Disclaimer: The characters of Kon-El and Cassandra Cain, and anyone else mentioned therein, are not mine; I'm just taking them out for a brief spin because they wouldn't shut up til I did...
Notes: This is a follow-up to SUPERBOY #85, in which this oddest of odd couples met, almost got killed, and started to bond. This is set a couple of months later. Thanks go out to SUPERBOY writer Joe Kelly, without whom this would never have been written, and whose take on Superboy's take on Gotham left me giggling helplessly, and to 'Rith, who took time to beta this for me even in the aftermath of an earthquake. Hugs, lady, and hoping the next one is decades off...
We agreed on five. It's five-thirty and she isn't here. I'd have more room to be insulted if I'd gotten here before five-twenty. Didn't mean to be late, honest, it's just there was this mad bomber and--well, the hero thing's kind of rough on dates.
Not that this is a date. Uh-uh. Just two friends out for a night together.
Friends. Now *that* is weird. At least, that's what everybody else thinks, and, okay, they sorta got a point there. A chick in a stitched batmask who takes out, like, forty bad guys for every word she says, and the coolest, cutest, and, yeah, sometimes the dumbest superpowered clone around. But, hey, so we're not the kids next door, so my mouth runs a million miles an hour and hers is stuck in neutral, so she's got the silent-creature-of-the-night thing going and I like to make a splash--doesn't mean we can't be friends.
And we are, no matter how weird it sounds. Superboy and Batgirl, team supreme. 'Cept we're off-duty today, so it's just Kon and Sandy.
Sandy, yeah, that's what I call her. I think I'm the only one, 'cause she looked surprised when I asked if it was okay. Which is pretty cool, sort of like we've got a secret. I don't really know, though--it would sound stupid to ask, and the only people I know that know her are the Dynamic Duo, and they just call her Batgirl, at least around me. I dunno what her other friends call her; I'm not even sure she's got any friends who don't wear black capes. Asked her once where she lived--her face closed up, and I got the message: "Warning, warning, Bat-secrets ahead!" Hey, hanging out with the Bird That Walks Like A Man, you get used to it. Though Sandy seems a lot less paranoid than the rest of them--it was months before Rob'd even take off his mask with *us*, and Sandy doesn't seem to care who sees her without it. Probably why she told me her name, but it's still kinda warm'n'fuzzy that she did. That was that first night, after that mess with Doc Sin; I hung around and we talked--well, I talked and she listened, and dropped in a word or two sometimes. They were cool words, though. I was still there a couple hours later--yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking, I must've been *really* hard up for someone to talk to. Which I guess I kinda was, or I wouldn't've been in the City-of-the-Grim-and-Gloomy to start, but she was good company, honest, and she's almost as much fun to tease as Rob. Anyway, around then our fearless leader himself dropped by to check in and tell me I was an idiot and did I *really* want in on Batgirl's punishment for going off half-cocked or was it just temporary insanity? I told him to get stuffed, and he just shook his head and shrugged. "Well, I tried. 'Night, Kon." Then he smirked. "Better get some sleep--you're gonna need it..." Y'know, he's got a really evil smile sometimes...
Anyway, once he was gone, Sandy opened her mouth, and I was ready to make nothing of taking Bat-detention for her--no such luck, I guess she'd already been as impressed about that one as she was gonna get. Instead she asked: "Kon?" I think I blushed a little. "Oh. Um, that's my name, kinda. Kon. Kon-El. 'S'what my friends call me." "Kon," she said again, head tipped like it was a question, and I nodded. Her face lit up with a smile--she's got this incredible smile--and she put one hand on her chest and said, "Cassandra." And we both sat there and grinned like idiots for a while.
Cassandra. It's pretty, you know? But it's kinda long, and I felt a little weird about calling her Cass or Cassie--that's Wonder Girl. So it's Sandy. She looked kinda strange when I called her that to start, but now it's, like, normal.
I think. I mean, it's kinda hard to tell sometimes, with her. The no-talking thing can be pretty frustrating, if you're trying to figure out what she's really thinking. Sometimes it just drives me nuts, and I wanna get outta there, back where people are normal and talk about the weather and get my jokes and don't act like every little thing is life or death. I think I make her nuts sometimes, too; sometimes she'll look at me like I just stepped off another planet, and she can make me feel like an idiot in nothing flat, which is a pretty good trick when I can't even see her face half the time. She can be kinda... intimidating sometimes. Not in the scary Bat way--although she's got that going, oh yeah. She never bothers to make a production out of it--no looming, no posing, no smiles that say "I'm gonna break every bone in your body if you don't give up right *now*." She just gets right in there and whups ass, and she doesn't stop until--well, she pretty much doesn't stop. She doesn't need to work at being scary, she just *is*.
Not to me, though. Well, not *much*. True, most of the girls I've hung out with weren't exactly death on wheels, except maybe to your ego if they didn't like you. Even Cassie and Cissie don't have this... edge. They can be dangerous if they want, but she... *is* danger.
