Emergency Care

January 29, 2017:

Takes place before Bona Fide. A worried Zatanna Zatara tracks down Tim Drake in his newly acquired New York City penthouse to check on his condition after the harrowing events in Moksha.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: John Constantine, Jessica Jones, Matthew Murdock, Spider-Man

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The cold light of a January morning stretches over New York City, a city that has no idea how close it came to a strange sort of destruction the night before: Unlike the 'perfect' version envisioned Golubev, it has its litter, its graffiti, its homeless. All those signs of human carelessness, human selfishness, of petty human cruelties that they prevented from being snuffed out. Surely, though, that was the right choice. Surely.

But the light doesn't penetrate the penthouse. The luxurious windows that stretch from floor to ceiling of the two-floor loft are covered with automated curtains to shut out the rest of the world, for now. The gas fireplace that sits to one side of the sunken living room pops and crackles, its orange glow one of the few sources of illumination inside at the moment, the large flat-screen television set above it sitting dark.

Starting from the front door, there is a… Trail. Pieces of costume, of equipment. The black cowl of Red Robin cast aside, the light layer of padding over its built-in technologies visible. Memory material cape, cast over a chair's back; there are holes in the black material. Boots, belt, sections of armor. Blood.

An extremely well-stocked first aid kit sits open in the main floor bathroom, bloody bits of gauze and surgical instruments laying out to be dealt with later. Tweezers, sutures, a bloodied scalpel. The remains of bullets, sitting in a stainless steel tray, more blood.

He didn't make it upstairs.

Tim Drake lays on part of the extended couch that makes up the sunken living room, still wearing the clinging compression underlayer to his costume, sections of it cut away so he could get at his own injuries, gauze and bandages now taped over the spots he was hurt. His side, his leg. He's taken a broad-spectrum antibiotic, he's taken painkillers.

He stares at the ceiling, from his perspective. The underside of the partial floor above, where his much more comfortable bed is. He's still never actually slept in it.

On the coffee table, his phone sits, open to his message window. ZATANNA is listed at the top, their history of messages tracking back for months, now.

'WHERE ARE YOU' reads the most recent bubble from her side.

'home,' is the understated response. But surely there's no way he got himself back to Gotham in that condition, is there?

—-

She isn't fooled.

As Zatanna stares upwards at the upscale building that houses a variety of luxury residences in New York, she slowly palms her face, fingers slipping down her cheek.

Home, her perky, Italian ass!

Then again, it might technically be true. Given how much time he has been spending in New York these days, she wouldn't put it past Tim to purchase property just so he could have a private base of operations in the city. Some part of her privately wonders whether it's kitted already to house everything his crimefighting alter-ego needs, but this thought is fleeting, swiftly overridden by concern. Rescuing Jane Foster from HYDRA's ultimate destiny utopia machine had taken plenty of pieces out of everyone, she isn't so self-centered that she hadn't noticed everyone else's state once she has managed to tear a hole in the fabric of space and time and drag everyone else back to the beautiful, terrible lives they were living in this world.

Cheeks puff out against the cold, pale and flushed with the winter chill. Toting the egg crate with two hot cardboard cups of coffee in it, toting a bag of fresh baked goods, she slips through the revolving door leading to the plush lobby and moves towards the elevators that will eventually take her to wherever in the building Tim was staying. The brand she had carved into his left wrist enables her, at the very least, to track him if she looks hard enough - a simple act of using the obsidian obelisk that she has been taking with her at all times, a handy tool to store magic inside to prevent herself from using well over her limits. Not that she has any, but the idea of having to go over a specific threshold of control remains a terifying prospect to her, though she has yet to confide this to anyone.

The elevator takes her up; bootheels click down the fine marble halls and she can't help but look in awe at the minimalist-modern design of the building, ice-blue eyes sweeping over the decor and the expensive fixtures. Once she gets to the door in which she feels Tim's presence the strongest, she tucks the obelisk in her back pocket and rings the doorbell of the double doors leading within. Because of course there's a doorbell. There's a doorbell and a security lockpad and a viewing screen so the owner of the suite can see the face of whoever is bothering him before letting the interloper inside.

There is a stubborn look on her face that indicates that she is not leaving.

Whenever the doors open, she strides in, an agitated whirlwind of concerned frustration, clad in her signature blacks with her lengthy hair pulled in the messy knot that she favors, inky ribbons spilling down her back and over one shoulder.

"You are /unbelievable/!" she tells him in lieu of a greeting. "Bleeding all over the place and you just…just…./fuck off/? I know you can take care of yourself, Tim, but you could have said something before you left!"

There's a pause, and she sighs, lifting the bag and the crate.

"I brought you breakfast," she sniffs, before she spins on her heel, hair whipping outward and stalks further inside.

—-

It isn't really 'home' though, not in most traditional senses… But of course as a rich person, Tim Drake isn't at all unused to the idea of having multiple residences. Would he even call anyplace 'home' now? The house he grew up in is gone, and his relationship towards Wayne Manor is… Complicated. Maybe the townhouse in Gotham, but that's pretty new, still. And this place, well, he's never even slept in it yet, to say nothing of its general lack of personal touches.

It's very nice. Comfortable, luxurious but in a modern, minimalist kind of way. But is it home?

It's not the sort of building where it's unusual to see strikingly beautiful women, so of course Zatanna occasions no comment as she moves through the lobby or heads onto the elevator, though her determined manner wouldn't really countenance any challenges right now, anyway. When she gets up to the penthouse, and rings on the doorbell, though, it takes longer than it should to get a response.

The doors unlock with a quiet buzz, letting he magician stride in. Herself a force of nature, aggravated at her friend's behaviour, his choice to vanish before she could check on him, make sure that he was all right.

Because, of course, he wasn't all right.

