Steph: Ah, the good old days. When I lived on the other side of the river there, in what amounted to a war zone on a good day, and descended into full classification on a bad one. Sometimes with little to no warning or difference between the two. Yeah. Not the greatest place to have a childhood. Leaves you really well acquainted with the timing of looking away from something you don’t want to see, because you get something of a sixth sense for when it’s about to happen. That gut feeling that makes your brain decide now’s a great time to look at the sky, what you can see of it, or to check if your shoe’s been tied (…ahaha. Shoelaces. Like we could afford those. I mean. I’m kidding. I had shoe laces. Could tie them and everything…) properly or not.

By good and old I mean, boy am I glad Mom cleaned up enough that we don’t live in the Narrows anymore. Now we’re just Narrows Adjacent but it’s a step up. My school just sucks instead of being shut down due to riots, Joker Venom, or rampaging death squads half the year. The walk home is a bit less fraught with peril, and no one’s even tried to mug me for my phone this week. Things are coming up Stephanie Brown! Snugging my backpack straps a little more tightly over my shoulders, I let out of a huff of air that blows blonde hair out of my face, before finishing suiting up.

Not as Spoiler. It’s way too early in the day for that kind of thing. My gear preparations are only for the trudge and maybe bus ride home. Bag? Check. Overloaded with all the books I need to get my homework done early and free up my weekend for ass-kicking and baby sitting (…not at the same time. Hopefully…). Ear buds? Check. One in, one dangling over my ear so it doesn’t totally block out the sounds around me. It’s a fine line, ignoring the drug dealers and other asses that want to get you in on something or other, and being able to hear if you’re about to get jumped. Beanie tugged over my hair and down? Check. All that’s left is to push play, picking up where the random shuffler left off this morning before school and getting on my way.

I wear a disguse, I’m not just your average Jane. The super doesn’t stand for model, but that doesn’t mean I’m plain…

Hah. Funny because it’s so appropriate! One girl revolution. That’s me. If you ignore all the rest of the people that my revolution got lumped in with. I can’t really say they joined mine. Pretty sure as far as the hierarchy of Gotham goes? I’m trumped in basically ever sense of the word. I walk quickly, because it gets the blood going faster, and because if I want to have any prayer of trimming my ‘commute’ I have to hustle to get to the bus. One short detour down this alley right here and…

Neeeope. That’s Big Red. I assume that’s someone Big Red is treating to the five dollar special. But does Big Red’s customer know that Big Red isn’t called that for ‘her’ hair color? Burning questions… probably answered at someone’s visit to the clinic in a week or two. Gross. Spinning on my heel, the pivot that I’d only just started to take my short cut sends me right back the way I was going in the first place. Time to walk even faster. Without that, it’s double or nothing that I get a ride.

Tim: Yoink!

Criminals have felt this sensation before. A sudden reversal of their gravity. Up is down, down is up. It’s hard to distinguish between the two until your mind wraps itself around the fact that you’re not just upside down. You’re upside down and hanging twenty stories up. Suspended via a tether line of nylon cording that has just enough bunjie effect to it that you’re not immediately needing a trip to the hospital for something being dislocated. The sudden acceleration makes for disorientation on top of the upside down, topsy turvy world you’re living in for about ten minutes.

When this happens, it’s quick. Sudden. Often planned around when would be the most surprising moment. Not merely for you, but for everyone around you. One moment you’re there. The next moment you’re gone. Vanishing, not unlike the Batman, but without the dignity of it being within your control. The blood rush of the experience is nothing next to the terrifying realization that you’re face to… upside down face… with a vision of terror for most Criminals. Those who find themselves in this position are rarely left with their bodily functions.

She isn’t left hanging there for long. This isn’t about torturing a criminal. I’m also not one to make an effort of abusing her, like Dinah does. Not that I’m even old enough to be a teacher like her, but I’d like to think I would be able to impart knowledge without beating the unmitigated fuck out the person I wanted to teach. Scare them? That’s another matter entirely. Once I’ve hefted Stephanie up high enough that she can see me?

