A Bird And A Spider

January 14, 2017:

Red Robin tracks down Spider-Man in New York City to talk about what happened in the Gotham Antiquities Commission's centennial gala.

Queens - New York City

Queens, Spidey's native burrough.


NPCs: None

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, Batman, John Constantine

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

So, Spider-Man robbed a train the other day.

Technically, it was a reverse-robbery. Technically, he didn't even do any of the reverse-robbing, either. He just distracted ominously silent government agents.

That doesn't really sound that great either. The point is, the next day, the headlines ran something like 'SPIDER-MANIAC TERRORIZES TRAIN JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT' and Peter Parker spent the day angrily trying to crush a newspaper.

Today has been spent channeling that frustration and general thoughtfulness into something productive, like saving lives. And then getting yelled at it, like, half the time. So it goes in the life of Spider-Man. Case in point:


"H-hey, I wasn't— OH GOD STOP SHOOTING ME— "


This would be the sound of Spider-Man scrambling out of a convenience store in Queens as bullets fly all around him. A window shatters as he holds his hands above his head, gripping onto a hotdog for dear life. Behind him, an angry old woman ratchets her shotgun in hot pursuit. Behind HER, two young men in masks are strewn about unconscious, guns laid out in front of them.

This is the sight of Spider-Man running for dear life after thwarting a robbery.




With a hop, skip, and a mighty spider-flip, Spider-Man simultaneously throws a wad of money at the woman frantically as she guns for him, distracting her just long enough for him to cast a line of webbing and go swooping off into the distance.



Minutes later, there is Spider-Man, perched on a building rooftop, mask half-rolled up as he forlornly munches on his hotdog with a heavy heave of a sigh.

"… Maaaaaan… didn't even have time to get the mustard…"

The weary burdens of a hero.

New York City was always a strange experience for Tim Drake.

It was the sort of place that was impossible to not compare with Gotham; there was always something about Metropolis that seemed too /nice/ to the Boy Wonder, as though the city itself was a reflection of its most famous protector. But New York had the same sort of grit and grime as his home city, even though it had avoided falling into the same abyss Gotham had found itself in before the Batman set about trying to dig it out all but singlehandedly. It had a similarity, a curious /familiarity/, that always made him wonder how differently his life would've gone if the Drakes had lived in the Big Apple instead of being neighbours fo the Waynes.

Maybe his parents would still be alive. Maybe he just would've been a completely normal person. No training with ninjas and chi masters and assassins. No late nights swinging across urban blight, kicking people in the face until they realised the error of their ways.

But he hadn't let himself linger long on those sorts of thoughts. There was no point in wondering about a life that never happened, not when there were other lives counting on him keeping his mind in the here and now. He'd arrived in NYC that afternoon, already with a few ideas about where to look for the individual he was seeking. And then, of course, he'd seen the headlines.

Boy, was he glad the newspapers in Gotham still treated the Batman and other masked vigilantes halfway like an urban legend.


"I always found it easier to just carry some energy bars with me," says a voice from the shadows behind Spider-Man. There's no malice there, no threat, which might keep Red Robin's arrival from triggering the wall-crawler's preternatural perception, particularly given the lack of any noticeable sound at all before the newcomer spoke.

The lean, cowled figure detaches from those shadows as though he'd stepped out of them like a portal, his costume's cape left to drape around him in a shroud of black, his cowl's white lenses keeping his eyes as featureless as Spider-Man's own, though Red Robin's surely had all kinds of tricks beyond merely further shrouding his appearance. His voice has a light electronic fuzzing to it, lowering his register and making it harder to identify him, by ear or recording device; even his boots have slight, subtle lifts in them, making sure Red Robin is noticeably taller than Tim Drake.

It was probably astouding how much of the operating budget of one of Batman's allies went to just hiding their identity, though Tim probably went further than most.

"No reason to give anyone else reason to shoot at me… Besides, the mustard would probably never come out of the costume." It was difficult to tell if he was making a joke or being serious, which was probably entirely on purpose; the cowl didn't hide his mouth, and there was no sign of a grin, or even a faint twitch of amusement.

Oh hey, there's someone talking behind him. That's nice. "Right? Nice idea, but energy bars aren't one of Mabel's famous hotdogs. … Maybe hotdog-flavored energy —"

Wait, what?

