Sleep When You Gotta

April 29, 2017:

Jessica Jones and Red Robin end up having an unexpected heart-to-heart after the private investigator approaches him to talk about Juno Hart.

Red Robin's Swanky Berlin Penthouse

Now with 5% more swank.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Juno Hart, Zatanna Zatara, Bucky Barnes, John Constantine, Spoiler, Batman, Azalea Kingston

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

If Jessica felt guilty before, sitting on Adelaide Weir's rooftop watching the retiree calmly read a mystery novel, she feels doubly guilty upon learning that the rest of the team was basically engaging in a pitched battle at the Union Jack. Like this is just some sort of ultimate slackoff; everyone else is getting killed, and she's texting 18 year olds. Even if her initial offer to "watch boring shit" was specifically to free up the more skilled members of their team for other, more important things.

Reiner is all sedated, and Jessica has let Dunce watch the woman's house, with pings to her phone should anyone get too close. She didn't want to just assume she could move Red's around without talking to him. And since she wants to talk to him anyway, that's convenient.

She goes wandering through the penthouse in search of him, pausing only to toss her jacket, shoes, socks, and scarf back into the stuff app. The green plaid shirt she wears over a black tank top has the sleeves rolled up. She's starting to get weirdly comfortable here, but then, how often does she actually sleep at home? And…now that she's not plagued with nightmares, well. Having like a full size bed to sleep in again is probably something she'll miss. Kudos to Red, because she'd initially thought they'd have to stay in a hotel or something.

—-

Red Robin is working.

Apparently, Red Robin does little else, including sleep; the attentive would notice that he's usually the last to retire to bed and usually among the first, if not the first to rise in the morning, drinking coffee that could probably be used to scour crime scene stains after an investigation. He's not an excessively social creature, especially when there's things to be done, though Zatanna at least has managed to lure him out of the penthouse for reasons other than mayhem or detective work. Otherwise, he's been on the clock.

Right now, he's in the cavernous living room of the penthouse, using the large, low coffee table as a kind of work bench. It's not the first time; one of the bat-drones needed maintenance before, and there wasn't enough space in the study he'd converted into a kind of command center, with holographic screens and access to his private supercomputer, and a communications relay… All of it with near-instantaneous access to his equipment back in Gotham, thanks to his having maneuvered a few Waynetech satellites into position. It's not a drone spread over the table at the moment, but some kind of backpack, the outer casing removed carefully to expose electronic guts. He works carefully with the wires, having removed the power supply entirely and set it aside, and he seems to know what he's doing, though to most people without advanced engineering knowledge it might as well be pure madness.

"Miss Jones," he says, without even looking up from his work, the instant she comes into the room, recognition immediate… Really, he probably knew it was her before she got very close to the room. There's hundreds, thousands, millions of little clues people give away about themselves all the time. The way they step, the way they breathe… Each as distinct as any fingerprint. All you have to do is pay attention.

Most people don't.

"How's shadowing Adelaide Weir been going?"

—-

Jessica does have a distinctively heavy tread; one that's quick and purposeful even in bare feet. She has a habit of sighing heavily from time to time as she moves through her day, if she's not actively engaged with another person: her mind is always busy and more than capable of serving up things to sigh about. Sometimes she has one earbud in, allowing the other to spill whatever she's listening to, which changes.

Since she's come to the penthouse, paying attention to the tinny report of the unstuck bud might have offered snatches of an audiobook (non-fiction: Jay Wheeler's 'Alternate, The Mandala Effect'), German lessons, the news from back home— quite often, as she's homesick— and music. Sometimes a general mix of 90s bands. Green Day. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Sometimes more other stuff, on one of two playlists, one with a general theme of 'Fuck you if you think you can keep me down, anyway' with things like Bad Religion's 'I Wanna Conquer the World,' and one with a general theme of 'I screw everything and everyone I touch,' in which Placebo mixes with Imagine Dragons. Lots of talk of staring into the abyss, or being born with loaded guns in hand to shoot up everything the singer ever loved or wanted.

The psychology of a PI, perhaps, in snatches of sound.

She peers curiously into the mess of electronics, far more interested in it than chased off by it. She winces when he asks the question, that guilt just rocketing across her face. "As far as I can tell she's everything she's supposed to be. She might not even know anything. But that's not to say something interesting didn't happen while I was out there."

