The Angsting

September 28, 2014: Robin catches up with Spoiler and they finally talk. Mostly.

Spoiler's Home

The house has been battered, beaten and trashed by a certain fight there.



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Mood Music:

Hours later, after the bar, and the many drinks bought with cash, and a brief retour to the bus station to shove her bag into a locker, Stephanie has spoken to the police, telling them the tale of woe - an edited version. Now, they are gone, the police line waving slightly in a breeze.

She is eating pizza, sitting at the table, her father's stuff swept to the side as she sits there. The chaos around her has every sign of the fight, no magic cleaners emerging to sort the whole place out. Dirty, chaotic and neglected, but home at least. She is just Stephanie now, no mask, no costume, jeans, a t-shirt and an oversized sweater covering her body, her hair left to curl around her face.

Never come back in less than 24 hours. That's the rule. But clues can be foibled by police if not dealt with delicately. And sometimes even a clean 'take down' can be handled clumsily by Gotham PD. This isn't news to Robin.

It's been hours since the incident. No one else should be here anymore. And he needs to ensure nothing was left behind. The light on in the house is enough to give him pause. But the window is still open (thanks to it being broken), so when he steps in the yard, not quite as stealthy as he intends, it echoes louder inside. The Boy Wonder skulks back into the shadow, not sure whether to move forward or not.

Stephanie's head comes up, the pizza holding hand going still as she looks towards the back, and she rises slowly to her feet. She reaches out, taking a broken part of a chair, arming herself as she emerges into the yard. She is moving stiffly but she is moving, "Whoever it is, he left, and you can go too…" Defiance but in a whisper, in case someone else should hear her. Her figure is framed in the light of the doorway, her chin lifted slightly as she stares out into the shadows.

Robin freezes. The sound of Steph's voice causes his breath to hitch in his throat and his body to tense. For a moment he considers showing himself, stepping into the light and just letting her rip into him. His more masochistic side longs for it. Maybe it'll cure these weird feelings that plague him. His heart races and he finally moves into the light. His eyes train on her and he just stands there for a moment, considering something, but he says nothing. There's no words, no easiness, just him ready to take whatever yelling she will bestow on him today.

She returns the look for a moment in silence before she drops the chairleg, slumping against the door, tiredness in every line of her body. "You." The word is soft though, relief not anger and she waves a hand, a vague gesture towards her home. "Pizza?" The amusement that curves her lips is born of that hysteria bubbling beneath the surface. "I didn't kill him. Any of them. The police took them away." She watches his response closely, more Stephanie in this moment than Spoiler.

Then, a second later, Stephanie is hurtling across the yard to him, throwing herself at him, a kiss offered, given, unless he flees it.

He blinks and forgets how to be human for a moment. His muscles forget how to move. His lungs forget how to breathe and he fights the shock of not being berated for one thing or another while he stands there feeling incredibly exposed for once.

And then Stephanie is throwing herself at him and that dull ache in his chest changes. Event he initial contact has his arms reaching out to embrace her, worry creasing his face as he clings to the woman he rather unexpectedly finds in his arms. While he does' flee the kiss, he doesn't exactly reciprocate it either, confusion and conflict continuing to swirl behind his mask and underneath his kevlar.

She falters, hesitating at the lack of a response, and her hands drop down, as she steps back slightly. The confusion is written on her face, a face he can see clearly now, the blue eyes fixed on his face. "I…" She shakes her head, the blonde hair going everywhere. "Pizza is getting cold. Come in and talk…" A hesitation of a heartbeat and she adds, "Or don't. Up to you." Her shoulders slump as she turns back towards the doorway.

Robin releases her when she moves back, his confusion still palpable as he lets his hands drop back to his sides. His weight shifts and he follows her inside, slowly. Still he hasn't found his voice, finding himself waiting whether purposeful or not as he treads after her. He reaches out to catch her arm, giving it a tug for her to face him again. When she turns back, his very gloved hands reach out to embrace her face and plant a light kiss on her lips. No words. No thoughts. Just action. Even if it terrifies him.

