To Have a Choice

February 11, 2017:

Prompted by Jessica Jones, Red Robin stops by to deliver some data to Bucky and Jane… and to feel responsible for things in a way both find quite unnecessary.

Brooklyn, New York

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, Jessica Jones

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

As night descends over New York, one of its Brooklyn brownstones wraps up a late dinner.

"Don't think I don't know what you're doing," calls Jane from the living room, collecting plates from the table — from what looks like a meal set to the seranade of movies streaming over her opened laptop (mental note: actually buy a television that is going to get some legitimate use.)

If there's any question where her arched words are directed, they come followed by a flat-eyed glance she aims toward the front room's sprawling window, something that opens up access to the apartment's fire escape. Jane's spent many a night out there, serenading her telescope — which hasn't got any use lately, she's avoiding that, avoiding those sorts of things, reasons, reasons — but now seems to have gained another frequent flyer.

There's a man up on there, taking a solitary break after eating, and she's positive he's using that to smoke. "Just one," appends Jane through the cracked-open window, exasperated enough to concede, "all right?"

She collects the rest of the tableware and walks away, turning a corner into her home's tiny kitchen. She shoulders on the light switch. It's a cramped, galley thing, as claustrophobic as the rest of her one-bedroom, manageable only do to her recent, we're-ignoring-latent-trauma-by-cleaning compulsion, and Jane takes refuge at the sink. She is supposed to be washing their dinner plates, but instead she gets lost, staring at the way the warm water plays over her hands.

Her eyes ring with chronic insomnia. Sleeplessness has a way of yielding a person, letting them get lost in strange little things like that, like the way Jane watches tap water run.

Suspicious silence greets Jane's call at first. Suspicious, possibly guilty silence.

Then a shadow on the fire escape moves, light from streetlamps glancing off the steel and titanium of its left arm. Bucky leans down and peers in the window, disgruntled. His right hand is out of sight, though a curl of smoke eventually betrays him. "You know this is the worst thing so far about this century," he complains. "Not only do I just get one, I gotta go outside for it."

He notably doesn't /argue/, though, just leaning back up and casting his gaze back out over the street. He's not particularly keeping watch, not expecting any kind of trouble: just gazing absently out over the quietness of Brooklyn at night, still unable to quite get his mind around the way it's changed since he was a child.

He's not quite fully relaxed, either, however. The window is open, half an ear on Jane as she moves about in the kitchen.

It's a guarantee that Jane Foster's apartment is under surveillance. There's no way that an organisation as suspicious as SHIELD would /not/ be keeping an eye on things at some level, especially after everything that had happened under Ozone Park. Especially after the astrophysicist had endured such a trial. Especially when she had the Winter Soldier with her.

Who knows, there might even be other interests keeping an eye on them now, but carefully, not wanting to provoke the man who had for so long been the monster under so many people's beds.

But abruptly, whatever surveillance equipment was pointed at that tiny apartment in Brooklyn returns… Nothing. Static. White noise. Thermographic bloom. For a brief window of time, the apartment might as well not exist. As though someone had reached down and planted a wall around it.

Which, in a manner of speaking, is exactly what had happened.

Nothing much would seem different from /inside/ the apartment, unless someone tried making a phone call. Outside, shadows shift, as they so often do. The old steel of the fire escape creaks, the winter winds whisper between the brownstones, February's chill always feeling more hollow, more unforgiving than January's.

And then, there's a knock on the door.

"I know the perfect cheese to pair with your whine," Jane calls back to the voice on the fire escape, hers drier than desert sand. She's always loved that line. Her father used to use it on her /all the time/.

But she doesn't give James Barnes any more sass, not much more than a brief, private smile and her approving silence, more than aware he's not arguing. She'll get him to quit those damn things soon enough.

She goes back to the safety and sanity of just cleaning things. And that's where she is, attention broken off some deep, already-forgotten reverie, when Jane turns her eyes toward the knock on her front door. She's gotten a lot of those lately. And most people usually /text/.

Jane turns off the sink and dries her hands, stepping free from the kitchen. Her eyes turn back on the cracked-open window, back to the source of the cold draft. "Door," she says, even though she's positive Bucky has heard — hears everything, literally everything — but still wants to do her part keeping him informed. Especially with how… overcautious he gets.

Overcautious she gets too, these days, Jane's finding.

