Love Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry

October 09, 2018:

Zatanna Zatara visits the Titans Tower infirmary to deliver gifts and heartfelt apologies and promises to Bart Allen, Rachel Roth, and Nico Minoru.

Titans Tower, New York City

It's a giant T in the middle of its own island because Red Robin is super loaded.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Red Robin


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

She has come bearing gifts and apologies.

The infirmary of the Titans Tower, recently repaired after the accident with the Extremis test subject a few months ago, is presently occupied by two young people that she has almost killed, or at the very least maimed horribly. Zatanna Zatara girds herself while standing outside the door, taking a breath, before she takes a few steps inside.

She has spent most of the last week in her room, drowning in the malaise of what she had just done. Her team, her friends, have been forgiving enough, supportive enough, but the event was horrible enough that even their reassurances were not sufficient to banish the cloud. She may not have been herself, the curse of the Consort keeping her from acting on her conscience as her body wreaked havoc across the island, but it was still her power that moved them to this.

When she finally makes it inside the recovery rooms, she is carrying an entire box of tacos for Bart (with meat and cheese in them, testament to the fact that she hasn't gone evil and is now subjecting the bedridden speedster to a recovery gift of vegetarian foodstuffs) and a jumbo-sized soda stuffed in its corner, and a stuffed Halloween pumpkin for Nico full of dark chocolate truffles, its gap-toothed grin wide and affable despite the look in its eyes.

Given Bart's restlessness when he was in good health, it would have been complete torture for him to be restricted to a bed for a few days, much less a week, and with him already having been on the mend, the only effective way to make him stay put was to sedate him. Magic probably proved the better option over trying to medicate him given how quickly he burned through things in his system.

Thankfully he's been more cooperative about resting in bed these past few days, if only because he's spent much of the time playing games on his handheld. He may have been potentially plotting a tower break-out with his brother, but he hasn't gone so far as to ask Owen to bust him out just yet. He knows his friends mean well, and frankly, even though he's more or less acted as easy-going as he usually tends to be, the true terror of the experience still surfaces in nightmares, which may or may not have been observed by whoever might have hovered by his bed during his sleep.


The greeting is genuine enough, but Bart's been quick to forgive the magician for what had happened, even if she was still hesitant about doing so herself. He looks up from his game, waving a hand as he shoves himself up a bit on his elbows in bed. Sniff. Sniff.

"-ooohemgee is that what I think it is??"

NICO MINORU was pretty badly off for a little while there. While she was probably dramatzing about her imminent death, permanent injury was likely had there not been a supportive magical intervention - or, barring that, about a half-gallon of plasma poured into her thirsty veins.

But in the end it was all okay. Ish. Except for the debilitating electrolyte-related cramps and the persistent anemia. But persistent anemia is super goth, so it works out.

Nico is certainly doing well enough that she managed to put on her own clothes, which in this case is a comfortable-looking dressing gown in high-thread-count cream white with a quilted interior in soft sunset orange (it was cheap, leave her alone) and a waist sash made of reclaimed striped beach towel terrycloth.

She has not done a lot of… moving. Even now she's slouched on a cot with a blanket over her and is looking at the TV, which is showing something called "Fear TV," which is probably one of those niche cable channels like El Rey. When Zatanna enters, Nico's eyes open more and turn to look towards her. She struggles a little to wiggle upright without actually de-blanketing at any point, but this is at least fifty-percent 'the refusal to leave the blanket' as debility. Perhaps more.

"hey," Nico says, her voice a little croaky.

Between the beds Bart and Nico occupy, Raven sits on an actual chair as her hands work. The whites of her eyes visible without the cover of the hood she wears often, her usual gear traded for something more lowkey and casual since she hasn't been outside in a while.

She doesn't remember blacking out after everything that has happened within the past week. She doesn't even remember waking up out of her state of unconsciousness. But she has recovered enough to be aware of how things are still playing out, continuously sensing the trouble outside of the tower even if she tries to keep herself busy. Caitlin's little experiment is the most she's been active, doing as much as she can to help before feeling exhaustion creep up on her again.

