"You don't have to come," Steph says. She's still numb, or maybe just so overwhelmed with emotions that she can't actually feel what she's feeling. Either way, the end result is the same. "Tim, I mean it. You're busy, and—"
"Kon can drop me off," he insists. He goes quiet for a long moment, then, "I would have wanted you there, when it was me."
She swallows hard and tries not to feel guilty that she hadn't been there for him when Jack Drake died. "Tim," she says and just breathes for a few seconds and listens to him do the same, like she used to back when they were still dating and the world seemed a lot lighter. "I would have wanted to be there."
"I'll see you tomorrow," he replies, and ends the call before she can say anything else.
Tim is the only member of the family Steph has a daylight connection to, the only one she could even ask to come; she can only imagine the speculation if the police commissioner's daughter showed up at Cluemaster's funeral, let alone Bruce Wayne.
He sits next to her and makes small talk with the few relatives who come to the funeral home, while she tries to figure out if this is going to be the thing that sets back her mother's recovery, or if it's going be the thing that sets them both free.
Steph reaches over to take her hand and Mom says, "I'm okay, honey. I'm okay."
Steph wishes she believed her. She wishes she was telling the truth when she replies, "Me, too."
She gets up to stretch her legs, Tim at her elbow, and spots a familiar storm cloud face at the back of the room. She speeds up a little and holds out her hands in a genuine mix of pleasure and gratitude not to Damian, who looks like he'd rather be anywhere else (for once a feeling she totally shares with him) but to Alfred, who is standing beside him.
"Alfred," she says, slightly too loud, and then, mindful of the company, "Mr. Pennyworth. Thank you so much for coming." She wants to hug him but he's probably too British for that and anyway, she's barely supposed to know him, and only as Tim's driver.
"We came to pick up Drake," Damian interjects. "It is on the way home."
"My dear girl," Alfred murmurs, ignoring him. "My condolences to you and your mother." He gives her hands a gentle, comforting squeeze before releasing them.
"Tt. You are both better off without him."
'"You're not wrong," she says, "but—"
"It is complicated," he allows, and he'd know.
"Yeah." Her eyes prickle with tears for the first time since she'd heard the news and she blinks them back in surprise, chest tight with an unusual feeling of warmth towards Damian—he's chosen to be here, because there's literally no way the Nolan Funeral Home is on the way to or from the Manor from Gotham Academy.
She turns to Tim and presses a quick kiss to his cheek. "Thanks again for coming, Tim. I wish I could have been there for you."
"I know." Tim nods. "See you tonight?"
"Yeah. No. I don't know."
He gives her a wry half-grin. "Okay."
She does hug him, and gives Damian a pat on the shoulder that makes him scowl, and Alfred hustles them out before he can say anything too cutting.
Steph heads back to the big armchairs at the front of the room, where her mother is now talking to Aunt Beth and Uncle Harry, the only relatives on the Brown side of the family Steph can stand, and lets herself get folded into the conversation. She'll make the decision about her night job later.
Steph does go out eventually; she'd debated for a long while before pulling on her costume and heading towards the GU campus. Crime stops for no one in Gotham, and certainly not for Stephanie Brown.
She busts up a mugging and escorts a trio of drunk girls back to the dorms before she heads back into the city proper. After two hours of listless solo patrolling, she finds herself in the Narrows, on the roof of the old apartment building she'd lived in as a kid. She used to sit on the fire escape and wish for Batman to come and rescue her and her mother, long before she realized she could put a mask on and rescue herself.
She's lost in thought so she startles when someone touches down next to her on the roof. She can just imagine Batman's thunderous frown and, even worse, Babs' disappointed sigh, and forces herself not to shudder at the thought. Things are better now, even between her and Bruce, even though she slapped him. Maybe even ever since she slapped him. She really is glad he's not dead. It's sad she can't say the same about her actual father.
Red Hood settles down beside her, dangling his legs over the edge of the roof and popping off his helmet.
She nods in response. She probably should have expected him—this is his territory, and despite the truce he and Dick have worked out, she's not supposed to be here unless he calls for help or she's in hot pursuit.
Maybe she should apologize, but she doesn't. He doesn't press. They sit in silence for a while.
Finally, he says, "I'm sorry."
It takes her a second to process it, and then she says, "I'm not."
He shakes his head. "No, of course not. That's not what I meant."
"I'm sorry that even though you had a shitty B-list supervillain for a dad, you probably are still feeling some ways about everything."
"Yeah, okay. That makes sense." She laughs. "I should have known you'd get it." She holds out a fist and he bumps it.
"Dead Robins, yeah?"
Her mouth goes a little wobbly. She'd thought they were alike sometimes, especially before he came back, but she never thought he did. She has to swallow hard before she can speak, and her voice is still hoarse when she says, "Yeah."
He nods and they sit in companionable silence again for a while. He stares down at the blank eyes of his helmet and says, "They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do."
"It's from a poem," he mutters. "Philip Larkin."
"A poem?" She presses a hand to her chest to mime shock. "The big bad Red Hood is reciting poetry to little old me?" She laughs so hard she snorts. It might have a slightly hysterical edge to it, but she's pretty sure he'll never tell. "And I thought Tim was the nerdy one."
"Shut up. Tim is the nerdy one. Poetry is cool."
She leans over and bumps his shoulder. "Yeah, okay. Poetry is cool. I'll let you have it this time, since you're being so nice."
"I'm not being nice," he says. "I just know something about having a shitty dad who dies on you."
"Yeah, okay," she says again. This time, she reaches over and curls her hand around his, squeezing once. He squeezes back, and something inside her settles. "Thank you."
"Only for you, BG. Only for you."
She blinks back tears again before she climbs to her feet. She squares her shoulders and puts her hands on her hips, and for once Gotham obliges her by sending a breeze to make her cape billow majestically.
"What do you say, Red Hood? Want to work out our feelings by punching some crime in the face?"
He stands and puts on his helmet in one smooth motion. "I thought you'd never ask." He leaps off the building, and Steph follows, feeling more like herself than she has all night.