heroes and thieves at my door (I can't seem to tell them apart anymore)
The Batman first met the Spoiler when she quite literally crashed into him during a foiling of a bank robbery.
He'd heard of her from his kids—she'd hit Tim with a brick, she'd picked Damian up to stop him from hitting a perp again, she had nearly hit Duke with her motorcycle, and she had flirted with Cass.
Bruce's expectations of her had been low to begin with.
And then she had fallen out of an air vent, falling right on top of him, giving away both of their positions.
His initial estimate of her was as follows: a woman in her twenties, probably around 170 centimeters, with a decent mass of muscle, but nothing particularly impressive, for someone whose main fighting strategy appeared to be "fling herself at the nearest enemy and hope for the best".
Her costume hid her coloration completely, from the lenses over her eyes, to the full face mask, to the fact that he couldn't see any indication of her hair color. She was wearing a purple, hooded cape over what appeared to be the kind of black, athlete grade spandex that could be purchased at local sporting goods stores. Around her waist was slung what appeared to be a construction belt, although the pockets were notably devoid of any crime fighting tools except a pair of brass knuckles. Her gloves were long and black, going up to her elbow, on top of the spandex, and looked like they had belonged to a part of costume of sorts before being appropriated for crime fighting. Her boots were brown, although she had attempted to use shoe-polish to make them black, but at least they were steel-toed.
Her mask, was, all told, the most impressive part of her ensemble. Large, white lenses had been carefully attached to the mesh of it, and it looked, to Bruce's professional opinion, to be breathable, which put her several steps above the typical copycat.
There was no trace of Kevlar or armor at all in any inch of her costume, and she had no tools, no equipment, and no training.
"Oh fuck, you're Batman," she squeaked. If she hadn't just landed on him, he might have found it funny. As it was, he had just been knocked to the ground by approximately 150 kilograms of falling vigilante, so he wasn't in the best mood.
"And you're Spoiler," he said.
"Right, uh, so what's the plan?" She said. She was radiating nervous energy, practically bouncing on the balls of her feet.
"Are you bullet proof?" He asked, bluntly.
"Then you're going to evacuate civilians," he says, bluntly.
"What? But I can help!"
"You're going to get yourself killed, going in there without armor or knowing the protocols."
"What are the protocols?"
"We'll talk about this later," he growled, but he had already made up his mind. She was too old, he reminds himself. She wasn't his responsibility. She wasn't one of his kids.
But he still was not going to allow her to die.
Gotham was full to brimming with heroes and vigilantes these days. Selina was running around with Harley and Ivy, Jason had teamed up with one of Oliver Queen's sons (Bruce honestly wasn't even sure which, because Ollie hadn't been very clear in his ranting phone calls, and it wasn't like Jason was going to tell him, plus Barbara had lectured him recently about respecting Jason's boundaries, so he hadn't investigated), Onyx and Orpheus had set up shop in their own neighborhood of Gotham, the Birds of Prey, when bored, fight street-level crime in Gotham, and that wasn't even getting into Duke's Robin gang, or Batman, Inc. as a whole.
Bruce had to prioritize, when it came to dealing with the various crime fighting elements in his city. He made a note to suggest that Babs help her out, or maybe Orpheus, if the Oracle was too busy.
So he sent Spoiler away to deal with civilians, and he dealt with the robbers on his own.
He only realized it might have been a mistake when he exited the bank, to spot the Spoiler sitting on a rooftop, chatting up his daughter.
Bruce's eyes narrowed.
While Cassandra was fully capable of choosing her own romantic interests…
He didn't like this.
Not one bit.
Bruce tried to put the Spoiler out of his mind for the next few weeks, but it was more difficult than he might have expected, for the following reasons:
· Cassandra declined to patrol with him, because she had already agreed to patrol with Spoiler, despite the fact that the two of them always patrolled on Thursdays.
· The Spoiler became a minor viral sensation after video footage of her being dragged along behind a train was uploaded to Twitter, and quickly proceeded to make the rounds on the rest of the social media sites.
· Barbara immediately took the Spoiler under her wing, without any prompting from Bruce (although possibly some from his children), and outfitted her with a much more appropriate version of her costume, which meant that, despite her apparent lack of training, she was now throwing herself into more and more dangerous situations.