She spins when he tugs her arm, spinning to look at him, her lips parted and his kiss is returned, more tentatively. Her free hand moves to his chest, and she leans into his body. No words from her now, not even teasing ones about his distaste for pizza. There is a look on the face turned up to him, utterly vulnerable in this moment, a fragility hidden by her mask and persona before.

Robin's hands slowly lower from her face, finding their way around her instead. Those strong, stable arms embrace her, drawing her even closer to him. He inhales deeply and then manages a soft sigh as he lingers in her space. He can almost feel Tim and Robin collide in this space — in this moment. There's a strangeness about him. The steely emotions of Robin, created after years of training and partnership with the Batman. And the empathetic concern of Tim, full of worry and care. And somewhere in the middle stands the man in front of Stephanie: confused, scared, but stable. All of the things unspoken lay in the space. The unspoken apology. The worry and concern. The guilt. But more than that, something altogether terrifying: the thought that she wouldn't be okay before. Before. When he took her to the hospital. When he checked her in. When he had to leave for her and his sake. When he turned up as Tim Drake to drop off flowers as a delivery man. Before.

Stephanie leans into his body, curling her arms around his waist, her cheek resting against the Kevlar covered chest. She closes her eyes for the moment, letting herself be in this moment, a moment that lacks bad guys trying to kill either of them, her own fear of being uncovered, the fear of dying, and all of the other emotions swashing around whenever Robin is near. Then, she realises there are words to say, things to share, and she lifts her head, looking up at him. The seriousness of her expression and the wide blue eyes come before the words, "Cluemaster is my father. I made Spoiler to stop him and his friends." Even if he knows it, she needs to tell him, "I'm Stephanie. Hi…" A tiny tug at the corner of her lips recognises the ridiculousness of the statement.

Robin can feels his cracks. He isn't Batman. He doesn't fill them. Not with anger. Not with determination. They're just there. Underneath that kevlar. He swallows hard as she puts even a little space between them. His expression softnes and he finally finds the ability to speak again. "I know," his voice cracks around the words. "I put it together. It's why I came at all." He didn't follow her. Not physically anyways. There's a curve of his lips and Robin manages, "I'm Robin."

She lifts a hand, touching his face, touching the mask before she nods, her rueful smile curving her lips. "It isn't fair that you know who I am, why I am, and I don't but…" She lifts a shoulder, "My pizza is going cold. I got garlic bread, in case you came…" A hint that she hoped he would come. "Robin." His name has a wealth of emotion in it, matching the starkness of her feelings written on her face. Her feelings for him, the confusion, the hope, the heat.

The dull ache eases in his chest, and he follows after her, his hand reaching out for hers as he follows after her with slow moving steps. "I…" he starts and stops as the pair go back into the house. "Steph," not Stephanie, Steph, "I can't." The regret in his tone weighs on the two words. "I can't tell you about me. I want to. God knows I want to." He sighs quietly as he steps into the house after her. "I…" his eyes lid lightly and he emits another sigh as he pulls out a chair for her to sit again. "It's really not fair," he observes guiltily.

Stephanie keeps his hand, her grip tight, the smile covering a number of wounds from the day's events. "I know." She curls up into that chair, her movements stiff, his hand kept even as she reaches for the pizza slice she was eating with her free one. "Batman, and all. Vorpal offered me his place to get over it all. I think I need to be here though." A glimmer of a smile, and she adds quietly, "I need to make a new Spoiler outfit, mine is ruined." Her gaze lifts to him, watching his reaction.