She batters him with it, with her temper, without letting Tim get a word in edgewise or even attempt to offer some kind of defense, no matter how strong or feeble it might be. She slips in the fact that she brought him breakfast, an attempted knife to the emotional ribs after hammering at his defenses with her anger, and then of course she continues on past him and further into the penthouse as though she owned the place.

Tim shuts the door behind her, letting it lock itself again.

"I had to get out of there," he insists, quietly. He didn't want to. He wanted to see things through, but of course he was concerned that he would succumb to his injuries enough to pass out, which would create an enormous amount of danger. Especially if Carter had brought SHIELD in for the cleanup process. Zatanna would try to protect him, of course, but she had other concerns. More important things to worry about.

"It was the right call," Tim adds. He knows that he should've said something, he shouldn't have just disappeared without a word, but it was difficult to think of that, at the time. It was difficult to think of much of anything, which he supposes was part of the problem.

He rubs at his eyes with one hand; his own blood has dried to a rusty brown smear on his tanned skin, and he leans heavily against the wall beside the door Zatanna just came through.

—-

His quiet words and exhaustion, the fact that he is clearly injured, all conspire to make Zatanna demeanor soften. As frustrated as she is, she is not a monster, and after quietly regarding him as he leans heavily against the door, she sighs. Deft fingers pluck at the two coffees she's brought - plain black, though there is a plastic baggie full of little creamer cups and sweetener, should the two of them need it. These, she sets aside on the living room table. Digging into the bag, she plucks out a couple of breakfast sandwiches - bacon, egg and cheese for him, a bagel with smoked salmon and capers for her. These, too, she places on the table. Busy with her work, she says nothing else for a while, ice-blue eyes wandering over to the small silver tray with the obvious signs of his self-treatment.

"I can't really blame you for it, but you still should have said something," she tells him, moving up until she's standing toe-to-toe with him, stare sweeping over his matted dark hair and the way his shoulders hunch, invisible weight pulling down the normally proud line of them. A hand comes up, fingers cradling the side of his face so she could nudge it up and look at her directly.

"Well, I'm here, I might as well tend to those." She nods to the bandages, the red-brown splotches that have dried on the pristine lengths of sterile gauze wound over his body. "You got shot because of me, it's the least I can do." Her hand falls, fingers encircling his elbow as she gently guides him forward towards the living room. "Once I do that and once you've got food in you, I can leave if you like, but not before then. Okay?"

Her tone is gentle, but one that doesn't entertain any arguments. Whenever they reach the couch, she makes him sit and takes up the space next to him, examining his bandages critically with a furrowed brow and a slight frown tugging the corners of her mouth in a downward curve. They shouldn't be too bad, she assesses privately. It wouldn't take much, from what she has gathered. Slender fingers reach into her back pocket again to produce her glassy black implement, touching the point of it against his shoulder and bracing it there. Lashes fall, her lips part to whisper a few words.

Her magic is barely a ripple, subtle that leaves tingles at its wake, rippling over his battered body and seeking out injuries to repair. There's pain, of course, as expected for when muscles, bone and blood vessels regenerate and stitch back up together. The pain of healing this way is always commensurate with the degree of pain suffered upon receiving the injuries and it is gradual, but expert work. She has expended her power in worse straits - rendering whole a cracked rib and a few bullet wounds is nothing.

With that done, she puts it away and turns to what she has brought.

"How do you like your coffee?" she asks, because it is another piece of information about Tim that she hasn't had the opportunity to find out. She uncaps her own, to put in two packets of sweetener and a couple of small tubs of creamer.

She doesn't ask, not yet, but given how well he knows her, he can probably anticipate the question. But she concentrates first and foremost on his well-being, capping her coffee cup quietly once she's done fixing it the way she likes.

—-

Fortunately for Tim Drake, having obviously performed first aid on yourself can be an excellent way to stir up anger-dampening sympathy… And a much as Zatanna has a temper, it's in her nature to slip away from anger as quickly as she does into it.

'You still should have said something,' she tells him.

She's right, of course. That's not something Tim can gainsay… He should've thought things through a bit further, a bit more clearly. He should've let her, at least, know that he was leaving. She might've tried to stop him, or tried to heal him before he left, though, when her magical expertise was better used elsewhere. The urge to be self-reliant, to take care of his own hurts and issues conflicts with the need to connect and remain connected, with the knowledge that friends shouldn't just vanish like Batman would and leave friends to worry about them.

"Sorry," he whispers, as she stands so close, her hand lifting to cup his cheek, to turn his face towards hers. There's a smear of blood on his cheek, mostly dried, and his eyes are red. Not the red of sleeplessness, though that's probably a contributor. There's a treacherous puffiness around those dark blues, a refusal to open them all the way, his gaze trying to slip away from hers, that someone like Zatanna Zatara would recognise easily and immediately.

He's been crying, for god only knows how long, dampness still glistening in his eyes, threatening to spill over once again.

He lets himself be guided by her hand on his elbow, the way she tugs him over to the living room, to the sunken sofas.

"You don't need to," Tim insists, but of course if she decides to use her magic on him there's nothing he can do to stop her, any more than he could the last time she healed his wounds. "It's not like this is the first time I've been shot." Hell, it isn't even the first time he got shot /that weekend/.

A pained gasp escapes Tim as his body obeys Zatanna's commands, the tingling sensation of her magic passing over and through him followed by the pain of his ribs healing, of flesh knitting and closing far faster than it was ever meant to, erasing the signs of what had happened in that 'perfect' world, even healing away the flesh wound on his left arm, where he'd been rather hamfistedly stitched up by Jessica Jones, a woman who definitely does not have a bright future as a medic ahead of her.

When it's done, Tim slumps on the couch, his head resting against the back of it. He hears the question distantly, part of his mind already wondering what the deal was with the obelisk, the rest consumed with other things. But she asked him something, he should answer her. He tries to think, focus on the now, not the before.