"Agh! White ninja!"

This is Spider-Man's train of thought (fortunately) being derailed before it can complete itself by the sudden and unexpected sound of someone slipping behind him. The way he moves to spin and face his newfound guest on his rooftop is nothing short of inhumanly swift; there's a level of acrobatic dexterity at work there that would be baffling even for the most skilled of gymnasts as he flips himself about to turn wide, white lenses on the distinctive figure of the Red Robin.

And then those lenses squint. Slowly.

He's probably not a threat, at least; there's not really much of anything he's found that -doesn't- trigger his spider-sense if it's not threatening in some way, shape or form. That doesn't mean that he's expected, or even welcome, or even trusted. But besides all that, he recognizes him — even in the midst of all that gala, he remembers seeing someone working with the Batman. And that just makes his lenses become little slivers of incredulous slits. However he's managing that.

"Yeah well, whenever that happens I just tell people it's the blood of some alien god I beat up or something," he wisely advises, his figure no less tense — just subtly so. In a way that doesn't deter him from eating his hotdog. Slowly. Very… slow…ly.

"They usually fall for it. Or shoot me. Or both. Either way, I'm in the clear." Right. Bite. Munch. Munch. Munch. Squint.

"Hey, you're that dude, right? That dude with the Batdude?" Eloquent. "The, uh… what's it… some kinda bird or something, which, like — why's a bird fighting crime with a bat? Can you explain that to me? Is there some kinda like precedence for that in the animal kingdom? 'And here is the renowned bird-and-bat symbiosis, one using its bright colors to distract curious predators while the other… does… sonar stuff, I'm not really a bat guy.'"

A second passes. He clears his throat. "Or something. Hi. Who are you?"

Spider-Man, being a Spider-Man, talks a /lot/.

Red Robin doesn't interrupt him.

It's honestly kind of impressive… There was a time, he remembers, when he was similar, back when he first started as Robin. It had been nerves, really, not wanting to give away any hint that he was afraid - even to himself. But as time passed and he'd gotten more used to the work, he became quieter. Embraced Batman's use of silence to his advantage. He's known other people who were pretty chatty in costume, too, but Spider-Man is… Something else.

"You can call me Red Robin," the caped figure supplies for an answer. "But you're right, I was at the gala at the same time you were." He doesn't even bother acknowledging the rest of it, it's probably a faux pas to get too deeply into the inconsistencies in another hero's chosen theme. "That's actually what I was hoping to talk to you about, Spider-Man… I'm going to get to the bottom of what's going on, but I'm not going to be able to do it myself. I need your help."

Batman wouldn't approve, probably.

But then Batman did plenty of things Red Robin didn't approve of, either.

"There's a young woman at the center of all of this, she's in danger," he continues. He's pretty sure a lot more than just Zatanna are in danger, but the threat to her seemed to be the lynchpin of what was going on. "At the gala… Did you notice anything? It was pretty chaotic," he says, wielding the ancient art of Bat-understatement. "But anything you saw or heard might be a useful clue in figuring out what to do next."

Finishing off his hotdog, Spider-Man, being environmentally conscientious, crumples up the wraper and carefully tucks it in one of the tragically tiny combartments of his tragically tiny utility belt. To be thrown away later. Or, he'll probably forget about it and feel like a goon.

The point of all this is, it's a minor miracle that Spider-Man has managed to tug down his mask to cover up his mouth by the time the other hero says,

'You can call me Red Robin.'

Mask a featureless expanse of red spandex, Spider-Man stares at Red Robin in abject, awkward silence. And stares. And stares.

"… I want you to appreciate how much effort it took for me to not make the painfully obvious jokes just now."

Really. It was a herculean effort.

This, of course, doesn't mean he hasn't been listening. Of course he has. Sometimes he just can't help himself. Most times. It's most times. But he has been paying attention. He also remembers that gala, pretty clearly, and Batman's rather cold eviction notice he put down after they all risked their lives. It sours Spider-Man's disposition a bit, but he does his best to ignore it - because the former Boy Wonder is saying something relevant to one of the host of issues plaguing him recently. "Young woman? You mean…" That gala. And the people there… he can probably only really mean one person, right? So, Spider-Man ignores it.

