Too Deep To Breathe
by Rea

Barbara fidgeted nervously in her chair while Bruce leaned over Batgirl. Her efforts to awaken the girl had been futile. The cold water hadn't worked. Neither had shaking, yelling, and screaming. She held her breath as Bruce checked for vitals.

Straightening, he stood and ran a hand through his hair. "Her vitals are strong. As near as I can tell, there's no reason for her not to be waking up."

"Is it because of Toby?" Barbara glowered as she remembered the toddler. "He was sleeping with her. Come to think of it, I haven't seen him in a while." She gazed sharply at Jack. "Was he with you and Alfred?"

Jack shook his head. "I haven't seen him since the manor."

"Bruce? Dana?"

Both shook their heads.

"That's just great." Barbara fumed. "So now what do we do?"

"Master Bruce!" Alfred burst in the room, excitedly waving a computer print-off in his hand. "I believe I have found a solution to our dilemma!" He stopped and frowned at the bed. "Oh my, not another one."

"Have you seen Toby?" Barbara demanded. She adjusted her glasses upon her nose. "I think he's the reason Batgirl isn't waking up."

"The young sir has gone home."

Barbara threw up her hands. "Well that's helpful."

"What have you found Alfred?" Bruce asked tiredly. "Tell me you have good news old friend."

Alfred smiled and handed him the papers. "I have. It appears Demarti managed to break the bounds between psychic energy with that of electrical. It works on a principal similar to shock treatment. But instead of a doing a short burst, he prolongs it." Alfred held up a chart. "But that's not all. The shock is only administered after the patient has a received a combination dose of a narcotics and hallucinogens."

"Hallucinogens?" Barbara looked confused. "The narcotics I get, but why would he want his patient high?"

"Hallucinogens cause increased sensory awareness." Alfred explained. "It also jumbles the thought processes. Demarti hypothesized that once the thought processes were disrupted, the subject would have an increase in psychic energy as the normal boundaries of awareness would be gone. Coupled with the euphoria caused by narcotics, he felt it was the ideal time to harness energy."

"Right, so he gets Tim high." Barbara tapped her chair impatiently as she inspected Alfred's diagrams, "but how is he syphoning this psi energy?"

"The cords from the halo." Dana's eyes widened as the pieces fell together. "The electrical shock passes though Tim then into the Halo, only it's no longer electrical energy, it's psychic energy!"

Alfred smiled. "Exactly, my dear woman. Exactly."

"So do we reverse it?" Bruce's flat voice pulled their elation back to the present. "We can't very well pump psychic energy we don't have, back into Tim's brain."

"We don't have to." Alfred handed Bruce yet another chart. "The computer thinks that if we create the same scenario, we can reverse the process, however, there is a catch."

Everyone groaned. "We need someone to volunteer to supply the psi energy to complete the process."

"I'll do it." Jack waved his hand. "Tim's my son and my responsibility. If anyone's going to volunteer, it's going to be me."

"No." Alfred dismissed him with a shake of his head. "It needs to be someone of similar age and intelligence. Dr. Demarti didn't have a way of measuring how much psi energy he could syphon. He was guessing. In his experiments he used apes, because of their kinship to human beings. However, he only used adult specimen. He roughly knew how much he could take without shutting down their minds. I'm guessing he took those same figures and applied them to Timothy."

"Only Timothy isn't an adult."

"Exactly. We need someone Timothy's age."

Barbara gave a curt laugh. "Where the hell are we supposed to find someone dumb enough to try this?"

"Superboy." Bruce was already reaching for his cell phone. "I'll make him do it."

"What about that speedy kid on tv?" Jack interrupted. "Whatisname, Flash pants?"

"Impulse, honey." Dana shook her head. "And no, we don't want him."

"Can't reach Superboy." Bruce growled as the Kid's answering machine clicked. "He's out."

"Let's use Spoiler." Barbara rubbed her hands together gleefully. "She's a dumb blonde."

"She'd lower his IQ." Bruce said then blushed as Barbara raised an eye. "Um... never mind."

"Ahem." Alfred cleared his throat loudly. "Pardon my interruptions sirs and madams, but I believe our best candidate is already present."

Four heads turned to stare at Cassandra Cain.

"We can't use her. We don't even know what's wrong." Barbara shook her head vehemently. "Toby did something to her."

"Yes, he did, and I think we should thank him." Alfred walked to the side of the bed and adjusted the blankets covering Cassandra. "Timothy has taken on many incarnations since succumbing to Demarti's experiment. Each incarnation has helped advance us towards this very moment."

"The youngest incarnation, Master Toby, has helped ready us to wake Master Tim. I suspect a similar incarnation brought Master Jack and Miss Dana to the Manor last night in the hopes they would bring forth the late Dr. Demarti's notes."

