Lost in Translation

February 04, 2018:

Stephanie Brown tries to make heads or tails of the enigmatic mute Cassandra Cain.

Coffee Shop

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

*

It's late morning, just before lunch, and classes on the Gotham U campus have let out for the midday meal. Stephanie makes her way from campus, headed for a coffee shop across the street. Tight fitting jeans disappear into brown knee high boots that support a slight heel. A fuzzy pink turtle neck sweater keeps her warm, skimming over her slight frame, as she walks. Over a shoulder is a Lisa Frank bright backpack, giving the impression that this young blonde might be a high school student rather than a college student.

*

Cassandra might be mistaken for a student. It wouldn't be hard. She's a girl wearing a simple black t-shirt and blue jeans, with long black hair and wide, thoughtful brown eyes, and in about the same age group as Stephanie - that fuzzy sort of 18, 19-year-old youthfulness that makes most of the Freshman and Sophomore class a bit of a blur to many observers. Cassandra is also carrying a bag, though hers is a small duffel that she holds carefully in her right hand. Cass, however, is… Wandering. Learning her surroundings. It's clear to a keen eye she has no idea where she is going and doesn't mind.

*

Clear to a keen eye, like those trained by the Batman. Stephanie's blue-green gaze shifts toward the meandering student, and a brow quirks slightly. It's an easy thing to note that paths will cross, and so Stephanie lets that happen keeping her face up and not hunkering down around her Hello Kitty phone to ward off would be conversation.

*

Cassandra is fairly resistant to conversation in general. Not so much because she is acting defensively but because she ignores mot people utterly. A lovely young person could loudly proclaim their love for her in song and she would probably step around them on her way to continue her journey. Then, however, Cassandra's eyes come to rest on Stephanie. She looks the girl over openly, from toe to head. Their eyes are able to meet. Cassandra blinks once and lifts a hand in greeting. But… No words. No indication she has any intention of speaking either.

*

To the meeting of gazes, Stephanie tilts her head lightly, a friendly enough smile on her glossed pink lips. A hand lifted, Steph reciprocates and her smile broadens a bit more, warming easily and without hesitation. The blonde turns to look at the coffee shop's entrance for a measured two seconds before looking back at Cassandra and lifting her brows. Is it a silent invitation? Or the blonde just wondering if that's where the other woman is headed?

*

Cassandra glances a the indicated shop and tilts her head, brows raised. She pauses for a second then glances back to Stephanie. it seems that the other girl is asking that very question. She twists slightly and gives a light shrug of her shoulders, at least indicating she doesn't mind. Then the girl walks over to the door and reaches out to open it. Cass watches Stephanie's reaction as she holds the door for her.

*

Slight surprise and friendly warmth. Those are Stephanie's reactions to Cassandra moving to get the door.

"Thank you," says the blonde as she moves past. Her accent places her from Gotham, a native. Inside, Steph pauses to wait for Cassandra to join her, where she offers her right hand.

"Stephanie," is the self-introduction. Contrasting with the warmth and ease of meeting Steph is giving, there is something slightly stiff about her movements, as if she were sore or moving caused some discomfort and she was minimizing.

*

Cassandra wastes a second or two in joining Stephanie because she's looking around. Brown eyes widen slightly and the girl' sniffs the air as she walks through the cafe with careful steps. Before too long she ends up in the seat across from Stephanie holding the offered hand in a strong grip. That lasts several seconds and the blonde might well realize Cassandra is not really sure about what to do next. Then Cass cocks her head. She uses her left hand to point, indicating where Stephanie is sore while looking up at her wit ha thoughtful expression. Then the young woman reaches out, not quite touching. The introduction seems to have been ignored.

*

When it becomes clear that the brunette is a bit lost on the hand shake, Stephanie smiles gently. Three pumps up and down and Stephanie releases Cassandra's hand. That no name was offered in return is odd, and so it keeps Stephanie's attend into Cass tilting her head and then pointing to where Steph is 'sore'.

Her ribs. The sweater highs the fading bruises, but the cracked ribs are going to be tender for much longer.

"Uuuh… It's nothing. Chest day at the gym," Stephanie lies, brows pulling together as she watches Cass's hand drift closer while not moving to stop her.

