Babs is a miracle worker, but even she only has so much power over the fabric of reality.
At least, that's what she tells Steph every time the conversation comes up.
People are pretty easy to convince about certain things, but the problem is, when it comes down to the bare bones of it, is that almost nobody in Gotham is willing to forget something like this.
Stephanie Brown has a complicated life…
Made all the more complicated by the fact that when anyone googles her, even if they're just looking for her twitter ( wafflesbrown in case you're wondering), what pops up is her Wikipedia article, identifying her as Robin, as Spoiler, and very carefully detailing conspiracies about her death. Babs has managed to lock it down to avoid "vandalism," but her attempts to delete it have all been in vain (and are the subject to multiple conspiracy theories on the /r/batman reddit thread) so Steph has told Babs to just give up on that one.
At least locking it down has helped with some things, like her autopsy photos (which Babs also has kept off some of the creepier websites, thank-you-so-much-also-why-the-fuck-is-that-a-kink) or speculation about her more recent heroic activities.
(It doesn't stop the Bat spotting twitter threads from speculating, but Babs has about a dozen bots in that thread promoting lots of alternative theories, so Steph keeps her expectations low for twitter.)
It's not much, really, not when the Gotham Gazette ran a memorial issue of her a few years ago, complete with Steph's fucking awful junior yearbook photo on the front page, but Steph has learned to take what she can get when it comes to this.
Steph was seventeen years old when the world had learned she was Robin because she'd gone and gotten herself nearly killed or whatever they were calling the disastrous aftermath of her firing this year. She's now twenty-one, a junior in college, and really would rather everyone stop talking about it.
She sits down in the new classroom her first day of the second semester of junior year, next to Duke Thomas, who gives her a knowing grin. He's been with her in enough classes by now to know why she's sitting in the back of the room with a miserable expression.
"Maybe they won't make the connection," the Signal offers, patting her on the arm.
"Sure," Steph mutters, knowing she's sulking and not caring in the least. "That's why Bruce told you not to associate yourself with me at school."
"He's my dad, not my boss," Duke says, smirking. Steph really has to marvel at how well adjusted he is about the whole adoption thing already, despite being the newest member of the family. "Besides, Alfred says that it's important that we support you in this trying time."
Steph lets out a groan and sinks further into her seat, wondering if it'll be possible to avoid the gaze of the teacher entirely.
"Alright class!" Steph peeks over the edge of her desk, hoping to see a syllabus or anything that might delay the inevitable. This is why she should have resisted Bruce's suggestion that she transfer into the Honors College. Everything that man says is a terrible idea, and really, the fact that he wears spandex and Bat ears should disqualify him from giving advice ever, what was she thinking?
"Welcome to History of Medicine! I'm Professor Smerl. Why don't we start by going around the room? Tell us your name, your year, your major, and a fun fact about yourself!"
Professor Smerl is probably a very nice lady, really, but in this moment, Steph really hates her.
The room fills with polite chatter, mostly full of routine facts. Agatha is a sophomore history major who just dyed her hair pink for the first time. Keith is a junior bio major who got engaged last summer.
Finally, it hits the back of the room, where Steph and Duke are sitting, and Steph strongly considers climbing out the window to delay the inevitable.
"I'm Duke Thomas," Duke says blithely, ignoring his friend's distress like the heartless person he is. "I'm a first-year Psychology and English major. And my fun fact is that I spent this Christmas in England." He didn't mention that he'd spent it defusing bombs while leading the Teen Titans, but Steph can't fault him for leaving that part out.
Steph forces herself to sit up, feeling the eyes of the class on her. Her smile is determinedly, stupidly wide. "My name is Stephanie Crystal Brown." The classroom stirs, and she starts to hear people whisper. "I'm a third year Biology Major, pre-med, piano performance minor. My fun fact about myself is that I volunteer at the Thompson Clinic on weekends, promoting vaccinations and free condoms!"
