Title: Study Date
Description: Wednesday 21st of March, After School
Barbara Gordon - July 28, 2009 08:19 PM (GMT)
For what had to be about the hundredth time, Barbara picked up the phone that sat on the park bench in front of her and checked the screen for messages or missed calls. Sure, what little sun light there was may have been reflecting on the screen, but she still would have heard something. It was so typically Chrissie to bail on a study meeting.
In the absence of a tutee, she turned her attention to some of her own work. It was a good day for sitting out in the park and doing homework. Okay, so the homework part wasn’t great, but better here than home. The one thing that would make it better? Ice cream. That made it really fortunate that there was a vendor nearby.
Close enough that she could leave her phone behind without too much risk.
Unfortunately, by the time that she’d got back to it, there was a text message from Chrissie. It sounded like a fairly legitimate reason not to show up, but that didn’t make her any happier to receive it. Still, with ice cream in hand, she went back to her studying. What else was there to do?
Vic - July 28, 2009 09:37 PM (GMT)
Vic Sage ambled slowly through Robinson Park. For once he wasn't stalking anyone or plotting a sting. For a little while he was trying to avoid even thinking about any of the 'things' he was working on, instead concentrating on just enjoying the day. He wasn't in costume or even disguise, his dress purely mundane casual, his red-gold hair touseling in the light, cool breeze.
Last week's series of storms had blown through and departed, leaving clear, sunny days in their wake. The spring weather lightened Vic's mood and put a bounce in his step. And, despite the slight chill, it also put a hankering for ice cream deep in his soul. Real ice cream, not the frozen slop they served in Blackgate, and he knew just where to get it. Or where to get it twelve years ago, came the discouraging thought.
Then he caught sight of the stand and Jake -- less hair, and what there was of it grayer -- behind the counter and sighed inwardly with relief. Queuing up behind a redheaded teenager, he studied the flavors on offer while she ordered her own frozen fix. There was a wide selection, some conventional, some not so much, but by the time his turn came he knew exactly what he wanted.
"A large double scoop of almond vanilla, please," he said.
It was so unexpected, so unheard-of, that the tall redhead just stood stunned and blinking for a long moment. "What?"
Jake leaned forward. "You heard me, Sage," he growled. "Yeah, I know who you are. I remember you and I remember what you did. I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone and you'd better believe I'm refusing it to you."
He was making no effort to mute his gravelly voice and a sudden silence fell as everyone in earshot turned to look. Vic stepped back, a mix of anger and shame bringing a flush of red to his cheeks.
Barbara Gordon - July 29, 2009 06:04 PM (GMT)
Barbara didn’t bother to look back once she’d left the ice cream vendor. She only spared the queue a cursory glance to check that she didn’t recognise anyone waiting, before returning to her work. It didn’t hold her attention long, though. She’d barely sat back down when she heard a commotion back from where she’d come from.
Cocking an eyebrow, she turned to watch as some guy struggled to get his ice cream. As far as crises went, it didn’t strike her as too sever and with a shrug, she turned her attention back to her work. It took her a moment to realise that she recognised the man with no ice cream. With a curious frown, she turned to watch.
Last time he’d been wearing dark glasses and pretending to be blind. It was definitely him, though. What had the guy called him? Sage? Interesting. Quickly, she scribbled a note on her work.
Vic - July 30, 2009 06:35 PM (GMT)
Fury surged up inside Vic, the anger of his youth, the rage of a child at the unfairness of the world. It was the temper that had gotten him into trouble his entire life. It was also the temper that Tiny had taught him to control and he could hear the giant convict's voice in his memory. Life is like that. Deal with it. And was it really so unfair? Even if it hadn't happened the way he told the court, those people were dead because of him.
Taking in and exhaling a deep breath, he found his hands clenched into fists and forced them open, stepping back and raising them in a 'no trouble' gesture of surrender. Around him he heard a quiet murmuring from the crowd, mostly relief but not unmixed with disappointment. Unable to meet their gaze, he turned away.
Hands in pockets and shoulders hunched, he walked without really seeing, just aware enough of his surroundings to avoid running into anyone or anything. And he did his best to walk without thinking, but that was much harder. He was tired suddenly, disappointment and dissipated adrenaline combining to drain away the ebullient energy with which he'd begun the day.
He just wanted to sit and be alone, but a look around showed him all the nearby benches were occupied. Then his eye lit upon one that had some space, the other half occupied by a young woman hard at work on some kind of school work. She looked to be intent on her studies, head down and scribbling a note, perhaps she hadn't noticed the debacle. Short of a long hike, he wasn't likely to find anything else.
With a sigh, he settled onto the empty end and let his head fall into his hands.
