One Degree of Separation
Roleplaying Log: One Degree of Separation
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Zatanna Zatara and Barbara Gordon run into each other in their attempts to stock Tim Drake's refrigerator in his townhouse in Gotham, only for the former to discover it isn't just the Batman's former protege that ties them together.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: November 26, 2018
IC Location: Tim Drake's Townhouse, Gotham City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 27 Nov 2018 05:58
Rating & Warnings: PG for drama and angst.
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

While she isn't surprised that Tim Drake's townhouse is, at the time being, empty, it doesn't stop her from calling out regardless.

The swanky space situated in the converted movie theatre in Crime Alley, gentrifying it by its mere presence, boasts all the features one would expect from a rich bachelor's wallet, and several other secret ones when said rich bachelor is a crimefighting vigilante. Carrying a bag full of tupperware, Zatanna Zatara ventures inside, furrowing her brows at the dimly-lit space. After turning on some lights, she reaches within the aquarium, pressing her thumb upon the secret reader within, opening up the panel that leads down to Red Robin's nest. Peering down the staircase, she can see the visible glow of the numerous computers within, but no sign of the young man who owns the property.

"Tim? You home?"

Silence.

"I guess not," she mutters, letting the panel slide back shut. Pivoting on booted feet, she makes her way to the kitchen, lights turning on automatically as she moves. Considering all the trouble in New York and a specific law that renders it a little more difficult for the Titans to operate, she anticipates, and rightly, that Gotham will be seeing a lot more action in the next few months.

Opening the door to the freezer, she hums as she works, pulling out ziplock tubs of ready made food - someone had to, anyway, otherwise her best friend would be content subsisting himself on vegetable sludge and diesel coffee.

This is how Barbara Gordon ultimately finds her - a young woman Tim's age, slender and taller than the average, with midnight tresses pulled up in a messy twist and clad all in black - ripped designer jeans with fishnet stockings worn underneath, knee-high boots with stiletto heels, and a sheer, lace shirt with long bell-sleeves, pulled over a tanktop. An array of silver charms are threaded around her neck. Pale skin, nails sporting impeccable dark lacquer, the only spots of color on her otherwise monochromatic palette are her ice-blue eyes and the rosy hue of her mouth, and the faint flush whipped from underneath her cheeks, spurred by the cold outside.

Nothing, however, to indicate just what she is doing here, or her connection to Tim, but the fact that she is not part of the Bat Family and yet has access to the adopted Wayne's personal space is indicative, at the very least, of some kind of close relationship.

The Universe is a strange place of coincidences and chance — a complexity that has really yet to be defined despite all scientific attempts to do so. Somewhere, across town, Barbara Gordon had been seeing to the same chore. So caught up in the events surrounding Frank Castle, she hadn't taken much time to check-in on her family. Dick Grayson's timely appearance at the library reminded her of that. When had she even seen Tim? Had it been back in August? Or was it even as far back as June?

Guilt — guilt perhaps even a bit misplaced because she knows Tim has a whole other flock of family that look out for him under the ranks of the Titans — drives her to pack him up some food and grab a copy of the Vigilante iOS she had been working on with Peter Parker. It was a combo apology offering: food and some new tech to tinker with.

When she got to the townhouse, she parked her bike in the usual hideaway spot that didn't attract attention to the theatre. Helmet secured by the locking mechanism on the seat, she unstrapped the parcels and headed for the door. Halfway there, she got that feeling — that little icy gut tug that told her something was up. She could not quite place it until she was inside.

"Tim?" The call comes almost as naturally as Zatanna's had been, and there's the sound of motocross boots crossing through the entry way and sequential rooms until she's in the kitchen. Barbara possesses a trait that all Bats do, and so her footsteps barely shush as she moves. This leads to the only true signal that Barbara is abruptly in the same space as Zatanna is the thud the cardboard-lined paper sack makes as it hits the ground, spilling its contents of carefully packaged food across the floor.