*

Unimpeded Cassandra places a palm against Stephanie's side. Initially, it's probably quite sore but as she shifts her fingers a small measure of relief is actually added. These are experienced hands that are investigating, and she treats cracked ribs with respect and care.

The excuse, of course, is utterly ignored. Cassandra looks up now and meets Stephanie's eyes, staring into them intently while she lifts her right hand from the handshake and makes a fist, held parallel to the table. Far from a threatening gesture, in fact, she seems to be indicating a modicum of understanding.

Cassandra tilts her head and arches a brow, the fist still outstretched.

*

At first contact, Stephanie muffles a faint grunt. Her brows pinch, an indication of pain, only to smooth out in surprise as the pain wanes into relief. Sure, Batman puts nanobot created lattice work around her ribs to act as a 'cast', but that came with him trying to force Steph to be still and inactive for any length of time so the bones could mend. Returning to college and work life, while reducing her patrols somewhat totally counts as 'taking it easy', right?

Yeah, right.

Gaze met, and gaze held, Stephanie is finding the lack of spoken words from Cassandra more and more unsettlingly comfortable. It's a weird combination. It leaves Stephanie's gaze holding confusion and wary concern, but no fear or distrust. Steph's gaze flits to the fist before coming back up to Cass's gaze.

Slowly, Steph moves her left hand out to genlty dap her fist against Cassandra's.

That's what she wanted, right?

*

Cassandra looks baffled when the fist bump comes. Both eyebrows loft and her eyes widenn while she stares at the act of sororitas taking place over the table. The girl'sbrows furrow deliately and she looks between the meeting of fists and Stephanie's features a few times. Slowly. Then Cassanra hesitatnly daps back.

With this done Cassandra straightens slightly and looks around at the room surrounding her. she checks the exts, the expressions of hte people at the table, and the baffling counter at the front toard which the queue is apparently heading.

Then Cassandra turns her eyes back onto Stephanie again.

What?

*

She didn't want a fist bump? Stephanie's cheek dust a pale pink until Cassandra daps back. Stephanie chuckles lightly, the motion her body would have made of that arresting slightly. Those ribs. Stephanie just presses on, ever so comfortable at acting 'fine' even when not.

What?

"Eehhhh…. Did you want to order something? Because I was going to get a white chocolate mocha and a half sandwich while I studied," Stephanie says, finding her words uncomfortbale only in that she's been the only one to speak thus far.

*

Cassandra's expression doesn't even change in response ot the question. It's a serene expression that remains entirely static for seconds after Stephanie stops. Then she bittes down lightly on her bottom lip and drops her gaze to Stephanie's chest. Or her ribs, if one is being generous. Itisn't really that easy to tell from across a table.

It seemsCass is at least keenly aware of the pain Stephanie is in, though she at least doesn't make a punch of touching her again.

In the end Cassandra's gaze tracks back to stephanie's again. She makes a fist and this time mimes a small punch. A couple inches of movement. Then Cassandra regards Stephanie with a curious expression.

This might take repetition.

*

Not easy to tell what's being looked at, Stephanie blushes again until she tells herself that the gaze was likely at her ribs. Although HOW this mute woman knew there was even an issue is still beyond Stephanie for the moment. Once again, the fist-punch motion draws Stephanie's gaze, and thsi time it's clear that Stephanie has NO idea what to make of it. Unwilling to be detered, Stephanie IS a stubborn one afterall, the blonde holds up a finger.

"Hang on," she says before turning to 'dive' into her backpack. A few motions of rummaging in which Stephanie makes adjustments for thos aching bones, and the blonde comes back up with a spiral notebook and a purple BIC gel pen. These are offered.

"Here. If you can't talk, but you seem to understand ME, maybe you can write it down." That makes sense, right? And isn't insulting?

*

If Cassandra is aware of why Stephanie has flushed she doesn't show it. The notebook, at least, seems to work at first. Cassandra blinks at the spiral book and pen, then reaches out and takes them. She holds down the notebook with her right palm, fingers lightly curled agianst the paper while she takes the pen into her left.

