'Remember, clothes you won't mind getting entirely trashed one way or another. And don't bother with jewellery, Jor. Trust me.'
That was the last message Stephanie had sent to the group chat. She may or may not have thrown a minor tantrum about Jordanna always getting to decide the night out plans, and the uptown brat threw down the gauntlet for Stephanie to plan the next night out.
So she did.
Stephanie Brown style.
Francisco and Michael seemed ready to roll with whatever shenanigans Steph had cooked up. But Jordanna… Jordanna didn't like Steph responding to her constant questions with only emoji reactions. Especially when the most frequently used was the smiling devil face.
Of course, the night out wasn't just for fun. Of course there was an ulterior motive to her plans.
Y'see, where Steph was dragging the poor unfortunate souls was to a rave she knew for a fact members of the Penitente cartel would be at.
Why was Stephanie Brown going in, with three completely unwitting civilians, instead of having Batgirl crash the place? Well she thought about that. Then she thought about it for a second longer and realised that Stephanie Brown could lift a phone from a small fry to catch a bigger fish, and have a night out.
Two birds, as it were.
Plus, she hadn't been to a rave since…
Dean she was like, fifteen.
She sort of missed them, what with being a semi-responsible (hahaha) adult these days.
It was going to be totally fun!
She just had to make sure she taught the others the rules first. Oh boy.
So, when the time came to actually go pick up the gang from Princess Jor's place, Steph found she was actually more stressed than she expected to be. She couldn't stash weapons on her person, thanks to the… snugness of the very purposely chosen outfit (not that she really needed them, but it always felt comforting to carry something sharp, or a stick that became a bigger stick to beat people with). She wasn't going to be taking a bag, and even though she scoped the place out earlier in the week she didn't like the idea of trying to stash something, then having to try to find it DURING A RAVE.
No weapons. And hoping the gang listened to her instructions. Super.
She wasn't stressed at all.
"I think I might owe some people several apologies for my past behavior if this is even a fraction of what dealing with me is like."
Muttering to herself, unlocking the Compact and setting off the round off the crew.
As they packed into the purple Mini Cooper with black racing stripes (Blame Batman. He gave her the thing. She didn't decide on the paint job), the guys sitting fairly comfortably in the back, Jordanna riding shotgun, she took note of the outfits, did her best to commit how they looked right now to memory in the event she had to find them in a hurry, slipping an easy grin onto her face.
"Ok, I've tortured you enough. It's nothing horrific, I promise. Just a rave."
At those words, Jordanna visibly relaxed, having somehow imagined something horrific from Steph, while Michael scowled.
"People still have raves?"
Steph's grin widened as she threw the Compact into gear, hitting the road out towards the currently unused Port Adams shipping container yard.
"Oh, yeah. Absolutely. If you know where to look. A few little… guidelines though. Since I'm willing to bet this is your first rave."
Shooting a look around the cabin of the vehicle and getting confirmation nods and murmurs of 'yeah', she continued.
"Stick together. Do not wander off alone. Especially you, Jor. Dance with people all you like. But stay close to each other. And don't touch the blue cups. You will not have a good time."
Hearing the silence from them, Steph shot Jordanna a look, grinning broadly.
"C'mon, you guys. It's not that bad! I was doing this sorta stuff from when I was like, fourteen! Relax!"
After a beat, leaning between the front seats Francisco piped up.
"Yeah… but… to quote Jor… you're kinda a freak, Steph."
Snorting a laugh, bobbing her head in agreement at the sentiment and guiding the vehicle to the impromptu parking lot that was growing on the outside of the chain link fence, she simply shrugged a shoulder.
"Not entirely inaccurate. But you guys need to experience more of what Gotham has to offer than those sterilised and homogeneous nightclubs, where the profits benefit the one percent, and the music is the same sh*t in every club. These are for the people, by the people, my friends."
"Girl, aren't you friends with like, literally the richest family in Gotham?"
Micheal huffs as he starts shooing Jordanna out of the front seat, so he could get out himself. Cackling in response, climbing out and freeing Francisco and winked, shot of her dork fingergun and clicked her tongue.
"And I give them just as much sh*t for it too. Don't you worry about it."
Leading them to where she knew she could get them through the fence, peeling the chain link back enough for them to crawl through (she did warn about getting dirty, this was just a start) before scooting herself under, brushing her hands together.
Leading them towards the warehouse that was thrumming with trance music and just color, everywhere a giddy wave of excitement passed over Steph.
'No. Focus. Do the job. Get a Penitente phone without getting caught. Then you can party like you used to.'
Looking to her friends and seeing Michael and Francisco warming up to the idea, she held out her hand to Jordanna, grinning.
"Remember, stick together. No blue cups!"
With the brunette taking her hand and returning the grin with an excited one of her own and snatching at her boyfriends, who in response grabbed the front of his best friends shirt as Steph skip-lead them inside.