“This is when you’re at your weakest, when you’re pretending to be Stephanie Brown. Student. Daughter. Once your Father realizes who he’s dealing with. This is when he’ll come for you first.” Lifting the cable closer, pulling her in like a fish on the line until I’m nearly looking her eyes to upside down eyes. “And if he thinks that you’re not weak. He’ll find someone you care about that is. Not someone Spoiler cares about. Someone you care about.”

Steph: Don’t scream, Stephanie! It only eggs them on if they know you’re scared. Totally ruins all your tough girl credit, plus this close to school chances are someone saw what just happened. There’s only so many safe bus stops, and so many routes that don’t have skeevy drivers that lead to ‘show me on the doll’ conversations. Play it cool. Even though your feet just yanked out from under you and you were pretty sure that you were just about to smash your face on the sidewalk and…

“Auuugh!” Yeah. Nope. That was a totally and completely undignified sound that you just made. “..ggggh! My bag!” Nice save.

I keep my arms tucked in, in an effort to hang onto the thing for one of two reasons. A: It might make a pretty good bludgeoning weapon if I need it, and B: I kind of doubt my books would survive the fall. Plus someone would probably steal them, which means extra hours borrowing one from the chained up copies in the school library and that’s wasted time. All thoughts actually running through my head as I spin and bounce on the end of the line.


Not so much, unfortunately, on the phone that was in my pocket. Clearly the earphone jack isn’t up to the task of catching it, leaving me to watch it tumbling towards the ground, the last little bit of the song in my ears. And I’ll be everything that I want to be, I am confidence in insecurity… ironic? Appropriate? Who knows. The weird angle of the diminishing sidewalk, and the now lonely end of my headphones that go to nowhere, leading me into letting out an enormous sigh. It’s not that the tumble of the phone and my tunes sobered me up so much as… my brain’s finished doing flips in my skull, settled into being upside down and… it’s really not as novel an experience for me as it probably should be.

What? So I snagged myself on my own grapple once or twice (…it was definitely twice…), and who else uses those things around here? Not as many people as you’d think, because while they’re pretty damn awesome they’re also borderline suicidal. I’m just not actually totally sure why this is happening right now. Guess I can throw out the window the whole ‘maybe they at least don’t know what I look like thing.

“Heeeey… Batman…?” Like it’s a question, though I crane my head sideways to try and get a less upside down look. “Fancy meeting you…uh. Here.”

So much for Bats being the one not into traumatizing me as a learning experience. He’s just bypassing the physical, despite the whole blood rush and adrenaline punch in the gut I’m definitely not hurt, and going straight for psychological object lessons. Which. Really could have been delivered and understood at a different point in the day. So. Why now? Did I mess up somewhere that it became necessary or is this just normal welcoming procedures?

“Pretending to be… look. I don’t know how it works for the rest of you but.. I’m not pretending to be Stephanie Brown. And not saying I’m calling like… BS on you but there’s not much he could do to my Mom that he hasn’t already done to her.”

I guess it’s not just her though. I definitely never brought any friends home to meet my folks in elementary school, but I still have them. There’s the possibility he might figure out who one of them is.

Tim: “Yes. Pretending.”

She’s strung upside down and that puts her in a serious disadvantage, but it’s also one that she’s handling pretty well. This isn’t what I expected, but I should have. I saw the way she handled herself that first night. It was pure spite, the way she ignored her near-death encounter with a wall-line, getting down off that building the first time. How many times has she been trapped, either just like this or close enough? Those white slits of the Batman mask actually narrow in accusation that she probably takes back to my words. Pretending.

“One day you were Stephanie Brown. Young woman, with a hard life. You lived through the Narrows. You survived. It made you tough, durable. Not like the other people in Gotham. But you were still a young woman. A girl. You lived in a world where your Mom spent every night looking for her next fix and her Dad was having his teeth knocked out by Batman. Your’s was world of tumult and turmoil, but it was a life that took you from Durable, Tough, to something else.”