Then Cassandra begins to draw..

It's fortunate that Cass is able to draw in a fairly comprehensive way. It's perfunctory but identifiable, and apparently is a picture of Stephanie herself. She's dressed more simply, though that might be a limitation of the art style, and she's taken a martial stance, fists lifted.

Cassandra points at the paper and then lifts her finger to indicate Stephanie, as if to pose her… Question? Again.

*

Drawing!? Thwas wasn't what Steph had in mind! That moment of 'oh no' flickers across Stephanie's feature before for gets control of herself and waits patiently for Cass to finish her bit of artwork. When it's done and Steph takes it, the notebook is turned so Stephanie can look it over. Stephanie nearly blanches.

How… in the world?! Blue-green eyes come up again, regarding Cassandra with an odd mix of confusion and concern and wary and so many things it makes Steph's head spin a bit.

"Aahhh.. Yes?" Stephanie replies, her voice a question, her head twisting to the side as if she were starting to shake her head even as her lips form an affirmative. The notebook is set back down, in case Cassandra wants to try again.

*

Cassandra studies Stephanie's face for a moment and a brief flicker of irritation flickers across her otherwise serene features. Thenshe nods once and takes a deep breath. The paper is considered for a second and then the thought of touching it again is apparently discarded.

Cass reaches out and places her hand gently against Stephanie's cracked ribs again, this itme iwth a delicate touch designed not to cause any pain. She bites her bottom lip for a second, then presses in sharply. Now that would hurt. A lot actually. It's very aggressive and utterly uncalled for and…

Where did the pain go? Obviously Cassandra can't heal ribs by poking them but it's a fairly significant improvement. Then she nods once, glancing at her first drawing.

It's a moment before Cassandra seems inclined to draw again. This time the slender Chinese girl draws herself somewhere dark. She's lightly crouched and encircled by three people whose features aren't well-defined.

You do Kung Fu? I do too.

*

Oh man. This is frustrating. WHy doesn't she just talk? Or write? Stephanie's lips pull into a light pout. Once again the touch is allowed, and once again Stephanie is a bit wary but not moving to prevent the touch.

And then there's pain.

Stephanie cries out from it, the sound pulled from her throat before she can catch it. Stephanie's whole body tenses with the sensation. Her eyes close as her face scrunches in agony, only for it all the clear a heartbeat later when the pain vanishes. Stephanie's left panting slightly, face pale, and eyes open wide.

What the heck was THAT?!

With Cassandra 'retreating' back to her drawing, Stephanie brings a hand to her no longer aching side and draws what is clearly the first pain free breath she's been able to in at least a week, maybe two. THere are so many questions that Stephanie doesn't know how to begin to ask, dancing in her eyes. Eyes which return to the drawing when its offered.

Stephanie's head tilts, brows pulling together again as she tries to decipher this latest drawing. It's the girl, Stephanie's sure of that. Somewhere dark. Three people around her. Are they in a fight? About to get into one? Maybe they are 'friends'?

Stephanie looks up again, lower lip bitten down on now.

"….Are you…" No, bad question! Asking if she's a vigilante on the heels of admitting that you get into fist fights too is a bad idea Steffers! Lower lip is worried between teeth again.

"…I'm sorry?" Stephanie offers.

*

Cassandra covers her face briefly with her left hand and shakes her head, much in the way one might when trying to educate a child. Then she pauses, straightens and takes a deep breath. She resorts to one of the most universal bits of shared body language.

Cassandra points her left hand at Stephanie, then turns her hands toward herself as if she might be cradling her heart. Then she points at the drawing of Stephanie, then Stephanie, and finally herself. A third time, fairly quickly.

Finally, Cassandra takes a deep breath and slowly relaxes. If anything her expression is- resigned.

Cassandra appears to have a very different idea of which of them is frustratingly obtuse here.

*

Stephanie watches as carefully as she can, face frowning in concentration.

"…we both …take self-defense calsses?" Stephanie tries again. Blondes, there's a saying about them. Stephanie fits the stereotype way too often.

