Mysterious Coincidences
Roleplaying Log: Mysterious Coincidences
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

As promised over Christmas, Tim Drake and Zatanna Zatara go on a first date that ultimately starts with a pantsing incident at the ice rink and ends with running into his adoptive big brother and his supermodel girlfriend. Lies, awkwardness, hilarity, sign-language conversations on top of actual conversations, weird hot chocolate flavors and a detailed discussion about the terrors of deep space ensue (Zatanna was definitely watching Total Recall again).

Other Characters Referenced: Batgirl, John Constantine, Batman, Giovanni Zatara, Alfred Pennyworth, Red Hood, Iron Man
IC Date: January 05, 2019
IC Location: Bryant Park, Manhattan, New York City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 09 Jan 2019 06:15
Rating & Warnings: PG-13
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Perhaps as expected for two young people who are tremendously busy, Tim Drake and Zatanna Zatara manage to visit the winter carnival at Bryant Park on the very last day of its operation, which lands sometime past the New Year. With the evenings longer during the winter months, it isn't surprising that despite the late afternoon, dusk has already settled, leaving the park under the thrall of its many multicolored decorative lights. The fact that there's no ferris wheel probably keeps the 'carnival' aspect of the place a subtler thing, but the annual winter village has always focused on the shops, food and games rather than the typical entertainments that could be found on circus grounds.

So far, they're having a great time, even despite the spot of trouble that occurred earlier, all the more exacerbated by Zatanna feeling rather feisty when, in their attempts to get to the frozen pond to do some ice skating, a large man shoved through the middle of both young people, then threw a choice expletive at Tim's direction, before putting his blades on ice. The hot-tempered, young Italian lady reacted in her typical fashion, surprising her date by striding up behind the culprit, booted feet on ice, and yanking his pants down in front of everyone else in the crowded rink.

It would have been embarrassing enough, but the fact that the man was wearing his secret shame in the form of My Little Pony briefs probably made it worse.

It leaves them having to delay any overtures for some ice skating when Zatanna takes Tim by the hand and runs away from the scene of the crime, her expression poised between laughter and horror.

They lose themselves in the heart of the cheerful crowd comprised of those who are sending off the holidays in their own way - one last hurrah, so to speak, before any legitimate excuses to drink and feast to excess fade away until the next major holiday on a capitalist's calendar: Valentines Day.

Which'll probably bring another host of shenanigans in the lives of the Titans later.

But for now, the current team leader and the team's magical expert find themselves in the festively lit avenues peppered by shops and food stores, with the latter still laughing, but in a horrified way that signifies that even she can't believe what happened. Look, sometimes her temper gets the best of her. Her pale cheeks are flushed from the cold and sudden onset of exercise, clad in a black hooded jacket trimmed with soft, silver-and-gray fox fur and designer jeans tucked under knee-high boots with wedge heels. Her casual couture is slightly glammed up by the careful application of smoke-and-silver eye makeup and purple matte lipstick that matches the shade of the scarf wound around her neck and shoulders. Small silver stars and black crescent moons drip from her earlobes, visible by the way she wears her hair in a loose, artfully careless arrangement of midnight waves pinned by an array of camouflaged barrettes.

"Don't look at me like that, he deserved it!" Zatanna exclaims to Tim, bright-eyed with mischief, half-stepping, half-falling into his side and curling both arms around his nearest arm. "That guy was so rude to you!"

Feisty is definitely an adjective that could be applied to Zatanna in most circumstances, Tim's learned.

He's also learned that, given the way the witch's life generally goes, it could be much worse than them having to run away from some rude guy who just couldn't wait for his chance to get on the ice. What if he'd turned out to secretly be some kind of eight-mouthed hellbeast or something? They don't get a lot of chances to ice skate down there, you know. Probably makes them act out when they get the chance.

"I just can't believe you actually did it," he tells her; tonight, at least, he can just be Tim Drake. He doesn't have to wear the sometimes uncomfortable mantle of leading a team of young superheroes, or worry about being recognised. The arm both of Zatanna's curls around is clad in dark grey, his jacket leather with a collar lined in black fleece. Like her, he's wearing nice jeans, and is booted, his loose scarf and the baggy knit cap he wears both a dark burgundy. Almost like he actually tried to dress up, for some reason. But what could that possibly be…?

His mouth pulls into a rueful grin soon enough, Zatanna's mirth and mischief infectious, now that he's gotten over the shock of being pulled in a run from the scene of the crime.

"Pantsed a guy. You're really setting a high bar for the next time we go out, you know. We'll have to keep up the immature pranks, egg somebody's house? Stark's, maybe," the vigilante muses, at least making a show of warming to the idea.

"Oh no, what did we miss now?" Leave it to any situation among their general cohort to somehow cast Dick as the unfortunate and perhaps unwitting adult. Arriving late to catch any of the 'mischief on ice' in principle, there is still enough resididual buzz and fuss and general chaos to guess that something happened, even without being any one of several Master Detectives (tm) on the scene. Also, there's the simple fact that Zatanna is standing there, laughing like an imp, and generally looking like she's just gotten away with something. "You didn't turn anyone into a Christmas Elf, did you?" is all he can hope, approaching the pair. Of course he doesn't sound too seriously worried. Mostly not. Probably?

