❯ In the Shadow of the Bat – Spoiler: Then and now ( Chapter 2 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters from the Batman comic books, I’m merely borrowing them for awhile. This is loosely based on the ‘War Games’ and ‘War Crimes’ stories, but should be considered an alternate universe.

Spoiler: Then And Now

Stephanie Brown smiled wryly as the blonde returned to the tent, ducking under a canvas flap as she quietly asked, “Is he gone?”

“Batman’s left, yes,” Dr. Leslie Thompkins said, the older woman turning in her seat to look over the girl thoughtfully. “You look like you’ve recovered your strength,” she said.

“I’m getting there,” Steph sat down in another chair with a soft sigh. “Do you think he knows?” she asked.

“That I helped fake your death?” Leslie smiled at her grimly, “Probably.”

“How do you know?” Steph’s eyes widened.

“Despite his claiming that I’m just another criminal in his database,” Leslie said with a grim sort of amusement, “if he had been serious, he’d have dragged me back to Gotham to stand trial, my rights be damned.”

“I’m sorry,” Steph said quietly, “helping me has cost you a lot.”

“No,” Leslie shook her head, “helping you was simply a extension of what I’ve done all my life.” She smiled gently, “And to be honest, I had reached my breaking point in Gotham… I don’t know how much longer I could have gone on.”

They both sat in companionable silence for a moment, each of them lost to their thoughts under an African sky. For Spoiler it was thinking of all the mistakes that she had made, the rash decisions that had lead her to becoming Spoiler, then Robin and finally beginning a gang war that very nearly ruined Gotham.

For Leslie, her memories of Gotham were bittersweet. She regretted leaving the city, sometimes, but she also knew that to save her own sanity she had to go. Watching Bruce, a boy that she looked on as her own son, waging his war on crime as Batman without concern to the cost to himself and others was slowly eating at her. Even her deep relationship with Alfred wasn’t enough to balance that anymore, and she had to get out.

“So,” Leslie looked at Steph, “what are you going to do now?”

“Design a new costume, return to Gotham and beat the snot out of Black Mask,” Steph answered promptly.

“What?” Leslie sputtered before realizing that Steph was joking. “Bad girl,” she scolded, sounding almost motherly.

“Sorry, couldn’t resist,” Steph grinned.

“So, what now?” Leslie asked.

“I would like to contact my mother somehow,” Steph conceded, “and I’m not sure if I believe my dad is really dead….”

“It is hard to know in the business you and Bruce were in,” Leslie conceded.

“So there’s that,” Steph looked troubled, “but I wish I could let Babs and the others know I’m alive.”

“You know what would happen then, though,” Leslie said, “you’ll be worried about them, something bad will happen in Gotham and… you’ll be right back into the life again.”

“I know,” Steph sighed as she got up, “I know.” Quietly leaving the tent the blonde said, “I’m turning in for the night.”

“Good night,” Leslie said as Steph walked away. Quietly, almost under her breath Leslie added, “She will go back… I know it.”

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

One year later and Gotham City was much the same… a mix of bright, shining newness from Luthor’s reconstruction, pits of ruin from poorly repaired earthquake damage and filled with people trying to make it through the night. That was the city that Stephanie Brown returned to, with a new look and a new purpose.

‘Well, this is cute,’ Steph though, the black haired young woman frowning as she saw the chicken hawks circling the bus station. With a innocent manner she strolled forward, pretending not to notice or care about the men, her shorts and t-shirt giving her a youthful look.

“Hey, pretty lady, wanna earn a few bucks?” the tall blonde purred, his rake thin ody leaning in close to her.

“Really, how?” Steph smiled in a vacuous way.

“Just come over here,” he lead her towards a alley, “an I’ll show you….”

“Sure,” Steph fought back a satisfied smile as they moved out of the sight of the people around the busy bus station.

“Now you just…” he started right before Steph punched him in the head. “Ack,” he staggered backward as he clutched at his bleeding nose.

“Not so easy, hmm?” Steph stepped forward to punch him in the belly, then used a leg sweep to send him crashing to the floor.

“Wha’ th; f’ck…” he tried to crawl away.

“Shut up,” Steph said then struck again, mercifully knocking him out.

“Nicely done,” the voice said from up above her.

“I wondered when you’d decide to show yourself,” Steph looked up at the figure crouched on the rooftop.

Dressed in black and red Batwoman smoothly leapt down, her red boots barely making a sound as she landed by Steph’s side. “And here I thought I was going to have to rescue you, young lady,” she said, the redhead looking amused.

“So why did you wait?” Steph asked curiously as the man at her feet groaned softly, edging back to wakefulness.

With a simple grace Batwoman kicked him in the head, knocking him out completely. “Just making sure you were all righ,” she said mildly.

Steph winced, then smiled. “Dorry,” she said, “I’m used to people in bat-costumes having ulterior motives.”

Batwoman actually looked amused, “I think I know what you mean.” Taking a device from her belt she aimed it at the wall far above and fired, sending a cable hissing into the night. “Good luck,” and with that she was off.

Steph smiled cheerfully as she left the alley, a bit of a bounce to her step. ‘It feels good to meet a nice bat,’ she thought with some amusement. Still, she was careful to take a round about route to her hotel, just in case she was being followed. The Batwoman seemed nice, but you should always be careful.

“Hundred a night,” the bored young man sitting behind the desk said, not looking up from reading his newspaper.

“Cash,” Steph asked, sliding a hundred dollar bill out from her wallet.

“Thanks,” he said, eyes taking on a eager shine as his thoughts raced.

“Don’t even think about it,” Steph purred, something in her manner suddenly dangerous.

“Ah, right,” he gulped, the black haired man nervously returning to his paper once he handed her the key.

“Thank you,” Steph smiled sweetly.

The top floor room was, miracle of miracles, clean and smelled all right as Steph entered, dropping her single suitcase on the bed and walking over to open up the window. The night air of Gotham was like a old friend, embracing her as she leaned out the window, eyes half closed as she savored the sensations.

“Well,” Steph finally pulled back reluctantly, “I think it’s time to tour the city.”

Striding over to her suitcase she popped it open, unpacking clothes easily. Reaching the bottom she paused, then tapped a certain pattern on the hard metal lining. With a soft sound the lining popped up, revealing a mostly black uniform hidden beneath it.

Stripping down to her bra and panties Steph donned the full undersuit first, black armor that could stop a bullet, yet was still light weight and flexable. She pulled on dark purple gloves, each going up to her forearm, then matching boots in a more swashbuckler style. Finally the over-the-shoulder golden belt, loaded with crime fighting equipment both new and inherited from her earlier outings.

“All right,” Spoiler said as she pulled on her black mask, then tugged on her purple hooded cape, “now let’s see if a year;’s training has actually paid off.” With that the dark clad woman closed her suitcase, turned and gracefully leapt from the window, firing off a batline then swinging out over the city….

To be continued….

Notes: Dr. Leslie Thompkins appearance in War Crimes as SO far OOC it sickened me. A woman who had been shown up till then as a dedicated doctor and healer suddenly decided to let Steph die to teach Bruce a lesson. RIGHT. Anyway, this is my attempt to resolve that, as well as reintroduce a more capable Spoiler. So how did she go from faking her death & fleeing gotham to returning a hero One Year Later? Wait and see.

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