*

Cassandra arches a brow at the question but then she relaxes slightly, apparently finding something to be satisfied by in the exchange. Back to looking serene and confident Cassandra takes up her previous seated position calmy across from Stephanie. She ventures a look at the counter where the interminable line is becoming slowly moreso as seconds pass.

*

When Cassandra seems satisfied, Stephanie exhales. relief floods her fetures as she follows Cassandra's gaze tot he menu. A moment passes and then..>

"Did you want me to order something for you? They really have good stuff here. I get coffee here as offten as I can get away with." Pause for a giggle. "Really, it's not at often as I'd like. Oh well."

*

Cassandra blinks when the offer of ordering something is made. She, as is usual for her, doesn't really react directly to the words, but as Stephanie continues cassandra smiles quietly. She tosses her head slightly in a wave of dark, glossy tresses and then takes another deep breath. Cass rests her hands inobtrusively on the edge of the table.

*

She smiled! Stephanie is going to take that and the toss of glossy tresses as 'yes, please order whatever you think I might like'.

"I'll be RIGHT back!" Stephanie says then, pushing herself with greater ease than she would have done otherwise, before making her way to the counter to order: two sandwiches, two white chocolate mochas, two waters. The meals are paid for, collected on a tray, and then brought back to the table. Cassandra's portion is offered over while the notebook and pen are left within easy reach. Just in case.

*

Stephanie will quickly find that overusing her newfound freedom of movement will bring back the pain rather quickly. Still, there's a new baseline set and it's an improvement. Cassandra does not, it appears, actually have magical bone mending fingers.

When the drinks and sandwiches are placed in front of Cassandra the young woman leans forward slightly. she inhales deeply through her nose and glances upward, as if contemplating somehting. Then she reaches out to take her mocha, watching Stephanie's reaction as she does so. The sandwich is collected soon after, and both are laid out in front of Cassandra with a great deal of earnest care.

The slightly smaller young woman seems to at least have mastered the shared concept of food. She unwraps the sandwich nimbly before taking a sip of her drink. The warmth that suffues her limbs and cheeks is almost palpable, vissible in how her posture straightens and her expression brightens, even if smiles remain rare.

The sandwich simply disappears. If whether or not Cassandra is hungry was a mystery before it probably isn't now.

*

When the first twinge of pain begins to return, Stephanie slows herself down, using more care to prolong her moment of pain-free-ness. She smiles when Cassandra accepts the food, and in the shared silence, Stephanie mimics Cassandra's motions of unwrapping sandwich and sipping the mocha. Stephanie, unlike her silent counterpart, hums softly in appreciation for the sugar and caffeiene content of her drink before she tucks into her meal.

Whoa! Blue-green eyes widen as Cassandra inhales the sandwich, but Stephanie remains polite enough NOT to comment.

*

The sandwich has been reudced to a series of crumbs on a piece of plastic wrap. The mocha, on the other hand, is being avoured, with Cassandra taking regularly sips. She breathes a soft sigh of appreciation then, the most audible she's been since the pair came together.

When Stephanie's eyes widenCassandra's brows furrow and she watches the blonde with some confusion for a moment. Then the girl shrugs and takes another sip of her drink. She seems to be pretty content iwth the overall arrangement.

Even if Stephanie is baffling.

*

Oops. Got caught being confused again. Stephanie blushes faintly, eyes sliding from Cassandra as Stephanie focuses her attention back to her own sandwich; barely a quarter eaten.

"So…." Stephanie starts after a long moment of quiet and several bites of her own sandwich are gone.

"What's your name?" Because that's still hanging in the air.

*

Cassandra tilts her head in response to Stephanie's scrutiny. No answers are exchanged between the two of them, at least not in the spoken word.

Cassandra, for once, looks at least quizzical, her lips pursing lightly as she considers how she is to respond to how Stephanie is acting.

Yet again, words are ignored entirely. Even the mocha is set aside for the moment.

*

Stephanie frowns lightly again when it suddenly becomes clear that she wasn't understood. Sandwich is set down, Stephanie brings a now free hand to touch herself on the collarbones.

"Stephanie," she says clearly before her hand is offered to Cassandra. Steph leans forward slightly, wanting something.