And strangely, even the touch to his hand isn't enough. Robin releases her hand for a moment. The glove is tugged off. And there it is, his now-bare hand. He reaches out for her hand once more. "Batman," he agrees quietly. "I know that I'm not, will never be — " he shakes his head " — but they're… I owe them everything." His smile, while still cracked, hitches up on one side, a hint to his usual boyish humour. The notion of the Spoiler outfit being repaired has his gaze turning downwards. "You finished the thing you were doing though, didn't you? I mean, this. Here. He's behind bars."

She takes the hand again, a slight smile on her lips as she munches pizza, listening and she explains slowly, "He'll get out, his friends will come…" The quietness of her reply doesn't hide the resolve, the stubbornness of this girl as she sits in the remains of her home, nursing a side with a bullet hole and stitches, eating cold pizza from the box. "He'll be back, Robin. I'm going to be ready. I'm going to train, get better stuff, and be ready for him." Her fingers tighten on his, and she watches his face.

Robin's eyes train on the pizza not the woman in front of him. He swallows hard, losing his voice again. His free hand, still gloved, runs through his hair, mussing it the way he's been doing ever since he first donned Robin's mask. Tim kept it smooth. Robin had no way to keep it smooth thanks to constant movement and action. He shoot her a ghost of a smile. "I don't want you getting hurt." The raspiness of his voice is gravelly — closer to that of Batman than his own tone. "I was scared for you," he finally admits.

She watches him, her fingers tightening for an instant, and she nods slowly, "I get scared for you. I think we have to kinda get used to it, or give us up." Her voice is quiet, tiredness in the slump of her shoulders and she closes the lid on her pizza box. "I can have that for breakfast." A home without parents, pizza for breakfast is a possibility, a rare upside. "Look, I have to do this. You can help me, teach me, or watch me do it alone. I'd rather you were there, but…"

He watches her carefully and considers the words. "Give up on us?" His heartbeat escalates even as he says the words. "I." There's a long pause. "Is that what you want?" He doesn't dare move with the question. "You don't have to do anything," he finally observes. "He's gone, Steph. Hopefully for good." He sighs. "I already offered to teach you. And. I haven't disappeared. Have I?" His eyebrows draw together.

She returns the watchful look, her blue eyes sober, tired, before she shakes her head, "No. I like you, more than I should, but I'm not going to sit here and wait for you to rescue me when he escapes. He will escape." A certainty, the girl knows her father, "Then teach me. He'll be back." A glimmer of a smile, and she shakes her head, "I don't know if you are staying though." The uncertain confession comes with a vulnerable look.

Robin leans forward at the statement. "I'm not going anywhere. But I am concerned." He heaves a quiet sigh and he glances down at the pizza and then back to her eyes. "We'll start training tomorrow. When we've both slept." His lips twist to the side, "And I'm working on your bike. I think I can fix it." Fix it. Replace it. Whichever.

She pushes the box aside, leaning forward to return his gaze, her blue eyes wider. "Tomorrow, but no busting stitches, it hurt when he stitched me up." The faint smile touches her eyes, and she rises from her chair, tugging his hand, inviting him to join her, or lose his hand, as she heads for the porch out the back yard. "Thank you. I miss my bike…" Her lips curve, and something more Stephanie like enters her face.

The tug on his hand has Robin following her like the puppy he feels like. "It'll be the easy version. Scout's honour," he holds up two fingers to show his scout's pledge. "You'll get your bike back. You will. One way or another." He shoots her a boyish grin. "It just might take me a bit. That's all. I'm capable but not — " his cheeks flush. "I've seen better."

She drops down onto the step, her gaze lifting up to the sky, pulling him with her. "You're better than I am." The invitation is determined, and if he takes it, she leans against him. "There is always going to be someone better. You just have to hope it isn't someone you are facing and they're on your side." She hesitates, adding quietly, "I told Vorpal and Midnighter who I am, I owe them for tonight."

Tim's arm wraps around her shoulder, drawing her close to him as he stares out at the night sky. Robin just hmms at her comment about there always being someone better. "Well, I'm not Batman," he says honestly. He doesn't say anything about Vorpal and Midnighter knowing her identity, but she can feel him tense behind her. In fact, once more Robin goes silence, working out something in his mind.

