Cake and a Favor

October 25, 2017:

Jessica Jones swings by Titans Tower to congratulate Red Robin on the launch of his new team. She also makes a request.

Titan's Tower

You gotta get there by boat, but boats aren't bad.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Spoiler, Zatanna Zatara, Nathaniel Richards, John Constantine, Juno Hart, Grymalkin, Spider-Man, Impulse

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jessica Jones is leery of cars. She downright hates planes. But boats?

Boats are okay. Boats she can deal with. There's a nice place to jump— well not nice, it's gross. There's a _survivable_ place to jump if the boat goes out of control and becomes a firey ball of firey death. There's less traffic, which means she can putter along at a nice clip. Boats are okay.

She does putter though, for the following reasons.

1) Firey Balls of Death.

2) Disgusting River.

3) Cake.

A cake in a box, which she scoops up when the boat gets to the island. And then? She knocks on the door. And looks around for a doorbell in case the tower is too big for knocks to be heard. Though she's probably pretty sure their security picked her up rolling down the river long before she actually made it to the door.

Leather jacket, olive green V-necked sweater, jeans, boots. Not slouching. Actually looking somewhat relaxed.

*

The Tower is pretty big.

Not skyscraper big, but its four (aboveground) levels are bigger than a typical building's floors; somewhere around the size of a seven or eight storey building. Dwarfed, to be sure, by the Manhattan skyline, but all by itself on that island it seems larger. With October nearly done, the trees on the manmade island have given up much of their green to a riot of autumnal colour, though somebody has raked up the leaves that have fallen onto the plaza around the Tower itself. The whole thing - the isolated island, the well cared for grounds, the building itself - give the Titans a kind of formality, a certain weight of being that they wouldn't have if they were just a bunch of kids holed up in some makeshift hideout somewhere… Which is probably the point.

So the PI approaches the Tower, the large glass-fronted doors, and she knocks. It's about two seconds after she knocks, when she's looking for the doorbell, that a line of white light projects out from above the door, tracing a quick course down and then back up again, a brief identity scan.

And then, the doors open.

The ground floor is a kind of atrium, it looks like the reception area for an extremely fancy condominium, with lots of light both natural and manmade, and planters around the room providing greenery. A keen eye would notice that the layout is actually designed to reduce the amount of available cover for anyone coming in through the front doors, with more and larger planters closer to the elevators at the far side.

Right beside the door is a reception desk. Usually it is empty. Right now, it is not.

A young man in a costume of red and black, with yellow detailing, sits at it. He's got his boots up on the desk, his legs crossed at the ankles, gloved fingers laced together behind his head. His face is partially covered by a stylised black domino mask, with white lenses hiding his eyes, a shock of black hair styled upwards. But Jessica Jones is an investigator, and that requires an eye for detail: The logo on his chest, a bird's head in profile, matches one she's seen many times before. And that lower face might very well be the one she's seen in the cutout of a certain black cowl.

"Miss Jones," he says; no electronic fuzzing, but it's the deep, confident voice she heard plenty of in Germany. "Beats the hell out of that concrete bunker, huh?"

*

"Hell yeah it does," Jessica says with a grin and a low whistle. "Damn, Red, I was already impressed, but this is pretty cool. You're giving the Avenger's Mansion a run for its money."

She lifts up the cake. "This from a bakery, because I do not hate you," she promises. "A very belated congratulations on your formal new team and your badass building." She sets it on the counter of the reception desk, in its box.

It does surprise her, just a bit, to find out the voice she'd heard in Germany was the real voice. She'd thought that had maybe been a glamour too. But it's a lot less creepy and a lot more relatable than the Electronic Fuzz Voice of Doom; she approves. "Granted, 'Red has a badass new team and building' are about all the details I've heard about it, but that's enough for cake."

*

He still has the bunker, of course, just in case.

It's not like he can keep much crimefighting equipment at his penthouse suite downtown, and it's always handy to have your own hideouts around, so that little home away from home, a tiny, bare-bones Nest, remains operational and updated. Sure, people use 'paranoid' as a pejorative, but like his mentor Red Robin has adopted it as a survival strategy.