· Bruce spotted Cass dreamily staring off into the distance, after coming back from what she had said was going to be a solo patrol, but Bruce's credit card had received a ping for two chocolate milkshakes at Cass's favorite diner.
· The Spoiler accidentally ruined a bust that Bruce had been planning for months by falling through a window during a crucial moment.
· Jason called to make fun of him. This would have been normal, except for the fact that Jason specifically mocked Bruce about the previously mentioned incident involving the window.
· Duke mentioned that the Robin Gang had given Spoiler a jacket and made her an honorary Robin, "because she makes you twitch in that way that only we Robins do."
In short, Bruce was well and truly done by the time that Tim casually mentioned that he's bringing a friend over to the Manor for dinner.
Bruce was honestly half expecting it to be a Teen Titan, or a member of Young Justice, and instead, he was pleasantly surprised to discover that, instead, Tim had brought home a nice, normal Gotham girl who he had met while doing a fundraiser at Leslie's clinic.
Stephanie Brown—daughter of minor supervillain Arthur Brown, in Blackgate for the past five years—was twenty-two years old, a pre-medicine student at Gotham University, and had been volunteering at Leslie's clinic for the past four years.
She was also, unless Bruce was completely mistaken, positively smitten with Cassandra, and that gave him the first glimmer of hope that he'd felt since a purple-clad vigilante had fallen from the sky.
"Stephanie seems to be a good influence on Cassandra," Bruce said.
There was a long silence as Duke looked at him. "And?"
"Do you believe that she would be interested in Cass romantically?"
Duke gave him one of his looks, which he had certainly refined under Alfred's tutelage. "Why?"
"Cass has been pursuing Spoiler. I believe that Stephanie would be a much better match for her."
This time, Duke choked on his glass of water. "What?"
Now it was Bruce's turn to frown at his son. "Stephanie is pre-medicine, plays piano at charity concerts, is an honors student, and volunteers at Doctor Leslie's clinic. Spoiler is a vigilante with no training or sense of self-preservation."
"Are you saying you think Spoiler is a bad influence on Cass?"
Bruce sipped his coffee and said nothing.
"Tim. Tim. Tim."
"What is it?" Tim lowered his phone to give his brother a very tired look. To be fair, Tim is always tired, but that was besides the point.
"So I just had a talk with Bruce—"
"What, again? Did he get you confused with Damian?"
"Not that talk, genius," Duke said, glaring at him. "He wanted to ask me about Steph."
"Oh?" Tim said, looking vaguely intrigued.
"He asked me if I thought Steph would be a better girlfriend for Cass than Spoiler."
Tim stopped completely short.
"Oh my God—"
"He doesn't know!"
"We can't tell him," Duke said, earnestly. "Tim, we can't tell him."
"We should—but he—"
"Tim. You will not deny me this. This is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and you will not spoil it—no pun intended—by telling Bruce about Steph's secret identity."
Tim looked thoughtful, but eventually nodded his agreement.
"Should we tell Steph and Cass?"
"No way," Duke said.
"Yeah, they'd give it away, wouldn't they," Tim said. It wasn't a question.
The two brothers settled down and prepared themselves for the incredible journey that awaited them.
A week later, Cass had sprained her ankle after Spoiler had dared her to try a particularly tricky jump, had been shot twice protecting Spoiler from an unexpected shootout between the Mob and the Mafia, had fallen through three plate glass windows for reasons he had been unable to get a satisfactory explanation from, and had punched Killer Croc in the face after she and Spoiler had chased him into the sewers.
The last one wasn't actually that bad, but Bruce had told them to not go into the sewers, since he was hoping to track Waylon down to figure out who had engineered his escape from Arkham. Spoiler, however, had told Batman that he could shove his plans somewhere anatomically unlikely, because civilians could be hurt, and had gone after him anyways, with Cassandra trailing behind her.
The point was, however, that he had clearly been right in his discussion with Duke.
The Spoiler was a horrible influence on Cass, and he needed to talk with her.
After ensuring that Cassie was patrolling with Dick, and the rest of his children were also partnered up and given appropriate assignments, because despite what they think, he can detect a conspiracy among them, it was relatively easy to track down Spoiler.