Her head is against his shoulder, her gaze on the skies above. "I wouldn't be holding your hand if you were." The touch of heat, of anger, in her voice at Batman suggests his words still sting, and she turns her head to look up at him when he lapses in to silence. Then she sighs, squeezing his hand, her face softening. "How could I not? I'm leading them into my home, telling them about my parents. Vorpal has my mother safe, somewhere they can't feed her more drugs."

The tension doesn't dissipate and Tim can feel it in every corner of his body. "Alright," comes the one word response. She can feel his arm slide away. And he swallows hard again. "I should get going." There's a long pause as if he's not quite convinced of something. His voice strains, "They'll miss me. At least one of them. I didn't check in between everything." Everything. The vague something that is everything.

She looks away, her face shuttering, her hand releasing his. She rests her elbows on her bent knees, turning her face up towards the stars. "Course." Her voice is quiet, the tension transferred to her, her fingers playing with her hair, unmasked in front of him. "Good luck with that." Her fingers tuck the hair back behind her ears, the gesture nervous.

He nods faintly as his arm moves back to his side. Tim slides away, but he hesitates. Communication. Vorpal said to communicate. Honestly. That chink in his armour remains and he slides a stitch away from her. His hands move to his hair and he runs them both through it, making it messier as he goes. "Look Steph, your identity is your own. But I." He frowns. "I feel," the word is completely foreign on Robin's tongue, but it fails. He shakes his head. He is trying. But then he cuts off his feelings altogether suppressing them. "Look. My issues are my own."

She curls her arms around her waist, her expression hidden briefly in the shadows. "You feel what?" The frustration does escape her, and she turns her head, looking at him, her blue eyes narrowed. "You feel what, Robin? Your identity is your own, your feelings are your own, your issues are your own, but my life is an open book and …" She bites it back, dropping one hand to the step, another to the doorframe, to get herself up from the seat. "Let me know when there is something of you I can know."

"Dammit Steph," Robin states. It's not the way the words are generally spoken. In fact, they're soft and strangely vulnerable. And then, with her anger bubbling again he returns. Steeled again: "Look. It was a thing for us. An actual thing. I was going to leave it alone. I struggled to take you to the hospital because I wanted you to not hate me for knowing your secret." There's a pause. "And you just shared it with not one but two other folks. Help you or not… It doesn't feel good." There he said it. He rolls his eyes and finally slides off the stoop. "I'll see you tomorrow."

And Steph, who has held it in all day, spins on her heel, exploding, her hands lifted in gestures to emphasis her words, "You weren't there! You unmasked me and left me, and I had to work out how to handle it. My home was full of him and his friends, my mum was drugged up, I couldn't even go home, Robin!" The explosion comes with tears, the crack finally breaking, a dam held back, "Vorpal offered to *help me*, he and Midnight came here with me to fix it. I owed them that much."

Tim presses the palms of his hands to his forehead. "I should go," he murmurs. But he doesn't actually move. He doesn't reach out for her. He finds his statued self again. In so many ways, he wants to reach for her, he wants to hold her, but he wants to protect her. At this moment, however, he has nothing to offer her. "Can't you see?" he finally whispers. "I couldn't go see you in the hospital. Not as Robin. Not as me. That makes you a target. I took you to the hospital. I carried your unconscious body over my shoulder while you basically bled out. It was terrifying. And I know that things are terribly unfair between us. And if I could do something to make them fair, I would. But that doesn't mean these things. These moments. They hurt."

She is the one that lifts her hands to her hair, pushing her fingers through it, her eyes closing as she turns away from him. The hiccup of a laugh doesn't have any humour in it. She turns back to face him, slowly, "You're scared, I'm scared. I nearly died, and I haven't had a moment to think about it." Her voice is low, her eyes darkening as she speaks to him, "These moments only hurt if something matters, they only matter if we never get another, never get one where it isn't full of pain and fear." She leans against the doorframe, her arms curling around her waist, watching him. "We have a choice, Robin. I won't not do something because I'm frightened, not ever again."

