#SpoilerAlert Zoidberg's Unpleasant 2nd Cousin

July 08, 2018:

In which a quiet day for Stephanie is a not so quiet day for Drake. Or this is why we can't have nice beach-dates, and it's ALWAYS lupus. (Shut up, House.)

Cresent Beach Park, Staten Island

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Drake Riley knows Stephanie probably wants some space. He also knows she's going through things. After their kiss and the subsequent realization that she didn't want more than that, Drake tried to find a balance. He'd sent her a few stray messages, some tentative 'Hey, how are you' deals. He didn't expect much in response, if any. He occupied his time wwith pool maintenance - because apparently there's an ongoing battle with keeping it functional and the forces of chaos - but his mind kept drifting back to her.

Did he push too hard? Did he overstep? Did he really mess things up? He can't count past a single hand on how many people he could call friend out here. He got greedy with Stephanie. Now he might be down another one.

Suddenly, he's hit the button to call her. Why? Because reasons he can't articulate right now. He did it almost without even thinking, yet at the same time, he's not hanging up.

It was nine in the morning. With no classes and no work, and Stephanie was wide awake. She told herself she shouldn't be. She laid there staring at the ceiling reminding herself that she has patrol later that night. But much later, and if she was willing to admit it: she was bored.

She had refused to let herself think about boys, but they always seemed to crop up at the most random of moments. The most recent beau drifting past her mind.

She had been comfortable enough to fall asleep against him. The kiss had been nice, hadn't demanded anything. She sighed and rolled over just as he phone rang. The bedazzled Hello Kitty one.

Blinking, she sat up and answered.

"Hello?"

Drake Riley freezes instantly when he hears her voice. No idea why, his mind just goes blank. The sounds he makes likely don't help, but he has to say /something/!

"Uh- ah-, we'uh.. hey, Steph'!" With the last bit being human words, we're off on the right track. "I just- I mean, how are you? Thought I'd call and check in-.. not that.. I mean.. hi."

A balled-up fist bumps repeatedly against his forehead. He knows he sounds stupid.

Those inhuman sounds confuse Steph enough that she pulls the phone from her ear and looks at the caller ID 'Drake R.' before putting the phone back to her ear and scooting her feet under her.

"Hi, Drake," she says, calm only because she heard him flailing.

"I'm okay. No class. No work. So, thanks for checking in. I was… I was thinking about you, actually." Cue the blush. Tell me blushes can't be heard! The tiny beaten up optimist in her says that no, no they can't. Drake bumps his forehead, Stephanie picks at some fuzz on her blanket.

Drake Riley is silent again, fist paused against his brow. He blinks slowly. "You were?," asks Drake, unable to mask his own internal optimism. It peeks out like a vocal gopher. "What, uh.. what were you.. thinking about?," he asks tentatively.

Oh God! You shouldn't have said anything, Steph! Bright red, Stephanie sucks down a quick lungful.

"IwasthinkingaboutafewdaysagowhenIfellasleeponyourshoulderandthatitwasnice." Catch that? It was all one breath, said in something that can only be described as verbal cursive. It's nervous and jittery and hopeful and scared and bubbly and ready to bolt all at once.

There's a ruslte and then a thump, because she dropped the phone on the bed as she freaks out a bit more, and then kicks it off the bed. More rustling ensues as she all but dives after the phone, ending up on her stomach, hair in her face, balanced on one hand, and feet up in the air to balance herself.

"Hello? You still there? OhmygodI'msosorry!IdroppedthephoneandthenIkickeditand-"

Drake Riley is staring owl-eyed at the wall in front of him. None of the other shenanigans even registered. His brain had to process the verbal outpouring she'd first given him, and the clashing tones, battling against the beliefs he'd had earlier. It was nice falling asleep on him? Did he hear that right? That sounds… more than friendly. Right? Is he going crazy? /Is she making him crazy!?/

Wait, is he making her crazy?

"Stephanie! It's okay. I'm here! Um.. we could.. do that.. again.. if you want..?"

He nips onto his bottom lip and squints, bracing.

Mental word vomit screeches to a halt at the sound of her name, and she grunts faintly as she flips back to get to her feet. Because it was that or try to belly crawl one handed.

Oh God, I hope he didn't hear me! It's going to think I'm crazy.

"Well… umm. that would be… cool, but I'm.. i'm not sleepy… finally. for once… I mean, I just woke up… like … two hours ago. But it was sleeping in, I promise!" Faint slap of skin on skin as she claps her hand over her mouth and gives her brain a second to focus again.

"I mean. Sorry. I'm still a bit.. I would like to go out again, yes."

The final bit is the embarrassed monotone of just forcing yourself what you mean to say instead of word puke.

Drake Riley starts to speak, then pauses, squinting. He starts to speak again, then another pause. The way she said that. "You'd like to go out again…?"

"Yes," Stephanie says after a big breath of courage and forcing herself to go with 'EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE AWESOME' that had once been so easy for her instead of the much more recent 'The world is burning all around me and i'm suddenly atlas' feel.

And then she looks around and down at the night clothes she wore to bed and she blushes, tugging at the hem of the tank to cover her belly button. As if she can be seen.

"I'd have to get dressed and I don't know where we could go… maybe, since you like the water, you can… It's a pretty day so far. There's a beach on Staten Island… not too far from where I'm at…?" It's tentative, nervous, and starting toward shy again.

Much to Drake's chagrin, he could verify that he has not once seen Stephanie's bellybutton. Her suggestion, however, is so distinct in his ear that it may as well have been yelled. First she confirms that she said 'go out'. He isn't sure if the colloquiolism means something else where she's from, but he wants to think it means 'date'. And she's also suggesting a beach. He's definitely surprised. Impressed, even. And kind of ecstatic.

Let's not forget internally jumbled. What does it mean!?