She clears her throat. "I don't suppose you happened to have a run-in with a pint-sized sniper? Cute brunette, looks like a college kid, acts and talks like some cross between a killerbot and a 12 year old? Got her to shoot a guy in the shoulder instead of blowing off his head?"

—-

"Appearances can be deceiving," Red Robin replies. "If Steinschneider bothered to keep tabs on her after her husband died, then she might be more connected than even she knows. And if the Cult of the Cold Flame decides to kick down her door, better we prevent a tragedy than read her obituary."

Of course, it could be nothing. Adelaide Weir could be exactly what she seems, with no connection to events at all… But what would be worse? To investigate and discover nothing amiss, or to leave that thread alone and miss crucial info, and have another corpse on their consciences?

It's probably not hard to guess which one Red Robin would pick, every time.

There's none of that electronic modification of his voice now, with him in civilian garb of 'a t-shirt and exercise pants' but his voice is still pitched down, lower and more confident, more focused than the way Zatanna's Perfectly Normal Friend Tim Drake talks. He doesn't even try to pretend that this is what he 'really' looks like, but convincing people of that isn't the point. The whole point is just hiding his natural appearance. Creating confusion, obfuscation.

"Given the details of what you're asking, you already know the answer to that question," the young man says, fiddling with the gadget more, still not looking up. "Though I'm curious as to why you know about it. She's clearly not a lone vigilante, but the agent of some organisation that uses children as killers."

—-

Jessica nods in firm agreement at his assessment of Adelaide Weir. "It's why I've got electronic eyes on her now," she says. Just because she feels guilty for taking the easy job does not mean that she doesn't understand why it is still necessary to have someone up there.

As for Red's identity, well…he's just Red to her. She has certainly gathered data points about him. She's sure he's Zatanna's age, for example. Obviously he's richer than Jesus. But she's not actively trying to learn anything else. And Tim Drake? Well. Tim is a distant blurry memory, some friend of Zatanna's that witnessed her at her worst and most shameful. She'd be hard pressed to remember the name of that guy, though she distantly remembers pickle jokes.

"I do," Jessica replies, "but there was always the possibility it was someone else with a bird on his chest."

Curious as to why she knows about it.

"I caught a case," she says. "And found out that she's one of a group of Russian orphans who was basically kidnapped, brainwashed from birth, and turned into an assassin. Apparently she's been brought over by a woman who is trying to reform her, give her back her free will, teach her how to human. I'm not sure how giving her orders to kill human traffickers fits into that but…I aim to find out."

Jessica shrugs, uncomfortably, as she adds, "I couldn't just turn my back when I found out about her, you know? So I— I mean we're friends. It seems like this Elena woman was also a product of that program so probably doesn't human that well herself, and…so I mean. I mean I'm not the best human but…"

She blows out her cheeks gustily and finishes, lamely, with, "She's a great ice skater."

She's not even sure why she threw that in, not even sure why she's suddenly uneasy to admit that she's been trying to run her own version of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program with the tiny assassin.

—-

Better safe than sorry, as far as Red Robin is concerned. It is, after all, not just his secret that he carries.

He's already felt enough guilt over having let Zatanna know who was really under the cowl, for all that he's insisted he had no other choice… A situation that was prompted by a careless mistake when talking with Jessica Jones, what seems like a million years ago. Those sorts of mistakes can't be allowed to be repeated.

"You've got a fondness for the lost and broken, Miss Jones," the vigilante says. He knows why. He might not know the details, but he's seen the shape of it, the shadow of the past trauma that hangs over the PI. Enough to be getting on with. He looks up from his work, then, aiming a wry grin at Jessica as he continues. "It's one of the many admirable things about you. You want to help this young woman, which is good… She needs it."

He turns his gray-blue eyes back down to his work, picking up the soldering iron.

"You're in a better position than I am to help her… You've obviousy got her trust, while I didn't have the time to. I had to make sure she didn't kill anyone." Not even an extremely bad person.

He is, after all, the one who nearly died saving the people who were actively trying to kill him during the battle at the UNION JACK.

"That's part of what's been bothering you, isn't it? Jobs left behind in New York."

—-

Jessica rubs the back of her neck and looks both pleased and embarrassed when he says there's something admirable. About her. She really doesn't tend to associate herself with that particular word, but…it can't be denied that she would like to be admirable.