It's a rush of anxiety she feels, but even then, it's not enough to compel her to do something completely indignifying like ask Bucky to open the door, or just straight fail to do so herself. She takes a quick step toward the front foyer, reaching for the deadbolt.

"Who is it?" she calls, through the door, even during the process of unlatching its locks, multitasking ths process with a quick gesture to brush her dark hair back behind her ear.

It opens to reveal her apartment, small and Brownstone-old and homey, and Jane Foster at the forefront of it, dressed down rather simply in jeans and some plaid button-down, the sleeves rolled to her elbows. Tired-eyed and slight, she still looks a world's difference away to the memory of that trembling, broken thing, a machine locked around her head.

Jane's rejoinder has Bucky rolling his eyes, but he doesn't reply. He just leans back and returns to smoking his one rationed cigarette, determined to spend a good while actually enjoying it if it's all he's going to be allotted.

Which is, of course, why a sudden knock sounds on the door. Bucky cuts a glance in the window, looking at the little device Jane made for him long ago— a device to detect trackers, to read the frequencies on which they broadcast. It's been perpetually lit up, in a constant warning state about all the SHIELD surveillance pointed at the apartment. It's dark now.

Just that is enough to transform him, the image of comfortable mundanity dripping off him like the lie it now is. The Winter Soldier is something Bucky Barnes can now never escape, an indelible part of him as much as the prosthetic grafted in place of his left arm, and that persona returns to him in part at this unexpected turn of events.

The monster under the bed is officially provoked.

Jane moves to answer the door like a normal person, calling out. James Barnes says nothing. He just slides back in the window in one silent motion, moving up to where he can cover Jane from any potential angle, his right hand slipping his sidearm free of its holster.

In the hallway stands a shadow, tall and lean.

He should've died in Lernaea, when he deliberately and unhesitatingly sacrificed himself to protect Zatanna Zatara from the drones, the weapons that functioned as the immune system of that 'perfect world'. If the magician had been a heartbeat slower in working her miracle, one of those who came back with her into the real world would've been nothing more than chewed up meat and bone and kevlar and leather and nomex. Of course, when you're trained by the Dark Knight, cheating death is just one of those things that happens.

Black cowl, with featureless white eyes. Black cape left to drape around him like a shroud, though on his chest is his logo, the golden silhouette of a bird's head. The only thing human there is his lower face, his mouth bared by the cut of the cowl.

The mouth moves, the shadow speaks.

"Hello, Doctor Foster," the Red Robin says, his voice shrouded by an electronic device at his throat, pitching it deeper, giving it a curious, inhuman blurring. "You're looking much better than the last time I saw you. Jessica Jones asked me to bring you something. May I come in?"

The Batman would never be so polite. But, well, he's not the Batman.

Jane jumps. Not in surprise, not truly, but more in the absolute incongruity of just seeing — seeing /that/ standing against all the day-to-day mundane of her apartment.

Cowl. Cape. A warped, flanged voice that doesn't even sound human.

Hand still on the handle of the door, she half-steps backward, taking a surrepititious glance back over her shoulder: Jane's first thought is James Barnes, and that she hopes, hopes, hopes, the utter strangeness of a costumed person at her doorstep isn't going to inspire potshots. Or that rifle of his that's bigger than /her/. She doesn't recognize Red Robin, hasn't truly had a formal introduction, and her memory of — that night —

She's trying really hard not to remember, is the thing.

Her uncertainty is palpable, caution and tension without anything there to inspire a full reaction, and in a way trying to refuse doing that as not to inspire something worse from the supersoldier occupying her fire escape. So Jane holds there, mouth pressed together, eyes watchful, for a moment unsure — until Red Robin speaks her name and mentions Jessica.

She runs through recent memory. It really helps sometimes to have that eidetic brain.

"Red?" she asks. "I think that's what Jessica called you? You're Red?" He says she's looking better, and Jane's expression twists into the in-between of five different emotions, before settling on 'self-conscious', eyes averting a moment. Means he was there. Probably saw her too. Can he come in?

"I — sure," she babbles, eloquent as ever, opening wider the door.

Only the fact that the outfit is familiar keeps the Winter Soldier— out of immediate eyeshot, with an angle on the door— from firing the sidearm he has trained at Red Robin's center of mass when the door opens.

For the second time in a week, he finds himself hastily lowering his weapon before he kills a benign(?) home visitor. "People need to call ahead if they don't wanna get shot," he grouses as he steps into line of sight, holstering his weapon, though in reality there is probably no question of any actual accidental murder happening. Bucky is just, in his new and recovered incarnation, much too careful.

