Nowhere Fast

February 21, 2017:

Following Singular Choices and Contract Maiming, a conference between Tim and Stephanie about the disappearance of Zatanna Zatara and John Constantine is interrupted by an emergency message, and an uncomfortable revelation.

Tim Drake's NYC Residence

A swanky penthouse loft, at least this time nobody's bleeding all over it.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine, Jessica Jones, Elinor Ravensdale, Barbara Gordon, Doctor Strange, Barry Allen

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Tim Drake was not in class today.

He hadn't been in class the day before, either, though at least he went to the trouble of emailing his professors and his TAs, and given that he's the sort of student that Gotham University's faculty constantly wonders why he's attending a mediocre state school instead of a prestigious Ivy League, both because of his intelligence and his wealth, it seems like he has a lot of room to slide.

Still, anyone looking for him there wouldn't find him. Nor would they find him at his townhouse, or at Wayne Manor, or in the Batcave.

Ultimately, he would be found in New York, at his penthouse loft overlooking downtown Manhattan. It's been several hours since he returned there from Chinatown, and he sits in the small office in the upper level of the loft, where computers whirr, showing him feeds of the video and audio surveillance equipment he put up at the entrance to the Abyss nightclub. He's got a notebook in front of him, the cryptic hints he got from Wong's reading the night before written down, while he scribbles theories around them, trying to figure out what any of it might mean.

He slept, a few hours at least, the first time he'd slept since Friday. But it was fitful, haunted. He's always had nightmares since his mother was killed, and they'd only gotten worse as other deaths were added to the rolls.

Still, he's never been one to let bad dreams stop him; that's part of why he barely sleeps.

The door bleeps for Stephanie as she uses her keycard to let herself in. She was annoyed, in her workout gear, black 'workout bag' over her shoulder. She finished some prowling in New York and had the information she needed. She moves in, closing the door behind her, looking for and find Tim.

"She's gone," Stephanie announces without preamble. The annoyance is easy to hear in her tone.

"Social media caught her on Valentine's Day climbing the top of the Rockefeller Center's statue to take a box from the top. And then she rabbitted via the ice rink. 20hours, 30minutes, local time. Hasn't been seen since. She's not ignoring you. Someone or something's got her. Let me see your notes," she says, bag dropped to the floor with a telling thump as she moves over behind him to peer over a shoulder. Looks like Steph's not wasting time tonight.

He hears the door. It could only be one of two people; nobody else knows about this place as far as he knows, and /definitely/ nobody else has a keycard to get in.

But the process of elimination whittles it down still further, before Tim even hears the footsteps that are distinctively Stephanie Brown, or catches the scent of her, post 'workout'. So there's no surprise when the blonde comes up behind him, sitting at his desk… Although it's rare to hear her like that.

Usually she tries to keep the cheerleader up, even when she isn't feeling it. So why…?

"I know," Tim says quietly, not looking up. "I just don't know who or what has her, or where."

Or at least, not completely where. He was watching the entrance of the Abyss for a reason, after all.

The notepad he's writing on is covered in his neat, square handwriting, every line of it efficient. In dark black pen:

'The raven must speak to the weeping whore in the ruins of the glittering ashes.'

'The robin must follow these signs: the broken clock, the windy vale, the woman in white.'

'The foster child must comb the fruits of the robin's labor for the opportunity within.'

'The broken jewel must seek the god-fearing devil in the dark of the night.'

'Venture not alone into the lair of the lost ones. The robin must fly with winter, the jewel must hold the sky serpent, and the devil must lead them, or the fanged children will take a life before you earn the answers you seek.'

'Only the winter wind is fearsome enough to drive answers from the mouthpiece of midnight.'

He's added other notes in fainter colours to distinguish them, to not distract from the prophecy. 'Robin = Tim Drake,' it says in one spot. 'Broken jewel = Jessica Jones.' 'Raven = Elinor Ravensdale?'

It was a trying day. Hearing Tim's quiet voice brings Stephanie's gaze around to him, her eyes taking in his fatigue. She scans briefly for the necklace she gave him, making sure he still has it with him before she looks down at the notes.

