The Lazarus Effect

September 26, 2018:

As demons invade New York City, Red Robin and Zatanna Zatara resolve some important bits of unfinished business before expending their energies on the battles to come - bringing Emily Montrose back to life.

Constantine's Flat, Titans Tower

Teleportation makes it handy to switch locations when necessary.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Giovanni Zatara, John Constantine, Sargon the Sorceror, Baron Winters, Batman, Nightwing, Spoiler, Impulse, Nico Minoru, Cyborg, Raven, Alfred Pennyworth, Chas Chandler

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It was time to engage in the first few steps necessary to knock a few items off an extremely lengthy to-do list for Team Bad Decisions (aka Team Getting Shit Done).

The message Timothy Jackson Drake had received from Zatanna Zatara might be unusual at first, but not everyone has been trained by the World's Greatest Detective to put things together and anticipate a whole picture before anything could be undertaken. Given his wealth and connections, it was easy for the magician to ask him for a few things to be delivered to the John Constantine's magical flat in Brooklyn - namely equipment necessary to keep a living, comatose patient alive. Given the fact that Emily Montrose's body and soul have been separated for a very long time, the young witch has already anticipated that the woman will not reanimate immediately after the ritual has been performed.

Chas Chandler, the closest thing John has to a life partner, is already waiting when the equipment is brought, helping Red and the magician with bringing the hospital-grade equipment inside the bunker in which Emily is being kept. The null-magic cell has been removed of her body, already replaced by an actual and comfortable bed, to rest for whenever Emily Montrose is truly ready to join the land of the living. If anything, the big man - standing well over six feet and muscular - is relieved that something is finally being done about the non-corpse in the basement.

As for Emily herself…

The young woman has been hard at work preparing herself for the ritual - no meat (a pescetarian, that included fish) and alcohol for seven days, with additional purification baths peppered throughout the week. Red Robin will eventually find her in the big workspace that the dining area has been transformed in, the heavy table moved away. The body is in the center of the recently cleared-out space, with elaborate, overlapping magical circles painted in red ink, done by Zatanna's own hand. Given his desire to understand Hassan the Mummy, he would be able to recognize most of the sacred words etched on the concrete - they're mostly hieroglyphics patched together with other runes, the kind of hybrid mongrel magic that Constantine usually excels at. But Zatanna has always been a prodigious student whenever magic is concerned and the layout spread out before him is clearly her own work, using everything that she has been taught - not just by John, but her father, her 'uncle' Sargon (that is Sargon the Sorceror, currently deceased), and whatever useful bits and pieces of advice she has managed to drag out of the ever-stingy Baron Winters, the infamously reclusive proprietor of Wintersgate Manor in Washington DC.

This would be one of the rare times in which Red Robin would actually find her in anything resembling ritualistic robes, a simple shift done up in soft Egyptian cotton that bands over her shoulders and waist, leaving her collarbones and the entire length of her spine bare. A heavy necklace wrought from gold and laid with multi-colored stones in a precise pattern is on her person, framed on both sides by the wings of Ma'at and symbols sacred to Isis running along the setting. Her hair has been bound up in a neater coiffure than normal.

By what he has been told of the ritual itself, it was going to take her hours to actually bring the woman back to life. Who knew resurrecting the dead was such an arduous enterprise? But Tim's part in it is much shorter than that.

"Okay," she says, standing on one end of the pattern, her arms crossed over her chest. "I hope you brought some things to do, because it's going to take me a while to finish." There's a small smile directed to her best friend. "You don't have to stay for the entire thing if you don't want to."

A moderately interesting, but in this case very relevant, fact: WayneTech has long been on the bleeding edge of medical technology, especially since the tenure of Thomas Wayne (himself a medical doctor) as head of the company. Even the parts of the company that surreptitiously help develop and refine technology that eventually gets used as part of the Batman's war on crime produce less miraculous breakthroughs than the medical division, whose equipment can be found in hospitals all over the world, as well as the Gotham City clinic of Dr. Leslie Thompkins (provided by donations) and even in Titans Tower (purchased by the Titans Foundation, for what were admittedly surprisingly good prices).

As such, what Red Robin actually brings down into the bunker, produced out of the trunk of the Redbird, is just a couple of large metal briefcases. The contents prove to be the required medical equipment, compact and collapsible with rugged casings. Field hospital gear, certainly enough to monitor and sustain a single individual's vital functions while they're in a coma. Even a magic coma. Probably.