"You should've at least tried to pass it off as your own baking," the vigilante suggests. "Then we would've built a whole legend about your secret baking prowess, how underneath that tough as nails exterior there beats the heart of a woman who just wants the perfect double chocolate chip cookie recipe."

Indeed, in Germany he'd been much… Well, more blond, and the structure of his face had looked different, but that was all good old-fashioned dye and makeup and some light prosthetic work: Zatanna had warned him that any magical disguise wouldn't work on Constantine, and his secret identity remained important. Fortunately, he learned all about the fine art of disguise as part of his training. Sleeping with the bits that lightly changed the shape of his nose and jawline in was a pain in the butt, though.

"Technically, not my building, it belongs to the city. They had it built for the original Titans, and then it was just kinda sitting here empty, so…" He shrugs a little, taking his feet off of the desk and standing up. He's a bit taller than he was in Germany, a reminder of his youth: He, and those he'd assembled, were still growing. "I heard from Spoiler that you were working with the Avengers," the young man says, reminded perhaps by the PI's mention of the mansion. He'd also heard that she was helping Spoiler go undercover in a criminal gang, but if he was going to get mad at Jessica over that, the presence of the cake probably deflects it. It'd be rude.

"So, congratulations on that. Did they get you a costume yet?"

*

"Yeah, no. My reputation's already sullied enough, thanks," Jess says dryly, on this matter of cakes and people thinking she's got baking prowess. "Zatanna keeps accusing me of having rainbows in my heart or some shit." She doesn't honestly sound like she minds that much, but neither is she likely to graduate to baking cakes any time soon.

Of course, there were the damnable cookies, or whatever those turned into, but she won't bring that up either.

Instead, Jessica Jones pulls a face at the mention of a costume. "Hell. No. Not going to happen. Never, ever going to happen. It's just a consult job, anyway."

Not that Nate hadn't tried with all his various 'you could be this or that' supervillian undercover, talk. Talk of that reminds her she needs to go see Nate, about that very thing, but she's trying to make the rounds, trying to catch up on loose ends left behind when she dropped everything to go to Wakanda.

Then she picks up the thread about it belonging to the city. "So you just moved in?" she asks, taken aback. "You didn't have to get a permit or a deed or anything like that? You just said 'hey, we're the Titans now' and they said 'cool bro, here's your key?'" It had to be more complicated than that. "And surely some of this was you guys working to fix it up. If it was just sitting here all that time. When was the last time there was a Titan's team?"

Probably within her lifetime…

But she probably wasn't paying attention at the time.

*

There's a faint chuff of amusement from Red Robin at the hits poor, maligned Jessica Jones' hardass reputation has taken, particularly Zatanna's allegations of her having 'rainbows in her heart'. He doesn't know that he'd go that far, but he does have a particular perspective on the private investigator after all. He's seen something of her best.

The amusement turns into a wider grin when she makes a face at the idea of getting a costumed identity. 'Just a consult job,' she calls it, but he doesn't doubt that if she made a good impression on the leadership of the Avengers she might find herself consulting more and more, and pretty soon consulting for the Avengers is bound to involve getting into a fight with the Molemen or having to bodyslam a Skrull through an expensive table at the Avengers Mansion.

He knows how this superhero business works, he's been doing it since before his voice cracked.

"Well, they mostly left it to gather dust, and I had some… Contacts… The Titans Foundation is a nonprofit that funds our operations, and took care of the money side of refurbishing the Tower," three guesses as to who did all the design work and then as much of the actual work as he could without calling in a construction company, and the first two don't count. "As for the orginal Titans, it's been a few years. The original Robin, Speedy, Kid Flash, Starfire… Well, they've all got their own stuff going on now."

*

If they do, they will find her stubbornly going by her own name and wearing her leather jacket. They might get her to wear her Ms. Scary t-shirt, the lazy superhero outfit, if Stark can make a bulletproof version of the thing. But for now, she remains somewhat blissfully unaware of the possibility she might be punching Skrulls through tables. Not that it would be any weirder than anything else this past year has thrown at them.

Meanwhile, Jessica can certainly make those guesses, which only adds to the reasons why this place is impressive. Right through the door impressive. She sure as hell couldn't design or build her way out of a paper bag. She can barely hang a shelf from Ikea.

