2019-11-04 - #SpoilerAlert: The Deed


In which Bruce gives Tim and Steph sage advice.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Mon Nov 4 00:02:53 2019
Location: Cafe Wha?

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Theme Song



The note left for Bruce on their computer system was flagged to his eyes only, in a way only Tim can manage. Bullet points from the younger batling revealed that Stephanie was needing help but being stubborn and refusing to ask, and when she did Selina shut her down just hard enough to send the normally independent blonde backpeddling. There was a link to the repairs he and Steph and Damian had done to her civilian vehicle. The sheer about of parts that had to be replaced made it clear that Stephanie had somehow been managing to keep the old clunker of a car running low past when she should have. It would have been easier to buy a new car than rebuild the old one, but there was a lack of mention as to the reason it was rebuilt. The curious thing was that some of the parts themselves were salvage, even thought both Tim and Damian had the resources to just order fresh parts. It's not like Toyota no longer made parts for their older models.

The other bullet point was a link to the file for a new ID Tim was setting up. It included several apartment listings. Each of the listings were two bedrooms and located halfway between Staten Island and Lower Manhattan where he and Stephanie both attend school; Brooklyn.

Any digging on Bruce's part, however superficial, reveals that Stephanie is still living in NYU dorms, off a scholarship she got for herself out of high school. Her grades are holding steady, and her bank account is dangerously low even for the regular person. That she keeps all her gear at the Cave, coming in each night either under her own power or hitching a ride with Tim is clearly a safety procaution: she doesn't have a way to ensure the gear is kept safe in the dorms and is unwilling to let that little secret be spoiled. There are some lines, after all, that will not be crossed. A quick ping on her GPS reveals that she is, unsurprisingly, with Tim. The two are in a Cafe in Manhattan, most likely between classes in these last few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving break.

The pair are in a corner table, their backs to a wall to keep the laptop screen from being visible to anyone else. Aside from the extra caution, they look just like a normal pair, sweethearts drinking over-flavoured coffee while hunting for an apartment — though they're careful in how they talk about it, to make it seem like it's a search for Steph and not for Tim himself. Alvin Draper's the one who's getting a place, after all.

Periodically, Tim's eyes flick over all the exits, as just a small bit of paranoia. A hand lies on Steph's back, fingers drumming over it, just keeping that connection 'live'.

Getting the notes raised Bruce's brows. Back channel encryptions are nothing new to Bruce - or Batman, but the details in this one leave the eldest Wayne's lips in a thin line in thought. Without a chance to discuss Selina's concerns yet, Bruce wanted to look into it as he looked over the supplies and repairs that Tim and Damian took on themselves. Finally, after some contemplation, study, and thought, he weighed the options.

As he read over Tim's file on the new identity, it wasn't too hard to put two and two together that Tim's plans are intertwined with Stephanie's.

It's not Stephanie he pings, however. It's Tim. Once he has a fix on the younger Batling, he considered. The easy thing would be to summon him to the Manor. To talk to him there. But, Bruce wasn't in that kind of mood at the moment. And it was with that it mind, that the door to the cafe opens, and it's Bruce that arrives. Dressed in a black turtleneck, pressed blue jeans, and a pair of polished loafers, the older Wayne makes his way to where the kids are sitting. "Afternoon." he greets the pair of love birds, already looking between the two and taking in their reactions to his arrival. "Have recommendations on what I should try?" And then he gestures to the seat across from them in a simple 'May I?' gesture.

Stephanie had not expected Bruce WAYNE of all people to show up. She still wasn't altogether sure about even talking to him about her 'woes', and had expected to be summoned before him, a vassal summoned before a lord. To have him here was a complete shock, and her eyes went wide. Her pink glossed lips parted on a tiny 'o'. She straightened up from having been tucked comfortably into Tim's side. The ice in her half-finished latte rattleing about in her plastic cup.

"Umm… The hot tea is nice?" she tries, fighting to keep her gaze from sliding to Tim. Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod….

Tim straightens when Bruce arrives. It's as formal a stance as you can get while still sitting in a chair. "Good afternoon, sir," he says. Perhaps he's over-compensating for how comparatively long it's been: they haven't seen much of each other since Tim came back from France, not with the clashing of their schedules. He nods to Steph's suggestion. "Especially the Russian caravan. It's nice and smoky." He nods to Bruce's gesture, welcoming him to the table.

Yet even with the greater formality of his pose, he keeps his hand on Steph's back, still forms himself as a solid presence beside her. As anxious as she is around any other member of the family, it surely ramps up to 'ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod' territory with Bruce himself.