"Hold the phone." Jack was dumbfounded. "You're saying the kid who wrecked my car and tied me up was my son? That it was Tim." Jack frowned. "When that kid wakes up, he can consider himself grounded!"

Dana rolled her eyes while Barbara snickered.

"I suspect an incarnation was hard at work pressing Master Bruce to bring the two of you here as well."

"All that was at work was a guilty conscience." Bruce flushed as Alfred wagged a chiding finger in his direction. "Or maybe it was all that annoying crying."

"Whatever the reason, Master Tim is trying to help us." He gently brushed Cassandra's raven locks from her face. "And I believe he intends for us to use Miss Cain."

"Not without her permission, we're damn well not!" Barbara wheeled to the bed, pushing Alfred aside. "I don't give a damn what all of you are reading into this but we are not using her. End of discussion."


"Don't!" Barbara raised a warning hand. "Don't even try it, Bruce. This is a person we're talking about, not some ape in an experiment. We don't know whether this will work. For all we know, Demarti could be wrong. Alfred could be wrong and instead of reviving Tim, we could lose them both. Is that a reasonable chance to take?" Her fiery eyes glared at each person in turn. "Is it right to risk one for another?"

"If she were awake," Alfred asked softly. "What do you think her answer would be?"

Barbara pursed her lips together. She knew how badly Cassandra missed Tim. Cassandra, damn her, was just as stubborn as Bruce and more protective of Tim than anyone. For Cassandra the term: over my dead body, held a literal meaning. "She'd say yes." Barbara hung her head. "She wouldn't hesitate if she thought it would save Tim."

"Then it's settled." Jack clapped his hands. "Where do we start?"

Bruce picked up his cell. "We go to STAR labs."

Cassandra Cain was not impressed. "Why not open?" she demanded, giving the door a ferocious kick.

Beside her, Tim shrugged. "I'm not surprised. Nothing in this place works like it's supposed to."

"But says exit!" Cassandra waved at the sign. "Sign say exit! Why not open?"

Tim turned and sauntered back to the table. "Beats me."

"Tim! Come back, need help opening door." Snatching a butterknife from one of the tables, Cassandra began to take the screws out of the hinges. "I want to go home!"

"Whatever you're doing, it won't work."

Tim watched her from the table, smirking behind his coke glass. Cassandra was forced to remind herself why she wanted Tim as a boyfriend. "Come help."

"No point." Tim helped himself to a fry. "I already tried that."

"What?" Cassandra tossed the knife away. "Why not say before?"

Tim shrugged. "I thought you might have more luck than me."

"You is suck." Cassandra reluctantly returned to the table. "What we supposed to do?"

"I dunno, but that's the only exit in this entire place. I figured if I sat here long enough the door might open."

"Who open it?"

"Someone from the other side."

"Why someone open from other side? That's the exit door, not the enter door."

"But what if it's an exit door from somewhere else to here?"

Cassandra decided he had a point. "What if no one comes?"

"Then we're going to have one really long dinner date."

Cassandra made a face. "I not like dinner that much!"

"I know. I totally miss breakfast and lunch." Tim's face took on a dreamy quality. "My kingdom for a ham sandwich."

"My kingdom for key." Cassandra paused. "Or Batman. Batman will get us out."

"Was he close to helping me?"

Cassandra wisely decided not to tell Tim what Batman was doing.

"Was he?"

Cassandra decided to lie. "Yes."

"So then all we have to do is wait." Tim sprawled on his side of the booth. "He'll get to us eventually."

Cassandra wasn't certain, but decided Batman would have to come. With the good sidekicks stuck asleep, that left him with Spoiler. Cassandra grinned like a Cheshire. Batman have to come. Not beat any heads with Spoiler around.

"What are you thinking about." Tim gazed curiously at her. "What's so funny?"

"Just thinking how mad Batman going to be to have only Spoiler to work with. We not have to wait long. He come very soon."


Both watched the door expectantly. Thirty minutes later they were still waiting.

"Batman slow-poke." Cassandra paused. "I bored."

"Hmm," Tim picked up serviette and dipped it in his coke. Wadding the mess up into a small ball he handed the mess to Cassandra. "Wanna throw cokeballs at the other customers?"

Cassandra grinned. "Now you talking. Cokeballs is better than pigeons."

"Not better than kicking Spoiler's head against the wall."

No, Cass decided as she aimed for one of the upside down girls. Nothing beat that.

"I can't believe you did that! After I specifically told you not to engage!" Kon-el rolled his eyes as Superman continued his rant. Geez, if he'd known the Man of Steel was gonna be such a Grinch he woulda declined the invitation to save the world. "And furthermore, you not only endangered those people, you ran the risk of injuring yourself!" Blow up one university dorm while taking a liquid virus bomb in the face and you never hear the end of it. "Suppose the sorority house hadn't been evacuated? What then?"

