In The Dark

September 23, 2016:

Batman trains Spoiler in the ninja arts.



NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

"Stop trying to see me."

They're in the dark— total darkness. No lights, no ambient light. The Batcave's training room is completely isolated, and all that can be heard are the faintest of noises. "You're thinking with your eyes. If you want to survive on the streets, you need to stop thinking visually. Think with your ears. Your skin. Your nose."

"Microreceptors in your skin can sense subtle changes in air current and even EM vibrations. Your nose can discern scents in a manner more powerfully tied to memory than anything else."

Something dull and round smacks into Stephanie's bicep, hard enough to sing.

"That's nine softballs. Want to go for ten?"

By the fifth ball, Stephanie was already too frustrated to focus. By nine, she was forcibly keeping back tears and the want to yell at him. Her inhale was shakey and her fingers stayed curled into fists. She is refusing to reach up to rub the stings and the aches from all the softballs.

In reply, Stephanie huffs. A thin puff of air pressed out of her nose. She closes her eyes, brows pinched. If she had a ball of her own, she'd chuck it in the general direction of his voice.

It's not that she's NOT trying. It's that she's trying way too hard. It's a slight fear of the dark and an always going mind that has her wanting the light on to see what there is to see in order to dispell what she'd conjure on her own. She'll force herself to figure this out, because she's stubborn and has to excel at this since he expects her to.

"You must be accustomed to fighting with any or many of your senses compromised. Inside a smoke grenade, there is no vision. If a grenade goes off near your head, you'll be deafened. Electricity numbs the nervous receptors, affecting your balance."

Batman's voice is disembodied— ethereal. Small noises echo around Stephanie.

"Gas makes it difficult to breathe, and spikes your heartrate to increase the rate of deoxygenating your blood. You have to use the meditative biofeedback techniques to control your adrenaline reaction and keep yourself /calm/."

"Smelling fear isn't just a wive's tale." Something whistles through the air at Stephanie.

The disembodied feel of his voice is so disorientating. But she keeps her eyes closed to force herself not to try to use her eyes. The sound of something whistling in the air has her flinching into the start of curling up uselessly to protect herself. It's that uncoordinated flail of her mind not knowing which way to go, afraid there's an edge of a cliff near by, and not knowing what direction anything is coming from that has Stephanie trying to jump and drop all at the same time. She heard him emphasize the word -calm-. It just served to have her own innervoice chiding her for being a baby: Can't even stay calm, how pathetic!

It's a better effort than she realizes— the softball whips past her, missing by mere inches.

"Your instincts are good. You've done the training, but you don't /trust/ your instincts," Batman growls at Spoiler.

"You're smart, and that's what's hurting you. You're so smart you think you don't need your instincts."

"The human body can support a half a ton of weight. Can outrun any animal on earth over distance. At birth, infants have a higher power to weight ratio than an ox."

"Stop /questioning/ your instincts. Use them. Make them part of your reactions." Is that a shuffling of feet nearby? A hint of warm air coming from her left?

Success at the ball whipping past her lightens the frustration of failures from the nine other times she'd been pegged in the past… how long? The shuffling has her turning her head, wanting to open her eyes, but the hint of air makes her want to bring her hands up. Her feet stumble as her hands lift, mind racing. The complement of being smart followed immediately with condemming her intelligence is such a horrible clash in her brain of postive and negative attention that she almost can't process through him explaining WHY those two things needed to go together.

"Stop. Lights." The lights in the batcave come on low, though it seems bright against the backdrop of darkness. Batman, wearing his worn, ragged old karate gi, removes his blindfold and stares at Stephanie.

"Fight, flight, or freeze. It's the most basic of instincts. Useful, but you can't let it dictate your actions. You've been corraled so you can't flee, and now you're freezing instead of making a decision. I can see it in your body language. You choked."