"U-um, sure! Sounds good! I can meet you there? We can meet up somewhere? I'm cool with either. Should I, ah, bring something?"

Oooh no. Oh no! He stuttered! Stuttered is bad, right? It's bad? Maybe? Maybe it's good? AH! Stephanie sucks down another breath, moving to the bathroom so she can start the morning ritual she's delayed for three hours.

"Give me about twenty minutes and I'll text you an address. Since you brought lunch last time, I'll bring things so just.. .just.. whatever you want to swim in…. AND A TOWEL!"

Why did she yell the last? Becasue she embarassed herself with 'whatever you want to swim in' as sounding too suggestive, and she was looking at her towek hanging on the rack when the mild suggestiveness of what she said smacked right up against the fact that she had turned on the water for a shower and was about to get unclothed. A glance in the mirror reminds her that purple stains and she just hangs up the phone so she can die in her bathroom without any witnesses.

And five minutes later, the address pings: 6549, 366 Tennyson Dr, Staten Island, NY 10312 - Cresent Beach Park.

Stephanie gets into the shower now, so she can scrub herself free of the embarassment.

"Okay. Sure. Oh- ack!" She yelled at the phone. Drake recoils from it with a blink, then snickers. "Okay! I'll bring a towel! Maybe two!"

She hangs up. He stares at his phone for a moment, then rushes off to his room to prepare. He'll be keeping his mind off of imagining what Stephanie might wear to this outing. No, no. He can't let himself be distracted.

Twenty minutes after the address comes a time. 11:00am

Stephanie needs time to make the foodstuff. A fresh batch of cookies was the first thing she flung into the oven while preparing everything else. Sandwiches in rolls instead of slices of bread, so all the things can be stuffed inside and there's less chance of it all falling out. Dobulewalled thermos pulled out of the freezer and filled with a light juice, wrapped in their own towels. Two small tupperwares of fruit. Three strawberries for each, and four green grapes. All the cold stuff packed, she put sunscreen and aftersun and some water bottles on top, then closed it and yanked the cookies out to cool on the tray before running back upstairs to finally exchange the towel for a swimsuit. She checked her back, noting that unless you looked really hard the bruises were gone. Only a slight yellow hue remained. She grabbed a suit, tankiki, lavendar top with black bottoms, then yanked on a skrit and threw on an over wrap, grabbed purse and hat and glasses and… ran BACK upstairs for a towel, then back down to get the still warm cookies into an insulted tupperware, and she was off… Just enough time to get to Staten Island without breaking too many traffic laws.

She had her car speech to text a message to Drake: On mine weight.

Drake Riley's process was much less hectic. He got changed into the suit she saw him purchase when they first met, and then he began his adventure through the land of PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. He has precious little control of when he's getting there. Odds are in her favor, in fact, that she'd be there before him.

He got her text. He stared at his phone. And then he figured it out. He texted back: 'Same!'

No need to confuse the poor girl by poking fun.

At long last, Drake arrives at the beach. With two gray, uninteresting towels slung over his shoulder along with a duffelbag, shirt already removed and stuffed into, the teen plods through the sand and scans for her.

One part relieved she arrived before him, one part freaking out that she arrived before him, Stephanie forces herself to get an umbrella and stake it down and then step out a few paces to take a picture and text that to Drake, and to share her Hello Kitty's GPS with him. And then, she sits down, shrugs off the wrap, and starts putting sunscreen on her shoulders. Needs to be on at least twenty minutes before getting wet, so say the instructions.

Ping! GPS. Ping! Picture. Pictures of a beach aren't particularly useful in tracking someone down. Beaches tend to look very… samey. But it doesn't take him long to spot the staked umbrella (how quaint!) and the leggy girl near it rubbing the sunscreen onto herself. He hurries forward at a faster clip, kicking up little puffs of sand in his wake. "Hey!," he calls in greeting, and lets his belongings plop onto the sand unceremoniously, with the exception of one of the towels. That is laid out, and his phone dropped neatly upon it.

She tried to get eth picture of hte umbrella in there, int he hopes it would help, but then figured teh GPS would be easier. In eather case, hearing him call out, Stephanie pauses and turns to look. A smile graces her face.

"Hi." And then what? oh, man! Maybe she should have planned something out.

"Hi!," Drake repeats. Automatically, his gaze dips over her figure, noting her tankini. Remarkably conservative - no shock there, but a little disappointing, and why is he still thinking about this, geeze! She has great legs, though.

Those eyes zip back up to her face!

"Have ya been here long? I had to do the.. y'know.. ride-with-strangers thing."

Stephanie watches his eyes trail down her, watches them regard the swimsuit.

Is he disappointed? I bet he's disappointed. Why should I care if he's disappointed? Stephanie bites her lip, letting the pink glossed bit of flesh go when his eyes zip back to hers.

"No. Not really. A few minutes. Just long enough to set up. Did you want a ride back? I know it's clear across Manhattan for you, comgin from Westchester," Stephanie rambles, not even commenting that she herself came from Bristol, which is in the completely opposite direction.

"What? No, I just got here," Drake replies, as if flabbergasted at the idea of being shuttled away so quickly. Yes, he's taking what she said out of context. He's trying to get things loose and relaxed again!

Suddenly, Drake drops down to his knees beside her. "You look nice," he offers quickly. "I knew that big ol' wrap-around thing was hiding all the hotness."

Her eyes go wide in an instant.

"What! No! I meant later! When we were ready to go and not now at all and-!" And suddenly he's next to her, kneeling, and that he took her words out of context, took them almost literrally, draws a burst of the giggles. It leads to a blush at his complement.

"Umm. Thanks," she says, shoulders pulling up, lip getting chewed on.

"Um.. you too." Right? That's right? Yes? No? Guh! How did this date thing go again?

