|What: Damian meets Cassandra out in the seedy side of Gotham and develops a plan ...|
The sun is on the verge of setting over Gotham City, a hazy orange light casting long shadows and an eerie, almost-sickly glow. Darkness has yet to fall and most of the scum have yet to crawl out of their holes, leaving the streets of Old Gotham relatively deserted save for a few stubborn shopkeepers doing their best to close up and be home before night falls.
It is strange, therefore, for a young man of around sixteen years old to be walking down the main drag across from Robinson Park. His head is bowed against the wind that blows fallen leaves and trash lazily about, hands thrust deep into his pockets. This is Damian Wayne, though most would be forgiven for not knowing that.
Up ahead on the corner a large, thickly set man leans against the wall and leers at passersby. He sees the young man approaching and turns slightly, watching from beneath the pulled-down brim of a Gotham Knights baseball cap.
Cassandra Cain has a place to live now, but she's not a prisoner. If Barbara had tried to keep her contained, she would have definitely disappeared. It does mean that she doesn't have to spend her days and nights trying to scrounge up enough food to keep her belly from growling, though. Her cheeks aren't quite so hollow as they once were and her ragged hair is clean, as are her clothes. A big step up. She's got a hoodie on as well as jeans. The hood is up against the wind as she wanders down the street herself, looking towards Robinson Park. It's full of shadows and dark promises, but it's still a spot of green amidst the concrete and soot of Gotham.
As soon as Damian nears him, the man in the Gotham Knights hat pushes away from the wall and jerks his chin up at him. Some sort of code, maybe? Whatever it means, Damian simply pauses and turns his head sharply to look at the man. He stares, almost glares at him as though that slight gesture has caused him great offense.
“Yo, little man,” the guy in the hat says, tugging the brim of his hat down and looking warily up and down the street. He spots Cassandra but doesn't see a threat, turning his attention back to Damian, “You buyin'?”
Cassandra Cain is a diminuative little thing. What could possibly be threatening about her? The sound brings her attention around. While the words mean nothing, sounds often do. Her sharp gaze takes in the man and Damian, reading intentions and what they're going to do next all in a moment. But what they're doing, or going to do, means less to her than the fact that Damian is familiar. Her course changes, heading towards them.
“What?” Damian's voice is full of venom, the offense he seems to feel only growing in both his tone and his body language. The man doesn't notice or doesn't care, looking him up and down before he speaks in hushed tones.
“You're Ray's boy, yeah? I'm D-Train. Damn, he's signin' 'em up young. You got my money, I got your product.”
Damian continues to stare daggers at the man, fists clenching at his sides. One fluent in body language would certainly see he is about to strike.
The nuances are lost for the mute girl. She knows that D-Train's expecting something from Damian, and Damian's about to hit him. What D-Train does, the poison he sells, that's something she can't tell from what she can read. Her pace quickens, coming over towards Damian and reaching a hand out try to touch his shoulder. It looks like she's ignoring D-Train, but she doesn't need to look at him directly to keep track of him.
“I don't want your chemicals,” Damian spits at D-Train, “You've just made a very, very big mistake ... “
The young man's fist is rising when he feels the hand on his shoulder, assassin's instincts discerning friend from foe and prompting him to stay his hand. He looks back towards Cassandra, a startled look on his face for a moment as he's at a loss for words. D-Train, however, suffers no such loss.
“Shit,” D-Train curses, taking a step back and looking from side to side, “Keep walkin', little punk. Get the hell out of here.”
The burly man is posturing now, lifting the hem of his baggy shirt to reveal the handgun tucked in his belt. A threat.
Cassandra Cain offers Damian a smile, the hand coming off of his shoulder and sweeping to the side in a small wave even as D-Train is backing away and cursing. It's only when he lifts his shirt, revealing the gun does her attention turn over to him. The smile slips away from her lips and the hand that fell to her side closes into a fist. Her head tilts towards Damian in a very slight nod, her eyes never leaving D-Train.
Funnily enough, a faint smile crosses Damian's features when Cassandra smiles at him. The reasons for it are anybody's guess, his body still held in a prepatory stance as if expecting violence from the drug peddler. When D-Train shows off the pistol, Damian narrows his eyes and the faint smile turns into a broad, vicious grin.
“You think a gun is going to save you? You're very wrong.”
D-Train clasps the handle of the gun, not drawing it yet. His eyes flicker to Cassandra, a confused and angry look on his face, “Who the fuck is this? Look, kids, go play someplace else. I ain't afraid to cap a couple teenage punks.”
Cassandra Cain moves first, knowing it will draw D-Train's eye, sliding away from Damian and to D-Train's left. She can see how much Damian *wants* to beat this guy. To have the most intimate type of conversations that she knows. That of violence. And even though D-Train's not really wanting to move forward into that, she knows that with that gun when he does, it will be deadly. And that, she's not going to allow.
