Sharing and Caring

February 05, 2017:

At Bucky Barnes' encouragement, Zatanna Zatara visits Dr. Jane Foster after everything she has suffered in HYDRA's hands, bringing gifts, heartfelt conversation and something much needed…another world that the physicist's starved mind can sink itself into.

Dr. Jane Foster's Apartment - Brooklyn - New York City

The brownstone apartment of Dr. Jane Foster.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bucky Barnes, John Constantine, Tim Drake, Jessica Jones

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Her prior excursion to Jane Foster's apartment, no matter how long it has been, enables her to remember where it is exactly. While she has been content to stay away and give her and Bucky Barnes their space, her meeting with him at Prospect Park has at least confirmed that seeing the physicist would do her some good - and who was she to deny the better angels of her nature? If anything, his encouragement has only solidified her determination to do so, even if it requires going through SHIELD's red tape to make this possible. At the very least, her present position in Captain America's custody makes navigating that a little easier, and the less footprints she leaves on their affairs, the better off she will be. She has never liked the idea of being involved with shadowy, international organizations - the latest misadventure with HYDRA has not improved her opinion.

When the young woman shows up at Jane Foster's door, she has reclaimed her old vivacity, the vitality that Avram Golubev has managed to drain from her for a time. Bright eyes, pale cheeks flushed from the cold, she's dressed in her usual blacks, and her hair pulled up in a careless knot that has stray tendrils spilling on the sides of her face and her shoulders like ink. She is all stark contrasts of color, as if she spends her week attending funerals instead of living the life of a young woman who has yet to reach her twenties, though outward appearances certainly do not match her generally sunny disposition.

Which she demonstrates open and fully now when the door opens, her smile like stars and eyes full of lightning.

Zatanna carries with her a bouquet of spring colors, as well as a heavy book bag laden with tomes - rare volumes pulled directly from Shadowcrest's vast library of mystical secrets, as well as a bottle of white wine and a box of macarons from the world famous Laduree bakery. While an incident in her childhood has left her with a distaste for Paris, its birthplace, that has not stopped her from becoming a semi-regular patron of its branch in New York.

"I um…" She hesitates. "I didn't really know what you would like, but I felt it'd be rude if I stopped by without bringing something, and a gift basket felt kind of…ehhh…" She wiggles her very occupied fingers. "So I just grabbed a bunch of stuff hoping /something/ would hit the mark."

Concern fills her eyes quickly, however, as she looks at her.

"They haven't been…doing the stupid spy thing at you, yeah?" she asks quietly. "Camping outside of your door waiting for you to answer their questions?"

—-

Jane Foster stares at her open laptop.

In the coming days, now is one of the rare few times she spends time alone. Alone, out of James Barnes' direct presence, and outside his watch. It was really her idea, her insistence actually, he get out and attempt to find the people important to him, people he nearly considered lost — people he would walk away from forever. Jane offered her own moral support, but at the same time, understands his need to confront those things alone. Understands her own reticence to… go outside. She doesn't feel ready for that.

The apartment, cramped as it is, feels guttedly-empty absent of him, and though Jane does not want to admit it aloud, she doesn't feel ready for this either.

There are buffers. She knows if the fear strikes, the panic wells, she needs only call James, text him, and he'll return in minutes, whether a street or half a city away. She knows Steve Rogers is also nearby, the brother he has reunited with, the brother he trusts to keep his own watch on things. It helps. It certainly keeps Jane in check, feeling too proud or too stubborn to break down and start begging him back.

She refuses to sleep. She won't do that alone. She tries to keep her mind occupied, and she's already cleaned her apartment a good twelve times, and there's really nothing left for Jane but to… get back to her life.

The screen stares at her. Remote into her lab. All of her work she thought she'd never see again. She just needs to… do it.

Her fingers linger, paralyzed on the keyboards. Something stops her. Like a knot in her thoughts. She stares at a half-finished script, last saved over three weeks ago, written when things were different, she was different. She… can't.

That's when the door knocks. Jane looks up. She closes her laptop and, after a moment of uncertainty, of fear — fear that is something, she's being stupid, she has answered the door before and can do it again — and Zatanna will find Jane standing there. Different than the talkative woman of weeks ago in the safehouse. Different from that empty-eyed, trembling thing with her head viced into a machine. Somewhere between those two, looking small, wearing tights and some t-shirt she looks like she's slept in, and hiding in a cardigan. She's pale, wan, her eyes circled in sleepless black.

But there's still enough of Jane Foster to look genuinely surprised to see her guest, taking Zatanna all in on a sweeping glance — from young woman to her parcels in hand to that bouquet of flowers that looks big enough to take up half her apartment. "Zatanna," she says, stammering a little, absolutely not expecting this — but at the same time, not trying to repel it either. She looks away, self-conscious, perhaps aware of how she must look, but opens the door wide enough to admit entrance. She hasn't forgotten her manners.

"You — you didn't have to," she rambles, a little helplessly, overwhelmed, perhaps rendered somewhat shy by it all. Shy by — memory. Zatanna was there. There that night. Saw her. Saw her weak and broken. Jane remembers.

The remark brings her back, her eyes tightening with apology. "They — SHIELD?" Jane shakes her head. "No, they've — they've actually been good. I think Steve put the fear of God or, I don't know, a few bald eagles into them. They're kind've avoiding everything. I think my houseguest scaring the shit out of them may be partially the reason. But — no, how are you? I mean… how /are/ you?"

—-

The first thing Zatanna does is find a place to set her parcels down. The box of macarons, the white wine and the flowers find their place on a nearest table, with her heavy book bag resting carefully on one side. The second thing she does, if Jane will let her, is reach out with gentle arms to gather up the smaller woman in a hug. She does this slowly, to ensure that the woman gets her intent so she can decide whether to shrink back or accept, ever so aware of her tendency to be /too much/ for someone too soon. The intensity of her personality was oftentimes, in her experience, both a draw and a flaw. Given Jane's state of exhaustion, she is especially careful now.

Either way, there's a smile. "Sure I did," she tells her. "I can't just go barging in on someone without bringing something. I'm Italian, you're lucky I didn't bring heaps of food to cram into your refrigerator and leave you to deal with all the tupperware you don't need." Her tone is light and easy, though concern remains in her eyes. If she notices her present state - pale, wan, clad in a t-shirt that has been slept in, she pays them no heed, or even acknowledges them with a look or a word. "I was…I honestly didn't know when I'd be allowed to come see you, but I went to meet Bucky at Prospect Park and he said that I should definitely come."