Given the nature of the task, the young man is present in his full cape and cowl, a lean blade of shadow when the former is left to curl around him. It's the gear Chas and Constantine would recognise him in, anyway, rather than his more lightweight Titans suit… And maybe there's more of a sense of safety for the Red Knight in it, too, his features hidden and obliterated except for his mouth and lower face.

Though it's enough to make a guy feel overdressed when he sees what Zatanna is wearing.

"Hnn," the vigilante muses quietly as his hidden eyes look over the interior of what was previously the dining room, picking out things he recognises and things he doesn't. It's in his nature, after all: Observe, study, remember. Still, he's obviously leery of stepping too far into the room, whether out of a built-in wariness towards the arcane arts or a concern that he might accidentally disturb some of the work and they wind up sucked into an alternate reality where everything is shrimp.

"I'll stay," he replies. "I'll see this through to the end."

"It'll be boring," Zatanna says, but whenever Tim decides something, he tends to stick to it, so the rejoinder is a half-hearted one at best. Taking a breath, she gestures to the other circle directly across from her, towards the head of Emily Montrose. "I'll need you to sit there and once you feel the soul out of you, you can stand up and move around. You won't be disrupting anything, by the time I fill the body with the Blood of Isis, I'll be connected to it for a while." She furrows her brows as she looks at the non-corpse. "….hopefully, anyway. I've….actually never done this before. Bring a person back to life."

Her fingers clench and unclench on her sides, a brief spark of apprehension falling on her pale features. "…but hey, nothing like the present, right? We're lucky enough as it is we had the components to get around the usual roadblocks that would've turned this entire exercise into the next season of the Walking Dead." To her credit, she sounds relatively cheerful, despite the fact that outcome is most definitely the last thing they need, with New York City overrun with demons. It might very well be the reason why Zatanna has elected to do this now before being fully embroiled in the fight. With what's to come, they were going to need every demonologist at their disposal.

"Alright. Let's get started."

She'll wait for Tim to get in his circle, before she sits in a lotus position at the circle on the foot of the body. Her hands rest loosely against her knees, palms up and fingers easy. "Close your eyes….and try to relax. This is going to feel a little weird."

Lashes kiss her cheeks as she follows her own advice, and her lips start to move. The language she uses is old, very old, and to add an additional layer of complication, these words are uttered backwards. How Zatanna manages to do it may very well be one of her bigger mysteries, it certainly takes a different kind of cerebral gymnastics to turn unfamiliar words around. But not many are familiar with how she hones herself and her craft. Every night, she surrounds herself with flashcards with words written upon them, practicing and practicing, calibrating her brain until doing so is natural. Others can't be blamed for thinking it's simply an innate talent, but nothing could be further from the truth. She, too, trains. Just not in the way others are accustomed to associating with the term.

For long minutes, the space filled with nothing but her ghostly whispers, nothing happens.

And then he would feel it.

It's disconcerting; goosebumps will rise over his skin, intangible fingers from multiple hands brushing over his hair, his clothes. He'd feel himself getting tugged in different directions, nevermind that he isn't actual moving. Like limbs made out of air, something pokes and prods at his corporeal and metaphysical defenses, probably not an easy thing to endure when one is so used to acting and reacting quickly.

"Open the door, Red."

Zatanna's voice sounds strange when she delivers the instruction - it sounds like her and someone else not her, bubbling up somewhere deep and beyond herself.

It'll be boring.

The half-hearted warning is given a faint shrug in response, the gesture almost imperceptible under the cape: Anyone who'd spent less time around him than Zatanna might well miss it entirely. He follows the witch's instructions with a calm certainty that belies his earlier hesitation to even step into the room, pushing his cape back over his shoulders before sitting down in the indicated circle like this was the most perfectly normal thing in the world. Leather creaks, quiet almost to the point of being completely inaudible, when he crosses his legs.

Still, it doesn't escape his notice that they're doing something that doesn't exactly happen every day, a fact driven home all the more clearly by the way Zatanna's expressive face shifts through a variety of visible emotions, her heart as ever right out on her sleeve. Hesitation. Apprehension. Not surprising, since they'd talked about this sort of thing more than once, about the finality of death, and the costs of reversing it. A colder Zatanna, fresh from her trials inside herself, had told him not long after he'd swallowed the tyet and the soul within it that there was no hope for anything but seeing Emily Montrose safely over to the other side.