So of course Raven rinses and repeats, taking another break before sitting in with the two patients at various times to see if she can help heal them little by little. She felt Bart's nightmares, soothing them as best as she could. She assauged the pain Nico felt, slowly and carefully so that the shock isn't as great.

But their voices lead her present focus away from any further mending to see Zatanna enter with gifts, blank eyes lifting and refilling with color to fully remove herself from the situation.

In truth, she would feel better if they held some modicum of resentment, and told her about it.

There's most certainly conflict there; Zatanna doesn't want to feel terrible, but she does, and apologies and gifts seem paltry bandages when maiming and murder were on the table. There's a smile to both bedridden Titans when she moves further inside, to set the Halloween pumpkin next to Nico's bed, and the box of tacos and the super large soda next to Bart. There's also a glance at Raven, and while it probably isn't apparent, she owes her more than anything he is capable of giving at the moment.

"Hey guys," she says; shadows haunt the areas around her eyes. She hasn't slept well since. "I just wanted to…" She pauses, and she lets out a breathless laugh, rubbing the back of her neck in a self-conscious fashion. "Sorry. I'm part-Italian, I can't help it. It's in the genes to feed everybody."

After a moment, her ice-blue eyes lower on the ground.

"I wish I could take it back," she tells them. "All of it. Not just what happened…not just what I did. But before then, too." Her pale stare falls on Raven. "Being so quick to treating you poorly when you first came to us also. I hope you'll forgive me, Raven. I…to say I misjudged you doesn't even cover all of it."

She falls silent again, but only for a few minutes before she continues: "I promise I'll do everything in my power to make up for it to all of you."

Bart's movement rouses the large pink pile of fur that might have been mistaken for an odd pillow behind the one he'd been propped up against. A long tail uncurls, winding about to brush his shoulder, and at the opposite end a pair of paws stretch out, momentarily showing sharp claws as Clawminator Destrucat Mk. II yawns and cranes her head about to peer around the pillow. She might have also caught the scent of food.

At Zatanna's words, the speedster's smile wavers, his eyes taking in her appearance. Stubbornly his lips tug up at the ends as though to keep that smile in place where it full well should be, but it's hard, harder when Zatanna goes on. How many times has she apologized to them? How many times does she feel she needs to.

Chewing on his lower lip, Bart lowers his hand from where it had been sneaking towards the taco box, his smile falling with his gaze as amber eyes drift towards the sheets thrown over his legs. They're perfectly fine, and he hadn't seen how horrible they looked when his bones had shattered, thankfully, but the memory of the pain, of that moment is something he wonders if he'll ever forget. Even the Speed Force wouldn't have healed it as quickly as it had been mended thanks to Zatanna's magic, would it? It's not something he had ever wondered, and while it's scary to think of the what if's, Bart's managed not to let his thoughts drift down that dark end.

"…you don't have to do anything, Zee. You've already been doing enough." He pauses, glancing between her and Raven. That there had been problems between the two seems to be news to him, but he supposes that part will be Raven's to speak for- although in his opinion, after what he'd heard, he feels like the only person who hasn't forgiven Zatanna is herself.

"I mean, look. You patched me and Nico back up already…"

Nico's own feelings are complicated, as they so often are. Raven has helped her avoid freaking out in a way Nico didn't even quite fully grasp, but it certainly helped recovery and also calmed her down when she had a nightmare. There was just one, but it was gonna be pretty bad.

Even so, Zatanna is here, she's looking apologetic, and she has a pumpkin. Nico's eyes track it and when there is a 'poomp' that rustles with candy, she reaches forwards to gather a small handful of them. (Raven gets offered one, wordlessly.)

"Thank you," Nico says, her voice losing some rust. "I really appreciate the candy too. Did you get it in Gotham?"

She eats a piece - and lapses into silence when the question of Raven comes up. ("I'll think of something, gimme a minute," she asides to Zee, her tone fairly light.)

Raven…says nothing. Her hands then lower, free of the dark energy that encased them moments earlier to rest in her lap. From what she knows of Bart and Nico - from all of the interactions she's had with them - they aren't the type to hold grudges against their closest friends. But if she is being honest with herself, she would have been the substitute for their feelings, becoming the very embodiment of resentment for all of the trouble Zatanna caused after the Dragon and the Consort attacked.