She gestures to herself. "I'm fine….I'm loads better than I was about a week ago, believe me. These days I get up for a morning run and I've never felt so motivated to go work out in my life." Always a silver lining, considering she still harbors /certain issues/ about her weight. She isn't sure what Bucky has told her about her condition, back then, and she doesn't see the need to delve further into the details when everything has been clearly resolved. "I'm honestly more worried about /you/. And…John is, too. He's not very communicative when it comes to that stuff but I know him rather well. He's more sympathetic than anyone gives him credit for." Something that she has also imparted on Bucky Barnes.

What she tells her about SHIELD and the way they have been treating her brings a wave of visible relief on that expressive face. "I'm glad to hear it," she says softly. "And that Bucky's been a constant presence. He was…"

He was looking at the lake in the park like he wanted to walk into it, is what she almost says.

But she doesn't, remembering her own words - to try. To believe. To believe in James Buchanan Barnes.

"…quiet…and…you know." Jane would know better than anyone.

—-

The hug comes in slow, telegraphed enough that Jane could escape it if she wants, try to politely escape it with minimal awkwardness.

She doesn't. Perhaps too tired to, or perhaps just doesn't… want to. There are the types of people who shy from tactile, physical touch after a trauma, but it seems Jane is not one of those, appearing to need it in a way — needing it as a grounding, a way to remind herself she's here and awake and not dreaming. A way to remember that not all touches end in pain.

So Jane returns it. Exhaustion leaks through her embrace, imbued from the slight lean of her petite body to the barely-checked tremble of her arms, but there is a driven momentum there, a strength that may not be as much physical as it is a function of the will — a desperate announcement from her to say: I'm alive, I'm still here.

"It's… it's appreciated. It's too much," Jane says either way to Zatanna's many many MANY gifts, a flicker of delight touching her dark eyes. Her lips quirk up at mention of could-have-been food. She knows of a supersoldier who wouldn't have put that to waste.

"He told me about meeting you," she continues, thinking of James Barnes, and in response to that remark. "He told me… what you did. That was… that was beautiful. I told him. Told him to trust people. And — thank you."

A deep, almost relieved breath escapes her. "Come on," she directs gently, "make yourself at home. Take a load off. We can open that wine, or — coffee? Anything in particular?" With that, Jane puts on an encouraging smile, a tip of her head directly Zatanna into the cramped, claustrophobic little den that is the average Brooklyn apartment. She makes herself useful, determined to do something with herself, taking a few of the gifts in arm to set up on a counter in her just-as-tiny galley kitchen. But the woman keeps an eye on her guest, wanting an answer to her question.

Bucky Barnes told Jane enough. Excision of a soul. Something she wouldn't have even believed possible months ago. But things change. People change too.

She looks relieved to hear that Zatanna is fine, and that whatever the horrifying process, it seems to have been corrected without any side effects. But when conversation tries to roll back on the condition of Jane Foster —

"I'm — fine," she answers, a little awkwardly, an honest-to-goodness shit liar. Even Jane seems aware of how bad that is. "I'm… I don't know. Can that be a response? I think that's… that's honestly how I feel. I'm not even sure."

But Zatanna confesses to being worried. Even mentions John Constantine was as well. That pinches Jane's eyes at the corners, a bit surprised, a bit touched. He was worried about her? "You two are — you're a thing, right?" Jane has to ask, a question that's been on her mind for a while now. "I mean, correct me if — just a feeling, and —"

Zatanna again talks of Bucky — of James. Being a constant presence. Being… quiet.

"Yeah," Jane replies, simple, succinct. How one word speaks tomes. "But not forever."

—-

She returns the hug warmly, but gently, and feeling the woman slight, but /alive/ in her arms brings a storm of relief that she is presently unable to articulate. Moisture, hot and unwanted, springs in Zatanna's eyes, her brain reconciling the image of Jane now with the state she had left her in on the chair. Diminished, yes, but somehow she knows that the woman will recover, if not just because of how she is acting now. Determined to move. Determined to /be/. After everything, she will take that. Blinking her lashes rapidly, by the time she engages from the other woman, she looks fine, her smile returning once distance has been reclaimed.

Her gratitude of the small token she has left with Bucky earns Jane a glimpse of that very rare embarrassment, from a young woman who has self-confidence in spades. It manifests as a hint of red on her pale cheeks, the way her eyes divert just slightly to a point over her shoulder. The smile, too, self-conscious and practically a unicorn wandering out of a forest, some barely-seen creature spotted fleetingly before it ducks into the shadows and brambles again. "It's…I wanted him to know that I was serious. About trying. I didn't know how else to show it, really. Words are easy, for someone like me, but with Bucky…he's the sort of guy who believes in action, right?" The last is uncertain, her best guess - she tries her best to understand people, but there is tacit acknowledgment there that sometimes she gets it wrong.

She follows Jane, pulling two chairs out of the small table and sinks into one. "Coffee is great," she tells her. "Here, let me open these…" She opens up the box of macarons. "I wasn't sure what flavors you liked so I got all of them." The fluffy confection arrayed in rainbow patterns within the box. She refrains from telling Jane about the flowers, or that she asked Bucky what she liked and he professed he didn't know….if not just because she wants to see if her imagination is spot on and he'll just determine it in pure superspy style. She /must/ be weird, if she thinks it adorable, attempts of a covert operative to stalk his girlfriend across the city just so he could figure out what her favorite flowers were without asking the woman herself.

Look, it's the thought that counts.

"So long as it's honest," she says, in so few words describing a philosophy she lives by, when it comes to people she cares about. A trait that she shares with Jane, though she does not know this yet. "Honestly if I were in your shoes, I'd probably feel the same way. And maybe eating my weight in ice cream. It's my go-to, whenever I'm stressed out or depressed about something. When John and I broke up over the summer, I…"

Oh god. Oh god. Oh god. She's going to tell /another living person this/. Oh god.

"…I was Fatanna. I gained twenty pounds. See these jeans? I couldn't fit in them four months ago. I ballooned like a fugu." Pufferfish, though God knows why she elects to refer to it in its Japanese term. There must be a story behind it. "There was one time I was /drunk/ to boot and I ended up /wedged in a toilet seat/ in a club in Barcelona. I don't even remember how I managed to get out but it involved /a lot of soap/ and two Spanish girls who took pity and oh my god, I was /crying like a baby/. I was a mess."

The query about John causes a sheepish expression to dawn over her face. "Well…it's a long story, and it's complicated. It always has been." She props her chin on her hand and flashes her the devil's own smile, completely unrepentant about the fact that she's with a man ten years her senior. "But yeah, I'm hot for teacher."

Her levity fades a touch. Watching the physicist for a moment, she leans forward, linking her fingers on the table.

