|Don't Lie To Me|
|What: Spoiler checks in with Babs to confess she was "mugged". They bond.|
Stephanie arrives at the Clock Tower not long after classes let out for the day. Her costume is gone - likely in a dumpster behind the Thompkins Clinic - but her utility belt's been stuffed into the backpack slung over one shoulder - her left shoulder - as she rides Oracle's dizzyingly brisk elevator.
As for the other shoulder, bandages peek up past her t-shirt's collar, and, well--one could hardly miss the /sling/ cradling her arm.
And here Barbara just got rid of her own sling. Irony. The maestro behind the Birds of Prey isn't settled in front of her computer banks this early in the day. The systems are on automatic and Babs is settled on the couch in the living area, her chair nearby, eating fruity pebbles and reading a book on American Sign Language.
As the elevator arrives, Gordon looks over and both brows go up. "Stephanie? What happened?" The concern can't be mistaken in her tone.
Stephanie went over this moment while she was recovering in the Thompkins clinic, on the whole way home, and on the ride from home to the Clock Tower; she thought about it from every possible angle, rehearsed a hundred different stories and tried to anticipate her handler's questions before they could be asked, lest she be caught off guard.
She /still/ starts when Barbara greets her with the one question she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt she'd be hearing; after swallowing, she gives Babs a quick shake of the head and tries to wave her worries away. "Bad luck," she murmurs. "I... got hurt; I was--there was a mugger, and--well--" She falls silent a moment, then shakes her head again; she gradually lowers her gaze in the process.
"I mean, Dr. Thompkins took really good care of me, I just--need to be more careful in the future, is all," she quietly finishes.
"A mugger?" Barbara asks, as one brow creeps upwards. This is Oracle. She might already know the whole story, might have already spoken to Leslie about the girl's injuries, or she could just be trying to make it sound like she knows all to get the truth out of her.
"With, you know." Stephanie circles her good hand around a little before quietly tacking on: "a gun."
If Barbara /has/ been in contact with Leslie, she'd know that a grimy, bleeding and exhausted Spoiler was found about a block away from the Clinic and treated for a single, extremely clean gunshot wound to the shoulder.
"Like, a big one, I guess, I--I don't really wanna talk about it," she thinks to add, shifting her eyes even further away from Barbara. "Dr. Thompkins said it'd be better in a couple of weeks, or somethin', but I figure--I don't need /both/ hands to throw a batarang, right?"
"If I was stuck on bed rest for a little slice with a knife, you're definitely grounded from patrols until that sling comes off, Stephanie," Barbara insists. She leans forward to set her empty cereal bowl on the coffee table. "When you want to tell me what really happened though, I'll be here to listen." Muggers don't carry around guns of that caliber usually. "You can spend your downtime training here, if you'd like." Where Babs can keep her safe.
"Sure," Stephanie mumbles in reply, shrugging a shoulder, "I guess, if you want the epic tale of how I got my ass kicked by some speed freak with a gun." She silently chews on her lip for a little while after that; she still hasn't left the elevator, and despite the invitation to train, the elevator is still here.
"You aren't--mad, or anything, are you?" she finally, quietly wonders, looking up at Barbara.
"If I was mad everytime someone I know took a bullet, Stephanie, I'd have better luck as the Hulk," Barbara points out. Oh, she's mad all right, just not at Spoiler. "There's some cookies in the kitchen if you want to grab them and bring them in here. I was just going to watch a movie."
"Oh, I--" Tempted by the prospect of cookies, Stephanie leans out and cranes her head towards the kitchen to see if she can get a peek; after a moment, she straightens up and peers Babs-wards. "--are you sure, I--" After unslinging the backpack - and grunting at its full weight - she gives it a little shake then drops it on the ground with a pretty substantial *THUNK*. "--figured--" Her eyes slide to the backpack and linger a moment, and then she rather hesitantly steps out of the elevator to head for the cookies.
"I guess missing, like, a session is okay," she rationalizes after fetching the plate and bringing them to Babs.
