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Fic: Safe in her Arms(Cass/Steph)
Cass
milleniumrex wrote in batfic
Title: Safe in her Arms
Word Count: 1868
Author: MilleniumRex
Pairing: Cass/Steph
Continuity: Post-War Games AU. Leslie Thompkins isn't evil, and Steph pulled through.
Rating: PG-13
Author's Notes: Angstier than my usual fare. A character deals with a serious, permanent disability. Includes semi-happy ending and Cass/Steph fluff.
Summary: Paralyzed and scared, Steph thought she had lost everything. Fortunately for her, Cass was not one to let her best friend give up on life.



Sometimes she dreamed of Black Mask. That horrible, grinning skull of the man who tortured her, and tried to kill her. Other times, she dreamed of waking up in the hospital. The faces of her friends and family trying to hold it together, and the slow awareness that she couldn't move or feel anything below her shoulders. The nightmares were different every night, but in the six months since she came out of the coma, Stephanie Brown hadn't had an undisturbed night of sleep.

Cassandra sat and watched as Stephanie's head shook back and forth in her sleep. It had become something of a morning ritual for her. She always got up earlier, and she didn't want Steph to be alone if she woke up. And sure enough, at the first hint of light through the window, the blonde girl's eyes slowly opened.

"Morning already.....?"

"Yep. Nightmares?"

"Do you really have to ask, Cass?"

"....No."

It had been a week since Steph had moved into the wheelchair-accessible apartment Bruce had purchased for her and Cass. The months before that had been a blur of grim diagnoses, most of which Cass didn't really understand. Spinal Cord. C4 Complete. Quadriplegic. She didn't know what any of those words meant at first. She just knew her friend needed her help. Steph's arms and legs didn't work anymore, but Cass was sure the girl she knew was still in there. She just needed to reach her....

Steph felt her head spin as Cass carefully lifted her out of bed. The vertigo was the worst part of waking up. Of course, there were a lot of worst parts of her condition. It was hard to pick one. The thing she could never handle was how her injury affected her friends. Her mother never left her side at the hospital, but both of them knew the poor woman could never afford to take care of her. Tim visited her every day, but they soon found themselves drifting apart. Tim was Robin, and she was...well, she didn't know what she was anymore. Batman blamed himself for "indulging" her, of course. He took care of everything. She would never have to worry about money or medical care again. She was glad he cared, but deep down, she knew that a part of him was also glad to have her out of the way permanently. The only person who never left, who she never doubted still cared about her was Cass. She had been with her every second. During the long nights she cried and begged anyone near her to slip her an overdose of pills. During the painful months of therapy, with no results. She was there as Steph slowly came to terms with her condition, that she would be paralyzed from the neck down. And now she was with her every day, taking care of her. Cass was her rock. And a part of her hated that, because as long as Cass was there, she couldn't give up. She had lost everything. Her hero career. Her gymnastics. Her guitar playing. Her neurotic nail-biting. Her independence, the ability to do even the tiniest things like scratch an itch on her nose. But as long as Cass was there, every morning, staring at her with hopeful eyes, a small part of herself forced her to make it through the day.

Cass carefully placed Steph in the high-tech wheelchair that Batman had purchased. After tightening the straps around her stomach and chest to keep her from falling, she meticulously arranged Steph's arms and fingers on the molded armrests. Everything had to be perfect, because Steph couldn't even correct the slightest problem herself. Cass concentrated intently, trying to pretend she was arranging a place setting instead of her best friend's hands. It hurt a little less that way.

"Comfortable?"

"I'm feeling no pain." Steph quipped, a tiny bit of her old sense of humor creeping out.

Cass slowly leaned in and gently kissed Steph on the lips. Steph leaned forward as much as her paralysis allowed and kissed back. Neither of them was exactly sure when their friendship became something more, but they also knew they didn't care. They needed each other right now, and that was enough. They broke apart, and Cass moved the thin control straw on the chair next to Steph's mouth. Steph puffed a little air into it and started the engine, getting it into gear.

"Hungry?"

"Not really. I'd rather do some therapy. "Complete injury" my butt. I'm going to move again. I was thinking we could work on my shoulder muscles today. I can already shrug them a little. Maybe if I get them stronger...."

Cass kneeled next to Steph. "You need to eat. You're losing weight."

"I'm not that thin. I was always kind of tiny. Gymnast's body, remember?"

"I can see your ribs. That's not good. Promise me you'll eat?"

Steph sighed. She was never hungry anymore. She hated having someone feed her, and she generally had to force herself to keep anything down. She couldn't really burn calories, not being able to move anything, and the part of her that was still convinced this was temporary was paranoid about getting out of shape. She had mostly subsisted on energy drinks and protein shakes the past week to keep her strength up. But Cass looked really worried. Maybe she was eating too little...

"Okay, something small. Maybe a sandwich."

Cass grinned, kissed Steph on the cheek, and ran off to the kitchen to whip up a batch of Steph's favorite toasted peanut butter sandwiches. Steph waited, using the time to practice her shoulder shrugs. Methodically raising one shoulder, then lowering it. It wasn't much movement, just a tiny hint of muscle use that took nearly all her strength, but it was something the doctors didn't expect her to get back. It was hope. It wasn't exactly running a practice course, but by the time she had done ten of each shoulder, she was more than a little tired, and she had to admit it, starving. She felt sweat running down her brow, a surprisingly unpleasant feeling when you couldn't just wipe it away. So she was relieved to see Cass return not just with a sandwich, but with a cool cloth which she proceeded to gently wipe Steph's face down with.