*

The question is regarded with a hint of confusion but Cassandra tilts her head slightly and takes a deep breath. When stephanie indicates herself Cassandra points at the drawing she made of her companion. Frowning, Cassandra moves her two pictures - one of herself about to engage in combat, the other of Stephanie, and lays them in front of her. She is more focused on the Stephanie drawing for the moment.

Watching Stephanie's movements intensely Cassandra once again points at the picture in question with a finger, an eyebrow arching as if to show she is trying to confirm what she has been told.

*

Stephanie watches Cassandra as she moves the pictures around, and after a moment, nods.

"Yes. I'm Stephanie," she repeats, reaching out to touch her fingertips to the paper upon which her likewise is drawn.

*

Cassandra nods seriously in response to the answer. she reaches up and drags her fingers through hertresses, pulling them away from her face. The next thing of concern appears to be her own image.She looks it over briefly then turns her wide amber eyes back to Stephanie somewhat dubiously. a chance is stolen for Cass to retrieve her mocha and take another sip in the midst of this.

*

In silence Stephanie waits, but when no sound if forth coming, Stephanie touches her collarbone and then that drawing of herself again.

"Stephanie." she repeats, and then points to Cassandra then touches the drawing of her, and then waits again.

Come on! Say something.

*

Cassandra stares at the image for a long while. She reaches up and touches her collarbone, mimicking the gesture carefully. But there isn't any indication of understanding.

It's obvious Cassandra can feel Stephanie's frustration. She stares at the pictures with her head tilted, amber eyes narrowed as she studies the paper with such furious scrutiny that it wouldn't be altogether surprising if it immolated abruptly then and there. Then there's a pause.

Silent, Cassandra lifts her gaze to Stephanie's once more. Her breathing is just barely audible, measuring the connection between them as mind and gazes meet. As sshe tries furiously to understand what is being asked.

Finally the girl murmurs sotto voce in an utterly baffled tone:

"Cas… Sandra?"

*

Stephanie waited, and waited, and waited. Cassandra's struggle to understand is watched, and while it was frustrating, Stephanie had the distinct impression that pressing more would make things worse. So in silence, Stephanie waits. And when at last a word drifts free, all of Stephanie's frustrations (and perhaps a bit of worry too) evaporates; dew under the midmorning sun.

A smile, brighter and warmer and more pleasant than anything she's given thus far, Stephanie nods with a sigh. She taps the picture and then motions to Cassandra, repeating as she does: "Cassandra."

*

Encouragement does wonders. Cassandra looks up and she's caught by the radiance of that smile. A slow nod follows, then a firmer one as Stephanie is repeating her name to her. "Cassandra," she agrees, more firmly with the recognition from another person. She is not insane, that isn't just a strange sound she thought someone had made to her. It is her name, and that name is Cassandra.

After that brief period of elation Cassie is smiling more freely but she's still fairly circumscribed in her movements, finishing off the mocha Stephanie bought for her and exchanging it for the cup of water without making any extraneous motions. Cassandra's placid expression and wordlessness continues. But now there is a name put to it, and that seems to have alleviated some concern for the Chinese girl as well.

After a moment Cassandra gestures to Stephanie's chest as she had earlier in a fairly urgent fashion. Her eyes utrn upward and lips purse lightly in a classically questioning pose.

That must be what passes for lunch time conversation.

*

It's in that slow nod and free smiles that Stephanie's mind makes a concerning leap: The girl doesn't know anything about how to interact. Oh God, what if she's a bullet-proof alien from another planet? Masking any concern about THAT, Stephanie smiles a bit less manically.

"That's right. I'm Stephanie. You're Cassandra," the blonde repeats, adding the motions so Cass knows who she's talking about. And then Stephanie holds up her mocha, the duplicate of what Cassandra had just finished.

"Mocha," Stephanie supplies. Because now that there is a name, and the knowledge that Cassandra CAN speak, there need to be MORE words, so that Cassandra will be able to speak fully.

*

Cassandra tilts her head slightly when Stephanie picks up the cup then picks up her own. She holds it out as well but doesn't speak. In fact, Stephanie might well get the impression that the fact Stephanie has named the object has gone over Cassandra's head entirely. This could honestly take awhile.

