The Dane Cook of Martial Arts

February 21, 2018:

Tim Drake copes with the reminder of his father's death in extremely healthy ways. Zatanna, bearer of cronuts, is going to learn Krav Maga.

Red Robin's Nest, Gotham City

The second coolest secret crimefighting hideout in Gotham (sorry, Babs).

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Impulse, Iso, Owen Mercer, Tony Stark

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

There are all sorts of constructive ways to deal with anger. Some people use meditation, some people take a soak in the tub, some people pick up various hobbies. Exercise, yoga, video games. Things that work off excess energy, things that relax.

Not on that list, notably, is 'going out and getting into fights with gang members'. Nevertheless, here we are.

It's been days, really, since his unexpected encounter at Stark Tower, an encounter which nobody else involved would likely have guessed had set him off - 'never let them see you sweat', one of the main rules of being a costumed vigilante with no superpowers - days in which every night since had been spent not doing schoolwork, or socialising, or working on any of the various cases that were already on Red Robin's plate. He couldn't. He couldn't focus, he couldn't spend more time pretending, pretending to be okay.

Every time he went to sleep he was back there, on that terrible night. His bare foot trodding in half-dried blood, the coppery scent heavy in the air along with the last traces of gunshot residue. It was the curse of memory, of the near-perfect recall he'd been trained in: He could no more forget the terrible than he could the sublime, or the necessary.

"You have five new messages," reads a recorded voice, as Tim Drake lays on his couch in black track pants and a blue t-shirt with the Wayne Enterprises logo, staring at the ceiling. He has a cold pack pressed against the side of his head where a lucky shot had gotten through; his cowl had absorbed the worst of it, but his skull felt tender. "First new message…"

Hey dude, says the voice of a young man. What, you don't even pick up the phone anymore? You're worse now than you were in highschool! Anyway, there's gonna be a party this weekend at Trey's place - you remember Trey, big dude, played football - and I heard Zoanne is gonna be there. It wasn't a subtle implication, really. Tim sighed, shutting his eyes, at the answering machine version of an age-old argument. Anyway, Tim, just let me know. Or don't, going by past history!

"Message ends," his phone informs him.

"Delete it," Tim says; there's a responding beep, before the answering machine program starts on with the next message.

To say things have been strained at 'home' is an understatement - while Bucky and Jane's souls have been restored, she and John have yet to speak to them about everything that has happened, and as always, the British magus is reluctant to converse about his internal thoughts of the matter. Their astral link helps, it allows her to read his moods, but emotions are just one side of an already complex equation - always, with John, and always, when it comes to him and people.

Her routine is much the same as Red's, though she has focused her efforts, now, on keeping a bead on New York's mystical pulse now that the Demon Bear affair has concluded: school, study, investigation. Titans business also occupies her time, whatever work they have to force out of Tim's hands just to give him a bit of a reprieve and to participate in the other spheres of his life.

She is /just/ walking in through the aquarium-switch entrance when she hears the faint beep and a recorded voice within the depths of the Nest, booted feet taking her down metal stairs and moving into the heart of the Batling's 'workspace.' The hum of technology is familiar, now, though some part of her prefers the old - the way her father's study is structured, for instance, surrounded by books and artifacts.

"You should go," she says, once she comes across Tim. Zatanna looks the same as ever, clad in her usual black clothes, save for hints of red - today it's a bandanna, threaded through her raven mane and bound up loosely, leaving torrents of it spilling free.

"I mean, before your other friends think you're avoiding them," she jests, setting down a bag, sugar and cinnamon wafting from it: fresh baked cronuts, and coffee from an artisanal brewery that she had found in Greenwich Village.

His mood is not lost on her, but she keeps her tone light, never one to force him to talking to her about anything, her closest circle of associates tend to be reluctant to do so, and really, only Peter ever gives her straight and thorough answers whenever she asks. So she is content to wait, and unabashedly embraces the instincts instilled on her from years of taking care of her father - by feeding every person she visits.