"How'd you know I'd try to work out?"

"I know you. Always pushing yourself." Cass smiled.

Cass held out half of the sandwich for Steph, and she leaned forward and took a bite. It had been way too long since she had eaten anything she really enjoyed, and after those horrible months of hospital food fed to her by surly nurses, eating a peanut butter sandwich out of the hand of her girlfriend wasn't that bad. Steph looked up into Cass' eyes. Everyone always saw Cass as the quiet, deadly ninja who rarely let herself open up. A small part of her felt lucky to see Cass like this. Sweet, devoted, a little bit vulnerable. She felt like Cass would always be there to protect her.

After Steph finished eating and Cass wiped a few errant crumbs away from her mouth, Cass helped Steph secure her mouthstick between her teeth so she could leaf through the Gotham Gazette with her. The doctors insisted that using the mouthstick was good therapy, but Steph always thought it was kind of pointless. Still, it made Cass happy. As they got to page 32, Cass saw an ad for the new Night Stryker movie, and immediately saw Steph's eyes brighten. Back when they were both younger, Steph never could stop talking about this series. She loved the lead actor, and when they announced the new sequel earlier that year, she couldn't wait to see it. That was before. But damn it, she could still see that this might bring a little happiness into Steph's life, and she wasn't going to let that slide.

"We're seeing that movie."

"Of course!" Steph smiled. "It'll probably be out on DVD in a few months, right?"

"No. Not on DVD. Today."

Steph's face blanched. She hadn't actually gone outside since she came home. The apartment was safe. She knew where everything was, how to operate things. Outside....Gotham was scary enough when you could move.

"No way. I...I can't. You go. Tell me about it."

"Steph, I hate this series. It's dumb. I always said it's dumb. But you want to see it."

"Maybe. But not that much. I - I'm feeling kind of tired. Maybe I - "

"No! I know you're scared. I'm a little too. But you can't keep hiding. I'll be with you."

Steph's eyes filled with tears. A part of her wanted to go out, to face her fears. But the other, much bigger part just wanted to continue hiding in her safe, tiny little world with just her and Cass.

"People will stare at me. Everyone knows who I am now, Cass. The stupid girl who accidentally kicked off the Gotham gang war and wound up crippled. They all hate me."

Cass stood up and looked in Steph's face. "It's not your fault."

Steph looked away. "I know, but I - "

Cass repeated herself. "It's not your fault. I know you still blame yourself. But it's not. It's Batman's. He set it up. He left it coded, so you wouldn't know what's going on. You're not in that chair because you caused the gang war. You're in that chair because you fought in it. You did everything you could to stop it. And you paid for it. So you've got nothing to be ashamed of. And don't let anyone tell you differently."

Cass took a deep breath. Steph stared at her.

"....Is that the longest speech you've ever given?"

"For you. Only for you."

Steph let a big grin come over her face for the first time in what felt like forever.

"If we're going out, will you do my hair?"

Steph pressed her lips to the control straw and drove her way to the bathroom, with Cass following.

-------

Steph was right about one thing. They did get a lot of stares at the movie. But that was probably due less to Steph's presence than it was to the fact that the sight of a blonde teenage girl in a power wheelchair, with an asian teenage girl sitting in her lap and feeding her popcorn in between make-out sessions, was probably a very unusual sight in movie theaters. They came home late, and Cass knew Steph was tired, but Steph insisted on completing a short therapy session before bed. Cass crawled into bed next to Steph, lying with her until she fell asleep, hoping to ward off the nightmares for a change. Steph couldn't actually feel Cass' body next to hers, but her comforting presence did wonders. She was happy. She never thought she'd be happy again, trapped in an immobile body, but she was. She'd never give up fighting to move again. She truly believed that she'd get the use of her arms back one day, and with them her independence. But until that day, Cass would be her hands. She didn't know what she did to deserve her love, but it was there, and she wasn't going to question it. Steph's arms lay limp and motionless at her side, but in her heart, her arms were wrapped tightly around Cass, and she was never letting go.

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This is, without a doubt, the most beautiful/heart breaking story ever. I miss Steph so much and you have really captured the beauty of Cass/Steph perfectly.


Thanks! A part of me really hated doing that to Steph, but it's still a happier ending for her than canon(thanks, Didio). Once this plotbunny hit me, I wrote the whole thing in about an hour, and was actually tearing up myself a little at the end of it. I just wanted to reach in there and give Steph a hug....but Cass got there first :).

I love Cass/Steph. I love the way they're exactly what the other needs.

DAMN that was good. Sad, but better than the alternative.

*fic pimp*
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/3262416/2/In_the_Shadow_of_the_Bat

Yeah, happiness is relative. At least they're alive and together this way. :) This was going to be a one-shot, but I'm thinking about continuing it sometime, just to check in on Cass and Steph's new life.

Very nice fic, btw. I just started reading it, but it's excellent.

I posted it on LJ, but can't find the link. *lol*

Spoiler/Batgirl chapters are marked.

Thank you. I have a disabilty and while I'm not as severly disabled as Steph was in the fic, I know people that are. I've also gone through similar problems as Steph did when she was scared to go and see the movie.
Loved the end! Thank God Steph has Cass to love and look after her. :)

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