As might be expected, Dick looks like he's come from work. But even that can be a relative thing. Detectives wear suits as a rule, and even errant Wayne wards far from Gotham wear /nice/ suits when they do, so he manages not to look totally out of place next to Zee and Kory. The heavier tan overcoat and scarf he wears in deference to the weather /does/ make him look strangely a little like Barbara's dad, a fact she's not let him go without hearing.

"Zee, Tim." Once they've gotten closer, the accusation is dropped in favor of a friendlier greeting. "So really, what DID we miss? Did you say 'pantsed'?!" Out of everything, he would have guessed Christmas Elf first.

Even if they are beyond the sweet spot of holiday cheer, Koriand'r cannot visit a place as colorful and festive as this winter carnival and not be overwhelmed with precisely that sentiment. Everywhere things are colorful and bright, with all manner of decorations and lights, everything still bearing the usual symbology of the fading season, from the red and green, holly and mistletoe, to the bright white of crystaline snowflakes, icicles, many illuminated from within. And beyond the decorations, there are the shops themselves, the rows of little temporary buildings each boasting their numerous gift items and treats. Here, all the artisinal spirit of modern hipster New York is on display, wrapped up in the bright paper of the afforementioned seasonal capitalist spirit!

And Starfire is far too enraptured to be cynical about that latter part!

As if to cut a matching silhouette to Dick, planned or otherwise, she wears a long black coat that exaggerates her towering figure. It covers most of her legs, but one can guess that she has a dress on underneath as there is just a enough of a break for her legging clad legs to extend down into her own high-heeled although calf-height boots. She too has a patterned scarf around her neck, a softer tan that works well against her golden skin. And… possibly they've already hit one of the gift stands, because she is wearing, and indeed reaching up to occasionally touch with a bit of joy and fascination a pair of somewhat strange earings. They look to be… flowers? Except they've been encased in clear resin of some kind. The bright floral notes don't go with the outfit all, further emphasizing that they may be a new addition!

"Oh Dick, there they are!" When the pair is spotted ahead, Kori lights up like a soon-to-be discarded christmas tree, and hustles forward as best her heels will allow without cheating to fly. "Oh, you both look wonderful!" she declares upon approaching the pair. "And isn't this place glorious? There are so many beautiful things." She has a bag on one elbow, as well, possibly stuffed with acquisitions, even though gift season is gone.

Then there is a brief, confused, look back and forth. "What happened? Who was given the pants?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm a hard act to beat most days. You're definitely going to have to bring your A-game next time," Zatanna retorts, somewhat dryly, but seeing Tim smile that way when he isn't prone to doing so in either of his lives only encourages her to turn the full force of her effervescent self in his general direction, the two of them moseying their way through the crowds of Bryant Park's winter village. The suggestion to egg Stark's house has her laughing openly. "If we go with that, we're going to have to decide which house, for starters," she tells him gamely as they walk. "Also, you're going to have to tell me one day what your beef with Tony is other than…you know. The usual. I mean, you sit in his board! Unless you only did it so you could keep an eye on him."

He's not that paranoid, right? Right.

Oh no, what did we miss now?

Dick's familiar voice catches her by surprise, leaving her pivoting around quickly to stare, wide-eyed, at the handsome detective and his supermodel companion, her lips parting, jaw working for a plausible, mature explanation as to what he had just overheard. Thankfully, when it comes to his older 'brother', Tim isn't the particularly jealous type; the fact that the magician will forever be somewhat starstruck whenever Richard Grayson is concerned is a given, which would explain her attempts at a quick and desperate dive for something that doesn't sound immature or ridiculous…

"Nothing, no elves, in fact I've never actually really seen an elf before in my life…" she babbles quickly, nervously, and lies. She totally has seen an elf before! "Ha ha ha don't be silly, I don't know what he means, did he say pantsed? That's silly too because there was no way I was doing anything with someone's pants I was being a good girl."

…and fails spectacularly.

Silence. And then, she huffs, her cheeks sporting the rare blush. "I maintain that he deserved it, the man was being rude to Tim and how was I supposed to know he wears Twilight Sparkle close to his…nethers?! I'm not judging!"

It's impossible for any woman to feel in any way secure near Kory Anders: Supermodel's presence, but ever brimming with her generous spirit, Zatanna attempts to wave off her embarrassment by focusing on the golden-skinned redhead, who's already attracting the stares of many enthralled men and women, equal parts admiration and jealousy briefly glimpsed on Manhattanite faces. "Hi, Kory, hit the stores already? I love your earrings— are those real flowers?"

Oh no, what did we miss now?

Oh no.

Zatanna isn't the only one caught by surprise as Dick manages to sneak up on them, and while the gothic magician is mainly worried about coming up with a plausible explanation for what Dick - and also oh no, Koriand'r - overheard, the younger of the two former Boy Wonders is actually worried about having to come up with a plausible explanation for something else entirely. Namely, why the two of them are there together and why Zatanna is on his arm.