"Oh, really now?," asks Drake with a perked eyebrow. She's so… so… deer-in-headlights right now, so different from that girl who drove him around the other night, that it's difficult to not play with her. His head tilts to the side, bangs framing his face a little more. "I think that might actually be the first sort-of-flirt you've ever done towards me," he accuses coyly.

Accused, Stephanie's cheeks turn bright red and she holds out the sunscreen too quickly.

"Here. Do you need some?" No, your voice squeaked! Stephanie swallows and then chews on her lower lip to try to keep herself from seeming like she realized that her voice cracked, which means is completely obvious that she's aware that her voice when too high too fast.

Where is that calm from before? When she had to focus on getting them out safely, when she had to be a bit Spoiler, instead of just Stephanie.

Drake Riley takes the sunscreen and gives it a look. "Ehh, I already used some. But," he tips the bottle in her direction, still having entirely too much fun playing with her apparent shyness, "Do you need help with yours~?" Yes, he's saying it in a way that's deliberately meant to sound suggestive.

Cue extreme blush and Stephanie trying too hard to get teh bottle back so she ends up scrambling for it, up on her knees, body leaning forward. the wrap that was on her hips slips to the towels under them.

"No no nono, I can do it. I got it. I mean, I can do it. I mean! Gimme."

Drake Riley smiles widely at her, leaning back as she leans forward. Naturally, he raises the bottle high to keep out of reach, not shying back any further than that from her! "No way! You gave it to me, s'mine now!," he teases.

As he smiles, she starts to also, even if the blush rides high on her cheeks and over the bridge of her nose, making the faint freckling that is normally not visible stand out just a little bit more. She lifts up on her knees, hands reaching for the bottle, one hand settling on his upper arm to give her a bit more leverage.

"You said it didn't need it, so give it back," she protests, mind recognizing this as silly and just running with it. It's light and warm and oh so embarassing but in that wonderful way that feel free and easy and helps beat her worries int he head with a crowbar.

Drake Riley tilts his arm back further and further as she props forward, even using him. But that pushing on him to gain leverage seems to be their downfall! Drake falls backwards, landing flat on his back with a little 'flump' against the unimpressive gray towel behind him!

With a squeak, Stephanie starts to fall, but that squeak is all that's allowed for training kicks in. Hand on his arm leaves it to grab for the bottle while the other comes down on one side of his head, bracing herself along with the opposite toe so that she's resting on him but her full weight is not on top of him. Her other leg is held up. Her hair falls like a curtain over them, and she looks down at him.

The scent of the sunscreen drifts from her, soft coconut; the scent of summer and sun. Her hair smells of the shampoo and conditioner, a light floral.

Training, or her desperate efforts to behave? Drake can't tell! To be fair, he isn't thinking about it too much. He's thinking about the girl hovering over him, smelling of fond, more lighthearted memories. His eyes match to hers, the bottle thefted easily from his grasp. The hand falls, landing at her waist without word.

Not a tremble do his hands find in Stephanie's form, for this holding up of self is not the least bit strenuous. No, she could hold this for as long as she needed to. It's the touch on her waist that draws her attention. It reads in her eyes, the way the blue-green hue deepens toward something almost oceanic, and in the tiny flick of pink at her slightly lighter pink lips. The hand with the bottle of sun screen slowly retracts toward her.

Drake Riley draws in a breath, and exhales it in a slow, gentle whoosh that plays with the hanging rays of blonde. The hand at her waist remains steady, but he seems nervous. Everything in him is urging him to lean up and venture forward another kiss. But the last time he did that, things went bad so quickly. It's an internal struggle, beating back the yearning to try again with the foreboding of making things even more strained between them. He doesn't want to chase her away!

So he rests deadlocked beneath her. Her physical prowess isn't even registering on his mind right now.

That free hanging leg lowers just a bit, her thigh resting lightly on his. She didn't mean it, it was just that the balance point needed to shift since the hand with the bottle was coming in. The hand holding her up was bent at the elbow.

She too seems nervous. She knows what he'd like. He told her so, and to be honest, this light hearted whatever this is, is so wonderful and endearing and soothing that she's loathe to ruin it with the secrets she knows she must keep as Spoiler.

The trouble is that he's seen her as both, and has offered clear preference to who she is without the mask that it's so alluring, so calming. She's afriad to get hurt, and afraid to hurt in return that she hangs there, indecisive, torn between wanting and running; her past telling her that it's going to end poorly, her inner nature telling her it's going to work out wonderfully. It's an internal arguement that she currently has no hope of ending.

And so, the two young people are caught in relatively compromising position, a stalemate of nerves and desires, fears and concerns. Neither relents, neither speaks. The thing about that is, however, Drake is a teen. And moreover, he already struggles with impulse control. And the longer she doesn't retreat, the more he feels like maybe he wouldn't ruin things.

Finally, he raises again and tilts his head, aiming to press a kiss to her lips. This time, should contact be made, he means to linger on it.

The longer she stays, the more she worries that she would ruin things when she finally had to run, if she had to run, does she have to run? She sees him raise up and for an inch she presses herself up along with him, matching distances. Only, she wasn't lifting as quickly as as he was and eventually he caught her.

A tiny moan escapes on a sigh, eyes closing and weight sinking right back down since her mind stops focusing on holding herself aloft. Not fully anyway, for she had locked her weight at the original height from whens he first landed. It was like a resting point for her, weight mostly on her toes and hand, partially on the boy beneath her.
Drake Riley didn't really mind her and her weird floaty-position that's anything but natural for what's going on. He's cool with it. The main attraction is what's going on in the facial region. What's /still/ going on. But Drake doesn't push it for too long; he's indulging, savoring the moment for a while, but he wants to give her that chance to make it clear that she didn't want that. Until she voted one way or another, he's swinging blind. And that's just bundling up all his nerves in terrible ways.

