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07/18/2020 02:41 PM 

[Ghosts of the Underground {part four}: Drabble]

attention: | mentions: Ghosts of the Underground {Part Four}www.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight
A soft, warm bed. Starchy potato goodness in her stomach. Sugar within arms reach. Sounds that weren't just insects, or the wind in the trees.
It should have felt good.
So why was she so restless?
She didn't have any need to be out on patrol. No responsibilities per se, yet she felt compelled to be out.
Was that a residual defence from growing up in her household, or was that the guilt, saying she should be going out and making up for blood spilled on her account?
It could be both.
It was probably both.
Along with just habit. Gotham meant patrol, right?
Letting out an aggravated growl, shifting the plate with remnant mash to the floor, Stephanie flicked on the TV, to try to distract herself. She had missed a good chunk of pop culture while she was gone, after all, there was some catching up to do.
News. click News. click More news. click Holy sh*t how much news did there have to be?!

'It is that time of night, dipsh*t. You'd remember that if you ever stayed in.'

Scowling, turning the TV off, her itch to hit the street was not lessened by the few seconds of hearing about how bad the turf wars were.
Leaning forward, resting her elbows on her knees, her eyes narrowed at the dark reflection of herself on the dimming screen.

"If 'Matches' is at the Lounge at night while this is going on, who is answering the Bat Signal? Robin? Batgirl?"

'Go to them. They're so close now…'

Shaking her head at her inside voice, she stood up, digging through her bags for a shirt and jacket better suited for a Gotham night.

"I just… how? How is he still doing this? Selfish. Selfish, thoughtless a**hole. I oughta–"

'Oughta what? Slug him? What would that accomplish? He gets hit all the time.'

"... find out what he wants… and go from there. If Cass or… anyone else get hurt again because of him, I'll never forgive myself."

'Your plan is to go to war with Batman?'

Stuffing her arms into her sleeves angrily, she snatched up her phone and the key to her bike, jamming the phone in a pocket with a growl.

"I DON'T KNOW! I JUST NEED TO THINK! I NEED TO HIT SOMETHING!"

'Good solution… go see your new boss. He might have something for you. Kitchen entry, remember.'

"Yeah yeah…"

Grumbling to herself as she slammed the door on her way out, Stephanie very easily tore across town with her new little road bike, weaving through traffic and darting down alleyways, just like she used to.
It was almost like being back–

'Don't go there, Stephanie Brown. Not right now.'

The inside voice again. That ever present menace. Was that meant to be her conscience? It did a horrible job if it was.
The night air was still as good as it ever was on her face, regardless. Taking a moment before securing her bike in the staff parking lot of the Lounge, Steph looked at the staff only entrance near the loading dock, and let herself in. Moving with purpose, eyes forward she found no-one even questioned her passing though.
Pushing out onto the club floor, she moved into a cluster of people before glancing around, not wanting to cartoonishly check to see if the coast was clear from the door. Seeing a man in a tacky suit, with a skeezy moustache, a toothpick in his mouth, sunglasses on at night, inside, and built like a brick sh*thouse coming down the stairs from the direction of the office. It may have been a year, and the last time she had seen him may have been when she was laying under a cot, hiding, but she knew that stance. That figure. However she couldn't even muster the energy in her disgust to be angry.
Of course that's what Matches Malone looks like. A slimy d*ckweed.
And he was in here, while Batgirl and Robin were out there, in the actual danger.
Hands balling into fists at her sides, she made to push through the crowd, to get to him, to–

'To what? What will you do when you get to him? Swing at him? Cause a scene? Get both of you caught and killed? Think for once.'

Stopping and turning away, looking up towards the balcony tables, towards anywhere but 'Matches' and his stupid face, she took in a breath, counted to three, and let it out. Counted to ten, took another breath. And started up the stairs. Enough time had passed for him to have moved from them, but she didn't want to look for him. Out of sight, out of mind. Get a job to do. Redirect the anger. Don't blow it. It hasn't even been a day.
Knocking on the office door she waited, hearing voices inside. A man and a woman. After a moment, the door opened, the woman motioning her in.

"Crissy, my dear, what brings you back so soon?"

The Penguin squawked, startling some of the smaller birds awake. With a wry smile she shrugged a shoulder, trying her best to not imagine the relationship between the pair, or where the woman was trying to get wearing a dress like that in the private office at this time of night.

"Oh, you know. Thought I'd get a head start on being busy. Got anything you need done?"

After shifting the cigarette holder from one side of his mouth to the other, rolling it around like a thought on his tongue, inspecting her through his monocle, Oswald leant back in his seat, hands folded on his plump stomach.

"As a matter of fact, I do. A shipment, small, needs moving, from Chinatown to the Narrows. The Dragons are in on it. My connection will give you the drop off. If you do as you did last time, everything will be perfect."

'Sketchy. Love this for us.'

Nodding in agreement to the 'terms' of the job, she turns to leave with a wave.

"You got it, Boss."

"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
Pulling the door shut behind her, taking a quick look over the floor below from the balcony and seeing the floor clear of the specific a**hole she was steering clear of, she began moving back towards her bike through the kitchen.

'No specific address given, but Chinatown and Dragons mentioned, small shipment. I'm still being tested. Mother f***ers are always testing me. God damn it… do I even want to pass this one?'

There was no need for her to answer herself, the answer was yes. Of course she did. Put a hurdle in front of her, she was going to clear it, regardless of who put it there, just to say she did. F*** your test.
Kicking the bike to life she tore along the waterfront to Dixon Docks in Chinatown, making a mental note to get herself a helmet on the way 'home from school tomorrow. Slowing to a crawl, she looked around for the tell tale signs of the Dragons kicking around. Spotting a cluster in the greens and golds of the gang colors, she got off her bike far enough away to approach on foot, to not have any mistaken thoughts of attempts at drive bys. Once they spotted her, the men and women circled her, like jackals. Stephanie's heart began to race, trying to keep as many of them in her line of sight as possible.

"What do you want, Britney? You lost?"

'don'tbeasmartass, don'tbeasmartass, don'tbeasmartass.'

"I'm here on behalf of Penguin. To deliver something to the Narrows?"

'ohthankgod'

Two began talking to each other in Mandarin… or maybe Cantonese… Steph didn't know Chinese. She barely knew English half the time, before one pulled out a phone and broke away from them. While what she assumed was a confirmation call was under way, she sighed, folding her arms across her chest. One of the women in the circle toyed with the blonde waves hanging loose with a switchblade in a fairly effective intimidation attempt, but not for reasons she would have liked. Instead of straightening up and showing it worked, Stephanie jerked her head in the opposite direction, scowling.
The longer she stood, surrounded by the Dragons, with a blade leveled at her, adrenaline coursing through her, forcing herself to remain neutral, the longer she was forcing back thoughts of the last time she had a blade pulled on her. The last fight she was in. Ro–

'Do NOT. If we ignore it, it'll go away.'

Returning to the group, with a backpack in one hand, looking somewhat defeated, Stephanie had something to focus on. The bag. Not the blade. Anything but the blade.

"Ok Britney, your story checks out. Take it to the park off Finger River in the Narrows. They'll handle it from there."

At the word that her story checked out, the circle dispersed, the blade clicking away. Snatching the bag away from him unceremoniously, forcing the most sarcastic smile possible, Stephanie couldn't even find a way to respond that wasn't the threat of her throwing up. Slipping the backpack on, returning to the bike at what she felt was a casual pace, she tore out of there.
Skidding to a stop on the Upper East Side of the Brown Bridge bypass, scrambling off the bike and hearing it crash to the ground behind her, she doubled over, losing her mashed potato to the concrete.
Sinking to her hands and knees, panting, she allowed herself this brief moment of weakness, before getting back to her feet, sniffling sharply, wiping her face on her sleeve.

