She couldn’t escape this city’s grip for long. It had a way of pulling her back even when she attempted to resist it. She wasn’t going to go and cancel her shows in Gotham just because she had some unpleasant emotional responses to being there, the memories being dredged up, the memories of what wasn’t there anymore. She took her father’s death very hard and the death of Bruce hurt just as much.
The show must go on. She put on her best winning smile and interlaced a few new illusions into her act. That’s what kept things fresh, kept the fans coming to every show. It was always a mix of the classic and some new inventive bits that still held true to the spirit of the show that the Zatara’s had created over generations.
While she performed she felt absolutely careless and light. She was there to please the crowd and put on an amazing spectacle. When the curtain fell, when she made it back-stage, that’s when the weight settled again. There were big things looming on the horizon, things she couldn’t quite get her fingers into like she would want. She was putting a lot into faith, faith of others that could hopefully do what needed to be done. The bonds she had worked herself into and the bonds of responsibility weren’t ones she could easily slip from.
She sat her hat down on the surface of the vanity and made a quick check at her reflection to be sure everything still looked like it was in place. It’s always the things that are caught in view from the corner of the eye that spook you. For a very brief moment her eyes went wide and her breath was caught in her chest. That feeling when you see a ghost? A chill running down your spine, the feeling of your heart bring gripped and squeezed.
There are roughly six people in the entire world that could see through the ‘illusion’ of shadow and see the Batman when he didn’t wish to be seen. The young woman sitting there before a mirror is one of those. Though in this case he was not making any special effort to remain unseen, it is to her credit that she caught him mere moments before the soft click of her door being shut would have tipped his hand anyway. Being a dealer in fear might have been Bruce Wayne’s greatest tool in the fight against crime, it was also one of his most important lessons. There are those in this world that you never want to startle too much. As it so happens, this woman sits upon that list too.
No, this isn’t the same man she’s known to wear this suit for many years, but it is very much ‘the Batman.’ While Timothy Drake had made every effort to play the part, Dick Grayson does not need too. Maybe a full inch or even two shorter than Bruce, he also misses his Father’s weight class by more than sack of potatoes. Beneath the cape is a svelte figure. One cut with nearly the same physique, just built more for speed than power.
None of that changes the emblem upon the chest. Ringed in gold. Nor the looming shadows that seem to build around him as he nears the Magician. Dick Grayson spent a decade training, working along side his mentor. Then more than a decade out on his own, being his own brand of vigilante. He doesn’t need the suit or the cowl to impress upon someone that he is the real deal, it’s all about demeanor which is built upon confidence and that is born from belief. Belief that you are, in the absence of a better choice, the only person for the job right now.
“Can you contain it?”
Not, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ No, ‘Explain what’s going on.’ The latter is a question that would imply that the Batman isn’t aware of what is happening in Gotham. With the former suggesting that he might possibly believe she’s here for anything but containing the Magic of the world from spilling in to the streets of a not-quite-so-innocent City.
The question could have meant a lot of things. She was trying to contain the feeling and once the full figure came into view in the reflection. Once she heard The Bat speak with a voice that wasn’t <i>quite</i> the same voice from the man she knew before, she was able to take a breath and turn around to quickly look the imposing figure over.
She wasn’t one to usually have a lack of words, she had plenty of them to play with both forward and backward but she did need a moment to push her hair from her face and collect her thoughts.
“Uh…yeah. I’m contained. Perfectly. Contained…”
It took a beat for her to realize he wasn’t really speaking about her, an awkward second or two as she picked at her white gloves to try and remove them.
“…yes and no? The more involved I get, the closer some outside powers want to get to your city. It’s already piqued certain interests. My associate is working on it, rather, attempting to take the daughter of one of your known ‘associates’ under his wing. If more waves are made I’m sure he’s smart enough to know to take things away from Gotham. I’ve warned that it’s bad if the Batman needs to get involved.”
With a push from the vanity she moved a bit closer, it was almost cautious which to her felt silly to be cautious around the man she knew was under the cowl. There were things she wanted to say, questions that were wanting to dance off of her tongue but instead she bit her bottom lip before saying anything.
At the turn of Zatanna from her mirror the reaction is minimal and what there is of it is hidden behind the plexi-film over his eyes. Physically, Zatanna isn’t going to scare anyone. In a lot of ways she’s the exact opposite of Dinah, because there is simply nothing about her that is going to warn you off getting punched in the face. Yet she’s every bit as dangerous, if not a thousand times more so. It becomes a simple measurement of what each could do to you. Dinah might feed you, your own teeth, but Zatanna might give you thirty seconds in a dimension where the definition of fun-time is being anally probed by Hellspawn. So you pick your poison with these Ladies.
“Not entirely your true,” if she had seen where his eyes momentarily strayed she would know that the Batman just made a quip about her not being perfectly contained at all. “But a workable fiction, for the time being.”
