There's No Crying In Heroism!

March 26, 2018:

Note: this scene takes place on March 14, 2018
Barda meets up with Arnavi to talk about the aftermath of http://cmbeta.wikidot.com/log:7059

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones, Oracle

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

GOTHAM.

LATE AT NIGHT.

The construction site on the lower east side has been more or less vacant for years. Surrounded on all sides by high fencing and a locked gate, in theory it's guarded by numerous dogs, and possibly venomous snakes if you would believe the signs outside. In fact, it is guarded by no one. The property is in limbo, owned by a bank after a certain real estate company went into forfeit. Steel girders make the very basic cube of a building's corners, and rise a full two stories, of what would have been a five story building.

The rest of the surrounding industrial park is more or less quiet, since it's well after business hours, and so, it makes a fine meeting place. It's even not a bad makeshift gym. Here and there things have been hung up by ropes, wooden targets have been secured to beams, and plastic barrels have been set up as part of an obstacle course. Arnavi has used this place to train for some time, and can only hope nobody buys it out from under her. This late, with only a superhero who should be known for her stealth wandering around, it should be nearly silent.

"I'm sweatin' from head to toe, I'm wet through all my clothes, I'm fully charged, nipples are hard, ready to go!"

Arnavi Mehta. The Red Sparrow. Music enthusiast. It really isn't enough to say she's a fan, and with her peculiar set of abilities she hears depths to songs old and new that few others can appreciate. Even when she's on otherwise serious business, music is the center of her world, and especially when she's just hanging out waiting to meet up with one of her Bird-friends! An exaggerated strut ambles one leg forward, her body leaned back, moving in time to the beat while giving a shimmy that shifts her costume-covered body back and forth with the beat of the Tove Lo she's completely engrossed in.

Admittedly, this is not her best moment.

Oh no, Arnavi is in costume, too?

Barda has her weapons and her mother box, but she isn’t wearing her armor. She arrives wearing a peacoat, jeans, and fleece lined boots to keep her warm out on the streets of Gotham in the middle of the night. Her gloved hands hold a box filled with two steaming disposable mugs of hot chocolate.

Arnavi might hear her coming, she isn’t trying to be extra stealthy. Otherwise she’ll find Barda looming over her, staring with a slightly open mouth and lifted brows, struck speechless by the younger Bird’s performance.

It gets worse.

Arnavi leaps, one foot landing on a tire hung by a rope, her hand holding onto it so that she can swing out and around in a long arc, the look on her face bright and shiny as a new day sun, a smile that could lift away the dour atmosphere of this entire city. And then she smells it. Hot chocolate, eyes flying open to see Barda standing there, mouth agape at the Birdling's musical stylings. Thankfully, Arnavi isn't embarrassed by much, and with a leap from the tire she grabs a steel girder to bring her the rest of the way towards Barda.

The arc of her swing ends in a perfect superhero landing, both hands coming up over her mouth after she taps her earpiece to turn her music off. She looks astonished.

"Oh. My. God. Is that.. are one of those for me? You're the best!"

Then she's already reaching for one, her eyes lighting up behind her mask at the thought of how delicious that hot cocoa is going to taste. Yep, she is indeed still in her uniform, maybe because she hasn't gone out of her way to show everyone else who she is. Maybe it's because she just isn't certain how free she's allowed to be with her identity, but the bag sitting near one of those steel beams means she probably didn't change into this until she got out here.

"Sooooo, any leads on the evil bread monster people?"

There’s two drinks and no one but Barda and Arnavi around, who else would the drink be for? Not that Arnavi really gives Barda a chance to deny her! She presses her lips together in a thin line that seems made to hold back questions. The New God isn’t sure what she just witnessed.

“No. Oracle doesn’t usually involve me in investigations. I suppose that Jessica Jones is handling it.” She doesn’t sound particularly concerned, either about the monsters or the resolution of the case.

“Tell me..” Barda crushes the flimsy cardboard box in one hand on her way over to Arnavi’s bag, slipping it underneath so that the piece of trash doesn’t get blown away. When she straightens, she turns to face Arnavi, cup cradled in both hands. “..how are you feeling about Paul? You were distressed.”

"Mmm."

This, a response to hot chocolate, not her question. but she nearly chokes on her drink when Barda brings that particularly distressing image back into her mind. The thing is, she remembers just about everything, and with her exceptional sensory powers, it's all in minute, terrible detail. The first time she saw a body, it was more dead to her than anyone else. No mistaking it for someone who was asleep. Even the expression on the man's face, so peaceful, was clearly just the relaxation of muscle and skin, a lifelessness that could not escape eyes that could see everything.

In the time since she's seen more gruesome injury and death than she cares to speak about, and it is that memory, that detail, that allows her to move on. Part of herself locks the image away, hardens her to it all. But not in the moment. She stares away for a few seconds, giving Paul the few moments of memory he deserves as a victim she could not save, and then she looks up at Barda.