Then she's moving, fingers sliding deftly into that tiny space on her belt where she keeps her razors — not batarangs because she's Barbara Gordon right now, and Jim Gordon's only daughter flinging around bat-shaped razorblades would just not do. The slender blade, edged on both side, and held expertly between her knuckles. She gives Zatanna a chance. She prefaces the threat of the throw with a tight, "Who are you?"

If we take a moment, we can see that Zatanna and Barbara are really a study in contrasts. Tall, but not as tall, and more unassuming in her build, she keeps to the flat, practical soles of calf-high motocross boots and skinny jeans that might as well be from the Gap or some other middling brand. She's got a late-autumn appropriate sweater on beneath the unzipped motocross jacket. Her red hair is braided, her skin light and freckled, and she rocks the no-filters look out of sheer necessity — who has time? All color to Zatanna's monocrhome. Except the eyes. At least they share something.

She narrows those blue eyes on Zatanna, giving the younger woman a chance to call the next move.

There is someone else in the room with her. Zatanna turns around, her hands full, at the sound of the thud on the floor and groceries spilling out. And this is how Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon comes face to face with the only daughter of the Great Zatara, by catching her red-handed with a tupperware full of homemade potato salad. She freezes in place, those pale irises wide, lips parted faintly; a study in contrasts indeed, where designer meets street, midnight hair against flaming red.

She looks down at the tupperware, and then back up at the - what is that? - dangerous object clutched in the other woman's grip. She takes in everything - the freckles, her apparent age, all the color and the bag of goodies she had dropped on the floor. She would throw up her hands defensively, but the fact that she was able to get in without the gazillion security measures that Tim had installed in the place gives her the impression of a known entity. But then again, this is Gotham, and her heart ratchets up a few paces. What if she was one of those assassins Tim told her about? Gotham was crawling with them.

It doesn't explain the groceries though.

Who are you? the mysterious redhead demands.

"….you got me," she says, nervousness pushing the weak joke out from between her teeth. "You got the tater."

She holds up the ziplock container. "My name's Zatanna. I'm a good friend of Tim's," she says. "He tends to run on all cylinders in all hours of the day, and if I left him alone, he'd just live off of his coffee and green smoothies forever, so I leave food for him now and then. Why, who are you?"

There's a pause, and her brows furrow.

"…I mean, he didn't tell me he had a girlfriend," she continues slowly - because who else would stock his fridge other than her? It was the only assumption she could make at the present moment. "And if you are, oh god, well, this is awkward. If this is new, I'm not trying to…you know…" She gestures with the tupperware towards Barbara's groceries. "He and I are just friends, I promise!"

You got the tater.

"…what?"

It is perhaps the most disarming thing she has ever heard, and it gives Zatanna the space to get her introduction out. The moment her ears are struck with 'I'm Zatanna,' the little space around Barbara Gordon's heart tightens. This is Zatanna? Good Lord… her confidence teeters a bit as she takes in John's recent ex-girlfriend.

It takes her several heartbeats to realize that the magician has just confused Barbara for Tim's girlfriend. The verbal stumbling is beyond moronic. "What? No. Tim's? Dear God, no."

Her hands shoot up, blade balanced between forefinger and middle, and definitely not at a readied hold. She hesitates a moment, thinking this all through. It leaves a space of silence between the two before she manages, almost cautiously, "I'm… Barbara." She hesitates. "I'm… Family." There's a certain emphasis put on that. Family. "I… haven't seen Tim in a while. Thought I would check-in." She shifts slightly, and then she's taking in Zatanna a bit more thoughtfully.

Dear God, no.

"…no? Then why…"

I'm Family.