"Um... we woulda been knee-deep in frat-girl booty?"

Superman's glare told him his wit had not been appreciated. "Listen Kid, I know you're still upset over Robin."

"No way, Bird Boy and I are cool."

"He was your best friend..."

"Bart might contend that."

"...and seeing someone you care about get hurt is hard to stomach..."

"Funny but I don't recall being conscious at the time."

"...I know you miss him." No comment there. "And I know you blame yourself for what happened." Kon hung his head. "But endangering yourself needlessly, isn't the way to cope."

Kon pulled away as Superman laid a hand on his shoulder. "Listen man, I don't need you to preach to me about my job, okay? I got enough of that from Rob!" Head down with hands on hips, he stormed down the corridor towards the exam room. "Can't believe I decided against a day at the beach for this. Why's everyone always on my case? I got the job done didn't I? Didn't get anyone killed, did I? No. The Kid is numero uno but what do I get? A sob story. Complaints. Preacher S at the movies." The glass doors of the exam room swished aside as he stormed past. "Cripes... what the hell is..." Five heads turned in his direction. "...this?" Oh man, it was Batman and gang. "Heh. Uh.." Bats was giving him the 'look of doom'. "Hi gang? What's what?"

"Where were you?" Batman towered over him, opaque eyes boring into his skull. "I tried calling you."

"I was... uh..." Don't run away screaming... don't run away screaming...

"He was helping me." Superman's authoritative voice neatly cut through the clanking of Kon's knees. "What are you doing?"

No longer at the receiving end of Batman's latest rant, Kon took the opportunity to snoop around. This wasn't the Bat's usual group. He gave a small wave to Alfred, the only person he recognized. The butler didn't respond, preoccupied with fiddling with the computer. Not put off, Kon sauntered around the room, taking in the rest. An old guy that scowled just like Robin stood off to the side with a brown haired lady, Yowza! holding his hand. Hmm, if they were together, someone was seriously cradle robbing. A fiery redhead sat in a wheelchair between two exam beds. She looked pissed about something. Kon felt a grin coming on. Wheelchair or no, the babe was hot and in need of cheering up. But he felt his grin fade as he took in the occupants of the bed.

"Rob?" His head shot to the other side. "Cass?" He looked to Alfred. "What's going on?"

"We're trying some half-assed experiment that's got a good chance of killing them both." The redhead snapped. "We were going to use you, but you didn't answer your pager."

"Hold the phone." Kon frowned. "You've found a way to help Rob?"

"Or kill him."

"Oh-kay. And for this to work you needed someone else?"

"We needed someone his age." The redhead pushed her wire-rim glasses more firmly upon her nose. "We wanted you, but as usual, you were elsewhere."

"Sorry princess, but the world calls." Besides, it sounded like this experiment was gonna blow. "So, Batgirl volunteered instead."

"More or less."

The woman was vague. Too vague. Kon smelled a rat. "Did Cass really agree to..." his arm swept the room. "Whatever this is, or did you drug and sedate her?"

"Timothy did."

Kon turned to the old guy with the scowl. "Who the heck is Tim?" The old guy pointed to the bed. "Oh." Rob... er... Tim was gonna be pissed when he woke up. "Uh, pardon my ignorance, but Rob's not exactly in a position to drug anyone."

"It's a long, tedious story, Master Kon-el and one which I am loathe to repeat." Alfred pushed a cart loaded with syringes up to Cass's bed. Rolling up her sleeve, he injected her with two of the needles then proceeded to do the same to Rob. "Needless to say, we have found a possible way to awaken Master Tim."

"Master Tim?" Geez, no wonder Rob had a god complex. "And Miss Cassandra, will she awaken or will the lady be taking a dirt nap?"

"Dirt nap." Barbara said flatly. "Unless this works."

"It will work." Done arguing with Supes, Batman rejoined the conversation. "Alfred, are we ready?"

Alfred was shining a light into his patient's eyes. "Indeed. The drugs have taken effect. If you would hook up the electrodes sir, I believe we can begin."

"Everyone, step outside." Batman ordered. "I don't want anything to interfere with this."

Kon's eyes narrowed as a rather familiar looking gun was brought forth. "Hey waitaminute... isn't that..?"

"Let's step outside Kon." Superman took him by the shoulders and directed him to the door.

"But that's---"

"I know."

"But the report said..."

"Facts can be omitted."


The redhead wheeled over and grabbed his hand. "The halo wasn't destroyed. Demarti sent Tim's parents his notes and Batman will be playing god to bring him back. Let's go, okay? You're blocking the door."