"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
It took exactly ten minutes for Stephanie to break her own rules. She let them get a feel for the place, get used to the lights, the noise, the glitter that seemed to rain from nowhere, the dry paint bombings whenever a beat was dropped. And then she was gone. Off into the crowd to find one of at least three potential marks.
She worked her way through the bumping and grinding masses, her shoulders absently swaying in time with the beat, wishing she had an eye in the sky with her right now, that it would make this part so much easier, when a hand firmly grabbed her upper arm.
Whipping around, prepared to introduce whoever it was that thought being that familiar with her was a good idea to her fist, she stopped, seeing the familiar face of Lonnie Machin. She still considered throwing the punch anyway, but restrained herself, not wanting to draw unnecessary attention to herself. Yanking her arm free of his grasp and scowling at him, she shouted to be heard over the music.
"What are you doing here?!"
An amused smirk crossed his feature as he looked her over, responding at the same volume.
"I was about to ask you the same thing. This doesn't look like a 'work' appropriate outfit, Steph."
Growling in frustration, standing up on tiptoe and looking back in the direction she came from to see if she could spot the gang, or more importantly, they could spot her, and failing, she roughly grabbed the anarchists wrist and dragged him to the outskirts of the crowd, away from most of the speakers. Huffing, and folding her arms, she snarled.
"Not everything I do has approval, and YOU should know that. Don't screw with my job, Lonnie."
Raising his hands in mock defensiveness, looking on the verge of laughter, he shook his head.
"I cannot take you seriously while you're covered in glitter. Listen. I'll stay out of your way, you stay out of mine."
Sighing slightly and blowing a tuft of currently powder blue hair from her face, she shifted her weight from one leg to the other.
"...your way has something to do with the Penitente cartel, doesn't it…?"
Folding his arms, he said nothing. She perked up slightly.
"I only want to get a phone, to get to bigger fish. If that helps you in anyway…"
She trailed off, waiting to see if he would give her something to work with, take the bait, anything. After a moment of watching him visibly weighing the pros and cons, Lonnie raised his chin slightly.
"They've been jacking penicillin shipments, and reselling them for three times the price. You lot haven't been doing anything, and I'm going to get the medication to the people who need it."
Staring at him blankly, she could have smacked him right across the face. Could have launched right into a tirade about her clearly being invisible right now. But she smiled tightly instead.
"Here's the deal. Help me get the phone. And I'll ignore this, I won't kick your ass again, and I'll help you with the penicillin."
Lonnie scoffed, shaking his head.
"I don't need your help."
Stephanie raised a brow, just staring at him. After a moment he broke his gaze.
"Ok fine, I'll take your help. Whatever."
Cracking into a self satisfied smirk, she began leading Lonnie back into the crowd on the hunt for the memorised faces, when something caught her eye.
The flickering of red and blue lights cast upon the wall, getting brighter.
She hissed. Getting her friends arrested wasn't part of the plan tonight. Darting away through the crowd to where she left her friends, hoping they hadn't moved, finding them all still dancing with a group of new people, but still together, with red cups, painted, coated in glitter, having fun, she felt a wave of relief.
Busting into the little circle, she grabbed at them all to get their attention, she shouted.
"Alright. Time to go!"
Instead of trying to shout her answer, Steph simply pointed out the door, towards the good dozen GCPD squad cars drawing closer, gumballs flashing. The motion drew the attention of some of the other ravers.
Within seconds, chaos had ensued, as people were rushing for the exit, the music killed.
Grabbing Jordanna and Michaels arms, counting on Jordanna to grab Francisco, she shoved towards the wall, away from the crowd, then down towards the back of the building.
She had thought about this.
As she was guiding her friends to the back exit, a pang of guilt hit.
'Just leave him. He'd leave you…'
"Ah, God damn it all to hell…"
With a heavy sigh that trailed off to a groan as she shoved open the back door, hidden behind a shipping container that was being used as a lounge not five minutes earlier, she let out two sharp, shrill whistles, both not expecting Lonnie to remember the code, or to get a response. Receiving two back, she let out a longer whistle, then poked her head out from behind the container. After fifteen seconds, the blonde male appeared through the scattering remnants of the crowd.
"Don't say a word, or I'll punch you in the throat."
With that, she took off at a sprint back across the field, outstripping her friends, yanking the chain back for them.
Once the now five of them were piled into the Compact, and tearing away, all nervous laughter and adrenaline, it was two miles down the road that Francisco said something, being one of the ones crammed against the stranger.
"Hey uh… who's this guy?"
Glancing from Lonnie, who gave her a questioning look, shut down with the smallest of head shakes and brow creasing ('Do they know?' 'No, they don't, and it's staying that way.'), to Francisco in the rear view mirror.
"Oh, that's Lonnie. He's… well. My ex. Couldn't let him get pinched either, y'know?"
"Yeah, she's not all bad. That temper though…"
Lonnie sank back into the back seat, looking around the car.
"You wanna get out and walk? I can dump you on the side of the road right now if you want. Just try me!"
At least four of the five occupants of the car found that funny.