June 2 2017 - Homecomings

June 02, 2017:

There's a bit of a breakdown in communication but all is calmed over a plate of tuna sandwiches and Alfred's home-brewed coffee.

BatCave

Built into the living rock under Crest Hill, the caverns that Batman has set as his home travel for miles and miles in many directions. They're a twisting, convoluted maze that even a professional spelunker might have trouble with. Add to that the deliberate deadfalls, traps, false walls and panels, it's very difficult for someone to find the Batcave, even if they know where to look.

The Cave itself occupies several levels and antechambers around a central grotto. Various vehicle platforms are set up for quick launch, including a jet angled for a dark exit and the Batmobile on a low pad a short dash from the main control consoles. Alcoves support storage for gear, weapons, equipment, and there's a gymnasium and even a recreation area not far off. In the far corner of the cave is Batman's 'museum', featuring a bizarre and eclectic array of items— oversized playing cards, a plant frozen in mid-bloom, a penny that's easily 20 feet tall, and in one corner, carefully preserved under glass, is a red and yellow outfit with green trim. A memorial, clearly, and set apart with quiet dignity from the museum itself.

It is, despite the wealth of gear and electronics, still a cave— it's gloomy, poorly lit in many areas, and perpetually smells a bit musty and moist. And there's the ever-present rustling of furry flying animals in the corners.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

From the Batcave's central computers, Batman can monitor the whole of Gotham— even the world. It's a system of staggering scope, equalled by few other systems anywhere in the world. In the hands of a less principled person, someone sitting in that chair could do unspeakable damage to thousands of systems, some of them dangerously unprotected.

Batman sits in the middle of this web of information like a spider, waiting for a string to twitch and indicate a struggling fly is teasing his net.

He's set aside the bulk of his armor, wearing a long-sleeved underarmor tee. The matte grey chestplate is on a stand nearby, in easy reach, and his cloak and cowl hang from a hook not far away, along with his belt. Batman sits rather still, barely blinking as he absorbs the tremendous information flow coming at him from a dozen different computer monitors, with a still-steaming cup of tea balanced on the arm of his chair.

It's always been fascinating to Jason how Batman thinks that -he- is the one who can be trusted with all this surveillance. It's also meant that he's learned how to make sure that his corners remain dark unless he wanted Batman to know what he was doing. Maybe it's why he made sure that he didn't cause that web of information to even quiver as he left one of his current safehouses and made his way to the Batcave.

He doesn't expect to be able to sneak up on Batman entirely, but he wanted some element of surprise, even if it was just that he would come out on his own volition. Or maybe it's the question that he asks when he appears in that main information area of the Cave:

"Do you have a second?"

If Batman is surprised by Jason, it's hard to spot. Either he saw him coming, or Batman's iron self control keeps him from starting.

In either case, when Jason speaks, there's a half-second pause and the command chair rotates around. Batman stares at the Prodigal Son, his expression unreadable. But he rises to his feet, perhaps a little too quickly, and tilts his head minutely at Jason.

"Jason. Welcome back," he says, and the tone of his voice suggests the welcome that doesn't reach his voice. "It's been a while since you were in the Cave. What do you need?" he asks, taking a few steps away from the console towards Jason's location.

"Not really," is offered with a smirk before he reaches up to pull his helmet off. "I was down here a while back…needed to borrow your computer for something." Or did Batman forget? Or not know? Either way, it gets a little smirk that doesn't quite reach his eyes. He isn't quite as skittish as he was around Christmas, maybe because he came here with a purpose rather than feeling like he was pulled.

He looks at Bruce for a long moment, perhaps trying to decide just what he wants to say next or how he wants to say it.

"I want…to work something out." That seems to be the best start.

He's not the chatty Dick and this isn't easy for him, but he's trying to make sure that he's not going to be swept up again.

"It wasn't much of a social visit," Batman points out, a bit wryly. "I'm not sure that counts."

He tilts his head minutely to one side, his blue eyes sharp and inquisitive— the motion is a little bird-like, as he assesses Jason's words and intention in that flickering gestalt that seems to miss very little in the world around him.

Unlike Dick, though, or even Tim, Batman doesn't rush to fill the silence after Jason's words. His posture is open and attentive, but the Batman waits for Jason to stumble through his start and get to the point at hand.