With a tug, she’s brought over the edge of the roof and let down far more gently than Dinah would do. Released, but as bound as she was at the end of the tether. “One day you saw it. You caught the pattern. Maybe it was a stroke of luck. Bad Luck. You saw something you shouldn’t. Something you couldn’t un-see. Whatever it was. However it happened. On that day, you started putting the pieces together differently. You were tough, durable, but suddenly those street smarts you got from the Narrows took a leap forward.”

“When your Father got out of Blackgate, he promised that everything would be different. Your Mother got cleaner. Things took a turn. But you couldn’t un-see the patterns. You couldn’t escape the simple fact that you were seeing the world differently. That you saw through the Clues and got a glimpse of the Game he was playing.”

“It doesn’t matter Why, Stephanie. It doesn’t matter When or How. Maybe I’m off by an inch in the deduction, but the logic is firm regardless. The day you saw the pattern, the day you recognized what your Father was doing? You stopped being a scared, durable but little girl. Maybe you made a choice or maybe it was made for you, but the moment you put on a Mask and decided to take a stand? Little Stephanie Brown, the Victim. Became Spoiler and now you pretend to be here, to make it through the day. You pretend to be normal, to get your homework done. To hustle to lessons with Canary.”

Looming over her more and more, as if emphasizing that point. That she isn’t the little girl anymore. “Argue with me. Tell me I’m wrong. Then think back to that day. When I came in to your House. When these fists beat your Father for his crimes, right in front of you. Remember how scared you were then and think about right now. Right this second. When anyone else in this City would have pissed themselves three times in the last couple minutes. Tell me again about how you’re not pretending to be someone you’re not anymore.”

“Then. We can get back to why I’m here. To the people you care about. To the things in your life that aren’t quite so durable as you. What do you do, Stephanie, when your Dad realizes who’s spoiling his fun. When he puts the needle back in Mom’s neck, to make her help him get to you. Stop pretending to be Stephanie. Be the Spoiler. Look at the angles. Who can he hurt to get you?”

“Then we know who to protect.”

Steph: The Narrows does that to you. Makes you into something I guess. There’s a pretty wide variety of options, with the most polar opposite being ‘dead’ or ‘motivated to gtfo.’ Some of the inbetween ones are things like brainwashed, addicted, or recruited. I like to think I’m on the most chippy, cheery side of the scale. Only a certain kind of person wants to stay in that kind of Hellhole, and that’s someone that’s benefiting from it. Which is why I’m fairly sure that’s why my Dad still lives in the same place that Bats kicked his teeth in, before sending him off to jail. Again. I guess he needs some memory motivation. Or revenge.

Clearly he doesn’t believe me that I’m not pretending. His face just got all squinty in a way that a mask that covering shouldn’t really be able to do. Batmagic, I guess. Or more likely, after spending a lot of time messing around with my own suit, something in the built in tech. Still. He’s being almost complimentary, which is not really what I would have expected from Batman a couple weeks ago. Weirdly enough, he’s been the most encouraging and least punishing out of the crew in that basement that I’ve met so far. This kind of seems more like a Canary move to me. Usually her ambushes are limited to practice time, but I’ve kind of wondered when she’s going to turn up, trip me on the sidewalk and then Nelson laugh at me and vanish.

This kind of upstages that by a wide margin. And as I’m swung over the roof proper, the way that I tuck and duck my head? Says I was clearly expecting him to do what Dinah probably would have and just let me drop like a sack of potatoes. Potential concussion be damned, right? Some squirming gets me sat in a more upright position, and I let go of my fingers’ death grip on my backpack straps to flick the useless earbud out of my ear, and out from under my knit hat.

“Uh… not really arguing but you do know what happens to you if you don’t hustle to lessons with Canary, right?”