And yet, here they were.

"You've got this," is the quiet, serious assurance from the Red Knight. He, at least, shows no apprehension. Just calm certainty.

It's calm certainty that he wears like a mask, something he slips in and out of as easily as he does that cowl, but in dire situations it's saved more lives than he'd care to think about.

"Besides, she's not really dead, right? You're just putting her back where she belongs."

Hopefully, anyway. He definitely doesn't want to be at ground zero for a zombie outbreak in an already demon-infested NYC. He didn't even think about that possibly happening until Zatanna brought it up!

Already settled as he is, the Red Knight does close his eyes - though it's hard to tell, since there's just those featureless, unblinking white lenses to be seen of them - and folds his hands in his lap, one over the other with his palm pointing up and his thumbs pressed together. A simple meditative posture, one picked up at a younger age under unusual circumstances. When she tells him to relax, and warns him that it's going to feel 'a little weird', he at least manages to keep himself from making clever remarks about buying him dinner first, or whether she was going to become a proctologist.

With his eyes closed, there was little for Red Robin to do but listen. Listen to the way the air moves through the room, listen to the way Zatanna speaks. Even if the words weren't spoken in reverse, he wouldn't be able to decipher them, but of course the mind does try. Tries to seize on any syllable that seems familiar enough, seeking patterns and understanding, even when there's none to be found.

But then, a distraction. He's experienced curious physical and psychic sensations before, of course: The trip into the astral realm where they found Emily Montrose was one such, as the group briefly became a sort of psychic gestalt. Naturally, his metaphysical defenses are far less refined than his physical ones. Something inside of him balks at the potential for intrusion, an echo of the Bat Himself that turns the flight-or-fight instinct into simply fight. But then he hears Zatanna speak.

Open the door, Red.

And yet it's not quite her, is it? Like something else speaking in tandem with the witch. Perhaps that should make him balk, the possibility that something horrible had happened with all the power Zatanna was using. Wasn't that always the risk? But…

But still, it was her.

The vigilante lets out a slow breath, a breath he didn't realise he was holding. He does something that is for him terribly difficult, because of his nature. Because of the life he's lived.

Something inside of him, something deep and foundational and fundamental, opens up. The same metaphysical wall that protected Emily Montrose and the tyet inside of him, the same metaphysical wall that protects his most essential self.

You got this.

She hopes so. There will be no going back after this.

Even the air is different now, when the ritual goes underway. As if electrified, as if charged, magic weaves through the room in overlapping ephemeral layers. Red Robin wouldn't be able to see it, for all of his highly trained senses, the ability to see the way magic moves anywhere will be completely beyond him unless linked with someone who can. But with the doors within himself opened, he would at the very least feel the rush - like standing waist-deep in a beach during the high tide, froth spilling around him as the ocean's eternity breaks apart and attempts to swallow him whole. It is freezing. It is hot. The invasion delves deep within himself, torrents of something flooding past his body and filling the cradle of his soul, in search of something.

He'd feel it brush past the indelible traces of his life, the events that shaped him into what he has become, touching lightly upon images he can't help but recall, now that he has given himself over to whatever demands Zatanna's magical workings make: watching the Flying Graysons for the first time, only for the night to end in tragedy; the day he knocked on the tall doors of Wayne Manor and exchanging words with Alfred Pennyworth; what he had endured in the hands of Lady Shiva, the deaths of his parents, the 'death' of Bruce Wayne and his quest to find him - a journey that has taken him all over the known world. If anything, the last, in particular, resonates with the present moment in that he is once again attempting to save someone all apparent logic and reason have declared to be lost forever. And yet here he is, placing his faith in the idea that it could be done.

Finally, these fingers reach the tyet, and the torrent sweeps it up. He'd feel her presence growing more and more distant as it continues, as if Emily Montrose is floating away from him, following the tide until it rushes out of his body and carries it to the body placed before him. The removal is both gentle and a shock - how does one cope with the loss of something that has been inside him for months? Like a phantom limb, the space she leaves behind throbs and echoes with what it remembers. It might even force him to jolt and open his eyes.

But when he does…

He would see it, now that they're connected. His first glimpse of Magic - endless, unknowable, infinite power sourced from the universe's most mysterious heart, alive and beating and awash with color. By itself, the raw stuff is wondrous to behold, an aurora that shimmers and extends for miles; past this room, past the beyond. The panorama stretches and widens before him, every object in their physical space illuminated by it. And now that he sees it, it is extremely tempting to follow it all and see where it leads, but that is dangerous for the untried and the unguided.

