Hello, Firestorm
Roleplaying Log: Hello, Firestorm
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Babs, Ronnie, and Dr. Stein have a chance run-in in NYC.

Other Characters Referenced: Tony Stark
IC Date: June 25, 2019
IC Location: Somewhere in Downtown Manhattan
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 28 Jun 2019 03:13
Rating & Warnings: PG
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

It's hard balancing lives — particularly ones as complex as Barbara Gordon. Daughter of a commissioner, researcher and gopher for Tony Stark, Batgirl of Gotham, and Frank Castle's Red is a lot of hats. That's nothing compared to being Dinah Lance's BFF and trying to manage the multiple-city organization that has become the Birds of Prey. She forgets herself sometimes, not remembering who she is day by day. So, it's sometimes good just to be no one.

She steps out of a bookshop with a cloth tote loaded up with books slung over one shoulder. It's one of those used bookstores that also sells new books, so she has a wide variety of books that she's picked up. She has her nose already in one of them, her round reading glasses posed on her nose.

* * *

The bell tinkles from a coffee shop not far down the street from said bookshop, an older man stepping out after a young man in a hooded sweatshirt. The former sighs a little in that world-weary way, head tilting at the other with an arch of a brow.

"So do you think you'll remember all that for your quiz tomorrow?" he asks, and by his tone he doesn't sound all that hopeful. This must be a familiar dance for the two as the teenager's grin is met by a dry look of amusement.

"Don't worry, I got it! I mean, you went over the same formulas like how many times?"

"It only makes it worthwhile if it actually sticks in your head, Ronald."

It's Ronnie's turn to sigh as they turn and begin to wander down the street, heading in Barbara's direction. "I know, I know. Look, it's cool, Prof. I'm sure it'll pop into my head when I need it to."

"That doesn't exactly inspire confidence…" Professor Stein notes, shaking his head before taking a sip of his coffee. "Although perhaps I should have some solace in the fact that you haven't been dropped out of chemistry by now."

A grin flickers on Ronnie's face again. "It's the little things. So like I said, relax, it'll be cool. I've got this—"

* * *

Babs is too involved in her Jane Austen to notice that she's walking straight for the pair. She's fretting at her lower lip a bit, fingertips pushing at it thoughtfully. Her cheek — still scraped from the Falcone guys who caught up with her and Frank a couple nights ago — is given a little itch. Then she's bumping shoulders — not into Ronnie, but into the Professor.

Instincts kick in, and Babs is juggling her book while also trying to deflect Stein's coffee in what looks like the most odd collision from the outside. She's gasping as she does, and her book hits the ground in a tumble just as she's grabbing hold of Stein's wrist. Or at least, she grabs for his wrist. "Oh god! I — "

* * *

"Oh!" Stein exclaims with a start, all too belatedly aware of someone else so nearby. He doesn't have the reflexes that Babs does, his own jerk back only serving to put him further off balance. His satchel strap slides from his shoulder, hitting the sidewalk before slumping over, a few books on chemistry and physics sliding out along with a couple of notebooks and his phone.

His coffee goes in another direction altogether thanks to Babs' maneuver. Unfortunately it's flying towards Ronnie, who unlike his older tutor, thankfully does have excellent reflexes as he quickly realizes the coffee's a lost cause and curves himself back as he dodges the cup. "Whoa!" The coffee hits the ground, lid popping off to send its steaming contents splattering out onto the street.

Stein had been in the process of stumbling, but he finds at least some support offered by the hand that has managed to grasp his wrist, and he manages to get his feet under him. Breathing out a sigh of relief, he straightens once gravity's stopped claiming victims, reaching up to straighten his glasses with his shaky free hand. "I'm so sorry-" he blurts. "I should have been paying more attention. Are you all right, miss?"