Tim Drake, what the hell, says the voice on the second message, in the background behind Zatanna's words. A young woman's voice. She sounds upset. As soon as he hears it, Tim sits bolt upright, his expression clearly broadcasting surprised realisation. It's the expression of someone who forgot something important. I set up that meeting because you wanted to convince backers to start a Neon Knights outreach center in New York, and then you have the absolute gall to leave me to—

"Delete message!" Tim interjects hurriedly, moving with all the grace of an inheritor of ancient traditions as he tries to turn off his phone, tripping over his own feet and landing a bit roughly on the floor. Which, he realises now, he probably should've gotten more of padded.

Tim at least has the grace to look embarrassed when he pops back up onto his feet, facing Zatanna. Whoever the other messages are, they're going to have to wait. Knowing his luck, though, they probably are of a piece with that second one. He flashes the witch a grin, boyish in the way of a boy who's just been caught doing something he isn't supposed to, but she'd see it in his eyes - the something else, lingering, waiting. Though that dark blue gaze moves to the bag almost immediately.

"It's really just the one friend," he admits. The rest of his social life got pared down pretty dramatically over the years. "Sebastian Ives. He goes to school with us, have I not…?" He realises, then, that no he hasn't. In the year and change he's been friends with Zatanna, he's never introduced her to Ives, his oldest friend. There's a guilty pang, there. He does it without thinking. Compartmentalise. Hide things. "Zoanne was, uh, a girl in highschool, she and I were… Well, sort of, anyway. Then, well, you know." He gestures vaguely at the Nest. "I'm not really a party guy, anyway, I…"

He's doing it again. He's avoiding it.

"I lied to you."

Delete message!

There's a slight blink when Tim nearly spills on the floor, though at the grin he casts in her direction, she laughs. "Wow, what did she ever do to you?" The last said with a faint hint of amusement. It's facetious at best, able to read his moods as keenly as her own - that seems less to do with history and more out of guilt from promising to do something and not doing it. There had been a time when she wondered, even marveled, at his ability to juggle various aspects of his life around the life he leads when clad in a cape. The last few weeks have made her come to realize that Tim Drake is only human - he struggles with keeping up, also.

His history with Sebastian Ives and Zoanne aside, Zatanna takes a seat on one of the other chairs by where he is, plucking a cronut from the bag and her own coffee from the egg crate she brought. Before she takes a bite, however…

I lied to you.

The confession is so sudden that her brows can't help but draw down at the middle, and the words themselves prevent her from indulging in the perfectly good confection in her hands. A year and change - her acquaintanceship with Tim can't be said to be as long as other people in her life, but she knows very well that could mean anything. It could be something minor or something huge.

"Okay, well," she begins slowly. "Depending on what it is, you either going to get a cronut or no cronut. What are you talking about, Tim?"

On the upside, if Tiffany Fox murders him for not showing up at important meetings, he won't have to worry about going to any parties.

There you go, Tim Drake, positive thinking.

For now, though, he plunges into the breach. It's part of what's been bothering him, at least after a fashion… He takes his attempts to be more honest with Zatanna since he revealed his identity to her very seriously, but of course there's always more, isn't there? More things compartmentalised and hidden, more deceptions, even unintentional ones. After everything, maybe he shouldn't worry so much about the fragility of her trust in him.

But again, the curse of memory. It was little more than a year ago that he told her the truth. Little more than a year ago that he'd only barely kept her trust after she was attacked by his adoptive father. He won't ever forget how she looked at him, that day in the study room.

"My father, and my stepmother. I never really told you about all of it, I sort of brushed it off, but… It was about me. Someone sent Captain Boomerang after my dad, and they killed each other." It was… Mostly what he told her before. Was it really different in any meaningful degree? And why now, of all times…?