He talks of his own position in being able to help her, and she leans back against the sofa, plucking up a little capacitor just to have something to play with. She'll give it back if he needs it. "I don't know," she says. "I think you did a good thing. She does want distance from you for now, because she's confused and doesn't like being confused, but I also told her she can trust you. I think you got through to her in a new way. I think it's going to take more than me, more than you. Lost and broken people need good people and lots of them. Even while they're telling you to your face that your people shit is the last thing they need."

She clears her throat, because, after all, what applies to Juno certainly applies to her as well on that count.

But when he suddenly brings up what's been bothering her— and with that laser-sighted, pinpoint accuracy that has given him insight into her before, she starts.

"Yeah," she admits. "Not because I don't want to do this, I do. It's because I need to do all of it. I keep waiting to hear some terrible shit from home, some fire that sprang out of control because I couldn't be two places at once, someone else who has died or been hurt cause I didn't juggle the workload right."

She fiddles with the little component and says, "But I mean that's everyone. You've surely got shit going on back home too. You and the others just seem to— I dunno. Handle it better."

—-

"I'm just someone who does a job, Miss Jones," Red Robin says, in a sort of subtle deflection of the implication that he is one of those 'good people'. Of course, the job he does is 'superhero', so maybe it's not as effective a deflection as he might hope.

He nods a little, at Jessica's admission. She had apologised for her behaviour on the plane, but there was obviously more to it than that… Yet, the young man hadn't intruded, perhaps having guessed that others would get there first. The others were her friends, after all. Red Robin was just a shadow in the night, who showed up to help or to get help, and then vanished.

That was the job, too.

"It would be pretty hypocritical of me if I said anything about you trying to handle everything yourself," he admits in turn. It's not in his nature to hide from a candid self-assessment, most of the time: He's a detective, after all, trained by the World's Greatest, and part of that means seeing what's in front of you, whether you like it or not. That he'll try to do everything himself is just one of those immutable facts. Birds fly, fish swim, Red Robin takes everything on his own shoulders whenever possible.

"We're just used to it. Barnes has been doing this since high-waisted pants were in fashion, Constantine has more than his fair share of experience too. I've been at the Work since I was fourteen years old, and honestly I don't remember the last time there wasn't multiple crises going on… Doctor Foster has been through grad school, so she'd probably go stir crazy if she didn't have at least five irons in the fire, and Miss Zatara… Well, she's Miss Zatara. You, Miss Jones… You are a bulldog."

Which is a lovely thing to say to a woman, really.

"It's an excellent trait in a private investigator. You get your teeth into something and you don't let go no matter what. That's a remarkable thing… So it's only natural you wouldn't feel right picking up and heading halfway across the world to deal with something else. Having to let things slide for a little while."

—-

Red is a lot more than he thinks he is.

But his is a disguise of more than mask. Jessica does not know, necessarily, how he sees himself in the equation of heroism and friendship that plays out in the complicated microcosm created in this penthouse in Germany. But she hears that statement about him just being someone who does a job, and she's got a thing or two to say about that. "Bull," she says, to that, but very gently. For that one moment she lets the warmer person beneath the harder surface bleed through, though she quickly covers it up with a wry smile. "You're someone who takes care of everyone else around him, no matter the cost to himself. You're someone who inspires people to do better. You're also my pal. You intimidate me, because you're about 100 times smarter than me or anyone else, but for all that I've got no idea what your face looks like, I think I know the color of what matters."

As for their careers, she grimaces a little. "Yeah. I wasted almost a decade of my life. Sure, some of it was understandable, but looking back it just pisses me off. Sometimes I forgive myself for it, but sometimes I don't. Drinking, being unemployed or underemployed, eating Trish's food, never bothering to try jack shit. Fucking embarrassing."

'You, Miss Jones…You are a bulldog.'

Believe it or not, though, being called a bulldog produces another pleased smirk. It may not be the kind of compliment most women like— it might not entirely even be a compliment. But she takes it as one.

"Yeah. I mean…I have lots of irons in the fire back home too, but I can hold a lot more in my mouth when it's all in the same place. I can't always work on one thing. You know it as well as I do. Leads stall, shit slows down, you have to wait until something else drops. And if you don't work on something else productive during that time you're toast. And if something flares you just rearrange. But if this stalls we're a zillion miles from home. If we'd been able to jump right on this nearly as soon as it came up? I'd be fine. But I'm slowly bulldogging on this, letting the other stuff sit. I can't do shit about it, here I am, and it will be good to close this shit down."