"Just black is fine, thank you," he manages, eventually.

—-

She doesn't say anything to his apology, but by the way she's tending to him, it seems to be forgiveness enough. Zatanna carefully hands him his coffee before she rises from the couch again. She moves to vanish somewhere in the kitchen area of the open-concept space, re-emerging with a damp, warm paper towel. She finds the space next to him again, stretching out her hand, to rub the corner of it against his cheek to get rid of the blood. Her expression speaks of nothing but gentleness and the resolute determination to see to him, regardless of whatever protests she is expecting, ridding his cheek of the traces of his torment. The fact that his eyes are bloodshot, indications of grief spent in solace and silence, does not escape her, but she once again does not address it. Not yet, as she isn't done ensuring that her friend has reclaimed some degree of comfort.

When she is done, she sets the folded, bloodied square on the table and takes a sip of her coffee. She doesn't force him to touch his food, that can come later and by looking at him, she thinks that he probably doesn't have much of an appetite - the exact opposite of her own inclinations, as her grief-eating tendencies tend to be somewhat infamous in her own circles. Chas, especially, is well familiar with this, given that he had resigned himself as her personal chef in those painful days in John's flat after the night he had walked out on her. She doesn't even want to remember how much of his famous vegetable curry that she packed away. As stated before, she and Tim are completely different people, direct opposites in many ways.

Reaching out, coffee-warmed fingers lace through his, her body turning sideways on the couch so her knees angle towards him, so she could look at him fully while he remains draped against the back of his sunken couch, a picture of mourning, exhausted flesh, no matter how aesthetically pleasing the frame is. The loose curl of her hand on his rests in between them, his expression softening her own. Now would certainly not be the time to tell him that he looks like hell, though she ventures silently that he probably already knows this.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she asks quietly.

It is an offer.

"Come on," she encourages gently. "Let me in. I'm not even going to pretend that last night wasn't rough on everyone and you were looking out for me the entire time we were in there. It's my turn now, Tim."

—-

'Let me in.'

"I had to remember," Tim says, slowly, laboriously pushing himself up to a more properly seated position, his bare feet drawing along the carpet to give himself some more leverage. He reaches for the coffee and, in fact, he's /starvingly/ hungry after Zatanna's magic forced his body to heal itself. Not that he'll admit to it just yet, of course. He's kind of a stubborn ass.

"That place… When it was trying to take our memories away from us, to replace them with something else. I had to make myself remember, no matter what." If he hadn't, what would've happened? If he'd just let that other version of Timothy Jackson Drake slip into place, he would never have been able to keep them swinging, keep them in the air. Would Zatanna have been able to save herself? Or would they have both died? He can't shake that image either, of those big, pale blue eyes staring at nothing, blood pooling thickly around her broken body as he broke a promise he wouldn't have even remembered.

It hurts as much as the rest, in its way.

"Not just… What had happened. How it felt. I had to feel it again. To know it was real. I don't…" His brow furrows, and he takes a drink of the coffee, letting the bitterness settle in; perhaps not unexpectedly, given his extracurricular activities and lifestyle, he prefers his coffee bitter, and strong enough to beat up a street gang on its own. "I don't forget things," Tim explains. "I mean… I can. But I don't. Everything I see, and hear, and feel, it's all here." He indicates his head, with one hand. "I had to bring it back out. The things that place tried to tell me never happened."

In his mind, he's walking through familiar hallways. The Drake estate, now gone… Or at least, that's the basis of the place inside his head. There's a vastness to it that the real home never had, more hallways, more rooms. Memories, perceptions in all of them, organised carefully. Two rooms in particular, rooms that he treats very carefully, are left wide open now. He's spent the past several hours struggling to close them again.

Pictures everywhere inside of them. Memories of his father, of his mother. Happy, sad, angry. He refuses to let his memories of them be dominated entirely by their final tragedies, but still…

"I had to," he tells Zatanna, with his physical mouth, but in his mind he's staring into a room filled with photographs of his mother, and in the middle is a casket. "It tried to tell me they were still alive, that I never became Robin. That Bruce was some friend of my father's that I barely knew. That they weren't gone all the time, that everything was good…" That Dick Grayson was never anything more than his hero for the weird period in which he'd been fascinated by the Flying Graysons. That he'd never met Stephanie, or Conner, or Bart, or Cassie. Or Zatanna.

"I had to go back to those days and feel it again. So I'd know. So I wouldn't forget no matter how much I wanted to. My mom… They let me see her once, before the funeral. Dad was still in a coma, so he couldn't go… Bruce was there with me instead. She looked like she was asleep. It was poison that did her in, no cuts, no bruises. She just looked asleep."

"But no matter how hard I tried she wouldn't wake up."

—-

She listens through it. Zatanna doesn't interrupt him, though her eyes do not stray away from how he moves, when his tired body stoops over so he could take his coffee and sit up a little straighter. Even now his pride accept anything less. She keeps her loose grip in his hand, squeezing once, punctuating words that seem to require more effort and while she can't read minds, the cast of his own stare is far away and distant, the look of a young man remembering and flagellating himself with the barbs of the past. She can't help but shake the feeling that even as he addresses her, acknowledges her presence, lets her in as she encourages him to, that he was flaying himself alive with these remembrances while she sits next to him. And she knows now that it isn't willing punishment, because it isn't - to him, this is the only way avenue he could take in order for his memories not to be overwritten, to use his prodigious snare of a brain towards the brutal, savage purpose of reopening those dormant wounds and make himself bleed so he could see the illusion for what it is.