"What can I do?" she asks. "Anything, Jane. Any request and I'll do my best to make it happen. I…I'm not in the habit of forcing myself on anyone." That dark, rainy night in Paris stays with her, still, after all these years. "So whatever you want. Whatever you need. Even if it's just to keep you company for a while and fill your head with crazy stories so you don't have to think or…something to help you sleep. I can teach you how to make the tea I used to make for Daddy after…after he lost my mother."

—-

Embarrassment creeps visibly over the young woman's features.

Jane Foster pays it little mind. For someone who usually cannot help or control her own emotional outbursts, her own natural expressiveness — far be it from her to fault that of others. She welcomes it and dismisses it in the same moment, here in her presence a promised place of safety. She won't tell a soul.

"He does," she concurs lightly, to the remark of Bucky Barnes and his need for action. "Maybe a little too much. Though I don't know if the words even exist that could offer help for him. He thinks all he can do is act. It's all he can do, to make up for having seventy years forced on him."

The words are thin, scant, sparse of emphasis — but the well deep into something in Jane Foster. Bitterness, it seems at the first, shallow sampling, but even deeper the flavour changes to something else. Fury. Hatred.

She hates the people who did that to him. Who would do it to others.

But the emotion is just a flicker, a two-count heartbeat, passing through the woman. When it leaves, it seems to hollow her out, its haunting tiring Jane out. There is nothing worse than anger that goes nowhere. Anger that means nothing. So Jane presses on a tired smile and distracts herself with other things, namely the simple, rote steps to brewing a fresh pot of coffee. Like a little bee, she works along, giving welcome freedom to Zatanna to help however she wishes, turning her head and slanting a dark eye over at mention of the macarons.

She softens at the sight of them. Truth be told, Jane has no appetite. Even coffee is ash in her mouth, nothing more than something warm, something to keep her awake — keep her safely in control and not dreaming. But she doesn't have the heart to tell Zatanna Zatara no, who is here of her own accord, bringing double her weight in sheer /gifts/ and trying so hard to — do something.

"I like… lemon," Jane admits, a little sheepishly, as if she's never been asked such a thing before in her life. And she really hasn't. She doesn't even think her how many wasted years of her ex-almost-fiance ever asked her favourite flavour of cookie. "Is that one orange? Or clementine? James will want that one. These are really adorable. Seriously, look at these things."

Dr. Foster, fresh out of Hydra captivity, fawning over a box of macaroons. She takes the lemon one dutifully, and makes enough appetite happen to eat it in front of Zatanna, a thankful smile curving her mouth. She chews along, listening to the young woman speak, listening to her — answer Jane's perhaps over-curious question of her relationship with John Constantine.

Listening to —

— the Epic of Fatanna, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Haagen Dazs.

Jane stares through it all. Listens. And Stares. And there's jeans. And fugu. And a toilet seat. And. And. And.

"…You seriously called yourself /Fatanna?!/" Jane blurts out, everything, for this sweet moment, forgotten. A hitch of sound wells up. Not tears. Not a sob. Not despair. It's a laugh, sudden and sharp, and not even she seems to expect it, clapping a hand over her mouth until her eyes water. "You gained twenty pounds and gave yourself a NAME for it?! You — "

And that is now Jane Foster breaks down laughing. She has to. She can't stop it, because it's just so ridiculous, because in all of the world, all of the horror it provides, it also for some god damn reason owes existence of the word /FATANNA/.

She laughs until her voice breaks, hitched with a cough, shaking her head as she tries to rub tears away. What can I do? asks Zatanna.

Huffing for breath, leaned back against the counter, Jane glances up, exhausted and weary and thankful, thankful she's just heard herself laugh. "You can never say the word /Fatanna/ while I'm drinking anything, please," she begs, light-hearted, before letting that go running a hand through her dark hair. Talk of tea touches her, hits her — talk of a mother lost too early. Jane can relate to that. "You can… you can teach me," she says, this too not wanting to say no. Her smile crooks with guilty apology. "I don't want to sleep though. I don't… just not right now."

—-

She detects it - the sleeping temper, the hate, if not just because she is an emphatic creature and goes through life as an emotional mirror for others. The words regarding Bucky and the last seventy years of pain has Zatanna's lighthearted expression fading away just a little. There is no way she could know, no way she can relate. She has barely begun to live her life, who is she to opine on the decades someone else has lived? And under such circumstances besides. Her fingers lace and re-lace into one another on the table, and when she speaks up, to say something about it, to at least confirm to Jane that she is listening, it is a quiet thing:

"He has you now, too," she offers. "I won't even begin to pretend that I understand how he feels about everything and everyone else, because I'm still getting to know him, also. But I know something about being on my own without anybody I can turn to or rely on, anybody I can trust, and if four months of it was unbearable, I could only imagine how it feels when it's more than that. I've found that even just one person could be…could help a lot. When I came back to the States, that person was Jess. Jessica Jones."

There's affection there. Her relationship with the older woman has changed significantly since the day she walked into her office to hire her, when she took one look at her and suggested that she was at the wrong place, and that the bondage club was three doors down.

"I thought the same, when I found him that night, when I pulled the bullet out of him. People would probably tell me it was a bad idea, and I probably made myself an accessory after the fact to a murder, but I couldn't help myself. I couldn't just leave him. So when he mentioned you that other day in the park, I was glad he wasn't on his own anymore and that he had somebody. Being alone sucks, no matter who or what you are."

With that said, she glances down at the box, squinting at the array of colorful confectionery. "The yellow ones are lemon," she confirms, easing the container towards Jane so she could pluck one out. "The orange ones are citrus, and I think the blue ones are fig, greens are pistachios, the brown ones are chocolate and the white ones are vanilla. There's also a few more…the spotted ones are cookies and creme, and the beige ones are creme brulee." Talking about them draw up an urge, reaching out so she could take one of the latter ones, to hold between a thumb and forefinger and bite into it.

Which she regrets almost /immediately/ when Jane starts laughing over the story she tells her. Her twenty-pound weight gain and her embarrassing incident in a club in Barcelona, when she was so drunk that she managed to lift the toilet cover /and/ the seat without knowing, and then turned around and just dropped herself into the yawning ceramic crevice…

"I was in mourning!" she cries in protest amidst the physicist's laughter. "And…and…it was the only way I could motivate myself to work out every day! I wrote it all over post-its and stuck them all over the freezer. …and the pantry. …and the snack drawer in my bedroom. I even composed a little jingle and put it as an alarm on my phone when it was time to hit the gym. ~Fata-nna, Fata-nna, time to get off your ass-a.~ I told you I was Italian, right? It…"

It was like a boulder. The boulder in the Indiana Jones movies. Rolling down the tunnel, taking out every single shred of dignity she still had, and /still going/.