'At least you know what to expect. Lesson learned. Go in expecting that again. React accordingly.'

Nodding at her own advice, she picked the bike up, inspecting it, before pressing on.
The park stood empty of human life. Frowning as she pushed out the kick stand, she scanned the shadows harder, before seeing the dim glow of a lighter, or a cigarette in the alleyway off the park. Shaking her head slightly, she braced herself, before heading over. Her arrival hadn't gone unnoticed, the motorcycle was loud, after all, and the four young men, not much older than her, if she had to guess were already watching her make her approach.

"You from the Dragons?"

One asked, before being clipped upside the head by one of the others.

'Street level distributors. New ones too by the look of them. Great.'

Positioning herself in the mouth of the alleyway, she took stock of them quickly. One visibly had a wooden baseball bat. Odd were the others were armed too.

'Was everyone always this armed?'

"I'm here to make an exchange, if that's what you mean."

She says flatly.

"Well, we have a better idea. You're gonna give us the goods, and then leave."

The one with the bat points it at her, which she narrows her eyes at.

'Here we go. We can do this. They're nobodies. You didn't start it.

"Yeah… about that… over my dead body."

'Poor choice of words right now. But I appreciate the spirit.'

"That can be arranged."

The one that slapped the other upside his head reached for the back of his pants. Stephanie wasn't going to wait for the rest of the motion to act. Grabbing the garbage can to her left she flung it down the alleyway at them, before following it.
Snagging the trash can lid off the ground by its handle, she targeted the one reaching for his pants first, driving the lid into his face twice, stepping into the swing arc of the baseball bat as she did, to be hit by the arms across her ribs instead of the bat.
Crouching and scooping up the handgun that was lost in the surprise offensive, she moved on instinct, instead of what was the smart move in the moment, and popped the clip out, cleared the chamber of a round and pulled off the slide, flinging them in different directions, before flicking it around in her palm and whipping the handgrip across the bat wilders jaw, letting it go in her swing and snagging the bat from the limp grip, eying the other two,  one who was holding a kitchen knife, the other with nothing.
Breathing heavily, adrenaline high again, a grin started creeping across the blondes face.

"I almost forgot how good this was…"

Pulled off balance by the one that had been wielding the gun grabbing the backpack as he got up, she spun, shortening her grip and driving it into his stomach. More hands grabbed for the bag. She got cocky. Got sloppy.

'Where was the knife? Refocus!'

Driving her forehead into the bridge of no-longer-gun-wielders nose, leaving him to slump against the wall, she slipped out of the bag, turned to give herself some space, and swung for the fences.
Hands, and the bag, raised defensively, deflecting what could have been fatal. Pushing forward, kicking low, focusing on the one with the knife, Stephanie baited him into swinging at her with it, before driving the bat down on his wrist, kicking the knife away.

"P-please!"

"Please what? Don't hurt you? Where was that sympathy when you were planning on jumping a girl, huh?"

She spat, driving a balled up left fist into his face. As he dropped to the ground holding his face, like it was the first time he had ever been punched in the face (it was), Stephanie rounded on the last man standing. If he had any brains, he would have taken the backpack and ran while she was busy. But he didn't have any brains. He was trying to deal drugs in Gotham without a weapon, or knowing how to fight. And trying to steal those drugs from Penguin to do it.
She watched as he looked from her to the remnants of the handgun back to her, and rolled her eyes as he dove for it. As he rolled and pulled it on her, she walked over to him, discarding the bat, and scooping up the backpack.

"You stay right there, you bitch!"

If she had ever been more sarcastic before now, she couldn't remember it.

"Oh no. You've really got me now…"

Walking over to him as he pulled the trigger to no effect, she put her hands on her hips.

"You done?"

With a small, sad nod, he dropped the gun. With a sharp kick across his face, she rolled him over and bound his hands behind his back with his jacket, before bringing her bike over to the alleyway.
Loading up the moron across the body of her bike, she made the rise back to the Lounge an exercise in balance, the temptation to let his face hit the road rising as he woke and struggled.
Dragging him through the kitchen, her non-complying companion became all too happy to follow directions once the blonde that kicked the unholy sh*t out of him and his friends faster than he knew what happened snatched up a knife and held the point of it between the back of his legs.
Forcing him through the crowd, up the stairs to the office she rapped on the door with a hiss of pain.

'Oh yeah, split knuckles are back in.'

Not waiting for someone to respond, she spoke.

"Boss, it's Cris, with a special delivery."

The door clicked open. Shoving her idiot through before her, she offered an apologetic smile to the 'date', kicking the guest chair under her idiot's legs, knife still pointed in his direction as she dropped the bag on Penguins desk.

"So, funny story. I thought I'd bring back one of the jokesters themselves to have them tell you it. C'mon now Chuckles, tell him what you told me."

Eyes shifting from the blonde to The Penguin, that the blonde was able to walk right in to, the idiot swallowed hard, realising that perhaps mistakes were made.

"Uh, we uh… were just going to take… it."

"Take what, Chuckles, c'mon?"

Stephanie circled him, tapping the blade on his head. Maybe three days with Roman had stuck with her in more ways than one?

"Uh. The goods. The coke. We were gonna roll the courier and take the coke."

Murmuring in agreement with the statement Steph stood back, Penguin leaning forward to inspect the contents of the bag to find it was all there, he looked to 'Cris'.

"We?"

"His friends are in the alley off the Finger River park. Or they were. Could have come to by now. I'm sure Chuckles could answer any more questions you have. Even if he doesn't, I didn't think you'd want some street level nobodies getting away with trying to rip you off."

Leaning back in his seat, Penguin grinned at her. Stephanie didn't like it.

"It hasn't even been a day, and you get this business like you've been in it a lifetime. I like you, Crissy. Let's get you paid for a job well done. I'll get Chuckles here dealt with."

Flicking the knife over in her hand she sat it down on the desk.

"That was from the kitchen… I sorta… snagged it on my way up. Hey, if you don't have plans for it, can I have that backpack?"

"I'm almost fifty percent sure nothing could go wrong."Stephanie Brownwww.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight

07/16/2020 09:37 PM 

[Ghosts of the Underground {part three}: Drabble]

attention: | mentions: Ghosts of the Underground {Part Three}www.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight
'More for you where that comes from, huh?'

Looking at the cool grand in her hands as she stood outside the office, Steph had some decisions to make.
She still needed wheels. Maybe get herself a new phone now that she was back in civilization. God only knew what happened to her old one, though she had some hunches (Oracle data scrubbing being high on the list), and wanted to let Leslie know that everything was going much better than she expected.
Folding the ill-earned gains and tucking them down inside her shirt, she started running through her plans. If she did jobs like that, or similar, she could very easily go back to living out of hotels. Better hotels than the roach motels she was hopping instead of being home and dealing with emotions like a normal human when Arthur died.
A pang of guilt hit her so hard she let out a soft groan as she shuffled away from the office door.

'I should just go home… Mom didn't handle dad's death – No. She'll be doing better without me. She will be.'

Swallowing back the sob threatening to escape her, and moving quickly, planning on heading back towards Holly's to retrieve her gear and forcing herself to refocus on what she was to do next.
Focus on anything but people now within arms reach.
Waving absently over her shoulder as she passed Reggie, he called out to her.

"Hold up, new girl. You planning on coming back tonight?"

Holding back the huff of annoyance, Steph stopped in her tracks, turned and shook her head.

"I'm not planning to, but I don't plan a lot of things. Things just happen."

With a laugh, Reggie shook his head and eyed her up and down.

"Listen. The Boss is pretty lenient during the day, but he can't be seen letting minors in during prime hours. And the guy on the door at night doesn't f*** around. So if your non-plans change, slip in through the kitchen. And maybe consider getting yourself a little something to flash with an age on it, something believable, in case Matches does spot you inside."