His hand moves to the small of Jane's back, sensing her uncertainty. It's a touch meant to reassure and calm her that he is here, and that this kid— despite his appearance— is a known quantity. For given values of known, anyway.

Jane agrees to let him in either way, and Bucky steps aside as she does. "Glad to see you got out fine," he says. "I would have checked earlier, but." A gesture encapsulates the whole cape, secret identity, reclusiveness thing. "Asked Zatanna, at least, though of course she wasn't gonna divulge too much."

"Don't worry, Sergeant Barnes," Red Robin says, a note of almost… Amusement in that modulated voice. "People have been pointing guns at me since I was fourteen years old, I'm used to it by now."

That's not really true. Nobody is ever /really/ used to having a gun pointed at them. There's something about it that bypasses rational thought, when you're looking into the darkness of that barrel. Like you're staring into the abyss. But repeated experience does engender a kind of familiarity, and rather than primal terror he instead experiences something more useful. Something that can motivate, rather than throttling the mind or stealing strength and speed from the limbs.

Of course, he acts as though he knew that the Winter Soldier was right there, pointing his sidearm from just out of sight.

Maybe he did.

"Thank you," he says politely when he's invited in, stopping to wipe his boots off before he actually enters Jane's apartment, his cape still hanging around him as he steps, the memory material barely moving. There's something else there that probably only Bucky would notice: His booted feet don't really make any /noise/, each step carefully placed through training that has ground these behaviours into his bones, into his DNA, into his soul. But if it's the legacy of the Bat that makes him so quiet, it might be the influence of the butler that makes him act more like a gentleman than a vigilante, at the moment. "It's Red Robin, though people do seem to like to stick with Red. I can't blame them, Robin is someone else."

And certainly never him. The two identities couldn't be more separate.

Bucky's concern gets an unreadable look from the costumed crimefighter - though given the full cowl and the hidden eyes, most of his looks are unreadable - and a long silence before he speaks. The issue of Zatanna is a thorny and complicated one, especially when you add in what the Winter Soldier was compelled to do to her… But Red Robin has no reason to hold that against Bucky Barnes, does he? He has no close connection to the Princess of Prestidigitation, especially not one that's closer than it should be from his direction. To him, the magician is just an acquaintance and a sometime ally, someone he rescued from a serial killer, and who has repaid the favour since. So then…

"Miss Zatara has a natural affinity for secrets, like most stage magicians. A remarkable young woman."

He leaves it at that. No point in thinking about things that won't happen.

Eventually, a hand emerges from the cape, the fabric slipping away to reveal a black glove and an armguard with the same fins as the Batman's, and past that the sleeve of his suit is indeed red, like the name suggests. In his hand is a plain-looking USB drive, which he holds out to Jane.

"Miss Jones asked me to give you the information I was able to obtain about the devices your captors were using to control people," he explains. "She thinks it might help you to regain some sense of control, if you know. I can't say that I agree, but I'm deferring to her expertise on the matter. The sample I was able to analyse was…" In a corpse. "…Not in the best condition, but there was still some interesting data to be had. It's your choice if you want to study it, Doctor Foster. You're just as free to erase the data, or destroy the drive."

The touch to the small of her back both animates and grounds Jane, and she glances up reflexively, her eyes softening, her gaze yielding, to Bucky Barnes' face. It is a moment's glance, just a hitch in her expression, but Jane Foster speaks wordless tomes. If there was no evidence in the world to suggest a man exists beneath the ice and permafrost of the Winter Soldier, no story and honours of a lost, fallen soldier, she offers her own inside the pinch of her eyes. He centers her. And she looks at him as if he were her only place of safety in the way of things, obvious love in her dark eyes.

She politely shuts the door after Red Robin, bearings somewhat regained, in the back of her mind realizing it's the first honest-to-goodness caped hero at her door.

There Jane lapses into a brief but listening silence, as the two men exchange greetings over — over what no one will say outside. Over what neither she particularly wants to mention either, though the implication remains — glad you got out after /all the torture happened/.

Red Robin he announces himself, or at least his costumed identity. "Red sounds fine to me too," Jane offers, partial to Jessica's moniker. "And call me Jane." She doesn't feel like much of a Dr. Anything as of late. Especially in regard to the lapse on her word that she's… not resuming. Not all that willing to touch with the impetus she used to have.