"An excellent suggestion, I'll try it." Though the wry tone in Bruce's voice probably suggests that he's tried the tea before as he settles into the seat. "I feel like I should be offering the pair of you a blindfold, cigarette, and asking if you have any last words." There's just a slight smile at that as he settles in. "I was just looking over the leases for the apartments that you were looking at Tim, and wanted to go over them with you."

"They seem to all be in the city proper, or at least in walking distance of ESU." It's clear he's made the connection between the school and Tim's choices of address and why he may be there. "Are you considering enrolling, Tim?"

Stephanie shifts a bit in her seat, sitting up a bit more, like she's trying to match Tim's formality but not sure how to do so. Bruce's comment has her confused enough to make her cheeks pinken right into her eyes narrowing as Bruce talks to Tim about apartment leasing. The blonde sets her straw between her teeth, her gaze cutting away from the laptop she reaches out to close. It's meant to suggest that she's helping Tim give Bruce's question his undivided attention, but the tension Tim can feel against the fingertips he has resting at her back may tell him a different story.

Tim pouts a little at Bruce's quip, and does his best to start relaxing. 'Trying to relax' is usually a bit of a paradox, but he knows methods like some breathing techniques. His stance is still formal, but not as roboticly stiff as before. "Just looking for a place for Steph," he says, "Somewhere she can get to both school and the family without problems. Though she'll probably need a roommate." A little bit of 'polite fiction': the apartment will be in the name of Alvin Draper rather than Tim Drake. If it looks like Tim's looking for an apartment, that could poke some holes into the cover story.

"Though yes, I'm in ESU too. Since I finished up the comp-sci masters back in France, I've been working more on the hardware side of things. Electrical and mechanical engineering." He looks aside to Steph, hand running over her back in an attempt to soothe her. "Putting Steph's car back together made for an interesting bit of, ah, homework." Cross-fade conversational topic transition. Are we sure he's not also studying film?

"So this is a search for Stephanie an apartment, and not one for yourself, Tim? Were you asking if I would back the lease?" Bruce asks curiously as he places the order when a waitress comes by and turns his attention back to the pair. His fingers drum lightly on the table in thought. "And you're volunteering to be her roommate?" he asks, lifting a brow to Tim. "You know that this could easily be done without her needing to have any financial support."

"And what is happening with the car?"

Exactly what she was hoping to avoid, looking like she was trying for a free ride on their money. Her molars grind against the straw, her fingers squeezing slightly on the cup. She doesn't look up yet, stewing on the frustration that she really can't afford anything more than the dorms on her own right now, and that the time between terms when they clear everyone out of them leave her without a place to stay. She ends up sleeping in her car or else in the Cave's little med bay for the few weeks until she's back in the dorms.

And of course he knows about the car, her mind growls, shoulders tensing toward an unhappy hunching up.

Tim shakes his head; he's not hoping for the lease to be backed, and he's not (openly) planning to be Steph's roommate. "Just keeping you aware of developments." His hand comes up, squeezing into the flesh of Steph's shoulder. "For the apartment, we've been keeping a careful eye on affordability; with the right roommate, she won't need any 'help' with that at all.

"The car, though…" He takes a deep breath, looking around the place. Perhaps they should have met at the Manor after all; this involves some… delicate… balances of identities. "Could we talk about this somewhere a bit more private?" There are certain things which he can't be too open about in a cafe, and talking in code only goes so far.

The careful and rhythmic drumming of Bruce's fingers on the table stops. He looks between the two as the waitress returns, setting down his little teapot, and he pours himself a small cup. He heard Tim's question, and he's weighing it as he lifts the cup to his lips and sips from it after a light blow across the surface to break the tension and cool it. In more ways than one.

"What type of roommate are you looking for, Stephanie?" Bruce asks, blue eyes turning to the woman. He can read her like a book. The tension, the anger. That in some way - she wants to do this on her own. "What are you doing for income at the moment?" he asks. The question of moving the conversation?

It's temporarily shelved. His attention goes completely to the blonde.

What type of roommate? One that understands her night time activities? One she can let her hair down around, scream and rant at when things get near to overwhelming without fear that they'll misunderstand and try to get her talking about things she does not want to talk about? Her shrug doesn't answer the question, but with Bruce able to read so much he can tell that the real reasons for her need are topics that can't be discussed in public. As for income…

"I don't have extra time for a part-time job right now," she grinds out after a long moment of silence. It's an admission that for all that she wants to do this completely on her own, the same way she had wanted to spoil her father's criminal plans all on her own, she had eventually needed the Bat Family's help to keep from either falling into the same life style herself just to keep going or ending up dead at the hands of the very criminal element she had been trying to stop. Despite the attention, Steph keeps her eyes down and away.

