"This is insipid."
"It's fun," Steph corrects, but Damian is still pouting, arms crossed, looking like ... well, the same way he always looks when he's around her, if Steph's being honest.
"Easter egg hunts are for children," he says. "I'm not a child."
Which is when Steph really, really wants to point out that, actually, he's ten years old, which makes him exactly a child. But she'd also really like all her body parts to remain intact this evening, thank you very much.
"This one isn't for children," she says. "Trust me. You'll like it."
Damian's expression doesn't change, but somehow it manages to convey that a) he doubts that very much, and b) he wouldn't trust her as far as he could throw her (which isn't vey far, Fatgirl, don't we already have a Batcow, ha ha ha, etc.) It's ... a lot to get across in one unchanging expression, but somehow he nails it.
"Unless," she says, "you don't think you're up to the challenge."
It's a cheap tactic, and one he's bound to see right through, but Steph knows Damian. No chance he's going to pass up a challenge, especially one from her, even if he knows she's baiting him.
"Do you really think that's going to work on me?"
"I'll bet you ten bucks you can't find them all."
"Twenty," he counters, his nostrils flaring a little.
See, she knew she'd be able to push his buttons. It's a family trait, she thinks; Wayne men take everything way too seriously.
Damian's eyes track behind her, and his scowl deepens. "You were in on this, I suppose?"
Steph turns in time to see Dick smile, and she's glad her back is to Damian so she doesn't have to hide hers. He sounds like he's accusing them of teaming up with the Joker, not of planning a fun, chocolate-y treat.
"What can I say?" Dick asks, shrugging. "I thought it sounded like fun."
"You would," Damian says, and then something flickers in his expression. "So it's two against one, then?"
Nope. No way. Steph is not leaving him an out on this. Or allowing him extra bragging rights.
"All right," she says, squaring off against him. How this somehow became a competition (when she swears she was only trying to do something nice), she has no idea. "Pick a partner."
If he chooses Batman, Steph thinks, this is going to be over really fast. But, hey, rules are rules. "Any partner."
It doesn't take nearly as long to convince Cass as Steph thought it would. As in, she's agreed almost before Damian finishes asking.
She never did pass up an opportunity to beat Steph at something, either.
(One day, Steph thinks. One day she will win rooftop tag.)
"This is a ridiculous holiday," Damian says. Steph swears his face lit up for, like, an instant when Cass showed up (and why does she never get that - wait, no never mind). But you'd never know that now, his characteristic scowl back in place as they traverse the super exciting secret entrance (and laugh if you like, Steph's not even kidding) to the Batcave. "What was so special about Jesus, anyway? He came back from the dead once. That's hardly impressive."
Well, maybe not if you know the people Damian knows. Still, that's one severely jaded ten-year-old.
Which is the purpose of today, she supposes.
"Today isn't about celebrating Jesus," Steph says. "It's about celebrating chocolate." Which is only, like, the worthiest cause ever.
Damian snorts, but he doesn't say anything, so Steph takes the opportunity to catch Dick's eye. He grins and steps forward.
"All right," he says, spreading his arms out wide like he's the ringmaster of his own private circus. Which, Steph thinks, considering the company, he might as well be. "The challenge is as follows: Inside the Batcave, there are a number of hidden Easter eggs. Your mission" - with a nod to Cass and Damian - "is to find them all before midnight. That gives you exactly three hours and seventeen minutes."
"How many eggs?" Cass asks, and Dick winks at her.
"If we told you, it wouldn't be much of a challenge, would it?"
Which wasn't exactly in the original rules, but then, neither was Cass, so Steph figures they're probably even.
Cass narrows her eyes, and for a moment, she looks like she does when they're patrolling, when she's figuring out the fastest route to take or the most efficient way to take down a bad guy. Steph kind of loves that look.
"We will do it," she says. "Well before midnight."
Challenge accepted, then.
As much as she thinks Damian and Cass are getting the better end of the deal, Steph can't exactly say she's not enjoying herself. For starters, she gets to spend the entire night hanging out in the freaking Batcave, and not even in the way where Bruce tortures her on the mats for an hour and then tells her they're reading to start training. And for ... other than starters, she gets to be here with Dick, who actually was Batman, which means one very important thing: He knows all the passwords.
"Seriously?" she asks, staring at the screen. "He's got snake on here?" She didn't even know they made that game any more.
"That was Tim's doing," Dick says.
Behind her, Steph hears a crash, a painful-sounding thunk, and Cass' triumphant voice announcing that she found one. That makes ... actually, Steph's lost track of how many, but it's a lot. She's not even completely certain she remembers where they all are, any more.
Well, that's really more Cass and Damian's problem than it is hers, now.
"So he just installed a video game on Batman's computers?" she asks. "Without permission?"
Dick just shrugs.
"Without getting caught?"
"Well," he says. "They don't call Bruce the world's greatest detective for nothing. I'm pretty sure he knows."
"So why is it still here?"
Not that she's complaining. This is awesome.
And then a thought -
"Do you think he actually plays it?"
And there it is: Her new favourite mental image. Batman, in full costume, playing snake on the Batcave computers.
"I have no idea," Dick says. "Not that he'd admit to. I've definitely caught Alfred on it a few times, though."
Steph can't help laughing; picturing that is almost as good. And it's nice, sitting here, getting to be in the centre of Bat-operations with the people she loves (and some she tolerates). Don't get her wrong, she loves working alone, and it's not like the time she spent here went exactly well, but - it's nice to change things up every now and then, is all.
Like now, when she can turn around and see Damian smiling - really smiling, like happy smiling, not like I'm about to kill this guy and I feel good about that smiling - high fiving Cass when they find another hiding spot, on a freaking Easter egg hunt like any other ten year old boy.