Her jaw dropped, but not as much as her stomach. She couldn't keep her face under control this time. Blinking rapidly she took two quick steps towards Reggie, the hollow in her stomach quickly filling with white hot rage.

"Did you just say Matches? As in Malone?"

"Oh, yeah! D'you know the guy?"

Stephanie didn't know whether to laugh, cry, throw up or all three.
Settling on the laugh, hands balling into fists, she sniffed sharply, tears of frustration welling, and threatening to fall, quickly losing any semblance of control over her emotions.

"Yeah, I know him… a friend of mine owes him something... I might have to stop by to give him."

Reggie may not have been the sharpest knife in the block, but he could read 'furious female' when it was in front of him. Raising his hands wearily, as if it could be directed at him, and it could, for all he knew, this crazy chippy just walked in and got a job basically on the spot from Penguin, who knew what she was going to do motioned for calm.

"Listen, newbie. For your sake, don't start nothin'. I'm sure you can take care of yourself, but he's–"

"A right son of a bitch is what he is. You're right. I shouldn't hit him straight on. There's better ways…"

"What? No – that's not what I meant at all!"

Turning, jaw flexing, trying to divide her attention between the two lots of planning she had to do now.

"Thanks Reg. Have a good one…"

'Why is he here? Does he think Penguin will be the next Kingpin? Does Penguin have more information? What have I walked into.'
'But, ok, the hotels. If I do at least one job a day with this money, good hotel, no hopping. I can get myself a bike too. I won't have to walk everywhere. At this rate I'm gonna have to get up at 5:30 for school.'
'I should just tell Penguin where the cave is. I should tell Penguin who Matches is. I – would get them all killed. Do I want them dead? I don't think I want them dead. Do I?'

The alternating thought pattern between trying to plan for new life, and potential revenge continued as she retrieved her bags from Holly's fire escape, unnoticed, untouched, just as she thought they would be during daylight, at least, before backtracking towards the outskirts of the Diamond District, and eyeballs one of the moderate hotels that a much younger Stephanie would have only ever dreamed of staying in.

"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
Setting herself up with a room on the fourteenth floor, and leaving her bags, Steph went to the nearest convenience store for two things; a burner phone, and the Gotham Gazette.
Coming back with a bag of candy bars, along with her intended purchases, she finally made her way up to her room.
Looking at the bed, an honest to goodness real bed, not a camping cot, Steph kicked off her almost worn through hiking boots, setting the phone up to charge before moving into the bathroom.

"Running water. Oh my god how I've missed you! Let's never be apart again."

Turning the taps to start the shower, sticking her hand under the water, wiggling her fingers under the heated, pressurised spray.

"Oh my god, this is the best day…"

After almost an hour in the shower, returning to sit on the bed in the plush gown, hair wrapped in a towel, Stephanie retrieved a scrap of paper from her bags, punching the number into the keypad, while simultaneously digging through her bag of goodies to fetch a Mars bar, and the newspaper. Holding the phone to her ear with her shoulder, flicking to the classifieds, she began looking for vehicle advertisements, while the call connected, a weary Doctor Thompkins answering.

"Hello?"

"So, Gotham is still just as polluted as ever."

Steph could hear the frown in the voice after a brief, confused pause.

"What number are you calling from?"

Taking a bite of the sugary goodness she had been deprived of for a year, Steph packed it into her cheek to continue the conversation, frowning slightly at some of the more salacious personal advertisements.

"My new one. I've already done some work for the day. I told you I knew what I was doing. I got my roof over my head, I'm organising wheels as we speak. Relax."

With a tutting loud enough for the call to pick it up, Steph rolled her eyes.

"The more you assure people you know what you're doing, Stephanie Brown, the less soothing it is."

"Yeah yeah… So anyway. Roman is dead."

"What!?"

Chewing the chocolate and caramel in her mouth, Steph nodded to herself, flicking the page over.

"Mmhm. Selina did him in, apparently. No more Black Mask. That's pretty neat."

"Stephanie. Murder is murder, regardless of who it is."

Rolling her eyes, letting out a sigh slightly, she folded her legs.

"Listen. She did what I couldn't do. That's all I'm saying."

A long silence, so long that Steph checks that the call is still ongoing before hearing the voice again.

"Not being able to kill someone doesn't make you weak, Stephanie. We've been over this. You're better than that."

"Am I though? My first instinct in dealing with my dad as Spoiler was to kill him. I didn't because someone else talked me out of it. That same someone pointed out to me that I reflexively go for lethality in fights when I was Robin. That was my strike one, you know?"

Steph had abandoned the Mars bar now, leaving it to sit on the newspaper, curling in on herself.

"Look forward, Stephanie. Not backwards. You haven't killed anyone–"

"Only half of Gotham…"

Leslie sighed, Steph could picture her pinching the bridge of her nose under her glasses. Deciding to change topics, Leslie cleared her throat softly.

"So, what's the job?"

Steph stalled, thinking of a half truth that would work on the doctor.

"Uh… specialist courier, I guess?"

"Stephanie… are you running drugs?"

"I've only delivered one package! It's too early to say if anything will be drugs."

"Oh my go– you're going to get yourself killed again. Or caught."

"Yeah, maybe. Listen, I only called to tell you things were going ok so far, and that I had a phone number, not for a lecture. You can lecture me after school tomorrow or something."

Not giving Leslie a chance to respond, Steph ended the call abruptly, dropping the phone onto the pillows. After sitting, holding her knees to her chest for a good long moment, staring absently out the window at the darkening skyline, she turned her attention back to the newspaper. After finding an ad for a bike that would suit her needs, she made the call and managed to talk the older sounding man into bringing it to her at the hotel with a sob story about needing to get out of town, away from an abusive boyfriend, and she was paying cash.
Organising parking with the hotel front desk was easy enough. While she was at it she set up her bullsh*t o'clock wake up call, and started pulling her jeans back on under her bathrobe, to get dressed to make the monetary exchange in the lobby.
Twirling the bike key on her finger in the elevator on the way back up, she wondered, and not for the first time in her life, nor would it be the last, how much lying is ok, and when should she just… stop lying?
They weren't hurting anyone, right?
Pushing open the door to her room the city would seemingly have a different answer to that question.
In plain view on the blood sky, now that night had truly set in, her first sighting of the Bat Signal in a year.

'I need to go help.'

Was the immediate instinct on seeing it. Before her brain caught up with her emotions, and she slowly slunk across the room to draw the curtains.

'Help like last time? You're more help being dead.'

Flopping face first onto the bed, she lay motionless for a moment before feeling around for the room phone on the nightstand, and turning her head only enough to not be muffled when speaking.

"Hello, room service? Can I get a giant plate of mashed potatoes please? I don't care what else you have to serve with it, I just want the mashed potatoes…"

"I'm almost fifty percent sure nothing could go wrong."Stephanie Brownwww.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight

07/15/2020 03:19 PM 

[Ghosts of the Underground {part two}: Drabble]

attention: | mentions: Ghosts of the Underground {Part Two}www.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight
Apparently, just walking in wasn't her worst of plans.
Sure, she didn't get to talk to the 'Boss' immediately, but as soon as you say 'I just want to make some money, I know the city like the back of my hand with my eyes closed' Penguin is surprisingly willing to give people chances.
Granted, anyone that screwed him over usually went missing, and turned up in the harbor with some limbs missing, but that wasn't the point.
After a brief conversation between the muscle that waved her in that she later came to know as Reggie and the Beak himself, Stephanie was waved over to his table, where the would be Kingpin was eating a late lunch of fish, fish and more fish, all in various states of… rare.

