’ve already told you that you’re right more than the weekly quota today.”

I’m back to teasing now, because I know he’s right. And Conner, too. I’ve just been busy, and I really don’t entirely know the questions to ask. Maybe this little job of mine will prove enlightening in more than one way and area of my life. Or I’ll just have to start with what I’ve got, and ask her to tell me the bedtime story of Cassandra and Helena Sandsmark.

“I think the whole Superman thing was my fault. Or at least him embracing it on his own. I’ve been trying to get him to do good things with all those powers of his. And I’d definitely rather he did it on his own, because he thought I wanted to do some Caped Crusading than because his Dad has talked him into it. He just needs some help.”

Not physically that’s for sure. But that’s not what he gets that’s positive out of a relationship with either Tim or I. Yeah, I’m muscle, and Tim’s brains, but we both seem to have picked up on the subtle way you have to guide Conner, his powers, and his ego. I don’t think that’s something NOWHERE really has a chance of mastering in the way it needs to be done, and that gives us the edge that we probably sorely need. Leggy loud mouthed meta? It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a confidence in my relationship issue or I might be a little bit concerned with where that meeting might go. But Tim said she could handle Conner, whomever she is, and anything that happens from there…well. I’m going to be in Fawcett City with a job to do, and I’ll just have to not worry about the things I can’t control. Though I don’t like it.

“Thanks, Tim. Back at ya. I’m not even flirting either. And I will.”

He knows a guy. I hadn’t told him about those nightmares, and this isn’t at all the same thing. These dreams have been pretty. Um. Great. Sometimes the waking up from them has been the crappy part. I wonder if Conner talked to him about it, or if he just eavesdropped on a conversation that was had about them. I pretty quickly decide the latter’s more likely. I’ll keep the offer in mind either way though.

“My phone’s not going to self-destruct in five seconds or anything…is it?”

Tim: “Oh. No. I wouldn’t dream of destroying a quarter million dollar piece of Wayne Tech so haphazardly.” This too brings a wide-smirk to the face. Cassie’s used to Wealth in the form of Conner’s toys, but she’s always refused his expensive gifts. Now though she has no idea how long she’s had something of that value in her possession. Doing god knows what with it. Goddess, such as it were. “It’s much more likely to grow sentience and try to take over the world, if you leave it unattended or feed it after midnight.”

“Y’know, the truth is, Con might do a half-way decent job at being Superman. But, I’m not sure he’s ever going to do it for the right reasons. For every ounce of the Superman that was altruist, Conner got an ounce of greed from his other gene donor. I mean that literally. Our Pinnochio is always going to need a Jiminy Cricket, Cass. So it’s a good thing one of us is immortal.”

This is not just a good way to sign off the ‘Call,’ it’s also sage advice to her. Without commenting any further about how Tim plans to distract the super boy she calls her’s. That is a topic best left unspoken. Not just because of any sort of jealousy she might feel. The truth is what he had said at first. Best that she has a true sense of plausible deniability. Because it keeps her clean. Keeps Cassie from needing to tell a lie. Though there’s little doubt she could do it, convincingly enough to have the boy eating out of the palm of her hand? Sometimes there’s a principle to the thing. She holds sway over one of the most powerful metas still on the planet. Best not to endanger that sway by having her break the guy’s trust.

Leaving Timothy Drake with the need for another discussion. This one? Thankfully needs a lot less build up. Given that the person who needs drafted in to all of this was no more than five feet away during this entire ‘Phone Call.’ Sometimes secrecy is a necessity. Other times it happens to be a hurdle to jump over. Dinah Lance can normally keep a secret and right now she’s in a position where keeping them from her only enhances her curiosity. Which is why Tim made no effort to hide the entire call from her when she stomped out of her bedroom in the middle of it. No doubt wanting something for the headache that accompanies the handover she’s been nursing since Noon. At first caught by the interest in whom Tim was talking to, then lured in by the holographic display cast across her living room. Hard to believe the conversation itself was probably only the third reason she lingered.

It isn’t really even eavesdropping when the person you’re spying on knows you’re there the entire time. “Don’t worry, Dinah. This will be fun. Mostly. Except for the tears. But those will be mostly his. And you did say you wanted an excuse to try on that suit I made you.”

This is going to be a long night. Not the sort that revolves around good dreams, but the type that is a nightmarish twist of explaining to the second hottest blonde in your life, that she’s going to pick a fight with a nearly-psychotic, definitely sociopathic, Superman.