Another difference, between the two of them, because he wasn't wrong, what he had said to her the last time they had a significant conversation. That she was stronger when emotions are at play, and that he operates best when he is encapsulated by detachment and cold logic. It finds irrefutable evidence here, when he chooses to do what he does, and she…

…clung to something that made her happy. Something that she knew was missing in that world. Something that she would give anything to get back, its sheer importance heavily outweighing the dreamy, but nevertheless engineered banquet of joy before her, tipping the scales of her choice until it was no choice at all. Her openness, her honesty, that double-edged blade of boundless love and accessibility, allow her to live most of her life free of regret, not when she embraces both the agony and ecstasy of her own existence with the acceptance of a young woman who knows that life is short, and one with the determination to make the most of it.

In that moment, perilously swinging on a single tether, she had chosen to soar, while Tim had chosen the weight. Both were equally effective in pulling them out of the threatened re-writing of their memories but the cost of her friend's method had been much higher.

Her hand slips away from his, to curl around his shoulders instead, drawing him closer and letting her chin rest on the closest, muscled curve to her. Her eyes slip shut, though she doesn't say she is sorry. What Tim has suffered in his past was not her fault, and were she to be frank, neither was it his.

"The next time something like this happens, try and not think about what you lost," she says after a long pause.

"It worked, you saved us from falling," she continues. "But it's like cutting a vein open and letting yourself bleed, using the pain to see past the mirage. That will always cost you, Tim, in the moments when you really, really need to be strong. And with the way you and I are going these days, the people we have to fight against will only keep using that. Next time I think…you should try clinging to the things that remind you of your capacity to love, and live."

—-

Tim doesn't scourge himself like this because he wants to.

But he is who he is, after all, and he was trained by who he was trained by. It's in his nature to hurt himself emotionally, because he feels he needs to… To try and castigate himself out of having feelings for someone he shouldn't have feelings for. To make himself remember what's real, holding a hot coal in his hand until it burns, letting the burn sear away the artificial, constructed happiness someone else tried to force upon him. The latter, at least, worked.

But the former did not, as he's reminded as Zatanna's hand slips from his and moves to his shoulders, pulling him close. He leaves the coffee cup on the table, and allows himself to be pulled in, closing his eyes and sinking against her. He knows he shouldn't. He should try to maintain some aloofness, some boundary: Zatanna's open-heartedness, her accessibility, her boundless care all ensnares him further, his heart - still raw and aching from what he put himself through because he saw himself as having no other choice - giving a lurch in his chest. His hand moves, grasps blindly but unerringly for her other arm, and he clings to the magician, something solid, something real, something /now/.

To keep his memories, to prevent himself from being overwritten with the Tim Drake someone else wanted him to be, he opened those doors inside of his mind, and let the pain out. Part of him is back there, in those moments… A boy of fourteen, staring at his dead mother, sobbing as he begs her to wake up. An older teen, in a blood-soaked room that reeks of death, three corpses strewn about by violence, unable to speak for the tears. The memories are vivid, real, immediate, the fruit of his natural talents and the relentless training of the Batman, to perceive more, to remember everything. Stored away in the loci inside his own head, as fresh as the moment he experienced them.

And he paid the price, letting those ghosts haunt him for hours, never getting easier to deal with, never dimming the way memory should.

"I really hope we don't ever have to do that again," Tim says quite honestly as he tries to not cry against her, only partially succeeding, hot damp tears leaking from the corners of his eyes and against Zatanna's dark clothes. She's the one who brought up a 'next time' after all.

—-

He turns and turtles into her. When he reaches for her other arm, Zatanna picks up the slack, curling both arms around him and holding him there as his own wind around her. She draws him in, because how could she not? Timothy Jackson Drake had been her closest friend ever since returning to Gotham, whose crimefighting alter-ego is one that she has discovered recently. She has yet to process that fully, herself, that he has spent both halves of his life ensuring her safety while she remained oblivious and these instances only remind her that after everything he has done, there is absolutely no way she can deny him now when he needs the comfort she freely provides. Her heart lurches in her chest, detecting the taste of his tears in the air, the urge to cry quelled, because of the same pride that has left him to suffer here on his own.

Her eyes burn, though she doesn't shed any tears of sympathy herself. She lets him cling and she winds her limbs tighter around him to hold him fast, sinking sideways into the back of the couch and letting her fingers stroke back his hair, attempting to soak up the sorrow imprinted on his own body into her clothes. She says little else, the resulting silence punctuated by the dull thrum of electronics in the background, of electricity running through the spacious penthouse. The black-out curtains that prevent all but a shaft of light spilling from where they split make the beautiful modern space feel like a tomb and she can't help but wonder whether that was deliberate, too, with the way Tim tends to bury himself under everything in hopes that he could spare anyone else. He has always been selfless, in that way.

She turns her face to bury it in his hair. Sweat and blood, the spent traces of magic that is almost indelible from what they've been through together. Cordite and gunpowder, the leather and kevlar from his cowl, antiseptic from his bandages. He smells like a battlefield.

She doesn't tell him it's alright, because it clearly isn't. She doesn't tell him that things will get easier, because she knows that isn't true. She doesn't tell him that tomorrow will be better, because that is beyond her power to guarantee without breaking a few fundamental cosmic rules.

"Me too," she says instead, because in that, she can be honest, the desire never to have to suffer through something like this again. Hot moisture leaking through her shirt has her tightening her hold on him further. "Even if it does, though, we'll get through it, so long as we let ourselves be there for each other. I promise."

She lets the words hang, she doesn't relinquish her grip. She lets him stay where he is for as long as she needs to, because she was never the sort to turn anyone away.

—-

Tim smelling like a battlefield is of course quite apt, as he is a soldier.

A child who joined willingly, but still a child who was trained to fight in someone else's war. It's his war now, too, a war in which it turns out he excels… He might not be as brilliant of a fighter as Nightwing or the Bat himself, but his mind makes him terribly dangerous in his own ways. A soldier who made a choice, on the street of that 'perfect' world, to give up his life for the sake of the woman he's now clinging to.