—-

He could offer up all sorts of perfectly valid reasons why he does the things that he does, reasons that are far from purely altruistic. Someone had to do it, he could say; the Gotham he was born into was a miasma of hopelessness and fear, the City of Yesterday succumbing to the lowest and most corrupt impulses of its residents, until the Dark Knight stood up in the shadows. Trying to help people be better helps to make less of the very things they fight: The Work isn't just solving crimes and beating up gangs of criminals in alleyways. It's rehabilitation and outreach programs, it's improvements to public housing and health. To keep people from becoming so hopeless, so desperate that they have nowhere to turn but to crime.

"'Pal'?" he repeats, instead. "I guess Barnes isn't the only living time capsule around here… But really, Miss Jones, it's other people who end up paying the costs. Not me."

A trail of people dead because he wasn't good enough, wasn't fast enough, wasn't smart enough. His mother. Rahul Lama. Darla Aquista. Stephanie, he'd thought for years. His father. His stepmother. The twelve young women who'd been sacrificed to Mammon by Michael Kazinsky before he'd captured Zatanna. So many others.

And there will always be more. But here he is, intact and able-bodied.

For now, anyway.

"I'm going to tactfully not comment on how much you can hold in your mouth, except to say: Phrasing," the young man notes without looking up, fitting some connections together on the… Whatever it is. "But you're right, it's the same whether you're a private investigator or just a nosy amateur sleuth like me. We're just going to have to hope that things hold together back Stateside while we're busy here… If you'd like, I could make some calls and make sure eyes are kept out for you in New York. I know some people. Some of them are invulnerable, and can fly."

—-

He reacts to pal, and she rolls her eyes at him, but it's more of an amused eyeroll than anything else. "Oh? What are you kids saying these days?" she asks lightly. "It's all food now isn't it? Beans, misspelled, or something to do with cinamon rolls, or some shit?" Jessica uses social media for one purpose, and that's to track down assholes who need tracking down.

He makes that comment about phrasing and she shoots him a withering look, one with the word 'eugh' written all over it. But there's less levity in that. She sort of eases away from him, stands up, shoves her hands in her pockets. The curl of ew remains right on her lip while she listens to him. This means the little capacitor ends up in her pocket, where she has forgotten about it, but it is just one of those tiny components that are a dime a dozen.

Still, there's not much in the way of bite when she speaks. "Appreciate the offer, but I nailed things up as well as I could already before I left. I'm checking in with a few people here and there, and a few are supposed to call me if certain things go wrong. I think that's as sewed up as it's going to get, really, so no need to trouble your own contacts."

As for other people paying the costs… "Not sure how you're tallying those bills, Red. Just make sure you aren't paying invoices the assholes created." Advice she ought to take for herself, really. "I notice most of us maybe have a thing about doing that. Some shit-for-brains puts a bullet in someone else's head, and somehow that's our shit because we dared to go have dinner or sleep or something."

—-

"It's okay, Miss Jones. Everyone gets uncool eventually… One day it'll happen to me, too," the young man says. Truthfully, he isn't nearly as up on the 'kids today' as he would have been if his life had taken a different turn. When you spend a lot of your time in life or death battles with murder clowns and the like, keeping up with the latest trends and slang has a way of falling by the wayside.

But that doesn't mean he won't amicably bust Jessica's chops for being old and out of touch.

Hopefully the part she forgets in her pocket isn't a vitally important one, because Red Robin fails to notice that she's taken it, in a slightly uncharacteristic moment of obliviousness. It's not like he intends to use the pack for flight again… But he hadn't intended to use the prototype for that purpose yet in the first place, and then things had gone awfully sideways at the UNION JACK, with him and a delirious Constantine left with no vehicle and the police about to turn up with loads of questions about the fire and all the dead people.

"I don't sleep very much," he admits, at the last. During much of the investigation into Zatanna and Constantine's disappearance, he hadn't slept at all, and he'd done similar when the gothic witch's soul had been mostly torn away from her. He's learned to go for extended periods with no sleep or only periods of microsleep, though that can still cause… Problems. "When you can do things that other people can't do, it always feels like you aren't doing enough. I don't have any superpowers, I can't do magic… But I can do things that a handful of others can. And when I look back I can always see ways I could've done better, things I could've prevented if I acted more quickly. It's one of the things that pushes me, Miss Jones. I try not to wallow in it, but it's true. What I do for other people, it's never me that pays for it."