"Kid Flash? Someone got the short end of the naming stick," she remarks. "Speedy didn't get a good deal either."

She roasts the villians mercilessly over these naming conventions, but sometimes the heroes wind up with some really bad ones too.

"What inspired you to do all this anyway?"

The original conversation she had about the Titans, after all, came from John Constantine, who was mostly amused about the tights. Thus, she missed some of the ins and outs. There hadn't been a lot of time to talk casually with Zatanna, and until she came back home all talk of Red's efforts had kind of slid out of her brain and into some deep, dark file cabinet where things that were not relevant at the time go to live until they become relevant again.

*

What inspired you to do all this anyway?

It's a good question. In some ways, a dangerous one. It would be far easier and safer to just dwell on the ridiculous codenames sidekicks get saddled with sometimes - Kid Flash having since become a Flash in his own right, and Speedy having taken up the much more grim name of Arsenal - but Jessica deserves better than just deflection away from a directly asked question.

"A few things. When I was younger… When I was Robin," before all the everything that happened, with his family, with Stephanie, with the Batman. Before his mentor returned with a new Robin, and he'd been displaced. "Some friends of mine and I had a kind of informal group of our own. I missed it."

The truth, carefully measured out. Incomplete.

"And… Zatanna. With everything that's happened, I thought it would be good for her to have some extraordinary people her own age around." A brief pause, then: "No offense. But peer groups are important, they help prevent isolation, which is even more of a problem when you can throw buildings around or rewite reality with your words. It's good for us to remember that we're still kids, sometimes."

*

Jessica accepts all of that, and shrugs. "None taken. Actually, that…kind of plays into a favor I want to beg of you, and it kind of makes me feel better about begging it to know that this is where your head's at."

Sadly, Jessica Jones is the type of friend who will bring cakes and visit, but she's also the type of friend who is driven by the work they do. She only hopes Red can forgive that often she ends up being about both things at once, especially now. She would save it, but things are kind of quiet right now. Even the iDol case remains stalled. She has cases that are weird, and while some are potentially deadly they mostly seem managable. She has no idea where his stand, of course, but— here he is, with a whole team to help him, and…it's something she cannot do on her own. She can't do it at all.

Her features turn sober. "It's about Juno," she says. "She's made huge strides, and I can tell you about them, but…she needs friends. Friends her own age. She needs more in her life than a handler, a grumpy PI and an amoral magical cat. I'm not asking you to bring her onto your team, I wouldn't presume that. But…I am asking you to please see if you and, I guess, some of your people, can't just…" She spreads her hands helplessly. "Do kid stuff. Be an influence."

Ever since 'call from Juno, something weird is going on' made Jessica's mental list of 'things that happen every goddamn time I leave the country' she's been worried about the girl, though she hasn't yet been to see her.

*

All things considered, it's not as though Red Robin can really hold it against her.

Is he really all that different, after all?

"Amoral magical cat?" the vigilante repeats, because out of all of what Jessica tells him about the strange young woman he met - and prevented from committing murder - shortly before the mission to Germany, 'amoral magical cat' is the part he'd expected least. Which, honestly, at this point he should know better. He should just expect everything.

"I get what you mean, though, Miss Jones," he says, pulling his most boyishly disarming smile out of his repertoire. "That's what the Titans are supposed to be for, trying to make sure young people like her can get on a better path. If we can help her, we will."

Of course, it's rarely as easy as he makes it sound, but decisive statements put peoples' minds at ease.

*

"Yeah, I don't know, his name's Grymalkin and about half the time he seems to be trying to help her and about half the time he seems to be trying to get her arrested," Jessica says.

But there's relief on her face. One, that he didn't seem too put out, two, that he'll help. She pulls out a card and scrawls Juno's number on it. "She texts like any other teen," she says dryly. "Well. Any other modern day person, I guess."

Decisive statements do put people's minds at ease. It's a lesson Jess has learned and tried to apply herself, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work on her. That disarming smile gets a return smile that borders on the easy-going, Jones' newfound confidence shining through it.