He knew it was likely, that it was almost certain. If Zatanna had taken even a few seconds longer than she did to get them out of there, Tim Drake would've been a bloody corpse laying on the floor. That he survived at all was pure luck.

He could provide all sorts of explanations for why it made tactical sense: Zatanna was the only hope any of them had of getting out of there, if the drones had killed her then the others would've been trapped in Lernaea, to be gunned down themselves or lost forever, or perhaps simply destroyed if that reality collapsed after what had happened. It was the right call, the only call.

But that wasn't why he did it.

She holds him tight, and he clings to her, and it gives him tremendous comfort and terrible hurt all at the same time. It anchors him, in something physical, something that isn't just a memory, giving him psychological leverage as he makes another push to close those doors in his memory, the doors he's been trying and failing to shut since they returned to the real world.

Focus on the living, hold on tight. Put those memories away for now, away where they can't hurt you, away where it doesn't feel as though they just happened, are currently happening. Focus on her. On her voice, on her warmth, on the scent of her.

He tore himself apart with those memories to keep his sense of reality intact in Lernaea; now, to save himself from those memories, he dooms himself in a different way, clinging tighter to what he can never have.

There's a shift, a change; a relaxation in his muscled shoulders, easily felt through the clinging material of his suit's torn pressure layer.

"Yeah," he agrees, quietly. "We will."

—-

"Good."

As tension unwinds from his shoulders, Zatanna slowly extricates her arms away from him, moving so she could cup his face on both sides and use her thumbs to brush away the telltale tracks from his cheeks. A smile, meant to be reassuring, meant to be encouraging, tilts an upward curve on her mouth. "Come on, you should eat what I brought for you, I got you three sandwiches since your Olympian-grade body would probably try to eat itself if I got you only one, and your coffee is getting cold. So why don't we eat, and you can take a shower, and I can make sure you get some rest? When do you intend to go back to Gotham?"

She shifts, to straighten up on the couch, to reach for her near-forgotten sandwich, having not realized just how famished she is from the night prior, when she had simply been too exhausted to eat anything before she went to bed, her textbook taking up Constantine's bedside table before she sunk in a restless sleep, too worried, really, about her people not to toss and turn. She takes a bite out of the sandwich, chewing on it, and silently thanking whoever it is that managed to invent vegetarian-friendly cream cheese to go with her salmon and capers. She does watch Tim from the corner of her eye, however, to make sure that he does eat.

And is reminded of another face. There's a glance down at her sandwich.

"Spidey took it hard last night also," she tells him quietly. "You weren't there when it happened, you had left but…when Golubev showed back up, he was expecting Bucky to kill him and end it. He….got in the middle. He'd seen too much already, and he implored for Bucky not to shoot him. He didn't, but…"

She falls silent. Tim can probably deduce, judging by her expression, what had happened next. Avram Golubev was an old man, and he was dying. There was no way an experienced operator such as himself would not have a sidearm, nor would he hesitate to use it….towards others, or towards himself.

"I can't go back yet. Go home," she tells him. "I need to…I need to see how he's doing. I'm worried about him also, Tim. I know…it's not as if he doesn't know the costs. He put in everything he had to stop this from spreading over his home turf, and despite the things that comes out of his mouth, he's a very smart guy. I just…I've never seen him that way before. He just looked so defeated once Golubev blew his own brains out."

—-

In truth, Tim kind of wants to stay there like that… But he knows it isn't going to happen.

Soft, elegant hands cup his cheeks, tilting his face up towards hers, and Zatanna smiles at him. Encouraging, reassuring. His dark blue eyes, still red and puffy, watch her face for a few long moments as she wipes at those damp tracks on his face, before he lets out a rueful breath, and his own mouth pulls into a faint smile. Of course, she's going to bully him into getting some sleep, but there are worse things in the world than having someone looking out for your wellbeing, especially when you yourself are often kind of bad at doing so.

"I'm not— " He starts to say he isn't hungry, out of pure reflex, that desire to deny that there's anything wrong with him so that he can just deal with it himself later, but his stomach has other ideas, letting out a treacherous growl.

Tim sighs faintly, at least willing to acknowledge when he's beaten, and sits up himself, reaching for one of the sandwiches that Zatanna brought for him. The fridge here probably isn't all that well stocked anyway, considering that he's hardly here what could be called regularly.

At least Zatanna hadn't realised the true reason he'd bought this place.

"Dunno," Tim admits, on the subject of returning to Gotham. "I was going to head back today, but…" Maybe not. Even with Zatanna's magical healing, even though he's been able to close those doors in the loci inside his head, the memoriae regis he's constructed, he feels… Wiped out. Not simply physical exhaustion, but emotional, psychological.

What she tells him about Spider-Man, and what happened in the base after he left, makes Tim's brows furrow again. Spider-Man was like him; not a killer, someone who tried to prevent deaths wherever possible. Tim, at least, had taken more of a philosophical view about his inability to stop the Winter Soldier from killing the man who'd been torturing Foster, but he was still disquieted by it, just as with the cultists in the Cold Flame stronghold. What the magician says - and what she doesn't say - tells him an awful lot about what happened next.

And one other thing.

"You know him, don't you?" Tim says, reaching for a second sandwich; the first is gone. "You know who's under the webbed mask. You've just got everybody revealing their secret identities to you, don't you?" he directs sidelong at Zatanna, a teasing note creeping into his tone, and a wry smile on his face. "And here I thought I was special."

But…

Tim sighs a little bit, considering things more seriously. He knows that Spider-Man is young, someone around his age judging by his voice, stature and general demeanor. Not someone who's become inured in any way to death. Someone who believes that his abilities mean that he should be able to stop whatever comes. That, at least, is a feeling Tim can understand, and thus he also understands how it feels to /fail/ under those circumstances.