"So, first of all, thanks for barging in here so I don't get kicked off a building daring to step foot on sacred Gotham soil, I appreciate it," kinda. He kinda ignores it. "Second, all I noticed was all those crazy monsters trying to eat me alive. And the weird urn. And the goofy helmet. And the monsters trying to eat me alive. And the Nazi guy having a freakout over someone shouting some crazy name at him. Also, the monsters trying to eat me alive. Did I mention that? It was happening a lot before I got thrown out of Riverdale like I was DJ Jazzy Jeff." He's mixing his references together. He realizes that. He's just kind of distracted.

Eventually, Spider-Man heaves a sigh and lifts a hand to his temples, rubbing gingerly as he hops back onto the roof proper. "Sorry. It's been a long week. Like, do you know how much demon egg gunk smells— nope. Nevermind. Just. -Super- stressful." He can't stress that enough. "Maybe it'd be easier if you told me what you know? So, like — I know if I'm not just wasting your time, or whatever." There. He's trying to help!! But it's also tricky. Having to navigate what he ought to tell other people, and who he can trust to tell the things he ought not tell other people, and people he can trust to never tell anything ever because they're some sort of magical immortal Nazi.

It's tricky.

The mouth visible below Red Robin's cowl compresses into a faint line, though that's all the response Spider-Man's heroic effort to not crack a joke at the expense of the other hero's code name manages to get out of him. He didn't come all the way to NYC to get into arguments about whether or not it's a ridiculous name - most of them are - or to have to point out that he'd never heard of the restaurant before he chose it.

He can imagine that Batman's stern warning to the other costumed sorts who'd helped save the day during the gala wasn't going to help his efforts any, though he'd already planned around exactly that: Being a known associate of the Batman had its consequences, and those often included dealing with the fallout of the Dark Knight's particular idiosyncracies.

Thus, his approach of asking for help, rather than demanding information. Besides, he meant what he said: He wasn't going to be able to do this by himself.

"Hanussen," Red Robin says, pronouncing the name carefully. "That was the name they used for him. Some kind of… Immortal Nazi sorceror, in league with a demon calling itself Mammon."

He pauses.

"And yes, I know how insane that sounds."

He didn't believe it himself, at first, but dismissing things because he didn't want them to be true, or because they didn't fit into his preexisting worldview wasn't going to help anything. He knew there were forces out there that people would call demons and devils, though that didn't mean he was simply accepting them at face value, either.

"He attacked the gala because he was after one of the items on display, a book, though I don't have any other details about it. He also seems to be connected to some other incidents, centering around a young woman named Zatanna Zatara, who was also at the gala. She was abducted several weeks ago by a serial killer operating in Gotham, a Michael Kazinsky, who displayed some unusual abilities and a fixation on the occult. Kazinsky later died in custody under mysterious circumstances, in that he exploded. A 'pipe bomb' according to the authorities, which is exactly what you expect someone locked up in a cell to be making. Miss Zatara was attacked again a few weeks later on the Gotham University campus, though neither she or the young man she was with provided any useful details."

The cowled head tilts lightly to one side, as Red Robin watches Spider-Man. The mask is quite effective in hiding subtle responses from the webslinger to what he's being told, but that doesn't mean Red Robin isn't looking for body language cues anyway.

"Currently, that's all I know."

Yes, he knows how insane that sounds.

"So… biblical demons, immortal Nazi magicians," it sounds sillier and less intimidating that way, "and floating crazy helmets with urns that spew shadow monsters. Yeah. This sounds perfectly insane to me." Or at least, it should be, really. But then, Spider-Man got his powers from a radioactive spider-bite, so who is he to talk? Besides…

"… buuuuuuut," says Spider-Man, slowly, "after the time I've had, I'm not a hard sell on much of anything anymore."

Really. It's been weird. And most of it is because of this exact situation they both find themselves in.

Antsy, or maybe just someone with too much energy, that might be the best way to describe Spider-Man right now. Possibly always. He is constantly in motion, even as they speak, pacing around in what could be a nervous gesture, or a thoughtful one — harder to tell, thanks to that mask. What is easier to tell is there is very little time in which he's not doing something to busy his hands or feet; as Tim discusses the information he knows, Spider-Man makes his way to the HVAC ducts jutting from the roof, flipping up onto the surface of one to settle in to an easy crouch, head tilting to the right. "Pipe bomb. Right. I remember when they added the pipe bomb building workshops to the prisons here. I thought it might be a bad idea, but hey, they probably know best, right? Keeps 'em learning, keeps 'em busy, and when they get out, they're rehabilitated with new trade skills!"