* * *

Barbara doesn't recognize either of them at first. She's too busy releasing Stein's wrist after he's stabilized and dropping into a squat, scraping up the books, trying to make sure that nothing is lost to coffee stains. "Oh god, I'm so sorry. Your books!" Then she's looking up at the pair, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment and her red hair all rumpled in loose waves from the would-be bun they had been secured in.

She hauls up some of Stein's notebooks, her own books forgotten with Sense and Sensibility laying spine up on the ground where the New York City sidewalk imprints plenty of unpleasantness on its pages. When she's standing upright, Ronnie might actually remember her — Battery Park, mid-December. He saved her from some muggers. Thankfully for Ronnie, Babs has never seen him out of his, um, flames.

She turns a little smile to Stein and nods. "I'm so sorry, I… um… wasn't paying attention either." There's a little nervous laugh in her words.

* * *

It's only when they finally get a better look at her that the two both freeze a moment. Stein and Ronnie exchange a quick look at each other before the older goes to try and rescue Barbara's book, picking it up from the ground to gently brush off its open pages.

"It's fine," he assures, smiling mildly as he offers the book back to her. "I suppose in a way it's nice to know that there are still more traditional distractions than having ones eyes glued to a cellphone."

"Heeey, that was one time," Ronnie huffs, shoving his hands into his pockets. "—okay, two. But you weren't there for the other one."

* * *

If Barbara notices the freeze-and-glance between Stein and Ronnie, she plays it off seamlessly. She's taking the book in exchange for Stein's, and she looks both thankful and sheepish. "Oh, um. Guilty." She offers Ronnie a companionable smile. "I get that a lot."

Then she's looking between the two again, and she gestures a bit to the coffee shop. "Let me get you another coffee." And if expecting or even catching the first signs that might be a dismissal of her offer, she presses, "I insist. Please? If I'm not making you late, that is."

* * *

Ronnie grins back at her easily. He looks back at Stein as the man accepts his notebooks from Barbara, sliding everything back into his bag.

"Well…" Professor Stein begins, but he hesitates with the young woman's insistence.

"Nah, it's not super late or anything. Come on, Prof. Maybe I'll pick up something for mom too while we're there." There might be something familiar to his voice. His head may not be flaming, but it's not like Ronnie disguises his voice or anything when he's on hero-duty. Really, who does that?

Stein looks between the two as he slips the strap of his bag back in place over his shoulder before finally giving a nod. "Very well. I'll accept your offer then," he replies to Barbara.

* * *

Barbara pushes up her glasses with a smile for the pair. Her eyes drift toward Ronnie and linger there a moment, head tilting slightly to one side. But then she's stepping to the door to the coffee shop and holding it open for the pair while she cradles her Austen, and her bookbag is shrugged back into place.

"Thank you," she tells them both, but mostly to the professor. She hesitates as she waits for Stein to step in, and then she asks him, "Scientist? You're books looked pretty heavy duty." She's actually sure he's a professor — actual paper books and notebooks give him away.

* * *

Blinking as he catches her looking towards him, Ronnie flashes a smile before clapping a hand on the professor's shoulder. The two follow her lead back towards the coffee shop.

"Ah, actually yes. That I am," Stein admits with a wry smile. "I specialize in physics, but now and then I tutor young Ronald here in chemistry."

* * *

The smile is met in kind, and she tilts her head slightly as they step into the coffee shop. Stein is given the majority of her attention, though she still wanders an occasional glance to Ronnie, brain still working on putting pieces together.

"Physics?" Her nose wrinkles with a bit of a smile. "I needed a good tutor for chemistry, too — could never get my head wrapped around something so small. I do a lot of material sciences and AI development for Stark Unlimited." Nerds unite! "I'm more of a code and hardware person."

Now she smiles to Ronnie. "College?" He could be high school! Who knows.

* * *

Stein chuckles. "I suppose it's not for everyone, although it's very much a part of everyone."

