Paper Hearts, part 27

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"



Leslie gave a start in the passenger seat as Cassandra pulled off the main road, prompting Cassandra to glance over at her.

"I'm sorry," the older woman apologized. "We're going straight to the Cave?"

"Don't want to risk press at gates."

"Of course," Leslie mused, "after the attacks tonight." She sighed. "Vultures."

Cassandra raised an eyebrow. "Doing job," she contradicted mildly. "Keeps us sharp."

Leslie gave her a curious look.

"Evade press, can evade bad guys," Cassandra explained.

"Heaven help me, but I understand that logic," Leslie remarked.

Cassandra grinned. She liked Leslie and her matter-of-fact style - even appreciated her ambivalence toward Batman's mission. And healing - that was a needful skill, one Cassandra sometimes wished her hands had been trained to.

Leslie lapsed back into silence, watching the trees flash by, and Cassandra slipped her hand into the pocket of the Alvin jacket to press a button on the sat phone. She frowned slightly as it began to ring a second time, then her expression eased as a warm baritone answered.

"Hello, Cassandra."

"Cheated," she accused, a faint smile on her face.

"Not at all," came the reply. "I deduced. Just as I deduce that you are driving the car coming up the access road and want me to disable security for you to come in."

"Yes," Cassandra acknowledged, "but how you know not Batgirl?"

This earned a warm chuckle. "Okay, I cheated."

Cassandra offered a smile in answer to Leslie's sideways glance and asked, "How's Dick?"

The voice on the phone sobered slightly. "He'll recover. I trust you're bringing the good doctor with you?"

She snorted, easing off the accelerator slightly as they approached the Cave entrance. "Already know," she pointed out.

She heard Dick's laugh in the background, and J'onn's smile was almost palpable over the line. "I will see you both shortly, then."

The phone cut out, and Cassandra smiled again at Leslie. "They wait for us."

Leslie nodded. "I hate this road," she commented, as Cassandra navigated the switchbacks leading to the nerve center of the Cave.

Cassandra shrugged. "I drive blindfolded."

A horrified expression crossed Leslie's face.

"I _could_," Cassandra clarified, pulling the car onto the turntable. "Batman not let me."

'Thank heaven for that measure of sense."

The car stopped, and Leslie got out quickly, her well-hidden anxiety evident in the haste with which she moved to the medbay.

Cassandra followed a few steps behind. She should move the car - Batman and likely Barbara would be coming - but...

She had to admit she felt her own sense of relief when she saw Dick sitting upright on the examination table, well muffled in blankets save for one bare foot that J'onn was examining. Livid bruises circled Dick's swollen ankle, and tension in his frame betrayed the pain J'onn's careful manipulations were causing him. Still, he was almost jocular.

"Hi, Leslie!" he greeted.

The doctor walked briskly to the table and set down her medical bag. "Dick Grayson, what trouble did you run yourself into now?" she asked, already studying his face and reaching a hand to a purpling bruise at the edge of his hair line.

J'onn had stepped back, giving her room. "It does not seem so serious a head injury as it could be," he offered, "although I thought it wise to keep him awake and talking."

Dick flinched away from Leslie's touch. "Made me - ow - tell bad Titans' stories." His gaze seemed to become unfocused for an instant, and he blinked rapidly a few times.

"Good idea," Leslie approved, reaching into her bag for a small light.

"So warm now," Dick murmured, snuggling deeper into the blankets. "Feels nice." His eyelids were drooping.

"Dick," Leslie admonished. "Let me look at those baby blues."

Dick laughed slightly and made a show of opening his eyes wide.

"Can I be of more assistance, Dr. Thompkins?" J'onn asked.

Leslie snapped off her pen light, and Cassandra could see relief in her shoulders. "J'onn," Leslie chided, "I already told you you can call me Leslie."

The faint expression of surprise on J'onn's face made Cassandra smile. "I thought -"

"Please," Leslie waved him off as she pulled on a pair of rubber gloves. "You thought I didn't see right through your disguise?"

Dick laughed again. "Poor J'onn. There's no hiding with the Bat."

J'onn sighed resignedly and reached a hand out to Dick's shoulder to steady him as Leslie resumed her inspection of his wound. Dick hissed as her fingers probed the area above his left ear, his body stiffening.

