Gnossienne

September 13, 2018:

Gnossienne, n. a moment of awareness that someone you’ve known for years still has a private and mysterious inner life, and somewhere in the hallways of their personality is a door locked from the inside, a stairway leading to a wing of the house that you’ve never fully explored—an unfinished attic that will remain maddeningly unknowable to you, because ultimately neither of you has a map, or a master key, or any way of knowing exactly where you stand.

Red Robin's Nest, Gotham City

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Batman, Giovanni Zatara, John Constantine, Lady Shiva, Loki, Nico Minoru, Tony Stark

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

For all that he has concerns other places, often dividing his time in New York because of the Titans, the only place that really feels like home to Tim Drake is Gotham.

It's curious, of course; the city has given him so much pain and grief over the years, it has devoured the lives of friends and family. But a place like Gotham has a way of seeping into you, of making you as much a part of it as the brick and concrete of its buildings. Maybe all the moreso when you do the sorts of things Tim does.

Also, as far as he knows there's no deadly assassins who know where his townhouse is.

So that's a plus.

He's not in the townhouse proper currently, of course, which should come as no surprise to somebody who knows the different facets of his life and the way they intersect. Sometimes the townhouse seems more like a front than anything else, like his real home is the Nest that lurks behind it. At least it has some kind of a lived-in look to it, though… His room in Titans Tower is bare and spartan and rarely used, and his penthouse in Manhattan usually seems more like a showpiece than a place a person actually lives, even when he's there.

His usual seat at the computer is empty, though: As always, the myriad screens are in the process of doing something, or maybe several somethings, but the only robin there is the small carved one Zatanna got him for Christmas. The training room is quiet, so too the lab and the armory… It's only at the bottommost level of the Nest that anyone can be found. Or, well, half of anyone, a lower body in grease and paint-stained coveralls and work boots sticking out from underneath the Redbird, the incredibly expensive vehicle currently up on jacks. It's all well and good to have a fancy supercar, but the downside of a finely tuned machine is having to constantly finely tune it.

—-

She knows better than to teleport in the actual living spaces of Tim's townhouse; she knows precisely where he's going to be.

In the underbellies of the Nest, someone as rigorously trained to be aware of his surroundings as the former Boy Wonder would probably detect the change and shift in the air and atmosphere of his secret headquarters, touched with a hint of ozone. He has become familiar with the scent of magic, after all - and this one, in particular. It isn't long when booted feet come to a stop somewhere on the other side of the Redbird, before a paper bag lowers so he can see the logo upon it. He would recognize that immediately, too - a certain someone made a stop at Batburger.

"I couldn't resist," Zatanna's voice, lighter than he has heard it in the last several weeks - the wake of the Hell's Kitchen disaster had taken a toll on her good cheer - filling the predominantly quiet space of his garage area. "I mean, I've heard about it, but I've never been and I thought that I'd probably have to just stick with the fries, but they have some kind of new fish sandwich and a host of new salads. I got you cheeseburgers, though." A pause. "They even asked me if I wanted to jokerize my fries. What does that even mean? Do I get green sauce or something with them? What's in it?"

Whenever he rolls out from under the car to look up at her, she's smiling down at him, stooped over with her knees slightly bent. With Fall upon them, she has elected to wear her hair out of its usual messy bind, midnight curls spooled in a tousled mass over her shoulders and down her back. She's dressed in a tailored peacoat, her ripped black jeans and the fishnets worn underneath and ankle boots with stiletto heels. The only spot of color on her predominantly black attire is an Hermes scarf, dyed a deep crimson. Her other hand carries an eggcrate with two cups of soda.

Ice-blue eyes lift to regard the Redbird. "Don't tell me it's broken," she wonders.

—-

Given his talent for observation and the amount of time he spends around her, Tim is of course keenly aware of those sorts of shifts in Zatanna's mood. They aren't always as dramatic as the shift that accompanied her trials to obtain the Blood of Isis, but it was clear that the disaster in Hell's Kitchen, and her own participation in the cleanup efforts afterwards, had taken a toll on her. She was an empathetic person after all, perhaps all the moreso because of the supernatural way she perceived the world, and all that pain and suffering, too much for even her prodigious abilities to relieve all of it, couldn't help but bear her down.