Barbara Gordon - July 30, 2009 10:37 PM (GMT)
Barbara was about to get back to her work when she spotted someone heading her way out of the corner of her eye. Someone without an ice cream. For a moment, her brain struggled to kick into gear and she wondered if he wanted to talk about the night that they’d met before. Fortunately, it was only a passing stupidity, long gone by the time he sat down and let his head fall into his hands.
Wow. Now this was uncomfortable.
He’d totally gloomied up her personal bubble. “It’s just ice cream,” she pointed out, after a couple of moments of trying to get on with her studying, hoping to at least cheer him enough that he wasn’t totally putting a dampener on things.. “Good ice cream,” she conceded after a lick of her cone. “But just ice cream.”
Vic - July 31, 2009 06:45 AM (GMT)
Vic flinched. Apparently she had noticed. Great. Now he could add being laughed at by a teenager to an already stellar day. For some reason, that had always struck him as worse than being mocked by a child or an adult. Maybe it was the little smirk they got ...
But as he listened to her words and actually took them in, he realized she wasn't sneering. And, in point of fact, what she said was quite true. After a moment, he turned his head to look at her. She seemed remarkably self-possessed, but he didn't see much in the way of amusement in her manner.
"Can't deny that," he said. "And I'm pretty sure there's no Constitutional right to ice cream. Though," he added after a moment, "it might fall under 'pursuit of happiness.'"
Barbara Gordon - July 31, 2009 09:32 PM (GMT)
"Can't deny that. And I'm pretty sure there's no Constitutional right to ice cream. Though it might fall under 'pursuit of happiness.'"
“The Will Smith movie?” Barbara asked with a slightly teasing smile. “I don’t think they could afford ice cream in that.” She did like the idea of a constitutional right to ice cream, though. It was the sort of thing that would go a long way towards making the world a better place, though.
“I’d offer to go and get you one, but I don’t think there’s any chance that he wouldn’t figure out that I was doing it for you,” she said, before giving an apologetic shrug of her shoulders. “Sorry.” She supposed that she was probably being a little overly familiar, considering that she wasn’t supposed to have met this guy before. It couldn’t have been doing anyone any harm, though. Not like she didn’t know how to handle herself.
Vic - August 1, 2009 12:49 AM (GMT)
Vic didn't recognize the movie reference, but he was starting to get used to that sort of thing and only looked blank for a couple of seconds. It didn't sound like Big Bill Smith's sort of thing -- his titles ran more toward 'Roller Blade Seven' and 'Manosaurus' -- but you never knew.
“I’d offer to go and get you one, but I don’t think there’s any chance that he wouldn’t figure out that I was doing it for you,” she said, before giving an apologetic shrug of her shoulders. “Sorry.”
Vic smiled ruefully, his own shrug resigned. "A kind thought," he said, "but it's all right." The rejection still stung, but he was past the flashpoint now, he could deal with it as long as he didn't get to brooding ... which he'd been about to do before the girl's comment saved him from himself. She couldn't know it, but he owed her a debt of gratitude. He'd have to try to find out who she was. "Besides, doesn't sending in a ringer to purchase contraband usually work the other way around? I'm not sure my ego could stand it."
Barbara Gordon - August 1, 2009 01:08 PM (GMT)
"A kind thought, but it's all right. Besides, doesn't sending in a ringer to purchase contraband usually work the other way around? I'm not sure my ego could stand it."
“Pssh!” Barbara exhaled dismissively, just barely resisting the urge to thump Sage on the shoulder. “Man up. It’s not like I was threatening to go and give him a wedgie for you.” Casually, she twirled her pen, before tapping the nib on her notebook as she took another lick of her ice cream. See, pen and paper? It was just like she was working.
“Don’t think I ever heard ice cream called contraband before,” she mused as she turned her attention back to her schoolwork. Or at least, she tried to. It was a strange situation, no doubt about it. The guy was no doubt a person of interest. She hadn’t got a good picture of just what it was that he did, but they worked in a similar field. She wanted to know more, but she just didn’t know what to say or ask.
Vic - August 3, 2009 01:49 AM (GMT)
“Man up. It’s not like I was threatening to go and give him a wedgie for you.”
Vic widened his eyes in mock amazement. "A wedgie? You'd do that for me? But I hardly know you." And, much as he wanted to rectify that situation by at least finding out her name, he had no idea how. Jake was still giving him the hairy eyeball and looked ready to call the cops any second. Asking straight out would be courting trouble, he was already on thin ice talking with her at all.
She'd just said something about contraband and Vic was formulating a reply when Jake finished working himself into a state. But instead of calling the cops, the portly ice cream vendor came storming out of his booth and stamping in their direction.
"Clear out, Sage! And you stay away from him, missy! He's a very bad man!"
Barbara Gordon - August 3, 2009 08:59 PM (GMT)
"Clear out, Sage! And you stay away from him, missy! He's a very bad man!"
A very bad man? Barbara mouthed at Sage, before repeating it out loud. “A bad man?” she echoed, incredulously. “What am I, nine?” Nine and not totally awesome? She didn’t think so.
