Cannot Resist the Puppy Eyes

June 12, 2017:

Caitlin texts Stephanie with an invitation to 'talk' about an opportunity— and successfully guilts her friend into considering a stint with the burgeoning Titans team.

New York

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tim Drake

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It took a little cajoling to get Stephanie to agree to meet Caitlin at a sidewalk cafe in New York. Weirdly that it's New York— not Metropolis proper, where Caitlin lives and works. The redhead was a little evasive, hinting at 'cool stuff' happening, but more than anything it seemed that she just wanted to reach out to the blonde vigilante for some personal time. Caitlin was the sort of friend who understood and respected privacy, and even with Stephanie going radio silent, she'd still fire off texts once in a while with .gifs of pets being ridiculous or funny jokes.

Not expecting a response always— just letting Stephanie know she was thinking of her.

Caitlin gets to the cafe a little early for a change and heads to the counter to ordeer a drink, looking around for the girl known as Spoiler while in costume. Wearing a crop top in lime green and low-slung cargo pants, she's clearly enjoying the mild summer weathers and getting her tan on as best she can.

Clutching her coffee, she moves to a table outside and sits carefully, putting her phone out where she can check for messages. The coffee isn't great, but the chairs are good sturdy wrought iron, so… it's a compromise sometimes, being the Amazon ginger.

*

Those texts were bitter sweet, but it really was nice to have them show up now and then. Thus, the first few 'let's hang out' texts went unanswered. The next at least earned a 'yeah, soon.' After the patrol last night, Stephanie needed to peek out of this turtle shell. So the reply was a time and a place, and Stephanie came walking over from the parking garage several blocks down. Jeans, boots, tshirt, hair in loose falls over her shoulders and down her back; absolutely nothing seems wrong with the cheerleader blonde. Except that there's a hint too much makeup. Not stage-makeup levels of the face paint, but she's wearing more than her usual lips gloss and mascara.

"Hi," she says softly as she makes her way over, the smile a few degrees short of brightening her eyes, voice lacking the final note of eager youth she normally carries. "Sorry it's been a while. School…" is the excuse.

*

Caitlin is a hugger, and Stephanie's almost up off the ground before she can get to the end of her first sentence. Either that, or Stephanie's ninja skills better be on point— Caitlin's a little aggressive when she thinks a hug is the solution, and she tends to think a hug is /always/ the solution.

In fairness, she does give good hugs, and most people don't get cracked ribs!

"Hiiiii!" Caitlin says, with puppyish enthusiasm for Stephanie's presence. "It's been ages! How're you doing?" she asks, holding Stephanie at arm's length and smiling effusively at the diminutive blonde. Stephanie's not -that- short— Caitlin just looks that way at everyone. She's definitely gained a little muscle since Stephanie saw her last. She might even be a bit taller. Bodes poorly for her wardrobe.

"C'mon, come sit with me! How are you? Do you want some coffee? Scones? They do REALLY goods scones here," Caitlin says. "Ooh, I want a scone anyway, so— hi! Four of your scones with extra butter," she asks the passing waitress as the woman moves past. "And whatever my friend wants."

Caitlin moves to sit down again, on the edge of the seat and bouncing her heels rapidly until the table starts to jiggle. She grabs her coffee to stabilize it and forces herself to calm down.

Being around Caitlin's a /little/ like having a giant redheaded laborador. She's always glad to see you and she's 100 honest about it. "Soooooo what's new?" she asks, beaming at Stephanie.

*

Ninja skills not on point. Not today. Steph is swept up with a squeak. Arms a bit pinned, all Steph can really manage is to try to hook her chin over Caitlin's shoulder. She's not really completely successful before she's pulled away, out to arm's length.

"I'm doing," is the reply at that not full blown smile. She finds a seat with her friend, warmed by the enthusiasm. It really should have been infectious.

"One scone, and a french vanilla latte, please," Steph orders, sounding the subdued one of hte pair.

