Smoothing the legs of her pants for what felt like the millionth time, Steph tucked her hair behind her ear, glanced up to the wing mirror, scowled, and untucked it again quickly.
This pattern had been happening for roughly the last five minutes, while they sat in the Compact, waiting at the park for Lea and her mother, Mrs Jacobs to arrive.
Shifting to adjust the collar of her jacket now, Tim lightly grabbed one of her wrists from the passenger seat.
"For the last time, Steph. You look great. Calm down. Take a breath. Relax."
Shooting him a look they both knew meant that there was no way in hell she was even capable of relaxing, she shifted her gaze to his hand, put her free hand on his, squeezing lightly, turning to face the park again, before shifting from her slightly stiff, however leaning back posture to bolt upright, as she spotted a small blonde girl in a costume she had become very familiar with since being sent the first letter running into the park, cape flapping behind her.
Lea's Robin costume.
"Oh my god. That's her. Tim. That's her. Oh this is happening. This is actually happening. Oh my god. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod."
"Hey, look at me…"
Almost reluctantly turning her head to face him, frowning slightly, Tim gently cupped her cheek, caressing it with his thumb.
"You've fought Superboy, taken on mind controlled Birds of Prey and routinely tell Batman where to shove it. You got this. Go talk to your daughter."
Pressing his lips to her forehead, she let out a nervous, reflexive chuckle, and pushed open the door, to notice that Lea, and her mother, Mrs Jacobs, a woman in her mid to late thirties, in a very nice sweater and slacks had spotted the very conspicuous purple Mini Cooper, Lea pointing at it.
"Hold up a sec. Don't forget the goodie bag…"
Tim leant into the back, and passed out a multicolored gift bag from the back seat. With an appreciative smile, Steph frowned slightly, tilting her head.
"You're not joining us?"
"You want me to?"
"Duh! I asked you to come for a reason! Get out of the car, nerd!"
"Geez, settle down, I thought I was just moral support…"
As they began crossing the park, Lea bolting to meet them halfway, Steph shook her head.
"You're in this just as much as me. It seems right…"
Tim didn't respond, tucking his hands into the pockets of his jacket, as the small blonde collided with mostly leg, wrapping arms around and squeezing. Stephanie froze up, looking first to Tim, who shrugged a shoulder, looking just as confused as Steph felt, then to Mrs Jacobs, who nodded faintly. Steph took that as clearance to crouch and gently hug the girl, her girl, her daughter.
Squeezing her eyes shut and swallowing, she did what she does best; stamped down on her own emotions for now, and smiled, clearing her throat before speaking.
"Hey, kiddo! That costume looks better in person!"
With an excited giggle, Lea broke away to excitedly twirl, flaring the skirt and cape, before striking a superhero pose, her hands on her hips, shoulders back, as Steph sank back on her haunches, years of rooftop stake outs coming into play, to watch.
"I just wanna dress up like Robin now. I don't want to be Robin anymore. After your letter, me and Mommy looked up the news on the internet about Robin and you were right! It is really dangerous!"
Lea scooted in close, shooting a glance back to Mrs Jacobs, then up to Tim, before whispering.
"Is the Robin that was there for me being born ok though? You said it was our secret…"
Resisting the urge to start laughing, Steph put on a very serious face, and nodded once, before whispering back.
"He's just fine. There's actually something in here from him…"
Steph help up the bag, to which Lea clapped excitedly, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
Steph slowly straightened up, looking at Mrs Jacobs, with a quick, concerned frown.
"As long as you don't mind, that is."
"No, that's alright."
"Ok, let's find a bench or something so you can sit and see it all…"
Steph began, and Lea was off like a shot, looking for a park bench, or a picnic bench to sit at.
"I didn't think that trait would be genetic…"
Tim mutters from beside her with a faint smile, Steph reflexively swatting his arm with the back of her hand as she watched the tiny mass of blonde, black and purple running around. After a second she frowned and clapped her hand to the side of her face.
