|What: Alfred calls Zatanna to combat sheer Bat-Stubborness when Bruce won't let the butler stitch up the stab wound he received at the hands of the Red Hood.|
Bruce has been in the cave after his run in with Red Hood for almost three hours and still he refuses to give up whatever foolhard search has him sitting at the batcomputer. He's striped off the armor to the waist and, at the very least, allowed Alfred to wrap his ribs, but that's not stopping the bleeding which is already soaked through red on the left side.
On the multitude of screens an interactive map of Gotham City is whistling by with quick strokes of Bruce's fingers across the sensor plate. Looking for something, even as he goes pale in the face and racoon eyed. "Master Wayne..."
"Not right now, Alfred. He's got a three hour head start, I waited long enough. I have to find him."
When rationale didn't break the cool Master's obsession, the Butler put in a call to one of the few people who /can/ get through to the stubborn Vigilante.
That call was, of course, to Zatanna Zatara. The Mistress of Magic seems to be off JLA duty tonight, as she's wearing a simple pair of jeans and a tank top. For someone who wears fishnets or leather on stage and in fighting crime, it's sort of amusing that she's a sweatpants kinda gal off duty. "It's going to be a pain in the ass for Alfred to get blood out of that leather seat, you know," she quips as she steps out of the elevator and towards the console.
Bruce knows who it is even before she speaks, glancing towards the sound of the elevator and then around just enough to lock Alfred in his considerably put out stare.. The gentleman pays it no mind, rather greeting Zatanna with bow of his head, "Ms Zatara. Thank you for responding so quickly. Shall I fetch you some tea?"
Bruce, however, looks back tot he screen even once the Mistress of Magic has voiced her concerns for the leather seat. "That's what I pay him for." That, and apparently, ratting him out. He can't hold it against the old butler though. Someone has to be the voice of reason, right? "I have to find Jason." As if that explains everything and nothing else needs saying. Flicking his wrist to bring up a larger portion of the map, eyes flickering from one location to the next before it's disregarded and he's moving onto another portion of the city.
"I would love some tea, Alfred," Zee replies, moving to give the butler a kiss on the cheek. "So would Bruce." When Pennyworth has moved on, she moves to Batman's side and gives the screen a look with pursed lips. "I'm pretty sure Jason will find you, you know. If he didn't want to be found, he never would have come back to Gotham," she points out before giving the man a tight smile. "Are you going to let me stitch that up? I'm not as gentle as Alfred, but if it will assuage that manly pride of yours, I can do it while you continue pretending to be Oracle."
Bruce seeths, Alfred retreats towards the area in the cave sectioned off for him to prepare the various sundries that keep the Bats fed with snacks and tea. Most of which goes cold, but still he provides.
"That's right, he does want to be found. He's cutting a bloody, brutal, swathe through Gotham. He beat Catwoman half to death, did the same with Huntress, and it wont belong before he kills someone." That, above all else, seems to be the cause for hurry.
Beating someone isn't exactly new to Batman. Still... With a sigh, he pushes away from the computer and stands, glancing down at the thick crimson bandaged wrapped around his upper torso.
"I let my guard down." And The Hood throw an explosive helmet at him. Sloppy.
"It's not the worst I've had." But he does raise his arms so she can get at the bandages.
Victory! Zatanna flicks her fingers over at the first aid area, "Tikdem ot em!" she casts, and the medical kit disappears to reappear near at hand. She opens it and pulls on a pair of purple nitrile gloves, before taking out the utility shears to snip the bandage off. "He sounds like an angry little boy, desperate for his father's attention," she murmurs. "If he can't get it positively, he throws a tantrum and hopes you notice then. Maybe you need to catch this particular fly with honey instead of vinegar?"
"I tried that." Bruce says with a distant sort of expression on his face, looking down at the two inch wound just between his fourth and fifth rib. "He's gone through a lot." Quietly, no denying that much of it. The boy's died and come back and... he lived under Bruce's tutalage. It's no wonder he turned out insane.
With a grimace, he glances back to the computer screen. "He -will- kill, if I don't convince him not to. It doesn't matter why he's doing it... because once he crosses that line, he wont come back from it. That will be on his conscience forever, no matter what good he does afterwards. And if it happens, I let it happen... and that will be on mine."
"Has someone brain washed him? Whoever brought him back that is? People don't come back from the dead quite right, Bruce. But if it's something mystical, maybe I can help research to see if there's a way to set him right again?" Zatanna offers. She grimaces at the wound and pulls out some alcohol wipes to re-clean it. "This might sting a," lot, "little."