When in doubt, offer cookies. They are magical. Even better, they are on the counter of the kitchen, a box of Danish Butter Cookies. The awesome shortbready ones with the crystal sugar on top that you can usually only get at Christmas and Easter. Unless you're Oracle and just get them from Denmark. Babs watches the girl, tapping away at her tablet computer to start the computer scouring traffic, atm, and security cam footage in the area Stephanie was found. "I got Snow White and the Huntsman on blu ray. We can make fun of Kristen Stewart," she calls.
"Oh, she is the /worst/," Stephanie - who has a homemade Team Jacob t-shirt hanging somewhere in her closet - calls back.
There's footage - from many different angles, at varying levels of quality, thanks to all the sources Barbara is pulling from - of Spoiler from the West Side all the way to the drug store in Old Gotham she collapsed in front of. She's walking in all of them, despite her bloodied shoulder; it looks like she tied some rags around the wound early on to keep the bleeding from getting /too/ bad. For whatever reason, she is also covered in smudges of filth, as if she was rolling around in garbage at some point.
"With her dead eyes, and--and--" Beat; she tosses the box to Oracle, then plops down on the sofa. "--well, she's, she's /awful/, is all."
"She really is. I swear she only has two expressions, confused and constipated," Babs adds with a chuckle. She continues working back from the footage, camera to camera, trying to see how Stephanie got shot, even as she triggers the DVD player and the movie starts. "I hate to root for the bad guy in a movie, but Charlize is badass."
It takes some time - there are a /lot/ of cameras between the Thompkins Clinic and the place where Spoiler got shot - but they call her 'Oracle' for a reason: the information is there, it's just a matter of looking.
And eventually, there it is: Spoiler running away from a heroin shooting gallery. The Red Hood dropping in. The two of them standing around in the alley for a while - and removing their masks, him first. Him shooting her in the shoulder, then grappling away.
"Whatever," Stephanie acerbically shoots back as she settles in for the movie, "maybe they shouldn't cast no-talent zombies to be princesses, then!"
Goddammit Jason. You're making it really hard for Barbara to want to save you. Killing you would be a lot easier. "True." She settles back to watch the movie for a while, commenting on it here or there. When it ends, she simply looks over at Spoiler and turns her tablet to face her so she can see the shot of Jason shooting her. "Next time you see the Red Hood, you call for backup."
Stephanie comments here or there too, for certain values of 'here or there' equaling to 'every few minutes unless/until Oracle tells her to shut up'.
"... man," Stephanie exhales as the credits roll, "that's /way/ different fro--" Oracle speaks and the little bird stiffens. "I-I--" she stammers, trying to formulate an explanation; her eyes wander towards the tablet, then quickly snap back to the TV screen. Reliving it in her head for the last few nights is /enough/, thank you.
"--will," she finally gets out. After some time spent staring at the credits and grinding her teeth into her lip, she looks sidelong to her handler and repeats her question from earlier:
"You--you aren't--mad--or anything... are you?"
"I'm not mad at you, Stephanie. I'm terrified for you. This is the man who stabbed me. He is not mentally stable, but you seem to be pals with him. Until he turned on you in an instant. He was like a brother to me and he tried to kill me anyway. I need you to not dismiss my warnings about people, or the need for backup. I don't want you being hurt or killed on my conscience. I have enough demons and ghosts for a lifetime." Babs grimaces. "And please don't lie to me about getting hurt. I think he did this to send me a message."
Stephanie winces and turns her eyes to the floor. That's even /worse/ than 'not mad, just disappointed'--and it's only the beginning; by the time Barbara finishes her lecture, Steph is quietly wishing that the ground would just open and swallow her up already.
"I--thought I had everything under control, but then he pulled his helmet off, and he just--he seemed--" Her eyes slide shut and she tries to swallow the lump in her throat; she briskly rubs her face with her good hand. "--I, I don't know, human, or something. I'm sorry, I'm /really/ sorry, I--" She cuts herself off to shake her head.
"It won't happen again, alright?"
Barbara leans over to hug the girl gently, mindful of her injury. "Alright. And he is human, and my friend is somewhere locked in his head. Batman is working on how to bring him back to the land of the sane. But if we can't do that," she trails off, leaving it unsaid.