She buries her face in her hands to prevent herself from saying any more. Color has flushed from her cheeks and down to her neck, and she can't help but laugh also, all too aware as to how ridiculous she really can be. This isn't the first time she's wondered why John decided /not/ to stay broken up, does he really want to suffer this for years? If he could be believed anyway, still reeling from what he has said a few nights ago.

"I won't," she says, promising that she'll keep the name out of Jane's attempt to consume any beverage. "So long as you don't tell anyone about this, yeah? John already knows my darkest childhood secret. When he found out, he nearly killed himself, I've never seen him laugh so hard. I think this might actually obliterate him." She sighs, crossing her legs by the knee. That earlier relief returns, as well as an inner glow, having made someone laugh in spite of her current difficulties. "I'll give you the recipe before I leave."

She digs into her book bag, and starts pulling out the tomes. "These are…you mentioned you were going to help John with a few things, and that he introduced you to Ritchie. I tried to look for some relevant subjects in my father's library and I found a few. I figured…I hope they might help, also."

—-

He has you now, Zatanna reminds.

Jane glances up at those words, drawn to them, in one of those moments she wonders has her even look slightly worthy, slightly deserving of such a responsibility, instead of small and weak and wanting. "I have a bit of an idea," she reveals, voice so soft it's barely over that of a whisper. "I don't — I couldn't understand how he feels either. I hope what I'm doing is enough. It doesn't feel… I feel so weak even to be acting this way, when he's been through so much worse. I need to just get over it and be stronger for him."

She glances briefly down, down at her feet, stooped against her kitchen counter, her arms wrapped over her chest. Her too-long cardigan sleeves swallow her hands nearly to the tips of her fingers. Jane Foster, just so small.

Those dark eyes of hers only touch back up at mention of Jessica — Jessica Jones. "I met her," Jane has to tell Zatanna. "She's — she's great. It kills me — in, in a good way — how you and everyone seem to just… know each other in this amazing way. How you were all there. How you all managed to find James in time, to be able to help — it makes me believe there's something like luck. Or fate. Probably real enough I could solve for it." Her mouth presses into a tired, but reaching smile. "I wasn't going to give up until he spoke to some of you, at least some, other than Steve. I wasn't going to let him walk away. I'm just so grateful I trusted my gut."

Perhaps thankfully, the topic goes briefly light-hearted. Enough so that she almost spills the freshly-brewed coffee she pours, metering them out into a very unlikely and very nerdy pair of mugs: the first says 'Espresso Patronum', the second 'Sugarlock and Moriartea'.

All ridiculous words, but none so ridiculous as the saga of /Fatanna Fatara/. She's been through unimaginable trauma, believes her mind is no longer really her own, cannot even concentrate on the work that, for the last four years has been her entire life, but Jane still has the spirit left in her to choke out an embarrassing sound and lose herself into mindless laughter. She clasps a hand over her mouth, trying to muffle the sound, perhaps a little self-conscious of her own riotous laughter, though the woman cannot hide the way tears lick at the corners of her eyes. She's cried so much these past days, not that she regrets a single one of them, accepting and arming herself with every tear she's ever shed —

— but it's a relief to have some come from laughter.

"A — jingle — " Jane echoes breathlessly, the words broken with a moan of pain. Her ribs, her body, her everything, oh god, too much laughter. Laughter brings hurt. And Zatanna starts SINGING it.

And poor Dr. Foster just covers her eyes, shaking helplessly, because just when it can't get worse, Zatanna Zatara finds a way. Eventually, when she can /breathe/ again, she lets her hand drop, shaking her head and sleeve-mopping the laugh tears free. "Your secret's safe with me," she promises, "though I don't think I'm ever getting that song out of my head. You are — you are something, and — childhood secret?" she asks. Jane always has to ask.

Mood picked up, to say the very least, enough that she's forgotten her brief pinch of self-castigation, and maybe even for now, those sleepless rings under her eyes, Jane returns to pouring coffee. "How you take yours?" she asks, looking over her shoulder, and immediately distracted when Zatanna comes bearing books — not just books. Tomes.

She cannot hide or in any way betray her immediate fascination. "What are those?" Jane asks, because this might be safe. It's not work, not really, but it's something to occupy her starved, starved mind. "Those have to do with — Ritchie." She says the man's name like she's absolutely forgotten it. And the last two weeks, she very nearly has. "I forgot. Shit. I need to email him."

—-

'It doesn't feel…'

Enough, she finishes silently, substitutes it into the truncated thought. It doesn't feel enough, what she's doing for him despite her condition.

She knows this feeling very well. Sympathy fills her eyes.

The quiet words that Jane speaks has Zatanna's expression softening considerably. There's a smile, filled with rue as it is, but to her infinite credit there isn't anything sad about the look in her eyes. If anything, what she hears from the physicist now is most definitely encouraging.

She addresses the other remarks first, though she can't help the grin on her face now at seeing Jane laugh. The childhood secret has her /groaning/, tilting her head back and looking at the ceiling. "It…the story's a little involved, but it ended with John asking me whether if I wanted to be anything else other than a magician, because he found out that I didn't always know that magic was real. So I told him that when I was a kid, I wanted to be a circus tumbling clown. You know, the ones that jump out of the tiny car, with the ladder that flattens everyone, with the ridiculous wigs and the inflatable noses. Because I was a /happy child/ and they looked like they were having fun all the time. And John didn't believe it, until I told him some circus people actually /humored/ me into auditioning for it and I had no idea what I was doing and by the time I got to that part, he realized I wasn't kidding and…oh god, Jane, I thought he was going to /die/, it was so mortifying! That goddamn traitor! Pouring out my heart and soul and he laughs at me!"

Could anyone blame him though? Really? She is ridiculous.

The books, next. "These are some I managed to find about…different realities and how to access them. Related to Ritchie's area of expertise," she says, resting a hand on the pile. "Astral projection, the ins and outs of Limbo, that kind of thing. These are some of what he used to develop what he does now - Quantum magic, yeah?"

She falls quiet, turning her eyes to the wall, though Jane manages to return her attention to her by asking about her coffee - two creams, and two sugars, which she tells her in a distracted fashion that hints that she is thinking about something else.

Finally, she reveals what it is - to address the brunette's quiet words from earlier.

"Jane, about what you said…" Teeth clip delicately on her bottom lip. "I think it's…even if you were fully recovered, I don't know if anyone could ever really stop feeling that way when it comes to someone that person cares about," she replies. "I felt that way all my life towards Daddy, the things he does, the sacrifices he's made. He's been saving the world well before I was born and most days, I feel more like a burden to him instead of a wellspring of support that someone like that desperately needs, especially with all the trouble I get up to, and I know objectively that's not true." It also doesn't help, when sometimes they lash out despite your best efforts. She has felt the sting of that more times than anyone could expect.

