Slink around school. Alienate herself in class. Hide her head in her locker when applicable. Hotel rooftop workouts. Go pick up jobs. Occasionally get called in for 'special deliveries', or escorting duties when Oswald didn't trust the 'Lady Friend of the Week'
to make a drop off to the bank herself. Less fights than she hoped, yet more than Leslie would have wanted.
This very quickly became the norm for little miss 'Crissy'
The ache to reach out to those she loved tempered by the daily reminders that Stephanie Brown was dead. That they were better without her. That she wasn't missed. No-one cared. What she was doing was… getting her by.
However, it was a Saturday. There was no school on a Saturday. No hallways to play a one sided game of cat and mouse in. She could do anything she wanted. Anything at all.
Anything that meant she wasn't going to be left sitting alone with her thoughts.
Which of course meant she was going to the Lounge.
She had been accepted and welcomed into a family. A very messed up family that made her question everything about herself, and what she knew
, but a family nonetheless.
She had never felt cared for '– Leslie –'
or accepted '– Cassandra –'
before. Everyone else had told her to quit. That she was useless. That no-one wanted her around.
'Are you not listening to me?! Cassandra and Leslie! Toe that line. Gray is fine. I'm ok playing in this weird gray zone we've been playing in. But don't let go of them. Penguin isn't family. He's only using you, just like Batman did! Don't fall for it. He's just giving praise, instead of making you work for it. You're smarter than this. Come ON, Stephanie!'
"I know… I'm not stupid. But it's nice to be useful. Even if I know it won't last."
Groaning, she took a few minutes to get herself out of bed and started moving for the day, the daily ache back to being normal, before scooping up her stuff and heading out.
Coming in through the kitchen out of habit, even though it was daylight, frowning at the cluster of people in the middle of the room. Spotting Reggie standing by some crates, she moved towards the familiar face, immediate curiosity taking hold. Spotting her approaching, the bouncer nodded in greeting.
"Yo Crissy. What's up?"
Pointing a thumb back over her shoulder to the good two dozen people loitering about in the middle of the club, sitting on the stairs and the split level divide, she raised a brow.
"What's the deal?"
"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
Before Reggie could respond, Penguin began loudly calling for people to make way, get out of his way, as he came down from his office. You could always hear him before you could see him. With room being made, Cobblepot spotted the blonde standing with Reggie, and motioned for her to join the masses. Glancing up at the muscle, who responded with a grin, Stephanie simply shrugged, and moved over to them, taking up position on the stairs, leaning against the railing.
"You are the lowest of Gotham's low."
Penguin began, motioning at them with his cigarette holder. Frowning slightly, Stephanie raised her chin, and waited to see where this was going.
"You are her drug addicts and her alcoholics. Her homeless. Her runaways and her prostitutes. You are the gang members no gang will take. You are the mobsters without a mob. Noone wants anything to do with you."
'Hey, c'mon now. I know what I am. But I sucks hearing people actually say i–'
"Except me. Maybe it's because in you I see myself."
Cobblepot motions for the crates, which Reggie, and another of the muscle move over.
"Maybe it's because in the past, I too have been overlooked. Ridiculed at times. Dismissed."
'It's not genuine, it's not real. Don't buy it… don't. Just…'
"But no-one's dismissing me anymore. And after today–"
Cracking the lid off the crate to reveal parts of costumes inside, before stepping back, as people, Stephanie included, moved forward to look –to claim – he continued, with a predatory grin.
"Neither will they you."
As people began pawing through the items, the weapons, the artefacts, one man drawing out a wand, Penguin chuckled.
"Look, enjoy, but don't get too attached to anything. We'll determine who gets who based on ability and skill set."
As Stephanie began to reach further into the crate, a sword calling her name, she was tapped on the shoulder, by the Boss.
"A moment, my dear?"
Straightening up, she didn't have much of an opportunity to respond before her began to lead her away towards the storage area.