She seldom tried to hide it, either, wearing her heart clearly on her sleeve. That was one of those key differences between the two of them: As always, Tim had kept his own anger and frustration over what had happened as under wraps as possible.

There was a time in his life where he wouldn't have. Those days were long gone, though.

For various reasons, though, he isn't surprised by the way Zatanna appears in the Nest, having come to know the various tells that come with her teleportation and with her magic as well as other things about her. Recognising the particular sound of her footsteps, the click and clack of her stiletto heels against the metal flooring of the hideout; the subtle scent of her would be there, too, but at the moment it was obliterated by the stronger olfactory noise of engine work, and of greasy fast food.

"Performance and reliability are tradeoffs," comes his voice from underneath the car. "Keeping it tuned means constant adjustments, otherwise I might not be able to drive it up a wall when I need to." That's probably a joke. Maybe?

After a few more moments, though, Tim slides back out from underneath the Redbird, setting the tools he was working with aside and wiping his hands with a cloth: His coveralls are in fact half off, the part that would cover his torso and arms worn tied about the waist, with only a grease-stained white tank top for cover otherwise, smudges of soot and grime and lubricant visible on his skin over scars new and old. His hair is half tied back, to keep it out of his face, though his dark blue eyes give the bag from Batburger a wary look.

"I think it's some kind of green, red and white spices," he explains about the 'Jokerised' fries. "You know now I'm gonna have to invent a Zatanna burger to make this fair, right? Maybe one of those fancy black buns for the goth vibe. Grill the patty cross-hatched so it looks like fishnets."

—-

Otherwise I might not be able to drive it up a wall when I need to.

There's a laugh. "That's hilarious," Zatanna tells him gamely, grin broad enough to chase out the dimple on her right cheek, moving so she could set the food she has brought on a waiting table and wheeling two chairs forward so they can eat together. "Is there an ACME School for Action Movie Driving out there somewhere? Do you have a diploma?" There's a pause, and then she angles a look at him over her shoulder, brows furrowed. "I mean…you're joking, right?" But if he isn't, should she be surprised?

She leaves that question hanging in the air when she doffs off her coat and folds it, draping it on the back of the chair she intends to occupy - underneath, she wears a long-sleeved shirt made out of black lace with a scooped neck, worn over a black tanktop; she always dressed in layers, no matter the season. Once he has emerged from the Redbird's undercarriage, she gives him a look, blinking once - she's never seen him look like an actual mechanic, though once he approaches, her grin returns, black lacquered fingertips lifting to flip playfully at his half-tied hair. "It's getting so long," she observes. "Are you trying something new?"

She leans back and tilts her head. "I like it. You can easily replace Paul Walker in the next slew of Fast and Furious movies they're planning in the next….I don't know. Ten years."

She's teasing him still, taking a few steps so she could drop on the cushioned computer chair and expelling a breath that sounds more relieved than anything. "What a day," she sighs, legs crossing at the knee so she could lean over and start unpacking the bag. His quip about the burger meant to carry her name has her pointing a fry at him. "If it was a real Zee Burger, it wouldn't be made out of beef. Probably some tofu or chickpea concoction nobody would eat. You'd have to phase it out later in the interests of the profit margin."

With that, she pops the fry in her mouth, and flashes him a winsome smile.

"So what's new? I'm surprised you're not in the Tower. I looked for you there."

—-

If he's joking about the car being able to drive up walls, Tim doesn't let Zatanna know.

Instead, what he does tell her is this: "Mostly it's Alfred who taught me how to drive, you'd be surprised at the sorts of things a butler knows how to do. Batman too, of course… If anybody knows about driving way too fast through the city, it's him. This is actually the second Redbird, the first one was a coupe I got a little while after I started as Robin." Which, the witch would well realise, was before he was legally old enough to be driving a car.

If he notices her inspection prompted by the sight of him looking rather different than usual in his coveralls and general greasy sweatiness, he makes no sign of it, at least until she toys with his hair.

He's about to say that he probably needs a haircut, since he's been trying to keep it a bit shorter for the cunning disguise in his Titans costume of wearing his hair up, but then he hears three deadly words leave the mouth of the Princess of Prestidigitation. I like it, she says, and that's that.

He grunts, though, at the joke about being in an action movie franchise. As though he doesn't do stunts that ridiculous on the regular as it is.