"I think that no matter what state you're in, he's just happy to have you, still." She doesn't know for sure, she can really only go by what he's said. What she has seen on his face. "Every time I mention you, or every time he offers up a bit of what you're like even before I even met you, which is rare, by the way, because I think maybe some part of him likes hoarding these small pieces of you for himself…his edges soften up. Even when he was still struggling under what they've done to him, that's always been consistent. Always there. If anything…" She hesitates, but this never lasts for long, ever so honest with her emotions and opinions. "When I talked to him at the park, he was so…insistent that I didn't have to forgive him, despite what I said, because he knows how difficult that could be and probably thinks he doesn't deserve it. That I would be well within my rights to feel that way about him. If he feels that way about /me/, I can only imagine how he feels about you. That he probably feels that he isn't worthy of you, not deserving of anything of yours or what you have to give."

I know something about that, too.

"So I think…what you're doing for him now, while you're recovering yourself. It's plenty, Jane. I know if it were me - to see you try, to see you do, in the state you're in…it would mean the world to me. Its full weight in gold. I know it's hard, because if I were you, I'd want to do more also, because it doesn't feel enough. It would never feel enough, though, I think, for someone so…who's suffered the way he has. But if you're not going anywhere, and he's not going anywhere, the two of you have time. Lots of time. So I think you should take all the time that you need."

The talk of Jess and Fate, also. This has her smiling faintly when she circles back around to it. "John would tell you that there is," she tells her. "There is such a thing as Fate. I told him once that I thought Destiny was overrated and he told me…" She takes a breath, and unleashes the most /ridiculous/ impression of John, something more cockney than his signature Liverpudlian: " 'Tha's the funny thing 'bout Fate, luv, it don' give a toss what you think.' But he would know, about that. Even for the likes of us, John's unique. Daddy would know more, and I'm really only starting to learn what I'm dealing with when it comes to him."

/And how/.

"But I'm glad you did. Convinced Bucky," Zatanna continues, looking up to meet Jane's eyes. "I'm not…it's not in me to leave things so important unresolved. I wanted to know, too, if I could forgive him. I told him it would be easier if it was just me, but all I could think of for the longest time was when I begged him not to do this to John and…I don't think I would have known. I wouldn't have been able to make a decision until I looked him in the eye and talked to him."

—-

The story about tiny cars and ladders and wigs and honking noses and tumbling clowns — it might have made John Constantine roar uproariously, but Jane Foster does not make a peep.

Her eyes pinch a little at their far corners, her eyebrows pressed down, and though Jane listens with her eyes averted, staring down at her own two hands, she listens with a quiet smile on her face. She thinks it's a beautiful story. "John's an asshole," is her amused conclusion to all of that. "I'll give him a smack for doing that, if you want. If it makes you feel better though — "

She goes briefly quiet. "Please take this to the grave. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a garbageman." With that, Jane's face screws right up, her features resembling a corkscrew, before she just hides it all under a shameful hand. "I really liked the truck. I'd like… get really obsessed about taking out the trash bags and spend the morning crying if I missed them. I /swear/ I just wanted to drive the stupid truck. It makes sense though. Garbage trucks turned into race cars. Race cars into rockets. Rockets into where I am now. Circus clowns did the same for you. You probably haven't left it all behind. Instead of antics, you got magic. Instead of those props, you have your abilities. Instead of a whoopie cushion, you have the shit that comes out of John's mouth."

A brief, sharp grin quirks up Jane's mouth, brings a moment's worth of life to her sleepless, hollowed-out eyes. Gentling again, she returns to coffee preparation, filling a mug for Zatanna and proffering it to the young woman.

In exchange for that small gift, in return, Jane receives… books. And not just any books. Tomes out of the coveted Shadowcrest library, a collection written by great magicians, meant only for magicians — people not like ordinary Jane Foster, with her mind full of faraway thoughts and her spirit willing to do the impossible. Hands freed up, her attention turns to that book pile, and she carefully picks up the topmost book, handling it as if it were priceless. She reads its spine then opens it, skimming pages with transparent fascination, her eyes moving like a cat clock — up and down with simultaneous focus between written word and Zatanna's spoken introduction. "This is… yes," she stammers. "I'm — thank you. You have no idea. Something like this — I get to borrow these? Keep this here? I will guard them with my life. It helps. Thank you so much for this."

Something to /do/. Something to occupy her mind and learn and try to /control/. Jane grips the book for a moment, fingers curled tight, like she doesn't want to even momentarily let it go. It feels like an extra grounding, something to keep her mind focused, her head out of sleep and dreaming and remembering things she's not ready to think about. But now, for politeness's sakes, she sets the tome back down… and especially when Zatanna speaks to her again. Speaks to her with a change to her voice, a sort of heaviness weighing down its cadence, bringing gravity to every syllable. About what she said earlier…

Attention stolen halfway through taking up her own coffee, Jane glances up at Zatanna. Some of the levity washing off her face, she goes quiet, listening. Listening to her own concerns, worries, fears spoken parallel to a story Zatanna tells — that of her own father.

Then she begins to speak of how Bucky Barnes speaks — perhaps even thinks of Jane. Surprise opens her eyes, before Jane turns them down, perhaps not in shyness or self-consciousness, but just needing a safe middle ground of her kitchen tile as Zatanna speaks things that compel so much emotion — too much emotion. Her heart twists, and she bites down briefly on her lower lip, worrying the flesh in silent thought. "He's said as much, kind of," she confesses, "in a way. That he doesn't deserve any of this. He doesn't feel like he does. I've told him otherwise, but I don't know if he believes me. I don't know how to convince him. All I guess I can do is try."

Her fingers fidget nervously over the mug. "I just worry. Worry that he's only here because… of guilt. Or that he owes people. Or that he owes me. And that's the only reason… and then it would just take him away again. I hope there's time. I've always lived like there isn't enough. And… in a way, there isn't."

Jane's eyes shine dangerously bright. Well on the brink of tears, exhausted in so many ways, and even exhausted in the heart — hating that, at this time, she's reduced to a state of being that isn't her, that's not who she is — someone who cannot quite leave the house, someone who avoids work, someone who stands in place and feels afraid of everything.

It's really Zatanna's impression of John that brings Jane Foster back from that first, could-have-been sob, and instead her voice breaks into shuddery laughter, smiling weakly as the tears blink free, rolling down her cheeks. She tries to discreetly wipe them away with her sleeve. "Of course fate is real," she sputters with an amused huff. "Everything else is."

Finally, she looks up, confident again to meet Zatanna's blue eyes. Jane looks searchingly over her face as she speaks of forgiveness — forgiving James. "You know, I'd met you only once before. And so briefly. But I knew you would. I knew you'd forgive him."

