Mistakes

February 25, 2017:

Tim comes to Shadowcrest to make himself miserable and give Kasim schoolwork for Zatanna dealing with her missed classes. He stumbles upon Kitty and lets her know that Zatanna is missing.

Shadowcrest Manor

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, Peter Quill

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25TH

EVENING

Tim Drake hasn't been in Gotham much, lately. For the past week, most of his time has been spent in New York City, with a brief interval where he was in some extradimensional space, and of course this has had consequences. Missed classes, for one. Distance from his admittedly limited social circle. The nagging, everpresent feeling that he's ignoring other responsibilities in favour of one particular one. The /last/ time he came back home, he nearly got eaten by a trio of weird monsters summoned from some horrible pit, but at least he learned… Something. Maybe. Possibly.

He hopes.

He knows, at the moment, that there's not much he can do in New York just yet, not much he can do to be of use in retrieving certain people from Actual Hell, until other sources bear fruit. They'd better bear fruit; he paid a terrible price for the clues he'd gotten, the signposts… If it all ended up a wild goose chase, he'd…

He'd what? What would he do, really?

What could he do?

It's that bleak mood that draws him to Shadowcrest, a place surrounded by reminders of things lost. Not far from the Zatara manor is the land where the Drake estate used to stand, now an empty green lot. The house was gone, like the people who lived there, except for him. Closer still was Wayne Manor, another place he'd called home but wasn't sure he belonged, anymore.

Maybe he didn't belong anywhere. Maybe that was it.

But Shadowcrest was /her/ place, and if he'd only started visiting it not long before Zatanna vanished, it now indelibly reminded him of her. He'd last set foot here more than a week gone, when he tried to retrace her steps. Now he just came back because it made him feel bad.

Of course, 'Tim Drake' doesn't know what's happened. He's just Zatanna's friend from college, after all. A perfectly normal young man. Shadowcrest itself might know better, but the other mortal guests don't. So he puts on a faint smile that he doesn't feel, and he enters the manor with an armload of entirely mundane books.

You know, like Zatanna's missed coursework, from college.

*

Quite a bit like school books that Kitty is used to seeing. The brunette mutant has been in and out of Shadowcrest recently, what with practicing and finding out more about the tricks of the gemstone she is somehow magically tied to. Zatanna hasn't been around the mansion lately, but that is nothing out of the ordinary. The entire time she's been staying at Shadowcrest, she's only seen the magician twice, really. As far as she knows, the woman doesn't really live there.

In fact, she has yet to learn that Zatanna is missing and so, she is entirely unbothered by her absence. It's hard to miss Tim Drake entering the mansion, she's pretty close by to the doors. She has no reason to suspect his smile is fake. She doesn't know the boy all that well. In fact, the only time she's met him was when Jessica was drunkenly throwing herself at Peter and Tim went down to the kitchen.

Currently, Kitty is curled up in one of the arm chairs, a book in her lap, Lockheed the dragon draped around the back, snoozing. A glass of something with amber colored liquor is balancing on the arm. The entrance of Tim if met with a tilt upward of her chin and a smile. "Hey! One of Zatanna's friends, right? I don't think she's in right now. I haven't seen her, but this place is huge. It's possible she's in a magic study that only opens on the second Friday of the week."

*

Life with a secret identity requires a certain level of compartmentalisation.

While Tim isn't one of those people who goes so far as to view his civilian and heroic identities as completely different personalities, or someone who creates a false persona to hide behind in one or the other of his lives, he has to keep track of what 'Tim Drake' knows, and what 'Red Robin' knows. Normally this is second nature to him, after the years he spent as the Boy Wonder, but he's had… Slips, on occasion.

One, weeks before, was nearly disastrous, when exhausted and emotionally drained he let slip as Red Robin something that only Tim Drake could've known. Even if it hadn't been catastrophic in the end, it still had effects whose ripples were still being felt.

Now, now he has to be extra careful. Even if he hasn't slept in over a week. Especially then.