"I won't give up my guns," as if that was somehow the next part of the conversation. "And if that means that you don't want me in Gotham, that's fine I have New York." But he might be trying to offer some sort of olive branch. But he's not the socialite charmer that some of the others are. He -can- be, but it's not an act he naturally falls into.

Batman's lips thin slightly at Jason's words, but he makes no objection. He doesn't need to. Every student of the Bat knows well his feelings about such clumsy, indelicate tools, and it's a topic not worth rehashing.

He doesn't rush to correct or condemn Red Hood, listening to the young man struggle through his words as he gets his thoughts in order. It's clear he's giving Jason time to work through whatever he came to do, without interrupting him— so Batman remains silent, still as a statue, and listening with that intense scrutiny to every word Jason utters.

The fact that his previous statement isn't met with much more than a thinning of the lips is interesting. He was expecting a fight with that but since there isn't one, he needs another moment to continue. To be honest, he wasn't sure it would even get past that point of contention. A hand lifts to scrub through his hair, mussing the streak of white at his forehead.

"I'm tired of playing these games. I'm tired of dealing with these creeps." Sure, his money may be mostly dirty, but it's money that didn't go to drug dealers or human traffickers.

Batman rolls one thick shoulder at Jason. It's hardly an expression of sympathy— the Batman doesn't go in for that. If anything, Jason might recognize it as a concession that Batman is coddling him as Red Hood complains about the lifestyle. He places high expectations on the Batlings, higher than anyone— except on himself.

"What is it going to be, then, Jason? Are you retiring, or are you sticking to your guns?" Batman inquires, his voice even and level. "You see to be of a split mind on the topic."

Jason Todd isn't complaining, per se, but it was meant to be a statement. He had hoped Bruce could read into it, but maybe not. Maybe he wanted Jason to say it. "I'm ready for a change," and he's trying not to just out and say it. "I'm ready to be back on your side…but doing things my way." As he said earlier, he wasn't going to give up his guns.

It's not even necessarily an 'I want to come back into the fold' sort of thing, because he's not willing to give everything up. But there might be a little bit of that there.

Batman frowns, heavily, clearly unsure what to make of this statement. He seems inclined to take Jason at his word, but… the Batman is ever untrusting.

"This is a big step, Jason," he remarks, finally, his arms folding loosely across his chest. "A rejection of a lot of years of grief and anger. It wasn't long ago you and I were standing this far apart with a gun aimed at my head," he reminds the younger man. "What's changed? Why do you suddenly want to come back?"

"Oh, I might still shoot you one day," Jason shrugs, the statement completely true. "But do you really want me to go through my thought process in getting to this decision?" Not that he would necessarily tell him even if that was the request. "What if I said that I realized that the anger wasn't actually doing anything and it was just forcing me into entropy?" And maybe he realized that when he was all mind-woogied, they were actually there to help despite him pushing them constantly away.

"I think you believe that intellectually, but I'm not sure you're prepared to let your anger go yet," Batman tells Red Hood, bluntly. "You're still threatening me instead of trying to form a personal connection. Still unwilling to let go of the tools of anger. I don't avoid guns just because they're lethal, Jason," Batman says, pointedly. "I avoid them because they're impersonal. They don't require thought, or self-control, or a connection to your target. They require no discipline."

"I threatened you when I was Robin," he points out. It's not untrue. "Since when did you do 'personal connections'?" His arms then fold at his own chest as he looks to the older man. "You can believe that, but I see them differently. I'm not arbitrary about using them. I'm not gunning anyone and anything down in order to get my way. My targets are researched and it requires fine control in order to fire at them. Sure, I get that's your view but you don't have the same connection with them as I do. My skill -is- disciplined."

He's trying. He really is. "Look, I'm not saying that I want to come back in and live here or even that I want to wear the symbol. I don't need the gadgets or the family movie nights." Although he might need that latter. "You can tell me to go to Hell if you want. But you don't get to tell me how I do my job." 'Job'.

"You're confusing spiritual discipline and physical discipline, Jason," Batman points out. "I'm not questioning your ability to use a firearm. I am concerned about your willingness to use guns instead of finding a nonlethal means."