It isn't the word itself, but its subtle emphasis, and Zatanna's confused expression clears up. "Oh. I'm sorry, I just thought…I mean, I'm familiar with the Waynes, and Alfred." She speaks of them in familiar terms. "But I had no idea that the family business…you know. Branched out. Tim doesn't really talk about much of the composition or logistics, but I figured that's just part and parcel of being in the club." Her smile, too, is easy, an incandescent expression that lights up her face and contrasts sharply with whatever somber demeanor goth couture should be inspiring.

With the danger seemingly passed, she turns around so she can push the containers in the young man's freezer, closing the door before she moves over to where Barbara is, extending a hand for a shake. "Zatanna Zatara. It's nice to meet you, Barbara. I'm always happy to meet another one of Tim's family members. Do you need any help with…?"

Once her hand is taken for a shake, she gets down on one knee, to help gather up the spilled items. "Tim's been busy with…his project in New York, though chances are, he's going to be even busier now with what's happening there." She keeps a careful eye on Barbara's expression. "I mean, he goes back and forth for school, still, so it's easy to miss him. I'm relieved that someone else from the Family is keeping tabs on him though, with how much time he spends in NYC, I was getting a little worried that he might be feeling a little estranged from the clan…."

It's the thoughtful look on the redhead's features that strikes her, and her brows furrow faintly. "…what's up?"

Didn't know that the family business branched out. That has Barbara smiling, albeit still a bit uncertainly. She shrugs a shoulder, and — only with the slightest pause — takes the offered hand from the woman. Her two lives are written on those hands — a little dry from moving books around a library and calloused from training. "Well, to be fair, I'm his older sister." The pretenses of family makes the wordplay easier. "I am, I guess, um, first generation."

Then slowly squats down to gather up what she can of the food that went scattering. She's quick, and with Zatanna's help, gets all the rolled cans and bottles and some store-bought packages back into the bag. Not as impressive as Zatanna's homemade stuff, but who has time.

She rolls back up to her feet, hauling up the bag with her. She takes a two short steps to the counter where she can set it down and begin to unpack it. It's a distracted sort of thing, giving something to do physically while her brain spins about.

It feels odd, continuing to dance a bit around it, and so she exhales slowly. "Yes, I know… the Titans keep Tim busy." It's a small break of protocol, but she says it anyway. If Zatanna is snooping around the townhouse without an escort, she can put all the pieces together easily enough.

She would have happily let the conversation stay on Tim, because there is so much she could ask about how her little brother is doing, and what he's up to, and needle Zatanna about being close friends with Tim. But Zatanna catches the look, and Barbara Gordon drops her gaze briefly to let the silence linger just a bit too long.

Then she sighs, and something John had said a few days earlier creeps into her thought. "It's all bad luck, or good," she more or less says to herself. When she looks back up at Zatanna, it's to tuck a bit of hair back behind her ear. "I've actually heard of you before, just… not from Tim. Um. John Constantine mentioned you." Which isn't exactly true. Dinah mentioned Zatanna, it's just John had the biggest reaction to her name being casually dropped into conversation.

I'm his older sister.

Mention of the Titans, if anything, relaxes her demeanor, her suspicions confirmed in that regard.

"Oh, well, that's a relief! Tim's a loner by nature, but to hear that he has some semblance of a family still in Gotham is…" Zatanna's voice trails off, moving over so she could help with the cans. She knows where everything is, opening the cupboards so she could help put things away. "I mean, he would never leave it, I don't think - so much of his life is tied to the city, I was always worried that it would get to him, you know? That he'd end up being too much like Bruce." She, too, speaks of Gotham's favorite son in familiar terms. "But with the Titans, I think he's actually enjoying having a bit of a life outside of all the….apparatus."

She attempts to dispense as much of the awkwardness as she can by being her typical, friendly and open self, bustling here and there around the kitchen. There is a lot of food, but as she is often fond of telling others, she's at the very least half-Italian, and the tress weighing her down in the last few weeks have led her into the very Chas Chandler-esque therapeutic methods of stress cooking, and she's not about to eat everything herself.