The condoms thing sometimes distracts people, but her classmates just look put out at the lack of Batman information. She ignores them all, instead smiling at Professor Smerl, who was clearly forewarned about this, and just smiles at her.
"So you're Robin?" A boy with a thick New Jersey accent whispers, turning around to face her.
"Robin's a boy with black hair," Steph says automatically.
"Used to be, then?" This girl's accent is Bludhaven through and through.
"Those allegations were never proven," Steph parrots the line that Kate Spencer gave her.
"But you did die, right?" This one comes from a woman wearing a Superman t-shirt, despite the cold weather.
"Nope," Steph says, even though she probably flatlined at some point, but she doesn't think that counts. She hadn't even seen a light at the end of the tunnel or anything. All she'd had were some really weird dreams about swimming with Cass in a harbor.
"A-hem," Professor Smerl says, looking annoyed. "Let's go through the syllabus, please."
Steph sighs, focusing on the list of readings for the semester, and wishing that, for once, this could be the end of the conversation.
Steph is walking to the library when her phone goes off.
It's a newspaper emoji followed by a pencil emoji and a Superman logo, so Steph answers it.
"Hey Lois, what did they do this time."
"I've got a source that says that Robin has a pet cow and brought it to the Titan's headquarters in Los Angeles."
"Uh-huh. Is the source named Chris, Jon, Mia, or Conner?"
"Kara, actually. She was babysitting," Lois says.
"Off the record? It's name is Batcow," Steph says.
"And on the record?" Lois's voice is dry but fond.
"Why would I know? Maybe the cow was Batman!"
Lois laughs. "Perry probably won't let me put that quote in, but thanks." She chuckles. "Batcow."
The call ends.
Steph sits on the bench outside the library, waiting for the follow up call. She could just let it go to voice mail, but really there's no point.
A few moments later, a newspaper, pencil, and mouth zipped shut emoji appear on her caller-ID, and Steph flips it open.
"Hello, Stephanie Brown speaking?"
"Stephanie," Vicki Vale says.
"I thought I told you to stop calling me," Steph says. "After all, I have nothing to do with Batman, Batman Inc., or any other affiliate groups."
"Uh-huh. So, Robin was spotted with the Titans, and the official Supergirl Instagram has posted a picture of him posing with a cow. Does Batman allow pets in the Cave? If so, what are their names?"
"He has a dinosaur in the Batcave," Steph says flatly.
Vicki groans. "Stephanie, I don't see why you're being so uncooperative—"
Steph ends the call. It's petty, maybe, to hold a fake engagement story about Tim and Tam against Vicki Vale, but she does anyways, because, really.
She goes into the library and starts to study, only pausing when she gets a text from Babs featuring a snapshot of a headline that says BATMAN RESSURECTS DINOSAURS AS PETS, SAYS ZOMBIE ROBIN STEPHANIE BROWN
Babs thinks it's hilarious and frames the article in her tower.
Bruce? Not so much.
Duke and Cass both have grins that are suspiciously big when Steph drops by to visit Wayne Manor.
"What happened?" Steph says immediately, squinting at them.
"There's a new TV show," Cass reports.
"Documentary, technically," Duke says, a glint in his eyes that is definitely evil.
Steph turns around and tries to make a run for it, but the other two are fast and grab her, dragging her towards the ludicrously fancy home theater that Bruce built mainly for the purpose of allowing the Teen Titans to have movie marathons.
"Nooooo," Steph groans, but she doesn't struggle as Cass cheerfully pulls her onto a sofa.
"History of Robin!" Duke says, locating the remote from where Tim always hides it to stop Damian from ever getting control.
"Oh God, is that why that television crew was after me last month? Fuck!"
It's a really shitty documentary, with lots of shaky handheld footage and a lot of recitations of better articles. They manage to put together a timeline which is… not not accurate, at least? The best photos are all of Dick when he's ten, because Dick Grayson doesn't know how not to mug for the camera, but there's a great one of Duke towards the end, looking dashing in his Robin uniform, posing with Riko.