"Alright, Missy. I like your style. I'll give you a job. A trial run, if you like. I need a package taken from the fish packing plant to an... old friend of mine."

Saying nothing but raising a brow, waiting for more details, Cobblepot slowly grinned, seeing there was already an understanding of how things ran.

"No questions? I already like you. He's paid half, so I know how much you're meant to bring back to me. Don't get any ideas."

Unable to help herself, Steph shakes her head.

"Me? Ideas? Wouldn't dream of it. I do have one question, actually. Is it bigger than a bread box? Will I need a bag?"

Leaning in and studying her, eyes narrowed slightly, Oswald let out a sudden loud honk of a laugh, slapping the table top.

"You're funny, kid. It's packaged. A bag might help you transport though. You'll get the delivery address from the packing plant. Now before I have Reggie here throw you out on your pretty little backside to get to work, what's your name."

'Ohsh*t'

"Crystal. Cris. Cris Brown."

'Goddamnit'

She blurts before her brain catches up with her, hoping her face stayed neutral in her panic. If anything happened on her face, neither of the men in front of her caught it. Nodding slowly, shifting to pick up his cigarette holder, Penguin waved her off with the outer hand.

"Go on now, Cris. If you do well, we may have a spot for you in the family."

'Oh goodie… just what I always wanted…'

Somehow, she managed to keep her inside voice inside. She needed money. She didn't really want to go with her other plans.

"Thank you for the job, Mr Cobblepot."

Receiving a grunt in response, and being led back out, Steph waited until she was a block away before she started swearing at herself.

"Really? You immediately go to your mother's name?! What is wrong with you?! You're an idiot. Stupid, STUPID girl."

The pick-up itself went smoothly enough. Someone at the Lounge was kind enough to call ahead about a new girl on a trial coming by to pick up the thing for the guy. While waiting by an industrial tub full of ice in a walk in fridge, the thought crossed her mind about how easy it would be for her to be locked in here and never heard from again, for real this time.
However she was pleasantly surprised when a package in brown paper and twine was handed to her, along with a slip of paper, before being basically shoved out the door.
Honor amongst thieves, or something. Or maybe they knew Penguin would handle any mess caused by a new girl messing things up.
Her innate curiosity drove her to squeeze the package a few times, before sniffing at it, pulling a face, smelling only the fish. Probably by design. She'd have to remember that one.
Unfolding the paper, she saw a number, which she took to be the sum remaining, and the address, which she immediately recognised, unless he had moved in her time away.

"Oh, son of a bitch–"

At least she had a rough idea of what was in a package this size now, if it was heading to that address. And she felt a whole less safe just carrying it about willy nilly. Maybe. She wasn't an explosives expert.
A bump couldn't set off plastic explosives, right?

'Cake box.'

Just to be sure. She could put it in a cake box and then yell at anyone trying to destroy her grandmother's birthday. Perfect. Great idea.
Now.
Where was the nearest bakery?
Gingerly carrying the package under her arm, she poked around in the nearby production company dumpsters, before finding a donut box that wasn't entirely trashed.

"That'll do…"

Gently slipping the package into the box and closing it, she carried it flat, before setting out to find the mark.
Travelling Gotham on foot took so much longer than she remembered. Job three, get some wheels.
Maybe Mom still had her bike? Was she game enough to go and rob herself? Maybe. She'd deal with that later. Get rid of this first.

"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
Taking in the sounds of the city as she made her way through it, some she missed, like music, passing snippets of conversation, laughter, traffic, and others she didn't, like the distant sounds of gunshots, sirens, screams for help, especially when she had to ignore them, she found herself standing across the street from an apartment block that she had been in only once before.
She wished she had a disguise.
Sighing heavily, hoping the Bats and Birds of Prey currently had more on their plates with the gangs than bothering keeping up to the minute tabs on the Riddler, Steph reluctantly moved through the building, taking the stairs to avoid the camera in the elevator. Checking down the hall of the floor and seeing it clear, she shook her head at herself, at her damned luck, – of course she'd get sent here first, the only way it could be a worse delivery would be if it was to Selina – and raised a fist to rap on the door, hanging her head.
Maybe he wouldn't recognise her with her hair grown out. Last time she was here she had short hair. Maybe it wasn't even Eddie here anymore and it was all a coincidence. Maybe–
The door opened a crack, the door chain in place.

"Yes? Can I help you?"

It was Eddie.
Sighing softly, shoulders slumping, Stephanie raised her head, holding the box in both hands.

"Delivery, Mr Nygma. From a friend…"

'Don't recognise me, don't recognise me, don't–'

The door snapped shut, the sound of the chain sliding out of place, before the door flew open, and she was yanked inside, the door slamming behind her. While Steph stumbled, struggling to keep her balance, holding the box above her head before righting herself, Riddler jammed his cane into the base of her skull.

"What game is the Bat playing now?"

Lowering the box slowly, sitting it on top of her head, she turned it to face him and flicked it open, revealing the brown paper package.

"No Bat at all, Eddie… Penguin."

A long silence between them, Stephanie not moving while her, for better or worse, 'Uncle' peered into the box. Never a fan of the quiet, in any situation, she cleared her throat and offered a suggestion.

"You could call and verify with him if you want. Maybe not with the landline though… last I knew the Birds of Prey were keeping tabs on you. It's how I found you the first time after-ow!"

The cane came down across her knuckles sharply, jerking her hand back reflexively.

"Yes, thank you, Miss Brown, I remember your last visit all too well. It was after your father died. Then you died. Supposedly…"

However, he took the box from Stephanie's head, flinging the donut outer shell disguise across the room.

"I got better…"

She shrugged, not sure how else to respond to the statement that wasn't going to dredge up a years worth of healing and trauma. With a murmur of acknowledgement to the statement, the Riddler peeled off the brown paper packaging to confirm his order was accurate, before moving to open the cabinet under the kitchen sink. Taking the opportunity to glance at what was inside the package, Stephanie couldn't confirm or clarify her suspicion, before having a Chinese takeout bag stuffed into her hands.
Peering into it reflexively, getting wrapped on the back of the head by the cane, Eddie shook his head.

"You'd get shot doing that anywhere else. That's Ozzie's. Eyes up."

Scowling and rubbing her head, she closed the bag.

"I'll just have to remember to wait and be nosy when no-one is watching then."

"Better. But keep your nose as clean as you can. Until you're liked and can get away with things. That's the only advice you'll get from me. Consider it even, for the Birds on the line tip."

Narrowing her eyes slightly at the Riddler, she backed towards the door, before offering a weak scouts salute and letting herself out, and leaving the building as quickly as possible.
She didn't want to get roped into any games, or busted, after all.
Heading immediately from Riddler's apartment back to the Iceberg Lounge, doing her best to avoid gang lands where she could, (easier said than done, since territories had changed in the aftermath of her mistake, and the year following, and her not having access to current intel) Steph greeted Reggie at the door with a grin, holding up the bag.

"Boss order some food?"

Being waved in by an almost surprised looking doorman, she looked to the table Penguin was at earlier, before heading towards the office. Cris shouldn't have known where that was, but Stephanie knew all too well where it was, having crashed it several times. Wrapping a knuckle on the door, tilting her head as she looked at it, she folded her arms across her chest.

'Is this new?'

"Enter."

Came the response from the other side of the door, along with the muffled chirps and clicking of several birds. Opening the door a crack, peering in wearily to see Penguin on the other side of his desk, working through stacks of paperwork, surrounded by dozens of varying breeds of bird on all different perches, and in different cages, she pulled the door open more.

'This is definitely new…'

"Uh, delivery from your friend, Boss?"

She held up the bag, eyes drifting to the sparrows and robins on a perch built to look like a branch in the corner.

"Ah, good. Bring it in."