"I dunno. What's the right answer here? It's all in the past? I shouldn't feel too much? Or should I always remember him as a reason to get better? The honest answer is we failed him. Whatever that thing was, whatever they were, I'm sure there were other hints, other things we could have picked up on with those creatures in the sewers? But we didn't. It's no one's fault, I guess. But it still didn't feel great to let him down. I just like… you know, I just try to do better, to honor his memory. To honor the memories of everyone we can't save. Is that right?"

Looking up at Barda is not just a literal thing for Arnavi. It is the figurative disciple at the temple, asking the priest for some guidance. As much as she might not know about this world, Barda knows about conscience, and in this she looks to Barda as a guide.

Barda could be a statue, left here as a monument to some dead civilization that failed to live up their own values of stoicism and courage in the face of horror. Only her hair moves, dancing around her face and shoulders in occasional gusts of wind that brings tears to her blue eyes, but that isn’t enough to make her look away from Arnavi. No, Barda watches the younger Bird torture herself mentally and verbally before she finally comes to her feet with the ultimate question.

What is right?

If Barda could answer that, the world probably wouldn’t need them. That was her opinion, anyway. An opinion she wouldn’t be sharing. She finally looks away from Arnavi, taking a sip of her hot chocolate. A long moment of silence passes between them before she looks down again, meeting Arnavi’s gaze.

“You don’t let your emotions get in the way of doing what is right. You must focus until the battle is won, or you will be the one who dies.. And then you can’t help anyone. Do you understand?” There’s no empathy in Barda’s tone. This is the hard talk, the ‘you done fucked up’ scolding that you might get from a coach after a bad game.

To see her frown is to see the death of someone's natural state. Everything bubbly, positive, it nearly all drains away in the face of those words, told to tune out the horror until the job is done. To put her feelings on hold, or she might get someone hurt, or get herself killed. It's hard to take it, even from someone she respects. It's the antithesis of how she's approached her time as a hero.

"I try not to. I'll try harder. But I can't not feel, Barda. I've seen what that does and it ends up with me being a Bat and not a Bird. And fuck that. I'm sure the more I see all this terrible shit the more I'll get used to it, but not matter what, no matter how hard I try to keep it at bay, and no matter how much I've changed in the last couple years with all this… this power…"

It isn't defiance in her voice, only a kind of sadness. Soft and caring and feeling to much - always, always to much - she has to force a heavy breath from her lungs to keep it from overwhelming. "I'm still only human. But, even so. I appreciate your advice. It's just, you know.. you're amazing. You're everything I want to be. Strong, brave, good. I just know it's going to take me awhile, and I hope you can let a few mistakes slide."

Barda sighs, reaching out to lay a hand on Arnavi’s shoulder and give a squeeze. She guides her over to the barrel obstacle course, where they can sit down, either together on one barrel or across from each other. It would put them at some distance, but there’s nobody else around, they don’t need to whisper.

“I don’t stop feeling. I just.. Push it down, until later. Maybe you could use your feelings instead: if you allow sadness and fear to become righteous fury, it can be fuel. In that case you must already know what the right thing is, you must already have your strategy and dedicate yourself to following it. Otherwise your emotions can lead you to revenge, or to going too far.”

Barda stops, leaving what too far might be a vague concept, an ugliness that she can’t or won’t describe. The conversation is draining her, bit by bit, of her stoic demeanor. Her jaw muscles grow visibly tighter, pulling downward at the corners of her mouth.

Sitting there next to her on the barrel, Arnavi listens and watches, as Barda tries to navigate a maze that holds an answer at the center. How best for Arnavi to utilize her emotions for the benefit of the team? To make sure they do not get in the way of her mission? That answer is going to take awhile to figure out, and i the meantime, it is clear to the Sparrow that she's watching frustration build, worry forming around her mouth as tension ripples through Barda's jaw line.

An arm slides up and over Barda's back, and the height difference between the two women means it's a stretch to hook her other shoulder, but she manages. Then, she reaches up to pull her mask off, smiling up at Barda with the most positive, earnest expression a human being can offer to someone who is grappling with pain from the past and adversity in the present.

"I'm Arnavi by the way." Her head leads in then, as she looks forward once more. If they were closer in height, she'd be laying her head on Barda's shoulder. Instead, it's just a lean of her temple against her upper arm. "I know I'm a handful. I always was when I was little, too. Even when I was in a wheelchair, my parents had a hard time keeping up with me. I'll try not to disappoint you too much, Barda. I figure I just need some time. More missions under my belt. That and a talking to by you after each of them. Don't think I don't appreciate it. You're like my coach now."

“My name is Barda.” Barda peers sidelong at Arnavi when she says it, a small smile spreading over her lips, like she might laugh. The sound never comes though. She seems incapable of that much joy, at least in this moment.

“Oracle asked me to help you with your transition.” The smile is gone again, her beautiful face a mask of warrior composure as she takes a drink of her hot chocolate.

“It doesn’t get easier, but you will learn.” Warning or encouragement? Only time and experience under Barda’s guidance will reveal the truth.

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