Eyes snapping open, sitting bolt upright in her bed, sheets kicked to the floor some time before her waking, pillows almost thrown around the room, Stephanie frowned at her own heavy breathing, raised heart rate, and dry, aching throat.
Sniffing sharply, using the bottom of her oversized burnt orange Gotham University tee shirt to wipe the sweat from her forehead, and dry her cheeks, dabbing at the particularly nasty, very fresh shiner from patrol the night before, scooting her knees up to her chest while she tried to steady herself.
What had woken her so suddenly?
She couldn't remember any dream. She wasn't particularly injured, only the black eye, so it wasn't pain that woke her.
Clenching her jaw as her teeth began to ache, turning her attention to the sunshine streaming through the window, she relented, unfolding herself from her self-hug and throwing her bedding haphazardly back on the bed before heading down stairs to the kitchen, where she could hear her mother moving around.
Beelining immediately to her polka dot mug, to pour herself coffee, she damn near jumped out of her skin when a hand touched her shoulder.
Whipping around, both coffee pot and mug in hand, she stared wide eyed at her mother.
"Jesus, Mom! That's a good way to get yourself with a coffee pot smashed across your head. What?!"
As Crystal began to speak, a horrific, bone grinding whining filled Stephanie's ears.
"I asked if you were alright, honey. You were screaming before you woke up."
Steph scowled furiously, setting the coffee pot down, clutching the mug in both hands, moving to the other side of the kitchen from her mother, looking out the window.
"Yeah, fine. Just peachy."
"You sure, Stephie? Because, y'know, you don't seem like your usual peppy self."
Steph continued staring out the kitchen window, the whirring stopping and starting now, her grip on the mug so tight her hands shaking. Speaking through gritted teeth Stephanie says
"What. The f***. Is that F***ING SOUND?!"
Crystal, not expecting that sort of outburst from her daughter stares blankly at the blonde for a second before coming over to the window alongside her to point.
"Steve is building a gazebo. It's power tools, sweetie."
"No. Not just power tools. There's an electric drill…"
Steph says flatly, it all making sense to her now, setting her untouched coffee in the sink to grab an apple from the fruit bowl, and slide the window open. Seeing the arm wind back, Crystal grabbed Stephanie's wrist, frowning at her over the frames of her glasses.
"Stephanie Brown! What do you think you're doing?! Steve has never done anything to you."
Relenting and giving over her projectile, Steph dropped into her seat at the kitchen table, clapping her hands over her ears as the whining bore it's way into her brain.
"No, but drills have…"
Crystals features softened, moving to crouch at her daughter's side, lightly putting a hand on her shoulder.
"Oh, honey… I…"
Shrugging her mother's hand from her shoulder she just held up a hand and shook her head.
"Don't touch me right now, please. I can't. I just-"
"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
Falling silent, pulling her feet up onto the seat, wedging her forehead onto her knees, her hands clamping over her ears harder. Crystal sank back on her heels for a second, looking around for a solution, standing to shut the kitchen window, going upstairs, and returning with a blanket, Stephanie's phone (in a candy green colored jelly case this week), and her headphones, fetched from the depths of her bag. Opening and queuing up the playlist 'Beats to box to'
, before gently setting the headphones on Stephanie's head, the phone in front of her, and draping the blanket around her, and instead of setting the coffee in front of her, she made her tea.
Then Crystal sat with Stephanie, as she slowly removed her hands from her ears, putting them over the headphones instead, to then holding the blanket, to absently tapping her foot in time with a muffled beat Crystal could make out, to Stephanie slowly unfolding herself, sipping at the tea.
The square of sunlight through the kitchen window had shifted a good way across the floor by the time Crystal tapped at the side of her head, and motioned to Steph to lift her headphones.
Feeling much more calm at this point, having switched to watching videos of crooks in Gotham failing at things horribly uploaded by random citizens to YouTube, she took this as a coast is clear signal, and removed her 'armor', letting out a soft sigh of relief. Leaning back and closing her eyes she visibly relaxes, rubbing her face with her hands.
Crystal, however, was in Nurse Mom mode. Double bad.
"So, that was a whole lot, huh? Do you wanna talk about it?"
Letting out a reflexive laugh, Steph lets her arms fall slack to her sides.
"Not really… but I feel like you're gonna make me…"
"Stephanie, you've been through a lot of stuff, in such a short period of time. You're still so young. If you don't talk about these things you'll combust at some point."
Hanging her head, she sighs, absently raising her fingers to prod at the black eye, before resting her chin on her palm, elbow on the table.
"Here's the thing, Mom. You destroyed the medical records for that. You burnt them. After Roman tried attacking you."
Crystal frowned, straightening her posture slightly.
"What do you- how-"
"I know a lot of things, Mom. I’ll save you the trauma. Without going into too much detail, one of the things he used to torture me with to try to get information was a power drill."
Whether it was Stephanie's flat, matter-of-fact delivery of the information, or just hearing that her daughter's breakdown over the sound of a power tool was because it was part of the reason she died, Crystal did not quite know how to react.
"Why didn't you just tell him what he wanted to know?!"
Was what came out first.
Steph shrugged the shoulder of the arm she wasn't leaning on.
"I'd like to say it was because I'm strong, and can't be broken, but it's because I didn't know what he wanted me to tell him."
After sitting in silence for a moment, Crystal reached over to take up Stephs hand, very much aware of the callouses, scars and swollen knuckles.
"I worry about you. Not just when you're out there of a night. But like today. We can get you some help..?"
Steph smiled faintly, gently squeezing her mother's hand.
"Actually, Batman makes us go to special, hero psychological facilities he and the Justice League had built. They all use it."
Crystal looked at her shrewdly.
"Do you use it though?"
Pulling a face, Steph ran a hand through her hair.
"Once… probably need to do it more…"