Today was a strange day.
The atmosphere in the house was dour. Gloomy.
Steph knew what the cause of the dark cloud was, even if it wasn't hanging over her. It was over Crystal.
She had been watching her all morning, trying to go about her daily routine, and just not quite being there.
When Crystal started trying to put salt into her coffee over sugar, Stephanie stepped in. Guiding her to the kitchen table, and handing her an unsalted coffee, she wordlessly prepared her mother some toast.
"I feel so stupid, Stephie…"
Setting the toast down in front of her mother, purposely cut into four squares, like Crystal would do for Steph on her good days, when she was a small child, Steph leant back against the counter, pouring herself a coffee.
"You aren't stupid, Mom. Regardless of what I think of him, and what he did, you loved him. And you still do. Why else would you still have pictures of Dad everywhere?"
Crystal nodded absently, a faint smile on her lips at the sight of the toast, nibbling at one of the small, jammy squares, as Steph sipped from her well loved polka dot mug.
"So being sad on the anniversary of the day you found out he died isn't stupid. I'd be more worried about if you're going to be functional at work or not. Because you couldn't even make coffee. Are you sure you should be handling people's lives today?"
Was she being a little harsh? Perhaps. But sometimes that was the best way to get through to her mother. Crystal looked up from her plate to Steph, frowning faintly, before nodding slowly.
"No, you're right. I'll call out."
"Good. I’ll go get you some ice cream, or chocolate or whatever you want, and you can just bunker down in bed with my laptop and watch movies all day, ok?"
"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
Steph softened, her point being made, the correct conclusion being reached. Crystal nodded again, finishing her toast, before standing, and hugging her daughter.
"Thank you, Stephie. You've taken care of me for longer than I've cared to admit, just because I didn't want to deal with problems that-"
"No, Stephanie, let me say this, please. I made you deal with very adult situations when you were just a baby, because I couldn't deal with my own issues, with your father. I made you protect yourself, protect us, because I couldn't. I was a failure of a mother, and I'm sorry."
Frowning herself, Steph felt the deep, sinking weight of guilt in her stomach.
It wasn't because she hated her father that she wasn't broken up about things, like her mother. Her feelings towards her father were very complicated, to say the least.
Steph wasn't sad, because she knew her father was not, in fact, dead. He was in Gotham. Well, Blackgate again, actually. As Aaron Black. She had seen him herself since his 'death', hell, he had actually tried to kill her himself. Spent the better part of a year masterminding every bit of trouble that came her way from prison too.
But she couldn't tell Crystal that. For fear of her running back to him, and spiralling down that self destructive hole she had pulled herself out of since Arthur had 'died'.
Letting out a soft sigh, and forcing a small smile, she nudges her mother.
"Hey, it's not all bad. You ended up with your very own superhero."
"I thought you hated being called that…"
As Steph started leading Crystal upstairs, to set her up before heading out before stocking her up on snacks.
"I’ll let it slide this time… I suggest the burrito technique. And start thinking about that list of snacks, alright?"
Once she had gotten Crystal set up, and a ten minute crash course on how to use Netflix, Steph trampled back down the stairs, pausing to look at one of the pictures she normally avoided.
Her birthday, when she was six. They almost looked like a normal family.
Frowning slightly, she sighed.
Maybe Batgirl would go pay Aaron Black a visit later tonight.
But right now, Crystal Brown needed Stephanie.