"Yes, we were both here completely coincidentally," he settles on while Zatanna is also babbling. "Isn't weird, how we all ended up here? By coincidence?"

No, Tim, that's not a very good cover story at all. You're usually better at this, aren't you? What would Batman say? What would Alfred say at such a dismal effort?

His dark blue eyes move sidelong towards Zatanna who is still babbling, and actually huffing pretty adorably as she insists that the guy deserved it. She was just standing up for her platonic friend who she just happened to have run into coincidentally on what is clearly not a date.

Clearly.

"So what are you guys doing? Just uh, enjoying a nice night out, huh? After you both vanished on New Year's I figured the next we'd hear from you would be Instagram posts from a beach somewhere."

Yes, there we go. Turn things around. A flawless stratagem.

"Mmmmhmm." In the face of Zatanna's epic effort at misdirection and denial, Dick is the very image of unconvinced. We're talking 'look the word up in the dictionary and his picture would be there with this exact expression' levels, here. Indeed, as the woman not only denies, but starts to babble on… well he can't keep from laughing. This is the sort of total break down of credibility that would normally take hours across a table under the hot lights of the interrogation room to wring out of a suspect, to bring them to the point where they begin to ramble and contradict themselves. Zatanna STARTS there.

"Zee do me a favor and never actually get arrested or anything. You're only about the guiltiest looking person I've seen in a while and I work in a police station."

However, he's willing to write off the pantsing as a 'hilarious misdemeanor,' at worse.

"Tim, uh, the suspicious part isn't running into you, I'm pretty sure Kory told me that Zee mentioned…" Ok so possibly Tim is just the only one who wasn't informed of this looming ambush. It's only fair, when he gets to be in charge of everything at the Tower (ok Mall) that they get to pull a fast one on him out here.

As for showing up on far off beaches after their dissapearance: "I still had to get back to work pretty soon, didn't really have time to turn it into a vacation or anything. We just spent the night on her ship, watching the date line circle the world. Kory's idea, obviously." He does bother to say that part a little less loudly, but it'ss busy and also New Yorkers DGAF about random people standing around talking, they just want them to get out of the damn way. "But she said it'd be nice to meet up a little after all the crazy died down."

"Yes! They are real!" Out of everything, Koriand'r has little interest in crimes of the pants but is clearly more than pleased to talk about her fashion accessories, particularly when they're quite so… her, as these seem to be. "We were touring the many shops here and witnessed one where they advertised the real flowers preserved in a resin seal for use as accessories. They are all unique as one would expect, so many varieties, and the shopkeeper promised they would not fade or wither. And as soon as he saw that I was looking, Dick insisted on purchasing a pair. I wanted to wear them right away!"

"Is it not a fascinating idea? I had never seen this before, but several shops have things like this. One these flowers, another the leaves from trees encrusted in metal. And there was a place that sold the ornaments for the tree, where inside they had plants growing! Is that not marvellous? If only we had come here earlier, I would have purchased one of those for our tree, also."

Starfire is clearly quite taken by the creativity of the local arts and crafts, and her presence has probably been a boon as the shops see their business dwindle in the fading days of the holiday season. They've made a fan of the alien woman, and it would be little surprise to see an abundance of such items in the following year.

Beyond this overwhelming enthusiasm, she has moved to stand by the other couple, pouring over Zatanna's outfit with no less fascination and wonder than she showed toward the gifts. "You are looking wonderful also. The beast's pelt is so pretty." She even reaches to take a tentative caress of the furry trimming, entranced by it's softness. "And Tim you are also looking very handsome!" But there is more to be had here than pleasantries. She senses… well, something afoot, even if Zatanna is so very obviously flustered about some pants problem that makes no sense to her, and Tim also seems oddly… nervous or embarrassed. Kori is the NON master detective in the crowd, but she runs on something else: emotions and empathy. The normal kind, not the scary Raven kind!

"What is the matter? Surely you are both happy to be celebrating the conclusion of the holiday season together, with the person you love?" Ahem!

YES. It's totally a coincidence! Zatanna nods enthusiastically as Tim provides his own explanation, and ends up doing her best impression of one of those bobblehead toys people put on top of their dashboards. "Absolutely. Totally." She's got your back, platonic friend Tim Drake!

But this is what happens when she tries to fool a detective, much less one that was personally trained by the Bat of Gotham, and is in fact the first of his many proteges. By and large, most days it's difficult to associate Dick with the rest of the broody brood, especially when he laughs the way he does and teases her remorselessly about her lack of a poker face. But she does smile, as always whenever she manages to pull these fragments of mirth out of someone. She is by nature an entertainer. Smiles and laughter are some of the best reasons why she loves the on stage life.

"You know," she quips. "This is probably the reason why one of the first things Daddy taught me was slip out of cuffs." He would know what she means - the Bat, and therefore his Batlings, are all graduates of the Zatara School of Escapology. "He probably knew right away that I would never last in an interrogation room."