"Of course it'd be vegetarian," he agrees, his mouth tugging into that boyish grin of his, his teeth clipping lightly into his bottom lip to meet that winsome, dimpled look of her own. "Probably spicy though, lots of hot peppers." He moves over to the cleanup area (it has an eye washing station and everything, as he is apparently prudent about safety measures in his secret bases) so he can at least wash some of the grease off of his hands, the citrus smell of the soap cutting through the air like a freshly cut orange.

"Work to do here," Tim explains. It's the truth, as far as it goes, but it's not the entire truth. "Why, what's made your day such a trial, Zee?"

—-

Said boyish grin earns him an appreciative laugh, Zatanna fully aware of what he references - a conversation a while ago, where she confessed to him that she would rather be considered spicy than sweet. "You really don't forget a thing, do you?" she wonders - a question that doesn't really need a reply. With that, she pushes two boxes towards him, containing his cheeseburgers - not just any sandwich, but the ones with, literally, his name on them. His fries and soda are also handed over. He looks like he needs it, though past experience dictates that he always needs it when she stops by. Tim Drake is almost as bad as remembering to eat as he is in remembering to sleep.

His question has her unwrapping her fish sandwich and taking a bite, chewing while she furrows her brows in an attempt to gauge whether she likes it or not. It must pass muster, as far as questionable fast food is concerned, because she swallows the bite. "I think we're officially finished stitching up the veil in Hell's Kitchen, I was monitoring it for a few weeks and nothing seems to be crawling out of it, thank the stars. Lining up my next few credits at the University. Could you believe we're almost out?" The two of them are graduating next year, after all. "What are we going to do now that we don't have to maintain appearances at school?"

But reminders of Hell's Kitchen has her pausing, and she rolls her head back and closes her eyes. "How's your Norse mythology?" she wonders, seemingly apropos of nothing, but whenever she starts asking such questions, there's usually a pretty important point, or bit of news, attached to it.

—-

Not all the lessons Tim Drake has learned from the Batman are good ones.

Forgetting to eat is one of the bad ones, a habit he picked up out of their similarity in obsessive focus; he wouldn't say he forgets to sleep, but rather that he strategically neglects to do it when there's other, more important things to be doing. There aren't enough hours in the day to begin with, but at least he generally makes a point of getting three or four hours of sleep a night, barring extenuating circumstances like someone he knows getting their soul ripped away or winding up in Hell.

When he joins her at the table, he eases himself down into the second seat, watching first to see how Zatanna likes the food from a restaurant which uses the likenesses of the Bat-Family and their enemies without actually paying any of the vigilantes a dime (an unfortunate reality of being a vigilante is that you can't really make money off of it through licensing; he's pretty sure whoever's actually behind Batburger is someone who finds it ironically amusing to make money off of them, maybe LexCorp). In the past, he's been kind of annoyed at finding that the food was pretty good, there.

"That's good," he says about Hell's Kitchen. "At least we're in a position to keep an eye on it, between you and Raven and Nico." Even if things between the three gothic witches are a bit… Complicated. In some cases, only in one direction. "But, what, you're not going to try for grad school?" the young man wonders, at best half-seriously. "I've been wondering if I should, myself, but the Work…" And the simple fact that he's never actually going to need a job to support himself, either. Does the world need another corporate lawyer or MBA more than it needs Red Robin?

"I'll miss the study room, though," Tim adds, quietly, before starting on a burger.

Then she asks him - or maybe the ceiling - about Norse mythology. Which is a weird thing to ask, especially since they've met Thor, the God of Thunder. Is it even mythology at that point?

"Better than you might think, we get some real weirdos around Gotham," Tim says. "Why?"

—-

You're not going to try for grad school?

"Maybe for languages," Zatanna admits, glancing down at her sandwich and furrowing her brows. "Honestly, I didn't even consider it until you brought it up - could you believe I almost forgot that was a thing?" Not her fault, they don't exactly lead ordinary lives, and despite her prior attempts to engage in some normalcy, after everything that has happened, it has become less and less of a concern. If nothing else, her membership with the Titans helped, being surrounded by peers with similar issues and growing pains as she. She had thought she wouldn't take to it, at first, she was used to working alone.

But now, she can't be more grateful.