The kiss ends, and his face continues to hover by hers. Warm breaths brush against her lips for a few more seconds before his head lowers back down just enough to look back up into her eyes.

Blue-green eyes open as the kiss ends, the blush on her cheeks having settled into a nice warm flush. Her own breath is a warm puff as well, mixing with Drake's as she meets his gaze.

And then the position she's in strikes her and the blush deepens. A moment and she pushes herself up and rolling back to her knees.. on either side of his.

Does it occur to her that not many people could do that? No, not really.

"Umm…" What should she say now? No idea. Stephanie.exe has stopped responding. Wait or close application?

Drake Riley props himself up on his elbows, still staring at her for a few seconds in silence. He scooches his left knee up a little, likely bumping her in the process. "Ah.. yeah.." He clears his throat. "A-about that.. sunscreen.." He nods towards the bottle.

As he stares, Steph rocks back again to the balls of her feet and her knees. Sure, it may give him a bit more space, but as he shifts, that knee bumps her. The blush deepens and she bites her lower lip. He mentions the sunscreen and her eyes drop to the bottle before slowly offering it over again.

Her heart is racing, hammering away in her chest and in her throat in a way it hasn't since she was face to face with the Joker, alone, with no one on her coms. And yet, while her heart is racing, her mind is slow, too slow to think through what even is happening.

The hand slips from her fully at this point, starting to reach for the sunscreen again. What he intended to do with it, he wasn't entirely sure. But his fingertips fall just short as the sound of commotion raises from the water. Gurgled, burbled pleas for help?

Drake's head snaps over to peer at the horizon. There's thrashing. He then squirms to scan for the lifeguard. That lifeguard has a girl in an arm, completely tuned out to the rest of the world. "Hey! /Hey/!," Drake shouts. He gets a finger raised his way for his trouble.

Oh, New York.

The teen looks quickly up at Stephanie - it's a small, meaningful look. But then he's pulling back frantically to slide from beneath her and take off at a full dash for the shoreline. Upon reaching the water's edge, he springs into the air with an elegant arch, diving into the water.

Just as Drake's head snaps around to look for the source of trouble, so does Steph's. Blue-green orbs widen at the sight of someone drowning. One glance, that's all Steph needs in order to know that the lifeguard was being a moron. It also told her where there was a jetski, a rope, a floatie foam doughnut thing, and the shortest route to get to each and out to that person. Her gaze shifts to Drake's, blue meeting green at the same instant.

Gone is the shy, nervous, doe. Meaningful glance received. A nod is given. He'll get the person stable above water, she'll get the vehicle to haul them all back to shore.

Go.

He pulls back, Stephanie is on her feet and sprinting hard for those items her mind identified as needing. The sunscreen bottle leans then drops to its side, forgotten in the now rumpled towels under the umbrella.

Doing a little impromptu water rescue is certainly nothing Drake can't manage. He's an excellent swimmer - like a dolphin, but with more limbs and less mackerel. He reaches his destination in no time, grabbing onto the flailing fellow and attempting to load him against his shoulder. And then the man slips off again. "Whoa!" He fishes through the water and hauls him back up. The man is sputtering, unintelligible, panicked. It's not making Drake's job any easier, but he's set again. This time, it seems to work much more easily.

Turning with his new haul, Drake spots Stephanie en route. He didn't actually realize that's what she was doing. "Steph'?"

And then with a 'plunk', Drake vanishes under the water. The panicked man is swimming away of his own volition towards the shore. Bubbles pop up to the surface where Drake went under, however.

Beneath the waves, a malcontent mutant with a faceful of tentacles, hands lined in suckers, and sporting an array of aquadynamic fins, is grappled with the teen to keep him well and securely bound beneath the surface! He squirms and thrashes, but the water has a way of making physical motion wonky, and he's trying to position himself to kick his attacker away! But between an assortment of creepily-extending face-appendages and suction-hands, he's quickly running out of air.

Steph had the things she needed and was on the jetski by the time Drake had closed the distance with the drowner. Speeding herself, she watches Drake struggle, then disappear. A heartbeat later the drowner pops free and swims toward shore with strong sure strokes.

And Drake is still missing.

She gets to the area, blue-green eyes quick scanning the waves.

There! Darke… and something not completely human. Steph kills the engine, flings the doughnut to the side, the rope onto the handle bars, all while a lungful of air was gulped down.

There was no time to think. There never is in a battle, in rescuing someone, in doing what needed doing.

Without hesitating, Stephanie dives down, kicks hard for the pair and using all her momentum drives her fist into that face full of fleshy appendages. It arrests her momentum, and she uses that hand to grab Drake by the back of the head. Feet come forward and plant, one on the thing's forehead by Drake's head, the other on its chest under Drake's arm, and both give a kick-shove, hard and vicious while her hand guides Drake a bit sidewise to keep him from getting any force from her kick while shoving him more or less to the surface. Bubbles come free from her lips, the first bubbles she made, for she - as trained - exhaled a bit explosively with the force of the kick. She'll wait a moment more, to make sure the thing is let Drake go and he's safely away to the surface before starting to kick that way, though never do her eyes leave the creature. Oh, no.

This thing's just lucky she didnt pack the mouthpiece rebreather from her utility belt.

The mutant's slitty, reptilian eyes spot Stephanie, but don't turn loose of its prey. With a forceful kick, the suckers disengage, leaving Drake to push towards the surface. He breaks and gasps in a lungful of air. He flails an arm towards the side of the jetski to lessen the required effort to stay afloat, but quickly twists to look back down into the water. It's murky. It's difficult to see much.

Meanwhile, the mutant seems to have sunk much deeper into the depths, disappearing into the shadowy recesses. That is, until he's suddenly kareening upwards like a torpedo towards Steph', left hand raised and fingers stretching, wriggling bonelessly as those suckers attempt to latch onto her! The force of his ascent could well propel them both into a brief skyward burst from the ocean.