Okay. He's done. And listening. Really. The talking, mostly, is to keep himself occupied as he mulls over the information that Red Robin provides, fingertips tapping errant, erratic little beats into the surface of those ducks as his brows furrow behind the mask. That's a lot more than he knew, really, even with the information that Zatanna had provided him. After all, before she could catch him up on anything more…

A second passes. Those white lenses turn back on Red Robin for a thoughtful, quiet moment. There's something that this person doesn't know, but can he really trust him? Or, if he tells him, is he and the rest of those crazy Batfamily people going to just swoop in and strong-arm him out of this in some sort of territorial squabble? He doesn't have time for that. Zatanna definitely doesn't. And the /headache/—

He's actually rather still in those moments when his thoughts get away from him before he asks, rather pointedly even if conversationally, "And how do you know Zatanna?" Maybe it gives something away that he doesn't use her full name. He's not really considering that, at the moment. "You're coming all the way over here on like, a super off-chance I maybe saw or knew something — is she a friend, or something? Does she trust you?" No answers, yet.

But he needs to know if this person is trustworthy. Because it's not really -his- information he's giving away, is it?

Given that he was present for the strange happenings at the Gotham Antiquities Commission gala, it seemed like a safe bet that Spider-Man wouldn't simply write off the strange explanations Red Robin had to provide for things. They had both seen the people driven mad by the mystical helmet, they'd seen the arcane monstrosities set loose by the urn… And in the middle of it, a man who refused to be killed by normal means, despite some very concerted efforts. A man who could control all of those things, who could make portals to other worlds, who seemed to regard the people who'd tried to stop him as little more than an annoyance.

There are details, of course, that Red Robin leaves out. He leaves out how the serial killer Kazinsky had called out to his patron, who had lent him unnatural strength and speed, and who had known the masked vigilante's real name. This Mammon, perhaps, given the way he'd spoken and his apparent identity as the 'Demon Prince of Excess'.

Too many questions, there. Too much danger.

But Spidey has a fair question of his own.

It wasn't as though Red Robin could blame him for continued suspicion, given that they're two people in masks, keeping their identities quite strenuously secret, and the last time they'd seen each other Batman had been kicking everyone who wasn't personally trained by him out of Gotham City. He could be trying to take over the investigation completely himself. He could be trying to foil it, even. It wasn't as though Red Robin were some well-known hero with a reputation for being forthright: Even for masked vigilantes in the shadows of Gotham, he was a relative cipher.

It was intentional, but it still presented its problems.

"I was the one who rescued her from Kazinsky. He'd already killed twelve women without the police really noticing, it was pure luck I'd discovered him in time, and it was only after the gala that I discovered that case was connected to something larger. Twelve girls around the same age, college girls, eighteen or nineteen. Drugged, disappeared, and killed in a brutal, ritualistic fashion, presumably for this 'Mammon'. The thirteenth, Miss Zatara, is still in danger. I'm going to put a stop to this, Spider-Man. I'm going to make sure that Miss Zatara is safe, that anyone and anything responsible for what happened to those twelve young women comes to regret it. That there are no further victims. I'll do it alone, if I have to, but I'd rather not."

He knows he can't. Magic and demons are out of his pay grade. He is decisively in over his head with all of this. But he won't stop.

That's one of the most important things he learned from Batman. A terrible, frightening determination.

"If you know something, I'd appreciate if you shared it. If you don't, that's fine. Either way, I'd rather we worked together on this. I'm not Batman," he points out. Which is pretty obvious, but it's a useful rhetorical point anyway. "I don't always work alone."

There's always a complication. The fact that Red Robin didn't decide that Spider-Man was up to some sort of insidious terrorist plot at that gala in Gotham and came here to track him down and beat him up is no small relief to the webbed vigilante. Because -that- would get awkward real fast. And then at best, he gets a new headline about him beating up the mascot of a much-beloved American fast food chain. Like he needed more reasons for people to hate him.