"HMm… nothing? Just, making it through, day by day," Steph says, the words at odds with the fact that she had a boyfriend in New York.

*

"Oh, that's good," Caitlin says, still smiling. There's an awkward beat when Stephanie's laconic response stifles her— Caitlin's not great at carrying on a conversation. "Well,… so, uh, listen, some stuff's going on and … I could use your help," she tells Stephanie, brushing some hair back from her face where it escapes her black scunchie. "It's uh … well … I'm kind of taking a little saabatical from the League," she says, her voice lowering a hair. She fiddles with her cell phone, eyes flickering around nervously.

She's about as inconspicuous as a fire truck. Caitlin's not good at tradecraft. "But… if you don't mind, I mean—- I would really like to talk to you about … um … restarting the Titans."

*

A light smile is given the waiteress as she drops off all the things. Stephanie moves to doctor her coffee slightly, blue-green eyes wide under raised eyebrows as Caitlin says she needs helps.

"Of course. What's going on?" asks the blonde, leaning forward a bit to help Cailtin keep her voice lowered. Because work talke out of work uniform is a tricky thing. Stephanie nods once to show understanindg, but at comment of restarting the Titans (she's not completely sure what that is), Stephanie tilts her head.

"…I'm not sure I'm really… the right person to talk to about this."

*

"Actually, you /are/," Caitlin tells Stephanie, smiling again— and this time, there's a little backbone to her voice that brooks little argument.

"The Titans were founded years ago under Nightwing," she tells Stephanie, her voice level and with a surprising certitude. "They were set up as … a way to help young heroes find their own way. As a team," she says. "Instead of just throwing them into the deep end of the League or hoping a mentor comes along they gel with."

"Our friend Red Ro— … uh.. Little Red," she coughs, "sort of surprised me the other day. I'd been kicking around the idea of… y'know, setting up a dorm or something for metas wanting to strike out a little bit on their own. He'd already gotten… funding, and tools, and permission from the government, and…. anyway," she says, flicking a hand through the air.

"We talked it over. He's a little … uh … detail oriented," she says, politely as possible, "but I think his heart's in the right place. But I kinda felt like he could use some help from someone who /has/ trained with people who can deadlift a city bus. So… we're working together. And your name was on my— well, our— shortlist."

*

Stephanie just inclines her chin at the information. It sounds like something Dick would do. She never really worked with him all that much and so what he did never concerned her. Not knowing alot doesn't bother her. As Caitlin starts to say 'Robin', Stephanie stiffens faintly and the light smile that was forming falls away.

Of course he's detail orientated.

"Our? You talked him into it? It's fine. Umm.. thanks, Caitling. I'm… I don't even know what to say," Stephanie admits.

*

"I mean…. that might be a /bit/ of a stretch," Caitlin confesses, with that innate sense of honesty she just can't quite beat. "He had like… ninty-five percent of the plan in place. We even had the same people in mind."

She shrugs at Stephanie. "But … I mean he's so /quiet/. And kinda reminds me of Batman, which is… I mean, he's nice, but he's kind of one of them … big picture type people. You can't /train/ people if you're just big picture. They have like, hopes, and dreams, and relationship troubles and they can't pay rent— it's a mess. And I'm probably not the great strategic planner that some people are, but I /am/ a good listener and my workout routine is second to no one's," she says, a little proudly.

*

Hearing that Tim had most of the plans in place does not surprise the blonde at all. Nor that he had selected certain people. But that he'd put her on the list? She pushes that aside for now, nodding at the mention that Tim is like Bruce. Of course he is. It's like… Batman's very own mini-him. Caitlin says relationship troubles and Stephanie tries to appear non-chalant in how she sips her coffee.

"So… what do you want me for?" Steph asks softly, eyes troubled.

*

"We— you're my /friend/," Caitlin blinks at Stephanie, looking confused by the question. "I mean I don't /have/ a pile of them laying around," she says, "or at least not so many I don't want them around."