"Maybe I should talk to him, too," he suggests. "I've got some experience with that sort of thing."

—-

"You know you don't have to go back so soon," Zatanna tells him gently. "I mean, every time you come to New York, it's for work. It's not a bad city to stick around in for a little bit of the week, and I know you anyway, even if you did miss a few days of school, you'll be able to catch up in a few hours." There's a slight hint of envy there, as she does not have that ability and often struggles catching up with the rest of her academics should she ever miss a few lectures. She nudges his bare shoulder with hers, picking up her cup of coffee and taking a quiet sip. "I don't intend to come back for a couple more days, why don't you do the same and we could head back to Gotham together by train? Go hit some of the restaurants, maybe see a show. Daddy practically raised me on classical music, maybe we could go check out the symphony, or if not that I think the 2Cellos are in town. Or movies! We can do that, too. Do you remember my photographer friend, Peter Parker? He goes to university in Columbia, maybe he can meet us downtown and the three of us could go together. He's been mired in all of his papers, plus apparently his boss is /super/ demanding, he could probably use a break. What do you think?"

The two of them could stand to have a broader social circle, she decides, a hopeful expression on her face as she looks at her best friend.

"I mean, you have a place here, and it's beautiful - I should check out the view before I leave. I'm /assuming/ you own the place anyway, considering your….night job." There's a slight furrow of her brows. "Though have you always had this? Or is it a new acquisition? You didn't buy a base of operations here just so you can keep an eye on me and whatever shenanigans are happening here while I'm around, did you?"

She moves to unlace her boots, to set them aside so she can pull up her legs, on the cushions in that typical way of hers as she nurses her coffee, the warm scent of hazelnut and cinammon filling her nose. Her eyes close, taking a deep breath of it, letting it percolate in her lungs and sink her into a state resembling contentment. She does look satisfied, though, when she sees Tim eating, already polishing off the second sandwich. There's another one left.

His sharp observation about her relationship with Spider-Man has her smiling against the rim of her cup, ice-blue eyes glittering with a sudden spark of mischief. She neither confirms nor denies, sworn to secrecy as she is. Instead, she addresses his last remark. "While I can't say I have any control over what people confide in me, if it makes you feel any better, your secret lasted the longest. Besides, you /are/ special, to me. You're probably the only thing that's keeping me from a solid F in Physics, on top of….you know. Helping save my life. Helping save my soul. Helping save my sanity. The latter is especially important, as you well know. I don't think anyone could afford to see me crazy with what I have, so consider this your way of ensuring that the world keeps spinning."

She takes another drink of her coffee, and the sudden suggestion has her turning her head to look at him. Surprise clearly writ on her face, it fades away to a gentler, warmer note. "See?" she teases. "Special. Thanks, Tim. That'd be great. It might help….a lot. You've been in this game longer than he has, and he's dealing with a lot outside of the costume, also. He could learn from what you've been through, I think." A resigned expression dawns over her. "Given you've been at this for /five years/. Fourteen, Jesus Christ. You know I kept picturing Batman throwing you off buildings just so you could learn to swing between them? If that had been me, I would've been 'no goddamn way'!"

—-

He should say no.

He should beg off, claim he really doesn't want to miss any classes. That he has responsibilities back in Gotham, even ones that don't involve dressing up in an armored costume and beating bad guys to a pulp. That would be the smart thing to do, Tim Drake, to get some sleep and then hop a train back to Gotham and get back to it.

But Zatanna nudges his shoulder, and she suggests they go have dinner and maybe catch a show, or possibly more than one, and he can feel his resolve slip away. Even with the possible addition of another of her local friends if he can get the time to get away and go hang out with them like normal human beings doesn't change that any. By the time Zatanna gets around to 'what do you think?' he's already lost.

The obvious hopeful look on Zatanna's face when she says it just makes his defeat all the more absolute.

"Yeah, sure," Tim says, taking a last drink of his coffee. "I'll help you get caught up with your classes when we get back." They might only share a Physics class in particular, but it's not like his academic talents are limited to one subject.

She brings up the penthouse, and mentions wanting to see the view, at which point Tim is already reaching for one of the remote controls on the coffee table; there's one for the currently active fireplace, and a couple for the television and its associated other entertainment systems, but the one he picks up is smaller. He presses a button on it, and the curtains start to open, letting the cool January morning light into the loft.

It's downtown Manhattan, so of course the view is spectacular.

"Um," Tim says, when she wonders if it's new, and wonders if he didn't get it just to keep an eye on her. "Well, it's not like I could crash at somebody else's place in the suit. And a hotel would lead to too many questions. So it just seemed… Neater, you know? Somewhere I could be nearby if you needed me."

Zatanna's lack of confirmation or denial of his question about her and Spider-Man tells Tim pretty much everything he needs to know, especially paired with the mischievous look in her eyes, or what she says about people confiding in her. His joke about not being special, though, prompts a surprisingly honest response, with her bringing up the things he's done to help save her. It's not like he was the only one involved in any of those, he could definitely say, if he wanted to be a stubborn shit. Instead, what he says is this:

"I didn't do it for the world, Zee."

But what he suggests about Spider-Man and the trauma the webslinger might've endured in the recent adventure gets surprise, of all things, from Zatanna, followed by something warmer, and then her thanks. And subsequently, a kind of resigned displeasure as she remembers how long he's been in this particular game. How young he was when he started.

"He didn't throw me off of any buildings," Tim assures her. "We practiced inside a lot first, there were safety harnesses, nets, the whole thing. Though he did ship me off to France at one point, to learn qi gong techniques from an old teacher of his. Who got murdered while I was there, and then I ended up being trained by two of the world's deadliest assassins."

He just /says/ these things.

