Batgirl Returns. ...again.

August 27, 2016:

The Spoiler wants back in the game.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tim Drake, Batgirl, Oracle

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's been… who knows how long. Long enough for life to happen. Long enough that a few landmarks have changed. Long enough that running into an upset Tim, a Tim stating he was done and wanting to quit was disturbing enough that Steph put aside the ex-boyfriend thing for the moment to give him a hug and try to help. She even smack talked Barbara.

And it wasn't like Stephanie was dying to get back into the Bat lifestyle. Even though her first trip back into town was to check on her father, see if he was still where he was supposed to be, and then to see if he was ready to change his life. She had left disappointed but told herself that he'll come around.

she told herself that everytime.

Sad about Dad and about Tim and abut just everything in general, it was the chance run in with Alfred that had the elder man inviting her by for cookies. Cookies, he said, can make everything better. With an almost watery chuckle, Stephanie agreed and after being left alone with some fresh from the oven cookies, Steph wandered the house. It'd been too long, but some things never change. Some things like how to get into the cave.

Cookies in hand, Steph makes her way down, stepping lightly as she nibbles, not really expecting to find anything more than memories…and yet hoping anyway.

Batman is in the cave. Stephanie is of course more of a … second-generation Batling. It's a peculiar feeling for the Dark Knight, provoking an uncertainty he rarely cops to. Tim and Oracle had trained her. He could see that synergy in her walk, her very stride, that easy grace that's a little more Barbara than Bruce and the curling acrobatics of the former Boy Wonder.

But Stephanie, with her shock of blonde hair and her winning smile, was unlike Bruce in one very major way— she cared. She really and honestly cared, without the bitter cynicism that was the hallmark of Batman's autumn career. Tim's, too, at the rate he's going.

So there's that conflict internally that doesn't register on his scowling features, somewhere between respecting his student's mentee and their role as her tutor… and feeling a little possessive about the people who wear that symbol on their chest and hearts.

When Stephanie crosses towards the central computers, Batman is waiting for her. And in what could almost be taken as a mark of… consideration? He's just looming unexpectedly, cowl off and cloak thrown back. Y'know, instead of just appearing behind her.

Hope wins out with she spots the Bat. For a heartbeat her steps falter, a fangirl shiver runs down her spine, but then she puts her shoulders back, moves forward, and holds out a cookie.

"Hi," she says, voice feeling tiny in her head for allthat it otherwise sounds so confident. "I wanted to talk to you. I didn't think you'd be down, but… I'm glad you're here."

Batman stares at Stephanie. He makes her endure the weight of his blue eyes, which are as unreadable as any mask, until she gets close enough to reach out with that cookie. He stands with his arms folded across his thick chest, something curling at the corner of his mouth in a downturned moue of dissatisfaction that's so wide-sweeping, he's more cat than bat. No other animal could be so displeased with the universe in general.

She stops a few paces away, having endured the cold edge of his blue eyes, and offers him that cookiee. He leaves her hanging there— just for a beat or two. Long enough to remind her that he's not one who's swift to give approbation.

Then he takes the cookie from her, and the little curl at the edge of his mouth tilts upwards a half degree. "I hear Batgirl is back."

He takes a bite of the cookie. Only Alfred knows the secret to the chocolate macademia nuts that even Bruce is a bit weak-willed against.

"Did you? I hadn't heard anything," Stephanie says, head tilting slightly to one side while her brows lift up in unison and the corners of her own mouth fight between a smile that he took a cookie and a pout at all the concern she's carrying.

"But then, it'd be a good thing, considering Oracle's using her return to the land of the walking to play Walking Dead real life and Tim's killing people and quitting," she says. She had meant to be more suave about it. She had this whole script in her mind. She was going to be poised, calm, composed.

And then when he took the cookie, it all just sort of spilled out in a semi-rush of a frown. She sighs, turning her face away a bit and biting her lower lip before looking back over and smiling now.

"Who is she?" Stephanie asks, blue-green eyes guileless and something a lot like innocent. Highly worried, settling into figuring out what to do and how to help, but still inoocent.

"Who indeed?" Batman says, a bit cryptically. He takes one bite of the cookie and hands it back to the girl so it doesn't go to waste. There's never been a Robin in the Batcave who didn't need to eat almost constantly, and he's got his carefully crafted soyshakes in the mini-fridge.

"Oracle's getting out of her chair and putting her muscles to use. Cassandra's taking on enemies from the shadows. And of a sudden, Stephanie Brown comes out of retirement," Batman says, drifting towards his heavy office chair. He spins it around and settles into it, steepling his index fingers under his chin and giving Stephanie a speculative look.

"Why /are/ you back, Stephanie?"

"I never said I was coming out of retirement," Stephanie retorts, lips pulling into a frown even as she takes the cookie and peers at it. Inside, she's trying to contain the squee: ohmygodohmygodohmygodhehandedmehiscookiethathebitwithhismouthandohmygodohmygodohmygod

She clears her throat as she gets that under control for the moment. "I'm back because… I've got my basics cleared and Gotham U's a good school. And.. because I wanted to check on my father. See if… he's ready for a change… and because I missed you guys. Is that so bad a thing?"

One of Batman's brows hike a little at Stephanie, and if he's aware of her internal monologue, it doesn't show aside from a slightly rueful glance at the cookie he'd given her. At least she's not into cloning studies…

And it's obvious he doesn't believe a word of Stephanie's explanation, from the way his relatatively amicable expression starts to grow more dour and flinty. Batman doesn't need to accuse anyone of trying to mislead him— he rarely even points out the mis-steps in their logic or emotional paradigm.