And then he'll see her.

It is as if every band and glittering speck circles around her; Zatanna doesn't just radiate with power, but also reflects it - akin to a bright, blue-white star that burns intensely in perpetuity, forever in a state of nuclear fusion. Echoes of herself can be felt everywhere, Reality twisting around her and leaving her at its very center where every breath, twitch or gesture she makes causing thunderous ripples that vibrate through their temporary connection and shoot deep into the Endless. Her physical form is very much here, but this other self is downright cosmic and it stands to reason that she probably doesn't know this about herself, save for the whispers other mystics have told her, that Zataras tend to cause these far-reaching, mystical waves no matter how insignificant the task. There is so much she doesn't know about this side of her that makes her something other than human.

He'd see red, too. The Blood of Isis, unspooling out of her like countless threads. She literally bleeds with it, transfusing the strands directly into the body stretched out between the two of them. There is power there, too - it feels old, tastes old, winding over Emily's arms and legs, webbing over her heart.

He's felt it before, though it was hardly an experience he'd be in any hurry to repeat: With his prodigious memory, Red Robin couldn't forget the night Zatanna had retrieved her soul from the clutches of Hydra, how even a relatively normal person like him - headblind, that one woman had put it, and he supposed it sounded edgier than 'muggle' - could feel the torrent of raw, untamed power. It was like standing unprotected in the middle of a hurricane as the witch had reclaimed the scraps of herself from those machines, and used the power to bring back Jessica Jones and Constantine from their personal utopias. Like at any moment it was going to burn him to a cinder, or tear the flesh off of his bones. It had been terrifying in a way few things in his life had ever been.

This was different. A year and a half had certainly made changes to Zatanna's skill, and the circumstances were far less personally dire for the witch than those were besides. This felt less like it was going to destroy him at any moment; the visceral reaction in the back of his mind was the urge to pull back and close off not to spare his physical body, but to keep anyone or anything from getting too deep inside of what made him him. That response only grows stronger, only grows more adamant as he forces himself to ignore it, pushes it aside and instead focuses on his trust in Zatanna; because opening the door, letting her and her power in to take the tyet out, it touches on things he'd kept hidden. Memories and feelings, all recalled with a perfect and terrible clarity as the witch's mystical touch brushes against the threads of his very existence in the world's strangest game of Operation. Some of them are warm, like the feeling of the power that surrounds him and moves through him. Some of them are cold as ice.

Other memories like bloody rents in his soul: A girl, sixteen? Seventeen? Fear, pure animal terror in her eyes as her blood gushes against his hand from where he tries to keep pressure on the bullet wound. Slower and slower, the pulsations becoming more feeble as blood pressure is lost, as the heart grinds to a terrible halt. Another, lost in a building as it explodes, leaving behind a memory of blonde hair and an easy smile that turns to sour ashes.

He has seen death, and death, and death.

Is it any wonder he was unable to give up on this one, no matter how frayed and thin the thread of hope might be?

A low, hollow gasp escapes the Red Knight as the tyet and its precious contents are pulled away from him, what had once been an intrusive sense of someone just out of sight becoming instead an intrusive sense of solitude, his eyes snapping open as whatever meditative focus he'd managed is blasted apart, and he sees. In the grand scheme of things, it's a brief moment in time. A bare blip of his own life, even. But it stretches out into eternity as for once, for the first and probably last time, he sees the world the way she does. Of course, he feels that temptation to follow it. Curiousity, the burning need to know, to investigate, to understand is one of the core forces that motivates him. It had led him, more than once, to the library in Shadowcrest. Not out of any desire to do magic, but to understand it.

But then, he sees her.

He sees… He doesn't really comprehend what he sees, except that it's her, and her, and her. Something terrifying and wonderful all at once. Even absent the Blood of Isis, the red power flowing from her and into the strangely preserved body of Emily Montrose, it was… Humbling.

Humbling, and…

….and suddenly gone.

Emily Montrose's soul removed from his body, her influence unwinds from him, retracting - a gradual thing, but easily felt, especially by one so attuned to his senses as he is. The colors, being able to see raw Magic, they dull before his sharp eyes and recede until it is simply gone, leaving nothing before him but the drab concrete space and the strange markings on the floor, and Zatanna Zatara with her eyes still closed and remaining in her own meditative position. Emily's non-corpse is still silent, unmoving, perfectly preserved by whatever magic the Brujeria has placed on her. She doesn't breathe, but given her excellent condition, it simply looks like she's asleep.