Spoiler's patrol route of choice tended to stick around Crime Alley—something Bruce approved of, in theory, although she continued to do incredibly risky maneuvers in her takedowns, and it was mostly a matter of luck (and Cassandra's intervention) that she hadn't been seriously injured yet.
Bruce tamped down on his irritation. He could understand her desire to help, and he'd be a hypocrite of the greatest kind if he told her to not attempt vigilante justice.
But the fact remained that all of his children had a lot of training before they'd been allowed outdoors, and although the Spoiler was (probably) an adult, the fact remained that if Barbara had any sense, she'd be benched until Black Canary had worked her through at least three months of martial arts training.
And Lady Blackhawk with some martial arts training.
And Huntress with some tracking training.
Well, there was a lot of training that the Spoiler very evidently was lacking.
But despite that, the sight of her new costume, with a lot more armor, more practical gloves, and a cape that seemed to be made of the expensive fireproof material that Wayne Enterprises had recently patented, was certainly a relief.
At the very least, Barbara had made sure that the Spoiler was less likely to have a fatal accident, in her misguided pursuit of crime fighting.
Spoiler was perched on a roof, a pair of binoculars out as she watched several of Two Face's men work on packing up a shipment of guns that they were intending to sell.
He stood on the roof behind her, waiting for her to notice him.
After approximately two minutes of being dramatic, Bruce realized that her attention was completely on the scene in front of her, and her cape cut off her peripheral vision, so he announced himself.
Spoiler let out an undignified yelp, and nearly fell off the roof. Bruce moved forward, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her backwards.
"Batman! Someone should put a bell on you!"
"That would defeat the purpose," he told her, deciding not to tell her about the five separate times the Joker had attempted to do just that. No need to shut her down for her glibness in a moment of panic. She had just nearly fallen off a roof. "Have you determined the identity of the buyer?"
"What? Oh! Yes! It's the Penguin, for sure. They're being careful about talking—I think they found one of the bugs that Signal put in there—but they left their GPS pre-programmed, so when I broke into their truck to plant the tracker, I found the rendezvous point."
"Good work," Bruce said, impressed despite himself. She might not be fully trained, but she clearly had good instincts, strong principles, and a sharp mind.
It didn't change the fact that she was also reckless, stubborn, and prone to fits of anger, and was a bad influence on Cassandra, but they were admirable qualities anyways.
"What?" She said, blinking at the praise. "Really?"
He sighed. "Spoiler. You're not trained. You have no weapons or martial training, and you don't know how to use any standardized equipment." He held up a hand. "You have potential," he acknowledged. "In a few months, when you have thee training, I believe you could even be an asset. But right now, Robin has more combat training than you, and he's ten."
"He was raised by assassins! That's not a fair standard!"
… he needed to have a talk with Cassandra about oversharing with women she was romantically interested in. Bruce had made that mistake himself a few times, and he didn't want to see her make his own mistakes.
"The Signal, then," Bruce relented, because, fine, holding anyone up to Damian's standards of combat was almost as ridiculous as holding someone up to Cassandra's.
Spoiler clenched her fists at her sides. "I don't need to do things your way to be able to help! I don't need your fancy equipment or your batarangs or anything! I'm helping people, and that's what matters!"
"I recognize that," Bruce said. "And you're not one of my children and you're an adult, so I can't stop you. However," he did his best to bring himself up to his full height. "Your behavior is not just a risk to yourself. When you're in the field working with others, we need to adjust ourselves to compensate for you."
"That's true for any team up! People need to work together, so they adjust, but we make up for it with our own strengths!" Spoiler had her hands on her hips, and Bruce found himself impressed, again.
"That may be," he acknowledged. "But the fact is that you have been encouraging the others to replicate your reckless behavior."
"Reckless—is this about Cass?"
Bruce's frown deepened. Oh, he was going to have words with Cassandra. "You should strongly consider taking a break. Black Canary is an excellent teacher. If she doesn't have the time, I believe that Onyx has expressed interest in training you."
"Are you trying to tell me to stay away from your daughter?" Spoiler demanded, her voice high and incredulous, ignoring his perfectly reasonable points.
"Either one of them would be capable of helping you learn discipline," he said, instead of addressing her point. He was, but he wasn't stupid enough to say it out loud, because then it would get back to Cass, and possibly the others, and it would all be downhill from there.