They speak familiar names, and she's quiet — she's really just trying to get over the cowl and cape standing there in the front room of her apartment — and Jane only animates when Red proffers a hand. In it is a drive. Question immediately opens up the features of her face.

She glances up, still struggling to meet what… what stands for /eyes/ on Red Robin's get-up, too used to pupils and irises and human facial expressions to gain meaning behind spoken word, but Jane receives little — nothing really, save for what he deigns to tell her aloud. Jessica apparently wanted him to give her some information.

As Red speaks, little by little Jane's face transforms from question to bemusement to… something like affront. She looks away, sinkingly self-conscious, the body language of someone trying to compose themself, trying to focus through some unwanted emotion — two people had a conversation about her sense of control? Jessica and a total stranger? About what would help it?

She feels like a mental patient.

Pulling herself together, Jane makes the quiet decision to reach forward and take it. She looks down at the inoffensive little thing in her hand. "Thanks," is all she says, voice bleak.

James Barnes doesn't look as shocked as he might at the news Red Robin has been facing down guns since he was fourteen. In the era from which he comes, boys were signing up to die for their country as early as sixteen— and he's sure there were many more, even younger, who lied even more egregiously for the chance to serve.

He takes it as a matter of course, along with the way Red acts as if he knew Bucky was there. You'd have to be an idiot, after all, not to assume that the Winter Soldier would be waiting for you if you came to a place he had made his abode. Bucky's attention is more drawn by other things— the soundless way the young man moves, the obvious familiar markers of the Batman that hang about this young protege's dress and demeanor… and the many subtle ways in which they are different.

Bucky says nothing about that short segue about the name of Robin. He just touches Jane bracingly, his hand to the small of her back, grounding her when he senses her growing too nervous. She turns a look up at him, and he glances down to exchange a brief moment of eye contact. The way she gazes at him softens his own eyes for half a second, her trust answered with a tacit promise that so long as he's around, she need not be nervous.

That promise quickly receives a test. James can feel Jane tighten up beside him as Red clinically relates what he's here for— and the conversation that spurred him to bring the USB drive here tonight. The comfortable amiability of Bucky Barnes frosts slightly at her slight affront and discomfort, the Winter Soldier showing a few of its icicle fangs.

This might be something to speak to Jessica about, as well. Later.

"I'm sure she will do with it what she sees fit," he says, neutral.

By the reaction, Red Robin gets the idea that his original assessment was right.

Though maybe not for the right reason.

"Hn," the caped and cowled young man vocalises, recognising at least most of the emotions Jane is displaying, and the way it carries over to Bucky. It's the sort of interplay that someone in a persistent vegetative state would notice, let alone one of the former apprentices of the World's Greatest Detective. Her affront is his, and his responses change accordingly.

It's fascinating to watch, but of course Jane Foster /isn't/ a mental patient, and he isn't here to try and analyse other people's relationships. He /is/ here because Jessica Jones asked him to give the astrophysicist something to occupy her mind, and because…

Slowly, that hand now freed of its tiny burden reaches up to the side of Red Robin's own throat, lightly, briefly depressing something underneath the collar of his cowl; there's a faint sound, almost but not quite a *click*.

When he speaks again, it's in a human voice.

"I'm sorry, Do… Jane," he corrects himself. It's not his normal speaking voice, of course - that would be an unconscionable lapse of security. It's pitched down still, almost the 'Batman Voice', with more gravel in it than the years have rightly given him. "You should know that Miss Jones asked me to give you this because she's worried about you. I think she worries about everyone, despite that gruff exterior. And I know I can come across as…" Cold. Distant. Inhuman. "…Aloof, clinical. If I can say anything in my defense about that, it's a natural consequence of the job."

He is, otherwise, schooled to nearly perfect stillness, no fidgets, nothing remotely resembling casual human body language. Just calm composure. It's easy to do, once you know the tricks, the way to push any pesky human emotions you don't want to deal with away into a little corner of your mind.

Of course, they're always still /there/.

Waiting.

"And… I wanted to apologise you for not being faster. I'm sure you've heard enough of it already, but…" Now, a gesture; a slow roll of his shoulders, almost a shrug, shifting his cape. "That applies to you as well, Sergeant Barnes. I wish we could've helped both of you sooner."