When Tim confesses his own hesitation, she ventures: "Your cover's set," she says. "You have the Work and the business, but it might be more convincing with an advance degree. It's another thing to juggle, but you barely seem to struggle with academics as it is. We were busy the last two years, and you never lost your place in the honor roll. You'll probably graduate summa cum laude in our class, or at the very least close to it."

The words are colored with admiration, and no small hint of envy. She remembers having to struggle with the balance, but really, she's not as practiced at it as Tim, who has been doing it since he was fourteen.

She finishes her sandwich, and takes a sip of her soda, ears catching his quiet murmur. Eyes draw inward - in many ways, the study room was how their friendship started, and it has always been a place where some important things have happened; that first attack by Muller, when she first told him that she had lost her soul, her confrontation with him about Bruce. And while she has never told him, it was the setting in which the second obstacle of her Isis trials had occurred, trapped there unless she acknowledged a particularly hard truth about her relationship with Tim.

"Yeah," she tells him softly, flashing him a smile. "Me too."

Easing those thoughts aside, she picks at her fries. "It's…a long story," she confesses. "But remember the gala attack? When the Brotherhood hit the Stark gala a few months ago and I nearly lost control? Someone helped me rein it in together and it happened to be Loki. He left some magic in me, and I've been carrying it for a good part of the year." There's a sheepish expression - she hasn't told him until now. "But he found me and John patching up the holes in the veil around Hell's Kitchen and he took his seal off me, but he said…like all things, it's just a band-aid, a stopgap, and like all stopgaps, it's temporary. This…my father's seal can go any time. I don't know if I like the implications, Tim. What does that mean, if something that's been fine all my life is starting to weaken now? Does this mean I'm…"

Her power was already ridiculous. Is it still accumulating as she gets older?

She nibbles on a fry. "He suggested that he teach me to control it. So I wouldn't need any of those precautions. John was not happy about it, or the fact that I accepted his help at all. But I couldn't…I didn't have a choice at the time, Tim. If I had one, I wouldn't have taken it. But he's not wrong about what's inside me, and he seems to know more about it. I said I would think about it."

—-

The truth of the matter was that the reason he didn't struggle with academics anymore was that it was beneath his ability. There was a time when he first started as Robin when he was still mostly normal, when he had to work at juggling his studies alongside everything else. When Bruce or Alfred or Dick would force him to sit out the Work so that he could study. But as he grew, as he developed, as he learned more and more of the things he needed to know to work as the Dark Knight's partner, he started studying things many grad students in specialised fields wouldn't.

The truth is that many of his courses at Gotham University were carefully selected to present him with no real challenge whatsoever. Maybe if he'd gone to another school he would've found some challenge: Staying where he did, though, there was no real point.

Which is a big part of why it's been practical for him to help Zatanna, making sure the witch was able to keep up with her own schoolwork despite occasionally getting shunted into alternate dimensions or locked up in a basement.

"If you want to do it, you should," he tells her, about her own hypothetical advanced degree. "I mean, I'm sure that having a master's degree won't help a lot when you're banishing an angry demon or planning a magic show, but… Hey, don't a lot of magic types call themselves doctors? Keep going, get your Ph.D. and you can be Doctor Zatanna."

He's helping!

But there are long stories to be had, because the price of living in both the mundane world and those beyond it is having to deal with serious matters in both aspects of life at the same time, a rule that applies whether you have vast magical powers or are a one in a billion prodigy with ninja training and cool toys. Besides, what Zatanna has to say veers a bit closer to existential threat than whether or not she gets a master's degree.

"Loki, the Norse god of evil and mischief," Tim says, a bit flatly, in the face of Zatanna's sheepish expression mid-story. And this god left magic in her, though the fact that she didn't tell Tim about it before elicits only the slightest tweak of annoyance, because everything else she says is so much worse than that, isn't it? He doesn't blame Constantine for not being very happy about it. He's not very happy about it either.

"Maybe the seal is supposed to fall off eventually," he suggests. "You know, something to help you learn to control your power before it goes all out, rather than something that was meant to hobble you for your whole life. I mean, you said it before, right? You're not like other magic-users, like your father or Constantine." It hadn't been hard to reason out, from what she'd told him. What she'd admitted of her own fears - what might it mean, that the rules didn't apply to her the way they did to others?