"Stephanie, you're one of the smartest people I know," she tells the blonde girl, earnestly. "You're quick and you're clever. You know computer stuff WAY better than I do, and I've seen how well you did handling the operations for the League and stuff— and the word at the gym from everyone else is about the same."

"More than anything, I /trust/ you," she tells her. "I'm not sure about Little Red yet. I want people around me I can trust to … have integrity, and someone who can tell /me/ if I'm doing the wrong thing. I've only been a full League member for a year, and I'm really nervous about the idea of trying to train all these new kids, let alone /lead/ them."

"And let's be honest, Stephanie, if we were in high school you'd be Student Council president in a heartbeat, and I'd be the Class Treasurer," she says, wryly. "People like you. They look up to you. Maybe that'll be me, someday, but…. it's not me /yet/."

*

Friend. Stephanie smiles and it's the first time it really reaches her eyes the way it should.

"Thanks, Cait. You're my friend too," she says, even if she hasn't even breathed a word of what's going on tot he red-head.

"Rob is very trust-worthy. I'd vouche for him in a heartbeat. You don't get.. better than him. He's… you can trust him," Stephanie says, the starting swell of a gushing gettnig cut short and buried before it can grow. She chuckles lightly, ruefully. "Well.I was. And Cheer Captain. But… I'm not someone anyone should look up to. Not anymore. And… of course it's you. You're …amazing. And…. you can make anyone smile. Who wouldn't want to follow you?"

*

Caitlin's face twists in distress when Stephanie puts herself down, but she reaches across the table and puts her wrists against the surface, palms up in appeal to Stephanie.

"Then come /work/ with me," she begs her, plaintively— and Caitlin might not be aware of the devatstatingly puppish expression in her big green eyes, but it's arguably as persuasive as any threat of violence the Amazonian ginger could offer.

"C'mon. You need to get out of your apartment. Live a little with folks who …. I mean, who /get/ us. The lifestyle. It's a building full of teenagers and young adults who understand how much it sucks to have to go to work or school after a mission wraps at three in the morning. It'd be good for you to get out and be around peers," she tells Stephanie.

"Pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase"?" she whines.

*

"I…." Stephanie can already feel her resolver crumbling. Damn you Puppy eyes! "I … I dont' know, Cait," she says, brows drawn up and together, but she does reach for her hands. "I really haven't been myself lately. I'm probably not going to be any good. And… ugh don't look at me klike that! I can't say no when you look at me like that!"

*

Caitlin's lower lip sticks out a little. Her eyes get even /bigger/. Greener?! Her fingers grip Stephanie's and interlace. Success! Caitlin pins Stephanie's wrists to the table by dint of just being impossibly strong.

"Pleaaaaaaaase?" she says, head drooping so low she rests her ear on her bicep, as soulfully as possible. A little smile tugs at her lips, giggling to herself at Stephanie's crumbling resolve.

"You should know, I'm prepared to sit here and not let you go until you say yes," she says, a beat later. "If you don't say yes, I'll start /crying/. Big gushy tears."

*

"Ah…. Cait! OH, This is going to suck on my schedule. I work…" Stephanie lowers her voice and leans down. "I work with the Avengers. I'm not super busy or anything with them but… Oh… I can't believe I'm doing this," she says, dropping her forehead to the table before looking up, chin on the table.

"ONLY so you won't cry, ya big baby!"

*

"Yaaaaaay!" Caitlin's feet stamp on the ground as she jostles her heels in approval, and a million-watt grin crosses her face. There's nothing supernatural about it, but she /does/ have the sort of expression that can change the temperature in a room. Enthusiastic, pleased, and without any inhibitions.

"You just made my year, this covers Christmas /and/ my birthday," she assures Stephanie, clapping their hands together before letting her fingers go before they get broken. "And! We'll be ROOMIES," she tells Stephanie. "There's a GREAT room next to the one I picked out, it's got a view, and we can— like, work on your homework together, and … eeeee!" she squeals, so excited she momentarily forgets how to word properly.