It's the brightness of the lines after the utter darkness that has Stephanie's tears watering. That's what she'll say when she brings her hands up to rub at the wetness on her lashes. Yes, she choked. And she'd been refusing to acknowledge it, but now that it was out in the open it prickles at her. She blinks rapidly, turning away from him, as if he were the source of light that's stinging her eyes.

"Just need a moment," she rasps. It wasn't intentional. It wasn't to mimick his 'working' voice. It was cause her throat was too tight to get much sound past it. Choked. Failure. Go play with your dolls. This is boy-stuff.

Stephanie takes a breath, that harsh inhale-exhale of ready-for-competition-coach! The heel of a hand grinds into her eyes one last time.

"Again." It's almsot a question. She really shouldn't, but she hasn't succeeded in much more than flailing away from 10 of what's been thrown at her. She's an A-student. It should be 90 right at worst.

Batman replaces his blindfold. Just so there was no question of lights coming on— no idea he might be cheating. He's just as handicapped as Stephanie is.

"Computer. Lights," commands, and the Batcave goes dead once more.

"Fight, flight, or freeze, spoiler. The only three options. Fight the threat, flee from the threat, or hope it doesn't see you. That's the animal hindbrain talking, that lizard part of the brain that's sure predators track movement, and hoping against hope you haven't been seen."

"Predators can see you cowering, even in the dark. And running only puts your back to your opponent. That's one option left, the only option a /conscious/ person can make."

He tosses a softball to himself and catches it. "Ready or not, here I come."

She saw, from the corner of her eyes, how he blindfolded himself first. Which didn't make her feel any better about her own showing. The sudden plunge back into darkness had her giving a tiny gasp; that minute sound of fright. A sound Stephanie squashes a moment later by pressing her morals tightly together.

The only option a conscious person can make: fight it. Stephanie trembles again, eyes squeezing closed.

Soft thump, something on skin. Softball. He was how many steps from her? Not many. Really close. Close enough that— Too much thinking! Stephanie took one step toward where she last had him in her sights, and where that soft thump-smack might have come from, and then roundhouse! I want my A, dammit.

Batman blocks the blow, but— he wouldn't have blocked if it wasn't about to hit him.

"Aggression. Movement. Better. Your technique needs to remain perfect. Even in shadow, you shouldn't get sloppy. Darkness doesn't conceal your mistakes, just because you think no one's looking."

"Has it occurred to you yet that there are ten softballs on the ground near your feet?"

YAY! Made contact.

And then he says how horrible it was. Stephanie stays low, but shuffles out of reach. She hopes. No, she does! (She really doesn't, but she's going to tell herself that she did because…!) That treble of frustration hits her again.

It's really not a good idea to snip and snap at Batman. Not when he's training you or working with you. Just like it's not a good idea to snap back at Coach when you're upset during practice and she's yelling at you that your technique has to be perfect. State championship is on the line and from their nationals. Every landing, perfect. Every pop-lock, perfect. And you smile the entire time. Run it again.

Stephanie huffs again and then bites the very tip of her tongue, forcing that cheerleader smile on her face. If she can find the softballs, maybe she can throw them… at what? His stupid face! She had wanted to throw pompoms at Coach more than once. That Batman is hinting she can throw softballs at him is an opportunity Stephanie is going to take… Again, IF she can find some. She'll keep low, her feet low. If she feels one… So many if's! The smile failures into a frown of frustrated failure for a moment before she just goes for it. Find one. Just find one, Brown. Arrgh.

"Lights on."

Batman stands there, but leaves his blindfold on, tossing aside the sack of softballs in his hand. He's about ten yards from her, and stands with his hands clasped behind his back.

"You keep missing the bigger message, Stephanie." Ouch. Not using the codename. "You're looking with your eyes. Not your senses. Softball." He points at one. "Softball. There. There. There." He successfully indicates every softball he's thrown at Stephanie in the last ten minutes, even the outlier that bounced off her kneecap (ow) and almost rolled off the training mat.

"So, now you can see them. Is that going to help you throw them?"