“Besides, I can take care of myself,” she protested, poking her pen at her homework. Somehow, she really didn’t have the impression that she was going to get a whole lot done. Simply making the effort to look like she was working made all the difference.
With a frown, she looked up at Sage. “Can I ask what happened between you two? Or is it best if I don’t?”
Vic - August 4, 2009 07:14 AM (GMT)
“Can I ask what happened between you two? Or is it best if I don’t?”
Jake's expression, which had clouded with confusion and frustration at Barbara's failure to take his warning seriously, cleared. "Oh, yes you should ask," he said to her, then wheeled on Vic, his eyes lit with triumph.
"How about it, Sage? You want to tell her about the people you killed? You want to tell her how one of them was a girl just about her age? huh?"
A muscle jumped along Vic's jaw as he clenched his teeth. He couldn't bring himself to utter the lie again, but the truth would just come out as a clumsy, self-serving fabrication. Unable to speak, he simply shook his head and stared at the ground, flexing his hands.
Barbara Gordon - August 4, 2009 07:30 PM (GMT)
Barbara’s shoulders slumped at the look of triumph in the ice cream vendor’s eyes. She hadn’t meant to upset Sage, but there, she’d gone and done it anyway. The suggestion that Sage had killed someone was a shocking one on so many levels.
Technically only two levels, but they were bad enough. Sure, she felt bad for sticking up for him now, but it got worse than that, much, much worse. She’d let Sage go on his merry way and follow someone. She trusted too easily, she knew that, but if she’d trusted someone and let them go on to kill someone, then she didn’t know if she could deal with that. She should probably tell Big B. “Is that true?” she asked softly.
Vic - August 5, 2009 01:28 AM (GMT)
“Is that true?”
Unable to look at her, Vic could hear the emotions crowding in behind the words. The truth. He owed her that. He was a total stranger and she'd tried to cheer him up, even gone to bat for him. She was kind, and he'd found kindness to be a rare thing in this world, especially in Gotham. He couldn't let her down, let her go out on a limb like that and then just saw it off.
"I ... " he started. Stopped. Began again. "I was responsible, yes."
Jake snorted. "'Responsible.' That's one way to describe sabotage, I guess."
"I didn't ... " Vic gritted his teeth. "I didn't sabotage the wheel."
"Oh." Jake's sneer was palpable. "So you just confessed for the hell of it."
Vic wanted to throw up his hands in some combination of exasperation and resignation. "No," he said again. "I confessed because I was responsible."
Barbara Gordon - August 5, 2009 06:31 PM (GMT)
"I ... I was responsible, yes."
Barbara’s expression fell a little. Apparently, Sage hadn’t murdered anyone, so her call from their previous encounter probably wasn’t a total screw up. All the same, she wasn’t feeling entirely comfortable with the situation she was in. As the two bickered, she let her head fall into her hands. Of course, she could still hear them, so instead, she tried to at least pretend that she was doing her homework.
"No, I confessed because I was responsible."
Barbara sighed. She didn’t know how to deal with any of this. It wasn’t any of her business. “Guys, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she protested, “and I’m not sure I want to know,” she added reluctantly. She didn’t feel like there was anything she could do or say that would make even the faintest bit of difference.
Vic - August 7, 2009 05:33 PM (GMT)
Vic looked from Babs to the ice cream vendor and sighed. Rising to his feet, he put up his hands much as he had before. "Look, pax, Jake. I've served my time, paid my debt."
"You'll never -- " the portly man began.
"Let me finish," Vic overrode him. "I'll go, because as the young lady points out, our disagreement is not her problem. All our arguing is doing is keeping her from her schoolwork. I'll go on about my business, you go back to yours, and we'll both leave her in peace, okay?"
Jake looked surly, but finally grumbled agreement, giving a grudging nod.
With that, Vic turned back to Barbara. "I'm sorry about that. It was a pleasure meeting you, regardless of all the rest."
Barbara Gordon - August 7, 2009 08:22 PM (GMT)
"Look, pax, Jake. I've served my time, paid my debt."
"You'll never -- "
Barbara sighed softly. This didn’t seem like it was going to go away soon. Maybe she should just bundle up her homework and go somewhere else.
"Let me finish, go, because as the young lady points out, our disagreement is not her problem. All our arguing is doing is keeping her from her schoolwork. I'll go on about my business, you go back to yours, and we'll both leave her in peace, okay?"
Okay, so she didn’t have to go. She still felt guilty though. .
"I'm sorry about that. It was a pleasure meeting you, regardless of all the rest."
Barbara didn’t owe Sage anything- well, nothing that she could see, anyway. Somehow, she still managed to feel like she’d let him down, though. She’d tried to help, but she felt like she just hadn’t done enough. “Sorry,” she said awkwardly, “hope you find some ice cream somewhere.”