Tim's own attempt at a turnaround with the Instagram comment has the young woman listening attentively. "Wow, I've actually never been to space," she remarks. "That sounds pretty cool. And yeah, it would! Absolutely, I mean…with everything going on, nobody's really had the chance to sit around and just…you know. Be." There's a sideways glance at Tim at that, remembering other heartfelt conversations. That crystal, ice-blue stare finds its way onto Dick's profile again. Loosening her arms (surreptitiously) away from Tim's, she nudges him with her hip to push him closer to his brother.

"I never got a chance to say that I'm really glad you moved out of Bludhaven," she tells Dick. "Because someone missed you." Pause. And she lifts her hands hurriedly. "Er, I didn't mean me! I mean…not that I didn't…not in that way…but you know!" Does he really??

Starfire is, as always, too pure for this world and Zatanna once again tries to circumvent her embarrassment by letting herself get carried away by the alien woman's enthusiasm for the local arts and crafts. "They're so pretty," she says, reaching out if Kory lets her to touch a light fingertip on one of the earrings, just as the other woman caresses the fox fur of her collar. "It's really warm," she says of the collar. "And— "

Surely you are both happy to be celebrating the conclusion of the holiday season together, with the person you love?

There's a blink, wide eyes gravitating to Tim and Dick for just a moment.

Her frozen stare ends with the young woman attempting to loop her arm around Kory's. "So where did you find your earrings again? Was there anything else you wanted to see? If this is the kind of place you like, I should ask you to come with me to Hong Kong one day, there's an entire world underneath that not many really see…"

Uh oh. They're bonding. Their failure of the Bechdel Test is inevitable.

This is not working out. His attempted cover story is falling apart before his very eyes.

There's also a faint tug of a frown when Dick claims that Zatanna had mentioned something of this to Kory, his glance aimed sidelong at the witch. Was it some kind of backup plan, in case things got awkward? Or maybe she just mentioned it in conversation, and…

"Well, you know, sometimes there's a failure to communicate." Especially among people who so often spend a lot of time keeping secrets, professionally.

He's not too sure what to make of the look he gets from Zatanna either, when she mentions people having a chance to sit around and just 'be', which is not something he does, generally speaking - more often, he's finding one of a thousand tasks to keep himself busy instead. It's not like he's ever got a lack of those. But soon enough her grip on his arm loosens enough to be far less intimate than it was mere moments before, and she's pushing him towards his adopted brother, though at the same time she's continuing to babble.

Admittedly, it's not like it's the first time Tim's seen girls get nervous around Dick Grayson. Zatanna might have vast magic powers, but the original Robin has a kind of sorcery all his own.

"Thanks, Kory," the younger vigilante offers when she compliments his appearance. "You're looking way too nice to be seen out with Dick, as usual."

But then, the spaceborne supermodel drops the L word, and Zatanna is staring at them wide-eyed, and Tim is attempting to look anywhere but at her, and then mercifully she's trying to force a Girl Talk Moment which is probably only going to make things worse.

So, Tim turns towards Dick.

"So… Space, huh?" he tries, conversationally.

At this point Dick may go from being very certain Zatanna is not fooling him about some silly pants related crime to being far more confused about what everyone thinks they're hiding from everyone else. Or not hiding. What is even a secret? Is he supposed to be playing along with some convenient established fiction here? This is what happens when you part-time it at the Tower (mall!): you miss out on all the intervening drama and will-they won't-they and skip right to the end where everything is obvious (see again: detectives) but you have none of the intermediary context. Forget spoilers, it's more like just going to the end of the book first.

So even Tim now gets a look and a vaguely subtle (but, you know, still visible to all the people standing there) kinda back-and-forth gesture with his eyes between his younger brother and the woman next to him, and a questioning uptick of his eyebrows. C'mon man, if you needed some cover you have to work that stuff out ahead of time. Now everything's kinda hanging out.

And naturally Kori isn't helping, with her too-honest honesty!

"So yeah, now that we've all met up coincidentally, and not because anyone planned to meet anyone…" Even Dick is confused now if Kori actually set this up or not. Is she some kind of alien cupid? Apparently they even have a double date with Barbara and John now! YEP NOT HIS FIRST CHOICE ON THAT ONE. "Wanna walk around a little more or maybe get something to eat? They've got all sorts of fancy stuff. Those guys from Brooklyn who make all the funny chocolate flavors have hot chocolate, I think?" Hipster cuisine is strong here.

En route to whatever munchies, there's time to chat: "I like being back in the city," Dick admits to Zee, with just a smile and no accusations of assuming she means anyone in particular. "It really grew on me, back with the team the first time around. But the job's been going well, too. I like- obviously I'm never gonna give up the, you know, side gig, but there are things I feel like I can accomplish on the other side of things, too."

And with Tim, beyond the smirk back at that jab about Kori being out of his league (which he doesn't try to debate), he talks space instead. "Yeah, the view was spectacular, I have to hand it to her. I was in her ship once before, way back around when we first met, but uh, yeah it doesn't get old."