Ronnie rolls his eyes. "It's still boring. I get that a zillion tiny things make up bigger things, but it hurts trying to remember which combination of what makes this or that." He blinks and tilts his head at Barbara then. "Wait, Stark Unlimited as in Tony Stark? That's cool!"

"That would be…the new company he's established in Metropolis, wouldn't it?" the professor recalls, fingering his chin. He nods. "If coding and hardware are your specialty then it seems you're in the right place," he notes, turning to the counter to place an order, shyly admitting to the previous cup having a slight accident.

"Yep! Freshman," Ronnie replies to Babs in the meantime. "I got in for football, but of course they expect you to keep grades up to play." He sighs.

* * *

There it is. The eager response only to be followed by a crestfallen reality. Hello, Firestorm. But, Babs is nothing if not graceful to another superhero — err, vigilante? — and their alter ego. She doesn't let on. Instead, she just smiles that beaming smile to Stein and nods. "Uh huh. I, um, hacked his mainframe a while back, and he's been pestering me to work for him. He finally cornered me when I needed help with an AI that went a bit off the rails."

She steps up to the counter and brightens at the barista as she orders herself a coffee and a donut — chocolate, please. Then she looks back to Ronnie.

"Football, huh? You in it to go all the way, or is this a good way to do the whole 'Millennials can't afford college' workaround?"

* * *

There are raised eyebrows from both Ronnie and Stein at Barbara's admission. The latter smiles crookedly as he adjusts his glasses on the bridge of his nose, Ronnie laughing a little. "Guess that's one way to make an impression. Still, pretty sweet."

Turning to eye the menu, he finally decides on a iced mocha latte for his mom, pausing before requesting a chocolate donut as well. That's for him. "Eh, both I guess? I mean, I love playing football. And not to brag, but I'm good at it," he says as he digs around his pockets for his wallet.

* * *

"He's a pain in the butt," Barbara says simply about Tony Stark, but she doesn't actually sound miffed by it. In fact, there may be some affection there because Stark is so damn charismatic.

She is stepping aside, but not before she sneaks a card over to pay for the refills and new orders, and bobs her chin thankfully to the barista who doesn't let Ronnie or Stein pay for their coffees (and donut). Now she smiles back over to the pair, but mostly Ronnie.

"I did ballet. Wanted to be a dancer forever… when I didn't want to be a cop. My dad always said that kids of cops either became cops or criminals — Dad didn't let me be either." She drifts to a place to sit, inviting the two along.

* * *

His triumphant retrieval of his wallet is met with a super polite smile from the barista, and the nudge from the professor is enough to tell him that his search had been in vain. Shoulders slump with an exaggerated sigh as he shoves his wallet back into a pocket, following the two to where Barbara goes to sit.

"So your father works in the police department then?" Stein surmises once he's taken a seat.

"Ballet, huh," Ronnie muses. "Some football players take ballet classes to help with training- I haven't, personally, but I know ballet's no joke." He rests his chin in hand as he looks at Babs again. "So do you still dance when you're not uh…coding?"

* * *

"Oh." Barbara looks awkward a moment, realizing that she did kind of walk right into that. "Yes, um. In Gotham. He's, um… he's the commissioner over there. I'm, um… Barbara. Barbara Gordon. I should have probably introduced myself when I started asking about you two."

Now she settles into her chair with a little smile for Ronnie. "It isn't. I think that's why I gave up… my feet couldn't handle it." Says the woman who flings herself about on rooftops. "So, I picked up other hobbies."

* * *

Ronnie was totally not trying to catch a good look at Barbara's dancer legs. He and Stein look up when she says who she is. "Oh. Oh wow. Nah, that's cool. Um. Guess thoughts for introductions kinda slip when you narrowly avoid a direct collision course," he reasons. And not at all because you kind of already knew her name and were trying very hard to keep that from slipping.

"Although back to belated introductions, I'm Ronnie Raymond. And this is Martin Stein," he continues, gesturing idly between himself and the professor. "Thanks for the treat."