She finds new degrees to make your night miserable, that’s what she does. And also teaches you to not be late ever, ever again. That’s kind of her modus operandi as a teacher, I’ve learned. Making your body, on instinct, want to never, ever, ever repeat a mistake again. Because mistakes hurt. I actually have let him monologue at me with very little interruption though. I may be sassy, but I’m not stupid, and he’s clearly got something he wants to say. Hence. My rude and sudden removal from the sidewalk and the way I’m being treated. I’m also not entirely sure that telling him he’s not totally right is going to matter a whole lot. Maybe they think I’ve got some longer reaching plan than I really do. I want to mess up my Father’s plan. His life. I want to make sure he goes back to jail and stays there. For. You know. The maximum time allotted until the place is full and they let him go on good behavior in favor of someone more outwardly psychopathic. Spoiler was supposed to be a tool, what I was pretending to be and not the other way around.

“I did go to the bathroom before Math. So. I’m okay in that department…. you didn’t need to know that… I was also like… eight. It was my birthday. By the way. So. Thanks for that.” My tone says there’s really no blame or hurt feelings. Really. There’s not. It was kind of par for the course even then. “Also not… really the point, huh?”

Whether I agree about what’s pretend and what’s not, really doesn’t matter because I do agree that there’s the potential there for other people to get hurt. Which I knew. Hence the mask and the name. Shrugging my shoulders is an unconscious gesture as I think.

“I mean. My Mom. The obvious one. Random Gothamite citizens because I don’t have to care to not want them hurt.”

That was the point. To keep him from hurting anyone else. It sounds better than saying I was doing it because I was mad he broke one too many promises, and I was going to punish him for it. This mental inventory isn’t making me feel super great though, let me tell you. Not out of worry but because it’s kind of bringing to my attention the lack of super great besties that I may have.

“…I feel like I should point out you can be a cool kid without having lots of close friends for my ego’s sake. My friend Harper? Maybe her brother.”

Tim: “No, because if the Canary was training me I wouldn’t be late enough to find out.”

There’s looming for effect and then there’s a point where you’re doing it more to scare someone than make a point. I’m not trying to scare Stephanie. If anything it’s quite the opposite. I wanted her to come to terms with the realistic point of view that she’s pretending to be Stephanie Brown. The girl next door. If you live in the Narrows and Mary Jane happens to be the girl that can bust your nose if you look at her wrong. I wanted Steph to take a look at the world around her. To see that she’s created Spoiler, become Spoiler and that so long as she is Spoiler the best way to hurt her is through hurting the people she cares about.

The way I’m offering my hand to her is also something the Canary wouldn’t do. Or at least, if she did it there’d most surely be a sweep kick to follow it up with. I’m all too well acquainted with Dinah Lance. She never trained me, but I’m the observant kind. “A life of solitude may insulate you, but it doesn’t protect you. In fact it could be even more dangerous than having weaknesses to protect.”

“This life? It is a juggling act, Stephanie. We dance between keeping our loved one’s safe, through secrets and deceit and needing to keep our loved ones close so that we have a reason to keep struggling.” Once she’s on her feet, instead of knocking her down as Dinah might do, I take her by the shoulders and square her to me. “I asked you what happened when you solve the case. Do you go back to being Stephanie Brown? Can you lay down the Mask? Or does that desire to protect others call to you? If you keep going down this path, it isn’t going to get easier.”

“You might be a solo act at School, but you’re going to be part of something in that Cape. Something larger than just being a vigilante, clue catching, case solving ‘Spoiler Alert.’ You’re going to be a member of a team and if you’re on the team you’re part of the Family. That’s going to mean something to the rest of us. It already does.

“Which brings me back to the point. The real point. Stephanie Brown is tough, resilient, durable and street smart. The people she loves are what root her in reality. They’re what keep her from becoming her Father. Spoiler, has those same people. But the people she loves are weak points. Shatter Points for people like Cluemaster to attack. To exploit. They are the people who will drag her down. To be the Spoiler, you must learn to dance between the Cape and the Mask. Especially if you’re going to be one of those weak points for people like Dinah Lance and Timothy Wayne.”

