Cassandra crept away from the party like she always did, making eye contact with Bruce to get the small, knowing nod of his head, before slipping off her heels and disappearing into the shadows.
The further Cassandra separated herself from the clinking champagne flutes and high-pitched laughs of the Gotham socialites, the more at ease she felt. None of her other siblings or mentors or friends had been there tonight, else she would escaped to Barbara, or Stephanie, or Tim, or Duke’s side. And they would have smiled at her and kept her company. But tonight, there was only herself and Bruce, and she couldn’t bear to think of bothering him with her loneliness.
So, she left.
Cass inhaled the night air and deep, richness of soil, allowing herself to wander. She waded through the soft grass of the yard in her bare feet, the cool, early-morning dew already getting in between her toes. The towering shadows of marble statues depicting Greek gods and goddesses - new additions to the garden - swallowed her as she traced her way through them.
Gingerly, she picked up the hem of the backless, dark-blue Zuhair Murad number, its glittering rhinestones rippling as she broke out into a run across the lawn. Her dress mirrored the clear starry sky that covered her like a tent, and was the only real, tangible reason she had chosen it. But also because Bruce had smiled when she had shown it to him.
Cass heard the voice before she saw it. Small, repressed, choking sobs that were still managing to escape no matter how hard the voice tried to stop them. She could practically hear the anger, the frustration as quick, gasping breaths and sniffles floated to her from behind the towering statue of Zeus.
She froze in front of the marble image, the white, hollow eyes staring down at her with rage-filled fury, wielding a bolt of lightning in his right hand, and swallowed. Then she reached out a hand, cautiously pressing it against the cold stone, and ducked around the great, muscled leg of the god.
“Damian,” she said, her voice scarcely more than a whisper.
Damian started, guilt leaking from his watery eyes as if he had been caught doing something he shouldn’t be. But all Cass could see were the teardrops, rolling down his face and leaving trails across ruddy, brown skin. She took another small step forward and watched him run a small arm across his eyes and nose.
“Cassandra,” he acknowledged in a gruff, husky voice that still could not hide his young age. “Before you ask, I-I am fine. I simply… needed to be alone be-because… because I…”
Cassandra said nothing as she stood there, watching him sadly, letting the boy realise even in the middle of reaching for his excuses that he had none to give. He couldn’t even bring himself to lie about this.
His mouth moved wordlessly, new tears brimming collecting, brimming, spilling over the lids of his eyes. He buried his face into his arms shamefully, his small chest heaving, but did not move when Cass sat down beside him.
She was a pair of strong, soft arms, reaching around her brother and bringing his head to rest against her chest. He did not fight her, nor the racking sobs that rattled in his chest with a vengeance.
Tears fell gently onto glittering rhinestones, causing them to shimmer all the more in the darkness as Cass leaned over and pressed her lips against the boy’s forehead, whispering firmly into it.