Stephanie blinks at the harsh lights again. She sweeps her gaze across the mat, and the ball that is literally within arm's reach. That he can correctly point them all out, blindfolded, from having through them in the dark, is so utterly crushing that her inhale is audibly shakey. The smile is gone, replaced by the fight not to pout, not to frown, that fails in keeping the grimace of failure off her features.

To her ears, that question sounds like goading. He'll turn off the lights again, the moment she makes a grab for the one near her. Not that she still has any clue how he's even SEEING IN THE DARK, but Stephanie hasn't any question that he can in fact see her; much more clearly than she can see him.

That he used her real name, which he almost never does down her, is actually soemwhat reassuring. Means she's a person and not an annoyance. She tries not to sniffle, but fails. A hand is scrubbed hastily over a cheek then goes out for the softball. She's ready for the darkness she assumes he's going to crash down on her. Frustration has her throwing the ball at him and putting the full of her body weight behind it so she flops forward onto her hands and knees. She doesn't even care if she hits him or not. She's just frustrated and refusing to admit that she probably should have stopped three balls ago. She's also refusing to admit that her knee is hurting and so she shoves herself back up just to get the weight of being on her knees to stop. 'Walk it off, Brown! And smile dammit! Judges take pionts off if you don't SMILE!'

"Left." And the ball sails past Batman's head, gone wide with that weak, collapsing throw. He's still blindfolded. He doesn't even twitch when the ball leaves her hand.

"Care to try again?"

Wait. He lef the lights on?

This does NOT make sense, but rubs in the fact that she's so pathetic at this that they aren't even on the same level any more. Which makes total sense because he's Batman and she's a Spoiled Brat. She moves for another softball, grabs it, and chunks in again. She's more focused, but this still doesn't mean she's any good at throwing things. Cheerleaders don't throw. They jump and kick and dothe splits.

He doesn't even move for the next four. Five gets a dodge. Six gets a duck, and the seventh he snatches out of the air with a clawlike grasp, head tilted to one side.

Then for good measure, he whips the softball back at Stephanie with an accurate, fastball underhand.

"You're angry. That's not helping you. Anger distracts you— makes you lose focus. You're so focused on hurting me that you aren't even bothering to try and maintain your technique."

"You have to remove your ego and your emotions from the task at hand. Your self-doubt is telling you, you can only throw like a girl. Your ego is telling you that you're the only thing stopping yourself."

Catch it! It's gonna hurt! Catch it anyway! OW. Stephanie grunts into a hiss as she catches the ball with her mid-section more than her hands. But at least she caught it?

A tight lungful of air is taken, the ball pulled away from herself so she can throw it. She is angry. She's angry at herself, because she's never good enough. Her arm came up, but… his words have her pausing. She was focused on hurting him, wasn't she? It's a rotten way to be. The Scouts would be so disappointed.

With a few You Tube videos of peple playing baseball running through her head, Stephanie tries to copy what she remembers of how they throw. Not that she'll throw it as- shut UP Brown.

"Unf!" is vocalized as she throws with what she has, and doesn't completely short change herself as she might have by using soem of her energy to stagger a few steps at the end 'like a girl'.

Batman deflects the ball with the heel of his hand, jabbing at the air with a strike that looks like it could break wood. The softball *cracks* and wobbles away, the stitching burst like a home-run hitter just whacked it.

He removes his blindfold, turning those unreadable blue eyes on her. "Anger's the enemy, Spoiler. It's the ugliest side of pride and vanity— the need to hurt other people to silence dissent in our minds. If you want to master yourself, you need to master your pride." He clasps his fist in his palm, loosely, and bows fractionally— a master dismissing his student. Batman turns and walk across the mat towards the alcoves, his hands clasped loosely behind his back.

Stephanie's panting by this point, eyes wet again. She straightens up, trying not to crumble under that gaze, and when he bows, she mimicks. No idea really what it's about but… fake it till you make it! And SMILE! Not that Stephanie can find the muster for it right now. He walks away and she turns to clean up the space, walking slowly to gather each ball and put it in the bag he left.

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