Numbed, Kon allowed himself to be escorted out. As Cassandra and Robin vanished from sight, an alarming flood of memories flashed in his mind's eye. A doctor with a syringe. Robin screaming. Sparks flying from over-loaded computers... Robin screaming... a swirl of energy hovering over the room... Robin screaming... the swirl of yellow energy being sucked into a gun while Demarti laughed... then... Robin wasn't screaming anymore...

"Oh my god." They were re-creating the scenario. Cassie didn't agree to it. "No! You can't do this!"

"Kon!" Strong arms encircled his waist, pulling him away from the room.

"Let go of me! I remember what happened!" He watched helplessly as Halo was activated. "Christ Supes, they don't know how dangerous it is! Oh my god... I remember... I remember everything!"

"I thought he was unconscious?" The redhead asked sharply. "The report said.."

"I know what the report said. And he was!" Superman grunted as he attempted to hold the struggling teen. "But he might not have been the entire time. With everything that happened this could be a matter of... ugh... repressed memory."

"Fine time for it to resurface." She grunted. A syringe appeared in her hand. Grabbing Kon's arm, she shot it home. "I hope Batman knows what he's doing."

"Whatever he's doing," Jack interjected as Superman lowered a sedated Kon-el to the floor, "It's happening now."

They looked. The exam room was crackling with energy. Computers began shorting, test tubes rattled and beds shook. In the center of it all were Batman and Alfred, calmly adjusting settings and increasing power while the lab exploded around them.

"Jesus," Barbara whispered. "Will you look at that?" Over the beds, a swirl of yellow light was forming. "That has to be the psi energy."

The energy crackled and hissed as it poured from Cassandra into the Halo. A second cord was added, this time connecting the halo to Tim. As the group watched, the energy turned purple and bubbled, flowing between the two patients.

"Is it working?" Jack pressed his face to the glass. He was startled to see his son move. "He blinked! Timothy blinked. Is that good?"

"It is!" Barbara was gleeful. "Cassandra's vitals are still strong while Tim's are improving. He was right. For once in his life, Batman was right!"

Dana began to jump up and down. She felt giddy with relief. The ordeal was almost over.

Then Cassandra began to scream.

"Owwwww!" Batgirl clutched her head as the world exploded. "Owwwwww."

"Cass!" Tim leaped from the table to catch her as she pitched forward. Her cokeball fell from her limp hand to land with a pitiful splosh against the floor. "What's the matter? Cass, talk to me!"

"Hurts!" She screamed. "What he doing to me?"

"It's Demarti!" Tim was frantic. He didn't know what to do. How had Demarti found her? He panicked as Cassie began to convulse. Oh god, this was just like before. Like at the institute. "Fight it, Cassie! Don't let them do this to you! You can't give up!" Helpless, he held her to him. Stroking her hair and murmuring reassurances as she shuttered. "Oh, Cass, I'm so sorry."

There was nothing he could do. She was being ripped apart. As was the rest of this odd place. All around him, the restaurant was shaking. Plaster fell from the ceiling, tables over-turned, drinks spilled, plates cracked. It was like the world was coming to an end. For Cassie, maybe it was. "I'm in your dream, aren't I?" he whispered. "You were wrong Cassie, I am dead. And now you're dying." He realized that was probably why he was here. He was acting as bridge, to help her cross to the other side. It wasn't fair. Not fair at all. "You can't die here." He sniffed holding her quivering form to his chest. "Here is nowhere."

Purple light was shining thorough the cracks in the wall. It seeped in from every broken orifice, lighting the Burger Joint up like a neon sign. Except for the exit. It wasn't doing anything.

Then it did something.

A lock clicked. As he watched, the knob slowly began to turn. Tim's breath caught in his chest. If he could open the door and push Cass through, then maybe she wouldn't die. Maybe she'd wake up.

He had to try. Gathering her in his arms, he lunged across the quaking floor. To his dismay, it suddenly slanted, sending him careening against the jukebox. Something snapped in his ankle and he cried out. Hot tears splattered from his eyes. Blinking them back, he began crawling towards his goal, hands clawing at the tearing wood and linoleum.

"We're gonna make it Cass." The door was close. Only a few more steps. "We're almost there." Stretching forward, he grasped for the knob. The floor jerked, sending him sprawling. Pain blossomed anew in his ankle. "I won't give up, Cass. I promise. I'll get you home."

With Cass in tow, he reached again for the knob. This time grasping it, he wrenched the brass handle with the remainder of his strength. The door flung open. A purple vortex swirled on the other side. From within it, he could hear voices. "I'm coming." he whispered as the world began to blink. "We're both coming."

With the last of his strength, Tim Drake hurled them both into the waiting light.

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