Somewhere in the depths of the Nest it's still there, the pull from the isolated angel's feather; he's buried it deeper now, having dug out a storage room under the garage, but his mundane efforts can only do so much about its presence. The concept of temptation bound up in it, tugging at the very idea of power.

"If the stories are accurate at all, you shouldn't trust Loki, Zee," Tim says and that's really not something he'd ever expected to have to say in his life. "Even if he's not wrong, lies work better when they have a shred of truth in them. Whatever he's after, it's probably going to involve manipulating and exploiting you and your power."

—-

Maybe the seal is supposed to fall off eventually.

"I hope so," Zatanna tells him quietly, somewhat absently, contemplating it as she pushes away the rest of her meal. Most of it is gone, at the very least and speaking of it only heightens curiosity, threaded with the powerful pull of the angel's feather buried deep in Red Robin's basement. It makes her uncomfortable, and she shifts - the taste of it is subtle, but she remembers what it feels like and it tickles at her skin - something unwanted, but can't be discarded.

His displeased look earns him a sigh. "It was a crowded room of people, I was not in my right mind," she tells him. "If I had a better option at the time, I would have seized it." But can she really discount that it was all by design? To be beholden to the God of Lies? Loki may not be wrong about what's inside her, but John and Tim aren't wrong, either, when they say that she shouldn't trust him. She knows that. It's the reason why she said she would think about it.

But what if he knows something that she doesn't? Anything was better than…

…she remembers the strange rock sculpture sitting in her father's Sub Rosa, thrumming with strange energy - calling to her, but in a way that was so ominous that it left her skin crawling. It had inexplicably showed up in her Isis trials also as her corporeal form slowly crumbled to dust, her decimated body crawling towards, it, reaching towards something that she has shied away from without ever really knowing why.

She knows it's the key. Of understanding something about herself. But instincts are what they are - there's a price. A massive one, if she pursued it.

But can she really risk it? Between that, or potentially approaching the God of Lies and beat him in his own game?

He knows her well; Tim was her best friend, and he would know by now whenever her pale, dark-haired self is keeping something else from him. Magicians and their secrets, and their inability not to say no to knowledge, however forbidden. Perhaps it was her last lesson, before she can even attempt to reach the greatness her father has achieved in the art. To know when to say no. But it has always been hard for others like her - for Papa Midnite, for John. She is no exception.

"I know," is all she says at last, glancing down at her fingers.

After a few heartbeats, she lifts her eyes to meet his. "Anyway, that's what's been up," she says, leaving the issue - at least he knows about it now, in case something happens. "What about you? What's been new with you?"

—-

Temptation is part of what it means to be human, after all.

Tim wasn't the sort of person to believe in those sorts of things for all that he'd been told many of them existed in one form or another, for all that he'd literally gone to some kind of Hell in the effort to rescue Zatanna and Constantine… But he knew human frailty. He knew that it lurked in all of them, from the best on down to the worst, that urge to do the thing they knew they shouldn't. To get what they want by whatever means necessary, no matter what moral values they had to compromise in the attempt.

And he knew very well what it was like to be tempted by the things you couldn't have. Even before that list had come to include the young woman sitting across from him, how many times had he wondered, wanted to be more than what he was? Spending so much time surrounded by people who might as well be gods, how could he have never been tempted by the idea of power like theirs?

But right now it's not his own temptation that concerns him, as he watches Zatanna. His dark blue eyes betray nothing, his face a cipher as he studies her, the witch looking down at her fingers and giving a simple two word response to his words. He doesn't know about the other things that flit across her thoughts, other secrets that were too personal to share… But he does know she's hiding something from him. For a moment, it isn't Tim Drake sitting across from her, studying her. For a moment, that dark blue gaze is cold and calculating, as though he'd switched places with the Bat. She was absolutely considering it, he knew. Thinking about playing Loki's game and trying to outmaneuver him. But was that her own idea? Had Loki managed some shred of influence on her because of her earlier cooperation? Or was she looking to see how she'd stack up in the sort of scheme Constantine might pull?

But there was something else. He knew there was something else, something she was keeping secret. And there was Tim's own temptation, his own need to know things rearing its head. Should he ask, or…?

She looks up. The moment passes. Tim turns his attention to his food.

She asks what's been new with him.

"Umm… Well, I was hacking into Stark's files, and looking over that stuff Nico was talking about dead gods. Oh, and Lady Shiva was in my bed in the Tower when I woke up the other day."

