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Already in Custody

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As soon as Stephanie answers the video call, Cassandra knows there is something wrong.

She’s freshly showered, long blonde hair darkened to a mousy brown and pulled over one slightly damp shoulder, when normally she’s as fresh off patrol as Cass is poised to leave for hers. That alone could mean nothing but that Barbara forced her to take an early night because of a text the next morning–but the careful positioning of her arms screams of intense bruising around her abdomen and ribs.

“Hey, Cassie,” Stephanie says, her tone soft and fond and her smile forced-casual, and Cassandra has never been gladder to speak body language more fluently than English. Otherwise she might be fooled.

“What happened?” she demands, fingers tight on either side of her tablet.

Stephanie breathes out sharply through her nose, her mouth twisting into rueful-exasperated-fondness because she knows she shouldn’t have even bothered trying to hide from Cassandra. “Won’t you just let me have a secret or two?” she complains, making an abbreviated sweep of one arm that’s two parts showmanship and one part sincere.

“No.” Cassandra narrows her eyes as Stephanie snorts, sprawling back on her bed–the video goes shaky and catches mostly sheets and floor and pointy, shower-flush elbow before Stephanie steadies it back on her face.

“What happened?” she repeats. Presses. The edge of her chair is biting into the backs of her thighs through her Black Bat costume, she’s leaning towards the camera so insistently.

“Took a face full of sleep gas right as I took a jump off a building. Bungled the landing by way of a healthy slam into a window frame.” Stephanie’s fingers ghost over her ribs, pain in the tilt of her smile, but her eyes are sincere. “Almost makes me miss the face mask from my Spoiler costume, but at least I got the guy with an electro-gooperang, so I was able to call the cops before limping home. I just didn’t want to worry you; it’s not like there’s anything you can do.”

The reminder of the miles between Hong Kong and Gotham yawns between them for several long moments, and Cassandra frowns even as Stephanie’s smile grows wider.

“What are you thinking?” she says, and there’s teasing laughter in the way she tilts her head. “Gonna take that fancy plane of yours and zoom over to Gotham just to punch a guy who’s already in custody?” She drops her voice into a growl that Cassandra recognizes from half a dozen poorly-timed Bruce impressions. “Anyone hurts you, I’ll hurt them worse!”

“I could.” It’s not what she was thinking- her thoughts are never so easily translated into words, even after the accidental tampering of a well-meaning telepath- but it’s still true.

Stephanie laughs out loud this time. “No wonder you’re his favorite kid.”

Cassandra can’t help but smirk in return. “That’s actually because I’m the prettiest.”

“I’m telling Dick you said that.”

The wind picks up outside her open window, dragging the smells of the city into the apartment, scattering the papers and wrappers strewn across the floor, and tugging at the ends of Cassandra’s hair. Her mask- waiting patiently on the other end of the desk- skitters a foot towards her, and she sighs ruefully.

Stephanie snorts on the other end of the line, then follows it with a yawn. “Go save the world, or at least Hong Kong. We’ll text in your morning.”

Cassandra smiles, studying the drowsiness in her shoulders and the corners of her eyes. “Sleep it off,” she advises, and Stephanie offers her a lazy-slow thumbs up.

“That’s the plan. Love you,” she mumbles. “Miss you, too,” she adds, raw and sincere and vaguely embarrassed, and…

Gotham’s only a few hours away by Batplane. Hong Kong won’t fall apart without Black Bat’s presence for one night.

“Love you, too,” she promises, though Stephanie has already drifted off. “And see you soon.”