"Well. This isn't cryptic, is it?" Stephanie deadpans before drawing a breath and as she always does, shoves the dark and the bitter away in a manner that she hadn't before just barraging in. Really, it was her fault it took her this long. She hadn't thought to check social media at first, and she hadn't called Tim to find his location. Well, live and learn.

"Babs is talking to Dr. Strange from the League about the Cold Flame. Poke her for more on that," Stephanie adds as she reads it all again with the names added in.

"So, we still have to figure out who the Weeping Whore is, and the Woman in White… and the Foster Child…. and the God-fearing Devil," she says, pulling out her phones to start her internet social media crawl, again.

"First off, Robin, what's the Broken Clock? Do you think it means the Clocktower?"

He was, in fact, not wearing the necklace at the moment; though he'd been privately glad that Stephanie had managed to slip it back into one his pockets when he was in Chinatown, it turned out not to be necessary. For the moment, it sits on the nightstand beside his bed, not far away; the upper floor of the loft, including the office, bathroom and bedroom is like an indoor balcony, with the latter looking out over the large open-concept living area below, those huge floor to ceiling windows. Very nice, very trendy.

"You got Oracle involved in this?" Tim asks, only now turning his gaze away from his notes and up to the blonde. And now she was taking it to the Sorceror Supreme, which is probably exactly the sort of person you'd want on such a case… But Tim can't help but have inherited at least some of his mentor's distaste for spreading secrets around. He sighs a little, not wanting to fight about it, and puts the notebook down on his desk.

"I don't know," he says, a combination of words Tim Drake was never eager to utter. "But we need to be careful, we can't… Force these," Tim continues, trying to explain a concept he himself barely understands. "They were obtained by magic, a reading. Signposts to look out for. If we push too hard, we might try to make them fit the meaning we want, and miss what they really mean, and then…"

"Of course I did. This is gotten way out of my league, and considering I took it from you, it's likely out of your league now too. This ..magic? It's completely beyond me. So, i asked Babs about it. She knows more than I do. And she's got us a contact so…" Stephanie rolls a shoulder, not having inherited that BatFlaw. Hearing Tim utter those three little words has Stephanie's eyes widening faintly before she purses her lips lightly and inhales through her nose.

"But we also can't be too afraid of missing the 'real meaning' that we never take a guess and give it try," Stephanie says, reaching out to take his notebook away so he can no longer see the words he's written, words that Steph's pretty sure he has memorized by this point.

"You've got some signs to follow, but if you're too afriad to get the signs wrong you'll never see them. So… tell me about clocks and vales and women.. in white…" Stephanie says, as she leans the pad against her chest, writing toward her, as she looks up social media for anything that seems to feel right next to these weird weird sayings.

Tim had of course memorised them when he first heard them, the notes there written down from memory… Mostly just so that he could write other notes around them, trying to figure out connections. Try to piece something, anything together.

"Some of it might have to do with this place," he says, gesturing at one of the three computer monitors, the one showing the feeds from the Abyss. "As near as I can tell it's the last place Zatanna and Constantine were before… Whatever happened. It's some kind of nightclub for magic types, probably the only one on the Eastern seabord the Wayne name can't get me into. I've got a potential way in, though." He hopes. If Jessica Jones is right about Ravensdale, anyway…

"As for the rest, I dunno how literal any of that is. A broken clock could just be someone who's only right sometimes, there's plenty of women in white." With a heavy sigh, he gets up from the chair, scrubbing hands through his dark hair before moving over to, and then flopping down on, his bed.

"And windy vale…? The only vale I know of is Vicky, and I doubt she'd appreciate being called windy by anyone."

Stephanie watches Tim as he works through things, glancing at the computer monitor. Nightclub for magic types, and the Wayne name won't get him in? Well, then it's time for a non-Wayne to give it a go, huh? Her head tilts at the flicker of an idea. As Tim tries to get literal, Stephanie giggles brightly, turning to watch Tim flop on his bed.

"Not all of these things have to be people, you know? And not everything is solved by throwing money at it," Stephanie pauses a moment.

"When did you sleep last?" she asks.

"You're right," Tim agrees from the bed, turning to look at Stephanie; he can't help but smile faintly at her giggling, as she shows some more of the cheerleader. Though of course, she asks him about his sleeping habits. Why does everyone always worry about that?

