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the personal life & work balance

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Gotham is quiet. It's a little jarring, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with a slow patrol. Not when you have an essay due at 8am, and you had been so busy with helping  the Red Hood take down a drug trafficking ring for the past week. If you're having this problem though, it meant that your name was Stephanie Brown, and you were currently sitting on top of Wayne Enterprises, a space gray Macbook Air balanced precariously in your lap while you sit at the edge of the building, sipping a Purple drink from Starbucks, despite how cold it was. 

"I bet if I drop it, I'll be able to get an extension on the essay." Stephanie mumbled to herself as she took another sip of her drink, chewing on the straw. There's no caffeine in the drink, she had had a dead eye before she changed into her uniform. There was no way she was going to load up on more caffeine and then have the world's worst crash afterwards. She wasn't like Tim, there was no way she could deal with that.

Back to dropping the laptop off of the building though. It didn't seem like a necessarily bad idea. She could make sure her stuff was backed up to the three cloud storages she had access to (actually, she had access to at least six, but she was only allowed to use four of them), let the laptop fall out of her lap "accidentally", and then email her professor that it had been a casualty in just another day in Gotham as a pretty blonde girl. Then she could use the expense card Bruce gave her to buy another one, and voila! She would get an extension on her essay and be able to sleep for a little bit.

"Nah… it could hit someone, and from this level, I know that'll kill them." Stephanie looked down at the people walking along the street. She didn't even understand, for a city that was so dangerous, people still went out at night, hung out, had dinner, and everything that they could do. Then again, she did the same too when she had the night off, and was able to be a normal college student. 

"And the entire no killing thing, goin on. You know the rules, Steph." She should've heard him when he landed on the rooftop, but Stephanie had been wrapped up in the non-writing of her essay, that she had missed him landing there and walking up to her.

"You think Bruce would kick me off the team for accidentally killing someone with a macbook air?" She looked over her shoulder, extending the drink to him, swinging her legs just a bit. 

"No more than he would for you doing your homework on the job." Dropping down to sit next to her, Dick shook his head at the offer. He liked sweet drinks, but this, the Purple Drink, was way too much for his own tastes. 

He had been in town for the big bust that they had been working on, and decided to finish out the week. The drug trafficking had been a combination of Bludhaven and Gotham gangs, so it was better that he was here, working on this. Stopping them here, meant that they wouldn't be there for a while. 

"Yeah, well, it's his fault that I have to work on this paper right now while I'm working. He kept me busy, and I didn't get a chance to work on the essay at all. So, he can scold me all he wants for this, and threaten to fire me but I'm not going to fail this class." Stephanie pouted just a bit as she closed her laptop. She could maybe do a few laps around, but it had been so slow tonight that she didn't really see a need to, you know?

"This is one of the extra courses I have to take since I switched majors, you know? Kind of important that I pass it so that I can still graduate on time." She had recently switched from Computer Science and Business to Nursing. It had caused quite a stir, since she was almost done, but she saw it was the most logical step. She had briefly considered saying fuck it all and doing pre-med (making a joke about someone having to replace Alfred and Leslie eventually), but she figured that this was a good in between, that wouldn't step on anyone's toes.

"You know, I was totally like this once." Dick offered his own two cents as he watched Stephanie stash her laptop in her jansport that she had hidden on the roof. "Trying to balance school and this, it's hard, you know?" Granted, laptops used to be a bit bulkier back when eh was doing it.

"Oh yeah? How'd you deal?" Stephanie finished the rest of her sweet drink, stowing the reusable cup in her backpack as well, before doing a few stretches. Her bones creaked and cracked.

"Dropped out and became a cop instead." Dick laughed, showing off that gorgeous smile of his. "Come on, we'll do one look over this area, and then I'll show you the best late night cafe in down. Promise." And with that, Dick was off, flipping off of the building.

Well. It was good to know that someone understood what she was going through. Even if it was Dick. And he dropped out and ended up going to the police academy.  It's fine.

She could do this.

***

 

"You're late, Fatgirl." Damian was perched on the ledge of the building, waiting for her. Batman, Robin, and Red Robin were already there waiting for her. Normally, this would just be the three of them, but Stephanie was needed for tech support, having to do dual work on the system while Batman and Robin would be taking down the bad guys. It was standard stuff, but she knew that the system must be kind of nuts if they needed both her and Tim there.

"I know, I know. I got wrapped up. Small little gang thing, you know?" Stephanie went back to lacing up her boots. She had grappled to the roof with it half done. Damn these twenty-something eye boots. Really.

"A small gang? That's a funny way to describe your 'walk of shame', following your date." Damian remarked, not bothering to look back at her.