"I met his son. Boomerang's, I mean… Owen Mercer, professional scumbag. He's working with Stark on something involving an evil Flash wannabe." He can feel it well up again, the anger. It's not rational. It's not fair: Mercer is by no stretch of the imagination a good person, but he wasn't involved in the deaths of Jack Drake and Dana Winters. But he can't help it. Just seeing the man puts him back in that horrible night. It opens up a yawning pit, and nothing spills out but hate. "Everything just kinda… Bubbled back up."

It is serious, but not in the way she was anticipating.

Because she had been expecting it, something much like the incident in the study room that will now forever color her interactions with her own best friend, back when the Secret was still a thing between them - the thing that wasn't his entire story to tell. But she remembers, also, that he hasn't lied to her about his own life: how his mother died, that he was orphaned. She knew his father had been killed, just not the means and measure as to how.

And more importantly, why.

Zatanna knows very little about Jack Drake, except for the fact that he had been an archaeologist, that the Drake fortune had been largely hereditary and enough to maintain the older man's lifestyle while he plumbed the Earth of its secrets. Ice-blue eyes widen when it is revealed that Jack hadn't just died by self-defense, he even killed his murderer.

And now Tim is trying to explain to her that the sons of their fathers have had a chance to meet.

"Tim, I'm…" Sorry. She is about to say it, but it's a trite apology at best, and her lips press together. Her expectant face softens to a considerable degree, and while yes, it is irrational, emotions are generally not - she knows that better than most, how she's always so free in sinking into them, expressing them.

The fact that he is telling her this is surprising, also, in a good way, because he is confiding in her, confiding in someone, and the bad, if not just because it brings up horrible memories about his father's murder.

"…I can't blame you," she says instead. "It's not logical, I know, but I think if I was in your position, I'd feel the same way. I…what happened? Does he know? Were you in costume?"

Three bodies. Dana Winters-Drake, Tim's stepmother, killed by accident when Boomerang had broken in to the Drake home. His father, with a razor boomerang buried in his heart. Digger Harkness, a Rogue and a super-criminal no one had taken particularly seriously anymore, with a bullet in his head.

So much blood. You wouldn't think so, with the nature of the wounds… But it was there. Half-dried, sticky. In the darkness of the room, where Tim had been sneaking in, stripping carefully out of his costume as he went, the blood had looked black.

"I was in costume. I was escorting Bart over there, he's helping Stark, too. There's some kind of connection there," he muses, although he's not wholly sure what it is. Maybe something about Bart's decision to get a real job, working at a bar of all things. "Nothing happened, really. Whatever secrets Mercer knows, he's got enough sense to keep them to himself." For now, whispers a suspicious part of his own mind. How can he trust someone like that?

Tim never would've gone to the Gotham Antiquities Commission gala if it hadn't been for Zatanna, of course. Not because he didn't do fancy shindigs - even before he'd become the adopted son of Bruce Wayne, they'd been a fact of life for him - but because Jack Drake had been a member of benefactor of the GAC. All those grey old heads were friends of his father's. They would've wanted to reminisce. To commiserate.

The horrific attack had been almost a relief.

"So since then I've been…" Going out nightly to get into fights with the criminal element of Gotham and neglecting his other responsibilities because it feels viscerally satisfying to bust heads. "…Keeping busy."

"Well if there's a problem with some kind of Evil Flash, then yeah, I can see why Tony would wanna talk to Bart," Zatanna says slowly. She has very little exposure to the Speed Force, just how it affects one of Tim's best friends, who has lived with it all of his life. "He would know better than most anyone what that entails." Except for the Flash himself, or so she thinks - speedsters are an unusual animal to her, most days, if not just because she can't comprehend how they live, with everyone else moving at an infinitely slower pace than they do. It must be hell on Earth.

And having experienced actual Hell, she can guess.

Still, she can't help but marvel at how small the world truly is, when circumstances like this tend to happen. She can't even fathom what that is like, to come face to face with the son of the man who killed one's father. If anything, she thinks Tim is handling it relatively well, taking his anger out on the usual criminal elements in Gotham City.