Stein goes very still when Ronnie introduces him, if briefly. His name may not be a household-known one but with the things they'd mentioned, it wouldn't be terribly difficult to piece together that he might be the same renowned physicist, Professor Martin Stein. Which wouldn't normally be a problem if the last heard of him hadn't been his disappearance and possible death during a terrorist incident at a nuclear plant in Westchester last December.

But it's old news, and certainly no one in Gotham cares about a near nuclear meltdown, right?

* * *

"Nice to meet you, Ronnie, Dr. Stein." Babs offers a slightly awkward smile at both. Then she settles down with her drink and her donut. She nibbles on the latter while she thinks back through her interactions with Firestorm. Her eyes flicker up to Stein briefly before she is back to offering. "How did you get connected with Ronnie, Dr. Stein?"

Luckily, Babs isn't thinking too much about nuclear meltdowns from December, but give her time. It'll click at some point, or she will come up with it when she asks Althene to look into it.

* * *

There's a flash of…something across Stein's face with that particular wording from Babs. Panic? It's hard to tell, fleeting as it was. He looks at Ronnie, who glances back at him with something of a forced smile. Chill, Prof!

"O-oh, well we met during a class field trip," the professor replies after a moment, relaxing a little. "Found out he was going to be attending my old alma mater."

"Guess it went from there," Ronnie chimes in, nodding. "I think he was offended by how 'woefully deficient' I was with science."

At that, Stein smirks. "Well, it was the only thing threatening to hold you back from graduating high school, wasn't it?"

* * *

Babs's brows arch in surprise. "Wow, that's pretty cool." Then she takes in Ronnie's helpful addition, and her smile blossoms. "It's always good to have a mentor." Laughter is met with Ronnie's woefully deficient statement, and she grins. "Good news is that the brain is a muscle and can learn new things just like you can train your body to learn new things. I bet Dr. Stein gives your brain a workout."

She takes a drink from her coffee cup, enjoying the dark bitterness. "So, have you ever been over to Gotham?" She asks both of them, perhaps this time being a bit more coy than expected.

* * *

"He puts it through the wringer at least," Ronnie groans, as though just recalling how study sessions go brings a fresh wave of weariness. He leans back in his seat, turning his donut about in his hands as though pondering what side to start on first.

Professor Stein pauses from a sip of his own cup of coffee, casting a glance at Ronnie who by then has a mouthful of chocolate donut he's working on. He holds back a sigh, taking a small taste of his coffee. "Over, certainly," he replies with a light chuckle. "I'm sure I've flown over it on my way to conferences outside of New York."

* * *

Babs gives Ronnie an understanding smile. "I know what that's like. I've had some brutal mentors in my time." We're all looking at you, Bruce. Then she is taking another bite of her donut while she regards Stein.

"You should come visit. Gotham University has some pretty labs. I can give you a tour." She takes another sip from her cup before she hears her phone buzz, and she looks apologetic as she tugs it out. "Um, sorry." She glances down at it, and then she shakes her head.

"Double sorry. I need to get going." She pops the last of her donut in her mouth.

* * *

The smile that the professor grants her is faint but geniune as he nods at Barbara. "I'll consider it," he promises, ignoring the eyeroll from Ronnie. Only science geeks can get excited about labs.

"Oh, no prob. We should get going too. Was nice meeting you, Barbara," Ronnie says as she excuses herself. "And thanks again for the treat. Catch you around, maybe!" If he only knew.

* * *

"I think you'll enjoy it. Or, I can do you one better if you want to head north instead to Metropolis." Then Barbara is getting to her feet, and she gives Ronnie and Stein another bright smile. "It was nice meeting both of you. Hope to see you around."

She starts to step away, but then something reminds her, and she tracks backwards to give Stein a business card. "Just in case!" It says: Barbara Gordon, AI Research, Stark Unlimited. And it has her contact info. Then she gives a salute and disappears out into the busy New York sidewalk with her books in hand.

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