Also, he'd probably get launched into outerspace by Batman. -Some-how.

And that's best case. As it stands, he's willing to give the becaped young Gothamite the benefit of the doubt, but that only goes so far, too. So, the spider-vigilante waits out an answer, arms drawing up to rest his forearms on his knees as he just kind of… sticks to the HVAC by the tips of his toes. It's a weird thing, but subtle enough, and looks as natural as breathing to the webbed young man as he listens to the explanation.

More information that he hadn't known. And really, just makes things even creepier, and all the more pressing for Zatanna. "Huh," is the first thing he says, uttered after a whistle of an exhale. "Well." His lips purse behind the mask.

"… Crap." Really, like. NONE of that sounded even remotely good.

But it all seems to check out to the spider - or at least, he doesn't really seem to press any further. Instead, he flops backwards onto that tubing, staring up at the sky as he just - thinks. This could still end up being a pain in the ass. But…

"Batman doesn't work alone either," he decides to declare. "He's just got that weird… Manson family cult thing going on." … "Uhhhhhh. No offense. I mean — you seem like a good guy, right? And you all seem like you do great work! I'm not like — dissing or anything. Respect." Really, he thought they were super cool until the gala! And Red Robin, at least, is being relatively reasonable so far. So—

"I've got… kind of… a lead?" he ventures, and quickly appends, "I'm not, like, being dodgy or anything. It's just weird. You know — like all of this stuff. It's kinda like, uh — I saw a house. In my brain?" He taps the ol' spider-noggin. "I kinda made like… a connection with the guy who lives there. Not like a Love Connection. It's complicated. Don't worry about it. It's related to the super-Nazi. Or one of the people who's all buddy buddy with him. Or something. It's somewhere here in the city, but I don't know where. I'm planning on looking into it." He's been dreaming, lately. Of that house.

And that's even -creepier- to him. All of this. Creepy. He hates Nazis.

Eventually, though, Spider-Man hops off the HVAC and onto his feet, making his way towards the Red Robin. "I tell you what," he begins easily, white vapor pouring from his mask in the winter winds. "I'll look into this, super sleuth it, and if I find anything, I'll let you know. Okay? And you find anything, you let me know. We'll pow-wow. Story swap. Buddy cops. You can be the Bruce Willis to my Tracy Morgan. No. That was a terrible movie. Forget I said that."

Long rambling aside, he offers up one spandex-clad hand to the former Boy Wonder. In offering.

"Sound good?"

"Even when there's other people around him, he's still working alone," Red Robin says, which is probably some kind of a zen thing. Still, it's always interesting to see the 'Bat-family' the way outsiders do; it's a fairly insular group, and many of them don't ever work outside of Gotham itself, where their crime-fighting has a particular focus and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of insane criminals with colourful themes to deal with, so it's not as though they get that outside perspective often.

Especially not since Batman left the Justice League, and took a tiny murderer for his new Robin.

The lead that Spider-Man explains to him is exactly as completely insane as everything else about this case, possibly even moreso. But after everything else, can he really dismiss the existence of visions, or their potential usefuless when they've got no other leads? Under the circumstances, a certain open-mindedness is perhaps the only chance they have to stop whatever Hanussen and Mammon are up to.

"Sounds good," Red Robin says with a faint nod, and with only a brief hesitation does he take the offered hand for a shake, his cape pushing back to reveal the red costume underneath as his more thickly-gloved hand reaches out. The shake is firm, but brief. A businessman's handshake, almost, but there's a certain relaxing of tension once it's done… Red Robin's manner changing slightly, his worries about how this encounter might go assuaged enough that he becomes less brusque, less severe. "Maybe the Simon Pegg to your Nick Frost, though," he suggests offhandedly. "I have some other things to check out myself, which might involve breaking into SHIELD, but it beats having a boring week anyway. Here."

His other hand moves out from under his cape, and he tosses something towards Spider-Man, seemingly already well aware that he'd be able to catch it - or maybe just hoping. It's a phone, locked to only call one number.

"If you need to reach me, use that. If I need to reach you, I'll call that phone. You wouldn't believe how many rooftops I had to check before I found you, that'll make things much easier."