Eyes turned, Jane feels the world narrow to the thunderous beat of her own blood inside her ears. People talking about her regaining a sense of control. She's mortified enough to want to fall in between the planks of her hardwood floor. With less social consciousness, she would be tempted to crawl off to her bedroom to hide under her duvet and make sure no one in the world could ever see her again. She has a sense of control, doesn't she? She didn't think she ever lost it. She's doing so well, and smiling, and laughing, and not thinking of it, and she can't sleep much really, but all she's been doing is exerting control, being in control — does it all look fake? Does it mean she has none? Are people /pitying/ her?

As Bucky Barnes prickles and goes cold at her side, Jane Foster just glances away, uneasy, looking a little sick around the edges. Everyone's thinking of her as a mental patient, aren't they.

So tunnelled into her dreary thoughts, it takes the transparent change in Red Robin's voice to earn her eyes, a little surprised at the change, but in a way, relieved to hear it shape into something more decidedly human. It's difficult for her to interface with that costume meant to eradicate all traces of humanity in its wearer — to kill the man and be the symbol in his place. He speaks to her, and even despite her reserve, Jane decides to listen — listen to his explanation, and how he apologizes.

"Listen, I…" she begins to say, then blows out a breath, reaching up to rub briefly at her face. Jane leans into Bucky's closest arm. "I get it. I'm a private person, and a lot of people saw me in a way that… it's something I try not to think about too much." She winces visibly. "And when people are having conversations out there about what I can and can't handle, it's hard. I'm indebted to you all, for what you did for James, for me. I'm just — "

— absolutely hating the idea that other people were having conversations about me. About what my apparent therapy should be, when I haven't even decided it yet for myself, Jane thinks, but cannot find the words to say.

She just gestures vaguely with her hands, because apparently that will just explain it magically for everyone.

"I don't think you should apologize for that," she says of Red's assuming of guilt that they weren't there in time. That doesn't feel right, no load or burden anyone should take. "No one should. A lot of people came together and helped. I hope you realize how much that means to me."

She looks down briefly, trying to summon up some sort of eloquence. Wanting so badly to be viewed as anything but someone's failure, or guilt, or worse — damaged goods.

"I'm a lot stronger than I look," Jane promises, with a glance of her dark-shadowed eyes. "James is even stronger than that."

Those hints of the Winter Soldier recede again when Red Robin, in turn, makes a concession towards his own humanity. That voice modulator turns off— Bucky can clearly hear the sound of something switching— and the young man makes an apology. He explains that Jessica asked for the information to be handed over because she was worried about Jane.

Bucky doesn't look quite convinced out of a conversation with Jessica, but he seems to at least mollify slightly. "The intentions were good," he allows.

Jane leans against him and tries to explain how she feels about it all— why she's reacting as she is. He looks down at her, mute, wanting to speak up and help explain, but recognizing ultimately it is for her to say. For her to decide. All he does, ultimately, is keep that hand at the small of her back— edging it around, actually, to take her waist in a more concrete and supportive hold.

Then Red wants to apologize for not being faster.

"There's nothing to apologize for in that regard," he eventually agrees. "For me in particular… none of you were even born when the first wrongs were done to me. It's pointless to feel much of anything about things that are decades dead. Least of all responsibility."

'I'm a private person.'

Red Robin's mouth pulls into a wry, maybe even self-deprecating grin at that; one of those rare actual human expressions on the visible part of his face, in that getup. He doesn't /say/ anything about it, but of course he's the one swathed head to toe in an armored costume, with a strict secret identity, and all.

"You are," the cowled young man agrees, with a short nod. "I didn't have any doubt of that." That she's doing as well as she seems to be at all is frankly a miracle, given what he's seen torture and brainwashing do to people in the past. Perhaps it can be chalked up to a good support network, even if she's avoided becoming anybody's mental patient so far. Certainly, having Bucky around as someone who understands very intimately what she was put through could make for an excellent coping mechanism.

Or it could go the other way, for the both of them.

"You're both making good points," the vigilante adds. "But you don't get into my line of work because you have a realistic view of your own responsibilities." He might not be broken in the way that the Batman was, that the original Boy Wonder might've been if it hadn't been for the Dark Knight's influence… But isn't that the whole point of it? The costume, the theatrics, the attempt to be something larger than life? To create order out of cruelty and happenstance, to suffer in the act of preventing others from suffering. If you take everything else away, the costumes, the training, the gadgets, if you get down to the core of it, Red Robin - like his mentor - is just someone who doesn't want anyone else to die, or hurt.

"Still… I think I understand. I don't like it when people worry about me, either. Though I can't speak for anyone else, going forward I'll just have faith that you're both coping."