That fast? Fine. Steph could use the air, so she waits, she lets teh squid-thing take her wrist and haul her upwards, exhaling the whole while and biding her time. The moment she breaks the surface she's inhaling and turning on the creature. Face a hard mask of tightly controlled fury and applied vengence, she brings her stronger right hand up and back into it's gills while simultaneously pulling her feet up toward it's softer midsection.

Time's running out and she let the creature grapple her, so now lungs refilled, Stephanie knows she has to KO this thing before they get too far under the waves again or she won't have enough left to get back to the surface.

She folds herself up, feet planting again, and Stephanie kick-shoves again with everythign she's got in an attempt to get clear of it close enough that she can get to the jetski.

And all wildly praying that Drake's climbed aboard.

"Ohmygodohmygodohmygod"

That's the sound of zero progress top-side. Drake just witnessed his date (is she a date? He's calling her his date right now) explodes from the water with a mutant supervillain, tangled and grappled, with her boxing at its.. parts.. before crashing back beneath the surface. He knows he can't use his powers here. That's not even kind of an option. But Stephanie… she's very likely going to die here! Nevermind that kick, or how she's willingly throwing herself at it! She's… actually, she's kind of badass. But that doesn't matter right now! He's not going to let her die!

Drake dives right back in.

Meanwhile, the mutant got socked in the not-lungs, causing a momentary jolt and lapse in strength. She even managed to kick herself away from it, thanks to her squirrely water-fu. The mutant rotates as if in zero gravity, angling itself to face her. Curling in, those fins suddenly raise and tremble. It lets out an underwater 'roar' of garbled wrongless, tentacles aflail to reveal an oval mouth rimmed in shark-esque teeth.

It's at that point that Drake reaches Stephanie's side. He freezes at that, mouth agape. He says something, but it's obscured in the water. It was almost certainly a shocked obscenity.

Oh. My. God. Drake did what, now?

Her mind acknowledges his presence at her side even as she watches the thing pivot toward her. her left arm goes out to block Drake. Classic soccer-mom arm at a red light.

The creature opens its mouth and an idea hits.

Short of batarangs, Stephanie has only one thing: the buckle on the hip of her swim suit bottoms.

It's two motions. One to snap the center brace of plastic that holds it to the fabric. The other to fling the piece as hard and as fast as she can manage while under water, right into that open gaping maw.

It's not a motion that it at all healthy for any creature short of the pistol shrimp, but Stephanie does it anyway, feeling something in her wrist snap with it. White flecks of pain dance at the edges of her vision. Stubbornly, she ignores it, left hand grabbing whatever she needs to grab of Drake to haul him with her as she starts kicking for the surface, her eyes still on the creature. She's ready for that not to have worked. She's really hoping it did.

Drake Riley gets Batblocked, but that doesn't matter. His instinct was to grab Stephanie and drag her away anyhow. So she'll soon feel his arms looping around her waist, his feet kicking - but not enough to interrupt her plans! Wait, did she just rip off her bottoms? The heck just happened?

The mutant launches towards them, tentacles reaching to seize - only for a ring to pop into its mouth. It halts abruptly and rolls about in the water, attempting to dislodge it.

Amidst the chaos, Stephanie wwinds up mutually grappling with Drake, and both ascending to the surface. He tries to push her up onto the vessel first - and thankfully confirms that she's still covered. Either way, he's happy to climb on with her immediately after, likely with his arms wrapping around her stomach and his chest pressed tight to her back. It might be somewhat familiar to skycycle joyrides past.

Stephanie breaks the surface with a sputter, pushing to the jetski. No sooner is Drake against her than she's pushing the engines hard for shore, complete with her body hunching forward and a sob of pain as she forces her right hand to grab the handle and yank the throttle back. One second of vocal pain is all she allows before she clamps her teeth down and rockets them toward shore.

It is familiar in a way, since she's going fast enough that the ketski skips a few waves, catching air. This fails to phase her, though a whimper grunt is forced from her teeth each time the vehcile comes crashing back down to the water.

Way longer than she'd like later, Stephanie grounds the jetski and shoves herself back and away from holding the throttle. On refelx, her left hand yanks the key from the ignition, killing the engine. Her right arm cradles in close to her midsection as she reclines, shuddering, against Drake behind her.

A heartbeat, and she's looking over her left shoulder, tryingt o make sure that thing isn't after anyone else.

"You alright?" she asks, voice pinched into something more growlier than is Stephanie by pain. Pinched into a growl and each somehow still steady and even and almost zen-like calm.

Drake Riley bounces along with Stephanie, and would be thoroughly enjoying the ride, were it not under these bizarre sci-fi circumstances. Her subtle, but pained noises keep a damper on things as well, though. It's difficult to enjoy something if the person you're with isn't having a good time, too, after all. That's the first rule of partying.

When they get where they're going, Drake looks back to the lifeguard who's /finally/ paying attention. "Get everyone outt'a the water! Something in there-" Beat. "Shark. Shark in there!" That sounds believable enough, and doesn't make the mutant situation worse. Hopefully they'll go for it.

Returning his attention to Stephanie as the girl leans back into him, he notes the change in countenance. It's funny how he was just thinking about that earlier. Badass underwater kung-fu. Eerie calm. Who /is/ this chick? He catches a glimpse of her right wrist, and his curiosity takes a backseat. "I'm okay," he assures. His skin has a few pinkened cup-marks here and there, due to that thing being all grabby with him, but he's not injured. He wishes he could say the same for her. But with his arms still around her middle, he gives a little squeeze and tilts his head forward, cuddling against her wet blonde hair. "Thanks to you," he whispers.