He just stares at Stephanie rather pointedly, waiting to see if the blue-eyed blonde heroine is going to crack under the weight of that glacial gaze and come forth with the truth of her rather 'casual' visit to one of the most unwelcoming homes in Gotham.

Oh that stare. She's almost forgotten… Aw! Who's she kidding here? There's NO WAY to foget the feel of THAT stare. Stephanie shifts her weight, clears her throat again and inhales to steady herself.

"I really wasn't even thinking about it until Tim said he was quitting," Stephanie says. Her soft blue eyes lift to Bruce's steely ones, brows pinching a thing line on her forehead, lips almsot pouting. Her shoulders fall a bit as she considers, gaze not wavering. "I'm still only just thinking about it. But I ran into Alfred. He invited me over for cookies. They helped me feel better, even if I'm still thinking. …I really did just come back to town for Dad and school."

"But you're thinking about it," Batman observes, with a pointed diffidence.

There's a bit of silence there as the two of them stare across that short interval— Batman in his throne, Stephanie looking a bit vulnerable in the middle of the walkway. Just here, reliving memories. Right?

So that's why she's back in Gotham, despite the grades to go to an Ivy League school— sought out her old boyfriend, then came to the only home away from home she had in the city, to see an old man and a grouchy fellow collecting dust and sulking in his cave.

All of this goes unsaid except with one more slight uptick of Batman's left eyebrow.

Feeling very vulnerable. More vulnerable than she'd like to feel. But ever the overconfident one, Stephanie holds that gaze despite the vulnerability. It's the bright smile of the cheerleader, showing the world how awesome everything is so they'll forget about being three touchdowns behind going into the two minute warning.

"Not that I need your permission. I didn't need it the first time. I won't need it for the last time. I'm worried, and I wanted you to know," she says. And then her eyes widen slightly as her brain catches up to her tone and her words… and she holds out the cookie he had been eating before. Like a peace offering for her idol to not kick her in the butt.

"Friends don't stay quiet to friends when they worry," she adds, because that sounds right. Maybe. #MessingItAllUp!

Batman's brows slowly drop to a level flat, and he stares at Stephanie until her words fade off the walls and she's left with only the cookie between them. "You didn't have it then, and you won't have it now. But don't think I'm going to lift a finger to stop you. I don't need to. Gotham has a way of chipping away at the strongest."

He rises smoothly, the cloak falling around his hands like a shield and concealing him from view. He appears almost wraithlike, a head floating above the darkness. "You'll either sink or swim. Either option, and it's entirely up to you which you follow. You didn't come here for Tim or Alfred. You came here hoping my opinion changed."

His face hardens to something like stone. "It hasn't. Robin or Oracle might think differently… but you'll need to take it up with them."

His words just eat at her. As much as she tells everyone even herself that she doesn't need his permission or his blessing… deep down she WANTS it. Yes she had hoped his opinion changed. Just like she hopes her father's had. It's part anger, part frustration, and part disappointed hurt that mists over her eyes. Her lips press into a thin line, the pink color retreating from them.

But still she holds up the cookie.

Batman turns around in his chair. It's the end of all discussion, in the BatCave. Batman has work to do. No more conversation, no more debate on the topic. The throne hides him from view, and he reclines back four ergonomic points so the dozens of display monitors feeing information into the Batcave all face him, precisely centered. News feeds, chat mesages, radio chatter transcriptions— even a few Twitter feeds that are trending. Does Stephanie catch a glance of hers, on the monitors? However briefly?

And though she can't see it, and it doesn't show on his face, Batmans' eyes flicker to the curved screen to his right that's just a bit more reflective than the other. Looking at Stephanie, holding out that peace offering, that token, and left forlorn and alone.

For a microsecond, something like regret touches his eyes. The he hardens his emotions back into the sharp knife's edge that keeps him alive, and turns his attention to the work of being Batman.

Stephanie watches him turn away. It's like watching Dad laugh and continue on his crime spree. That mist returns to her eyes, clinging to her lashes. Her shoulders jump with a half-laugh at her own wishful thinking and a half-sob that no matter how hard she hopes for something it might never come true. She lowers her chin, like wanting to cry, give up, until she takes a big breath and lifts her chin again. She had meant to look at his chair.. teh back of his head, but her eyes catch the Twitter screen and a hashtag she'd almost forgotten about.

#SpoilerAlert where are you? Gang fight. I'm not sticking around. #WishYouWereHere

She smiles, though it's a bit tense, a bit pained, a bit wistful, a bit sad. Lickign her lips, Stephanie moves forward. Stopping just behind the chair, not forcing Bruce to turn to look at her or acknowledge her or even talk to her Stephanie reaches out to lay the bitten cookie down on the desk to his left before turning away to head back upstairs, say good night to Alfred, and then back to her home. Just like Dad. A little card to let him know she was thinking of him, wanting better for him. If he even looked or kept them she didn't know. She was too good at convincing herself that he did and that someday, after enough of them, he'd decide to give up crime. Leaving Batman the cookie: exactly the same think. Maybe, after enouch of them, he'd decide to give up being a jackass and let people care. She'll save the rest of these. Someone needs them more than she does. After all, gang violence is not something that one should take lightly. There could be children in the cross-fire.

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