"Oh yes, food sounds wonderful!" This is one everyone can agree on! Or at the very least, it is one Starfire can agree to because if there is anything more baffling or frustrating about her appearance it is how much she eats while still looking the way she does. It also provides them with some sense of drection, although there are still plenty of choices as they can wander the place and all the different booths and stands.

"Hong Kong? I have heard of it, but I have never had a reason to visit. It has markets like this? Underground also?" At times, Kori can speak of places on Earth in a very abstract way: most Americans have a defined image of that famous exotic port, albeit one influenced by action cinema as much as by real knowledge of the local culture or politics. But they have an image of it. Star? She might well be imagining another market just like this one, just across the globe and filled with somewhat different looking people.

"Most of the places I have visited, they are cities like this, where they often hold the fashion shows," she goes on, shedding a little more of this particular view. "Or they are places we have gone for a mission." Inevitably the remotest reaches of civilization where mad scientists and evil warlords build their strongholds, or crackpot Eastern European states run by terrorists and criminals. So it is for all of this, and the chance at enjoying another festive market, that Zatanna's suggestion seems to intrigue her.

Any of Dick's subtle signaling or the like is over her head, as she still takes a much more raw read on the situation. Love and embarassment, what a particular combination. She doesn't know quite what to make of it, or the fervent denials and re-directions! "That is kind of you to say, Tim, but I think Dick also looks very nice. You both do, when you dress up." Zatanna is not the only one with a more generalized appreciation for the overall vibe of the 'Wayne Boys.'

"Usually I keep my personal shuttle hidden," she adds to the space conversation. "But I could not resist us having the get away up there. Dick was better this time. The first, I think, he was very nervous!" It's a little more fair if she makes everyone embarassed, right?

"Plenty," the magician tells the alien princess as the foursome start to walk further into the winter village's food court area. "Hong Kong's one of the oldest bastions of magic in the world, so there's plenty of hidden corners. Daddy took me on my first visit to its other side when I was very young, and I loved it ever since. You can even see its influence above ground - even the city planners take the Feng Shui of the entire island very seriously. If you ever looked at pictures of it sometime, you'll see just…these random pockets of space built right into the buildings. They're called Dragon Holes - to give room for the dragons to pass and spread their blessings."

She speaks of these mythical creatures as if they're real, and from her perspective, they are. Dragons are real, damn it. She'll prove it to them one day.

"The best time to go is during the Chinese New Year - lots of food and fireworks. Typically the locals vacate the large cities to go into the provinces to visit relatives, but it's different for my community. That's when they go into the hidden city."

At the moment, as the detective boys mull over the situation silently with question marks floating above their heads, Zatanna watches them over her shoulder, nudging Kory a little bit and lowering her voice to speak to her privately. "Under this light, they really look alike, even the way they puzzle over something. You think their dad taught them how to make the proper thinking face also?" she wonders. She wouldn't put it past Batman to insist on some kind of uniformity even with the way his proteges look - how else would they be able to explain a certain pattern with the coloring? Even Jason dyed his hair to fit the profile! "Looking at them this way, you wouldn't think they weren't actually related at all…"

As Tim turns towards the Crown Prince Bat, there's a glimpse of a growing sort of interest in her pale expression. Now that they have a chance after a while to spend some time together, she can't help but wonder what it'd be like seeing the two of them interact outside of their costumed identities. Her imagination runs the entire spectrum of possible interactions, from headlocks and wedgies, brotherly banter…maybe even a hug? The possibilities were endless…

So…space, huh?

Zatanna can't help but inwardly facepalm. He's hopeless.

"That sounds great," she says, lifting her voice to include the boys. "I love hot chocolate!" She loves anything chocolate, really, if the endless supply of rocky road ice cream is any indication in headquarters.

Listening to Dick and his opinions about moving back to the city has her nodding once. "It must be really helpful to know how things really happen in the actual law-and-order side of things," she tells him. "Do all those detective shows on television get anything right, by the way? Or is it mostly fiction?"

Kory's remark about the fearless Nightwing being somewhat nervous in space has the magician grinning over at the Wayne boys. "Well I mean…I would be too, I think. All that endless nothing, with no air, your blood freezing in your veins while your head explodes…we humans are very very squishy."

The only response Tim gives to Dick's subtly questioning body language is a faint, and indeed almost helpless, shrug.

Which is probably not any closer to the touching brotherly reunion Zatanna seems to have been hoping for, here. Should she really be surprised, though? Look at the extremely demonstrative man who helped raise both of them.

First time, he signs at the other young man, careful to keep the gestures out of Zatanna's line of sight - because for one thing, he's pretty sure that the witch knows sign language, and for another he's having to hope that Dick remembers it too. Of course, Batman taught them sign language. Sometimes you need to be able to communicate without saying anything.

Fortunately, one of them is much better at social situations than the other, and Dick cleverly suggests they get hot chocolate - a suggestion that produces enthusiastic agreement, and who is Tim to say otherwise? Nobody, that's who. Besides, he also likes hot chocolate.