Crossing the room in a few quick strides, she sat the bag on the desk.

"Did you count it?"

Cobblepot grunts, taking the takeout boxes from the bag, and taking the bundles of bills from them. With a quick shake of her head, Steph folds her hands in front of her, squeezing them together.

"I didn't touch it at all. Not mine."

With a honk of a laugh, running the bills through a counting machine – he might have been willing to give chances, but he wasn't completely stupid after all – and confirming all the money was there, Penguin counted out a few of the bills and held them out to the blonde.

"You did good today, Crissy. No trouble from Eddie either?"

Reaching out for the bills, surprised to get so much for so little done so quickly, she shook her head in response to the question.

"Good, good… welcome to the family. There's plenty more for you where that comes from."

"I'm almost fifty percent sure nothing could go wrong."Stephanie Brownwww.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight

07/15/2020 02:59 PM 

[Ghosts of the Underground {part one}: Drabble]

attention: | mentions: Ghosts of the Underground {Part One}www.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight
"Leslie. I can't take it anymore. I gotta go back to school. I love you like a mother, and I appreciate everything you've done for me, but I need social interaction."

It wasn't the first time this had come up. It certainly wouldn't be the last.
Not with Stephanie Brown.
Sighing heavily and pinching the bridge of her nose under her glasses, Doctor Thompkins shook her head slowly.

"I understand that, Stephanie. But why do you want to go back there of all places? You're going to get swept back up in everything all over again."

Putting her hand to her chest, the other upright, the blonde stood tall, great strides in progress from months previously, where she was, well, clinically dead.

"Scouts honor, no Bats, no caves. I don't even have a costume anymore."

Leslie stared at her blankly, not for a second believing the tale of desperation being spun by the teen desperate to return to some semblance of civilisation.

"You were never a scout. And I've seen you make a costume out of nothing on the spot, mid gun fight Katavi."

Breaking into a sheepish grin, Steph lowered the raised hand, scratching at the back of her head with it.

"Listen… we both know I'll fall back into masks and capes somehow. I always do. You can't keep me from it forever, Leslie. Or Gotham."

A long silence between the two, Leslie's eyes searching the sixteen year old for some sort of answers, something that made sense to her.

"And when they find you?"

A pause, the grin fading as she looked at Leslie, her foster mother's arms folded across her chest.

'Why did they all do that? Crystal, Leslie… Babs used to do it too... Arms folded, over the top of the glasses glaring. Do they think that's gonna change my mind somehow? About anything? That I care about disapproval?'

"If they do, I'll handle it. But they'd have to find me. And care enough about me to do something about it."

Stephanie responded flatly, with blunt honesty. As far as she was concerned, she was just more guilt to Bruce that he offloaded to Leslie, and no-one else cared. Why would they? They all told her this would happen, and now they were rid of a nuisance.
Leslie's steely attempt at a  parental glare faltered for long enough for Steph to press the matter.

"You really think they're going to pay attention to a common name like 'Brown'. Hell, there's  another Rogue in Gotham with that name, and he isn't even related to me! They won't even notice. Bruce, for all the talk about him being the world's greatest detective, would miss his nose in the mirror half the time. He didn't see me when he came to threaten you, and I was in the tent, Leslie! I know how to get around the city without getting busted by the Bats. If they couldn't find me when they were meant to be looking for me, they won't find me when I'm a ghost."

Sighing, realising that there was no winning here, Leslie hung her head slightly.

"Fine. But I'm coming back with you."

"But–"

"Yes, I know. Bruce said he would end me should I enter the United States. I'll come as far as Canada. That shouldn't trigger anything on you. And I'll be closer if anything inevitably goes pear shaped on you."

Breaking into another grin, Stephanie wrapped her arms around Leslie, squeezing her in a bear hug, the physician letting out a groan.

"At least your strength is back…"

Snorting a laugh, Steph let go, a wide grin set across her face.

"I'm so excited! I don't think you understand. Being homeschooled for a year and a half sucks, Leslie. Yeah I know, life choices, but I miss people."

"We need to work out which school, where you'll be staying, how you'll be caring for yourself–"

"Gotham High, no choice. It's all that's left after the quake. I'll find somewhere to live. And I'll get a job. I'm resourceful like that. I'm used to taking care of myself…"

Squeezing the blonde's shoulders, Leslie's face grew concerned again.

"If I didn't liquidate all my assets and set them up in a fund for your daughter–"

"It's fine. I know where there's always jobs in Gotham. Not a problem. Don't worry."

Steph answered quickly, starting to pace their tent excitedly. Leslie eyed her sceptically, trying to ignore how shady everything about that felt.

"You'll be in the same year as…"

"Tim, yeah, I know. I won't be in any of the same subjects, don't worry about it."

"What makes you so sure?"

Blankly staring at her, Steph raised a brow, before blinking a few times, raising her hands like a set of scales.

"Boy Genius that hasn't been home schooled for having a baby and dying – Dumb Blonde. Gee, I dunno, Les… tough to say."

Shaking her head, Leslie swatted both of the raised palms.

"The only thing dumb about you is wanting to go back to Gotham. You could go to Metropolis. That would be nice…"

Sticking her tongue out, Steph moved to her permanently packed bags, double checking them.

"That sounds boring."

"Of course you'd say that… not happy unless you can be in trouble or there's some danger…"

"Hey, you're the one that brought me to AFRICA to heal up. You should be grateful I haven't gone to fight a lion or something. That actually sounds pretty fun right about now..."

"Oh God, alright, I'll sign your enrolment papers already. Don't start fights. With anything."

The exasperated doctor collapsed to a seated position on her cot, burying her head in her hands. God help Gotham.

"I will not start them. If they're started though…"

"If you had not long saved my life, I'd kill you myself…"

Grinning at Leslie, knowing the threat was hollow, Steph tilted her head.

"See. What do I need the Bats for. I got you."

Shaking her head slowly, exhausted, Leslie took her glasses from her face, to wipe a hand down her face.

"How'd they put up with you again?"

"They didn't, remember? Fired a billion times. Died because I was trying to prove I was worthy of not being fired?"

Steph snorted, her attention on her bags, as if she was leaving right this second. Replacing her glasses, Leslie sighed softly, studying the blonde silently for a moment. Deciding she needed to say what had been nagging at the back of her mind, she spoke suddenly.

"Stephanie. Promise me something."

Looking up from the bags, raising a brow, Steph said nothing, but indicated for Leslie to continue.

"You aren't going to try to get revenge."

Letting out a sharp, reflexive bark of a laugh, before clapping her hand over her mouth, and shuffling over the floor of the tent on her knees to Doctor Thompkins side, both eyebrows raised, Stephanie couldn't help but laugh.

"Revenge? On Black Mask? I don't wanna go anywhere near him. I still get nightmares, Leslie. I'm good not seeing him, thanks."

Squeezing Steph's shoulder, Leslie looked her square in the eyes.

"It's not just him I'm worried you'll go after… I've come to know a bit about you, Ms Brown… you hold grudges…"

Shifting her gaze from Leslie's, her jaw tenses slightly.

"I'm undecided on the Bats. I'll decide whether I hate them or not if I see them."

Leslie squeezed tighter, eyes still on the blonde.

"That's not exactly reassuring, Stephanie."

"You get what you get. I'm not going to walk up and punch Bruce in his stupid face. There, that make you feel better?"

"Oddly, no. But it'll do."

After a heavy sigh, she shook the shoulder she still had a death grip on.

"Let's see about setting up enrolment and getting tickets. I think Geneviève  has her satellite phone. She shouldn't mind letting us borrow it."