Tim winces with sympathy; he can read Steph at least as well as Bruce, with those skills honed by personal familiarity more than a general application of skill. So much of this really needs to be ironed out somewhere they can speak freely. But he does feel a need to at least use one bit of standard code, to make things clear. "She has a night job, but it doesn't pay too well." Vigilantism never does.

"I'm well aware of the night job, Tim. And that it doesn't pay well. Honest work rarely does." It's a gentle rebuttal to Tim, blue eyes cutting to the youngest ward, and then back to Stephanie. He takes another draw from his tea and his lips pull into a thin line. He knows Tim wants to move the conversation, but for the moment, they're civil. And polite.

"I saw the note of talking to Selina. What did she say? Because that was left out." It's an honest question. But if this is going to be a family issue - and the notes that were left for Bruce make it a family issue - then he's dealing with it on a family level before elevating it to the cowl level.

The note? There was a note? This wasn't Bruce being Bruce then? Stephanie's eyes slide toward Tim, back tensing a milimeter from his touch. She draws a breath, lifting her gaze to actually look at Bruce.

"I asked if I could move in. She said no. I dropped it." And the truth of that seems to sting and make it clear that there's a mixed message for the blonde batling. Welcome to the Family says the gear and the trust of the Cave and the repairs to her car and the commlinks and Tim telling her that Family sticks together and helps each other. That last is so far from her own realty that it's harder and harder to keep up the smile that everything's fine. A father that found the way to drain the trust fund her grandparents left her so she didn't have enough for anything let alone college. A mother who'd rather shoot up than take her to cheerleading try-outs or take her to a girl scout meeting. No. Family isn't something you can rely on, and Selina denying Stephanie a room she can retreat to when the end of semester came and she had no where else to turn to was just another reminder. But it's fine. Stephanie can manage on her own, same as she designed and made her first Spoiler suit on her own, the same as she landed her design scholarship on her own, the same as she kept that car going long passed when even she knew it should have been working on her own.

What she'll have to do to have a place to sleep after graduation, however, she hasn't sorted out yet.

Tim flinches from Stephanie's blunt statement. That's the short of it, yes. "She said she thought it might raise too many questions, and wanted to run it by you; I take it she hasn't." Perhaps that's part of why he hadn't put that in the file; an assumption or expectation that Selina had said her own part, too.

But other than that, he goes quiet; this is more between Bruce and Stephanie, with him here as moral support. As much as that support actually helps anything. Seeing the sting on Steph's face, seeing the signs of her planning to withdraw into her own 'independence' again… it tears at his heart, peeling away one strip at a time. He knows that he can't just swoop in and fix everything himself, can't just 'make it all better', but that doesn't keep him from wanting to. Hence these alternative approaches; hence looking for that shared apartment. It'll help his cover ID, sure, but it'll help him sleep at night (or in the daytime, or whatever other period suits it on a given day) to know that he knows where she is sleeping at night.

"I will talk to Selina on it, and get her thoughts. I haven't been able to catch up on much, since I was away in Europe." Which is true. Bruce has been out of the country. But now that he's back, there's things that come to his attention. And he's dealing with them one at a time as they come. And this is the one he can deal with.

"She's right. But at the same time, Stephanie is part of the extended family. And she would not be the first one to be supported by the Martha Wayne foundation." Mary Jane has a scholarship on it.

"But if you still feel this is a conversation for another time, and not a conversation about two people that have affections for each other trying to convince someone that they should move in together…" he trails off in mild amusement. Oh, there was no subtle clues on that. "You two are about the same age as when I first came across Selina."

'She's right.' Stephanie's eyes drop again. 'But at the same time, Stephanie's family and not the first…' Stephanie makes herself breathe evenly. It's that mixed message again, the way it jars against what she's known and what she's had to become just to make it through.

Of course, then Bruce calls them out on their affections. The way Stephanie slides just her eyes to the side might be oh so telling: Tim asked to be her roommate as part of a cover for a new identity and not as himself. But that's not something she can say outloud, so she bites her tongue and says nothing.

Tim blushes at the suggestion from Bruce. Being Red Robin, he's had training in all sorts of mental techniques; he applies them now, to actively prevent himself from imagining Bruce and Selina doing anything 'young sweetheart'-relevant. "I didn't think we'd need to do any convincing. Just… keeping you aware of what's happening, on that front." His hand strays, linking with Steph's. Yes, the cover ID would be her publicly-known roommate… but even if he's using a fake name for it, she'd still be living with Tim. It just so happens to kill two birds with one stone, helping to establish that new cover.

"I want you to apply for the scholarship. Tim can help you with the paperwork. Just because of your affiliation, you won't get special treatment. But if you can show your merit…" Bruce leaves that to Stephanie and Tim to figure out. However, the older Bat takes a sip from his tea in thought as he considers the pair.