"I don't know where she's landed on the killing thing, other than if she's told how to achieve an objective without doing it she is willing to try it. At least, she was when she believed in the objective. She has learned how to have anger for her own sake, which I think is pretty huge. And she's even learned she has choices now, and that she should have those choices, that she's not just some killer doll-thing who exists only to make the world safe for real people, which is apparently the bullshit she got fed from the cradle. And sometimes she's pretty much just a kid."

She did promise to give him the rundown of where Juno was at, after all, and the private eye thinks that information is kind of important for someone who is going to reach out to her.

"None of this makes dealing with her exactly safe or predictable, but you know. That's why superkids are probably right for the job."

*

The explanation Jessica provides Red Robin with does match pretty well with his own observations of Juno during their admittedly brief encounter - that she believed she was doing good by killing someone who was bad, that she seemed fearful of the consequences of failure. She was very nearly in a panic when he kept her from following through, when he saved the life of the admittedly very awful person she'd been sent to end.

There was a definite air of 'child soldier' to the whole thing.

Though, is he really one to talk?

"I'm starting to feel like you brought me a cake to convince me to take this up," the vigilante says, though he doesn't sound particularly serious about it. Fortunately, superkids are something he has a surfeit of, right now. Maybe Spider-Man… It might help him take his mind off of the situation involving what Red Robin is pretty sure is the alternate universe version of his ex-girlfriend. Or perhaps Impulse, somebody with similar metahuman abilities.

The provided card is palmed, vanishing as if by magic, but dollars to donuts he's already memorised the number that was written down on it anyway.

"Maybe we can shake something loose about the magic cat," he muses. "We do have a superpowered alien dog, so…"

*

"Cake and favor are two separate events, I promise," Jones says, holding up her hands with a laugh. "I'd have brought you the cake anyway. That's why it says 'Congratulations Titans' and not 'Please Help.' I hope it's big enough for everyone. And I couldn't figure out where any of you would stand on the great yellow cake vs. choclate cake debate, so I went full on wishy-washy and scored you guys the marble."

He says they have a superpowered alien dog, because…of course they do. She half shakes her head with a smirk. "Zee might remember I talked to her about that damn cat dude for other reasons some time ago, but there have been a zillion more pressing matters. I don't think he's malicious, just capricious, but capricious can be problematic enough."

Nevertheless, she has reached both the end of her ability to have light, casual conversation and the end of the favor she came to beg. And she's noted that in some regards, he seems not just to be taller, but to be worn a little less thin than he seemed to be when she'd last seen him. All to the good. So she gives one last, impressed look around, and says, "Anyway, I'm should to get out of your hair. It takes awhile for that boat to get places." Because she's running the boat at 1/4 speed. "Don't be a stranger, Red."

*

"I actually got a cake that said 'Please Help' on it, once," Red Robin notes, before musing: "That was a weird birthday."

Is he being serious, or joking?

He is from Gotham City, after all.

There's a pensive nod, though, from the young man when Jessica says she'd mentioned this 'Grymalkin' to the Princess of Prestidigitation before, but… Well, yeah, there's pretty much always some disaster or another, right? He files that tidbit of information away, like he does pretty much all such tidbits, with a mental note to ask Zatanna about it. If her solution is, 'I dunno, sic Krypto on it,' well, he's sure the Superdog could use some exercise.

It wouldn't be wrong to say that Red Robin seemed a bit less stressed out, a bit less like he was carrying the whole world on his own shoulders - the team helps, certainly, especially since the core of it is made up of his best friends, but in a curious way the change in costume helps, too. The cape and cowl is oppressive, lending him a more grim mien and a certain expectation to be more like the Bat. His Titans suit is more lightweight, mask rather than cowl having an effect on his affect. It was, pretty much, what he'd told Iso about the importance of a costume… About what you wanted to protect to the world about yourself and your image.

But then, when he's operating on his own, it's back to the heavier suit.

Some burdens you can only put down for a little while.

"Have a safe trip back, Miss Jones. And don't worry… I might just turn up at Alias Investigations with a bunch of sugar-rushing superkids to thank you for the cake," he jokes.

Honestly they'll be lucky if anybody but Impulse gets cake. He tore through those Wakandan snacks Zatanna had left in the fridge in about half a second.

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