"Last night. After I got all of that information," he tells her, adjusting the cuff of his long-sleeved, grey shirt. "I've been working the case with a private investigator, she's a friend of Zatanna's and Constantine's. She knows New York better than I do. Last night we went to a contact of Constantine's, a kind of… Magical middleman. He was able to do an I Ching reading for me, which got me those clues, or… Whatever they are."

The cost was ominous.

Of course, he didn't hesitate in paying it.

"She thinks the 'raven' might be this Elinor Ravensdale, she's some kind of spirit medium."

Stpehanie nods to this, smiling when Tim does. It's good to see him smile so, and she smiles more when he answers that he at least got some recently. Relatively that is. She won't poke further.

"Okay. So, you totally are going to need a raiding party for this dungeon crawl," Stephanie says, mixing up her MMORPG terms, as usual. "A winter someone… something… probably someone, because you're gonna hafta work side by side. And Jessica's got to be there. And the devil is totally that god-fearing devil, so Jessica's going to have to start moving around, at night, where there's a devil. Probably a literal devil. And maybe even Gotham. I mean… we know someone you likes the dark of night and is generally thought of a pretty devil-like," Stephanie's saying, nodding and leaning forward like that's all she needs to do to convince Tim to go along with all her terrible ideas. Ideas like possibly asking Strange to let her play arm-candy for him for a trip to the Abyss to case the place and get Tim some additonal information to Stephanie just asking Craft to hook her up to 'look' more like his own daughter and then Stephanie marching right in all on her own to get Tim the information he needs to save his …girlfriend is wrong, so is crush, and so is fixation… Tim needs a less complicated love-life. About to say more, Stephanie's black 'work' phone buzzes with an incoming text message. She blinks twice and reaches for it. Few people text her at that number. Activating the screen, her face pales, eyes going wide, and her lips part.

Tim knows the look. It's news. Bad bad news. And not nearly enough information. And it's fear for someone else and a rush of what-if's and imagined terrors that would warrant a text such as what she's read six times already. Stephanie pushes herself up, reaching for her bag.

"I've got to go," she says, voice just on this side of panic. #SpoilerAlert: The boyfriend is in trouble.

'Girlfriend' is wildly wrong, since she's involved with someone else; indeed, Tim would say his love life isn't complicated at all!

To be complicated, it would have to exist.

Instead, he carries around his infatuation for a young woman who sees him as her best friend and who loves someone else, and his unresolved feelings for his ex-girlfriend, who will in her way always have a part of him with her. It's not like Stephanie Brown was the only girl he ever dated, or even the first… But she was the first one to really know him, as Robin and Tim Drake both.

She was, without a doubt, his first love.

And now he's watching her as she goes from obviously plotting to do something that's going to make him angry, to looking at her phone and slipping into near panic. Not her civilian phone, either. That's her work number.

He sees it, reads it, reads her like an open book, and he's already sitting up on the bed before she moves for her bag, on his feet a scant moment later.

"Steph, what's wrong? What happened?" he asks, concern obvious in his voice. But of course /his/ phone didn't go off as well, so it's probably not something related to the Batman. Unless he's started getting left out of that stuff too, given his recent reclusiveness, and the way he's been hanging out with a known security risk.

Her thumbs tap on her phone's screen four times. The message is simple.

Omw

Send.

Her phone gets dropped on his desk, right next to her bag. She's yanking out her uniform, eyes wild, breahting quick and harsh. He rhands are shaking

"I don't know. Just an emergency. Metropolis. I'm not nearly as fast as he is…" Stephanie pauses a moment, chest heaving slightly before she forces an inhale to demand her body check the adreanline spike. She looks over at Tim. He's concerned. and he knows this isn't a Family emergency. He hadn't been called in.

She could hide it, try to conceal the reason. But Tim would know. Of everyone in her life, Tim is the last person she could keep a secret from. He was her first boyfriend, her first crush, her first kiss. If that stupid Bat Villian hadn't picked that night to attack, Tim would have been her first dance at Junior Prom. She's unable and unwilling to hide this secret from him… And yet, in this, he's likely now the last one to know. The war in her gaze is visible before she looks away to yank her nomex on over her workout clothes.

"Something happened to Flash," she says, tone trembling at what that could mean. Trembles with heartstopping worry and a near-paralyzing fear that the batlings all learn mean that it's time to act and not deer.