And she knows that is what he is doing. She remembers the look of his bloodied fingers and the haggard expression when he spent nights attempting to find anything involved with HYDRA when her soul had been taken.

"Even busier than how you usually are?" she wonders with a frown. "Everyone copes in different ways, Tim. I understand…but at least take someone with you whenever you go. Maybe join Bruce or….call Dick. I'm sure he'd love to see you."

That had been surprising, too, to realize that the entire costumed vigilante thing is a Wayne family affair.

She would offer, but her magic would make it too easy…and even if she doesn't say it out loud, she still has her father.

At least he isn't going that overboard. He's sleeping, his usual three to four hours a night. There's the nightmares, yes, but there always are: They're old friends, now. He might miss them if they stopped.

And it's not like all of his dreams are bad, either.

Though, truth be told, some of the nice ones hurt worse.

"Stark's trying to devise some kind of a detection system," Tim explains. "So I'm keeping an eye on it." In case it's dangerous. With the current climate, knowing that public opinion has been turning against metahumans, how could he not? How could he simply sit back and trust anyone, but especially an Avenger, building a device that could find one of his best friends and put him in danger? "It's not a bad idea, it's just…"

Dangerous.

But so is his anger. He doesn't seem like an angry person, most of the time, but then neither does Dick Grayson. Dick was like air, always moving… But the wind can turn from playful to destructive in a heartbeat. Tim was like water: The outward surface might be calm, but what was going on beneath might be anything but. And beneath the surface of those dark blue eyes, like the deep ocean, things were churning.

"What, you don't want to come with?" he wonders, homing in on the unspoken lack of an offer on the gothic magician's part. "I mean, I know last time didn't go so great, but you'd be surprised how cathartic smacking around evil clowns is." Magic probably would make it too easy, though, and it was a true fact that her father yet lived… Even if Giovanni Zatara was as beyond her reach in his own way as Tim's parents were to him. That was what had started all of this, after all.

"Well… Plan B, we could get some training in. I know you can wiggle your fingers and tie the bad guys up, but you never know when you might need to lack a beatdown on somebody. Plus I can't imagine that in all the time you've known me, you've never wanted to hit me."

He has an effect on people. It's part of his charming personality.

"Well, brilliance often has a habit of turning around and biting the genius in the ass," Zatanna mentions dryly. She isn't just talking about the Tim Drakes, Bruce Waynes and the Tony Starks of the world. She is also referring to John Constantine and, especially lately, Dr. Jane Foster. "If you're dealing with Tony Stark, just be careful, okay? I mean, the man is worshipped as a God in another dimension, that sort of personality isn't exactly wholly benign."

Said by a young woman who likes Tony. But just because she does has no bearing on the reality of the fact that it is still Tony Stark that they are talking about.

What you don't want to come with?

"I just figured magic would make things too easy for you and I'm not opposed to hearing about sex traffickers and costumed psychos getting their asses handed to them the old fashioned way," she says with a grin. "Plus it sounds to me that you need an outlet to take out all of that aggression and kicking clams off the road won't be as cathartic as breaking noses."

His Plan B, though…

"Yeah, easy for you to say, Mr. 'I Was Trained By the Deadliest Assassins On Earth'," she replies dryly. "It's gonna be like that scene from the original Matrix movie where Morpheus tells Neo to stop trying to hit him and hit him."

After a moment, she slowly rises from her chair, after another gulp of coffee. "Alright. Just for a bit. I am not sparring with you for three hours or however long you actually train. Do I look like an Olympian to you?"

The dry words about the double-edged nature of ''genius'' gets a flat look from Tim; it's not that the anger he's been wrestling with has gone away - it never does, that's something he learned a long time ago, the anger is always there with the hurt and the fear, waiting - but that spending time with Zatanna has put fresh green life into the other aspects of his internal ecosystem. It was an effect she had on people, given her nature, given the way she approached interpersonal relationships. And, well, perhaps it was particularly effective on certain people.