Of course, he didn't expect to run into Zatanna in her home, even if some distant part of his mind might've felt a shadow of a ridiculous, futile hope of it. But there might be other people there, since he knew Zatanna had live-in guests. Thus, the books. Thus, the caution.

He /knows/ Kitty is there before she addresses him, though he was initially looking for Kasim, currently not in evidence. His dark blue eyes turn towards the young woman, and he doesn't even blink at the presence of a small dragon, because this is Shadowcrest and he had a long conversation with a stuffed dodo and a mounted griffon head, but instead focuses on the brunette herself, details springing from memory. Kitty, Quill's girlfriend(?), not from space.

"Hey hey," Tim replies, bobbing his head in a bit of a nod. "Uh… Yeah, she hasn't been in class in a while, actually, so I got some of what she missed from her professors. Kitty, right?" he asks, although he already knows the answer. "I feel like that's short for something, otherwise your parents were probably jerks."

*

Kitty is no stranger to the whole vigilante thing, however she's never had to deal with a secret identity like Red Robin has. She was part of a team and they all knew who she was. She never talked about it with her students, but it was really a badly kept secret. She never felt the need to hide what she did or who she was.

The dragon lifts a head lazily sniffs at Tim and then puts his head back down, closing his eyes. Apparently, he doesn't seem to think of Tim as a danger. "Oh, you guys know each other from school?" Her eyes move to the books and then back up to study Tim. "What're you studying…" She pauses for a moment, trying to think if she caught his name. Didn't Zatanna call him Tim? "Tim?" That sounds right.

She nods her head as she closes the book and sets it to her side. She swings her legs down from the chair to set them on the floor as she smiles at Tim. "Yeah, Kitty. Short for Katherine. Though, hey, you don't know, maybe I was named after someone from the 1920s. There were a lot of spunky Kitty's back then."

After a pause, she raises an eyebrow. Her tone is teasing, "Wait, but, I'm the one that asked people to start calling me this. Are you trying to say that I'm a jerk."

*

"Yeah, Tim," he confirms. "Tim Drake. Zee and I have the same Physics class, which is how we met." Truthful, if not really the /whole/ truth. "Figured I'd get her other work while I was at it." Since he was already doing the rounds, contacting the professors for the classes /he'd/ missed. It might be futile, of course - there's no guarantee that they'll be able to save Zatanna and Constantine - but doing something feels better than doing nothing, and after the other night he's in no condition to be getting into slugging matches with gangs across New York trying to find one specific one.

His ribs, taped up under his clothes, ache. The bite that covers most of his shoulder, likewise bandaged, likewise hidden, /itches/. He doesn't ignore the discomfort, though. He embraces it. It suits his mood.

The mood he doesn't let touch his face at all.

Not everything he learned from Bruce was about being a ninja super detective.

"Oh that explains it, you don't look like a Katherine at all. Maybe give it another twenty years, a more severe hairstyle…" She isn't the only one capable of teasing, after all, even if he's just going through the motions. "Maybe an interim 'Kate' period in your thirties, brusque and to the point, with the occasional 'Katie' vacation. But, I dunno, you could be a jerk. I try not to jump to conclusions about people, though."

*

"Well, you look like a Tim." Kitty smiles and shrugs. Taking the glass off the edge of the arm, she leans over and sets it down on a less precarious position on the end table nearby. While Kitty is generally a good reader of people, Tim has studied under a master deceiver and detective. His mood and injuries are deftly hidden, especially as Kitty has no reason to believe him to want to hide anything from her. If he had ill intentions, she knows he wouldn't be allowed inside here.

Though she doesn't have a reason to distrust him, she can't help but study him. Every other guest of Zatanna's is either a space person or someone else interesting. She's curious about him. How could she not be?

There's a smirk. "Yeah, I'd agree. Only my mother has ever called me Katherine. Also the headmaster of my school." There's few others who attempt it. All her students just call her Miss Pryde. A wrinkle of her nose is given at Kate and Katie. "Ick. Never. Katie." With a smile and shrug of her shoulders she adds, "Well, if you talk to Peter, he may just think I'm a jerk." Holding her hand out toward the books, she stands. "If you want, I'll keep the books." She frowns for a minute, though. "How long hasn't she been in class?" That's a little worrying. She thinks. She actually doesn't know how dedicated to her studies Zatanna is.

