March 21, 2018:

Nobody takes cheap shots like exes do.

Campus Diner, Gotham University

Styled like a retro diner. Full of hungry college kids during midterms.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Matthew Murdock, Jessica Jones, Barbara Gordon


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Winter is still stubbornly clinging to the Northeast, dumping snow on the region sometimes in a light dusting, other times a proper snowfall. In Gotham, it hardly looks like spring has already begun, with the trees still winter bare and wet, greying snow on the ground. The Gotham University campus is no exception, students hurrying around instead of lingering with their friends, eager to get out of the weather and into warmth. Of course, there haven't been any cancelled classes from the weather: Gotham U stays open through whatever fresh lunacy the City of Yesterday throws up on a regular basis, and by god it's staying open through a little snow.

Which brings us to Gotham U's retro-style on-campus diner, its booths full even slightly after lunch. It might only be early afternoon, but the grey sky makes it feel like evening, and students are happy to have somewhere warm to sit, especially somewhere warm that has food.

In a corner booth, situated so nobody can approach him unnoticed, Tim Drake is sitting… Studying? It looks like studying, anyway, with his laptop open on the table in front of him, and a mug of hot chocolate (he's barely touched it, it's gotten cold) sitting beside it, along with a plate with his lunch (half a burger eaten, he's hardly touched the fries, they have also gotten cold).

It's only been a few days since the explosion at Titans Tower. A few days in which he's been… If not incommunicado, at least not particularly communicative. Even for him.

Into this warmth steps Stephanie. With midterms in full swing, she's called in to Murdock & Nelson for the day off so she could study. And she actually does mean to really study this time, instead of using the extra few hours to run moe analysis on various criminal elements she's looking into. She may even get an extra few hours of sleep. She could use it.

With the crowd an empty table is neigh impossible to locate, and so it is the familiar face in the crowd that draws the blonde to Tim's table. If nothing else, she knows she'll be able to sit. If he doesn't want the company, he'll say or give an excuse to leave, or just stay not talking and they each can be in their own little bubbles of 'we are doing The Important Things' (TM). Either way, Stephanie makes her way to Tim's table, fully aware he'll see her approaching.

There's a temptation to be completely consumed in what you're doing. Tim knows that temptation very well, but of course it clashes with what he's been trained to do. What's been so thoroughly ingrained into him that there's no escaping it, the habits that have been ground into his bones and his blood. Just like choosing this spot, where nobody could sneak up on him: It doesn't make any difference if you don't pay attention.

So he pays attention.

"Hey, Steph," he says offhandedly once the blonde is close enough to hear him. He doesn't look up, his dark blue eyes scanning over the screen in front of him, one hand pushing his dark hair out of his face, holding it there. His lips move, no sound. A faint shake of his head, like he's arguing with himself.

"How's… Uh… Things?" he asks, sounding a bit abashed as he realises mid-question he doesn't have the information to be more specific about Stephanie's recent activities.

Distracted Tim. Stephanie finds a smile for him. It's really not that hard to do, and so she settles down across from him and sets her Lisa Frank colored back pack on the empty spanse of booth beside her.

"Hi Tim. Things're alright, I guess. Midterms are slowly eating my brain, transcribing legal memos for my internship is tidiously fun at best, and the long nights 'studying' are quite frankly blurring together. You?" Stephanie surprises herself with how succinct that was, and so she masks that by opening her back pack to get out her own slim laptop to work on.

Succinct - or, really, curt - isn't the adjective Tim would usually apply to Stephanie, which suggests that she's not kidding about her workload eating her brain. He actually looks at her, finally, dark blue eyes fixing on the blonde over the top of his laptop while she retrieves her own out of her backpack. Slowly, one brow arches. Is she working herself too hard again? He would've hoped she'd learned her lesson about that before… Honestly, where was she getting these sorts of behaviours from…?

No, he doesn't realise the most obvious answer. Not at the moment, anyway.

"Peachy keen," he says in a moment of dry sarcasm, remembering his hot chocolate and picking up the mug to take a drink… And discovering that it's cooled down in the time he's been preoccupied with work. Gross.

"Agh. Um. Little accident at work the other day," by which he means somebody blew up in his lab. "Maybe you should cut the late nights, though. I mean you've got your exams and your… Internship? Where are you interning?" Look he's been preoccupied, and there's not enough hours in the day to spy on every element of everyone he know's lives.

And don't think he hasn't tried.

Of course she's working herself too hard. She's a pupil that most teacher would drool for: immulates and overachieves. Her laptop comes out, is opened, and chimes merrily through its boot up process. Really, it takes longer than it should given that she ONLY uses this one for actual civilian school work.

"Oh. Peachy keen. I love those days," is the quip to the sarcasm. He's blegh at the hot chocolate has Steph looking up. The fatigue is slightly noticeable under the faint layer of foundation and make up she's wearing.