Her right hand is curled against her stomach, the fingers curled in, not wanting to move, but otherwise it's in an unnatural bend.

She knows that she pulled muscles, likely torn then, hyper extended ligaments. At this point, Stephanie wouldn't be surprised if she completely dislocated the small bones in her wrist. The pain has her shaking.

She's got pain killers in her bag. Batman's formula. Stronger than morphine, much much cleaner.

He calls SHARK and the beach goers mobilize, hurrying people out of the water, the lifeguard moving to actually do his job. Drake's reassurance has Stephanie's body sinking back into him, a sigh of relief felt and heard escaping her.

She can't even find it in her to say you're welcome. The pain and the cuddles enough to make mush of her battle-calm. The trembling grow.

Drake Riley doesn't relent. Besides loving the opportunity to hold her like this, even if on someone's totally stolen jetski, is beyond welcome. But it's also more than that. She actually did save him. He likely would've drowned, or panicked and killed /so many people/ in a futile attempt to blast his way free. She's the hero here. She deserves what little adoration he can provide.

She's trembling. She can't be cold. Is it adrenaline? She seems so calm. And holding her this snuggly, pressed into her, he doesn't think she's hyperventilating or anything. It's a little.. concerning.

"How bad is it?," he asks, slanting his gaze down to her wrist. "Can you move it?"

That Drake doesn't relent, doesn't shy away from holding her, is the only reason she's taking the moment to rest, regather herself for the walk back to the umbrella. Which has to happen soon. Her eyes open as a crowd starts to gather. The knee-jerk of a batling as Gotham PD sirens scream closer kicks in, and the trembling stops.

"Not here," she says. Again, too calm, too tight, almost a raspy growl, voice not light or high or airy; not normal for Stephanie Brown. She pushes up, pulls a leg over the front of the jetski and slides away, and forces herself to walk calmly away from the vehicle. She forces herslf not to panic that she has no grapple hook or skycycle to latch onto to get her away. She forces herself to smile at the worried faces, wills the tension in her shoulder to smooth away as she lowers her right arm to her side, forcing it to swing in something that looks normal for her gait.

It's anything but.

Her fingers stay curled. They tremble slightly.

Her wrist is starting to swell.

Drake Riley lets her break away when she moves to do so. And though she's putting on happy airs, his concerned face likely mirrors those of the crowd. A few long seconds after she's gotten up, so does he. He swings a leg around to dismount and waves to the crowd. "She's okay - we're okay. We're all okay."

"Is that my jetski!?"

"Hey, Steph', wait up!" Drake trots after her promptly.

Upon reaching her, he raises a hand to gently touch the small of her back. "What can I do?"

She's shaking again by the time he gets to her.

"In my bag. There's a plastic bottle. Not marked. Size of a camera roll. Food basket: bottle of water," she says words back to tense again. Clear of the crowd, because they bought Drake's excuse, she brings her wrist up to cradle again.

Dammit! Why didn't she back the ice-gel sheets to help chill things?

You wer ein a rush, that's why. When you rush, you make mistakes. Mistakes that cost you, those around you, those you /care/ about.

Stephanie frowns at herself, sinking down to the towels under the umbrella, tears threatening.

Drake Riley immediately hops to the veritable checklist. Plastic bottle, unmarked. Sounds suspicious! Those are things usually consumed by video game characters for health, not so much by actual people. But the blonde is clearly not a drughead - her eyes are too sparkly for that. And the bottle is located and set out. Next up, the food basket! He dives in, pulling a couple things out to inspect quicker and easier. The bottle is found after a moment and he goes ahead with undoing its top for her.

Drake suddenly plops to his knees in front of her. "Next?"

With her teeth, Stephanie opens the top. She uses her left hand to measure out one and only one non-descript pill the size of a 400mg ibuprofen. She swallows it down and accepts the water to chase it, hating taking pills dry.

"What to I have that's cold in there? I think.. It hink I put a towel. I need to ice the swelling until meds kick in," She says, trying to keep her voice steady, and mostly succeeding.

"O-okay," says Drake with a start. He promptly returns to the food basket, nabbing one of the towels that were in there. Was there ice, though? Will he be scrounging around the other containers for it?

Drake finds something cold enough, though not ice. Stephanie accepts it, even if her frown stays in place.

"Thank you," she entones, because she still needs to be polite even if she wishes those painkillers would hurry up and kick in. Moving her arm carefully, she rests her wrist on the thermos - protected by a layer of towel - and then wraps it down tight as she dares wit the rest of the towel.

And then she draws a shakey little breath.

"Thanks," she says, looking up at Drake, shy little smile back in place, brows pulled together is worry and hesistation.

Drake Riley looks downright distraught over the amount of pain she's clearly in. He's back to resting on his knees before her, looking furtively to her wrist, then back to her face. He suddenly leans forward, head tilting to press a quicker kiss to her lips. This time when he draws back, it's with a somber, "Thank /you/. Really, you're kind've a hero."

Kissed! Stephanie's eyes open wide. She hadn't expected that, and her cheeks hint pink again. And then pale slightly when he calls her a hero. Her eyes shift a bit before she tries to chuckle shakily.

It's not relaly that hard righ tnow. She's not feeling alltogether steady.

"Yes, well.. Girl Scouts …do that."

Er… because there's a badge for underwater ninja-fu, and stealing jetskis, and muscling through a dislocated wrist.

"Mmno, they don't. That's…" Drake pauses to scoot closer. "..That's all you. All Stephanie Brown. This amazing, mysterious, gorgeous person who just saved me." He leans in close enough to lightly bump his brow at hers. "If you don't want more kisses, you'd better speak up," he whispers. "Because you deserve /way/ more than just that one."

