Warm, tight hugs.
Cassandra always squeezed her half to death whenever she hugged her. A firm hand gripping her shoulder. Turning to look, she saw Batman. Tilting her head at the small gesture of reassurance, Stephanie looked around, searching for the others. For Barbara, for Dinah, for Tim. She wanted to tell them all so many things–
Head snapping up at the sudden, and very intrusive ringing, Stephanie coiled her limbs in under herself with a groan, pushing herself up to reach for the phone, trying to see through the curtain of tangled blonde waves, frowning at the puddle of drool that had gathered on her pillow.
Picking up the receiver and cutting off the ringing, she began to feel the familiar 'morning after'
aches. They felt the same, no matter how long it had been.
"Good morning Miss, this is your six thirty wake up call."
Sinking back onto her knees, running a hand through her hair, she let out an almost defeated breath.
"Mm... 'K. Thanks… same time tomorrow please."
Hearing the faint 'of course, Miss' as she moved to sit the receiver down, she groaned again and untangled herself from the sheets, moving gingerly, rubbing her face slowly.
She now saw the importance of the pre-patrol workouts.
"I am never saying that to his face…"
Murmuring to herself as she moved to find something not entirely freak label worthy, or eye catching for her first day getting around school. Not only was she going to have to learn her own class schedule, but someone else's as subtly as possible to take different routes, and ensure a different lunch period. Not to mention avoiding his friends.
"Why is crime easier than school?"
'The question all of Gotham asks for five hundred, Alex.'
Groaning at her own bullsh*t, it being too early even for herself, she hit the shower, hoping the hot water would ease some of her aches.
Not wanting to deal with the mass of waves today she brushed them back into a ponytail, then twisted that into a bun.
Simple. No fuss. Don't draw attention.
Jeans, blue long sleeve shirt to cover her
scars arms, white tee layered over the top. Did people still layer? She was going to layer. Stuffing a dark green army surplus jacket into her newly acquired backpack, along with her phone, and a few of the bills, for some of the school supplies and the helmet she needed to pick up for herself, she rinsed out the remnants of the hotel shampoo and conditioner bottles, rolled up the notes tightly and tucked them inside, before laying the bottles at the bottom of her luggage, throwing her clothes in a pile for washing, stacking the bags on top of each other, the one with the 'toiletries' at the bottom.
Satisfied she had done enough for now, and that she was ready, Steph moved to hit the morning commute.
It was weird to say, but she had missed traffic. She had missed hearing the stupid sh*t people would yell at each other in bouts of road rage. Some of her favorite things to call people were things she had overheard in traffic.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on whether you wanted more insults added to an already vast repertoire or not, she eased the bike to a stop, and set up her nice little white and black sports bike in the students parking lot, still quite early, before a lot of the other students were there. Letting out a sigh of relief in not seeing the Red Bird, she smoothed down her windswept bun, before a moment of panic hit.
'What if it's not the Red Bird anymore? What if you don't know what it is? You're here expecting no change in a year? Good work, genius.'
Groaning softly to herself, she got off her bike and hustled inside, to get to the office and get her information all finalised so she could stake out the parking lot, hoping whatever the Signal was lit for last night would keep the one she needed to avoid most running just that little bit behind. That things hadn't changed too much in her time away.
Picking up her schedule from the office, with the list of supplies she would need, she was led to her assigned locker. It was… problematically positioned, to put it lightly. In the middle of the hallway, across from the faculty lounge, the nearest escape the stairwell at the end of the hall, unless she wanted to try to dive through the lounge windows.
She could work with this.
She was going to have to.
Given the go ahead to either stay and participate in classes for the day, or go collect the supplies necessary to be a fully functioning student and return tomorrow, Stephanie went with option two.
Backtracking to the parking lot, now much more lively than when she came in, she didn't have to look hard to see it. It was still the same after all.
The Red Bird.
"Stupid name for a car…"
She muttered to herself, the small smile creeping onto her lips betraying her fondness for it.
'Means he's here. Inside or outside though? Do you want to risk walking out there in broad daylight if he's sitting in the damn thing still?'
Sinking back, taking up a seated position on the floor off to the inside of the door with a line of sight to the outside, Stephanie propped her bag in her lap and leaned into it, as if it was just too early for her, and waited.
People passed by, paying her no mind. The first bell rang, and the masses moved together. The doors of the Red Bird opened, and two exited. One she knew immediately, and a very pretty girl.
'Of course. It's natural. You're dead. It's better this way, remember?'
"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
Pushing her face down into the bag, she decided she didn't need to see them pass. She would be satisfied with hearing it, knowing the coast was clear for her to leave. To get out of here. Get away. Far away.
Hearing the voices pass, especially one voice she would know anywhere, that she had missed so much, the owner was right there
and she just…
'Keep it together. This is life now. You wanted this. You wanted to be home. What did you expect? You're dead. You're nothing to these people. They never wanted you around to begin with. Count to ten. Get up. Then go make yourself useful somewhere.'
Taking in a slow, shaky breath, she held it for the ten count as the voices faded, then exhaled. Not bothering to look around, she got to her feet and walked out the door, and trotted to her bike.
Kicking it to life, she wiped her eyes on her sleeve, trying to work out if the Lounge would be operating yet.
After picking up her helmet, and rolling around to the Iceberg Lounge she found that it was not, infact open yet.
Most Gothamites that dabbled in Nocturnal dealings usually slept late, apparently. Which she apparently missed the memo on.
"Well sh*t… do I have to be a responsible student and pick up my supplies now?"
'Weren't you talking about good grades just yesterday?'
Not bothering to argue with herself, because everyone knows there's no winning when you argue with an idiot, Stephanie set off once more, gathering her supplies and cramming them into the backpack, putting on the jacket to make more room for them.
Taking it all back to the hotel and dumping it in her room, she didn't stay there long herself. Stephanie refused to sit still. She had just spent a year being forced to do minimal, to 'rest' even long after she was physically recovered. She couldn't take it.
Heading onto the hotel rooftop, between the water towers, she ran herself through old gymnastics routines, just to see if she could. Then pushed for the drills Babs ran while she was training alone as Robin.
It felt right.
Looking up at the tops of the water towers, trying to judge the distance between them, then the distance to where she stood on the rooftop, she began to climb the girderwork leg of one, not for the first time in her exercise outing cursing not changing from her jeans.
Once up on the roof of the tower, absently brushing her hands – now with newly acquired rips to go with her busted knuckles, her hands almost back to how they were before she left – on the backs of her legs, she looked over the edge back down to where she just was, beginning to bounce on the balls of her feet.
"C'mon. If you miss, it's not that far. You've fallen further before. Just to see if you still can. You can do it. You can do it!"
Backing up a few steps and taking off at a run, pushing herself off the side of the tower, just like Batgirl taught her, Stephanie extended her body, eyes ahead.
For one sickening second she thought she hadn't pushed with enough force, but seeing the edge of the other water tower approaching her face rapidly, the thought vanished quickly. Dipping her shoulder and rolling though, not quite as neatly as perhaps she would have once done, Stephanie allowed the momentum to carry her through to her knees, before splaying herself backwards with a laugh.
Untucking her legs from under herself after a moment of hyper extending her tendons, she folded her arms behind her head, and let out a sigh.
"No capes. No caves. I made a promise. That's not who I am anymore. Leslie didn't give up everything for me just so I can do it all over. I can't go back. I can't."
But that little voice prodded with a very important counter argument.
'Is becoming your father any better though?'