"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
{One week, a Transatlantic flight, an uneventful Canadian layover and an exchange to New Jersey later}

There was a visible difference out the window when they hit Gotham air space. The pollution of the city that gave the nights their bloody glow.
It was hideous. God she had missed it.
She was home.
No sane person should have missed a city like Gotham.
No sane person should have missed a city like Gotham that they half destroyed and died in.
No sane person dressed up like a Bat's side kick and did those things she used to do either, but here she was.
A little bit insane, apparently.
The wheels touched down. The people fought each other to get off the plane.

'Typical Gothamites…'

Steph smiled softly to herself as she watched them shove and bicker, just waiting her turn.

She was most definitely home.
Job one. Find a place to crash for the night, stash her stuff.
Job two. Get some money. Then get some sleep to get back on US time.
Because school. She never thought she'd be excited about school, but these were new and exciting times. Anything could happen. She could even be a good student. With good grades!
While waiting for her luggage at the baggage carousel, running through the list of places she used to hide out she could check, the ever present droning news on the terminal televisions caught her attention.

"–violence continues in Gotham amid gang turf war struggles following the death of notorious Mob Boss and mass murderer, Roman Sionis–"

Grabbing the arm of the airport security guard by her reflexily, her legs weak, the rest of the broadcast tuning out.

"Are you alright, miss?"

The guard, unusually kind for a Gothamite, one of the good ones, steadies her. Steph nods weakly, the lie on her lips before she can help herself, the city already getting it's claws back into her.

"Yeah… just a long flight and not enough food…"

After a pause, she asks the inevitable question.

"Who got him? Bla-I mean, Sionis."

Seeing she was now steady, the security guard retreated slightly, looking to the TV, frowning slightly.

"You been under a rock or something? The Catwoman did."

Letting out that reflexive bark of a laugh, Steph shook her head slightly, turning to collect her stuff as it came around.

"Of course. Bet she's not locked up, either… thanks.

Dragging her bags outside, she let out a heavy sigh, starting her walk into the city.

"Maybe I should send her flowers or something. Oh! That's where I can crash. Holly's place. They won't even notice for the night…"

After dragging her sorry self back into the city, dropping her bags on Holly's fire escape, Steph went to find word on where she could make some money. Sure, she could go back to her pizza delivery job, but it might be a little hard to explain to them that she wasn't, in fact, dead.
You know who would have job openings without question though… that slime Penguin.

Granted, last time she saw him up close she was breaking his beak for using a kid in a gun running scheme, but… desperate times, right?
Maybe she should have changed into something flashier. Used her assets.
Oh well. Apparently her plan was just walk in and talk to him.
Great plan. Brilliant, Stephanie.

"I'm almost fifty percent sure nothing could go wrong."Stephanie Brownwww.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight

06/28/2020 10:58 PM 

[Gym Day: Drabble]

attention: | mentions: Gym Daywww.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight
'Stop trashing the bags. B isn't giving you any more for a few days. He said something about respect for property and learning better coping mechanisms.'

That was f***ing rich, coming from the man that practically invented dressing up like a bat and punching things to deal with his issues, but f***ing go off, I guess.
Deciding instead to not respond to Wendy's message, Steph took herself to the campus gym to try to work out her frustrations instead. Patrols had been too slow, or other people *coughBrucecough* had been beating her to the scene of things, keeping Stephanie sans faces to beat.
She did however get the heavy bags at the Firewall. Because Stephanie didn't get fancy training robots like the Batcave, or simulations to run through like Cass's little cave. Which was fine. She was glad to even have the Firewall at all. Even if it was technically Barbara's. Like the Ricochet. And the mantle. You know how it is when you're a mantle thief. You take what you're given.
Letting out a low, aggravated growl as she looked around the not too active gym, flexing her jaw a few times before letting out a long measured breath, Steph made for one of the free weighted bags, dropping her bag by the wall and sized it up.
It had seen better days, but it wasn't in the worst shape she had ever seen. Some tape around the middle, where it had been more heavily beaten. She could work with this.
Rolling her shoulders and shaking her hands out, not bothering with any of her gear, in an attempt to limit herself, or possibly to not have to pay for damages on top of her already bullsh*t tuition with her library assistant wages, Steph sunk a quick hip level left uppercut in, twisting from the hips and shoulders, feeling the bag out.
Pulling a face at the amount of creaking and groaning it was already doing on its hook and chains, she steadied it against her body, and let out another annoyed growl.

"You aren't doing it right."

Blinking twice, Steph whipped her head towards the voice.

"Excuse me?"

The owner of the voice, a resident frat bro, stepped towards the bag, grinning in a way he thought was charming, and surprisingly not dead from the amount of venom in her response, that Steph immediately wanted to kick off his head. Stephanie vaguely recognised him from the keg rager that caused her to swear off college parties for life. Was he a douche then? Probably. They all sort of were...
"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
"You aren't throwing the punch right. You gotta do it like this."

Somehow managing to keep her mouth shut, she stepped back from the bag and folded her arms across her chest. The blonde watched as he wound back and punched with his arm, no hip torque, no rotation, no technique at all.
Unable to hold back the reflexive, derisive snort, shaking her head, it looked like Steph had a target for her bad mood, warranted or not.

"That's cute. Did your teddy bear teach you that one? I know an eleven year old that can hit harder than you."

Looking openly offended, Stephanie stepped up and drew back, giving the bag something a lot of the rogues, and the majority of the masks of Gotham had been on the receiving end of, her right hook, at full I wish this was Roman, my Dad, the Joker or Bruce's face force, sending the hundred pound bag into the unsuspecting frat douche she never bothered to learn the name of, knocking him off balance.
Letting out another long breath, not as measured, an attempt to try to reign herself in, Stephanie stopped the bag on the backswing as she moved to pick up her bag. Maybe there was trouble. Maybe she could go start a fight with the Gremlin or something. Someone who could fight back, or deserved it. Or both.
Where was Jason…?
Walking back towards the speed bag, towards the weights and the exits she heard it. She probably wasn't meant to. It was meant for his slowly gathering bros. Did they always travel in packs?

"Yeah, that's right bitch, you better run."

Stopping mid stride and dropping her bag to the floor –Did it land on her phone? Can't check now. Check later– Steph turned around and smiled sweetly, the smile not reaching her eyes.

"What was that?"

The rapid blink confirmed her theory that she wasn't meant to hear it. As the bros began to jostle him, she took the initiative.

"What's wrong? Afraid you'll get made a fool of in front of your boys? You and me, here and now. Spar. Whatever style you want. I doubt you have any at al–"

"STEPHANIE BROWN!"

Groaning, she didn't need to turn to know the owner of the voice. On campus, she would be Assistant Professor Gordon. But f*** that sh*t. She was Babs.
Shoulders slumping slightly, she turned enough to look down at her, kicking her bag out of her way.

"What did I do now?"

"I know what you're doing. Stop it."

Letting out another growl, loudest of the three so far, shoulders slumping, Steph scooped up her bag.

"Fiiiiiine. But when I'm annoying later, I want you to know it's your fault."

"Annoying later? As if it's not just your constant state of being?"

As they both turned to leave, the frat bro seemingly saved from a terrible fate, he didn't seem to know the gift he was just given.

"You're lucky Wheels was here to save you, stupid slut."

A look shared between the Batgirls was a conversation all of its own.

"I'm killing him now."
"We don't kill."
"I'm maiming him now."
"I'll allow it.


Both turning back around, Steph setting her bag in Barbara's lap this time, she stretched her arms over her head, purposely cracking joints as loudly as she could.
"Looks like we're back on, boys. I think I'm required by law to tell you I've had martial arts lessons even though I don't hold any belts."

Technically, not a lie. Her training was far beyond 'lessons', but she didn't hold any belts…
Frat douche got shoved by one of his friends. He was a man, standing over 6'. She was 5'5". Obviously he had the advantage here, right?