—-

When Jane offers her own story, Zatanna can't help but have her eyes widen. The picture she paints, of walking out every morning to take out the garbage, of just seeing them pass down the street. Of little Jane in those coveralls, of wanting to drive the truck. Much like the physicist with the circus clown thing, she can't help but find this adorable. Especially when she confesses /crying/ whenever she misses garbage pick up day. "Oh no! Jane…that's so cute!" she says; there is laughter but it's more out of the sheer cuteness factor than all the other factors as to why John, or maybe even Bucky, would find it funny. "I won't tell a soul, I promise."

She tries to follow the traverse from garbage trucks, to race cars, to rockets and how Jane has always been enamored of space. She tries to make parallels between magic and the circus, and really it's not all that much of a stretch. The whoopie cushion crack does have her grinning broadly. "Is that what you hear whenever he talks?" she wonders. "Just prrrt! Prrt prrt prrt!" Like Miss Othmar from the Peanuts cartoons. "Or is that a thing you can turn on selectively? You should totally keep it off whenever /he/ rants, though. Between the two of us I'm the expert, but when he gets going, nobody should ever miss it. It can just be as ridiculous as you can imagine."

Slender digits lift to take the offered mug with a quick, grateful look, taking a quick sip of it. She doesn't protest at all when Jane finally moves over to the pile of tomes she brought - books on the Astral Plane, how to travel in it, other alternate realities. Books that would remind her of her Einstein-Rosen bridge. "I pulled them out of Daddy's inner sanctum. They're the ones I had to read before, he would not allow me to pass through the veil without studying these for about a year. Everyyone can do a little bit of hedge magic, which is basically like a home cook following a recipe, but there are people who can amass greater potential - people who have been 'opened' up to magic, like what happened with Ritchie in…" Eyes tighten faintly. "Newcastle, or you with your first adventure with John. But yeah I brought them hoping they would help, so please keep them for as long as you like. If I need them for anything, I'll come by and ask for them but they're yours to do what you will. If they help to keep your mind occupied, then so much the better. I hope you don't find them too dry."

There's an exasperated look, with a hint of apology. "Magicians tend to be a /super egotistical/ lot and that shows a lot in their writing. Especially the ones that are writing to purportedly teach the next generation. So be prepared to roll your eyes a few times."

She is an attentive listener, she gives it as good as she gets it, and Jane has been nothing but willing, quick to absorb and react to what she gives her. And it is /refreshing/. She is constantly surrounded by reticent souls, those who do not give any more than they feel is necessary. Peter Parker has been, so far, the only person who has managed to break out of that mold; Tim Drake has been making a considerable effort to that end also, but even she senses that hesitation - too many years ingrained in the Batman's way of thinking. But to find the physicist so willing to share her own experiences, and even some embarrassing childhood anecdotes, softens her expression and warms the insides of her considerably.

She nurses her coffee with careful sips and her expression twists, also, when she sees the other woman blink back her tears, when what she speaks of draws more emotions up to the surface. A hand reaches out, because she can't not, to touch the other woman's forearm lightly, to curl her fingers around such a delicate limb to give it a warm squeeze. She can't give any advice, doesn't even try to, because she is all too aware that she is young and Jane Foster has lived through almost twice her years. It would be stupid and disrespectful to think that she can, or should. All that she really has to give are her own opinions, to at least assure the other woman that she is not just listening, but to confirm that her concerns are real and worth their due weight.

"…have you told him?" she wonders, softly. "That you're afraid that he'll go away?"

Her fingers tighten their grip on her mug, because she can't help it. Because what Jane says resonates with /everything else/. The one thing, the one memory that she keeps locked away tightly inside of her heart, to bar against any and all comers because of what they might see in there, or what they might think. Or worse, that they'll think it's stupid, or they'll roll their eyes and find it so childish. Something that shouldn't count, because it happened so long ago, and she was a child and she should just /get over it/. But to her, there is nothing childish about being left. There is nothing childish about being left behind by the person you love.

When they think you're not worth it - not worth all the pain, the burden, the suffering of it all. That you're not worth sticking around for. That they only stuck around for this long out of obligation. Because he feels like he /has/ to.

She doesn't ask anything else. Because Jane could have told him already and if she hasn't, she can understand why also. If that's how she feels, then it must be a daunting prospect to say something that might make Bucky feel that he has to stay even more, and take away the choice from him, when he has spent so many decades not having much of one.

The confidence that she finds in her eyes later, however, earns the physicist a small smile. "I'm glad you had faith in me, too," she tells her quietly. "I'll try my best not to let you down." On anything, but especially about James Barnes.

—-

The heiress magician, Zatanna Zatara, forges a deep and somber blood oath, one upon which she wages the very worth of her soul: never to tell anyone Jane Foster's embarrassing garbage man story.

"We're blood sisters sharing dark pasts," Jane quips, trying to mime grimness more natural of James or John, and failing theatrically. "Let us be clowns and garbagemen together. Garbagewomen. Garbagepeople?"

Her lips crook with a brief, tired, but honest smile, and she takes a deep swig of her own coffee, swallowing it back for its intravenous shot of caffeine. It's almost a mistake, almost one that costs Jane everything, because she swallows just in time — /just in time/ before Zatanna breaks out the prrt prrt prrts! — and doesn't choke to death on her sudden laughter.

Straining to hold back that bout makes her eyes briefly water. By the grace of God, Jane knows, she'll ever be able to look on John with a straight face again. "I've actually… I got the privilege to see a rant," she confesses. "Actually when I first stumbled on him. He was talking about magic and the usual nonsense, and I asked if he was like Criss Angel. That didn't — it didn't go over well."

That brief, bright smile makes a second hitched return, hooking up her mouth expressively before it disappears again.

But as Zatanna goes on in discussion of those tomes, Jane steals another gulp of her coffee then sets it down, freeing herself up to her full attention. She listens keenly, her mind starved, but also just… wanting to know, wanting some preliminary guidance from an honest-to-goodness /mage/ before she even begins digesting these books on her own time. Ever an attentive student to this new, strange art, and more than willing to learn, her attention and expression only rivets, changes, at — well, mention of Newcastle.

Her wince is immediate and genuine, her face unable to hide anything. It seems Jane knows well about that. "Richard — Ritchie. Told me a bit about Newcastle," she admits. She pauses, and adds, with an uneasy laugh, "I think to try to convince me away from knowing John. Almost worked too." Another pause. "I haven't told John I know. I probably… won't ever."

It's a subject Jane is all too happy to change. "But… thank you for the books. Probably as a forewarning, I'm probably going to have them all read in a day. If… if you're ever compelled to want to bring more." That's a loaded sentence. "I remember everything I read too. Every word."