Steph: “Because you know what would happen.”

I mean, Batman strikes me as a ‘Batman is never late, he arrives exactly when he means to’ type of guy. But clearly he knows the Black Canary or I have to assume they wouldn’t be working together. Probably has the whole rundown on her, just like they did on me, and have been working together a while. There’s a kind of familiarity you get with a person after a while, even if you’re not close to them. That’s like how you interact with people at school, or probably a job. They’re something else, like what I’ve never really seen before myself. Not in person, anyway. Television is a much better place to see working relationships for me than in my own life.

And. Yeah. I’m totally eyeballing that offered hand with a look of high suspicion, even as my hand starts to move to take it. Then stops, remembering how, y’know, he just yo-yo-ed me up off the street. I’m totally missing the bus now. This is about where it would get whacked during practice. Or I’d get swung at. Or if I didn’t have my feet under me enough to support rising, when I’m part way up she’d let go. Or kick. So many variations, and every time I start to expect one, she comes up with something new. My life is basically like one of those awful, punishing video games that Harper and I would play sometimes where it’s just dying over, and over again until you learn all the things to do or not do.

Except it’s just hitting instead of dying. Small mercies, right? I’m being turned to face him head on. And right side up, and I adjust my slightly skewed hat as I am Telling me some stuff I knew. Or that I was starting to figure out, and then some others that didn’t really occur to me. You have a big head, Stephanie Brown. And little arms. And I don’t think you thought this plan through… I don’t think that was totally the message. But it’s definitely what I’m hearing right now.

“I. Um. I guess I didn’t think it that far out. I saw something and I wanted to stop it, and I didn’t expect anything else during or after it.”

I mean, who goes out there all notice me, senpai! and expects that the Bat’s going to pick them up? Or one of the Bat’s Batbuddies (…actually the more I think about it, all the other people kind of have a bird motif going on. Boy. Does the name ‘Spoiler’ sure scream NOT AFFILIATED…). Especially when they know upfront that your father is one of the city’s repeat bad guy offenders. Friends close and enemies closer, or do they just think that whatever risk I might pose to them is mitigated by how easily they could remove that problem?

I’d be offended but. Come on. Batman just fished me out of the sidewalk in broad daylight (…eh… I guess sun’s kind of going down. Ish…), and I’m stupid or unobservant enough to think that Black Canary is actually fighting full tilt with me. Yeah, she hits hard, but she’s only hitting hard enough to hurt. I’m pretty sure she could end me with a pinkie finger applied to the right place. I know where I stand there. Or. I thought I did. It already does? Now, that I didn’t expect and the way my head cocks like a big eyed puppy that’s just heard a sound it doesn’t understand probably makes that pretty clear. And. I don’t actually know what to say about it either. I just figured I was…well. Not that. For sure.

“So. It’s more Pandora’s Box than when one door closes another opens, huh? What do you do then? Just not make those friends? Cut off from them for their own good? That sounds crappy. And lonely. While being constantly on alert for…wait…”

He said Timothy Wayne and not in the terms of no Stephanie, this is my firm trying to convince you you’re wrong about something voice, but like. Conversationally. Like Timothy Wayne is someone who’d give a rats ass about me and my life, or would even know me, like Dinah the Black Canary does.


Oh. Well. Hey. Both fists up in the air, and sounding all triumphant a little louder than I should have are… a thing right now and after a blink or two I lower my arms and flush, looking a little sheepish but… still freaking triumphant.

Tim: Because I know what would happen.”

This is not so much a repeating of what she says, but a confirmation of her being right about that too. Black Canary isn’t so much just teaching Stephanie how to fight, but how to survive. Which is really just an addition to the traits she has picked up on through life in the Narrows. Learning to fight is a natural step in to survival, but so is meeting expectations and confirmation of the drive needed to succeed. Each thing Canary does has a purpose, though some of them may be veiled in meanness or spite or even mockery. They’re each a step towards the overall goal of Stephanie Brown living to joke another day.