She is not a stranger to strange twists of Fate; two years spent with its favorite punching bag has left her more sensitive to its workings, but it surprises her anyway when Barbara mentions John Constantine. Her fingers pause over one of the cans, on the verge of putting it away. Slowly, she turns around and fixes her ice-blue stare on Barbara.

It is subtle, but there, wisps of familiar gold threaded with black. Iron bands strap around her heart, squeezing painfully. She would recognize John's magic anywhere, and now that she's taking the time to look, she would find it. "….ah, well…if you needed help with anything occult-y, he's one of the most capable that's out there. I can see his protection matrix on you." It sounds like rubbish, but if Barbara has heard of her before, she would know what her skillset entails by now. Alabaster fingers lift to gesture towards her new, redheaded acquaintance.

"Is that how the two of you know one another? How's he doing?"

A life outside. That is definitely something that Barbara Gordon has not experienced. Dick lives in New York City, working his beat as a detective; Tim is doing his Titans bit and college. It settles in around her in a funny little way: she's been doing the same thing for almost six years now. In fact, come December, it will be her sixth year as Batgirl. No change.

It would deflate her, send her inward, if she wasn't in unfamiliar company. She buries that little nugget of discomfort deep in her gut, and instead focuses on an entirely different nugget of discomfort. Oh, John Constantine…

The redhead isn't looking at the Magician when she fixes her with that ice-blue stare. She's busy organizing the cans and the other packages. The casual statement — or perhaps the not-so-casual statement — catches her attention and she looks back toward Zatanna.

Protection matrix does sound like rubbish, but John explained it to her. Or, well, he kind of explained it to her. As best as he could. It's all a new terrain for her — something she doesn't understand, and there's nothing worse for Barbara than not understanding something. She furrows her brows slightly, expression considering, thoughtful.

"No." Then she hesitates. "We had a thing… some years ago… back when I was in college." The redhead finishes unloading the bag before she looks back to Zatanna. "He's, um… well, he's John. Brooding, and self-deprecating, and irreverent… so. John." She ducks her chin a bit as she starts to put some of the cans away, finding places in Tim's oh-so-empty cupboards.

It's both casual and not. John has been a fixture in her life and her father's well before the ill-advised summer they decided to be together, only for her father to make his displeasure clearly known by cursing the British magus into staying away from her - the parental betrayal has yet to truly manifest in the world around them, as Giovanni and she can't occupy the same place at present, but after two years of an intense physical and emotional connection, it is not something that is particularly easy for her to banish and pretend never existed. She had tried, even before John explained himself two years ago, and it didn't take. It wasn't in her nature to be a fickle creature, and when Zatanna loves, she loves wholeheartedly, even if the circumstances render the possibility of staying impossible.

But she watches the woman and the way she moves, unable to look her in the eye, and whatever awkwardness she has been trying to dispell by being her normal effervescent self returns in spades. She claims that John is a college sweetheart, and while this would normally open up an opportunity to commiserate with another woman who, perhaps, has been in the same straits as she is, something about the way the woman is acting stops her.

As if had a thing feels closer to is a thing.

It's like a fist to the stomach, knuckling in until something breaks and bleeds. Breath drains from her lungs - if anything, she is suddenly thankful that the astral link their last furious fight had severed no longer exists. She had instinctively reached for it while speaking with Dr. Strange after that incident in Central Park, only to feel somewhat depressed at the yawning emptiness she found. It may have been a blessing in disguise, because whatever he was experiencing, no matter how far flung he is in the world, across worlds, she would have been able to feel it, and the thought of him moving on so quickly is so…

She forces her head to turn away, putting her set of cans away quickly. A hard knot coalesces at the back of her throat and some part of her feels like dying.

"….well…don't let all of that fool you," she finally says; to her credit, her tone sounds convincingly light. "It's generally never a good idea to press him to spill out his mess, but it's never a good idea to keep placating him also when he gets like that. John has a tendency to mow others down, especially when he feels like they're getting in the way of his work. But as Chas always says, he'd rather sacrifice a person's feelings than any other part of her."