Those words matched with another, almost self-conscious smile, Jane turns slightly, drawn back by thought of her coffee — and stops instead to feel a touch on her arm. She looks up, her dark eyes soft, a natural yield to them that does not question how or whether she should be touched at all. She welcomes it, welcomes Zatanna, as if she were always a part of her life.

Has she told him?

Jane's eyes look at her for a beat, then lower, turned down at her own feet. It's not shyness, this impulse, not self-consciousness, and the tension at her forehead plays at something else entirely — something far more pensive. Zatanna has always held this aspect so close to her, close to her heart, close to that raw, weak little spot that should others ever see, would find childish, or worse, meaningless —

"I haven't," Jane answers, with strange, frank honesty. "It's sort of a… thing with me. More like a curse, I've wondered. I lost my dad back while I was in college, and it seems ever since then — like it's some sort of running gag. I've never been able to keep anyone around for long afterward. And for a lot of reasons. James is… probably the first. In a long time. To have stuck around this long."

That one fear — and she says it aloud so freely. "I'm aware it's mainly me being neurotic. I don't want to put that on him on top of everything else. He's already got — " Jane interrupts her words with a windy huff of breath, and reaches up to lay her hand over Zatanna's, to twine their fingers briefly together. "Don't become a crazy person like me, seriously," she advises, joking feebly when all other words fail.

But Zatanna says she won't let Jane down. Will try not to. On Jane's face is the perfect trust of someone who does not anticipate otherwise, even out of someone barely met, someone she knows so little — but has already determined to trust. "Same for you."

—-

"Sounds good to me," Zatanna says, rising up from her chair so she could wander over to Jane; close enough to clink their coffee cups together. Leaning against the counter, she gives her a faint grin. "I won't tell a soul if you won't. Once you learn enough, maybe we'll seal the deal with a formal blood pact - magicians actually have a version, believe it or not." That grin broadens, making room for a peal of laughter, shared when the scientist laughs…that grows when she offers up that story of calling John 'Criss Angel'. "He must've been super offended," she says, the devil's mischief in her eyes. "It's all the eyeliner, I think. Reminds John of his failed attempts at being a rockstar, so it's a double mistake."

And Mucous Membrane's lyrics were /terrible/. She remembers listening to Venus of the Hard Sell, and shudders.

Taking another hefty drink of her coffee, she curls both hands around the mug, watching the physicist over the rim. Talk of Ritchie and Newcastle has her glancing down at the swirl of coffee and cream in the ceramic confines, chewing on her bottom lip, reminded of the day John divulged those details to her. Never too much, but significantly more than he has offered the likes of Jessica Jones, for example. It remains the lynchpin of the British magus' life, to the point that the mention of it can't help but twist her insides, taking her back to glimpses of his night terrors and the shattered dreamcatchers she had quietly pinned into the back of his headboard in his flat back in London so he wouldn't see…

"If you're working with Ritchie, chances are John already expects that he's told you a bit about it," she offers, regarding Newcastle. "But to ask any more would be…it'd be a bad idea. He's not a forgiving person when you come within sniffing distance of those kinds of wounds. He doesn't hold back." Speaking as someone who has sustained knife wounds between her ribs from the man in question. "And neither do I, in the end. I honestly don't know how we…" She fumbles for the word. "…work. But we do."

Her eyes do widen at the revelation that Jane has a photographic memory, or near it. "Wow, really? What's that even like? You're the second person I've met who's…I my Physics partner, Tim Drake, in University. He remembers everything he reads also. Everything you tell him, too." There's a self-deprecating laugh. "I think hanging out with the both of you's going to make me develop a complex, or something. I'm not exactly…well. I'm no genius. Anyway if that's something you need, I can bring more by tomorrow. I can take pictures of whole shelves in the library and store it in my phone, and I managed to invent a spell where I can pull out exact copies - magic for the modern age, yeah? It makes it easier for me to transport important things like that around, so it's really no trouble. I can bring over the entire east wing if you like."

She seems perfectly happy to flood Jane's apartment full of books.

As Jane looks down to the floor, she lets the silence linger. The young woman doesn't rush the other, though she does lower her hand and keeps a companionable distance to her, watching the way brows draw over the center of her forehead, the contemplative expression. And when the explanation finally tumbles out, she feels those bands constrict tightly around her heart, cramping around that open, vulnerable muscle. To hear that Jane lost her father, that she has trouble holding onto people, who tend to /leave/ her for various reasons. And she remembers, because it resonates, echoes of her own life, reflected back at her; years of transient living, with no significant connections other than her father. She had thought that she has managed to find one in John, and then one summer…

The two of them, gone. Almost at the exact same time.

Jane's hand finds hers, and she does not hesitate at all in curling them together warmly, tightly, linking - a symbol of solidarity, comparable life experiences, similar fears and insecurities and as she looks up at those large, brown eyes and the fearless way she confesses that one issue, she almost tells her about that rainy night in Paris, the thing that casts a shadow in all of her interactions with everyone since. Spurred by two bottles of whiskey and heart-wrenching grief she was too young at the time to understand.

"Jane, for what it's worth…I think he'll stay," she says quietly. "For someone who's had such a dark life, I think some part of Bucky can't help but be drawn to the light, and the kind of care that you provide. What's more is that you /share/. You don't hesitate at all to care for him and I think no matter how he feels about not deserving it, I think he wants it. Wants you." Her fingers squeeze Jane's a little tighter. "And someone like that who's lost so much will fight tooth and nail to keep you once he realizes that for himself, if he hasn't already. Plus…whoever left you before has no idea what he's missing. Hell, this is the second time I'm meeting you and /I/ don't want to leave you and go home."

A smile lifts the corner of her mouth. "As for not being a crazy person, I think it's too late for me." She gives her a wink.

—-

If there's one thing Jane will take away from this — other than wine, and books, and flowers, and infinite macaroons — it's the quick, pained advice offered by Zatanna. Do not, under any circumstances, bring up the Newcastle to the Constantine.

The corners of her eyes pinch in a brief, understanding wince. From what she's heard of it, and it isn't much she knows — beyond the particulars of what happened to everyone involved /after/, and it's still hard to imagine John Constantine, unflappable, smirking, twice in a mental institution — Jane gets that it's more than a sore subject. It's an exposed nerve, stripped bare on him, poked and prodded by a thousand different things in his day, and never allowed to be myelinated, covered, soothed, forgotten. "I'll remember that. I think I wouldn't want to hold back either. Even to talk about that… it almost feels like an act of cruelty too. I barely knew him even when Richard told me, and still it — seemed to have things make sense. The first anything I got from John is that he really… cares. Maybe too much."