Their working space is suddenly quiet, and still.

She is no longer there, the cushion he has made for her within the visceral stuff of him is devoid of Emily's presence and whispers. Perhaps that is why everything feels so silent and still - long months have given him the time to get accustomed to another soul residing safely in his. Now all he has is himself and whatever strange, incomprehensible loneliness that brings.

Zatanna, too, doesn't move. Not by much. She maintains her seated position, but save for the rise and fall of her chest whenever she breathes, she is otherwise motionless. After a few moments, her lips move.

"It's done, Red. I'll take it from here."

There are things to do still - the equipment needs to be set up, instruments need to be calibrated and the room in which Emily will be resting will have to be prepared. Zatanna is not as fine of a hand with technology as Tim, and medical technology is even more beyond her, so at the very least he can do that while the witch prepares herself for the long and exhausting task of filling a body with an ancient goddess' magical blood, and do what she needs to in order to reconnect body and soul until an old life is reunited with the new. Her whispers continue. It will take hours, she said.


The strain that could place on anyone mentally is a ridiculous one, but she is young and determined. In an hour or so, the stress will be visible, signs of it manifesting already; her skin grows humid, and her brows start to knot….


She's still at it and she has never once opened her eyes.

Zatanna looks like how she often does after Bucky Barnes' five kilometer runs, only better dressed. Sweat slides down her forehead, moisture pooling in the dip of her collarbones and soaking into the airy Egyptian cotton shift she wears. Her posture starts to sag within itself, but she continues on - it would be disastrous not to finish now.


It feels like an eternity, but signs of their work will be apparent. Color starts to gradually appear on the body, a slight flush on the cheeks.

Within five minutes, a single finger twitches once.


It is approaching three in the morning when Emily Montrose's chest suddenly expands with the first breath that she has taken in close to a year. Her heart pulses with staggered beats, growing more and more consistent at every subsequent inhale she makes.

It takes another several long moments for Zatanna to retract her connection from the body, taking a deep breath on her own. Her hands finally leave her knees, to press on the cold concrete in front of her, collapsing within herself for the moment to regain her footing. Her senses swim and every bone and muscle feels as if concrete has been intravenously fed into her capillaries.

It's like being cored out.

It's a strange sense of loss, one that Red Robin would have difficulty really quantifying if he actually were inclined to do so… The disappearance of that presence, like knowing there was someone standing right behind you all the time. Emily Montrose had been asleep, usually, but still it was maybe akin to becoming so familiar with a sound that it fades from your awareness until you encounter its absence. And, too, the brief glimpse of the world of magic, leaving him with the mundane, with the things he's seen and heard and smelled and felt and tasted a thousand thousand times.

Disappointment, maybe, is what he'd name it. Something like that. And with it a kind of exhaustion, like a balloon slowly deflating: As little work as he did in all of this, the vigilante finds himself strangely tired. The temptation to just lie on the floor and sleep a little bit is enormous.

Naturally, though, he resists it. Denies himself such frail indulgences. Especially when there's still work to be done.

Slowly, wearily the Red Knight pushes himself up to his feet, now that Zatanna can do the rest on her own. Not to leave, since he'd already announced his intention to see this through to the end. Instead, to set up the medical equipment, the monitors and the life support gear, all the things to keep Emily Montrose alive until she's ready to wake up and rejoin the rest of the world. The setting up doesn't take long, of course. That's the whole point of the equipment, that it can be quickly and easily brought to bear in an emergency situation.

Which, in the end, leaves Red Robin with little choice but to wait, not daring to do anything that might disrupt Zatanna's work. Fortunately, he's capable of feats of almost superhuman patience, and he waits.

For two hours.

For five.


The only relief that comes is when Emily Montrose takes her first breath since the horror that befell Auspex the year before. Red Robin checks the monitors, double checks everything, before he moves over towards Zatanna, crouching down on his heels in front of her, the black of his cape pooling around him like the night itself.

"You okay?"