If Stephanie thought she could crimson before, the shade she hits as Drake comes in close and whispers, telling her that Stephanie Brown is amazing, and mysterious, and gorgeous has her a red that Zoidberg would be jealous of. He bumps her brow lightly, and she exhales, eyes closing again. Her next words have lost the calm edge, for they are a pleading whining high pitched almost whisper:

"Maybe… after I set my wrist?" Owie.

Drake Riley winces a little in sympathy. "Okay..," he whispers in relent. Despite it, his head tilts in a little closer and angles lower, his lips pressing a kiss to the corner of her jaw. Just a quick little something special to convey the promise of more before he leans back again. "Do you need a doctor?"

"Probably… but I don't really like them. It's fine. It's just dislocated, I think, probably, mostly," Stephanie replies, blush fading but the shy little dip to her chin from the kiss on her jaw remains. As does the light smile.

"No, no. If you need a doctor, you need a doctor," Drake asserts. Despite the firmness of his statement, his tone is kept gentle - even affectionate. It really is a shame she's hurt.

"I'll carry everything, and we'll… oh." He pauses, looking at her wrist again. "Can you drive? Should you drive? I could call an ambulance…"

One handed, Stephanie started putting things back into her purse, hurt arm resting against her thighs and stomach protectively. The gentle tone is likely the only reason she doesn't immediately argue the need for a doctor. It's the word ambulance, however…

"Nono. No. It's fine. I can drive. It's not a problem." Because it's happened before? Very very likely. "But, yes, help me pack up and get things to my car? It's just up there on the parking area." Stephanie says, nodding toward the vehcile. To make life easy, she made camp almost directly in front of her car.

Convenient indeed! And, Drake muses internally, conveniently close in case she opted to run away. But he's kissed her a couple times now and she hasn't, so he should push those ideas out of his head. Or maybe she's delirius with pain! No. No. Pushing. Push it real good.

Drake busies himself with collecting her things as fast as he can, stuffing them whereve seems most likely the best fit. In the end, he uproots and folds her umbrella for her, left carrying his own duffel, towels, and food basket, with an umbrella under his arm. He wobbles. "Miss anything?"

He moves with a frantic energy that Stephanie's having trouble matching. But the pain is settled into a low thud throb that she knows will be a soft ache in another fifteen minutes. Bat-drugs are the best.

"You can leave the umbrella. I rented it," she notes, pushing herself up to her feet. She had busied herself with making a sling for her arm out of her wrap and then getting her skirt back into place as best she could. Flipflops back on, she starts for the car, pulling her purse to herself. Hooked over her neck and across her back, she rifles through it off-handed, for her keys.

"Thank you," she says again, of him packing things. Because she knows she could have done it, she would just still have being doing it if he hadn't been there.

Drake Riley looks at her, then the umbrella, then at her. He flaps an arm and the umbrella plunks into the sand. Done!

Drake turns to walk with her, carefully at her side in case something should start to slip or she stumble for whatever reason. But her appreciation is met with a warm smile. "Any time. I mean, you /did/ injure yourself savin' me." Beat. "No, I'm not letting that go /any/ time soon."

Once they reach the car, he moves to the trunkspace and waits for the latch to pop.

Stephanie sighs. It would seem long suffering had she not smiled and chuckled softly. On her lips is the quip of 'all part of the job', but that's far too much like what Spoiler would say, and so Stephanie holds her tongue. Keys in hand, she pops the trunk just as Drake gets to the right part of the car. The bee-oop of the doors happens before Stephanie pulls open the driver's door. A moment's shuffle and in she gets, tossing the thermos into the back seat. Towel and sling resitatued, she starts the the engine and works to get herself buckled in.

Drake Riley dumps her things into the trunk as delicately as possible, along with his own belongings. He shuts it for her, then moves around to the passenger side to let himself in. There's a beat before he shoots her a smile. "As if I'd let you do this on your own." Punctuated with a wink, he looks out the window. "Are you sure you're up for this, Steph'?"

/As if I'd let you do this on your own./

The words have Stephanie pausing, the smile sliding into something thoughtful, something more aged than she usually seems before she smiles and nods once. It's accepting and acknowledging all at once, without giving much more than that.

"Yeah. I'll be alright," she replies as she has to cross her left arm over herself to get the car into gear. It's really not as clumsily and it could be, all things considered.

But now comes the conumdrum. Which hospital? Student at Gotham U, not the best medical insurance. Intern at a mostly probono law firm, equally shakey.

A breath, and Steph goes to the nearest. She'll dip into her savings, if she needs to, and tell Bruce. Which is the last thing she's looking forward to: So, hey, Batman? Yeah… I went to the ER this morning…. I probably broke my wrist… No, I wasn't fighting as - well, maybe I was… In broad daylight, in front of someone I might be dating. Who's a mutant… In my defense there was this squid-face thing? And I didn't use a single bat-tool! ….I'm grounded, aren't I?

Stephanie shakes her head to clear it of that internal conversation. Yep. Telling Bruce: Last thing she wants to do. She knows she's going to have to anyway.

Oh God… and just wait until the Avengers find out! Stark might just demand she go no where without Her Suit, the one he made her. Because /that's/ beachworthy: Bubble Gum Crisis-esque Iron Man armor. She'll just change her bame to Priss now!

She huffs at herself as she gets out onto the open road.

Drake Riley caught that thoughtful look on her face after what he'd said. She read into it. Good. He meant it. Her dad's a jerk, from what she'd told him. Not her. And he's sure she's gotten a lot of flak for it. His hand lifts to briefly touch over her near shoulder.

But from there, he simply straps into the seatbelt and waits patiently to reach their destination.

"I probably should've put on a shirt."

And suddenly Stephanie's laughing.

Should've put on a shirt.