—-

"Tim, you really don't have to…you've done so much for me already, the least I can do is shoulder the burden for my other classes. That and it's not as if you don't have…." Zatanna falters. "Work." He knows what she means. Still, the open gratitude on her expression doesn't change in the slightest. There's a rueful smile there, pressed against her cup. "You're way too indulgent," she tells him, because it's true, and when does she ever not give it to him straight?

She finishes her own cup of coffee, reaching out so she could start packing away the trash. From what she has gathered from her friend, the apartment was new, and she wasn't such a terrible guest that she would leave litter scattering about, nevermind that the master of the space had contributed to it. The sandwich wrappers and the cups are all tucked away in the bag that she brought, moving to stand so she could pad barefoot over to the kitchen area and find the trashcan, which is, of course, invisibly tucked away. It takes her a few minutes to find it, a low whistle escaping her. "You know for someone who acts so humble, you really know how to live the high life," she tells him from the kitchen, moving back towards the living area just when he picks up the remote and clicks on the button to reveal New York's skyline. The sudden pouring of light has her turning to take a look at it - in spite of the wintry season, today is a surprisingly clear day.

Before she knows it, she's wandering over to the large floor-to-ceiling windows, caught by the view, as if magnetized by what she sees. Her black-and-white silhouette finds itself against the glass, though she is careful not to touch the pristine surface and leave unsightly fingerprints all over it. She sees all the signs, all the indicators that she is in one of the greatest cities in the world - the Stark Tower, the Avengers headquarters, the Empire State building looming at the distance.

And its magic.

New York is one of the greatest meccas for her Art, a fact that she has not divulged to Tim. Foreign magicians tend to find their first berth here, when it was time to network with local mages. The Oblivion Bar is often the first stop for these travelers, and standing here with those mystic eyes, she can see how the metaphysical loom continuously spins its fabric, threads generated by the smallest gestures in different corners of the city, small pockets of miracles wafting in the air and spooling upwards. Now that she is standing higher up, she can appreciate it all - the colors, the way it sings.

"Tim, it's spectacular," she tells him, voice laden with awe.

It takes a good amount of her willpower to return to the couch, easing next to him and catching his explanation. "You shouldn't worry so much about me," she tells him, inclining her head. "I know I'm trouble, but I'm usually very good at taking care of myself. Not to say I'm not touched though. I am. I wish I knew what I ever did to deserve it…getting cared for this way."

The implication at the last has her smile growing, throwing her arms around him and pecking his cheek lightly. "I know," she says. "But you know, that river runs both ways, so I suggest being really careful with how much you wanna take on." Because she'll do the same.

Letting him go, her expression flattens, giving him a sidelong glance. "You've lived a life, Tim Drake," she replies, her voice wry. "Though in all seriousness, I'm not judging. It's not as if my own childhood was any more normal than yours. Just….definitely less physical training."

A vibrating noise emits from the back pocket of her black jeans. She fishes it out and looks at the text, furrowing her brows. The message comes from Jessica Jones, and something about…

"I better go," she says, tucking the device in and reaching out to grab her boots. "A friend of Jess' is in the hospital, she wants me to come see him."

—-

Though there are many ways in which Tim and Zatanna could not be more different, there is one thing that is almost identical about the pair of them: They both try to take care of the people around them, possibly to the point of their own detriment. So when Zatanna accuses him of being 'too indulgent', there's not much that Tim can really say in his own defense, except to give a resigned, rueful shrug.

"People expect certain things from a Wayne," Tim notes, when she comments on him living the high life, despite his supposed humility. His father had made sure he was raised among normal kids, since the Drakes had been wealthy but not 'expensive private school' wealthy, which had perhaps somewhat blunted the effects of living a life of luxury might've had on him. Besides, he's known privation and desperation. He's known what it's like to live with nothing, too. "Even if I'm only one on paper. So, you know, fancy digs, beautiful women showing up to deliver me breakfast, that kinda thing."

From his seat on the couch he watches her, watches how Zatanna is pulled towards the revealing view as the curtains pull out of the way on their tracks. There's a patio outside, of course - no small balcony would be enough for a place like this, right? - with plenty of space to sit in the warmer months, and what appears to be an outdoor hot tub. Though he doesn't know what she knows about the city, and he can't see it the way Zatanna does, he can see the awe and the delight on her face, even before he hears it in her voice. He can't share in it firsthand, not the way she does, but he can share in her enjoyment of the experience though simple human empathy, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth as he watches her watch the city.

"It looks even better at night," Tim says. But that would be him all over, wouldn't it? A city viewed from above in the darkness, lit by a million million little points of manmade light, signs and streetlights and everything else. That's how he's experienced the world, for the past several years.

Maybe that's what home is, for him.

Once she rejoins him on the couch, Tim reaches up to push his hair back out of his face, but he's not really sure how to answer her wondering. He knows full well that in a lot of situations she's /better/ at taking care of herself than he would be at taking care of her, as she's an enormously powerful magician armed with arcane knowledge and senses beyond the mundane, and he's… A guy. The disparity has not been lost on him, especially given the situations he's been getting into since he met Zatanna, but of course it's not as though he's going to let a little thing like that stop him. As for what she did to 'deserve' it…

Tim reminds Zatanna that he did those things, risked his life to help restore her soul, to protect her continued existence and apparently also her sanity, not for the sake of the world that might be in terrible danger if she were to lose control of herself, but for Zatanna herself. It's a small and selfish motivation, to his mind; it's childish and foolish, but he increasingly can't help it. That it helped to protect the world in which he and all sorts of mostly innocent people live is a nice bonus, but…

How does that stack up to a sudden hug, a kiss on the cheek? Immediacy, the things in front of you. That's human nature, for better or for worse.

"I can take on a lot," Tim assures her, and judging by past experience Zatanna can probably infer that he means taking a lot on himself and expecting to be able to handle it all okay without sharing the burden.