Jeez. Melodrama much? Maybe hanging around Gotham gets you into Bat-habits. And it's stupid, and it's not true. It makes her sound like a thing, and she's not. She's a kid with some hot martial arts skills and a past that sucks eggs. So she's the nastiest fighter I've hung out with since Knockout, so what? I couldn't trust Knockout far as I could throw her--actually, I could throw her a lot farther. I trust Sandy--all the way.
Which is stupid, maybe, 'cause I've known her, what, a couple months? Just the occasional night here and there, her and me and a bad guy... or two... or twenty... But I do. Maybe it's the quiet thing--so I tell her a secret, not like she's gonna blab it all over town. Maybe it's something else, I dunno. I just... I can talk to her. Stupid stuff, important stuff, bad jokes, the latest way my life's been blowing up around me--and she listens, and she doesn't tell me to shut up. Well... okay, not *much*.
And sometimes, she'll talk back...
I was telling her about me, about Cadmus and being a clone and Superman and Hawaii and Tana... And when I was done, she was quiet for a minute, then she started talking in this jerky voice about her past. Most words I've ever heard out of her at once. And it just... you know, I've always kinda wanted parents. But even being a clone with no family is better than *that*. I just wish her dad was still around so I could punch his face in.
I haven't told Superman about her. I mean, it's not like I've been avoiding it, exactly--I don't see him all that often, and I don't tell him everything I've got going when I do. He probably doesn't even know her. He'd probably think it was good that I had friends. He'd probably think she'd be a good influence on me, or something. I think.
The thing is... she's killed people. I mean really *killed*, not like it was an accident or you didn't have any other way to stop them--like they're not doing anything and you walk up to them and kill them and then walk away. She's done that.
Sometimes I wonder... what it's like. Not that I'm gonna ask--I may be a tactless idiot, but not *that* tactless. Besides... I don't think I really wanna hear the answer...
And, yeah, sure, it creeps me out knowing that she's made people stop breathing. But it's just creeps. I don't blame her or anything--she was just a kid, doing what her dad made her. Only... I'm not sure if the Big S would see it that way or not. It's not that I'd stop hanging out with Sandy, no matter what he said. I just... I don't want him to be ashamed of me. I mean, it's not like he's my dad or anything, but he's... Superman. The ultimate, the guy I was created to be, the one who gave me my name. He's perfect. And when you hang around him, you start wanting to be perfect too. When he looks at you like he's proud of you, it's like flying naked through a sunbeam, like a whole cheering crowd all at once. And when you let him down... It makes me wanna go out and graffiti a whole town when he does that, just so I can tell myself what he thinks doesn't matter to me. But it does.
Well, maybe Batman could talk to him; I know they don't always get along, but Supes'd listen to him... Oh, get real, Kon--the Bat isn't gonna sign up for anything that makes it easy for me and Sandy. He's okay with her--which is kinda weird, 'cause I thought he was just as big on the no-kill thing as Superman--but he really hates it that she's hanging with me. Acts like I'm his worst nightmare, live and in color, which I guess I kinda am--he's all big on smarts and down on power, and, yeah, I know which I got more of. There's a reason I let Rob run the team, you know; I can sucker-punch a mountain, but he's got the brains. (Not that I'm about to tell *him* that.) The whole time I was doing punishment detail with His Grimness, he acted like I was a moron or a cockroach. I wanted to smack him one so bad sometimes... Got better near the end, just 'cause I was too tired to get mad. Gotta say this for the guy, though, he worked himself as hard as he worked us, and he's as good as he thinks he is--which is pretty damn good. And...
There was this one guy, mobster who'd pulled a jailbreak; we were trying to track him down. Before we did, a cop ran into him. There was a firefight; three people got shot. One of 'em was a six-year-old girl. When Batman heard, he was... furious. I thought he was mad at me, and I was gonna yell back, 'cause I wasn't feeling that great either and I just wasn't in the mood--but Rob cut me off real fast. "It's not you," he said, real quiet, "it's him." I watched the guy the rest of the night, and Rob was right. He was angry at himself, 'cause he thought he'd failed those people.
He hates to lose. Hey, I get that. I hate to lose, too. Winning's way better--you get victory celebrations and grateful civilians--some of whom are blonde and stacked--and you can crow for days and rub it in to the other guy. Best of all, you know you made things come out all right, and that's a high like you wouldn't believe. When you lose...
There's this... thing... I have in my head. Not all the time. Just... sometimes. I remember a laugh... and a button being pressed... and a blast where Tana was standing... and next second there wasn't any Tana anymore. And I think, that if I'd been faster, smarter, if I'd known what was coming down, I could've saved her. That it's my fault that she died.
But the truth is, there wasn't any way I could've known. No matter how much I wanna think I can save everybody, do it all, be the big hero 24/7--I just can't. Not always. Not something I want any more practice at accepting, uh-uh, but it's the bottom line, and if I didn't know it before, I do now. Lesson Numero Uno--Life Ain't Fair. End of story. And even if there *had* been something I could've done, it wouldn't bring Tana back to beat myself up about it for the rest of my life.