"Well, this could probably use a stitch or two," Leslie commented, returning to her bag for alcohol swabs and other supplies. "You're responsive enough I don't think we have much to worry about - although you can forget about sleeping for a few hours."

"Aww - ow!" Dick complained, and Cassandra watched as J'onn's fingers tightened on his shoulder. She wondered if he were drawing off some of Dick's pain, or if the heaviness she was now witnessing in him was the Martian's own hurt and weariness.

"Maybe a little pain will remind you to be more careful about walking into traps," Leslie lectured, keeping her eyes on her work.

Dick winced. "Please, Leslie. 'sbad enough I gotta hear it - ow - from Babs-"

"And Bruce," J'onn reminded him, providing a moment's distraction as Leslie's needle again brought together the edges of the ragged cut.

"Heh," Dick chuckled weakly, "who do you s'pose he'll be more angry at - me or you?"

Thoughtless, Cassandra flinched, seeing as Dick could not the flicker of doubt crossing J'onn's face. Forgivable, but still thoughtless. She stepped forward. "Me, if I no move the car."

J'onn flashed her a grateful look.

"Hey, Cassandra. Didn't see you." Dick was starting to sound groggy, and Leslie finished tying her knot.

"Done," she announced, bringing her face in front of Dick's glassy stare. "How about you start telling me some of those bad Titans' stories while I inspect the rest of the damage?"

Cassandra nodded to herself and returned to the car, activating the turntable before she got into the driver's side. They needed Alfred here, she thought to herself. J'onn was too tired, and the post-mission let down was already beginning. It would take careful managing to keep the lingering tension and relieved anxiety from giving way to shouting matches.

She pulled off the cave road into the garage complex, almost surprised to see Barbara's humvee rolling in from the alternate Cave entrance. She let Barbara park first, then pulled Leslie's car in beside her.

"Good time," she remarked as she got out of the car.

Dinah grinned in response. "Courtesy of pedal to the medal Gordon, here. She keeps denying any links to the auto-racing world, but I'm disinclined to believe her."

Barbara snorted as the lift brought her down to ground level. "Please, like those boys could keep up with me. Leslie with Dick?"

She kept the question casual, although there was a forced note to it.

Cassandra nodded. "Making him tell bad Titans' stories."

"Ugh," Barbara complained, wheeling forward quickly enough to make the other women jog slightly to keep up. "There's enough material there to keep him going for hours."

Dinah grinned as she stepped into the elevator behind Barbara. "This should be sweet. Hurry up - I don't want to miss any good Roy bits."

Cassandra tapped the elevator button. "They're all good, right?" she remarked, drawing surprised laughter from her companions that quieted as they reached the medbay level. "He really okay," Cassandra reassured as the door opened.

Barbara didn't answer, wheeling quickly out to join the little tableau of Dick and J'onn and Leslie. Dinah gave Cassandra a sympathetic smile. "She's just really worried."

Cassandra nodded and followed Barbara, making a beeline for the figure pushed to one side by Barbara's arrival. "J'onn, help me make sandwiches," she ordered.

His gaze dropped to meet hers, eyes tired and surprised. "I-"

She grabbed his hand and began leading him toward the stairs to the Manor. "Everyone hungry. Come on." Not as smooth as Alfred, but someone needed to take the situation in hand. Dinah and Leslie could keep Dick and Barbara on even keel, but Batman would return soon.

She maintained her grip on J'onn's fingers as he followed without resistance, sensing his relief at being not-in-charge. She didn't release him until they were in the kitchen. "Cassandra-" he began.

"You sit," she commanded, disappearing for a moment into the pantry. When she returned with a loaf of bread, he was still standing. "I said sit," she repeated.

"Should I -?"

"Sit!" She gave him a little shove, and he resignedly took a seat.

"I thought you wanted -"

She gave him an impatient look. "Want you to rest."

"Cassandra-"

She glared him to silence, then stepped forward to put her hand pointedly on a vivid patch of new-green on his torso. "Not so healed. Bruce worries."

"I'm-"

Cassandra cut him off with a scowl. "Fine. Like Batman always fine. I send him up here, too, when he gets back."

J'onn stared at her for a moment, then began to laugh. "Fine," he agreed, rising to his feet. He set a hand on her shoulder. "Alfred would be proud." Then he turned and obediently headed further into the Manor.

Cassandra smiled and began making sandwiches.



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