"If you two are wanting to live together, there are a dozen reasons I could give you that it could be a bad idea.. but I also know that you are both extraordinary young people. And I trust my wards to make the right decisions." He looks between the pair. "But I will also say that there is several.. protections.. that the two of you can use…" Really, is he about to give them the talk? Another sip of tea, then Bruce continues.

"To make sure that your nighttime activities do not get in the way of what you're working with at school. Or elsewhere." He sets aside the emptied cup and looks between the two of them. "So. When did this start?"

Told to apply to the scholarship, Stephanie swallows. The straw never did make it back to her mouth, and the latte sits between her two hands. She hadn't even considered looking at the Wayne scholarship. She didn't want to get it and think it was because of who she knew. She didn't want to not get it and think it was because they needed to keep some distance. She just saw the name and kept her distance. But with Bruce telling her to apply, Stephanie nods. This, Bruce Wayne… Batman, whom she idolized as a child enough to design that purple and black monstrocity of an outfit so she could run across the rooftops after her father, telling her to apply and that she's win or not on her own merit has Stephanie tensing in a way that isn't filled with frustration or anger. No. It's determination. The same that Tim and Bruce might have seen in her when they first told her not to be Spoiler, not to become a vigilante. Her chin has lifted. Just try to stop me, the fire in her eyes had declared. The heat lasts right into Bruce hinting at The Talk and Stephanie blinks into Bruce's gaze at that.

"I'm on the pill," Stephanie blurts out. Of course she does. She somehow manages to keep from slapping a hand over her mouth. Instead, she clears her throat and moves to the NEXT question Bruce gave her.

"Us? Officially? We… were sort of maybe dating before he moved, but… we stayed in touch and.. when he came back… we…um…" Is this how this works? Would this be less awkward with her actual father? Or is this the awkward it would feel like if it were her father?

Tim's attention is mostly on Steph's face rather than on Bruce, reading how she responds to the scholarship… and he smiles when he sees that determination return. Oh sure, that determination had been a pain in the neck when they first met and he was trying to make her stop putting her life in danger, but he's grown more… accustomed to it. It's part of what makes her so uniquely… Stephanie.

Then other topics come up and derail his line of thinking. He chokes at the mention of protections from both of them and spends a few seconds with a bluescreened look on his face. That leaves Stephanie to answer certain questions, but he still chips in a little. "Y-Yeah. A little after I got back to America, I asked her out, and it's been all official e-ever since."

"Well. At least one of you is prepared." Bruce may have been caught off guard by SPOILER ALERT: We're doing the deed, but his words are wry for a moment. "Just keep it off the rooftops. Survelliance is more pervasive than when I was your age." Let that sink in, kids. And add in Helena's age. Speaking of!

"Talk with Helena." he offers to Stephanie. "She's going to the SHIELD academy, and I have offered her an apartment if she wants to be closer to school. She may want a roommate." It's a possible solution, if not the best solution for the pair of them.

"Now. If we still need to discuss other things, the butler is nearby, getting coffee. I can have him here in a few minutes - unless you trust Stephanie's car to get you to the manor?"

Stephanie turns crimson as Bruce 'praises' her for being prepared. Because that's not the reason she's taking birth control at all. It's just… a nice side effect. Honest. As for the sage fatherly advice, Stephanie finally finds a coy smirk.

"Good excuse to be mindful of survelliance," Stephanie fires right back. Was it ill-advised? Maybe. But at least Stephanie seems more engaged that at the start of the conversation. Roommates… with Helena? Stephanie's not spent a lot of time with her, and at least is confortable with her, but living with her? She half glances at Tim before turning back to Bruce and nodding.

"Um.. sure. Thanks," she says and the the blush stains her cheeks again.

"Tim picked me up," is half-grumbled, not wanting to talk about her car, but really she should

Tim lets out a strange sound deep from the back of his throat. It's somewhere between the whine of an electric engine and the rumble of distant thunder. He does not want to talk about… amorous details, whether their 'protection' or what things happen on rooftops.

The mention of Helena, though, gets a curious look on his face. "It's worth at least talking with her about," he says. "See how she feels about it. Though I don't think that guy Alvin will find another roommate any time soon, so that option's still open." He mulls over Bruce's offer. "We can get to the manor pretty easy, yes. And there are a couple of things we should talk about more privately." Even if just going into more detail about this 'Alvin Draper' cover.

There's a nod at that, before Bruce is moving to rise to his feet. "We can discuss this back at home then. And I'll talk to Selina as well." the oldest Bat offers to the group before he rises to his feet, already placing a call for the butler to come retrieve him. "I'll see the pair of you back at the manor."

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