To read Damian's body language is to see someone at home with violence. A child who was raised in it and has adopted it as a solution to almost all his problems. D-Train's eyes flicker to the side, focusing on Cassandra just long enough to give Damian the opening that he needs. When he strikes, it is as though he intends to kill. As though he attacks are only pulled back or diverted to something non-lethal at the last possible moment.
His hand darts out, clasping tightly the one that D-Train holds the handgun with. When the man's other arm comes around to strike at him, Damian ducks and draws back the pistol's hammer with his thumb. A muffled crack echoes up and down the street as the gun goes off in D-Train's pants, a glancing shot through the meat of his thigh but enough to stain the front of them with blood.
“Argh!” D-Train howls, swinging a fist at Damian in a panic as the young man darts back and out of range, “Shit! You fuckin' shot me!”
As Damian moves in, Cassandra does as well in what seems to be the same moment as he does. The gun goes off and then D-Train's arm is wrested away from it. Cassandra pulls the gun free even as D-Train swings at Damian and she moves with the larger man as though they were choreographed. Her free hand moves upwards, striking for D-Train's jaw with bone-cracking force and yet strength still kept carefully in-check so as not to be lethal.
Damian grins as Cassandra hits the man across the jaw, watching D-Train crumble into an unconscious heap on the pavement. The gunshot was doubtlessly heard but the people in this neighborhood know to keep away from their windows and lock their doors when such sounds ring out in the evening.
A moment later, however, the grin fades as Damian looks down at the man and the blood seeping through his pants, “He's injured.”
A frustrated sigh as Damian looks off into the distance and then back down at D-Train, “As much as he deserves it, he cannot be allowed to die.”
He crouches down, tearing a strip from the man's expensive-looking coat to use it as a makeshift bandage. He glances up as Cassandra, looking her up and down for a moment.
As D-Train is dropping unconcious to the ground, the mute girl is taking the gun apart with a practiced efficiency that most military personell would envy. Like him, she was raised on violence and the means to kill. She doesn't have a mark on her, no sign of injury or fear. Not from this. Her head cocks to the side a bit as Damian speaks, puzzling meaning past the sounds. She nods in agreement though, as he makes that decision that the guy can't die. Firm. Resolute.
“I forgot that you don't speak,” Damian answers, unperturbed as he tears a hole in D-Train's bloodstained pants to check the wound, “You should remedy that if you're going to be living here.”
Satisfied that the bullet passed clean through, Damian begins to bind up the wound with the makeshift bandages to the point that the bleeding is stopped. He speaks as he sets about the task, not all that keen on doing it but realizing that it must be done. Like doing the dishes.
The ammo is pocketed, as well as the pieces of guns and Cassandra drops down into a crouch as Damian works. He gets another nod as she watches him bind the wound, approving even as he's reluctant. That reluctance has her looking at him with a sad kind of curiosity but of course, no words. She reaches out again, to lay her hand lightly on his shoulder if he lets her, and gives a slight squeeze. Then she reaches into one of the pockets of her pants to pull out a slightly squished candy bar and offers it over towards him. Despite the dirty and grime of the street, and the blood and violence that just happened, she smiles at him, and offers the treat.
“Where'd you get this?” Damian asks as he finishes tending D-Train's injuries, reaching into his pocket to retrieve his cell and dialing 911. He looks curiously at the candy bar, tilting his head to one side. A moment later he lifts a hand, signalling for Cassandra to wait a moment as he speaks into the phone, “Shooting. Seventh and Robinson. Ambulance.” He then hangs the phone up and tosses it back onto D-Train's crumpled form.
As he stands, he reaches out to take the candy and turns it curiously over in his hands. He jerks his head to one side, signaling down the street, “Come on. We need to leave.”
Of course she doesn't answer his question, just smiles at him a little more broadly, her eyes crinkling along the outside edges. Her hand slip back into her pockets as he takes the candy and she's stepping up next to his side even as he's jerking his head to say they need to go.
Damian takes off at a jog, confident that Cassandra will match pace with him. He's studied maps of this area, prime crime-stopping territory as it is, and it isn't hard for him to make a few twists and turns until they're at a subway station. He slows down once they're away from the scene of the 'crime', the sirens wailing in the distance. He leads the way, trotting down the stairs into the station.
“So, do you need to go back to the Clocktower?” Damian looks sidelong at her as they approach the ticket booth. He doesn't expect her to answer him but the conversation is therapeutic in a way.