*

Is it really so outlandish to think that Zatanna would befriend /one/ perfectly normal person?

Probably, yes.

That had perhaps been the initial appeal of Tim Drake to the Princess of Prestidigitation… That he was someone normal, and rather by coincidence the adopted son of an old family friend. That seeming normalcy had lasted a while, too; only a mistake on Tim's part caused it to start unravelling, and his subsequent inability to do the cold, logical thing he knew he should do resulted in her knowing the truth about him.

It had been like that all over, really. He was only in the situation he was in now because he hadn't been strong enough to push away, to create distance, to cut connections before they entangled him. And now…

"He seems like the kind of guy who ends up seeing most people as jerks," Tim says on the subject of Quill, though he says it genially enough, before he moves to set down the stack of books rather than just making Kitty one-hand them. "Thanks, though… I was just going to leave them with Kasim, but, uh…" The question is a potentially dangerous one. Kitty is an unknown quantity, and her interests might not necessarily match his own. But Tim Drake doesn't know the truth. All he knows is that… "…She hasn't been around since the fifteenth, actually. She's usually pretty responsible about making it to class, though there was a period where she was pretty sick. At first I figured she was just having a protracted Valentine's Day, you know, but…" He gestures, vaguely. "I'm not too worried though, she can take care of herself."

Half a lie.

He is extremely worried. He has not slept in over a week.

*

Normal is a little different for Kitty. It has to be for a girl who grew up in the middle of a mansion with mutants. Normal is friends who can control the weather, teachers who could turn to impenetrable metal, students that can move things with their mind. So, a mansion filled with magical objects and space trees isn't all that strange to her.

With a laugh, she sits back down on the armchair. "Care to sit?" There are a bunch of places to sit, after all and his standing there with books is a little off putting. "Yeah, mostly because he's a jerk himself. Takes one to know one." Her own tone is warm when speaking of Quill. She may think he's a jerk, but she also doesn't seem to mind that.

"I can make sure Kasim knows about them," she assures Tim as she glances at the books he sets down. She frowns as she hears that Zatanna's been missing for at least ten days. While she was gone for at least a month before this, no one seemed worry about that. However, there are some things that Tim can't hide, even as a great actor. There are circles under his eyes.

Leaning back in the chair, she folds her hands in her lap as she watches him a little bit more carefully. "I know she can." Or, well, she's been told, she hasn't actually seen all that Zatanna can do. "Hmm. Well, maybe you're not worried, but that does sound kind of worrying. Especially if she's not the kind of person to just disappear without letting anyone know where she's gone."

*

Though there are some physical signs of weariness, Tim shows far less than he /should/, because while he hasn't been sleeping he has been keeping up the other techniques he was taught to keep himself going when he shouldn't be able to. He should've collapsed from exhaustion days ago. He just looks like, well, a college student who doesn't get enough sleep.

You know, like most of them!

"Oh… Right, haha," the young man laughs self-consciously, picking another spot to sit instead of just standing there. "Some guys can make being a jerk work for them, I guess. I tried it a bit in highschool, it was just embarrassing." Plenty of people would probably disagree… But usually he has a good reason to be a jerk. Or he's just being thoughtless or obsessive or…

Well, anyway.

"I didn't say I'm not worried /at all/, but… There's not much I could do anyway, not much point in freaking out." He is absolutely freaking out. Zatanna is in fire-and-brimstone Hell. He knows that she's alive, but in a way that's worse; from what he was told the other night, someone who goes down there while still alive can't die anyway. They're just stuck, forever. "I'm sure wherever she is, she'll make it back safe and sound. It'll turn out she went on a surprise whirlwind vacation or something."