Of course, that's not strictly true, is it?

—-

Everyone gets uncool eventually?

It happens to everybody?

Bah!

"It's happened to you already," Jessica grumbles. "You just failed to realize it."

But she turns back to face him when he says he doesn't sleep very much, and the irritated look slides off her features in favor of a more solemn ones.

"You don't have any superpowers? Yeah, okay, Mr. I speak 50 languages, can do multiple sciences, acrobats through the air and oh yeah was doing the thing at 14. You think that shit's normal? Like truly? That all strikes you as ho-hum, run-of-the-mill shit?"

And no. It's not strictly true.

In truth, Jessica had almost decided to let the matter of the bargain at Wong's lie. But now? Now she can't.

"Except of course when you're selling bits of your life in backroom deals." She points a finger at him. "You paid for all of it. Didn't hesitate, didn't say jack shit to me about it. Didn't even consider coming out front and asking if I wanted to pick up my half of the tab. Your right to do it, it was your choice, cause you were there at the point of decision and there I was obliviously eating lo mein, but the idea that you don't pay your fair share? Bullshit. Bullshit in a can. And oh by the way? All the times you break bones, get shot, need to be stitched up, need to get stitched up by me, which is a whole other magnitude of fucked up stitching up, go without sleep and deal with all the fucking nightmares? That's also you paying."

Her brow furrows, her mouth twists, and she stares at him. "In fact, you overpay. Like you're fucking punishing yourself for something."

—-

Where he sits, Red Robin is on the point of saying something about whether or not the things he can do are 'normal', but Jessica effectively forestalls him.

Except of course hwen you're selling bits of your life in backroom deals.

Slowly, with great care, he puts the soldering iron down, and turns it off, leaves it to slowly cool. There are only two people who could've told Jessica Jones about the bargain he'd made, and he doubts it was Wong himself. He was a canny businessman, and discussing the nature of his arragements - outside of extraordinary circumstances, such as their own search for the missing magicians - wouldn't be very good business. Which means, in all probability…

"Pain is temporary, and I'm trained to handle it," he says, rising to his feet, folding out of that seated position he's been in for at least an hour without the least sign of a cramp or other discomfort. "You know… Once, when I was in school, there was a gang war?" Sadly, not uncommon, in Gotham City. "There was this girl at my school, she was the daughter of a crime boss, but she didn't know anything about what he did. Normally, the outfits don't target family outside the Family… But the Odessa Mob doesn't play by those rules. They went after a sixteen year old girl, in a school full of innocents. I fought them the best I could. No costume, no gadgets. Just whatever I could get my hands on. And it wasn't good enough. A shooter got her before I got him. She took a bullet right here," he presses his fingers against his chest, just above his heart. He remembers it clearly, like it was yesterday.

He never forgets anything.

"I had another student put pressure on the wound, I did CPR to keep her breathing. I felt her die. And I saw… I saw a hundred moments that if I'd been a little better, a little faster, I knew I could've stopped it. Like I said… I'm not super strong, like you. I'm not a supersoldier, like Barnes. I can't do magic. All I can do is push myself, and push myself, and push myself, and live with the knowledge that it's never going to be enough."

He stands in front of the windows, now, looking out at the cityscape of Berlin. Once demolished, once divided.

"I'd rather it was just me that paid. If I could spare everyone else… But I can't."

—-

Jessica is utterly silent while he tells the story of the girl he couldn't save. She's attentive, occasionally wincing, but she never interrupts. She absorbs the whole thing.

She watches him cross to the window, and until he's done speaking she remains behind him.

Then she draws up beside him. She puts her shoulder against the wall, places herself perpindicular to him, looking at him from profile, getting the street from her peripheral vision.

Words are called for, but not, for the love of God, too many. Once again she faces down the fear that she'll do more damage than good.

Once again she decides it might be worth it to try.

That rare gentleness steals over her voice, her face. There's sadness in her eyes.

"That girl," she says softly. "Could have died on my watch. Three people have died on my damned watch since March. She could have died on Zatanna's. Or even Bucky's, because he can't stop every bullet no matter how good he is. Whatever we can do, we're all still human. Someone else made the shitty choice to pull that trigger. You made a different choice. You chose to stand up to the assholes who wanted to hurt others. And you probably saved a bunch of lives you're not crediting yourself for. You probably kept it from becoming way worse."