"I am so sorry, I haven't meant to be rude. Hi, Mrs Jacobs, I'm Stephanie, thank you so much for letting this happen… this Tim… he's my… It's complicated, a lot of the time, on and off boyfriend since high school, and he took me to birthing classes so it just felt right to-"
"You're nervous babbling, babe… Hi, I'm Tim, nice to meet you. She's really grateful, and very nervous-"
"Oh god so nervous…"
Steph laughs as they all move towards the table Lea had found, and was now standing on top of, waving her arms to signal to them.
"So, are you the father, Tim?"
"No, no. I started seeing Steph after they broke up, she found out she was pregnant pretty early in our relationship…"
"And you helped her through it? You were just kids yourself… what, 14?"
"Well, I was 14, he was 13…"
Steph absently pipes up. She had her arm through Tim's, but she hadn't taken her eyes of Lea since she climbed on the table.
"Incredible… you're both so much more well adjusted than I expected. No offence, Stephanie."
After a reflexive laugh from the both of them being called 'well adjusted', Steph shook her head.
"Nono, none taken… trust me, I get it. What kinda person has a kid at 14, right? But I learnt pretty quickly mistakes don't define you. Not that Lea was a mistake. Just-"
Mrs Jacobs nods, smiling.
"I understand. Don't worry. No need for more stress babbles."
Tim barked a laugh.
"Always need for stress babbles from Blondie. Always. Non stop. You should have heard her, all the way here…"
Flushing slightly, Stephanie jabbed a finger into his ribs.
"I'm gonna let it slide today, but you watch it…"
Mrs Jacobs shook her head slightly, smiling at their antics, as they approached the table, slipping in to take a seat, as Lea clapped her hands.
"Steph! Steph! Catch me!"
Before taking a running jump off the table. A 5, almost 6 year girl didn't weigh anywhere near as much as the people she was used to catching from buildings, but those people weren't usually her daughter threatening to smash their head into concrete if she missed. Shoving the gift bag into Tim's arms, and scooting forward to catch Lea against her chest, her entire body behind the smaller blondes, frowning slightly, giving her a light squeeze, before looking back at Tim.
"I understand now… never again…"
Carrying the giggling child to be seated, Tim shaking his head, somewhat amused by Steph getting a taste of her own medicine, setting the bag down in front of them, Lea on Stephs lap, Mrs Jacobs digging through her bag for something.
"You're lucky Stephanie is quick and could catch you, pumpkin. Remember what happened when you did that to me when I wasn't ready for you?"
Lea quieted slightly, nodding, lifting her bangs and turning to look up at Steph.
"6 stitches at the hospital…"
With a shake of her head, Steph smoothed her bangs back down and looked at Tim, who started pulling out plastic figures from the bag, setting them out.
"So, we went and raided Bat Burger for one of each of the toys they have. They have Batman, Nightwing, Red Robin, Robin, Signal, Red Hood, Catwoman and Batgirl. It's a decent line up. But it's not all the Batfamily."
"Whoa! There's so many! But there's more than that?!"
Lea leant forward, snatching up Robin and Batman immediately, Stephanie just resting her chin on the top of her head. She barely even noticed the clicking and movement from off to her side.
"There's so many, Gotham can't keep track. We also brought some stuff from the Bat Spotting Tour. There's a flashlight that's a bat signal, a bunch of stickers, of all everyone's logos, a water bottle, and a bat logo sweatshirt. It's a purple one, with a yellow logo-"
Stephanie cut in.
"Because purple is the best color. And this one would technically be a Batgirl one, but that's fine."
"-Yes. That. It might be a bit big, but it should fit for a little while at least…"
By now Lea was standing, excitedly on Stephs thighs, which was fine. Everything was fine, didn't hurt at all. Shifting to look past her hip, Lea bouncing excitedly, she looked between the two of them, then frowned slightly, leaning down to Steph to whisper.
"Which one is from our friend?"
Steph reached for the sweatshirt, unfolded it, and took a folded envelope from the pocket.
Lea took the envelope and dropped back to a seated position in Stephs lap, ripping it open, as Steph and Tim shared a look, before Tim slowly started putting everything away again.