*

"I think a lot of guys try making a jerk work for them at some point." Kitty grins and shrugs her shoulders. She didn't know Tim as a high schooler, but he seems to be a nice enough guy. "But, it's generally not a good look for people. It's probably better to be a thoughtful guy." Her chin tilts toward the books and then back at Tim with a smile. It's not a suggestion or an implication of any kind. Instead it's her trying to show that being a nice guy is a good thing.

At that, Kitty frowns. "I mean, I don't think there's really ever a point to freaking out, it's just what you do." She's seen and been a part of her fair share of freak outs, after all. "I mean, she probably will, but there's no harm in also helping her help herself." Thinking, she looks up. "We can go talk to Jessica." We? Why is this suddenly a we? For Kitty, things are generally done with a team. It's just how she operates. "She's a PI. Do you know Jess? She was the one that was, uh, you know…throwing things around." Specifically the strawberry scented lube that hit Peter in the head when he walked in.

"Let's go talk to her. She'll definitely help, they're close friends. Maybe she can figure out where Zatanna went and then we can rest easy." She has no way of knowing that Tim has already enlisted Jessica's help.

*

The secret identity thing is hard, sometimes.

There are many times when Tim has thought to himself that everything would be /way/ easier if he could just tell someone the truth about himself… But of course, the problem there is that it isn't just /his/ secret, is it? And the more people who know those secrets, the harder they become to keep. The closer they get to the hands of dangerous maniacs who would love to make a weekend of flaying a member of the Family alive.

And really, even if there /had/ been an implication, Tim surely would've missed it. He's… Preoccupied.

"Oh… Yeah, the lady who…" Tim says vaguely on the subject of Jessica, because of course he doesn't know her from any other context, and it would be impolite to bring up how she'd been drunk and distraught. To say nothing of the lube, or any of the rest of it. "…I mean, if you think she's missing, shouldn't we go to the police? They'd have a lot more resources for finding someone than a private investigator. Unless you think it's a weird thing. Do you think it's a weird thing?" he wonders, suddenly concerned, out of his element. "Should we call the Avengers? I think they have a hotline, they might answer it, or…"

*

"Well, from what I know of Zatanna, I don't think general troubles are going to be a problem for her. I feel sorry for anyone that would attempt to kidnap her or mug her." Kitty is used to doing things without the police or authorities. Being a mutant generally gives her dubious ideas of anyone with authority. "So, I doubt the police can really help with that. Anyway, do you really want to get the authorities poking around Zatanna's affairs?"

Then, she shakes her head again. "The Avengers? I don't have anyone's number and this might also just be a little underneath what they do. They're generally the type to save planets, not look into someone who may or may not be missing."

With a sigh, she shrugs her shoulders. "Look, you don't have to come along if you're not worried. I'll do it myself. If Zatanna's really missing, I'm sure Jessica will be able to find out. Then I'll call the police or Avengers depending on how severe it is. If you want, I'll keep you in the loop."

*

Tim does, in fact, feel a bit of guilt when Kitty responds to his trepidation with a sigh and a shrug and an admission that he doesn't have to go if he doesn't want to… But of course, that's how this works. Tim Drake doesn't go haring off to New York to visit some street-level PI to investigate the potential disappearance of a friend. He's just some guy.

He looks troubled now, where he sits, and some of that is a window onto how he actually feels; the best act draws on a seed of reality, after all. The best lie is the truth, shaded just so.

"I… Yeah, okay. I'd appreciate it," Tim says, seeming like he's only now started to consider that it might /really/ be something more serious. "Um… I can probably check other ways, I mean, I do have some connections through my dad. I can let you know if I find anything that way?"

*

At least now Kitty sees there's a bit of trouble that passes across Tim's face. It's hard to tell if that's because now he's actually worried about Zatanna or if he feels guilty about not coming with her to talk to Jessica. "You know, Zatanna's a strong person," she says gently. While Tim has seemed to be pretty okay with strange situations - she did meet him in the midst of lube-gate and his instinct was to make a joke about bringing food to an orgy. She'll hedge her bets that this is worry more then anything else.