"Better that than let him go around hurting people," Stephanie quietly - bitterly - replies after drawing back from the hug. "I know he's your, like, friend, but the world'd be a better place, y'know? I feel /so/. /Stupid/; taking my /mask/ off?" She shivers a little, and after tucking a little hair behind her ear, folds her arm over her belly. "God."
"You're young. We all make mistakes when we're young. I sure made my own share of them," Babs notes quietly, keeping an arm around Steph. "But why don't you stay here a few days, keep me company. I know I'll feel better if you're here." She smiles. "Plus, I have a whole tub of Ben and Jerry's in the freezer and I need help eating it."
"Uh--My--" Stephanie shifts her eyes towards Barbara. "--mother's--I gotta, like, cook, and clean up, and..." She swallows a little when she remembers that the chances of her mom even noticing are not that great; a few phone calls, maybe a quick visit, and she'd probably never even know the difference.
"... I wouldn't wanna put you out, or--" She glances towards the elevator that brought her here, to the Clock Tower's 14th floor, then refocuses on Oracle.
"--well--maybe--I can think about it?" she finally, quietly acquiesces, managing a small smile.
"Ok," Babs acquiesces. "Just be careful out there, please." She gives the girl a tight smile. "I should tell you too, we have a guest downstairs. A young woman who doesn't seem to know how to speak. She's living in a room on the first floor, doesn't know anything about the real purpose of this Clock Tower. I'm teaching her to speak with some picture books and sign language. I don't even know her name yet, but I saw her beat up five punks single handedly and not break a sweat."
"--young woman like--" Stephanie's eyes narrow a little. "Like--not a five year old or something?" After a beat, she lightly smacks her palm against her forehead. "--or, like, she's deaf, right? And she beat up a bunch of guys? By /herself/? God, I mean, it sucks that she's, like, deaf, and everything, but I guess that thing they say about all your other senses getting really strong must be true, if she can pull /that/ off." Like a runaway locomotive, poor Stephanie's chatter only quickens as the prospect of a deaf/mute badass bunking under Oracle's roof fills her with excitement; think of all the stuff she could learn, once they bridge the language barrier!
"I mean, not that fighting is--like--a sense, or anything, but you know what I mean," she remarks as she glances towards the elevator doors.
"She's not deaf, and she has the capacity to speak she just doesn't seem to have," Babs looks for the best way to explain. "She doesn't seem to have ever been taught to talk. I think she's in her late teens, maybe a little older than you? Asian. She was eating out of dumpsters and I'd been tracking her taking out some street thugs here and there. When I finally got in contact I brought her here and fed her, gave her a place to stay and some clean clothes to wear. We've been working on learning to communicate since then."
Stephanie's shoulders sag a little. Oh, sure, homeless teenage ninja are cool and all, but a /deaf/ homeless teenage ninja would be that much more so.
"Well, either way: it's pretty cool of you to take her in and, like, teach her, and--you know, feed her, and everything," the wounded Bird murmurs with a quick nod of understanding. "I dunno how someone like that even--like--/happens, but..." A grimace passes over her features shortly after she trails off.
"You're really, like... generous for a talkin' head."
That gets a genuine laugh from Babs. "Well, Oracle is very generous with all the funds she hacks out of the overseas bank accounts of criminals and mafia members. I do what I can since I can't run the rooftops dressed as a bat anymore." She looks a little sad at that. "But this girl is a mystery. She obvious had training somewhere. Really strong training. I want to know her story, don't you?"
"Well, yeah, of course - it sounds like something out of a movie." Stephanie vaguely gestures to the screen, where the DVD menu is looping. "And maybe she can, I don't know, teach me some stuff, if she's /that/ good." Beat; her eyes shift towards Barbara, then to the screen. "When I'm, uh, healthy, obviously," she quietly clarifies. She offers out the cookie box in the hopes of pre-emptively soothing any feathers that might be ruffled by that suggestion.
"Maybe she can teach us all a thing or two," Babs admits. She reaches for the remote and sends the DVR to the next movie. The Cabin in the Woods comes up. "Don't ask how I got an advance copy." It doesn't come out on blu ray til Tuesday. More Hemsworth though, never a bad thing.