Spoiler stood there, flabbergasted, until he turned away from her. "They've hit the optimal point in the shipping process. I'll go in through the window and distract them, you lay down smoke bombs and pick them off."
"I don't have smoke bombs."
Wordlessly, Bruce removed a pouch from his belt, and handed it to her.
"Oh," she said, attaching the pouch to her own belt, which had been massively upgraded since her first encounter with Bruce. "Are you sure you want to team up with me? Won't I slow you down?" The sarcasm was a little heavy, but Bruce supposed he had earned that.
"You're skilled, Spoiler," he said. "I just don't want to see you get hurt."
"Or me flirting with your daughter, apparently," Spoiler muttered under her breath, but she was clearly pleased by the praise and the indication that he cared.
Bruce chose to ignore her words, because, honestly.
"Move to the other side and slip in through the third window from the left—it's unlocked, so you should be able to get in easily." He told her. "I move in ninety seconds."
Doing a salute that was only slightly mocking, she went to go do that.
Bruce started his countdown and got ready to move.
As had been predicted, Spoiler reported to Cassandra, who was not happy with him.
"She's! My! Friend!" Cass said, punctuating each word with a poke in the chest.
"Friend, huh?" Tim muttered sleepily into his coffee. "That's what we're going with?"
"Shut up, Tim. Cass has her right to denial." Duke said, watching the exchange with far more interest than the situation warranted. Tim grunted in response, still not awake, and reached for the salt, which Alfred deftly swapped out for the sugar, before another unfortunate incident occurred.
"Oh God, it's finally happened," Jason stage-whispered to Dick.
"Bruce gave Spoiler the shovel talk!" Dick gasped with mock delight.
"Ttt," was Damian's contribution. His youngest looked immensely annoyed with the whole affair.
Cass, annoyed by their audience, grabbed Bruce by the wrist and tried to drag him out of the kitchen. After a moment's consideration, Bruce allowed her to do so.
"She's—you can't scare her away!"
"I wasn't—" Cass crossed her arms and glared. Bruce sighed. "Cassandra. You've been coming home with injuries."
"From protecting her," Bruce corrected.
"She needs training. Not you defending her from the consequences of her recklessness. Which has been rubbing off on you."
Cass's chin went up defensively. "So?"
"Cassandra. I understand that… undergoing romantic feelings can cause complications in your life. It can blur your judgement, can make things seem like good ideas, when logically, they're not. And sometimes they work out. But other times—"
"I can date who I like!"
"I know that. But I think you need to be practical about this. You haven't known her very long. She's reckless, impulsive, and angry—don't think I didn't hear about that incident with the Penguin." He took a deep breath. "I'm not saying you can't see her. You're an adult, you can make your own choices. But you should think very carefully about dating someone who you primarily know through your identity as Batgirl."
Cass looked at him. "You're being dumb," she told him, bluntly. "I'm fine."
"You always are," he said. "But it's my job to worry about you."
"Not about this," Cass said. "My life. My choices." She crossed her arms. "Are you done? I have… an appointment. With Stephanie."
"Excellent," Bruce said, approvingly. "Now, there's someone who's a good influence on you. Do tell her I ay hello."
And with that, he left the room, leaving a baffled Cassandra behind him.
"Stephanie," Bruce said warmly.
She stared at him. "Oh. Hey B," she said, her voice weak.
"How are you doing?"
She blinked slowly. "Uh… fine?"
"Glad to hear it." He glanced down at single rose that she held in her hand. "Cassandra prefers tulips," he informed her.
"Tulips," he said, picking up his book. Clark, having decided to be funny, had recently published a history of Superman under a pseudonym, using entirely external sources, and the result was pretty good, if entirely inaccurate. "They're Cassandra's favorite flower." He flipped open to hi bookmarked page. "I just thought you might like to know."
She gaped at him, until Cass came into the room, grabbed her hand, and then dragged her away from Bruce.
Bruce turned the page of his book and continued reading Clark's explicative-filled interview with a recently jailed Lex Luthor.
"I thought he hated me!" Steph hissed between her teeth as Cass dragged her out of the room.
"I don't know!"
"You like tulips?"
"Oh good, those are cheaper than roses. But seriously, what's up with your dad?"