"New York isn't bad," Tim agrees, though it comes with a clear undertone that suggests he prefers Gotham. Probably it's because there's more gargoyles there. Or maybe it's just a kind of reflexive loyalty to the city of his birth, even when that city is… Troubled, let's say.

He glances towards Zatanna while she's grinning at them, reflecting on the idea of being nervous about going to space, a location notoriously hostile to fragile human life.

"Were you watching Total Recall again?" he wonders.

"Hong Kong's pretty wild." That's Dick's contribution as they all exchange globe-trotting notes. "But I'm sure you have a better appreciation for it. I think just about every time I've been in Asia the last few years, it's been chasing organized crime, hunting the League, things like that. At best, maybe hiking up a mountain to learn some new meditation technique." Bruce is awfully fond of those.

For all the similarities in both their appearance and even in some of their smaller mannerisms, plenty of differences remain. Dick is not quite so restrained as Tim, and he's expressive as they walk and talk, and even as Kory makes jokes about his first time in space. He holds up his hands in a show of defense, and then counts off points on his fingers. "Hey, I wasn't… scared, so much as it was disorienting. The side effects from the transporter, the gravity differences, all of that stuff. Us puny earth beings are normally pretty attached to the planet that birthed us, so leaping into the void is… well, it's something. I'll never forget it, either." Zatanna does a good job of making it sound terrifying, and he definitely doesn't argue with her.

But there is another side to it. While maybe they don't have the hanging on each other's shoulders exchanging noogies kind of relationship, there is a tie between the two batlings, and on Dick's part, definitely a feeling of playing that big brother role. And they talk. It's just that, precisely because they're who they are, even those conversations have to be shrouded in mystery and subterfuge.

First time?

Date? Dick gestures back first, concealing this secret conversation even as his mouth is holding the peppy public one, full of smiles and expressive words. And even there, as soon as he tosses back that question, he knows it's wrong. Maybe they don't go out to the movies, but obviously Tim and Zatanna have spent time together and… Oh.

OK, forget that earlier bit. Suddenly and maybe inexplicably, Dick DOES throw an arm around Tim to give him an all too brotherly jostling. No noogies, he's a man! "Right, so hot chocolate. What's everyone want? I'm buying." Really, he should be buying Tim a beer, but improvising with the tools at hand is one of those key bat-skills, right?

"It's kind of funny, how TV tends to get it right and wrong at the same time. There's plenty of nonsense but you definitely catch bits and pieces that feel like they got inspired by a real story somewhere." While they wait on drinks, Dick can share a bit on his new career. "Then again, sometimes they catch part of one of our kinds of cases and… TV starts looking sane and reasonable?"

What, dragons aren't real? When you deal with nonsense like space whales and intelligent spider people on the reg, why should you question dragons? And so Starfire observes: "That is very considerate of them, to tailor their architecture to the local wildlife. It truly does sound like a wonderful place, and I would be eager to visit. Perhaps for this-" And here she shows a brief moment of thought: "- they observe a different point of reference for planetary orbital cycles? Then we have not missed it!"

As for the similarities between the two Robins, the alien woman cannot help but share Zatanna's curiousity and interest as she draws attention to it, as well as her fondness. "I think it is very sweet. I do not know their father very well, and sometimes people seem to speak ominously of him, but I feel he must be a very good man, with how he raised both of them." Aw.

But now there's something even more important to weigh in on: How you die in space!

"Based on my understanding of human physiology, and considering comparable life-forms in my own system, the common perception of the danger of vaccuum is somewhat innacurate," she declares, in that way she sometimes does, pivoting hard from squeeing over trinkets and chocolate to offering detailed scientific lectures. "Internal pressure is not great enough to overcome the rigidity of the external structure, so explosive decompresion is unlikely, although longer term adverse pressure sickness is a concern. Moreover, it is actually difficult to lose heat in a vaccuum, because there is no medium of transfer, as with air or water. This leaves infrared radiation as the only means of losing heat from the local system."

This would all sound very encouraging, but caution does soon follow: "Instead the average humanoid is likely to suffer burns from unshielded stellar radiation, as well as other forms of radiation sickness from exposure. Naturally, without a means of breathing you will still suffocate, as well. Ultimately, I caution against any such excursions without appropriate gear, but in an emergency it would be possible to survive for a short time period."

Take that Total Recall! Whatever you are.

But the real question is: does she learn sign language the way she learns OTHER languages?! In this case, if the woman does understand whatever is quietly passing between the two bat-brothers, she does not let on. It is just as likely she is too wrapped up in talking space nonsense. Also there are hipster chocolate beverages to order, and surprising no one, she picks the one that has chilis in it. Only because they don't have mustard.

Kory's words on Bruce Wayne puts a rather…interesting cornucopia of emotions resting plain on the magician's features. "Bruce is…complicated." No kidding. "His family and mine have been in each other's lives for years, well before even I was born. But I have it on good authority that he does try to look after them in his own way." She tries to keep it under wraps, but there's a hint of an uncomfortable fidget on the young woman. It's been a year since the incident, and it's left her own relationship with the man in somewhat of a limbo - nevermind the fact that it had been bad enough that it forced Tim to out his secret identity to her willingly, if not just to stave off the damage.

