The holidays were never really a big deal for Steph. She understood what they were meant to mean, but with Arthur in and out of prison all the time, and up until a few years ago, Crystal in and out of stupors, being forced into rehab and then working all the time (holidays always were busy for the medical field), Thanksgiving was never really a thing
for the Browns.
Alfred had made it clear to Stephanie a while back that she was always welcome to join them at the manor, and usually she just hid out, laid low, patrolled instead. But this year she had other ideas.
Crystal was on call, of course. And Steph was going to take her something to eat. With Alfreds help. Because God knows Steph couldn't cook to save her life.
Slipping into the kitchen, through the back door of the manor, instead of her usual creep in through the cave, looking over the workstation Alfred had turned into the island countertop, she frowned slightly.
"How much food do you think we're going to need, Al..?"
Steph asked softly, as the Butler dropped an apron over her head and motioned to the sink, for her to wash her hands.
"I wanted you to have options. I don't know what your mother likes to eat, and judging by the wording of your message, you wouldn't mind the chance to learn more about cooking either."
With no remarks to make back for once in her life, Steph tied the apron, washed her hands, and took up place next to Alfred at the counter.
"What's first, boss?"
Raising a slight brow at her words, but smiling faintly, Alfred passed Stephanie a bag containing green beans.
"Top and tail these, if you would, Miss Brown."
Steph looked at him in mild puzzlement, for Alfred to point at the stem and pointed tails.
"Cut those parts off. Then give the beans a rinse."
With the same determination she went about everything in life, Steph set about fixing the green beans. After a few moments of cutting in silence, in which Alfred was heating pants, she speaks up.
"Does it matter that they aren't all the same length?"
"Not at all, no. Some people might trim them all to be the same, but that would waste a lot of food."
Nodding as she moved to wash the beans, and set them back down on the cutting board, Alfred set about putting out the other vegetables for her to prepare, while looking between the meats.
"Which do you think she would prefer?"
"Is chicken an option?"
"Go with chicken. I don't think I've seen Mom eat red meat in forever… and Turkey is too much…"
With a nod, Alfred set about filleting and butterflying the chicken breast, before laying plastic wrap over it, rolling it flat.
"Whoa, what are you gonna do with the chicken, Al? I mean, like, slow down, I wanna know…"
Steph sets down the sprout she was in the middle of running over the mandolin slicer.
"I'm going to make a roulade, and stuff it with the same stuffing the turkey has. So it will almost be like a whole Thanksgiving meal, but not quite."
Unsure what to say, Steph nodded, clearing her throat, and went back to slicing her sprouts.
It wasn't long before everything was ready for the pans, and Alfred was on Steph watch, who was on pan watch.
Every time she moved to touch them before it was time, there was a tutting, and she would sulk into her tea.
Steph didn't quite have the patience necessary for cooking.
She did, however, clean up after them very quickly, in her impatience, dishes done, bench wiped down, everything dried and put away, much to Alfreds insistence it didn't need to be done.
A timer that had been set, somewhere, that Steph didn't even know about, went off, startling her from her sulking about waiting for things to do. As Alfred got to his feet, Steph followed him to the cabinet.
"You may borrow some plates. But make sure they return, or I'm taking it out of your hide, Miss Stephanie."
Staring at him for a moment, she finally cracked, and hugged him, squeezing with all her surprising might.
"Thank you Alfred. For everything. You didn't have to do any of this…"
Hugging back for a moment, patting her back, he cleared his throat.
"None of us have to do anything, but we do, because we care."
She let go, nodding her head, wiping her face in her sleeves, and pointed at two terracotta, blue plates that looked like they had never seen the light of day.
"I think I'm picking up what you're putting down, Al… those ones…"
"Very well. Let's get this ready then, shall we? And the invitation still stands. You can come back after you've eaten with your mother. I could always use the extra set of hands in the kitchen."
"Oh, I dunno… maybe…"
Carefully boxing everything up, and setting it into a picnic basket, along with some non alcoholic apple cider that had been picked out, the plates, cutlery, and glasses, Steph was ready to go. With one last thank you hug, she set off for the hospital.
"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
At this point, it was easy for her to get onto the ward, with or without ID.
Waving at Crystal from the end of the ward silently, the patients all eating their meals by this time of evening, she raised the basket, and pointed to it, beaming, Crystal frowning in confusion. Holding up five fingers, which Steph took as '5 minutes', she went and leant against the wall, to be out of the way.
A very frazzled looking Crystal soon came to join her daughter.
"What are you doing down here? I thought you'd be… working?"
"Maybe later. I thought I'd bring you some food."
Steph wiggled the basket, cutlery, glasses and plates clicking together inside. Crystal ran a hand through her cropped hair.
"I've got time for a break…"
Leading Steph to the staff break room, Steph grinning from ear to ear as she started to unpack the basket of goodies.
"Did you make this?"
Crystal asked, cracking open the box containing the sliced sauteed sprouts, onion and bacon, as Steph started carving the roulade.
"I helped… I cut up stuff, but that was about it really. A friend did all the heavy lifting here."
"Stephie, you didn't have to…"
"I know… but we've never done anything for Thanksgiving. Like, ever. So…"
Crystal was silent as she thought about it, then nodded.
"You're right, we never have… well-"
Raising her glass of cider
"-I'm thankful for how my daughter turned out, despite, no, in spite of her parents."
Stalling for a moment, Steph raised her own glass, lightly touching it to Crystals.
"I'm thankful for friends and family… is that lame? I feel like that's lame…"
Both Brown women laugh, drinking to their thanks.
"We should take a picture!"
Steph chirps out of the blue, jumping to her feet, and rushing around behind Crystal, taking out her phone.
"Wh-Steph, I look exhausted!"
"Psh, so do I. It's fine. We need something for our first Thanksgiving."
Looping her arm around her mother's shoulder and mooshing her cheek against Crystals, beaming widely, she held up the front facing camera, poking her mother's other cheek.
Before snapping a series of pictures, as they both laughed.
Returning to her seat, she sent the worst one to her mother, grinning deviously at her.
"You've never looked better, Mom…"
"You're a sh*t, Stephanie Brown…"
She sent the best one to Alfred, with a two word message; 'Thank you'