She gestures outside. "99.9% of the world doesn't do that. They hide. They put their heads down. They go work at 7-11 or whatever. Some because that's all they're capable of. Some because they're afraid. Super powers don't have any bearing on that. I had super powers. I sat on my ass. I sat on my ass from the time I woke up out of that coma until just three years ago I got a taste of what it could mean to actually help other people. My guess? You weren't even old enough to vote by then, and you were out there saving lives, or trying to."

She looks up at him fully, now. "You can't save everybody, Red. I think it's great that you have channeled all that into wanting to be better, into pushing yourself to be better. I'm not saying to just…pat yourself on the back and stop caring about the bodies that hit the floor because you made a mistake. But don't kill yourself trying to live up to an impossible standard. Defend who you can, where you can. And sleep when you gotta."

—-

The problem is that it's so much easier to count the people who've died - or, at least, died directly - because of the choices he's made than those who've been saved by them. How many people in Hong Kong would've been killed by King Snake's plot, all those years ago, if a fourteen year old boy hadn't gotten in his way? How many people might've died in various plots by the Joker, by Two-Face, by the Black Mask, or all the rest?

How many more people would've died at the UNION JACK if he hadn't frozen Bucky's gun, or worked to pull even the Cultists out of the line of fire?

You can't save everybody, Red.

"But I have to try, Miss Jones. That's what the Batman does. He uses himself up trying to save everyone. And, I mean… I'm not in any rush to die, but would that be the worst thing to die doing? Saving everyone I can?" He's always known it was going to happen, since he realised that this life wasn't going to be a temporary thing. That day when he woke up and realised he wasn't just going to hang up his tights and be a normal person… Or as normal as he was capable of, anyway. He's done the math, run the simulations: Batman making it to his mid-30s is borderline miraculous, and he's no Batman. Likely as not, Red Robin won't live to graduate college.

Especially not with the magical debt he's got to pay off.

"That's what my life is, Miss Jones. From the day I started dressing up in a costume and getting into fights with criminals, the reason I've been alive is to save other people. I can't blame anyone for not doing what I do, because I know how it's going to end. Besides… If I had realistic expectations for myself, I don't think I'd be able to do what I do."

—-

'Would that be the worst way to die?'

"It would be a great fucking way to die. But not too soon. You save more alive than dead. As a rule."

She has to look out the window again when he starts talking about Batman; she has never been able to develop anything other than a profound and deep distaste for the man. Everything from his bullshit at the gala to how he treated Azalea—

(she really, really should call Azalea)

(She really, again, finds she can't)

—irks her. The only credit she can give Batman is the young man standing with her at the window. In that, well, in that he almost made up for everything else she's seen from him.

"Anyway, you know that's not what I meant. There's a difference between dying in the line of the duty you've chosen and dying because you are so tired you can't see straight anymore. That's just as much self-destruction as me binging on liquor. It's the same principle. Cutting and cutting and cutting into yourself. You don't sound like you hate yourself— you always sound too articulate, too educated, too even-handed for that, too in control of your emotions, too much like you've got your shit together. But maybe you're just a good actor."

She raises an arm, resting it over her head against the window. "So I'll tell you two things more, and hope that this will at least propel you into one of the fine beds you paid for, even if you have to take three Benadryl to do it."

She pauses, gathering her thoughts. "You've saved my life. It wasn't just about the money you spent. You can't know how many times, when things have gotten really shitty in my head, that I whisper: 'good things happen too.' Because you wrote that in that letter. You didn't just dump money and run; you made me feel worthwhile, and you made me see possibilities. Sometimes I whisper the other part. 'Get some help, Miss Jones.' Which, by the way, you could call me Jess. Anyway. I whisper that part when I need to drag my ass into AA, or when I start resisting the idea that I should grab some back-up rather than doing it all myself. When I have to make the choice between hating myself into oblivion, or remembering that the more I hate myself the shittier I get. The kind of work we're doing? If I hadn't had that to hold on to? Well, I would be dead. Deader than a damned doornail, because I'd have shown up to trouble with my head screwed on wrong, and drunk. This will sound corny but these days I keep this list. Of reasons to fight, to keep trying to be better— and I've got a Hell of a lot farther to go with that than you do. You're right at the top of that list."