"I've seen a lot of you in the short time you've been here. You're not like the others."
'Why does this feel like a trap? This feels like a trap. I want to run. If I run, am I springing the trap?'
Remaining silent and looking down at the Penguin, he continued.
"You're smarter than most of them. Well trained, resourceful… which is why I have something special in mind for you..."
Pushing open the employees only door, and flicking on the light to reveal what he kept aside special for her, a grin of what she could only interpret as pride on his face. Following his gaze into the room, her blood ran cold.
'How? No. It's not possible. He can't tell, can he? Oh god.'
Swallowing hard, she put her hand on the door frame to steady herself, then spoke softly.
"Where'd you get all the suits?"
Clapping her on the back, he laughed, shoving her into the room.
"If you're worried it's the one Mask killed that kid in, it's not."
Unable to take her eyes off the peaked hood of the cloak hanging off the hook the entire time, she swallowed and nodded absently.
'He's right. It's not your suit. This one is magenta, not eggplant…'
"What's the job…?"
She asked softly, taking a few steps towards the hanging fabric, taking the hem between her fingers.
"I want you to be my eyes and ears. Be ready to ruin plans, as it were."
It was reflexive. It happened before she could stop herself. Picking up the full face cowl and putting it over her hand, looking at the white eyes, she shook it at Penguin behind her.
"Y'know. That's who she was, right? The Spoiler?"
After a brief pause, in which she could practically hear Oswald narrowing his eyes at her, she heard him turning to shut the door.
"Well, I'll give you time to work out the suit. I'll see you in my office for your new job debriefing."
As the door clicked shut, she slumped into a heap on the boxes, clutching at the cowl, holding in the overwhelming urge to scream. She had to not lash out for once. She had to keep herself under control for long enough to get through whatever bullsh*t meeting was going to happen, then she could go… scream, or cry, or punch things, or scream and cry while punching things all she wanted.
But at least she wouldn't have to control her facial expressions.
Looking to the full face cowl that was almost her cowl, but not quite, she sighed, and began to change.
The suit was almost her suit, but not quite. The belts weren't in the right places, it sat funny, the legs were too long. She could fix that.
The utility belts didn't have the right toys in them, or even in intuitive places, but she could fix that too.
...was she warming on having a not quite right Spoiler suit? Yes. Yes she was.
Stuffing her street clothes into her backpack, she climbed up the stairs to the office two at a time as Reggie was handing out outfits and gear while consulting from a list.
Letting herself in to see Riddler standing by the window, looking out to the pier, Penguin sitting behind the desk, he grinned broadly at her.
"Ah, finally. Now, let's get to business. Crissy, if the New Rogues down there are to succeed, we are going to need as much information as we can get, especially on The Whale's crew. Do you understand?"
'He knows. There's no way he doesn't know. He's gotta know. I'm done for.'
Instead of responding, she nodded. Riddler turned his head to look in her direction.
"Keep your head down, Spoiler. You don't want to bring the Bats down on yourself in that get up."
With a honk of a laugh, Penguin rocked himself in his seat.
"Nonsense! Cause them some trouble while you're at it! Let them think another one has come back to haunt them!"
'Excuse me? Another what?'
Grateful for the cowl, her frown set in deep now, she saluted lamely.
"The Whale int–information. You got it. I'll see what I can find."
Before backing herself out of the room, eyes on Riddler the entire time, trying to work out if he just tried to tell her she wasn't as screwed as she thought she was, or if she was overthinking everything.
Once outside, she was hit with the wall of emotions all at once.
Panic, fear, guilt, excitement, self-loathing, anger, confusion.
Unable to process even one emotion that wasn't anger at the best of times, she sunk down next to the dumpsters, and sobbed into her cowl.
Of course the thing she made to save herself would end up like this. Why wouldn't it end up being used for the opposite reason she made it.
Was it too late to go back to Africa?