It certainly makes her a good listener, doesn't it? The girl, who still doesn't have a name that anyone knows or calls her, watches him with that same eerie intensity as he speaks. Her hands come out of her pockets and move in a short, fluid rush of motion that Damian might recognize as ASL and then nods.
Damian knows some, it seems – communication without words is quite prized amongst the League of Assassins. He nods and raises his hands, signing back to her and quietly murmuring the words to himself as he does so.
“I'll take you there.”
That said, he turns to the clerk in the ticket booth and fishes some money from his pocket to pay for a pair of passes. He hands her one as they walk to the gates.
Cassandra Cain's already light demeanor seems to brighten a bit as he signs back to her. She doesn't understand it in the way that he does, and her vocabulary is limited, but it along with her own way of 'hearing' him helps. And it means that he can understand what little she can 'say'. She accepts the pass and then makes the close-fingered gesture from her mouth downwards to him. Thank you.
“You're welcome,” Damian nods his head, knowing she can't understand him but not really knowing the sign for it. As they pass through the gates, however, he attempts another series of signs as he offers her a query. He gestures at her, taps two fingers down on the side of his hand and then holds his palms out to the side. In essence, asking what her name is. It's funny, but he hadn't actually thought to ask her before.
Cassandra Cain's answer is another smile, but this one is sad. She shrugs, and then just shakes her head. If she's not willing to tell him, or doesn't know how to tell him is unclear. The answer is that which so rarely comes to mind, the thought almost inconcieveable. That she doesn't have one.
“Well, if you don't want to tell me,” Damian answers, frowning slightly but doing his best not to seem bothered – hard for someone who runs so hot, “You don't have to. But you should come up with something to call you.” He is used to getting what he wants, after all, and it is hard to fathom that she, at least as far as he's concerned, won't tell him.
Another flourish of hand gestures asks her where she came from as they move onto one of the dingy old platforms to wait for the train.
Cassandra Cain dips her head a bit, eyes casting down as Damian frowns at her answer. When he suggests that she come up with something to call herself she looks thoughtful. And then there's a brief, teasing smile and she makes the sign for pizza. It's quickly followed by a shrug though, and then she repeats the sign for 'name' in that almost too-fluid-to-follow manner and points at him, and then herself. As to where she came from? Another simple one-word answer. 'The world'.
Damian spells out his first name with a series of short, clipped signs. Her idea for a name actually draws a slight laugh from him before he clears his throat, attempting to put that aloof front that he presents back up where that momentary crack appeared. The answer to his question prompts him to nod.
“I'm not sure pizza suits you as a name.”
The girl gives another of those brief grins as his facade cracks and she gives a slight nod of agreement that perhaps that isn't the best of names. She also copies the finger-spelling of his name, but the way she does it it's like it's one long sign, and not individual letters. The letters themselves mean nothing, but the series of movements. Those she can follow.
“Can you,” Damian begins, before stopping and doing his best to sign the question as he speaks along with his hand gestures, “Can you speak? I mean … do you have the capacity to speak?”
It's a strange question, but the mute girl has him curious and given that she can't relay to anybody that he was polite and inquisitive rather than vicious and insulting makes it a little easier to let that veneer fall by the wayside.
The girl's brow stays furrowed for a long time, as she takes in the signs she knows and what his body language tells her. Her lips purse a bit finally and there's a slight shift of her gaze around them, as though embarassed. Her mouth opens, and her thin chest expands as she draws breath. As she exhales, she makes... a sound. But it's not a word. Not even part of a word in any language. She glances away quickly, a slight flush staining her cheeks. Capacity? Perhaps.
“Well, that's something,” Damian answers, his eyebrows raising at the sound, “That means you can talk, you just don't know how. That's something that can be taught.”
He clasps his hands in front of him, narrowing his eyes slightly to look at Cassandra as though studying her carefully, “You know, I bet this is something my father would appreciate. Teaching you to speak when you couldn't before.”
He's just voicing his thoughts, really, not expecting her to fully understand. He bites his lip a moment, nodding determinedly and signing 'I'll teach you.'.
Cassandra Cain wrinkles her nose a bit as he makes his observation, trying to play it off with a smile but there's the lines of frustration between her eyes. Etched into her brow. She's tried in the past, but hasn't had much... OK, any luck really. But she pushes that smile forward and gives a nod as she signs 'OK'. The train pulls in with a rush of noise and wind, but she doesn't move to get on until he does. She never knows where they might be going. But for good or ill, the girl seems to trust him to lead the way.
“Alright,” Damian says with a nod, chest swelling a bit with the pride of taking on such a big responsibility. As the train pulls up he gets to his feet, moving towards the door and stepping inside as he checks to make sure she's following after him.
“Let's get you home,” he says, gesturing to one of the empty seats in the carriage and signing the last word to her.