Stephanie tried not to sputter as Damian outed her. Leave it to the demon-child to keep tabs on everything she (and probably the other members of the team) were up to. But knowing that she had a date, and that she was doing the Batfamily version of a walk of shame. They had their own specific version simply because their version usually occurred from the afternoon to early evening. And Stephanie was no exception.

"You had a date?" Tim looked like he wasn't trying to be shocked by the news that she had a date, but, she had a date?

"With Detective Gage." Damian added on, and even though Stephanie couldn't see his face, she could hear the smirk in her voice. The little shit had gotten into her text messages. If his father hadn't been there, Stephanie would've used her bo staff to bat him of the roof.

Tim, on the other hand, looked like this news had broken his brain. She had had a date? With Nick Gage? Wasn't he dating Barbara? Did he cheat on Barbara with Stephanie? Okay, well he wasn't one to talk about cheating on girls with Stephanie Brown, because he had done it twice already and had been willing to do it a third time if she hadn't turned him down. 

"Focus." Batman cleared his throat, and stopped Damian from revealing anymore of what Stephanie had done. He knew that she had been on a date with Detective Gage as well, and he had intended to talk to her after they had finished this mission, because while things were "complicated" between them, it didn't mean that he couldn't talk to her about the dangers of dating a man seventeen years her senior.

All three mouths closed as they listened to Bruce go over the plan once more. There was supposed to be a break in at the Kord Industries building in Gotham. Tim and Stephanie were needed to bypass the entire Kord system, and take control of it, giving them a temporary edge over the people who were breaking in. They were going to be stealing, or attempting to steal some heavy tech that was used by some ig names in the hero industry, so they were going after people who knew what to do. And they were doing this all without Ted's exact permission.

While Batman and Robin were waiting for Red Robin and Batgirl to get into gear, Tim tried to make small talk with Stephanie. Like they weren't sittingon top of  building, both on laptops, working away.

"So… you and Detective Gage, huh?" It was small talk, small talk that was not good or appropriate.

"What about it? You and I aren't dating." There was some bite in her response, but really Stephanie was not interested in talking about her dating life with Tim Drake. Their, whatever, was already complicated, and Stephanie truly was not interested in complicating it more by letting Tim know what she was doing.

Her response effectively cut the conversation, and they went back to work. Tim was working on Kord enterprises security system, and Steph was working on the  bat guys tech herself. Just phone hacking and everything. Nothing to complicated. But they needed Tim to do one thing while she did the other.

The entire mission took less than forty minutes. Once Batman and Robin got on the ground, the bad guys didn't actually pose a big threat, but were pretty third level like Stephanie's dad had been, or like Kite Man. All in all it was an easy night.

"Robin, go directly home. Red Robin, you are dismissed." Batman spared the two men no glances as he looked down on the city he protected. Stephanie noticed that he hadn't dismissed her, and she knew that this meant they were going to have one of those patented Bat talks. She wasn't sure what about, but it was most likely something she had done wrong, and she was in trouble. Great.

She and Bruce stood in silence for a minute, mostly because of Bruce's inability to have any type of remotely emotional conversation.

"Nick Gage is a once married thirty year old detective, who previously participated in the Order of the Scythe and was romantically involved with Barbara Gordon. Are you aware?" Bruce began, using some type of combination of his Batman voice and his dad voice. It made Stephanie blanche.

She wasn't in trouble, Bruce was trying to be fatherly to her.

"Uh… Stephanie Brown doesn't know about the Order of the Scythe thing, but I do, yes. I know about all of those." Stephanie had to clarify that while she technically didn't know about the OoS because Nick hadn't told "her", she knew about it because Nick had told her. It was awkward, pretending like she didn't know it, btu she was doing what she could. "I know about everything else, as a civilian as well." She quickly tacked that on, after her clarification.

"And you are aware, that as an older male, that the power dynamics of your relationship, are something to be wary of." his wasn't exactly the most loving conversation, or anything, and Bruce was way too technical, but Stephanie got where he was coming from.

"As civilians, the power dynamic is questionable, but as Batgirl, I believe that there is no power dynamic." Stephanie had had her fair share of dating older guys when she was younger, and she had learned (the hard way) how they were shitty and all around gross about younger girls. It was what had made her wary of dating Nick in the first place. 

But so far, it didn't seem like he was like that. Which was good.

"…And if you two are in an intimate relationship, I trust that you are using protection." Bruce spoke after another pregnant silence and Stephanie almost gagged at the comment.

Bruce Wayne. Batman. Her ex-boyfriend's dad. The protector of Gotham, and occasionally the world and the universe, was asking her if she was using protection and practicing safe sex. She almost didn't know how to respond, because well, she was, but this was just too much. 

"I am a twenty year old woman, and despite my previous experience with not using protection, I do not have to give you any details about my sex life, let alone something like that, Bruce." Stephanie didn't care that they were still in uniform, and technically they were in the field. She was going to break the rule, because he was clearly talking to her as Stephanie and not as Batgirl.