"Don't let your boys down, they believe in you. I'm just a little bitch after all. What, did I hurt your feelings or something? Here, you can even get the first shot in if you want. Free go."

Folding her hands behind her, Steph stood still, 3' from him, chin out.
After standing still for what felt like an eternity as she just stared from her, to Babs, to his friends in confusion, she flapped her arms in frustration.

"Oh COME ON! That teddy bear punch of yours isn't gonna do anything to me anyway, just do it!"

A frown grew across his face, but Steph's patience had worn thin. Turning to leave, shaking her head, she started towards Babs.

"This is pointless. God damn spineless limpd*ck cowards can't do anything when actually confon-"

"Steph!"

Babs began to lean forward in alarm, as the fist made contact with the back of her head. Staggering forward, more from her own momentum being thrown off then the force of the hit she frowned slowly. Stopping to blink a few times she looked at Babs, a grin slowly spreading across her face.

"We can make this our secret, right?"

Before whipping around, and driving her fist home. Again. And again.
"I'm almost fifty percent sure nothing could go wrong."Stephanie Brownwww.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight

05/30/2020 07:54 PM 

[Family Matters: Drabble]

attention: | mentions: Family Matterswww.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight
Absently scrolling through one of the many rabbit holes of memes and rogues getting punked that filled her Twitter feed, Stephanie Brown waited to preempt the beeping of the microwave, the signal her leftover casserole was in a semi-edible state.
With her lower back wedged against the countertop as she leant back, legs out in the middle of the narrow walkway that made up 'Small Appliance Nook', her ankles crossed, she would just have to swing her weight forward and jam her finger into the stop button to avoid the beeping that would set off a bout of 'I DON'T LIKE THAT SOUND' barkage from the currently dozing Short Round.
Raising her eyes after every few thumb strokes to check the count down, she keeps watch, the kitchen filling with the smell of the reheating meal. After watching a short clip of Riddler being punched square in the mouth by Robin, good ol' Uncle Eddie losing his stupid bowler hat in the process, a small smile on her lips, she shifted her gaze upwards once more, to see the timer at 0:02.
Pressing the stop button, snagging up her fork and carrying the much too hot plate bare handed to the living room coffee table, practically throwing it down, she let out a soft sigh of relief.
She should have grabbed a kitchen towel or something. Her other hand was occupied by her phone, which she didn't think to put in her pocket.
But that dang clip was too good.
Evening TV in Gotham wasn't the greatest. News, News, News, chaos, chaos, chaos. If she wanted to hear about chaos she'd talk to Klarion. She just wanted some background noise while she ate. While she had what felt like a normal evening for the first time in… ever.
Of course it couldn't last. Her phone rang.

"This better be good…"

Looking down to the flashing of her phone screen, she puffed her cheeks out in annoyance, shifting the mouthful of food to one cheek, seeing the name of the caller.
Boss Man
Bruce almost never called her. Not unless she was in some incredibly deep sh*t and a lecture couldn't wait, or something was very wrong. Flicking the screen unlocked and answering the call, she spoke thickly, not yet having swallowed the mouthful of casserole.

"'llo?"

Before she could continue any further, he spoke harshly, even for Bruce.

"Where are you right now?"

Stephanie frowned, confused in general by the call, the question making it worse, taking a moment to swallow her food. Was he in a car? It sounded like he was driving…

"Answer the question, Stephanie."

"God, geez, I'm eating. At home. Get your panties out of a twist. Some human people need to–"

"Good, stay right there."

He cut her off, mid sassy rant. Puffing up indignantly, she pointed in a general direction with her fork.

"Now wait a minute–"

It was pointless, he had already ended the call. Flopping back into the couch, chewing on the prongs of the fork, she scowled to herself, the gears in her head starting to turn. Shifting to look at the pup, still dozing at the end of the couch, she started thinking aloud.

"He never calls. Which I appreciate, because who wants to be called by their weird not boss all the time? But I didn't get 'you're in trouble' vibes, which makes sense, because I haven't done anything to be in troble for lately, unless he's finally found out D*ck and I borrowed the Batmobile without permission. He asked where I was. Which he could have just checked, using my suit, so he's not thinking clearly. I mean, unless he's stuck a tracker in me at some point when I wasn't paying attention, my suit, or my phone. The Compact…"

Short Round raised his head from his paws to look from Steph, mid ramble, then towards the front of the house. Before she could continue her puzzling out of the situation, it seemed as if there would be an answer delivered, with the black Bentley pulling to a stop outside.
Getting to her feet, a gentle buzz of concern growing in the pit of her stomach, she moved to the front door, beating him there, throwing it open and waving him inside.

"You know, Wayne's stand out in Holden, B. I was expecting thuds on the roof."

It was rare for Bruce to react to her jokes, if ever, but the expression on his face gave her pause. For one, there was actually an expression on his face. And it wasn't from the joke. He may have been dressed like Bruce Wayne in this moment, but he felt like neither Bruce or the Bat to her.
Pushing the door shut quickly, brow creased, she could already feel her pulse spiking.

"What is it?"

He inspected her, then the living room, the remnants of her half eaten food, Short Round back to his napping.

"You should sit down."

'Oh, hell no.'

"Bruce, I swear to god, just spit it out, or I'll slap the taste out of your mouth again."

If it was bad news, especially bad enough news for Batman to be acting semi human, she wasn't about to be coddled. He lowered his eyes to her hands, which she had unknowing balled into fists at her sides, the threat not an empty one, before letting out a soft sigh, eyes lowered.

"Everything doesn't have to be about fear. There's room in our line of work for hope, too."
"Leslie is dead."

"You're lying."

Stephanie spat reflexively, backing up into the wall. He had to have been lying. Another sick test. Another game. It had to be. It had to be.
When he didn't raise his eyes from the threadbare toes of her socks, only shaking his head slightly, a prickle below her nose, the watering of her eyes, a lump in her throat, all began at once.
Refusing to do this right now, refusing to cry in front of Bruce of all people, raising her face towards the ceiling, she cleared her throat loudly, squeezing her fists tighter, clenching her jaw. Make it anger. Anger is productive. Crying helps no-one. Sniffing sharply, she spoke softly.

"What happened?"

With her eyes still tracing the panelling in the ceiling, she could see Bruce look up at her with… was that sympathy? Her anger flared further.

"Stephanie–"

"Bruce. If you don't tell me, I'll go find out myself. Make this easy for yourself."

Snapping her head down to look at him, her voice a venomous hiss.
Another threat that would be followed up on.
With another sigh, this time heavier than the last, as if awaiting a predicted reaction, his jaw flexes in muted anger before responding.

"It was the Joker."

There it was.
Closing her eyes and hanging her head, she laughed bitterly.

"Of course it was. Why wouldn't it be? How many more lives are you going to let him destroy?!"

"Don't do anything rash, Stephanie."

He sounded genuinely concerned. Swelling with rage, she closed the distance the news had initially caused, shoving him ineffectually.

"Ex-cuse me?! All these years and I'm still being compared to Jason?! You know what, maybe you're right. Maybe I am like him. Maybe people like Joker, and Black Mask and my dad should be dead. But if you haven't realized that I'm NOT Jason yet just because I don't jump when you tell me to, maybe you should start learning to jump yourself. Get out of my house, before the Wayne's lose another family member today."

For a moment, it looked as if Bruce was about to fire something back. He even drew back his lips in a snarl to start, the narrowing of Steph's eyes daring him to do it. It would be so much easier for her to be mad at someone, to scream at them instead of feeling the other feelings threatening to bubble out and spill over.
Instead, he straightened, regained some semblance of control and turned towards the door. He wasn't going to be baited into her fight. She almost got him.

"The funeral arrangements are being made. You're expected to be there for part of them. You're just as much her family as I am."