If that meant Canary had to dissuade this girl from doing this? She would. Vehemently. If it meant encouraging her, Canary would find a way to do that too. Steph doesn’t need encouragement though. She has that in spades. Just as she has this sense of miraculous adventure and inner monologue. Tools that will help her beat out the fatigue on a mental level. Which is why Canary actually lets her run her mouth as much as she does. She sees that as a tool to be used later, cultivated and grown in to something as potent as a Canary Cry.

“You acted on an instinct,” once more confirming what she has said, more so than adding my own impressions to it. “That instinct is going to either wither away or bloom. I’ve been watching you. Closely. But even if I hadn’t been, you already told me what was important to you. Everyday. Average. People. Because you don’t want to see them hurt.”

“So if you could intervene. You would. So, this is where you can mull it over all you like but the end result is simply the same. When this is over and the dust clears. You’re never going to be able to let go of these tools you’re being given. Because doing so is going to mean doing nothing, the next time you’re faced with the choice of whether to act, to save a life… or keep listening to the music and tune out the world. It sucks to be a one-earphone kind of girl. Never being able to tune out the world, for fear of missing something vital.”

Once more she’s picked up on a thread. A hint that I’ve sat before her. This time the clue had been to the life of Bruce Wayne. “That is actually one road to travel. Isolation. Cutting yourself off and away from all the people who might suffer for being near you. Spending your life in the constant agony of paranoia. For a long time that was the Way of the Bat, but I’d like to think that somewhere along the way he began to turn the corner. To see what it was to have friends and family. To embrace them, not as weakness but as the strength that they can provide you.”

“Yes. Cutting yourself off from the world keeps the world safe from those who would take aim at it. But it isolates you away from the very thing you’re protecting. It robs you of the motivation, I think we all need to persevere and continue to fight when there’s nothing else worth fighting for.” Pausing at the adjacent edge of the building that I’d pulled her up to, one foot braced to step over the side. “When Bruce Wayne wore this mask, he spent years keeping the world at arms length. All the while this world fell apart around him.”

“I’m not going to be a better Batman than my father was, I’m just not good enough, but I am going to be a better Man. I’m not going to keep the world or you at arms length, while it all goes to hell around me. I’m going to make the world a better place, by keeping my friends close. By embracing my weaknesses and making them a strength to rely upon. My father made mistakes that I’m not going to repeat, I see the same drive in you.” The same grappling line that was used to snare her is fired off towards a building across the street. “Timothy Wayne wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He too was born in the Narrows And he isn’t Red Robin.”

“I’m Batman.”

Steph: “If I’m being honest…” And I mean. It’s Batman. He’s kind of meant to scare the honest out of you. Into…you? “… that sounds awful. The withering away part.”

Because that means, what? That eventually I’d just stop caring if I saw something wrong? Like turning a blind and yicked out eye to Big Red and the venereal ‘sharing’ she does to dumb dumbs that come down here thinking they’re going to get something cheap, but on a bigger scale? How do you even balance that when you live in a place like this, where I passed at least fifteen crimes of various severity going on since the last school bell rang and I’m barely into my trip home. And it’s not dark yet, when the real bad comes out to play. But decent people intervene, when it’s something they can make a difference in, right? The good Samaritans that throw themselves at robbers, or to push people out of the way of something hurtling at them.

They also get themselves killed a lot, too. Guess it’s a good thing I’ve got a fancy suit with some built in body armor and a whole lot of keep you alive kind of gadgets. But I don’t always have the suit. Like now, or the rest of the bulk majority of my day. That was the point he was making.

“Okay, but the music could make for a kickass soundtrack in some sort of crime fighting montage. Just saying.”