But she focuses on lighter topics, when Dick provides his own contributions about Hong Kong. "What, really?" the young woman remarks, surprised at that's all he's managed to do without appreciating one of her favorite cities' secret charms. "No, no. This is unacceptable. The next time the team has to do something in that side of the world, I'm going to show you guys what I'm talking about. I think that's all Tim remembers about it, too." She looks determined and when she wears that face, it's probably happening and nobody will sway her otherwise.

Thankfully, she doesn't see the silent conversation between the Wayne boys, because she does know sign language, and it's saved her bacon more than a few times in the last two years; people seem to have clued into the fact that she needs to retain the ability to perform mnemonic incantation for her sorcery to work. But she seems to be engrossed in her quiet aside with Kory that it passes her by.

"I think someone's gargoyle bias is showing," Zatanna teases Tim, on the New York versus Gotham side of the conversation. And when he calls her out on watching Total Recall again, she laughs and points a finger at his general direction. "Total Recall is a Schwarzenegger classic. You should ask me how many times I've seen Demolition Man, too. Admittedly the first five times was just so I could figure out the three seashells thing in the bathroom…"

Though with her facing the Wayne boys directly now, she blinks when Dick suddenly throws an arm around Tim. She doesn't know what prompted it, but she looks absolutely endeared. She's even making that face, with those eyes. Awwww! There's also a grateful glance cast to the older Batling, and sneaks him a two thumbs-up from her place somewhere next to Kory, who suddenly makes a swift one-eighty from a sweet alien princess gushing over arts, crafts and dragons, to a sweet alien princess speaking with authority about the misconceptions and dangers of space. She tilts her head to look up at the woman, her expression indescribable; somewhere, in her very active imagination, her face is melting Last Crusade-style from cosmic radiation (nevermind that's not really how radiation works) and suffocating at the same time. Deep space is scary!!

"…no venturing out in space without appropriate attire, got it," she says. "Wow, never a dull moment, I learn something new every day hanging out with you alumns."

She also pays attention to what Dick says about his new career. "Coming from Gotham, I can see it," she tells him conversationally. "I can't even imagine what it's like being a detective there. Do they have special codes now for whenever…I don't know, some dangerous crazy escapes from Arkham? Do they go 'Code Purple, Code Purple!' whenever the Clown decides to take over a reality-TV show and hold the audience hostage?"

With Dick buying, she flashes him a grin. "Get me something weird!" she says. What? Well, she's always up for trying new things, and she's in the company of some of her favorite people…so why not? She's in a good mood.

Now, Dick might think the question is wrong, because Tim and Zatanna are both people who live deeply weird lives, not usually the sorts of lives you'd expect involve what most folks would consider 'a date', but…

Yes, Tim signs back. Because he's trying.

And, sure, the road by which they got to this first date is… Deeply weird, and he's not about to divulge the details this side of the grave, but still. He's trying. If there's anybody he knows who could use a little normalcy injected into her life before she becomes completely unmoored from the world most people inhabit, it's Zatanna Zatara.

And maybe Tim wants to do regular young people stuff sometimes, considering most of his dates with his last serious girlfriend involved costumed stakeouts and fighting ninjas.

Maybe.

Look, shut up!

But then he's caught by Dick's brotherly arm, which is only momentarily surprising before the younger of the two lets out something that might actually be a laugh, suspended between embarrassment and legitimate amusement. Fortunately, he can't see Zatanna's endeared Disney Eyes at the display, or it would probably tilt completely into embarrassment, and he might reflexively drop a smokebomb to cover his escape. Really, in the end it's a blessing that Starfire goes into extreme detail about what would actually happen to most humans if they were exposed directly to the vacuum of space.

But of course, when it comes time to get their hot chocolate, Zatanna wants 'something weird'. And technically so does Kory, if you think about it.

"Something caffeinated," Tim says for himself, which is… Also probably not actually a surprise to anybody. "After that conversation I'm gonna have nightmares about the seashells if I try to sleep tonight."

"It's not like I actually THINK its all triads and ninjas, or anything," Dick explains, maybe in a slight bit of a defensive clarification. That would be… kind of a little bit racist or something? "It's just, you know. Somehow, it always ends up BEING all triads and ninjas, when we visit." Curse of the bat. "I could definitely go for a more relaxed bit of sightseeing and some good noodles. Not that I don't get a little spoiled for that, working so close to Chinatown."

The bit of more intimate Kori-Zee communication makes him smile, maybe in something of a reflection of how Zatanna enjoys him and Tim getting along. With the supreme outsider status of being an actual alien and all, he does worry, and likes seeing her making closer friends.

"Ok, so we've got one chilli, one… weird? Well, we're talking Hong Kong, so maybe the ginger flavored." Dick does not immediately order for Tim, since it's in a sense his congratulatory drink, and he's long since let him go once they're there to order, as not to force him into a smokebomb retreat "I usually do either the bourbon or the sea salt," he advises. "And all the chocolate has caffeine- hmm, oh they do a cafe mocha, so we can do that.