He exhales, perhaps realizing he's rising to the same frustration that is in Jason's voice as they rehash old arguments for the umpteenth time. "You don't want to wear the symbol. You don't want the support of your brothers, or the network in place, and you won't work with our rules and our ways of doing things," Batman points out. "Jason, I want nothing more than to have my /son/ back in my life," Batman says, and for a moment, real emotion— a father's pain— tears at his voice. "But I don't know what you want of -me-. Of us. Of your family."

"I never said that," Jason points out. "I know that you don't like guns. I do. I'm not going to conform to who you want me to be now that I've had my resurrection." Literally and Figuratively. "If we're willing to somehow come to a compromise…" He might be tired of being so alone all the time.

What does he want from them? "I want to be me. I don't want to be whomever you wanted me to be. I want to be me and I want that to be ok. You don't have to love it, you don't have to always be ok with it." Contradictory statements, but he's trying.

"You're not offering much of a compromise, Jason," Batman says— but his tone is one of gentle correction, not stern admonishment. "You've shown up demanding that I respect your soverignity, your bloodlust, endorse your anger, support your sense of violence— and you are unwilling to change in any meaningful way," Batman says, spreading the fingers of his left hand out in a vague flick. "What compromise can I offer you? I'd give anything to have you back, Jason— but I won't let you run rampant killing people in exchange for anyone. Not even my own son."

This is not going the way he imagined. Jason begins to frown now, "I don't think you're actually hearing me." He's trying very hard not to let his frustration get the better of him. There's a little shake of his head then, "Wait, what? Do you honestly think I just kill people randomly? Some of these people are pedophiles, run human trafficking rings, sell drugs to kids…and you think tossing them in jail or better yet, that joke of an Asylum, is going to do anything? All it does is get them back on the streets whereas my way is permanently getting them to -stop-. But I'm not killing randomly or even rampantly."

Batman shakes his head. "We've had this discussion before, Jason," Batman reminds his former ward, keeping his calm firmly in hand. "Murder is a dangerous game because it's easy, not because it is ineffective. Where do you draw the line? What gives you the right to end a life, to decide a person is beyond redemption— or that they can never offer anything else of worth to the world?"

He exhales again, shaking his head. "Jason… you'll live your own life, your own way. I can't stop you from doing that— at least, outside of Gotham. We have our own way of doing things. If this is the life you want, I'm sure there are places like Hells Kitchen or anywhere in New York where you can go out and murder your way to a citywide peace."

"If you came here for an argument, I'm not sure why. But if you just came here to come -home-, even for a little while… then I think for once, we might be best off if we just set aside the masks and focus on the here and now," Batman says, encouragingly.

This is the fundamental difference between the two; Jason knows that these vile people won't be interested in reforming and they're better off as fertilizer. He gives a heavy sigh, "I didn't come here for an argument. If I wanted that, I could have tracked you or Dick or any of the others down and picked an argument with them." Like it's not that hard. As for coming 'home'…It's sort of what he was hoping to do. "I already took my mask off."

"Then… let's just try to start with something small," Batman agrees, setting the issue aside. There's a moment of awkard silence, then he makes a subtle gesture with one hand. "Have you eaten?" he inquires of Jason. "I'm sure Alfred would be happy to see you," he offers. "There are tuna sandwhiches in the kitchen, and it'd be easy enough to set some coffee on."

He's not starving, but he also recognizes the gesture for what it is. "I've probably talked to Alfred more than anyone else," he admits. No doubt Alfred has the way to contact Jason directly. "You know how to make coffee?" is asked with a raised eyebrow, "Or is that why you want Alfred to see me?"

"Alfred is /always/ glad to see you, Jason," Batman says, gently correcting the younger man. Something that suggests a smile tugs at the corner of his mouth. "And I can make coffee just fine, but Alfred's the only one who knows how to make the special house blend— and I'm fairly sure he inteds to take that secret to his grave, as job insurance," Batman says, wryly. "I don't know what he adds to the coffee, but I've never quite been able to replicate it, and I figure it's cheating to try and figure it out."

He beckons Jason along with him and heads to the little dining area, pausing to press the intercom button to hail Alfred. "Alfred, can you bring some coffee and sandwhiches down?" He glances at Red Hood, then continues. "Jason's stopped by for a bite to eat, so bring enough for two."

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