Or, you know. It would have, before it was shattered into pieces on the pavement. And then the husk probably stolen to try and scam for parts or an insurance claim. Jokes on them. Probably still not worth much even as parts. Also… how long as he been watching to have caught on that I only actually put in one bud? Clearly since I left the front steps of the high school. That’s not the only thing I’m picking up on though. Talking about how crappy being alone can be, and referring to himself as… him. Third person. Not actuallyhow the Bat has talked like. Ever. He’s not talking about himself. He’s talking about someone else. A different Bat. No wonder he seemed shorter, because Bruce Wayne was…

“Holyshitballs, Bruce…” My voice is climbing in pitch and excitement and subsequently volume before I rein that in by clearing my throat and continuing as I turn to face him again. “…Wayne was Batman? That… explains so much about…”

Where the Batman had gone lately, for one. The height is secondary. Why I’d thought he was dead, because he was. All of the subsequent weirdness and maybe even why my stupid, stupid Dad had chosen now to try and strike up some capers again. Also, all of the money that had to be required to fund stuff like the Batmobile. And Timothy Wayne being Red Robin of course makes that much more sense. Does that mean that the rest of the ‘Wayne’ heirs are in on it, too? He’d talked about a family, I’d thought that was proverbial. Maybe it’s totally literal. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait…

I’m hearing what he’s saying, even as my brain’s speeding a mile a minute through what he’s saying. His Father? Oh crap. Oh crap. Which way is this going? Now we’re back around, actually talking about Timothy Wayne, who I didn’t know was from the Narrows, and I guess we’re going to go through this no, he’s not Red Robin even though…come on. With that jawline and that dimple, I’m not stupid. I realize I’m standing there looking a little dumbly, eyes tracking the fired grapple almost absently. Jesus, Stephanie. What do you even say to that? You should probably start with a ‘I’m really sorry to hear about your Dad,’ or a thanks and a thumbs up for the After School Special Batervention. Which had info I needed to hear.

Instead what comes blurting out of my mouth is…

“But he was Red Robin! I knew it! I mean. You were Red Robin and…”

One fist is tapping absently on my hip as I blow out a long, slow breath of air.

“Aaaand…I’m going to finish walking home now and rehashing all the really potentially embarrassing things that I didn’t realize I was saying the last week. Awwwwwwkward…”

Out loud voice, Stephanie. Like the whole discussion about who Tim Wayne would or would not date. But seriously. What the actual fuuuuuuuuuuu just happened?! I feel like I passed some kind of test, and slipped another ring into some circle of trust thing, because I don’t understand why I was just told that. The last part. That is. Not the first parts. So I wouldn’t keep digging? I wasn’t really trying to… you know what. Just go with it.

Tim: “It does sound awful, doesn’t it? We’re not talking about morality that you can put in a jar in the back of your fridge. This is something that doesn’t survive living in a world where you accept the terrible things all around you.” The Batman does scare a little honesty out of people, but then he also gives it back in spades. Sometimes even more blunt than a Black Canary fist. “It withers literally, until a part of you dies. Everything good goes away and then what are you left to live for?”

The grappling hook has found purchase on the building across the way. Higher than this one. Giving both clearance and room to swing from. The sound of it clasping upon the frame is a tell-tale one of my being ready to move on. To leave this place and let Stephanie get back to her walk home. She’s talking about music and fight montages, but I’m not clowning around about this. For once the Batman has it’s teeth sunk in deep, I’m not playing around about what we’ve been discussing. I’m making a point, several of them in fact, but one prevailing thought that I want to be utterly sure she doesn’t get the wrong clue about.

“That is difference between people like you and people like your Father. You see a weakness, a failing and you want to fix it. To save people. Your father, people like him. They want to exploit it. To use it for their advantage. When I asked you what happens after you’ve solved this Case, I wanted to know if you were doing this for a good, but selfish reason. You couldn’t answer me. So you weren’t ready to know, even though you thought you had it all figured out.”

