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Stephanie Brown and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Stephanie is half out of her suit when someone knocks on her window. Scowling, she jams the cowl back on and stalks out of the closet, glaring outside. Tim looks back at her, eyes wide. He hesitates momentarily, then points upward and disappears. Typical.

"I hope there's a reason for this, Tim." Steph's arms are crossed in front of her chest, and it takes willpower to keep her foot from tapping. "In case you haven't noticed, it's almost 4, and I have things to do. Like sleeping."

Unsurprisingly, Tim is not impressed. "I have a lead on Bruce, and I can't stick around here for long." He pulls a thin canister out of a pouch and holds it out. Steph raises an eyebrow at it, then turns it at him. "I need you to deliver this to a... friend. It's time-sensitive, and—"

"Whoa whoa whoa, wait a sec. Are you telling me to be your courier? Is that what's happening here?" Steph's other eyebrow joins the first high on her forehead. "Because that's what it sounds like is happening here."

To the average person, Tim looks unmoved, but Steph can see him shift his weight almost imperceptibly. "... I don't know if I'd call you a 'courier'—"

"No."

"Oh, come on, Steph."

"No. Find someone else to run your errands for you. I'm out. It's 4 am, I've been running on fumes all week, and I don't have time for this."

Tim rolls his eyes and sighs in exasperation. "Steph, it'll take you all of 30 minutes. Stop being such a kid about this."

"A kid?" Steph's eyebrows drop so quickly that her muscles protest. "You realize that I'm older than you, right? You stop being such a kid. Accept that I'm not doing it and move on. I have more important things on my mind right now."

Tim snorts, leveling her with a glare of his own. "More important than helping me find Bruce? Get over yourself, Stephanie. There are more important things at play here than getting your beauty sleep."

"Oh my god, are you serious right now? I just—I can't—" A strangled scream hisses out of Steph's throat, and her fingers dig into the sides of her head. "Do you have any idea what it's like to juggle college, this, and everything else that has been happening lately?" Tim opens his mouth, but Steph cuts him off, poking him hard enough in the chest to send him rocking back. "No, I have the talking stick right now; don't even think about it. High school is nothing like college, and you can't even talk on that front, because you dropped out. I have three finals tomorrow and a 10-page paper later this week. And guess who's been spending all her free time saving Gotham instead of studying for exams? That's right—this girl. If I end up bombing these exams, I'll probably flunk out at least one class, and hello, extra freshman semester that I can't afford. Not that you would know about financial problems, Mr. Silver Spoon. But, is that all? No, the universe decides, that's just too easy. A sudden jump in crime is clearly something I need right now! Especially when these new criminals all seem to have the same weird explosion fetish and a complete disregard for innocent human life! Do you have any idea how many hospital bomb threats have been issued this week alone, or how many of those were actually followed through? How many people I haven't been able to save, because I've been chasing too many trails at once? How difficult it is to leave my own mother unprotected, so I can try to save kids at a children's hospital miles away? No? Then stop being an asshole and let me cherish these few hours of relaxation instead of ordering me around like your damn messenger pigeon!"

Steph continues glaring, huffing out sharp, angry, rattling breaths in the resulting silence. Between one blink and the next, Tim disappears, leaving just the afterimage of his face in Steph's vision. A sigh leaves her is a monstrous rush of air, and her body droops, strings cut. She unclenches her hands and shakes them out, wincing.

But the sound of footsteps approaching summons back all that tension, and Steph whirls, cape flaring, a string of invectives on the tip of her tongue—

But then, arms slowly wrap around her waist in a loose hug. The red recedes from her vision, and, confused, Steph looks down. "... Damian?"

The arms tighten slightly, and Damian ducks his head, hiding his face further in the folds of his hood. "If you say anything about this, Brown, I will not hesitate to remove your voice box. Gotham would probably thank me for it."

Steph chokes out a wet laugh and wraps her arms around Damian's shoulders. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. You sure you aren't high on one of Scarecrow's concoctions right now?"

Damian's shoulders slowly relax, and they just stand in silence, surrounded by the ambient noises of Gotham. Eventually, Damian draws away and steps back, and Steph has to smother the urge to ruffle his hair through the hood. She blinks a few times to clear her vision (and pretends that moisture doesn't leak out in the process) and smiles. "Thanks, Little D."

Damian snorts derisively and tries to hide his uncomfortable shuffle. "Vocal cords, Brown." He tips his head back haughtily. The movement gives Steph a short glimpse of his bright red face, and she viciously bites down on her cheek to stop the laughter from bubbling up and out. "I will not hesitate."

Steph sketches out a salute with a grin. "Message received." Damian stares her down from under the hood—or tries to, at least. It's hard to do well if the staree can't see your eyes, after all. After a few seconds, he nods, satisfied, and leaves. Steph, lighter than she's felt in weeks, slips back into her room and falls into a dreamless sleep.