She slowly straightens from her crumpled self to look up at Red Robin when he hunches over her, like a gargoyle in red - he's probably practiced that same look a thousand times in the higher precipices of Gotham's skyscrapers. But what he gets in the end is an exhausted, but relieved smile, lifting a hand so she could pull her knuckles across her forehead and finds her skin soaked to the bone with sweat. Zatanna wrinkles her nose, it's a little gross, but that is one of the misconceptions associated with Magic - it isn't all lights and wands and beautiful things. It has an uglier side to it steeped in bodily fluids and worse.

"I need to eat," she says, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "And I need some air." She also needs a bath, and a change of clothes. "I should take a shower, I feel so…" She gestures to herself, not finishing the thought. "But we should get Emily to the room first, though, and hook her up. Do you think you can do that while I clean myself up?"

Emily would be light, but solid whenever Red Robin picks her up - but for the first time in almost a year, she is breathing, with blood coursing through her veins. She is alive.

By the time he finishes performing the task, Zatanna emerges from the bathroom, clad in her usual blacks - a cashmere sweater with a wide neck that leaves both shoulders bare, leaving a lace choker gleaming with its red stone at the hollow of her throat, pulled over her ripped jeans and the fishnets underneath. Her hair has been dried and pulled up in a messy twist. She has her boots on and she looks better than she did a few minutes ago. The hot water has flushed some color on her cheeks, but she still looks depleted somehow - exhaustion darkens her usual ice-blue eyes and her movements are slower than usual. She needed to eat, she said, and get some air.

But New York City is infested with demons. They'd have to fight their way through just to get decent tacos, and given what she had just done, Zatanna is in no shape to fight them. Another Taco Tuesday gone to the dumps.

She doesn't so much as sit so much as slumps on a chair, though she looks up at Red with a concerned expression. "How do you feel?" she asks, now that she is clear-headed enough to notice and ask the things she needs to.

It is a key part of the Bat skillset, though it's also more impressive when he's just perched on a ledge or indeed one of Gotham's many stone gargoyles, with only his carefully schooled balance keeping him from a plunge to almost certain death. He might not have the natural agility of Nightwing, let alone the superhuman acrobatic gifts of Spider-Man, but he does okay.

"I'm surprised you aren't just gonna fall asleep right there," Red Robin admits when Zatanna says she needs food and a shower, and clearly not in that order. "Maybe all that conditioning is paying off."

His mouth turns up - faintly, wryly - when he says that. Because, of course, he's teasing her. They saved a life, or restored a life… So surely, they can spare a little time for humour, now.

Rising to his feet in a single, smooth motion, his own earlier weariness worn away by the hours since, he offers Zatanna a gauntleted hand up before seeing to Emily. The work there is smooth and efficient, as it must be, getting her hooked up to the monitors and the IV. He checks, and double checks, and triple checks to make absolutely sure… And fortunately, barring any complications, for now she'll be fine without much in the way of human intervention.

"I'm fine," is the immediate, nearly reflexive response from Red Robin when Zatanna asks how he feels from her current position sprawled in a chair like she never intends to get back up again. "Just glad this much is done," he elaborates after a moment's hesitation. "Is that what it's like for you, all the time?" he wonders, both to satisfy his curiousity and to deflect any further prying into his own emotional state. "I remember that first time you were looking out at the city from up high." He doesn't say from the penthouse - she might've mentioned Tim Drake's NYC residence at some point and ears might overhear - but she'd probably know what he means. "You talked about being able to see all of it, the magic… But I never really had a frame of reference for what that meant."

Maybe all that conditioning is paying off.

Zatanna laughs - her voice is hoarse, and she scrubs her face with one hand. "If that's true, I'm really happy all that torture is worthwhile," she confesses wryly. "All those hours are good for something."

After a moment, she slowly rises again, her obelisk out, tracing a rectangle in the air, a doorway, using the magic she has stored inside of the obelisk instead of wielding the raw stuff herself. Streams of magic coalesce into solid form, wood swinging open to reveal the Titan Tower's living area. Booted feet take several steps through - out one familiar area and into another. At least on an island, they don't have to worry about demons - not yet, anyway. Hopefully the horde will pass them by and they can confine all the fighting in the mainland.

The door closes once they're through, and dissipates back into the ether.

There's a skeptical look flashed towards her friend when he says that he is fine, and she shuffles, somewhat sluggishly, towards the giant refrigerator housed in the kitchen. Hopefully, there'll be leftovers there, or enough ingredients for something she could make, though she most definitely lacks the energy to do anything like the ziplock containers she has given Tim before, full of homecooked Italian food. Scrubbing her face again, bleary eyes hunt for something edible in the chilled confines of the fridge once opened up.