"She's going to be fine. I know Jess'll help. She's a great detective, despite what you might have seen. She'll find out if something's wrong in no time. I'm sure it'll be okay." Grabbing some paper from the endtable, she scribbles out a few numbers. Standing, she moves to Tim and hands him the paper. "Sure. If you find something out, let me know. I'll do the same. Here's my number. Text me if you find out anything." She'll put a hand on his shoulder for a quick moment if he allows it.

Then, she makes her way to the books he brought to pick them up and give them to Kasim. "You're a good friend."

*

"She is," Tim agrees. There is no artifice in this statement, because he's seen it. He's seen just how strong the gothic magician is. Not in her sorcery, which apparently is pretty badass, but as a person. Her will and her determination. He manages a bit of a smile, though there's something sad about it. "She's one of the best and strongest people I've ever met."

And considering some of the people he knows, that is really saying something.

That faith in Zatanna is one of the things that's kept him from outright despair, combined with the certain knowledge that she is alive. Instead, he's been consumed by the mission to return her, and Constantine, to the world, his focus nearly obsessive. No matter what it costs him personally. Perhaps it was for the best he didn't know /where/ they were trapped before his bargain in Chinatown. With that revelation driving him, he would've been far less cautious. He would've taken every option available to him, regardless of what it meant for him and his wellbeing.

He takes the offered paper, though he's already memorised the numbers on it by first glance, and he produces a pen to give his number in turn - his civilian phone, of course - because fair's fair.

The hand on his shoulder, the assessment of the quality of his friendship…

He doesn't deserve that kind of praise, he knows. A good friend wouldn't have done many of the thinge he had to Zatanna. Wouldn't have lied to her about his own identity, when the truth could've given her some peace of mind. Wouldn't have kept his distance because he was worried about compromising himself. Wouldn't have found himself falling in love with her.

"I try," Tim says, quietly, watching as Kitty starts to go. He does try. He doesn't always succeed, of course.

"Oh," he adds. "I just remembered: Pigs in a blanket."

*

Kitty scoops up the books and holds them in two hands. She'll be back for her own book and glass. Lockheed's head pokes up again as he notices Kitty is moving about. He flits over and lands on her shoulder, generally liking to stay with her when he can.

At Tim's statement as to Zatanna's strength of character, she smiles. See, they agree. Everything will be fine. Of course, she doesn't know all the reasons Tim does not wish to go with her to Jessica's. She also doesn't know how guilty he feels about the entire situation. Nor, does she know the complicated situation dealing with Zatanna. However, she smiles at Tim, attempting to assure him. It's just what she does.

"Well, I think you're succeeding." Not that her opinion can really hold much weight, as the two don't know each other that well.

She turns to go, Lockheed balanced on her shoulder when he catches her with something he just remembered. She gives him a confused look over her shoulder before her head tilts back in laughter. Orgy foods. "That's a great one!"

Turning her head again, she keeps walking. "I hope to see you around again soon, Tim!" Laughing, she shakes her head, repeating to herself quietly, "Pigs in a blanket. That's just horrible."

*

There's something to be said for getting some kind of encouragement.

And there's something to be said for making another person laugh.

Tim's expression pulls into a faint grin once Kitty actually gets the delayed joke, and he watches as she - and her dragon, you know, of course - continue on into a deeper part of the vastness of Shadowcrest, with the books he'd brought from school for Zatanna. They'll be important, once the young woman is rescued. He doubts she'd want to escape from Hell only to find she's been kicked out of college.

But once Kitty is gone, the artifice melts away, the normal college kid yielding to the real Tim Drake, who had come all this way mainly to be miserable surrounded by things that reminded him of Zatanna. Slowly, he unfolds from the chair, pulling back his right sleeve to look at his wrist. They're still there, all 720 of those tiny links branded onto his skin. He counts them, every day, just to be sure.

"This was a mistake," he tells himself, but at least he knows it was /his/ mistake, which must count for something. Soon, he heads for the door, to leave Shadowcrest behind.

Wayne Manor isn't far, but he doesn't go there, either; soon he'll be back on the road, back to New York, where maybe more answers still wait. There's still a long way to go before he can rest.

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