—-

Thankfully, she doesn't see the look in his eyes when she keeps her focus on her fingers. What happened between her and Bruce had occurred two years ago, but it was extreme enough that her relationship with his stepfather hadn't been the same since. Who knows how she would react if she looked up, and see Tim - who in many ways operated differently from the Bat - share the same look she had seen in Bruce's while he jabbed his fingers into the debilitating pressure point in her neck?

He doesn't ask, so Zatanna doesn't tell him. Even if she had the gumption to do so, she isn't quite sure what she could tell him. He was a creature of logic, of facts and science and the tangible world. How could she ever explain to him that there is a singing rock in her father's secret study that calls to her, but every time she gets near it, she gets a headache and feels something ominous, despite knowing in the marrow of her bones that she is in some way connected to it?

"Okay," she says, pulling her legs up on her seat, hugging her knees to her chest - she never sits properly whenever she is comfortable in a place, inquisitive eyes watching Tim from her side of the table. "Did you find anything interesting? What about the dead gods?"

Oh, and Lady Shiva was in my bed…

Brows furrow and she gives him an angled look. "….Tim…" she begins. "When did you start bringing strippers to the Tower?"

And this is how Zatanna Zatara seals her doom by putting the foremost assassin of the world in a pair of clear heels.

But after a pause, she suddenly remembers - it has been so long ago that it takes looking at him for a few moments that triggers her memory. "Wait," she says, frowning visibly. "The master assassin who trained you? She's part of the League of Shadows, right? What the hell did she want with you?" She's bristling like a little cat, clearly displeased by the news. Now that she recalls the conversation, she is cataloguing the details and remembers just how dangerous this person is. Not to mention the fact that she was able to sneak into Tim's room in the Titans Tower, which has, from what she understands, millions of dollars invested in its security measures.

"She's not trying to convince you to be a murderer again, is she?"

—-

The misapprehension here is the idea that Tim wouldn't say 'neat!' and want to go over to Shadowcrest to poke the rock with scientific equipment. He might operate in a more tangible world, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't need to dal with things beyond it, after all. Even without Zatanna in his life, there were always deeper and darker things lurking in the shadows of Gotham than just goons. Hence, the books he'd borrowed from her father's library with her permission. Hence, the copious notes he'd made to talk to her about once they'd rescued her. Hence, his attempts to decipher the speech of Hassan the mummy.

For all that Tim fixates and obsesses over things, he wasn't the sort of person to be content with just one iron in the fire. If he didn't have several projects going at once, if he didn't nearly kill himself trying to keep multiple plates spinning, he'd feel lazy and wasteful.

But that moment passes. Odds were that it would come again, but for now it was gone. Other things had to take precedence for the moment.

For example, Zatanna thinking Lady Shiva is a stripper.

For a moment, Tim stares at the witch completely mystified, though that expression slowly gives way to a kind of deep existential horror. Not at the idea of Shiva somehow learning of this and starting kung fu violence over it, but just putting the idea of Lady Shiva adjacent to anything even kind of sexual.

Thankfully, Zatanna remembers that past conversation held not too far away in an upper level of the Nest. And fortunately, the way she bristles is amusing enough to at least draw him away from the terror.

"Well, that's my libido dead forever," Tim says resignedly, though to be fair he wasn't really using it anyway. "Mostly she wanted to express her disappointment that I was lax enough that she was able to watch me sleep. I dunno what she's really after, but whatever it is it's brought her to Gotham." He takes a long, long pull of his soda.

Nope, still going.

"Otherwise, I don't really know anything other than what Nico posted. A dead Aztec god, apparently. Tepeyollotl. Looks like she had the presence of mind to bring samples of his blood, so we passed some along to SHIELD. And as for Stark, he sent along everything he has on those mutant power inhibitor collars, and the nanomachines, which are apparently called Extremis. Of course he hid something in it, so I had to go poking around…"

Had to, he says. Had to. Like he knew ahead of time there was a hidden message and wasn't just being overly thorough.

—-

Well, how was she supposed to react to a name like Lady Shiva? Even when she first heard the name in the past, it was strippery!

That's my libido dead forever.