"I'm more worried about his brilliance biting the rest of us in our asses," Tim notes, sounding mildly - and in this case, facetiously - aggrieved. "Again. I'm not sure I can just blow this thing up after it serves its initial purpose." Or steal it, for that matter. There was, after all, one set of hands he at least came closer to trusting with that sort of power. Closer, but not quite there.

"And I'm always careful," Tim Drake, lying liar who lies, says defensively.

"That would be terrible training," the Red Knight subsequently notes in response to the comparison to the Matrix. "I actually had a whole plan drawn up for training you and Iso, since you're both the least, well, practiced fighters on the team. I figured mostly close-in stuff for you, grappling and the like. Do you know any Brazilian jiujutsu?" He's sure Zatanna has some kind of self-defense training, just not… You know. It's a bit tougher when it comes to the super strong members of the team, but his argument there is the same as it is with the Princess of Prestidigitation: There will inevitably come a time when their powers are useless. Possibly because he's paranoid. "Though you might look like an Olympian. Ask Cassie about it."

With a grin at Zatanna, Tim starts to move out of the workspace, though something occurs to him before he does:

"So… Do I get to have a cronut?"

The flat look earns him another broad grin, Zatanna tilting her head slightly at him. "I call it the way I see it," she banters lightly, unzipping her jacket and tossing it on the chair. "And yeah, I know, I know. The entire brilliance without the discipline thing, maybe. I know you, Tim, but I know Bruce, too, and pretty well. I know how he gets. That is definitely his thinking implanted in your brain. Not saying that he's wrong, anyone would be wary, especially since Bart is involved."

And while she ribs him, she won't dissuade him, either. The people who occupy Tim Drake's closest orbit are few and far in between, and Bartholomew Allen happens to be one of those satellites. And really, were she in his position, she would be feeling very much the same way. Overall, however, she is an infinitely more trusting soul than Tim Drake ever is, when it comes to these things, preferring to place her faith on the abilities of the men and women who share her world.

Though that faith is tested now and then. Strenuously. But it wouldn't be called faith if an outcome was guaranteed.

And I'm always careful.

"Says the guy who jumps off tall buildings held with nothing but a wire for fun," she says with a laugh as she follows him away from the console of his supercomputer - millions of dollars worth of highly advanced technology, just sitting here under a swanky bachelor pad.

Do you know any Brazilian jiujutsu?

"Nope," she replies lightly. "I was a taekwondo kid when Daddy started taking me to lessons when I was a kid. I took them long enough to remember the moves, but it's not like I have been training that way. Mostly running, and yoga."

He comments about her looking like one and she laughs again. "Thanks to the Titans regimen I think, and the constant threat of shoving me in spandex. Nothing motivates a girl to work out more than the prospect of having to wear something where every flaw is visible."

Her hands slide into the pockets of her jeans as she follows Tim.

"Besides I'd have thought you'd suggest Krav Maga to me, or something. And yes. You get a cronut."

There's a very small group of people that Tim Drake has absolute faith in.

A canny observer might notice that he doesn't really place himself on that list, for various reasons.

A younger, more idealistic Tim would lend people that faith until they proved they didn't deserve it, giving them that one chance. But that was before everything. Before the world he'd immersed himself in had really started to sink into his bones. Before his father and stepmother were killed. Now… Now he knows that extending trust is all well and good, but sometimes you just need to give things a little push.

"Believe me, I'm going to keep you in the loop. This concerns the whole team," Tim says of the potential dangers of letting Tony Stark experiment with the Speed Force. Honestly, after what happened with the demonic possession of the JARVIS artificial intelligence, Stark's project might well concern a lot more than just their team. "If somebody's going to start trying to keep tabs on metahumans like that, well… We need to figure out how to protect ourselves." Ourselves, he says, as the only non-metahuman among the Titans. But he brought them together, so they're his responsibility.

"It's not for fun," he notes about his jumping off of buildings with a nothing but an extremely strong grappling line for safety. "Usually, I mean. It's pretty fun sometimes. The wings are good, too. It's hard to beat flying." Especially not with teleportation, Zatanna.