“Today? When faced with fear, when confronted by the prospect of someone else exploiting your weaknesses, you knew who was important.” That gloved free hand extends, gesturing out over the skyline of Gotham City before us. “The everyday, average citizen of Gotham. You said you would want to save them from being hurt. You named your Mother and them.”

“You followed the clues. They lead you to your Father’s current antics. You followed the clues. They lead you to Timothy Wayne. What does your answer, today, tell you about the future, Stephanie? Where do the clues lead you, when you think about what happens after this case?” That same hand which was making some gradiose gesture out over the city, then comes full circle back to her. Palm out, waiting in offering. “It’s a simple choice. Take the blue pill and the story ends. You father goes to jail. You give back the suit. You go, take care of your mom. Turn away from your gifts, the training you’re enduring.”

“Or you take the Red Pill and who knows? Every Batman needs a partner. Someone to watch their back. To see the clues in a different way. To keep the darkness from consuming them. Someone who will tell them when their horns are too long or calls them for tripping on their own cape. It has to be a partner that can’t or won’t keep their mouth shut.”

Steph: Is that really what it comes down to? The difference, in a nutshell? I mean. Batman was, and clearly still is, a scary dude. Even though it’s apparently been different dudes. These guys don’t exactly go out wringing their hands and asking nicely if the bad guys would maybe, possibly, just this once consider not doing whatever it is they’re doing. They’re knee deep in the violence that gets doled out as deterrent and punishment, and as a means of stopping people that have no problem with hurting someone else to get what they want. It’s a simple enough distinction of ‘us’ vs ‘them.’ With ass, and life, on the line. Sometimes probably even for people who don’t give a crap about you, or what you’re doing for them. Maybe they don’t even know.

“Huh. I guess I did.”

Well. That was nice of him. Spelling out the test that I did, in fact, pass. Without even trying to, which I guess makes it an even better one. You can always lie, and cheat, on tests if you know that you’re taking one. I don’t know that this is the kind of life that I would have picked out. What they do every night. But the way that he’s phrased it I guess that I did. Accidentally. A wrong thing for the right, and also wrong, reason that’s opened my eyes to that other side of things. You can’t unsee it. You can’t ignore it. Like knowing a magician’s trick and never being able to enjoy it for the showmanship it is once you’ve caught on.

“The little guy kind of gets a raw deal around here. Someone’s gotta stick up for them. Preaching to the choir I guess. Anyway. I was told before that the red pill might come with a bike soooooooo…”

Adjusting my backpack straps again, and jiggling the contents to get them settled better after their upsidedown trip up the building (…man am I glad I fixed that zipper this morning…), I purse my lips a little. I’m not sure that I take care of my Mom, so much as I’m not at home when she is, and sometimes I share my waffles in the morning (..who’m I kidding. I don’t share waffles. You never touch a girl’s waffles..) when I pretend like I only just got up, while periodically sweeping the house for any kind of drug paraphernalia. The wagon’s clearly a very easy thing to fall off again, as I’ve seen from my parents. Repeatedly. In Dad’s case, I think it’s more like sabotaging the wagon, parachuting off of it and shooting it with a rocket launcher on the way down, though.

“… you tripped on your cape and I missed it? Augh! It’s definitely a won’t. I mean. I can keep my mouth shut. Sometimes. If I want to. Obviously I’m in total control of what comes out and doesn’t come out and…yeah. Okay. You look ready to go. Positive outlook, and a running mouth, though! I’m your gal.”

There’s a pair of thumbs up flashed, as I realize I think I just threw myself out as a Batman Sidekick and I can’t decide if that’s the single most awesome thing I’ve ever done, or if it’s the dumbest sounding one but. Hey. He brought it up. Not me. I’m not actually sure which version of this guy is the one to expect going forward. He kept up with the pep talks, even after the spilled identity which is a pretty drastic change from every interaction I had with him when he was wearing red. Guess we’ll find out shortly, won’t we?