After a moment Cassandra takes the paper and pen again, beginning to make another sketch. This one is slightly more ornate. it is, in fact, another portrait of Stephanie. In this case, however, her ribs have been wrapped and she's laying in a simple bed. It should be noted that rooms drawn by Cassandra always seem to be very simple, rough wooden chambers of a sort one wouldn't expect to see in the United States in the 20th Century.

This picture is clearly a question. The look in Cassandra's eyes is pretty clear.

*

Well, that didn't work. Stephanie falters again as her offer of a word for the drink is not understood for what it is. But as Cassandra starts drawing again, Stephanie waits while drinking her mocha.

"Oh," Stephanie verbalizes in touched surprise by the question.

"You want me to lay down and rest. Yeah.. I probably should, but I can't," Stephanie ends up saying, head shaking lightly. There's a determined glint to the wistful want to just lay down and not move for a few days.

"I've got school, and work, and.. work," Stephanie adds, feeling a little free about what she says given that she's pretty sure at this point Cassandra doesn't really completely understand her. The repeated 'work' has a bit of eye-rolled emphasis. While Batman's taken her off patrols in Gotham to let her heal, Stephanie still has work with the Avengers and some stalking to do for a friend.

*

Cassandra frowns at this response, tilting her head slightly to the left as she seems to often do. The girl reaches first for the original picture of Stephanie in a martial pose but the nshe pauses. A third piece of paper is selected instead. Cass works methodical, drawing with care and precision and a pace which would make some professionals jealous. She seems to have a better image of Stephanie as she doesn't spare details in portraying her as a young, relatively lissome woman. Beauty is important to her, apparently.

This new drawing has Stephanie in close quarters, fighting someone. They are on the verge of grappling, and the effort intrinsic in this is evident on the blonde's face. Who her opponent is hasn't been defined - they are faceless. It isn't the point.

Cassandra stabs the paper repeatedly with the pen, leaving ink spots on the page for emphasis as she presents it to Stephanie. As she does she points at the image of resting, socwling while she does.

*

Oh. Yeah. Bruce's scowl is called up immediately, resting right along Tony's when the New York based billionaire team-mate realized that she was injured AFTER he convinced Hulk it was a good idea to play Throw-Stuff-At-Spoiler. Stephanie's cheeks darken slightly, and her chin dips. One thing is certain, Stephanie KNOWS she should be resting, and that Cassandra's newest drawing is a more than distinct possibility as well as how much it will HURT if she isn't healed when that DOES happen. She's been telling herself that she IS resting, by not taking as many patrols, and by moving slowly about campus, and not really carrying things at her internship with Murdock and Nelson.

Stephanie is often better as misleading herself than she is at misleading others.

"I'm trying…" she finally murmurs, shoulders slumped slightly.

*

Cassandra watches Stephanie's expression as her thoughts turn to other people and situations. Her own expression shift slightly in time, soon calming as the seconds pass silently between them. Eventually Cass reaches out and places a hand on Stephanie's arm, silently comiserating. Some things, at least, appear to make themselves patently understood.

The slender Chinese girl collects the drawings carefully and stows them in stephanie's notebook. The pen goes into the binding. once she has completely gathered her things Cassandra gestures toward the door and watches Stephanie thoughtfully.

It likely surprises no one that Cassandra does not sit in one place terribly long.

*

A hand on her arm, Stephanie looks up. It's odd that asking for a name was a challenge, but Cassandra understanding that Stephanie had too many responsibilities to just sit back. Motioned that it was time to go, Stephanie nods, collects her book to return to her backpack, and then starts to bus the table.

*

Cassandra assists in bussing the table, though she frequently looks at Stephanie asshe does to check her own movements. It is clear in a single trip with the pair working together and then Cassandra is moving up to the door. She pulls it open for Stephanie as she had when they first entered and watches her companion with a level of attentiveness most people never manage.

Cassandra hasn't even checked her text messages yet.

*

"Thank you," Stephanie says as they bus the table together and then again as Cassandra gets the door. The question is… NOW what? Stephanie pauses to consider this as she waits for Cassandra to catch up to her.