I don't think Batman sees it that way.
Not sure how Sandy sees it. *Something's* driving that girl, oh yeah, and it sure isn't that she wants applause. She does have fun, I know--not like I do, but the way she fights, there's, I dunno, some kinda joy in it. Not that she's ever said so, but you spend enough time around her, it gets easier to read what she isn't saying in how she moves. But is it 'cause of the fighting? 'Cause of the moves? Or 'cause she's taking down the bad guys? I haven't got a clue. Guess I make a lousy detective, huh? And then there's times... the big bad Bat himself couldn't knock himself out any harder trying to do the job, and I wonder if it's guilt or obsession or anger or determination or *what*... She doesn't seem real big on kicking herself if it doesn't work out--game over, move on. But when the game's on, it's on, and she'd rather die than quit. I mean really die--she's scary that way. But she's good--she's *really* good--and she's always managed to pull it out of the fire so far. With a little help sometimes...
There was this one time--she jumped out of a tenth story window. Didn't have any Bat-thingamabobs, lines or hooks or hang-gliders or whatever the hell else is hiding in those little pouches. She just--fell. I looked over and saw her, and, well, I *didn't* panic, 'cause superheroes don't, but I think I broke a couple speed records diving to catch her, and my heart was going faster than I really wanna admit when she slammed into me. And yeah, I had my arms around her, and no, I wasn't taking notes on how she felt--I do think about other stuff *some* times. And right then I was too mad to care. Probably how Rob feels when I do something stupid--we hit the ground and I started yelling at her like I was him and she was me, and she just looked at me and said: "Caught. Knew." And gave this little shrug, like: No big deal. It took me a minute to sort that out, and then I shut up and my jaw dropped about six feet. She bet her life that I'd catch her. Me. I don't know whether to be thrilled or scared to death.
Well, there isn't gonna be any of that tonight. No suicide leaps, no ninjas, no androids. Just two kids out for a good time. See, there were these ghosts from another planet looking for something called the Living Crystal of S'Zil--well, never mind the details, but it's a very long, very weird story--especially the part about the robot dating service--and when I got back I *really* wanted a break from, y'know, everything to do with spandex and bad guys and total craziness. Nice little vacation in the normal world, that's what I need. And, well, Sandy's got even less of a life outside the costume than I do, so I thought it'd be fun if she came along.
So I asked her out, and her eyes got big and she nodded, real slow, and then she gave me that smile again, and here I am waiting on this crummy corner, wearing jeans and a T-shirt and a baseball cap I borrowed from a Cadmus tech. Okay, as disguises go it's pretty lame, but this ain't exactly life or death here--I don't have a secret ID, and even if somebody spots me, nobody's gonna guess that Superboy's date is really Batgirl. I'm just trying to keep it low profile so we can have a night without any crowds or people asking for my autograph. Not that that ain't fun, it's just not what I'm looking for tonight. Tonight is strictly no-super. I figure we'll explore some, get some 'za and sodas, hit a couple of clubs... The way Sandy moves, she's gonna be one hot dancer, guaranteed. I'm looking forward to watching her.
That's if she ever gets here. Of course, maybe she *did* already and took off when I wasn't here--she'd wait for me, wouldn't she? She knows we don't exactly punch a time clock. But maybe she thought I wasn't going to make it at all. Maybe *she's* not going to make it--
Right about then a hot little car pulls up, and an equally hot blonde leans out and grins at me. "Hey, kid. Been waiting long?" I sort of blink at her, and she leans back to let me see Sandy, sitting in the other seat looking anxious. Oh. *Oh.* I let out a long breath of relief, and feel the butterflies in my chest settle down for a nap. The blonde's grin gets a little bigger, and something about her face starts nagging at me, like I ought to know her--
"Sorry about the wait," she's saying, "there was a minor crisis, but it's all over now. I came along to help out--" the grin gets sharp for a moment--"and since I was already there, I figured I could drop her off." She cocks an eyebrow at me. "Any place you want me to take you while I'm here?"
I glance over at Sandy; she just shrugs. No big surprise there. I look back at the blonde and shake my head. "Nah, we're just gonna walk for a while."
She nods, and turns to Sandy. "Nice meeting you, honey. We'll have to do this again sometime." Sandy smiles a little, and gets out. The blonde waves--"Have fun, kids, and try not to wreck too much of the city!" Then she's gone in a blast of exhaust, and I blink as the memory of her face finally comes into focus. Black Canary. That was Black Canary from the old JLA. Interesting people Sandy hangs out with...
I tuck the thought away in my head and turn to face Sandy. She's wearing dark blue jeans, a red blouse, and gold earrings, all looking brand new. Her hair's falling loose over her shoulders. It's the first time I've seen her in civs, and she looks--terrific. I grin, and offer her my hand, and her eyes are shining as she takes it.
It's gonna be a great night.
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