It's so mundane. So banal. So normal. In the face of everything, it's the jarring sort of normalcy of reality that makes her life seem almost ludicris. All Stephanie can do is laugh, and drive them to a chriopractor. Because screw hospitals! As she drove, she spotted Gonstead. She's familiar with their practice, the methodology behind it, they way they know how bones and muscles work together. Bonus? It's in a strip mall, so Stephanie can hand Drake over her credit card to have him buy some street clothes for the both of them.

An hour later, the xrays come back: Dislocation. and the doctor is unwrapping her wrist. The angle is slightly unnatural for a wrist, bu tthe swelling is down since the doctor kept it iced when he wasn't examming it. He's talking to them both, explaining what's wrong with her wrist and what he's going to do to reset it.

For her part, Stephanie doesn't seem shock or bothered or upset at all. She doesn't even seem to be in any kind of pain any more, though she isn't moving her hand. Getting the ready from his patient, the doctor has Drake help by steadying Stephanie's elbow and with a farily resounding snap-pop, Stephanie grunts and her wrist looks perfectly normal.

Nevermind that Alfred or Bruce themselves could have done this for free without a paper trail… but she had a 'civilian' who saw. Sometimes, papertrails are needed.

There's a snap-pop, and Drake wants to die.

Partially it's out of sympathy. Partially it's because oh dear lord these aren't sounds a body should make. He wanted to hug the poor blonde, but somehow thought that might not be so well-received under these circumstances. So he endured, visibly cringing, until it was over.

And once it was over, Drake had things to share with her! A plastic bag from a relatively chic department store, in fact! He'd gotten her sizes - or what she /told/ him were her sizes - and went about shopping. It was like a golden ticket. No, more like the One Ring. The temptation to use it to his own advantage was overwhelming. In the end, he, like so many unfortunate Hobbits before him, succumbed in some way to the siren call of its power. But he managed to maintain enough self-control to return it to the fires of Mount Stephanie from whence it came.

The short is, he might have gotten her some things he thought she'd look good in, but that he also thought she'd look hot in. Specifically what she'll find it a pair of skinny-fit black jeans that ride a bit low, sneakers, socks, and a dark purple long-sleeve faux-wrap cropped t-shirt.

As for him? He's already back in his street clothes. He dipped away to change, so he's good to go. No need to spend money on him!

The shopping trip was offered in hopes of keeping Drake from getting too worried while she was examined and xrays taken. The grunt was the only sound of complaint at the snap-pop, and it was chased by a sigh of relief, her body already knowing that it was back in the right place. Her head swims lightly from it and for the first time since they got off the jetski, Stephanie moves her fingers gently.

A few more minutes were spent, Stephanie regaining range of motion and the doctor telling her what to expect over the next several days: More swelling, tenderness. She torn some fo the soft tissue as well, so she needs to rest and use the hand for only small tasks. But she needs to use it, just very very lightly, until the soft tissues heal up.

Released, Stephanie accepts the bag and heads to the bathroom to change.

It took her longer than she would have liked, given that she had limited strength in her right hand, but when she finally stepped out, she was dressed and looking a bit tired. Despite the smile she gave to Drake for waiting.

"Thanks."

Drake Riley is so impatient. The clothing he'd picked out for her looked really neat, and no doubt would look incredible on her, and he's anxious to see for himself. The outfit could even be described as a little racy, if in a tasteful way. And if there's one thing Drake's never been able to describe Stephanie as before, it's 'racy'. Would she flip out at him? Call him on his obvious attempts to get her to show a little skin? Is he a terrible person?

Tune in next time, same Bat-chann- the door opens.

Drake freezes his pacing to look at her. She's still favoring her poor wrist, for obvious reasons. But she looks amazing. He lets his gaze tumble down, then back up again, nodding slowly in approval. "You're very welcome," he murmurs back distractedly. "Does it.. fit okay?"

She noted the cut, and if it bothered her, she said nothing. Don't ask to see the 'pretend to be a villian' get up. If school girl went racy, that outfit would be that in spades. Instead, she glances down at a hip, before looking back at Drake and nodding.

"Jeans are a little snug, but new denim does that. It'll stretch out," she offers, drawing a breath, collecting her purse, and turning to the front desk to settle the bill.

"Yeah, snug," Drake nods. "I mean - yeah, it'd be. Snug." He's not checking out her rear in those pants when she turns away. No, not at all. Except he totally is.

He shadows a little distance behind her as she settles up, his mind anywhere but on the transaction at hand. Insurance-talk? Out-of-pocket expenses? It may as well be whale noises. He can only think about the trim, athletic blonde before him and the events that transpired on the beach. If he didn't have a crush on her before, he definitely does now. And then a thought occurs to him. He perks, grins, and bites it back for now. Best saved for when they're moving away from others.

Bill settled, Stephanie glances over a shoulder, smiles lightly and the motions with her head toward the car. At her side, her right hand still flexes and works, gently.

"…I had baked cookies," she notes ruefully, a little smirk on her face.

Drake Riley sidles in beside her as she motions him along. "You say that like the date's over or something," he teases. "How're you feeling? Hurt pretty bad, or did he give you.. like.. the /good/ stuff?" He turns to face her a little more, giving her his more typical playful smile with a perked eyebrow.

There's that soft giggle.

Batman gave her the good stuff, not this doctor. She gave a little white lie when Drake was gone: Yes, I took som ibuprofen.

"I've fine. Other than aching, I'm really not in any pain," she assures Drake while still being ginger with her arm. She smiles at the perked brow, calmed by the playful smile.

"Well, we were suposed to have a day at the beach…."

Drake Riley glances over her again, then shrugs his shoulders. "Well..," he swallows softly and ducks his head slightly, gathering his nerves. "..if the mood isn't /totally/ wrecked by a trip to the least romantic doctor ever, we could go somewhere. Wherever. I don't care." A hand lifts to gently set to her back - a chanced point of contact, a sort of hopeful display of affection.

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