"I'm interning with Murdock & Nelson, Defense Attorneys in New York. I figured I could get a good look at that side of criminal law instead of Prosecution all the time," Stephanie says. Her lips, a soft pink under the gloss she's wearing, curl up gently at a corner.

"I took the day off to study and sleep a few hours before dinner time," she replies, sounding so much like she's got all of this on lock-down. It surprised her that Tim didn't already know she was working in New York, and she leans foward slightly.

"How many late nights are you pulling in a row?" she asks then, both brown lifted in the start of what is clearly Mother Hen Steph.

"From the Barnes trial?" is the response about her choice in internship. A furrow, now, between his dark brows: A dangerously small world. Murdock was the one Jessica Jones had once frantically called about, needing Zatanna's help after he'd been attacked by the Cult of the Cold Flame. Maybe the one she'd been upset about that time at Shadowcrest…? Still, dangerous. Connected to Barnes, to Jones. And now to Stephanie. "You're being careful, right? Part of their job is picking apart other people's deceits and inconsistencies. And I know sometimes they work with a PI, Jessica Jones, who's a lot smarter than your average private investigator."

And the acolytes of the Bat are, after all, deceitful people by necessity.

How many late nights are you pulling in a row?

She turns it around on him, and gets a flat look from the dark-haired young man.

"All of them," he admits.

"Yes. That one. And yes. I'm being careful. I know exactly how good of a PI Ms. Jones is," Stephanie replies, averting her gaze from Tim's to log in to her computer now that boot up is done. Hopefully, it hides exactly how good of a PI Stephanie has learned the Jess is, given that it hadn't taken the PI long to fully susce Steph out. But, Jess has proven loyal and trustworthy, and Steph's more than willing to keep that little bit of information about that to herself.

something about graves.

His flat look and deadpan reply draws Steph's gaze again and coaxes a soft frown.

"Tim…" she says, head tilting to the side.

Perhaps the tone of voice isn't fair, for it comes from years ago, when things were good and the future as bright as it ever gets in Gotham.

Though only the top half of his face is visible over the screen of his laptop, Stephanie surely knows Tim well enough to imagine the developing frown, especially when paired with the increasingly suspicious look in his eyes as they narrow. The way the blonde looks away isn't exactly reassuring, but surely if she'd accidentally let slip to anybody about her secret identity she'd have given the rest of them a warning. Even he did, after he told Zatanna.

Eventually, he did, anyway. Look it's different when he makes a decision!

"Don't start," he says to head the blonde off when she says his name like that. "I have an unbelievable amount of work to do." And another person living in his head. Which isn't really something he's told anyone about. "I mean… You saw the news, right? And I'm working with the Foundation on a project… And, yeah, school." Part of the reason he'd elected to stay in Gotham was that he knew he could do well at Gotham U with his eyes closed. Which is good, because on more than one occasion he's had to.

Yes. Eventually. Steph just… hasn't gotten to her own Eventually yet. So, it's exactly the same thing!

He says dont' start and Stephanie all but pouts.

"Yes," she replies, letting the pause stretch a bit before leanig forward again.

"All of that, and school. So, if you're going to frown at me to take a few nights off, knowing full well that you are the most likely the one going to pick up the slack, then you better be ready for me to be your mirror." So there.

"I could do more than frown," Tim says. "I could contact your friends up in New York, tell them you need a break. One of them owes me after I helped him out during the blizzard." And after he keeps letting Tony borrow Impulse… Not that he's the boss of Impulse, really, it's just… You know. "Maybe tell Barbara, too." It's dirty pool, probably, going over her head as it were when he's got relatively nobody to answer to. It isn't as though anybody is going to tell him what to do with the Titans.

But she's giving him that almost pout, something he ought to be inured to by now… Except that he can see her own tiredness, covered up with makeup.

"Fine," he says, finally, turning his attention back to the screen of his laptop.

The threat of telling her New York 'coworkers' doesn't scare her. She played dodge the office furniture with Hulk… which her ribs were cracked. She's got dealing with Avengers down to a 'duck alot' art.

Barbara, however..

"Oh.. that's just not nice," Stephanie tells Tim, head shaking and pout settling more firmly. "And I'm not sure telling her would work in your favor, when I get my side in."

Fine. "Fine," she repeats, pout fading as she too turns her attention to her own laptop.

"How tasty was the hot chocolate before you got sucked into your research and forgot the world existed?" she asks after about a minute or two of batling silence.

It's a truce, if nothing else.

Maybe a kind of detente.

"It was pretty good, I think," Tim answers her question about the hot chocolate. "The burger was too." All half of it he'd eaten. He'd never gone entirely in on the Batman Diet the way some of the others had. Maybe it kept him from reaching that absolute pinnacle of his personal physical potential, but 99.99999999% isn't so bad if you can have a bacon cheeseburger now and again. Man wasn't meant to live on precisely-tailored diets alone.

"Some of the fries might still be warm if you want 'em."

Sadly, they are not.

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