It isn't so simple, however. Not when there is magic involved. Not when Zatanna is genuinely apologetic for the things she has said and done. Her feelings, like the others, are real. Worn on a sleeve, as some would say. They're not hidden behind different meanings or paper masks.

"…What is done is done," comes the first words in reply to the witch, cool and matter-of-fact in the way it's said. Eyes of a deeper blue meet ice blue for the moment, holding the other woman's gaze as Raven silently takes the candy Nico offers. When she speaks again, her voice is gentler in its raspiness despite its monotone. "With my personal track record, I expected to be turned away. As terrible as first impressions had gone, you were at least right to act upon instinct. To be fair, I would have done the same."

You've already been doing enough.

"It doesn't feel like it," Zatanna tells Bart - he would be right, in either case. It has been difficult to forgive herself. Taking a further step in the room, she sinks down on one of the chairs, reaching out to pet Clawmy with her black-lacquered manicure. "Every time I think about it, I feel sick. I mean…I could have broken all of your bones, Impulse. And I could…I could have really killed you, Nico."

Dleeb, she had said, as crimson poured out of he other witch's body, exsanguinating her in front of her new family.

"How do you even…"

She closes her eyes, her fingers tightening against one another where they're linked on her lap.

Raven telling her what she does has her lifting her head to regard the half-demon girl. "If it hadn't been for Red, I would have continued pushing for it," she tells her. "Demons are…they've always been after me. My entire life. Some of them went as far as chasing Daddy and me across the world while he tried to fix things to keep a lot of people safe. I just…I was so focused on that half of you that I didn't even consider the half of you that was human. What's worse, I didn't place enough faith in that side of you."

She glances down at her fingers again. "Especially when I'm not one to talk," she says quietly. "I was being a coward…and a hypocrite. I try not to be either of those things." She takes another breath. "But that's going to change. I promise."

He hopes that the sound of him swallowing then isn't as loud as he thinks it to be, but Bart can't dismiss the chill he feels at Zatanna's words, even if she's just saying the could have's. Sinking back a bit against his pillow, he closes his eyes, shaking his head.

"But you didn't," he says when he finally manages to look back at her. "And I'm glad you didn't. I don't even know what all happened at the time, but that doesn't make me any less glad that things turned out all right- or at least as all right as anyone could have hoped for. …right?"

Because the alternative looked like they'd all end up dead or horribly mangled, physically or mentally.

As Clawmy shoves her face against Zatanna's hand, purring all the while, Bart's eyes wander back towards Nico and Raven. He can't speak for them, but he would have said the same to any of them because what's important to him is that they're all still here at all. He does look a little confused at the exchange between Raven and Zee. It's only when the latter starts talking about halves that things finally click for him, but then if there had been a memo about Raven's background, he sure hadn't gotten it.

His mouth opens, then closes in a rare instance of his managing to think ahead before saying anything. It probably wasn't a great time to be asking Raven if she was really half-demon, after all. Although now that he thinks about it, it sure does explain a lot.

''i could have really killed you, nico.''

"Yeah," Nico says quietly, "I know."

She takes a deep breath and lets it out.

Her stomach tightens but that is perhaps partly due to the near occasion of tacos. "I know if I just say 'I forgive you' it's going to leave you feeling guilty, and I'm sort of Wiccan so I'm gonna call threefold rule here."

Nico raises her hand with three fingers upraised.

"One," ring finger goes down, "you explain to me more about what the hell was going on there… like, in detail. Now is bad, but like, I literally cannot do that again?"

"Two," middle finger goes down, "you teach me some moves, details tbd."

Three," index finger down, "your choice, cool magic present or I go on your Youtube channel. Then we are absolutely, completely even."

She smiles at Zatanna, a little wryly, but says, "This went about as well as I think it could've, yeah… I mean I'm still, like, I feel wasted, but /wasted/ wasted, not… WASTED, you understand me?"

"Red Robin is too willing to help others," Raven quietly agrees, allowing a faint smirk to form on her lips. "A good trait, but one that can easily become a flaw if left unchecked. We at least know his heart is in the right place." That's the one thing she wouldn't change about him, but that's an entirely different topic to save for another time.