"And he's in Metropolis. I /have/ to go," she says, looking up at Tim trying hard not to panick any more than she already has. Her brows are pulled together in a tight crease in the middle of her forehead.

"I've got a lock on his GPS-" why she has his GPS on his phone is anyone's guess, but the correct answer is Stephanie is a Stalker. "-but whatever it is that's got him texting me on that number with a 911… I'm sorry. I'll research your thing as soon as I can. And I'll see if the Avengers computer has anything more on this," Stephanie adds as she fastens her suit up and uses her phone to snap a picture of the prophecy. After all, Stephanie doesn't have Tim's memory. And the picture's blurry, her frame shaking with unused adrenaline poured into her blood by fear and worry and panic that she's just barely keeping in soemthing sort of like check.

He sees how she's acting. The desperation, the fear. The kind that only gets provoked by other strong emotions.

Tim has, of course, been pretty absorbed in whatever he's been doing on his own lately, his own projects, his own concerns. Even the times he's spent with Stephanie in the past few months have been more about that than anything, haven't they? Her trying to look out for him, or helping him with his cases. He'd never really stopped and looked. He'd certainly never asked.

But he sees it, now. When she mentions the Flash, of all people. He hears it. He knows it.

It feels like a punch in the sternum, pushing the air out of his lungs, paralysing the diaphragm that lets him draw breath. It's stupid, of course. Selfish. Foolish.

'I haven't…I haven't moved on,' he remembers another voice saying, on that rooftop opposite the Third Eye.

I'm not the sort of person people don't move on from, Tim Drake thinks to himself.

"Do you need my help?" are the next words that come out of his mouth, after asking what was wrong. Confident, in a way he doesn't really feel, but then that's always been what he's best at. Helping other people, however he felt. Appearing calm and in control. "Worry about what's in front of you, Steph, not what I'm dealing with. Worry about the person who needs your help right now. Let me know if there's anything I can do."

Stephanie is looking at her phone again, counting seconds. His calm words are the trigger and the tears she'd been fighting fill her eyes suddenly and with an angry head shake to focre them gone, Stephanie sucks in an uneasy lungful.She looks over, one ters having escaped.

He knows. She can hear it. He deserves to know it all, because they are friends and the moment the masks came off between them secrets weren't something Steph could keep. 'Dying' was the only way to get some space to clear her head. Getting a new number and ignoring all her social media for those two years was the only way. Now? Now, that's no longer an option.

"I might. No. I definitely do. But you should focus on finding Zatanna. And I'm going to help with that. Just…" Stephanie sucks in a breath far less steady than she was thinking it was going to be. Tim's calm and control is a lifesaver to a drowning person, and Stephanie figuratively leans to it.

"Whatever's put him out of commision… I can handle… Or I can call in some metas as backup. You don't have to get involved, yet. But… Look at his file on the Bat Computer. Babs pulled it from the League's system. When Zatanna is safe, look at it, and then call me. That…. that I need help with. Right now.. I don't know what's … why he hasn't answered.. He's faster than this… I'm not going ot get there in time…" Panic again. Stephanie's fixating, turning to look at her phone again before putting it into its holder on her thigh.

That's the job, after all.

Help other people, protect other people, save other people, no matter what it costs you personally.

So he pushes it all away, all his own hurt and his own concerns, he compartmentalises it in the back of his mind, where it can't stop him, can't slow him, can't affect him. He can't run off and save Zatanna or Constantine right now, he knows that. He doesn't know where they are, who's holding them. He only knows the clues he has to go by, and that he needs to see this Ravensdale later with Jessica Jones. But right in front of him, there's someone who he /can/ help.

"Give me five minutes. We'll take the Redbird," he says, already moving to the secret compartment where one of his spare suits is hidden, peeling off his shirt without any real concern for the fact there's someone else right there. It will only take him a few minutes to get dressed and geared up. Fewer to get down to street level the fast way, rappelling down the building. A few more to get to the hidden garage in a nearby alleyway, where the black and red supercar waits, already running thanks to a few quickly typed commands into his suit's computer.

"We'll save him," Red Robin tells Spoiler, with a reassuring smile on the only part of his face visible beneath his black cowl, before the Redbird peels out, racing towards Metropolis.

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