Somehow they will all navigate the bizarre creations of Red Hook, Brooklyn.

So with that, they all have their treats. "Kory, come on, we're, okay not eating but we're going to be drinking," he appeals with a laugh as she starts on the space spiel. "She gave me a lecture like this aboard once, too. I promised to always wear my suit."

"I'm not sure about Gotham," Dick then offers as they come back to his working habits. "Except from, well, a few times talking with Jim Gordon or whatever we'd hear on the scanners. They do have codes for metas, and I think Arkham has its own whole thing…" When you have a riot or mass escape every week you'd better, right? "But it's not much different here. I think I told you guys about it a little when we were talking registration, the Strategic Response Group. They're definitely gearing up for dealing with those kinda things, more and more. I duck most of it on the organized crime beat, but even there, we've got some Gotham mobs pushing in and all kinds of strange characters, like with the gala and everything else. I'm sure there's plenty of guys on the force pining for simpler times."

"They received harsh training." This is how Koriand'r summarizes the 'tough love' that Zatanna refers to. "So did I, as a young woman, from a race of beings so focused upon a culture of battle we call them warlords. It can at times appear cruel, thinking back on it. For a child to endure such things. But if I had not… I would not have survived the difficulties that came later. They made me strong enough to escape everything that was done to me, strong enough to come here." Looking fondly on at the two adoptive brothers beside each other debating chocolate caffeine content and flavors, it seems she cannot be too harsh in criticizing the path they were made to follow.

The various (but always mildly horrified) responses to her space trivia receive a somewhat interesting response. With her grim delivery of the initial report, she could easily double down on the whole thing, reassure them of the dangers of the wider universe, of Dick's bravery rather than fear on his first journey. But… she takes it a different way instead. And as Dick repeats his promise never go without his suit, she echoes with… a joke: "Dick made me make this same promise, when I first saw the swimming pool in the tower."

Kori's unrestrained nudity is occassionally a problem!

Soon such concerns are forgotten, because it is the time of chocolate, the drinks arriving in their many flavors, steaming and hot. Kori accepts hers in both hands, enjoying a bit of that afforementioned 'thermal exchange' with the cup before sipping at the spicy-sweet contents.

"The craftsmen of Brooklyn are truly skillful," she declares, after a moment of consideration. "They should be proud of their work." And so with cup in hand, she joins them all in drink, beaming happily at this gathering of what is still the truest family she knows on this far-flung planet.

Truthfully, she knows little about Kory's own history outside of what she has heard around headquarters; her refugee status is one that she is familiar with, but very little else - nothing about the way she grew up, or what she has been taught, the kind of things she was forced to endure. It gentles Zatanna's expression not just in reflection and deference towards the woman's experience, but also because she knows there is a balance there that is missing. Giovanni Zatara was a harsh taskmaster in his own right, out of the desire to ensure that she survived the challenges his legacy would inevitably visit upon her, but he had been a doting father, too. Growing up, she has never suffered the dearth of affection from her parent that seems to have afflicted most of her peers.

"I'm glad you made your way to us," she says softly. "And that we manage to make you feel welcome and a part of us. If there's anything you need, I hope you know that you can always talk to me."

With Dick's brotherly arm over his shoulders, and Tim letting out one of his rare laughs, the temptation is too real; once the Wayne boys look up and before the older Wayne brother lets go, they'd find that it's too late - Zatanna's already taken a picture with her smartphone, and shows it to Kory, Dick's posture and Tim's face in mid-laugh captured forever. Always the creative, artistic sort, she seems to be familiar with the basics of photography, something that Kory probably shares, at least with respect to angles considering her work as a model, and she manages to capture the moment within the backdrop of festive and colorful lights.

"You know, if I sent this to the Gotham Times, the society pages will probably have a field day," the magician teases both young men, waving her phone. "Ugh, can I say I hate the both of you a little bit for being so photogenic without even trying? Do you guys even know how much time it takes for us girls to even look like this?" She gestures up and down on herself.

Words about the Strategic Response Unit has her furrowing her brows a little bit. "I think there's definitely going to be a lot of growing pains there, we're only less than two months away from the registration deadline. If anything, I'm a little worried about what sort of procedures'll get put in place on top of the standard, but I guess this is what Matt means when he says that the first few months are going to be crucial." Her hot chocolate acquired, she takes a deep, appreciative whiff of chocolate and ginger, and takes a sip. Her expression brightens - it's actually quite good!

Dick made me make this same promise, when I first saw the swimming pool in the tower.

"*COUGH* *COUGH*," goes Zatanna, choking on her hot chocolate at the joke. But she bursts out laughing afterwards, glancing between Dick and Kory as they engage the sort of easy banter that could only be founded over years of friendship and intimacy, unable to help the smile that lingers while watching them as she cradles her warm cup. Meeting Tim's eyes sideways, her smile only broadens, and she nudges him a little bit with her elbow, sneaking him a wink.

With that, she follows the rest of her group.

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