Is that what it's like for you, all the time?

"Yeah," she confesses, finding some orange juice, which nearly slips out of nerveless fingers had she not caught the box in her other hand. "I suppose I can turn it off if I wanted, but I don't really want to. Daddy wasn't shy exposing me to the darker side of magic - the really ugly, dirty, filthy stuff nightmares are made of. But he was really careful to show me the really beautiful, awe-inspiring side of it also. What you saw through me…it's a part of that. Pure magic, unshaped, unused…it's always been a beautiful thing, teeming with endless possibilities. I wouldn't want to lose sight of that ever."

She sets the orange juice on the granite countertop on the kitchen's middle island, her tired smile turned his way. "Are you sure you're okay?" she wonders. "Don't you feel…"

Empty, is what she wants to say.

Because she feels the same. She had lived with the Blood of Isis for close to a year, carried its changes and the experiences it symbolized for her, adapted to its presence. And now that it is gone, she is going to have to do it all over again. She is simply too exhausted to process it now, but its disappearance is hard to ignore and the weight only adds to the sagging line of her posture. She leans against the counter, though her eyes do not move away from his.

"I can't help but feel a little bad," she confesses quietly. "Your life's weird enough - I didn't really help with that at all the last two years."

Though he is a noted non-fan of teleportation, once Zatanna opens her increasingly literal doorway to the Tower there's not much Red Robin can do but follow. Given the curious nature of Constantine's hideaway, it's only after they emerge into the more conventional space Titans Tower occupies that he can signal the Redbird to make its own way back. He's not particularly worried about it getting wrecked by demons, anyway - the car's designed to stand up to a fair bit of punishment, and with less pedestrians and vehicles on the streets of Manhattan (though they're still hardly empty, because New Yorkers are in their own way just as insane as Gothamites) it's better able to elude any attention it attracts.

Back in the Tower, the lights are fairly dim. Someone should, hopefully, be on-duty in operations - maybe Cyborg, or Raven in a fit of self-castigation over Impulse's disappearance, or the fairly nocturnal Nico Minoru - but up here it's quiet, the spotlights shining onto the Tower and the lights from the never-sleeping New York providing a dim half-light; enough to be getting on with, anyway.

The witch's tiredness is obvious, especially with the way she nearly drops the orange juice, the way she sags against the countertop even while she looks at him. She's looking for something there, with her lingering skepticism and her unfinished question. Not whether he's actually okay, necessarily, but some kind of commiseration maybe. Acknowledgement of a shared experience.

Featureless white lenses meet those expressive blue eyes. The temptation to leave it at that, especially after his earlier metaphysical vulnerability, is powerful.

"You don't need to feel bad," he assures her. "I'm a big boy, and I've been making my own decisions." He moves through the kitchen, and honestly it's sort of surreal… Even in a place like Titans Tower, where some of the team are never seen without their costumes, there he is in his cape and cowl opening cupboards, getting a glass to set down on the countertop so he can gently take the carton from her, and pour the witch a glass. And then he's back at it, working with the same quiet, focused efficiency he used when hooking Emily Montrose up to the medical equipment, speed without careless haste. After a few minutes, he puts a plate down in front of Zatanna. It's… Well, it's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Not exactly revolutionary.

"Sit, eat," he tells her, before settling onto the next seat over.

"It's different. Like when you were a kid and a tooth fell out, and you keep running your tongue over the empty spot. Except that's not right, either, because she didn't belong there, in me. It's lonely, I guess, but I'm used to lonely. What you gave up… That was power, though, wasn't it? Maybe you don't need more than what you've already got, but still… A lot of people might not have made that call, Zee."

Food. Drink. Relief that she doesn't have to pour or make it herself suffuses that pale expressive face. Her gratitude practically emanates from her in waves and her expression is almost adoring when levied there. It is a face that desperately wants tacos but can't resist the lure of a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich, because she's hungry, and she doesn't remember the last time she's actually had one.

So there she is. For once, she isn't being stubborn about making sure he had something to eat and drink also. Zatanna drinks the orange juice set before her and practically wolfs down her sandwich. It disappears between her fingers like, well, magic, and once that is consumed, she practically sags against the high chair, her head in her hands and her eyes closed. She is in very real danger of sleeping right there, but she doesn't and for several long moments, there is nothing threading through the silence but the hum of technology and up-to-date appliances.