Unwrapping the candy in her hands, she nods, gaining more of an understanding of why Zatanna did it. Her gaze is now lidded, dropping down to see if she's been successful in getting the wrapper open. "…Well, that does explain a lot. Demons already have a bad reputation here as well as they do in any other realm, and they don't make it a habit to fix their behaviors and vices. Especially when they concentrate on seeking power greater than themselves…"

The pause sits there for a few seconds as a hand lifts to lightly touch her forehead. The gesture itself answers Bart's question in a way, but she's glad he never saw her with the extra pairs of eyes. She then glances back over at Zatanna, her face void of any expression now that she considers all of this.

"…I should have been more aware of your magic, Zatanna. The moment I decided this was how it would be between us, I completely disregarded you until I had no choice to turn to you for help at Bart's suggestion."

The first time, the time when the veil weakened after Hell's Kitchen was hit with a series of explosions. Getting healed and then teaming up briefly to take care of the spots where things got bad. From what she has seen, Zatanna continued no matter how weary she became.

She barely noticed the change in Red Robin once they headed out to rescue Bart. She should have known, should have sensed something was wrong, should have tried harder to help Zatanna in those crucial moments within the Dragon's grasp.

"…I didn't, and that is where I failed."

Averting her gaze again would be easy to do here. But she doesn't do it. She lets her words settle, only nodding when Zatanna mentions being a coward and a hypocrite. "If you try, then I will do the same," she answers, only letting her nose wrinkle slightly when Nico goes ahead with her threefold rule. This is different, but it's a welcome change to the atmosphere.

But you didn't.

How is it that the person who time-traveled from the future is more than willing to focus on the present than she is? Zatanna's eyes fall on Impulse as he reaches for the tacos, once again marveling at the presence of so many good people in her life, who carry their own wounds but manage to move forward anyway. To look past something like this not just to forgive, but to remind others to see the bigger picture. It gnaws at her; she's grateful, so grateful, but she can't help but be stunned also. She was never prone doing so, she remembers a time when she had nobody but herself after her father left, but now she is all the more determined never to take Impulse for granted.

Finally, a quiet smile lifts the corners of Zatanna's mouth. "You're right, Impulse," she tells him. "You're right."

There's a glance towards the box. "…I figured I must feel really guilty when I'm looking at all those tacos thinking 'maybe I should walk back on this vegetarian thing'," she tells him dryly. "And spend the entire day eating my feelings. Fatanna strikes again."

Her attention directs towards Nico again and the sheepish expression her earlier litany draws from her expression is indicative enough that the other witch hits the nail on the head regarding her guilt. But at the following demands, that earlier smile broadens, reclaiming some of her old self. "I'll…try to explain as much as I can. Honestly, there's a lot I don't know. But the rest…I can do all of that. Hell, I'll do both. Magic present and guest starring role in my Youtube channel. I mean…I was thinking of performing again anyway. My hiatus' gone on long enough."

She pauses, and then she inclines her head at Nico. "…you know. It doesn't have to be just the Youtube channel. Did you want to try your hand at being on stage too? Live? Like…with people?"

Not wasted, she says. And she nods - she knows that feeling all too well. "Yeah," she confirms, the character of her smile shifting something more commiserating.

Raven has considerations of her own, and she falls silent at that, listening to the other girl. When she speaks, the pitch of her voice is low and hoarse, teeming with emotion she can't even begin to express. "You do the best you can," she tells her. "I…may have choice opinions about demons…" Who doesn't? Especially after what is happening in New York? "…but I'm not blind. I know…I see you try. Every day. Ever since you got here, knowing what's waiting for you if you don't. I just…assumed the worst. Not anymore, though."

She stands up, and once she reaches where Raven is sitting, she extends a hand to her, palm up, to shake.

"Daddy was never shy exposing me to the really dark parts of Magic," she tells her. "But he was careful to teach me how beautiful it can be also. And it is. It's the most wonderful thing I know…and the most dangerous. Knowing all of that about it, we just have to help each other. I'm…going to try harder to be here, for you, and Nico, too."