"I don't know!"
The fight with the Mad Hatter was way more draining than it had any right to be. It was all hands on deck, there were robots on the streets, and Bruce was really considering petitioning Kate Spencer to come back to Gotham just long enough to get Hatter charged federally, in hopes of getting him sent to a different prison.
The fight was long, nasty, and hard. Jason possibly had a concussion, after his helmet shattered with his head still in it, much to the dismay of Connor Hawke. Dick was all scraped up, after a robot had shredded parts of his costume. Tim had been electrocuted. Damian had lost his cape. Duke, present during the night for once, had sprained his wrist. Spoiler got socked in the face by a robot and fallen off a roof, only to be caught by Cassandra, who was pretty much the only person who had made it through the night unscathed.
Bruce himself had taken some blows to the ribs, which he was fairly certain weren't broken. It didn't stop him from personally making sure that the Hatter was taken into custody, though.
In the end of it, he was so tired that he didn't even comment on the fact that Cassandra got on the back of Spoiler's bike before driving off into the night.
He resigned himself to training Spoiler himself, since it was clear she wasn't going to take the time off to do Black Canary or Onyx's more intensive programs, and then drove home with Damian in the back seat, sulking because Jason had beaten him to shotgun.
At breakfast the next morning, Stephanie Brown was there, with a black eye.
Bruce stared at her.
She stared at him, looking defiant and stubborn and—
Bruce set down his coffee, feeling exhausted. "Spoiler," he said.
She frowned at him. "Ye-ee-s?" She said, drawing out the word in confusion.
Duke and Tim began to snicker, Duke into his waffles, Tim into his coffee.
"What?" Stephanie demanded, spinning around to glare at them.
"He didn't know," Cass said, staring at him.
"What?" Stephanie spun around again, this time to look at Cass.
Cass was starting to giggle, and Bruce glowered at her, then at Duke and Tim.
"He didn't know?" Jason yelled, delighted. He was wearing Connor's t-shirt to breakfast, purely, Bruce suspected, because Oliver had called Connor early that morning, waking the two of them up. Connor was currently calming his father down from whatever it was that Jason had said, and had sent Jason downstairs to eat.
"What didn't he know?" Stephanie yelled, and she had to yell, at this point, because Dick and Damian had joined in the laughter, and even Alfred was smiling, which was how Bruce knew that he'd really missed things, if Alfred was willing to mock him openly.
"That you were Spoiler, Steph," Duke told her.
Steph turned towards Bruce, gaping. "What? But I thought you were a detective!"
At this point, Bruce just put his head down on the table and sighed.
"Wait, does this mean I lost your blessing? Or did I gain it? Does your approval of Stephanie Brown cancel out your disapproval of Spoiler? Or vice versa? C'mon, B, you can't leave me in the dark like this!"
Bruce, mentally, resolved to do everything within his power to make sure that Clark never heard about this.
Cass patted him on the arm. "It's okay," she told him. Bruce sighed, and lifted up his head. "I'm not… dating someone who only knows me as Batgirl."
Bruce closed his eyes and sighed. "I suppose you're not," he allowed. "If you check your desk, I bought you tickets to the ballet on Sunday." He picks up his coffee and takes as large of a drink as he can manage.
"Is your dad funding our date?"
"Get used to it," Tim told her, sympathetically.
"Spoiler," he added, giving no indication that he noticed that Jason had poured salt into his coffee, because that would mean that Jason won, and Bruce's pride had taken enough of a beating today. "Tomorrow, we start your training."
Her eyes lit up, excitedly, and Bruce put his cup down.
Alfred put a plate of waffles in front of Bruce.
"It will be alright, Master Bruce," Alfred said. "I'm certain that they will grow bored of this eventually, and you will then only have to hear about it, oh, about once a year or so."
"Thank you, Alfred," Bruce said. But Alfred then swapped out his salted coffee for a fresh one, so Alfred probably felt some sympathy for him.
Cass kissed Stephanie over their own waffles just as Bruce's phone went off.
Frowning, he removed it from his pocket, only to groan when he saw it was from Clark, and consisted of laugh-crying emojis, and a photo of Bruce with his head on the table.
And to make matters worse, it was in the group message that the two of them shared with Diana.
He was, officially, never going to live this down.