It's not like anyone could really expect anything else, at this point.

For her part, Jane keeps sneaking not-so-discreet, constant glances down at the USB drive in her hand. Weighing it as something far heavier than the insignificance it is, there in her palm, a quiet promise to offer a lot of evidence to questions she's been wanting to ask — questions she's been avoiding. Questions she knows she cannot avoid forever. She slides it into the pocket of her jeans, not discarded, not forgotten — but there. A decision she knows she needs to make.

Just not right now. Jane feels Bucky's hand shift on her, taking her waist, and her body yields to the touch, appreciative, acknowledging. There is no doubt, if just to look at her, that he is definitely one of her coping mechanisms — if not the chief of them. Someone who understands well enough to know… know what to do, such as what he does right now, support that does not override any of the semi-flustered, ineloquent things she wants to say, but support that proves itself to be solidly there. She leans a silent thank-you into his side.

Her dark eyes lift, watching Red Robin, a searching way to them — not as much prying as just looking for the outliers of humanity around all the disguise of his cowl. Jane listens quietly to all of his words. He doesn't seem ready to discard any of his own, lingering guilt, and the explanation earns from her the ghost of a smile.

"Either way, thank you," she says again, with more feeling into the words this time than before. "For giving that to me. It means a lot. Just having the choice." Jane's decision to look at the data. Jane's choice. Jane's control over the trajectory of her own life.

It does go both ways. There are certainly many times when it is useful for them to have gone through the same thing— one to a much greater degree than the other, admittedly, but still similar— but there are also certainly many times it's much more useful for them to have had very different life experiences and approaches to things otherwise, and for one to be significantly less damaged than the other.

Too much reminder of what you went through, yourself, can sometimes be quite deleterious to actual coping.

Now, Red allows they have good points, but then basically tells them a job requirement for him is to not have any actual logic. At least, that's how it sounds to Bucky, and it lifts his brows in obvious skepticism accordingly. "I've found over the course of my life that it's better to be very realistic about what you're responsible for or not," he says slowly. "Sounds grand at first to feel like you can be responsible for everything, up until you've seen a lot of good men die around you for absolutely no reason other than dumb bad luck."

He lapses into silence for Jane to speak. It does mean a lot, she says, to at least have the choice. That he can agree with, and that softens the edge off his tired, bitter recollections. "Yeah. Thanks for bringing it by. And everything else."

Maybe selectively applied logic. Red Robin /is/ a detective, after all, someone whose mind is geared towards following lines of inquiry and solving problems and puzzles. On the other hand, he also swings around cities without anything even remotely approaching a superpower, and spends quite a lot of his free time fighting ninja armies and psychotic clowns. And, these days, evil wizards.

If he was sensible, he'd stay at home. Let the metahumans and super soldiers and magic users handle it.

Instead…

"You'd be surprised how far unrealistic expectations can get you in life, Sergeant Barnes." Especially when those unrealistic expectations /don't/ include your probable life span. He knows he's been beating the odds surviving as long as he has. Making it to college graduation will be a small miracle. Making it to thirty gets increasingly into the realm of astronomical odds. Yet, Red Robin says that fairly casually, trying to embrace some of his foster brother's more devil-may-care attitude.

He can't be grimly serious all the time.

Jane's thanks seem more sincere, this time, and that cowled face watches her inscrutably for a long, slow moment. Choice, that's really what's at the heart of this, isn't it? That she be allowed to make her own decision, after having been so nearly deprived of ever being able to make another one, ever again.

"I just did what I thought was right," he says, as a blanket response to the thanks from both Jane and Bucky. But as always, he wanted to do more. Faster. That's always the expectation he imposes on himself, to be better, more thorough, to think further ahead. Nothing will ever be enough.

"Anyway, your fans will probably be getting antsy by now, I should leave and shut off the jammer." He didn't really feel like having his comings and goings observed, and having had no idea where the conversation might go, he felt it was prudent to avoid anyone else prying into sensitive affairs. "Just in case either of you need to contact me…" He is suddenly, as though by magic, holding a plain business card. It just has a phone number on it.

Also it wasn't really magic, just sleight of hand. But a certain theatricality is part of the job.

Leaving the card with the two of them, Red Robin moves for the door, with every intention of just letting himself out. It's only once he's gone for a few minutes that the curious series of technical failures hiding what's going on inside of Jane Foster's apartment finally abate.

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