Her fingertips play absently, bemusedly over the lip of her coffee mug as she speaks. Jane is a handsy talker, a restless woman of a thousand fidgets, her energy not so much nervous or uncomfortable, especially in the more trusted company of Zatanna — but more… irrepressible. Too much energy cursed to be vesselled in so small of a body. And now, with her recent trauma keeping her housebound, she's all the more jittery at her fraying seams. It's just the fear, at the moment, is still too much to compel her further.

So Jane fidgets some more. She glances back up when Zatanna aska aloud what it's like — to have an eclectic memory. She huffs a genuine laugh. "I'd ask the same about basically being made of magic," she counters, with a small smile, and no small amount of awe. A young woman of that much ability is interested in her brain? "It's a gift. Also a curse, I guess. Like most things. The good part is you remember everything. The bad part is… you remember everything. Moments you'd rather not, down to each word and detail. You end up overthinking things… a lot. You spend maybe half your time in your head. You have to learn fast, and early, how to just handle and mature with so much information. You have to learn patience. With /everyone/. With yourself. I… have not."

Her words end on another brief, tired smile, the rueful shrug of a woman well-aware she's a work in progress. Jane's manner softens when Zatanna says she'll get a /complex/. "You know, there's many types of genius out there. Believe me, I was forced to take a cognitive psych core once. Dreadful. But, how you even first found me? Found James? It's no small feat, and I don't mean your magic. I barely know you, but I think I'd personally slap anyone who questioned your intelligence."

As if to prove the point — Zatanna offers a spell /she invented/ to give Jane a personal, photographic persual of her library. A library dedicated /to magic/. For the first time, maybe in all day, the woman's grin tilts a little wider in genuine delight, her troubles forgotten under the firestrike give to burning embers. Her mind is starved, and the Zatara heiress is literally offering her the world. Not even this world, but another, one Jane months ago would have doubted was ever real. "You don't know what you're inviting," she warns, but with real, starved life couched in her words, someone who lives foremost to learn. "I'll be begging you to bring all of it. Once I start, I… thank you. You have no idea how much this means to me. Or maybe you do."

When her hand does close down over Zatanna's, fingers twining, the touch comes suffused with appreciation, gratefulness, and just wonder — wonder how such a person came into her strange life, how she was gifted to know her. It was James, Jane then tells herself. James, and all the good he's done for her, despite his protestations of the opposite. Zatanna in particular is a gift, she knows, one that, if she hasn't already, she's fated to love.

For that reason she listens quietly, patiently, and without argument, as Zatanna speaks of James. She calls it him being drawn to her light. Jane feels a burn to her eyes, and she bites briefly down on her bottom lip to control it, as she thinks: even if I did, do I even have that now? Is there anything left? Or am I now just a black hole?

It's hard to imagine herself as that person Zatanna seems to speak of, someone who can command so much… something that could be the foundation for another's battered, hurting soul. She's never seen herself as particularly exceptional, beyond the odd moment of arrogance in her very, very specialized field. Otherwise Jane Foster has just been driven, perhaps at best, someone who's never lived three paces beyond the trappings of her own mind, and the paths it sends her. But she doesn't want to speak aloud her reservations, does not want to sound ungrateful to such a beautiful thing someone has said. Not even Zatanna herself wants to leave her and go home. "I'll… I'll remember that," she promises.

Too late for not being crazy, Zatanna quips.

That earns Jane's dark, too-shiny eyes. They soften with quiet indulgence. "Well, you're in good company."

—-

At the observation that John cares, perhaps too much, the raven-haired young woman hesitates. Yes, and no. The British magus, she knows, has developed enough calluses over the years of his beleaguered life that he has become an expert at /not/ caring about a thing when he thinks it's best for him. But innocents, people he tries to help - people who he considers his friends, yes. Very much yes. "It…" Zatanna glances down at her coffee. "…John's been through plenty of cruelty," is what she elects to say, though she doesn't get into any further detail than that.

With a sigh, ice-blue eyes lift to regard Jane and the way she fidgets, a mirror of her own restlessness and she can't help but smile inwardly despite herself. It's the magic in her, driving her to constantly /do/. She isn't sure what it is that powers the physicist's own engine, but she imagines that it's something similar. And she provides an explanation, in a way, when Jane peels back the curtain on the advantages and pitfalls of having a photographic memory, wondering on some level whether this is the same thing Tim struggles with every day - unable to turn it off, to find some way of dealing and expending so much energy in the process to do do. It must be exhausting, but even while fatigued, she doesn't seem to stop moving.

There's a sheepish grin, when Jane counters with what she does - the truth of the matter is, she doesn't know. There's so much of herself that she doesn't know, and there is very little she can offer the other woman in order to elucidate her. But what she says about her own brain is interesting, and she absorbs this in rapt attention. Always drawn to the human element, she tucks this key carefully away, another means to understand the brunette a little better, just a little, and by extension, her best friend.

"Is the risk of mental burnout higher, then? When you're trying to sort through all the information you get in one moment?" she wonders, genuinely curious. "Or is having a memory like that…does it come with higher cognitive coping mechanisms also?"

The brilliant smile that the other woman gives her has her responding with one of her own. "I honestly, literally just grabbed everything I thought you could use or enjoy," she offers. "I only met you once before, so I was making my best guesses, really. So I thought wine because you seemed so enthused about it in our first meeting, and macarons because I haven't met anyone who didn't like them, and books because word on the street says that Dr. Jane Foster is god damn brilliant. I tried to grab the ones that Ritchie must've read himself when he was putting together his…whatever he's doing now. Quantum magic is actually pretty new, there aren't a lot of people who know what it is, let alone what to do with it. It's full-blown, twenty-first century magic but…its principles are derived from older stuff and it's that older stuff that I brought for you…but you're faling into some real cutting edge stuff! You're going to have to teach me once you learn enough from Ritchie. And if you need more, I can always swing by and get you more."

Anything, really, to inject some new life back on that tired face.

For a moment, she says nothing about the doubt visibly wreathing Jane's features, the way her teeth depress on the fullness of her lower lip. Easing her empty coffee cup on the counter, her other hand closes over the physicist's slender fingers, cupping over her knuckles and sandwiching that one limb between her palms. She squeezes it in between, and gives her a smile.

"It's alright if you don't believe it now," she tells her, quietly. "But I believe in you, as cheesy as that sounds. You told me earlier that you had faith that I would forgive Bucky. I have faith in you, also. Faith that you /are/ someone that he needs."

With that, she slowly releases Jane's hand. "Come on," she says, her tone light. "I'll show you how to make that tea. It's actually pretty old magic - one of the oldest in the world."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License