Crunch. Yeah, it figures that there is no chance that food isn't going to sit there for very long in the presence of a hungry speedster. Bart smiles sheepishly around a mouthful of taco as he listens to Nico list off her demands. Demands? Part of him is still a little amazed that she'd been serious about coming up with something for Zee to make it up to her, but he finds Nico's list fair enough, if that grin is anything to say for approval. He holds up a taco in silent question of whether or not she wants some, doing likewise at Raven. He's hungry but not unwilling to share!

It's not so much that he's focused on the present than he is of the positive. But present and positive are one in this moment, and the past is full of a lot of weird things and not all of them have been dealt with. For now, they can at least have this.

When Zatanna finally smiles at him, he smiles back. He'd been a little worried that he was oversimplfying things as he tends to now and then, but sometimes simple is better than overthinking things.

"Pfff. A few tacos isn't going to make you fat, Zee. If I say that's part of how you'll make it up to me, will you share? I mean, I can totally eat this whole box worth but it's more fun sharing. We'll make it a taco party."

He sets aside the balls of wrappers that had been accumulating on his bed, shoving his blankets off so he could swing his legs over the side of the bed. He tugs the legs of his sweats down from where they'd bunched up by his knees. Toeing the cold floor with a bare foot like someone testing out the water in a pool before diving right in, Bart eases himself off the bed, because falling on his face would just reset everything for the mood in the room. Once he's tested out shifting his weight from one foot to the other, he takes a few steps, his grin only growing as he then comes up behind Zee as she stands by Raven. For a niiiiiinjaspeedster-notquitespeeding hug!!

"Heeey, don't forget about me too!" he says with a mock huff. "I may not know how to magic, but I wanna help too! -unless you can teach me magic too, because that'd be awesome! Sdrawkcab kaeps ydaerla nac I."

Nico opens another candy as she looks towards Raven when she extemporizes. The two of them are having a moment. You don't get into a moment unless people are like getting beaten up, or thus is the code that Nico Minoru lives by. Including the 'like getting beaten up' part.

And Raven is bearing up. But Raven could see sympathy in Nico's tired face, even when she concludes on a positive note.

Then Zatanna takes her at her word.

To a real extent Nico is shocked that went over so well.

She was not expecting, like, to be declined. To some extent she wonders if she's 'setting boundaries in her relationship with other Titans' or if she's 'being a jerk to try and make sure she can't be hurt.' She doesn't know for sure herself. What she didn't expect is to hear, from the youtube glam goddess— "Fatanna? You're not /fat/, you're just, like — like you're East Coast, who called you that? Fuck THAT guy." ("Do I have to swear jar now?")

Nico then looks at Zatanna even as she reclaims another piece of candy. "… Sure," she says, about… everything? Then she blanches and lets out a slightly anxious laugh. "What, like, in front of a live audience…?" That was a trailing curiosity and not a pre-emptive no. She settles back, and she blinks a few times.

Raven is addressed again and it is to Raven that Nico says, "I can confirm you are amazing," in a conspiratorial voice.

Finally Impulse speaks up. Through his diet of tacos. "If you're gonna pass one over," Nico says with some hope, but then she tenses up visibly when he tries to do a reverse spell - but it does nothing for him, other than the profound and subtle magic of The Hug.

"Trade you," Nico says to Impulse, before lobbing him one of the dark-chocolate candies.

The shift in Zatanna is felt even before she speaks to Raven again. It's like someone turned the valve on a spigot and left the water running into a bowl reaching its full capacity before overflowing. Even if she knows this beforehand, hearing Zatanna say these things makes her feel…surprised? Touched? What is it?

When the witch stands to walk over and hold her hand out, the goth looks at her hand. But she also gets to her feet, transferring the taco Bart gave her so that she can meet her halfway. A handshake. A good handshake to overturn the worst of first impressions.

And her expression pinches.

It's more like it wants to pinch inward, fighting to remain free of creases or any outward emotional changes. Although she's better at guarding her feelings, Zatanna is making it difficult to do so. Nico doesn't help either, not with the additional confirmation stuff she's not used to hearing.

So she quickly pops the candy into her mouth, chewing it behind the taco shield as she looks away. She also may have had something else to say before Bart comes up and squish-hugs them. Keeping her balance is key here, and she does her part to keep them upright.

"Ugh," she grouses, half-muffled by all of the body contact. "Don't look at me."

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