It is actually not until she speaks about the true topic that has brought him that there is genuine reaction given. A canting of that cowled head in a showing of understanding. Not quite unlike a owl that is tracking a sound it’s heard, tilting the head gives a different vantage over all the same things you were already seeing.
“Gotham is in unusual place. Which is, in itself, saying something. The Spooks look the other way, because we police our own here. Because it is better for them, to show the Batman as lawless creature to be feared, not embraced. Now these new Heroes. This Wonder Woman, has brought new eyes to people like you. Which bring with it new, fresh eyes to people like me. As this is happening the Joker invites a War in to the City. During which a Kryptonian jumps off a building in the middle of the City. Not a week later an Alien crashes down in our Harbor. A week after that another Alien attacks the City.”
“We’re at a tipping point, Zatanna. If this spills in to the streets. If this gets past you. N.O.W.H.E.R.E. comes to Gotham. And then I’ll have no choice but the nuclear option. Your Father, my father. All their work goes up in smoke. You must to contain it.”
“That doesn’t even touch the tip with the mystical nonsense that happens in the shadows. My father worked to prevent that from leaking here. The Demon has been here for nearly two decades crushing whatever may try and seep out. The Order of St. Dumas reared its head for a hot second, until the young woman slayed the knight. Cultists likely tied to an ancient witch. I’m doing the best I can. Unfortunately, or fortunately if you want to think of it that way, there’s bigger fish on the horizon. It’s going to draw the eyes in the shadows away.”
It was true what he said about containing it, it was her duty and that duty was a promise she made to her father, to Bruce, to her friends and loved ones that were the only family she had now.
“There’s crosshairs on Red. Whatever it is he’s doing, he’s giving someone a real mad on for taking him down. Are you able to contain that?”
It was the closest and best thing she could give as a warning. She didn’t know the young man like she knew Dick, but she didn’t want him to be the one of the many reasons they decide to cross borders and raise hell.
Flirtations aside and as much as she’d like to take a naughty peek under the cape, she was dead serious when she placed her hand on that symbol, on his chest.
“You can ask me for anything. Whatever you need, all you have to do is whisper my name. I made that promise to your father and I’m making that promise to you.”
“Containing the Red Hood is like attempting to grab the same exact handful of water twice. Not only is it nearly impossible to do, but it might mean damming up the whole River just to try.”
This is not just a joke, another quip of the Boy Wonder beneath the Cowl of the Bat. It’s the stone cold truth. Damien is well trained. Not just by his upbringing with the League, but almost a decade with Bruce as well. Keeping him contained would be a full-time job of it’s own. One that Dick Grayson lacked the time to do, at the moment. Given that Zatanna was more correct than she knew. There are bigger things at work these days.
“… but, I have an idea, he won’t like it…” Which only makes it a little more attractive, frankly. Maybe it’s time to give Damien a lesson in how life doesn’t always follow his rules? “You mention St. Dumas. Ironic, really. That Cult is one associated with the Group, that I’ve begun to suspect for the death of my .. of Bruce Wayne. Whatever information you get, might lead me closer to Bruce’s…”
It is then, for the first time since stepping from those shadows, that he moves. It’s a very fluid thing, that movement. Broad shoulders shrugging back the lighter cape. A tapered fingertip raising from beneath the folds of the cloak, in order to touch the woman’s chin before him. Though not moving so quickly as to deprive her of the chance to twist away, if she wanted. It’s the mask, really, that makes the movement so different from another time or place. Denying her the chance to see how inquisitive Grayson is beneath the cowl, wondering at something.
Though he quickly makes those thoughts known to her, “Is that a promise to the new Batman or to an old boyfriend?”
“You probably shouldn’t answer that, actually. The suit I’m wearing may have changed, but the person beneath it still hates that you have to work for them. He’s also not nearly as sold on being selfless as the last Batman.” Though in saying that, he does allow the gloved hand to fall away from touching her. As if that might break whatever momentary connection exists in that touch. “If you need me, I’ll be there Z. But for now I’m going to trust this to you. I’ve got to leave town and track down a couple with a bad case of the Indiana Jones fever. You know how to reach me if you ever need.”
“He hated that too.”
Among other things, actions, and decisions that always seemed to pull them apart. It was the price paid to do what they needed to, to protect those close to them and to serve their duty. It just wasn’t always so black and white and there was plenty of drama and tears lost over the years. All Dick would hear was the pain in her voice with those words that would indicate that there was more. It wasn’t an answer. They both know this was beyond an old flame at this point.
Maybe it was an emotional reaction when she rose to the toes of her heels and took a fist-full of cape to draw his lips to hers. It was just easier than words.
“I’m on it.”
She released the cape just as quickly as she slipped that kiss in and turned to get back on the task of dealing with her costume. There was only a sly peek over her shoulder to see if he had really taken on the mantle fully. Batman always knew how to master the disappearing act.