Apparently, Stephanie's response was a good enough for Bruce, because he gave a slight nod. "Very well then. You are dismissed." He was still using that combination voice, and didn't even wait for Stephanie to leave first before he disappeared off of the rough. No doubt embarrassed by the conversation she had had.

She should have known. She should have absolutely known that Bruce, in all his Bruce ways, try to talk to Stephanie about her personal life in the worst way and place possible.

There was no way, no way in hell, that he could find out that she had had a one night stand with Detective Nick Gage. No way in hell.

***

The music was way too loud, and the barely lit venue was making it hard for Stephanie to follow her friends, but she didn't care. She had had a night off, and she was spending it being a normal woman in her early twenties. She had received the night off, and it was a Saturday Night . Normally this was one of the busiest nights in Gotham, for vigilanties, but it Bruce had relented and given her the night off so she could celebrate Piper's birthday with her. It was too perfect. She finally had gotten a chance to wear this mini-dress he had bought ages ago. It was like $10 and way too tight, thin, and short, but Stephanie didn't care! She was in her twenties, she was supposed to be wearing stuff like this, and not kevlar. The only thing that she really had covering her up was an oversized flannel that she wore as a jacket. Sure, she had stolen it from one Jason Todd, but it really tied her vibe together. She was going for that 90s heroin chic, and it just really just perfect.

Or it was until her phone started ringing non-stop. She could feel it vibrating in the tiny little purse that she had with her. In the purse all she had was her phone, her fake id, a credit card (sure it said Tim's name on it, but that wasn't her problem) some gum, a condom and some brass knuckles, because she really didn't know where the night could go but it was always good to be prepared for both options.

At first, she tried to ignore her phone, as she did tequila shots with her friends (three of them!) and a vodka cranberry and then let some guy grind up on her. It was great, it was consenusal, and really her phone was going off and suddenly Piper was pulling on her, showing her a text message.

' Hey Piper, this is Stephanie's friend Alvin. Can you tell her we're kind of having an emergency and and need her help. Thanks.'

'BTW she had given me your number before she went out .' 

No, she did not. Oracle had, no doubt, hacked her phone to get Piper's number and then sent it to Tim so that she could get their attention. Stephanie tried to suppress a groan. She gave her friend a kiss on the cheek and and told her that she's totally sorry, but she seriously had to take care of this. If she had time, she would come back later.

As she stepped out of the club, Stephanie finally checked her own phone. Twelve missed calls, and thirty messages. She couldn't believe this. They couldn't give her just one night away? A night that she had worked so hard with concealer, and spirit gum, and body paint, to cover all of the fucking scars she had from this damn job, just so she could wear this too tight, too thin, too short dress. And then of course there was the time and energy she had taken in doing her makeup too. All out the window because she had work.

"What do you want? And this better be important." Stephanie was trying to keep her voice as calm as could be, because really she didn't want her birthday party ruined.

"There is a target inside of the club. Another drug trafficker. We had missed this one, you need to return inside the club, and keep him there until the club closes. When it closes, he will take you to an after hours location. We will be trailing behind, and in the after hours location, we will take him down. We have one man on the inside as well, for any protection since I assume you don't have anything with you." Batman''s voice filtered through the phone and then that was it. No goodbye, no sorry for ruining her night.

Oh.

They did at least send her a picture of the guy she was supposed to be going after. That would be helpful, at least. Stephanie sighed as she put her phone back in her bag. They didn't tell her the guy on the inside, but she knew to expect either Dick or Jason. And truthfully, she was hoping it was Jason over Dick.

Sure enough, when she entered the club again, she did a quick scan, spotting Jason working as the bartender. When their eyes met, he winked at her and Stephanie tried not to roll her own as she made her way to the bar. Her friends were on the other end, and she gave them a quick greeting once more.

"Sorry sorry, turns out the work emergency wasn't that big of an emergency! But they gave me some extra money as a bonus, so I'm going to get us a table and then we'll really have fun tonight." She made up some lie before smiling at them all so brightly. They were all giggles and smiles. Making her way over to where Jason was on his side of the bar, Stephanie slid him the credit card she "borrowed" from Tim.

"Can you hook us up with a table, two bottles of champagne, your most expensive ones, a bottle of Jager, a bottle of Svedka, a bottle of Patron, orange juice, sprite, and cranberry juice?" She didn't even bat an eye at Jason as he bit back his own smirk. "Oh, and keep the card, we're just going to start a tab. We might get more bottles."

"Right away miss, I'll get you a table near our 'BOSS' Room." Oh, that was supposed to be a hint as to where the guy was. Cool

Cool.

Stephanie was going to do her job, and be a normal woman in her early twenties. There was no reason that she couldn't, right?