There's almost no photos of Tim that don't involve Young Justice or Teen Titans, which Steph thinks is a damn shame, because Tim isn't that fast. Damian is a moving blur in all of his, and she's pretty sure he's flipping off the camera in one of them.
Duke and Cass agree with her assessment and make a note of the time in the documentary so that they can print out that still and make it the screensaver for the Batcave's computer at a later date.
Jason has a handful of decent ones, and the narrator muses for a while about why his costume is so similar to Dick's, when all the others had worn their own variations. The three of them agree that it's because Jason wanted to prove that his legs were just as good as Dick's, because acknowledging that Jason probably wasn't confident enough to ask to redesign the costume is honestly just depressing.
It does give them an idea for a Robin costume swap for Halloween, with Cass demanding the right to wear the scalie panties, even though she was never Robin.
The scene then abruptly changes to a video of Steph slamming the door to her classroom in the camera's face. "I'm not a superhero!" She yells.
"Coming up," the narrator says. "The only Bat to ever be unmasked… who is, STEPHANIE BROWN, THE GIRL WONDER?"
"If they bring out that interview with my mom, I'm leaving," Steph threatens.
"They didn't," Duke says. "Bruce bought the rights to that footage last year and has it vaulted."
"… can he do that?"
"Copyright is a strange and wonderful thing," Duke says serenely. "This is for-profit, not for educational purposes, so fair use doesn't apply."
Steph squints at him. "A documentary isn't educational?"
"Never underestimate the power of Bruce's lawyers," Duke advises her.
Steph reluctantly leans back into the comfortable sofa, guessing she can occasionally be grateful for Bruce's ludicrous wealth and weirdly specific forms of affection.
The documentary does accuse her of being Batgirl at the end, which makes Steph throw popcorn at the screen. It's not new popcorn, it's leftover from the last time Tim was in here, which means even Cass won't eat it.
"You are Batgirl," Duke points out.
"IT DOESN'T MEAN THEY HAVE TO SAY IT," Steph complains.
"Cheer up, they only said you were a likely candidate," Duke says. "Maybe people will really think you're retired."
"If I get kidnapped by a supervillain next week, I'm suing the network."
"You're a cute damsel," Cass says absently.
A week later, Cass in a blonde wig is indeed forced to rescue Steph out of a supervillain trap. It's not even a proper supervillain like the Riddler, who knows how Steph likes her tea and complains with her about her dad, but it's some Bludhaven import who wants to break into the Gotham scene, and, worse, is a fan of her dad.
"He's in jail because he was a shitty villain and a shitty dad!" Steph complains as Cass lets her out of the booby trap.
"I know," Cass says, patting her arm before scooping Steph up into her arms in a bridal carry, which is how she lets Steph know that the media has found them.
Gotham Gazette believes that Steph's not Batgirl for a whole week after that incident.
When someone blows something up outside of class, Kevin flat out turns to Steph and says "aren't you going to go deal with that?"
Steph glares at him.
"Oh no," drawls Claudia. "Look, an explosion. Quick, someone call Batgirl!"
"I'm—" Steph gives up on protesting. Everyone is looking at her expectantly, even the professor. "Hi, Professor Smerl, I've got a family emergency and I need to climb out that window now, bye!"
"I'll email you the homework," Professor Smerl says as Steph runs past her, backpack thrown over her shoulder.
"Thanks!" Steph crawls out the window and starts to scale the building, hoping that her classmates are nice enough not to be putting this on Snapchat.
Disappearing into a different floor's janitor's closet, Steph puts on her costume, and then throws herself off the roof.
"Hey, it's Batgirl!" Kevin yells as she falls past the classroom window. "What a coincidence!"
Steph waves and winks at her class.
Duke is the only one who waves back.