When she finally looks up, she levers her chin into the cup her palm makes, elbow on the counter.

"Was that how you reacted when you lost a tooth?" she wonders, her addled mind following the tangent - of little Timmy Drake with both his front teeth missing and the beginnings of a broader grin curling up on her lips - obvious enough that he doesn't have to be psychic to know what exactly she's picturing. But it fades when he tells her that he's used to being lonely, her free hand crawling forward to unhesitatingly link her fingers into his gloved own.

"I hope it's just Batman's influence," she tells him quietly. "Are you, still?" Loneliness is complicated - she knows, considering her upbringing, the people with whom she connects, the people with whom she associates and learns from. A person can still feel this way, no matter how gregarious and surrounded by people. Tim has family in New York. He has family in Gotham. But sometimes, that isn't enough - this wouldn't be the first time that she has wondered why human beings manage to carry the holes within themselves when there are so many avenues to fill them.

What you gave up…

Her eyes lower on the granite countertop, white teeth dragging against her bottom lip. She doesn't speak for a while, brows knitted together, trying to put what she feels into words. "I meant what I said before," she tells him at last, after a few heartbeats. "About how I took it in the first place to try and save her, that the Blood was always meant for her. It feels like I gave away a piece of me in the end, but I'm sure it'll fade eventually." She looks up and gives him a small smile. "If I had any guarantees that the world would be better for it, that there'd be peace and people would be happy, I'd give it all away. But in the end, I can't do that either, because there are none. It's a part of me….that would eventually mean fading away and I can name a few who would be anything but happy if that happened, for starters."

Unfortunately, to the demon hordes of Limbo nothing is sacred - not even Taco Tuesday.

Satisfied that Zatanna is going to at least be able to content herself with the old classic pb&j, Red Robin eases back in his seat. Given his usual (terrible) sleeping habits, it's not evident if he's also about to succumb to the lure of bed or if he's plotting to go do some work once the witch is tucked in. After all, there's always more to be done on even the best of days, and when there's demons crawling all over NYC and a dragon coiled around Stark Tower it doesn't really count as 'best'.

But he glances down, briefly, when he feels Zatanna's fingers tangle with his, through the protective material of his suit's glove. Exhausted as she was, after literally putting a person back together, here she was trying to provide emotional support for him.

"I was that way a long time before Batman. My parents were never really around, always off on some business thing or dad was chasing after some lost relics or whatever. Not a lot of kids my age in that neighbourhood, either." Sometimes, considering everything, he wonders how things would've been different if Zatanna had grown up more in Gotham. Maybe they would've known each other years sooner. Maybe things wouldn't have been so lonely.

But wondering how the past might've been different was generally pretty fruitless. Navel gazing was a luxury he scarcely had the time for.

When she tries to relay her own experience, he listens quietly, as he so often does. When she flashes him that small smile, he gives her a tired one of his own, giving her fingers a light squeeze. But of course, she's right that there are no guarantees that any sacrifice could fix everything. And that there are people who would be the opposite of fixed if she did it.

"Well, you better not do anything like that, then," he agrees. "Especially not after all that work everybody put in to getting you your soul back before. But… You did good today, you know. No matter what happens because of this, whether Miss Montrose has any useful intel or not, you did good. I'm proud of you, Zatanna."

And like him, she is an attentive listener when she wants to be - as always, the lives of others are a constant source of fascination for her and she is always happiest when a friend includes her in the rise and fall of his life. But with an inner circle largely comprised by those who tend not to expose their vulnerabilities, Zatanna has developed the necessary skill of reading between the lines - so as she listens to what Red Robin says, she is also aware of what he isn't saying. How he recalls past experiences, but doesn't say anything about how things are now.

It's probably an answer in itself, in the end.

The witch doesn't press it, however, squeezing his fingers back.

"I know better than that," she tells him with a grin. "And I know. I'm proud of me too." Her expression softens after a moment. "You took care of her too, Red," she tells him quietly. "It wasn't just me. Plus with the equipment and everything, in a way, you're the one keeping her alive from now on, until she wakes up."

With that said, she slowly releases her fingers, so she can stand.

"Anyway, I'm still hungry, and you haven't eaten either. Let's go raid the fridge before Impulse gets back. You know there'll be a small famine in the Tower once he does."

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