She shuts the cupboard. "There! All done, I think."

In one moment, Barbara knows. She's invaded, she's stepped into something that isn't quite done, isn't quite healed. Her whole chest tightens around that feeling, and she feels like her chest might just explode with the pressure. There is nothing special about the redhead — she is human. But perhaps buried in every human is that second sight — that little inkling that something isn't quite right. Call it instincts, or intuition, or even just awareness, but the subtle shifts around Zatanna, she knows.

"Zatanna, I…" Her words are cut by Zatanna's quicker response. She listens, pink lips pressing together. She hears her, she even agrees with her. Though, her insights on John are enough to take to heart, to look at later. She looks away as the cupboard closes, hands sliding down into the pockets of her motocross jacket.

"Zatanna, I'm sorry." She looks up after a heartbeat. "I didn't mean to…" What? Break the woman's heart all over again? She worries at the interior lining of her pockets, feeling the smooth fabric slip between her fingers. Then she shrugs slightly, settling for a softer, "I didn't know."

"Know what? Barbara, we just met."

Despite everything, the apology sounds ridiculous to her, though the cheery facade falters faintly, Zatanna's fingers lifting to rub the back of her neck. "There's no way you could have known," she tells her, before she could even stop the words. "It's not as if we've met until now, and it's not as if John's particularly forthcoming when it comes to the life he lives inside his head. So…don't…don't apologize."

Some part of her shrieks, loud enough to rattle her skull and pave the way for an intense headache, javelins of white heat carving up from the small of her back and lancing through the back of her brain, the knuckles of her own hand balling tightly inside of her pocket. Mad at herself. Hating herself. Here she is, nursing the pieces of her shattered heart, keeping its jagged edges away from everyone else who knows her, and now finds herself in a position to trying to make someone feel better about trudging in between the mess she and John had left behind.

Why couldn't she just be angry? Why couldn't she just put her foot down and say no, everything is not fine?!

She can barely hear herself through the white noise cottoning her mind, her mouth moving as if on autopilot, digging her heels in an effort to hang onto her more generous nature. "Anyway, I'm glad he's doing….he's being the usual, especially these days, I'm sure he's busy."

Reaching out to take her coat, she manages a smile. "I should…probably…" She gestures vaguely. "Knowing Tim, he's probably busy trying to figure out how to modify operations in New York considering…everything. So I should probably check in myself with the rest of my team. It's…nice to meet you. I'll tell Tim you stopped by, okay?"

White-blue threads of magic manifest somewhere behind her, forming a doorway - a literal gateway to another place, fashioned with a few whispered words. And then, unless Barbara says something else, she lifts her hand in a wave, and turns to step through the portal.

Not always the most astute when it comes to social cues — gosh, must be a Bat thing — it takes her just a few heartbeats too long to realize the absolute ridiculousness of her apology. Oh no, she sees it now. She actually reaches up to touch her brow when it all coalescence into a sharp, self-criticizing thought. Nice job, Barbara.

"Of course," she manages, voice a bit cracked. "I know. I should have — " What? Been a mind-reader? Maybe asked for more information? Her own heart feels vague — crowded in by the tightness around her chest. She glides her fingertips behind her ear in a gesture that would have secured a fallen forelock, but there's nothing out of place.

When Zatanna starts to state her farewells, all she can do is stand there, hand on the counter. She furrows her brows slightly. "Nice to meet you, too," she says quietly to Zatanna's back. She misses the chance to tell Zatanna to tell Tim anything else, but she's lost thread of whatever she could have said.

The magic manifests, and she feels it as small prickles at the back of her neck. She doesn't manage another word until Zatanna's through and the gateway is closed. She turns, fingers pinching the bridge of her nose. "… Shit."

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