Well, maybe not like any ten year old boy. That last egg was hidden behind a combat subroutine she used to hate when she was Robin, guarded by an AI smarter than most of her ex-boyfriends put together. But still, it's the thought that counts.
And he's still smiling half an hour later when he and Cass, visibly exhausted but doing a decent job trying to hide it, approach her and Dick.
(He hides it quickly. But she saw, and she files it away with her other awesome mental images of the night.)
"Done," he says, and gestures behind them, to the frankly massive pile of Easter eggs in the corner. Steph's not sure she really realised how many there'd been when she hid them - Dick bought them, which was just as well, since she wouldn't have been able to afford half as many. Or any. Still, she's pretty sure they can make a decent dent in that pile between the four of them, dentists be damned.
"Really?" she asks, glancing at the clock. "You've still got twenty minutes."
"I'm sure," he says. "Count them if you must."
And usually she wouldn't, because, well, there are a lot of them and she's lazy, but maybe she can't really resist a challenge, either.
"Fine," she says. "I will."
She swears it takes almost as long to count the damn things as it did for Damian and Cass to find them (if still not nearly as long as it took her and Dick to hide them in the first place), but eventually, they're done.
And she won.
(Not that this was a competition, exactly. But still.)
"Well?" Damian asks, eyebrow raised. A year ago, she would have wanted to punch him for that expression. As it is, it still feels really good to be able to rub something in his face.
"A hundred and ninety-nine," she says.
"Impressive," Cass says. Though she isn't smirking like Damian, her expression still pretty clearly says, for us.
"It would be," Dick says. "But we hid an even two hundred."
And Steph still isn't even sure that's right, even though she was there when they counted them, because seriously. She's trying to remember what the hell she was doing two days ago that hiding two hundred chocolate eggs in the Batcave as an Easter surprise seemed like a sane thing to do.
"Impossible," Damian says.
"Afraid not," Dick says. "You missed one."
"We counted -"
"No," Cass interrupts him. She fixes Dick, and then Steph, with a look Steph swears could melt steel. "We never miss."
And ... what do you say to that, exactly? To convince the two flawless ex-child assassins that they missed a single egg in an Easter egg hunt?
Not a freaking thin, Steph decides.
"We'll count again," she agrees. "But this time, while we eat them."
"We've still got a few left," Steph says, when Cass stands up. A few being about accurate - they may not have eaten them all, but they came pretty close. Which Steph is definitely going to be paying for tomorrow.
And she still only counted a hundred and ninety-nine eggs.
Cass shrugs, wiping away a smear of chocolate from the corner of her mouth. Somehow, she even does that gracefully. "It's time to patrol."
"Patrol?" Steph asks. She can barely stand.
"You don't have to come," Cass says. "If you aren't up to it."
Any other time, Steph would rise to the challenge. Just not tonight; if she moves, she thinks she's probably more likely to explode than move silently over rooftops.
Steph shakes her head, and Cass smirks. "Damian?" Cass asks, and Steph is temporarily comforted that at least she was Cass' first choice.
"Obviously," he says, and glances disdainfully at Steph. "We can't all lay around all night doing nothing."
Well, there go her warm and fuzzies.
Except that Damian looks back as he and Cass are about to leave, and Steph could swear he smiles at her. So, maybe they'll last a little bit longer.
"A hundred and ninety-nine," she says, once they're gone.
"Yep," Dick says.
"Are we sure?"
Steph sighs. So much for that.
"You couldn't have drawn a map?" Dick asks, once they're back in the Batcave. They spent a few minutes looking in some of the more obvious hiding spots, which was probably a waste of time; if Damian and Cass couldn't find the last egg, it's got to have been hidden really well.
Which, in any other circumstances, she'd feel pretty good about. Except that the aforementioned great hiding spot is somewhere in Batman's private headquarters, and the last thing she wants is Batman finding her stupid chocolate egg and asking questions.
Steph ... doesn't think that would end well for her.
And yeah, okay, in hindsight, a map might have been a good idea. But they can't all be great plans.
"You're sure Batman's still out of town?" she asks, trying not to sound nervous. The last thing she needs is for him to come back to Gotham unexpectedly and catch them here, doing this.
"I'm sure," Dick says, and though he's trying to hide it, Steph still catches the hint of laughter in his voice. All right, fine, she's scared of Batman. What sane person isn't? "He won't be back for another couple of days."
Right. As far as they know. Steph would still really rather get this done tonight.
Besides, she has class at eleven, which means they're on a deadline.
"All right," she says. "Did we check on the T-Rex?"
"The Lincoln penny?"
"Behind the giant Joker playing card?"
"Check, check, and check," Dick says. And then, "Did they get all the combat manoeuvres?"
No. Oh, no. This is not what she needs on top of eating what she swears must have been her entire body weight in chocolate. Steph tries to think.
"They got Lady Shiva," she says.
"And the Joker," Dick says. And it's not like he shudders, exactly, but she can hear it in his voice. She doesn't reach out to him, but she does move a little closer.
"The Riddler," she says, and Dick looks at her.
"What about the Cluemaster?"
Steph laughs. "He's not even in there. Embarrassing, right?"
Dick grins. "Killer croc?"
"Got it," she says. "Clayface?"
Dick pauses. And Steph swears internally. She hates the Clayface routine.
"Well," he says, "there's only one way to find out. Shall we?"
Awesome. Because this is so how she wanted to spend the rest of her night. Still, there's really only one thing for it.
Besides, if they do find this last egg, she won't have to pay Damian twenty bucks. Which, not going to lie, is going to hurt her wallet almost as much as it hurts her pride.
"Bring it on," she says.