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spoil her

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It makes sense, she tells herself. She repeats it over and over in her head, a training mantra on an endless loop, and tries not to notice that everything here in the Batcave is built to Robin's specifications, every space made to fit him. She likes to think of him as Robin, not Tim, never Tim. It's easier to be here that way.

"Pay attention," Batman growls at her, and she snaps back into focus, feeling foolish and ashamed. One moment of wandering thoughts could mean the death of her and anybody she's working with and maybe the whole of Gotham, she knows it. Batman's watching her all the time, to see if she's going to fuck up, if he's going to regret bringing her in to the section of the cape-and-cowl business that's as sanctioned as it's ever gonna be. But she belongs there, that's one thing she refuses to quantify. She belongs there just as surely as Robin ever did.

Stephanie takes a deep breath and begins running the practice pattern, a series of acrobatics and movements that she could've done without hardly breaking a sweat -- could have done, if she weren't blindfolded. It's hardly high-tech training, and that's disappointing, but she figures that she needs to keep proving herself to Batman before he lets her play with the big toys. She resents it but she does it anyway, trying to listen past her own harsh panting, and she remembers the way Tim used to kiss her and how he'd never get out of breath and how at first she'd been offended because she thought he wasn't into it, but now she knows that it was just training. It was all just training.

I belong here, she tells herself sternly as she topples forward, relief jarring briefly through her nerves when her hands touch wood instead of air and she's able to handspring out of the way of an attack. I'm just as good. He chose me because I'm good, I'm as good as Robin, I'm good enough.

It loops on and on and circles around her brain, and her next flip takes her too wide, her foot skidding and slipping. Stephanie feels everything spin, and when the breath is knocked out of her with the fall she knows with cutting clarity that the space next to Batman is Robin-shaped and she's just temporary, an end to a means, and she gasps out loud.

"Get up," Batman says, and there's nothing in his voice at all.