*

Cassandra catches up quickly. She's quite nimble, in fact, though she moves without any swagger or pretense. Like someone who isn't aware of how exceptional they actually are. She steps upbeside Stephanie and looks out over the world at large in front of them, studying the people heading in all directions.

*

Stephanie stands there, looking at the world also. So many thoughts in her head, and most of them are worried about Cassandra. The time is checked on her phone. There's not much left. She needs to nap before driving to New York for work, then nap again before suiting up and begining her nightly stalkering. A sigh of not sure what tto do now escapes the blonde.

*

Cassandra looks around slowly. She tilts her head then shifts her weight slightly, studying their surroundings. A deep breath is taken, held, and hten slowly exhaled. Finally Cassandra reaches out to gently take Stephanie's hand. It seems that the Chinese woman is intent on dragging her new friend along on a walk. Not too far. There's a park a few blocks away that Cassandra has in her sights.

*

"Hm?" Stephanie is surprised by the move, but doesn't fight it. Drug along, Stephanie walks with Cassandra to the park with only a tiny frown of confusion.

"Where are we going, Cassandra?"

*

Predictably, there's no sign of reply. Instead Cassanda lets the world ahead of them do the talking. It's actually a fairly nice park in its own way. Long walking paths circling placid water on which ducks and geese might land in the right parts of the year. Despite how serene the scenery is the park itself is largely empty at the moment. It is here Stephanie is gently tugged toward as other people go past in either direction.

Cassandra leads Stephanie toward a stretch of flat grass in the park just opposite the water.

*

"The duck pond?" Stephanie asks, now no longer really expecting a reply. She's just used to there being words between people, and so she's filling the silence a bit nervously, out of habit.

"What are we doing at the duck pond, Cassandra?"

*

Cassandra drops to the ground all at once, kneeling in front of Stephanie in a fairly comfortable resting pose. She pats the grass in front of her with two fingers then, looking up at the blonde while she does so. A palm is turned upward beckoningly.

*

Stephanie blinks a few times before tilting her head.

"You want me to sit with you?" Stephanie asks before she lowers herself gingerly and rests her backpack against her side.

"Okay, Cassandra. I'm sitting. Now what?"

*

Cassandra gestures to Stephanie's chest as she has so many times before and then gestures to herself. This time, however, she takes a deep breath and sits at perfect attention. Cassandra exhales sharply. One, two, three. It's very formal and obviously has meaning. Amber eyes stare at Stephanie intently as Cass indicates for her to do the same with a hand.

*

"You want me to meditate?" Stephanie asks, as if not able to believe what's happening. A faint chuckle, cut off a bit by the ache, and Stephanie inhales, settles herself into what is actually 'proper' form, and a deep-ish and calming breath is taken. Lookit, Tim! I'm meditating int he park.

*

Cassandra gently but carefully leads Stephanie through a series of specific breathing exercises and movements that are likely unfamiliar. This is because, as Stephanie will discover as they continue, they are designed specfically for dealing with rib fractures and bruises. As she leads Cassandra gently gestures with her hands, letting finger movements like upturned thumbs tell when Stephanie is right, and lifted tips and outward palms to say 'stop' or 'wrong'. For this, at least, words are superfluous.

*

Stephanie follows as led. The nonverbal cues are taken, and one thing is perfectly clear: Stephanie is observant, diligent, and an overachiever. WHen praised, she smiles and focuses. When told it is wrong, she frowns and redoubles her efforts. Stubborn over achiever is almost perfectionist. Almost.

*

It isn't really a very restful sequence, especially not the series of "coughing" exercises that follows at the end. But once Stephanie has it all down Cassandra smiles at her warmly and then retrieves the notebook. She draws the morning sun rising overhead into the picture of Stephanie resting with her ribs bound, and points at it significantly.

It really is a series of exercises for someone with rib injuries. Cassie must be fairly worried about that.

*

Oh God. Coughing? Why? Just… why?! And yet, despite not seeming happy about it, Stephanie follows along, getting her 'prescription'.

"Do this every morning, and keep resting?" she asks, as if making sure she understood. She's fairly sure she did.

"I will, Cassandra. Thank you."

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