She does, finally, get an actual laugh out of Tim when she talks about being a Taekwondo kid, though it's not entirely out of amusement. It sounds… Endeared, actually. "Oh no, that mental image," he says, lips twitching with the urge to smile as he thinks about a tiny Zatanna in her dobok, being taken to lessons by her dad who, of course, he's only ever seen in his full The Great Zatara regalia, so naturally…

Well, that's gonna stick with him. Later, when he's trying to be all serious.

"Zatanna Zatara, I've never known you to have a flaw," he tells her solicitously, before going for a cronut. If they're going to work out, he doesn't need to feel any guilt about it. "It might be the Dane Cook of martial arts, but Krav Maga would be good too. Close-in striking at vitals to offset your lack of physical power, mmn… Some weapons, too," he muses, leading the way towards the training area. "We'll start with the staff, it goes with the whole 'wizard' thing…"

"I'm honestly surprised that they didn't find a way sooner," Zatanna remarks with a frown. "With SHIELD and everything else. Or Bruce." Who probably keeps a metahuman database and carefully detailed files as to how to take them out in the event that they are mind-controlled or worse. It is just the sort of thing that he would do, but the fact that people are still working on the technology is….

It's not for fun, says Timothy 'Lying Liarface' Drake. She flashes him a skeptical look at that.

A face that shifts into and ther expression entirely when he starts imagining her in Tiny Tots Taekwondo class, in her little dobok and belt, screaming hi-yaah while kicking the air, pretending that she's breaking a board with her foot. "Don't even start," she tells him exasperated as they wander away from the small lounge together. "I learned a lot while I was in those classes, I stuck to it until I was twelve while I still had those horrenduous braces and that is another story that I'm not sure I ought to tell you."

It was her first stint ever at any crimefighting, with disastrously hilarious results.

She laughs when Krav Maga is described as the Dane Cook of Martial Arts.

We'll start with a staff….

She swats his shoulder as they make their way down the lower levels of the Nest. "Yeah yeah, I'll put on my hat, too, and scream 'YOU SHALL NOT PASS' while whiffing at every attempt to hit you. Smartass."

"It's not easy to track all the different kinds of metahumans at the same time," Tim admits. "Assuming there's even anything about them to 'track'. You've got mutants, space aliens, extradimensional people, people who tap into different forms of energy, gods I guess, people who do magic… It's a wide, wild world out there." And of course, the Dark Knight isn't the only one who has that sort of database.

Not all the lessons Tim learned from Bruce were the good ones.

Zatanna's exasperated admonishment to not even start of course only encourages him to imagine a little pigtailed Zatanna working on her high kicks, and honestly he should just be given this one because most of his martial arts training came with an at least implied life-or-death stipulation. All the times Batman would dress up and use some obscure combat style against him just so he knew how to counter it alone!

"Braces?" he repeats, as Zatanna destroys all of her personal mystique and the possibility that her billion-megawatt smile was purely a product of nature. "Not with your magic though, right, because…" Well, it's not hard to imagine the hilarious misadventures that would be caused by her braces making her mispronounce some sorcerous word of power.

Maybe it's a kind of showmanship, too, that Zatanna was willing to sacrifice the appearance of perfection, to allow herself to be seen as ridiculous by others, in order to create a particular impression.

Not that it keeps her from swatting his shoulder, the image of dignified wizardry she creates drawing another laugh out of him.

"Okay then," he says, as the lights in the training area automatically come on, the Nest responding to the presence of its master. "Let's make it interesting then, Zee. If you can throw me just once, you can drive my car for two hours. The Ferrari," he clarifies, because he isn't letting Zatanna behind the wheel of the Redbird again for anything less than a dire emergency.

He'll let her do it, of course - proper training requires the trainee see some sign of accomplishment to avoid frustration and giving up. Eventually.

But he'll make her work for it.

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