As Bruce left, almost walking into a returning from day shift Crystal as they crossed paths down the drive, the Brucey Charm turned on as he apologised, Crystal walked into see Stephanie, still in place, beginning to tremble.

"So you wanna tell me why Bruce Wayne was in my ho–Stephie, what's wrong?!"

Dumping her bag on the ground, putting her hands on Steph's shoulders and turning her to face her, Stephanie broke down entirely, encompassing her mother in a squeezing hug, sobbing into her shoulder.

"My other mother is dead."

Crystal, who had never been the biggest fan of Leslie, was unsure how to react. Gently rubbing Stephanie's back, she stayed quiet. After crying herself through her mother's lab coat and scrubs, she pulled back, sniffling.

"Sorry… I'm–I gotta go. I got work to do."

With that, turning and wiping her face on the bottom of her shirt, she made her way up the stairs to her bedroom, to suit up for the hunt.

"I'm almost fifty percent sure nothing could go wrong."Stephanie Brownwww.roleplayer.me/DorkKnight

04/11/2020 02:12 PM 

[OWWP: Penance]

owwp:Penancewww.roleplayer.me/dorkknight
Resting her head to the rapidly heating tiles of the shower wall, Steph closes her eyes, letting out a slow hiss as the water beat down against her aching shoulders.
There was a good chance all her upper back would be the same color as her suit come morning, but that was just part of the job. Taking a deep, almost soothing breath of the steamy air in, she slowly straightened up, and took to washing the blood (not hers, this time) from her hair, gingerly prodding at her ribs.
After the shower, that cleaned her, but didn't make her feel any better, she shuffled off to her bed, pulling on her well loved blue and purple striped pyjamas, flopping face down, unmoving.
If aches, pains, a little blood and going to bed sore was her penance to pay, she would continue to pay it, until she was no longer able to.
’There's room in our line of work for hope, too.’

04/11/2020 01:40 PM 

[OWWP: Resurrection]

owwp:Resurrectionwww.roleplayer.me/dorkknight
Fuzzy.
Everything felt fuzzy. And was… jittering around.
Trying to open her eyes was a struggle. Like her eyelids were glued together, and weighed a thousand pounds each.
Trying to raise her hand to wipe at her eyes, a sharp stinging bit at the back of it. "Stephanie, please, stop pulling out the IV, sweetheart. I know you don't like medications, but just until we land, I want to keep you comfortable."
...Leslie? What was happening. Wasn't she with Batman? Land where? "S'going on?" She croaks softly, scowling. You didn't need open eyes to have expressions. A pause. Leslie squeezes her hand softly. "Stephanie… we left Gotham. You–well, you died."
Her automatic reflex kicked in. Rolling her head to the side, with a wince, forcing a grin, an eye peeking open to look at the doctor. "I only wanted to be Robin, I didn't expect an upgrade to Phoenix, with resurrection powers."
’There's room in our line of work for hope, too.’

04/11/2020 01:06 PM 

[OWWP: Forgiveness]

owwp:Forgivenesswww.roleplayer.me/dorkknight
Blüdhaven.
If cities could have little sisters, this would be Gotham's.
Stephanie wasn't here for it's resident guardian angel in blue. At least, not right now. If all things went well, he wouldn't even have to know she was here.
No, this trip was a long time coming.
Like many of the people… affected… by her mishap when she lost the first legacy mantle she collected, her target eventually relocated out here.
The intel (cass) was good on where to find her mark, but she was, for lack of better word, scared.
She didn't know what to expect from what was about to happen. All she knew was that Cassandra respected her, and how dangerous Onyx was.
Sure, she had faced league of assassin members before, but if Onyx came at her, well, she would deserve it, in all honesty.
Movement snapped her from sinking too much further down that dark mental trail. The warehouse door across for her crashing off its hinges, bodies cascading out under the floodlights of the shipping yards Blüdhaven built itself on.
Straightening herself slightly, ready to launch into action should the situation call for it, her alertness was unwarranted.
Striding through the open door frame, casually dusting off her hands and looking over the unmoving bodies, stood Onyx. Sinking to start tossing the pockets, Batgirl made her approach, with notice.
"That was smooth as hell…"
'THAT wasn't though, Steph. Great open. Why not just ask her to punch you in the throat immediately.'
Without looking up, the assassin kept going about her business.
"I had heard there was a new Batgirl now. Didn't think it would be you." "In all honesty, neither did I. She just… handed me the suit, said 'I'm out, you're it', so…" Straightening up, and closing the space between them, narrowing her eyes, examining the visible eyes of the blonde bat, Onyx with her hands on her hips, Stephanie's by her sides.
"Right. So spit it out. What do you want."
Unable to hold her gaze, eyes flicking to her cheek instead, head lowering slightly, Steph sighed softed.
"Straight to the point, huh? I've apologized to almost everyone, except you. About Orpheu–"

SMACK

Blinking at the sharp strike to her face, her hands still by her side, Steph raised her eyes to meet Onyx's gaze again.
"If you came searching for forgiveness, you're looking in the wrong place, little bat. We all have to deal with the blood on our hands. I think someone knew you'd be looking for a way, and gave you the answer."
Tapping a finger to the golden symbol across Steph's chest, Onyx gave a pointed look.
’There's room in our line of work for hope, too.’

03/14/2020 07:07 PM 

[OWWP: Coping]

owwp:Copingwww.roleplayer.me/dorkknight
She is two years old. Arthur has lashed out at them all again. Crystal is coping with pills and drink. Stephanie cowers behind the couch, her 'cape' snatched from her, laying on the floor. Whether they realize it or not, actions have been set in motion that will change them all forever.
She is six years old. Arthur has locked her in the closet. Crystal is coping with her drug induced stupor. Stephanie's mistake? Sneezing. Making noise while Arthur was reliving his 'glory days', rewatching his tapes. The lesson taught? Be angry at things you can't control.
She is nine years old. Crystal is no longer coping in ways Arthur deems acceptable. The options are rehab, or he kills her. Crystal choses rehab. Stephanie is left with a 'friend' of her fathers for a week. She learns how to run, how to hide, and that grown men cannot be trusted. This last lesson sticks with her for a long time.
She is ten years old. Arthur is in jail again. He couldn't stop leaving clues. Crystal is coping by going to work. She doesn't seem to be falling off the rails. But Stephanie is watching for the signs. And waiting. Maybe she should learn aikido?
She is fourteen years old. Arthur is out. Rehabilitated, he says. Crystal isn't coping. The downward spiral begins again. She knows what she has to do. 'To the Spoiler belongs victory'.
She is fourteen years old. She isn't coping. She wasn't smart. Stephanie is pregnant. Crystal is supportive. Crystal tells her she's proud of her for how strong she is. They both agree; Arthur will never know. The baby will be given up for adoption.
She is fifteen years old. Arthur Brown is dead. Died for the government, they said. Crystal is coping well. Stephanie is not. She is reckless, more so than usual. Baiting the Birds of Prey into leading her to Uncle Eddie. She has so many questions…
She is sixteen years old. This cannot be happening. Is she actually really Robin right now? 'Not bad for the daughter of a failed banker robber'.
She is sixteen years old. This CANNOT be HAPPENING. This is all her fault. The city. All those people. Orpheus. Stephanie isn't coping. Stephanie is dying.
She is seventeen years old. She can't stay away. The ghost of Spoiler haunted her long before Spoiler returned from Africa to haunt the Batfamily. Or Stephanie returning to Crystal in the hospital. None of them are coping.
She is almost twenty years old. Arthur Brown is dead, but 'Aaron Black' isn't. She won't let him hurt people anymore. Hurt her anymore.
Stephanie is Batgirl. She copes with her cape and cowl.
’There's room in our line of work for hope, too.’

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