"That's kinda deep," Spider-Man notes in a slow, careful tone. "… or sorta weird. Or both. Not really all that sure. Maybe he thinks you guys are invisible? Is that what's going on? Maybe he's just been blind this whole time." A blind superhero. Hah! Ridiculous.

Still, his stream of consciousness musings come to a… gradual… end. Such as these things can come to an end with everyone's Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, anyway. There's something of a weight off the young man's shoulders as Red Robin takes his hand for that brusque shake; he was fairly certain this was going to go south quickly and end up in a yelling contest, and even though he -always- wins yelling contests because he's just -that- obnoxious, it wouldn't have been productive and, at this point, Spider-Man's in dire need of more allies than he is people to butt heads with. Because he has that in a plethora.

"What? Nick Frost??" he wonders, looking up and tapping his chin with his free hand. "… yeah, I think I'm adorable enough to be Nick Frost. But the second I hear something about crusty jugglers, I'm out. Just. Not dealing with that." A hand waves through the air errantly, as if to dismiss the entire idea, before Red Robin says that next bit. He blinks behind the mask, as the lenses of said mask slowly… squint.

"Breaking into SHIELD," he repeats. And then, just to be clear, "Breaking. In. To. S-H-I-E-L-D." He does, in fact, spell it out. "You know they have, like, giant helicopter things and stuff, right? And I hear some of their people wear eyepatches. -Eyepatches-. The thing -badasses- wear to let you know they're -badass- or just -really, really bad- at protecting their eye from debris!" A second passes.

"Well okay yeah that sounds like fun actually, have a good time."

"… plus, probably have really crappy depth perception too… man, the more I think about it, the more eyepatches sound like something an idiot wears…"

He's in the middle of musing this when that phone flies his way. Spider-Man snatches it from the winter sky without so much as looking, apparently just -that- invested in the mystery of how eyepatches became a symbol of coolness. When he realizes what he's holding, though, he blinks and looks down. A phone. Just like Zatanna gave him to contact Constantine. His head tilts for a curious moment. He makes a realization.

… He is starting to get way too many phones.

"See, I was just gonna suggest we meet back at this rooftop again like some sort of shadowy super-cabal that's also really poor, but no, this totally works too, this is fine," Spider-Man decides. He'd pocket the phone but he sort of… can't… for now, so instead he just kind of awkwardly lets his hand rest at his side before snapping off a little salute to Red Robin with the other.

"I'll tell you if I find anything. Y'know. If I don't die. Fingers crossed!"

He even helpfully crosses his fingers, just to demonstrate.

"… Like, how many rooftops are we talking here? Ten? Twenty? Did you have a strategy? Like, did you triangulate my most frequently-visited rooftops? Kinda ruins the mystique of your whole Bat mythos when you say stuff like that, y'know, not that I wanna backseat Bat or anything—"

Breaking into SHIELD is probably not the best idea Red Robin has ever had in his life, but getting into places he's not supposed to be is a key part of his skillset - indeed, it's part of how he got the job of being Robin in the first place - and he figures they aren't likely to answer a request for an appointment from a guy who refuses to take off his cowl and provides no fixed address. His plan is to be in and out before they really notice he's there anyway; he just has a few questions to ask one of their most prominent members.

Well, really just one question, but he's expecting it to turn out a bit more involved than that.

"You'll be fine," Red Robin assures the webslinger. "I'm sure checking out this mystery house can't be any tougher than robbing a train. Just remember that any ghosts are probably just some guy running a real estate scam."

Pop culture references are probably not helping the Bat mystique either, but it's refreshing to have a conversation between heroes that isn't all grimness and maybe throwing one's weight around. He's certainly not looking forward to his next conversation with Batman, given everything that's happened lately.

Honestly, breaking into SHIELD will be a cinch in comparison.

"I ended up just following the gunshots and the shouting," Red Robin explains as to how he ultimately found Spider-Man, providing no concrete answers to just what his original plan was, or how many rooftops he searched. "Figured wherever there was mayhem, you wouldn't be too far away. But I should let you get back to it… There's probably somebody out there who needs your help." He certainly knows the feeling - that urgency that comes with night patrol, often leading to unfinished homework and oversleeping the next day.

Which is, of course, why he waited for the weekend to come out to New York.

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