*

Stephanie can't stop the smile or the chuckle at how happy this has made her friend. It's nice to be able to do this after everything, but when she says roommates, Steph leaves off rubbing her fingers in favor of looking surprised.

"Roomies? I need to live there? No.. Nono… No. Cait! I have …there's a mask for a reason. ican't… LIVE there." Especially, if Tim's gonig to live there too as it sounds like. It would be… awkward. The movie watching on the sofa that one night was amazing and perfect and heartbreaking and was like every date night she'd ever wanted with him but now? "No."

*

Damnit! Caitlin goes for Stephanie's fingers as a lifeline, but she's too slow. "Wha— c'mon!" she says, blinking in surprise. "How perfect would it be? There's gonna be like… I mean, you, my friend Cassie (I'm asking her), and I wanna talk to the new Miss Marvel about it— I think Little Red knows that dark-haired magician, and … and … I mean…"

She looks crestfallen at Stephanie, though Caitlin's emotions do tend to live on her sleeve. "It'll be all people /just like us/. Everyone wears a mask, but that's the whole point of a family at home. No more masks," she tells her. "We can just let our hair down and be /ourselves/. Why do you think so few Leaguers bother with code names while we're working? It's so we aren't … all just running around in tights and disguises, pretending to be someone we're not."

"Is it me?" she asks, sudden worry on her strong features.

*

Cassie, rings no bell. Miss marvel, again nothing. Magician…? Maybe. That arguement though, it's exactly what she was telling Tim, mostly. That he needed to let his 'hair down' so to speak. A movie night or something, with people their own age.

Is this.. .Tim's way of.. trying to do that?

"What? No. No, of course not! You already now, it's… Rob's thought this through? All of us… knowing each other? Without the..?"

*

"I mean…" Caitlin shrugs at Stephanie, putting her chin on her palms and propping her elbows. "I don't know that Little Red's gonna ever take that mask off. I heard a rumor once that Batman /showers/ with a cowl on," she says. "He kinda strikes me as that type of conspiracy nut. Er, no offense," she hastens to add.

"And like — I know that it's easy for /me/ to say 'no masks' but I mean, c'mon. Can you imagine how silly it'll look for people to be walking around the dinner table wearing masks? Cowls and tights at the swimming pool?"

"Point is that we have to trust /someone/. I don't wear a mask, and I think it works for me. At least among friends, it might work for you too."

*

"Can… you not call him 'Little Red'? Maybe? Please? I keep pictureing him in a little red cape skipping to gramma's house nad … yeahno." Stephanie pleas, eyes squeezeing closed a bit before she opens them again and chuckles faintly at the Batman Shower Cowl thing.

"None taken, but yes… Actually. I can imgaine sitting at the pool… with masks on. I can also imagine… NOT." Stephanie's gaze had gone distant, like she's thinking back to a family BBQ or an almost nice Christmas.

"I… I'll think about living arrangements," she concedes fianlly.

*

Catilin frowns. "Wait, he gets to be Red… Rob," she says, "but then he says /I/ can't be Red, because that confuses things. Doesn't that make sense to you?" She thumbs at herself. "Big Red" thumb outside "Little Red," she says, the logic clearly appealing to her sense of nomenclature.

She offers Stephanie another handsqueeze, and smiles again. This one small, but equally sincere. "Thanks for taking a chance on me," she tells her friend, humbled by her acquiescence. "I promise I won't make you stick around if you hate it, but…I think you'll learn to like it there, no matter how you end up paying it."

*

"Rob. We can call him Rob, for crying out loud," Stephanie says fainlly, hands almost tossing ito the air. Because Big Red is a Soft DrinK! She calms a moment later, giving Cait's hands a little squeeze of her own.

"Yeah.. Thanks. I think… maybe… this'll help."

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