Timothy Jackson Drake-Wayne is bright. He has a keen mind. He's had a keen mind for a very long time. He could pull decent grades when he was motivated, even while staying up all hours into the night with the Dark Knight. But as bright as he is, he never learned how to do this. No one modelled it for him. No one took him aside and showed him how to be vulnerable. Both experience and eventual training taught him that vulnerability damages. Caring meant going to private schools. Spending Christmases alone away from often-neglectful parents who didn't take the time when he was young (aside from a tragic visit to the circus where the Greysons died).

"I don't know what I'm doing here," he confesses. "There's no model to follow. No rules on any of this. In fact I'm pretty sure the rules would just be don't do it. It's a bad idea." His eyes lid behind his mask and he looks down. "But I spent an entire night looking for your bike because you didn't tell me where it was. I talked to Oracle to find your house when I had your name and asked them not to tell Batman or Nightwing about it. Nightwing caught me looking at footage of us when we first met. From security cameras. Around the city blocks. I claimed research. But truthfully? When I leave here all I'l think about is you. When I go about my day I'll be thinking of finding a way to see you. I replay every conversation in my mind, rethink every action, every word. Second guess myself at every turn. I'm terrified that you only like Robin and wouldn't like me. I want you to now me. More than anything I want you to know me. But that's not my call. It's never been my call." He sighs. "And what do you want to do then, Steph?"

Stephanie grew up in a house with dysfunctional parents, her life a mess from dot to dash. Now, she lifts her head, looking up at the stars, before she turns to face him slowly, her arms hugging herself. "You think any of this has models or rules?" His confession about her bike gets him a smile, a tug at the corner of her mouth, before she shakes her head, "I know you. You think Robin and … John Doe are separate? They aren't. Robin is an aspect, a bit of a mask you put on, like I put Spoiler on. You look around the mask, the way you grin, the way you try to stop me putting myself in danger, protect me. Robin didn't go and find my bike, he would know better than to take the risk." She steps forward, lifting a hand to touch his cheek, a tender movement. "Give me the chance. You don't have to take the mask off, let me fight with you. We'll not eat pizza on the roof, watch the stars." A simple request, Stephanie putting herself on the line.

The hand at his cheek has Tim lifting his own to meet hers. Robin nods. Just a little. "Alright." Even the single word leaves him still feeling incredibly unsettled. He sighs lightly, and then leans forward to press his forehead to hers. His eyes close behind his mask and he sighs.

Her arms slide around his waist, hugging him tightly, "Go home, Robin. Tell them you are safe, whoever Oracle is." She rises on her toes, pressing a kiss against his cheek. "I'm going to go and sleep, I think. Maybe take more drugs, like someone suggested." Ignoring the fact that her front window got smashed by a superhero, as did her door.

"Can you do me a favour and sleep somewhere else tonight?" Robin asks quietly as his own arms snake around her waist. He wants to offer more, a place to roost; a place where he can watch over her for even a few hours, but he can't. So instead he just asks the question. "I'll take you anywhere. Honestly. It's for me. Not you. I won't be able to leave the block alone if I know you're here."

She leans her cheek against his chest before she sighs, "Vorpal said I could stay at theirs." She doesn't sound certain about the idea, but she lifts her head, looking up at him. "Where?" She gives him this, too tired from the day to fight over it. "I should get my stuff together, just in case…" Someone comes over, takes anything.

"Yeah, get your stuff organized, and I'll take you there." He shoots her a flicker of a smile. "We'll leave once your ready." Robin presses a light kiss to her forehead before sighing contentedly and stepping back. "I'll check in once I get you to Vorpal's then." And yes, Robin does know that address.

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