Tim shrugs helplessly at that flat, sidelong glance, because yeah he kind of has lived a life. It was, admittedly, pretty normal before the whole Robin thing, leaving aside his wealthy absentee parents and how he figured out who the Batman was, when he was about nine years old.

"Yeah, you started when you were seven," Tim reminds her. "I didn't start doing anything crazy until I was fourteen. And very little of that involved demons from actual Hell." He pauses. "Although there was this one guy who— " He cuts off when Zatanna's phone starts ringing, the message that comes up being somewhat important if it means Zatanna has to excuse herself, the mention of Jessica Jones and a friend in the hospital making for a good reason to go by pretty much any measure.

So Tim rises up off of the couch politely, with every intention of seeing the magician to the door. He's not a barbarian after all, Alfred gave him advice about girls!

—-

"I can imagine. I like the dark, too."

Then again, that's not surprising, with the way she dresses and how she spends her time. Zatanna simply smiles at her friend at that, once she slowly releases him from her embrace, and pulls her boots back onto her feet. Slowly rising, she takes her satchel off where she left it, slinging it over her shoulder and follows Tim to the door, marveling once more at his profound attention to detail. She doesn't even remember when she mentioned it, when she had first started apprenticing under her father, and yet Tim has squirreled away that nugget of information. Really, she wonders whether he ever forgets anything.

"You can tell me about 'this one guy' later," she suggests, moving across the living room. "It sounds like quite the story. We can trade, yeah? We have a couple of days here to just hang out, after all."

Bootheels follow bare feet, and at the door, she pushes her fingers through her hair. "I'd stay, but Jess' friend is…" She hesitates, before continuing. "His name's Matthew Murdock. He runs a private practice in Hell's Kitchen - Nelson and Murdock LLP. You know, it was funny, I was going to retain him for a legal issue that Peter came across lately, but before I could, apparently he was attacked coming home from the office because he was acquainted with Jessica, because she's connected to me." Her lips press in a grim line. "Members of the Cult of the Cold Flame got him in an alley. It was bad, Tim. He almost died."

All the more reason for her to go, and see what she can do to speed up his recovery. By the look on her face, he would easily be able to tell that she feels responsible. It's difficult not to, and in many ways, this case is even more egregious. It was bad enough that her friends are involved, but innocents getting caught in the crossfire?

She shakes her head, lingering at the door, ice-blue eyes sweeping over his tired features. A hand comes up to push his hair away from his eyes, giving him a faint smile.

"Get some more rest," she tells him. "I'll text you later. If the lawyer knows anything, I'll let you know. Just…" Pause. "Tim, if you need anything else, just please call me, okay?"

—-

"It's fine," Tim assures Zatanna, even before she continues to explain what the actual situation is. He even means it, rather than just trying to be polite; he'd rather she stayed, of course, but he knows that sometimes you just need to run off and deal with another situation.

Especially when the situation involves someone being in the hospital.

When Zatanna /does/ elaborate, Tim's brows climb and she can practically see his brain engaging behind those dark blue eyes, seizing on the details she gives him. Matthew Murdock, lawyer. Hell's Kitchen. Legal issue involving Peter Parker. All of it getting filed away in his prodigious memory, in one of the myriad rooms of that mental replica of his childhood home. Attacked by the Cult of the Cold Flame, nearly killed, for even a secondhand connection to Zatanna Zatara.

"I understand," Tim tells her, because indeed he does know that she feels responsible for something like this, and that she'll go out of her way to try and fix it, just as she'd repaired his damaged body earlier. "If you decide to do anything completely insane, call me, I can at least watch your back." Not that he doesn't think Jessica is more than capable of doing the same, especially with her superhuman strength, but his being on hand when Zatanna was in life-threatening situations seems to have worked out so far.

His skin tingles where he feels the touch of her fingertips, on his forehead, brushing his dark hair out of his face; he meets the faint smile she gives him with one of his own, and he nods when she tells him to get some rest.

"I will, I promise," Tim tells her, when she asks him to please call her if he needs anything else. "And… Here," he checks the nook by the door, producing a keycard, holding it out to her with one hand while he opens the door with his other. "Just in case. No parties while I'm not here, though."

—-

"It won't be anything too crazy," Zatanna tells him. "It's just a hospital, the plan is to heal his injuries and step out. Besides, I'd be a third wheel in that room. Jess has a crush on him." There's fond bemusement there in the depths of her eyes. The last few months have twined Jessica to her just as inexorably, inevitably, as they have conspired to entangle Tim into her life. "I won't lie, part of me is curious also. Jess doesn't seem the type to get crushes, but I guess I'll always have to resign myself to the rest of you surprising me at every turn."

And speaking of surprises.

She blinks whe she's presented with a keycard, though she slowly takes it, inspecting it within her hands. "You already gave me a key to your place in Gotham, are you sure?" Of course he is. Tim wasn't exactly known for rash, impulsive decisions, and if she had doubted the degree of trust he has placed on her, the mark she left him on his inner wrist is evidence enough of the fact. She tucks it in her pocket, to take a picture of and store in her phone later - another invention, being able to store items as digital images with a spell, to be drawn out whenever she needs it by simply going through her phone's camera roll and reciting the right words - magic for the modern age. It beats actually carrying the physical object around, when she could lose it so easily.

Considering how carefully he keeps his secret identity, the last thing she wants is to jeopardize it.

"I won't have a reason to stop by anyway if you're not around, unless you need me to get something for you," she says, stepping closer so she could wrap him up in a hug, all too aware of the ache within her chest as far as he is concerned - everything he has suffered, everything he gives; the things he does for her and everyone around her, and the populace back in his city that doesn't even really appreciate what he does for it. The unfairness of it all stirs the embers within her stomach, fury and sorrow, affection and concern.

"I'll see you later," she murmurs, her eyes closing. "And be careful."

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