"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too." Lea,
You're growing up so fast! It seems like only yesterday you were just a baby, swaddled and in the hospital.
I remember your little fingers gripping mine.
We will keep an eye on you. Keep you safe. For Steph.
Lea gasped and threw the Batman toy back into the bag, snatching at the Red Robin one before Tim could put it away. Looking up at Stephanie, Lea pointed at the note, whispering.
"Really?! Ours is still heroing?!"
With a nod, and amused laugh, Steph confirms.
"Yeah. But secrets, ok?"
Mrs Jacobs cleared her throat to get their attention.
"Well, it's only fair that you give Stephanie your gift for her now, don't you think?"
Lea scrambled over the table to her mother, and took the lovely black leather book she had been hiding under the table.
"This is for you! When the pie we got came back and told us all about you, and told you you were a good person, we wanted to share with you!"
"She means P.I…."
Mrs Jacobs smiled fondly at Lea, as she held the book out with both hands, Stephanie taking it almost cautiously.
"Well, thank you…"
"Oh, that reminds me. I wanted to ask. That private eye you hired did an amazing job, tracking down the parent on the birth certificate of a closed adoption, would you mind if I got their name? We might have some cases for them at work…"
Tim, ever the detective, was always asking questions, while Steph was too busy flicking through what she now knew was a photo album, with from adoption date, through to today, literally this day, a Polaroid of them sitting at the bench, Stephs chin on Lea's head, Tim gesturing animatedly as he spoke to them.
Looking up in surprise, Mrs Jacobs raised the Polaroid camera from her bag with a smile and turned her attention to Tim's question.
"Oh, it was, something Malone… I've got his card here still if you'd like it…"
Hearing 'Malone' Steph and Tim both exchange a glance, and Tim nodded, giving his most well practiced business smile.
"Yes, please. If you wouldn't mind."
Digging through her bag again for a moment, while Lea pointed out different pictures to Steph, Mrs Jacobs handed over the card, which Tim glanced at, before pocketing.
The rest of the afternoon was spent by Stephanie chasing around the smaller blonde, while the two distinctly more mature people sat and chatted idly, until Steph shuffled back over, carrying Lea, her head against her shoulder, yellow cape in hand.
"I think she's tuckered out…"
She grinned almost sheepishly, as Mrs Jacobs looked almost surprised.
"Well I'll be. Nap time was never a thing around our house. Just too much energy. What did you do?!"
"I played Superman with her. Superman flies at super speed, so you gotta go super fast, after all. I didn't do nap time either… I still don't sleep a whole lot… do you wanna-"
"Oh no, please, bring her to the car for me, I have a feeling there'd be a tantrum if I tried to take her from you now…"
With a small smile to Tim, who followed along behind to the blue sedan, Stephanie carefully ducked both herself and Lea in to set her in the back seat, slowly snapping the seatbelt in place, and draping the yellow length of fabric over her as a blanket, smiling gently.
Lea gently grabbed her sleeve. Steph stopped moving.
"You'll come visit again, right?"
Gently smoothing her messed up hair, she smiled softly.
With that, Lea let go, nodding herself back into dozing. Gently shutting the door, Steph stood back, as Mrs Jacobs handed her a slip of paper.
"Here. My number, and the house number. You're welcome any time. You've been great. Both of you. She would have been fine with you."
She looked between the two of them pointedly, Steph frowning slightly and shaking her head reflexively, Tim slipping his arm around Stephs waist, knowing what she was thinking, them having had this conversation at least a dozen times before.
Waving goodbye as she slowly pulled away, Steph turned on her heels, taking the photo album from Tim and beelining to the Compact, slipping into the passenger side, and flipping to the last page, busting into the happy tears she had been stamping down the entire time.
Slipping into the drivers seat, and starting their dive back to Gotham, Tim took up Stephs hand, squeezing it gently.
"That went better than expected…"
"Oh, it did… But I'm murdering Bruce…"
Steph sniffles, with a sob of a laugh, with a nod in agreement from Tim.