Zatanna can't help but laugh, lifting her hands up in mock surrender. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she says. "It was such a long time ago and I don't have the memory you do, I need to be jolted a little." Though really, upon further rumination, she shouldn't have forgotten that. It was an important conversation, just another stepping stone from the way they were before, to the way they are now - one of the very first steps they've taken to establish some kind of trust after the entire Bruce debacle.

But with the implication that his former mentor is there to stay in Gotham has the witch frowning all the more visibly now. "….aren't you worried?" she wonders. "I mean, that basically means that the world's top assassin is lurking around in your city, right? Maybe she's here for a job? And probably an important one if the likes of her has come all this way."

The dead Aztec gods are more her speed, and she furrows her brows. "I've had to deal with Itzpapalotl personally," she tells Tim - she's already told him that story. "But I didn't know there were others lurking around to get killed. From what I remember, Tepeyollotl is the god of earthquakes, and jaguars, too. What do you mean he's dead? Gods really don't die. They're like demons."

She pauses. "…then again, I've been taught not to say anything is impossible, anymore. I've seen some shit since then."

And then the matter of Stark. His choice of words has her furrowing her brows at him in confusion. "What? Did you find anything?"

—-

Is he worried?

"Maybe. I'm not sure," Tim admits, which is sort of a strange reaction to having one of the most dangerous people alive running around in Gotham. "Generally… Shiva does what she wants to do, rather than taking jobs in the traditional sense. Strong opponents, or those with unusual techniques. It could be someone around here has caught her attention. Either way, we're going to be keeping an eye out for her," and there's probably no need to guess which 'we' he means in this context, "but unless she was lying to me I think she wants to be found. Maybe she's looking to satisfy her curiousity about us."

The idea of being evaluated by someone - especially someone with so much blood on their hands - doesn't sit well with Tim, truthfully. Especially if there's still the possibility she might want to see him turn away from the nonlethal path.

But well, maybe Zatanna isn't the only one currently being scouted by a dangerous mentor.

On the other hand, dead Aztec gods are a bit less Tim's speed, so Zatanna's thoughts there mostly prompt a shrug from the detective. Not that he'd shy away from the investigation, but he does know when something requires a bit of a different skillset.

"You'd have to talk to Nico about it, there might be some details she left out… But the corpse looked pretty convincing in the photos she shared on the Titans network. Maybe there was, I dunno, a bigger god that did it? Maybe it's like a Highlander thing and they can only kill each other?"

The Stark situation is at least something he feels more at-ease with, even though he knows there's magic involved; at the very least, he knows what magic, and he knows how to destroy it.

"He had the Trask stuff under wraps, trying to keep a lid on who knows about the inhibitor collars, I guess. It looks like he devised a way to counteract them. And he developed an antigen for the Extremis nanites, which is good because all I had there was killing the magic computer virus which just made them explode like the guy in the lab." The guy they couldn't save. The guy who almost took Zatanna with him.

—-

Lady Shiva sounds like a Bat-family problem, but the magician before him still looks concerned. Strange, how there are certain parallels there in both their catch-up stories. The only difference is that Loki has yet to become a dangerous mentor.

But now, she at least has a to-do list - talk to Nico; while Zatanna seems to like her well enough, there's something about that one's demeanor towards her that's somehow off. Did the other witch not like her or something?

"It'd be good to have," she says at last, of the Extremis issue, and she can't help but exhale a sigh. "You know, after the Demon Bear, I thought we'd have seen the last of Jane's magitech virus but I guess it's just an immutable fact of the universe that it can't stay fixed for ten goddamn minutes." It's a grouse, but that's the curse of having to deal with something dangerous - once unleashed, someone will unfailingly get ahold of it, and use it to cause more trouble.

"Oh, well." She flashes him an encouraging smile. "That's what the Titans and other crews are for, right? At least we're not alone." With that, she rises from her chair. "Come on, let's go do something else. Watch a movie, maybe. I can pretty much call up any DVD you want, you know." She wiggles her fingers in emphasis. "And maybe once all the Extremis-related missions are done, maybe you can issue a mandatory vacation for the Titans or something. After Hell's Kitchen and everything….maybe we could all use it. Leave the capes-and-tightsing to the other groups like the League or the Avengers for a bit. I don't know. What do you think?"

She waits for him to get up, before she falls into a step next to him, to start walking up the living areas of his converted condominium.

—-

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License