"Second thing is just math and biology. You're a smart dude. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Sure, you're probably going to die, and it's probably not going to be as a member of the AARP. Me, too. But how many do you get to save if you live one day longer than you'd live if you didn't start taking care of yourself? Two? Three? How about a month? A year? Four? Ten? I got a D- in the last math class I took, but I think that arithmetic is sound. Another life or two saved, all for the price of eight hours of guilt-free shut-eye while you've got the chance. That thing you're working on over there? That'll keep."

—-

Red Robin knows better than almost anyone how difficult to like the Batman can be… But, of course, the Batman doesn't want to be liked. Feared, yes. Respected, sure. But the Dark Knight is generally speaking not out to make friends, especially when he's fully in his Work mode. Red Robin, like Nightwing before him, rejected that part of their mentor's methodology, cultivating more positive relationships: For Nightwing, it always came as naturally as breathing, but the younger man has to work at it, has to push away his impulses to isolate himself.

Of course, it wouldn't do to say that having to deal with the less personable aspects of the Caped Crusader has taught the former Boy Wonder the sorts of skills he needs to let the occasionally difficult behaviour of some people roll off of him so easily.

And even if he felt the need to rehabilitate his mentor's image in the eyes of others, it's not as though he could tell them about the other things Batman has done. The orphans he's adopted, the lives he's improved as Bruce Wayne. He knows better than almost anyone that the Batman makes mistakes there, too, as with the incident with Zatanna, but…

Batman is far more committed to self-isolation than Red Robin is. Whenever he hears that voice in his head telling him to disassociate, it always sounds like the Bat. Reminding him about distractions. Reminding him that things turned out for the best with Zatanna.

"That was a terrible pep talk," the young man says when Jessica finishes, but there's wryness in his voice when he does. "I don't think Jessica Jones, motivational speaker is really going to take off. But…"

You saved my life.

Why he'd done it was… Complicated. The basic human impulse to just help someone in need, yes… But he knew that she wasn't going to take Zatanna's money for the work she'd done, and the Princess of Prestidigitation didn't need the extra worry at the time. Not something to impress her, just so she didn't have to carry around more concern over the PI. And…

"You always look so sad, Miss Jones. Underneath all that anger… The way you lash out so the world can't hurt you any more first. If I'm able to help you with that, even a little, then that means all the world. You are worthwhile, you know?" To his mind, to his philosophy, everyone is. It's part of why he holds so tightly to the Rule. To save lives. Even someone vile has the chance to become something better, and he would hardly classify Jessica Jones as 'vile'. "And the path to being better isn't a straight line."

He knows, of course he knows, that Jessica has faltered. But he doesn't go out of his way to address it, content to leave it with an oblique kind of acceptance and encouragement. His standards for himself are viciously high, but for other people he's far more forgiving.

"But, point taken. I guess a little extra sleep couldn't hurt."

If he's lucky, the nightmares won't be so bad.

—-

Jessica Jones, motivational speaker, isn't going to take off?

"Thank fucking god," Jess replies with a snort, pushing off the window. "I mean, have you heard the corny-as-shit music they play at those things? Fuck, I think I'd have to spork out my own god damned eye. Just spork it right out."

She even mimes this.

He says she looks sad, and she grimaces, but she…can't deny she feels that way a great fucking lot of the time. She maybe looks a little— ok, maybe a lot— uneasy— when he rightly points out that her m.o. is usually to get pissed and push people away. Even people she cares about.

Unless, of course, she's busy making an utter and complete fool out of herself around them. That happens too.

He says the path to getting better isn't a straight line, and she winces. Just a little, but quite guiltily. It might be the first indication— or verification?— that some hidden drinking has happened, and perhaps even recently. But she's resolved to keep that close to her chest. All she can do about that is what she's done. Get off her face. Start over.

She pulls out her phone, clicks on the STUFF app, takes out a package of Benadryl. She rips out two and offers them to him. Solemnly, perhaps out of solidarity, to show that she'll go and take her own advice tonight, she counts out the fourteen it takes her to get anywhere with this method. This isn't addiction. Her shrink actually flat out told her that she could take Benadryl with her existing meds if she needed to sleep.

"Night night, Red," she says, her tone gentling again, content that now she's extracted a promise to try to sleep that he'll actually go and do it. "Catch you at breakfast."

She might not be able to help him put his demons to rest— they're deep and dark and intensely personal. But in some small way, trying to urge him to go put himself to rest? It's her attempt, however clumsy, to give him a hand up in turn, just as he's given her.

Because he's right.

Stuff like that does mean all the world.

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