"I have a pretty good idea who did it, at least.. who was involved." Bruce grimaces but barely even stops talking when the alcohol wipes hit the open wound. Spreading it reveals that it's a good inch deep, dangerously close to his left lung. "Ra's Al Ghul."
"I can't figure out how, but he's the only person I know of, for sure, that has the ability to raise the dead. And a grudge big enough with me to do so to Jason." His eyes bulge for a second, jaw set, and his neck craning until it pops from the stiff twist. Both fists are up above his head curled into very tight fists.
"He's using one of the Joker's old alias' though... And with the Joker ont he loose, I have a pretty good idea where he's going to end up. I have to be there.. if I'm not, then..." Jason will do what Bruce can't. And it will not end the way everyone assumes it should. There's no coming back from that.
"I have his blood running in the lab, crossing it against samples I've stored up from Ra's, just to double check my theory."
"Ra's. That's bad news all around. Those pits he uses are pretty filled with crazy sauce but, fortunately, the insanity is usually temporary. If you can catch Jason, and confine him for a while, he might even back out." Zatanna's words are quiet as she carefully trims the edges of the wound with a scalpel, so the wound will be easier to close and less likely to scar. "He damn near punctured your lung, Bruce," she comments with a frown.
"I know." Bruce says about his lung, glancing down with a tight expression as she digs at the edges of the wound with that scalpel. His teeth set for just a second and he draws in a sharp hiss of air, then glances back up at the high arch of the cave where it disappears into darkness.
"I think it's more than that. Ra's had an agenda, probably trying to get Jason to do what I wouldn't, but he did it for a reason. That man doesn't waste effort unless he's got an ace in the hole."
Grunting, but not flinching, and flexing his arms as the grab hold to the back of his neck. "Jason is angry, he thinks I abandoned him. Ga's is counting on that. Counting on him to ride that fury. He's the one that's most like me..." Waxing on it with a narrowing of his eyes. "Just young... and impulsive. Which is a problem."
"Maybe he's trying to draw you out, or off balance you. Maybe he has Jason brainwashed?" Zee asks. She begins stitching the wound as Alfred arrives to hand her implements. She wasn't lying. She's not as gentle as Alfred is at this, or as clean. Had he not pissed off his butler, he'd probably have less of a scar. "What about the others? Nightwing, Oracle. They were close to him back then, maybe they can help talk him down?" she offers.
"Maybe." Bruce reasons about the others, though he's less inclined to send Nightwing given the weight of everything that's happened between the pair of them recently. "Oracle would be the most likely. She's level headed, smart."
Again he grimaces.. His body, while in fine shape, supurb shape even, is a lattice work of scars from his nightly affairs. There's not escaping it. The tale of his career plays out on the canvas of his flesh and the only reason it's not worse is because of Alfred.. and occationally Thompson.
His arms flex, lips pressed together in a fine line, showing the raw desdain the man has for pain and his extrodinary ability to over look it and still think clearly. Eyes focused on something else, some destracting thought. "No, Ra's is a lot of things, but he wants people to make the choice themselves. He could have tried to brainwash me... And I'd know." He saw the anguish in Jason's eyes. He's still in there, Bruce just has to find a way to bring it out.
"And Oracle has a common bond with Jason," Zee reminds him. Both died, or nearly died, at the hands of the same psychopath. "She is probably your best bet to open the door at least." She ties off the thread and then gently, much more gently than the rest of the ordeal, spreads an antibiotic over the closure before bandaging it fresh. Her fingertips lightly trace the pathwork of the scars, eyes narrowing. "Some say you can see the future in the lines made on the body. Palmistry and such. But your body reads as a history book, Bruce." She looks up at him with a small grimace. "A very busy one at that."
Bruce nods agreement with her suggestion, "I'll talk to her." It is likely the next thing on his agenda. There's so much going on in Gotham that begs the Bat's attention, so many open cases. The Joker, usually top priority, and a new threat that he hasn't figure out yet. Bruce closes his eyes for a moment, then opens them with a renewed sharp focus.
Gazing down at the trace of her finger across the lines of his history, busy as it might be. "It's going to be a busy future too. More scars, external and internal, I'll run out of skin long before I'm done acquiring them." It's not a complaint, he's never looked unfavorably upon the life he chose for himself.
While it's difficult to see beneath the iron mask clamped over his emotions, it's still clear for someone who knows him as well as, and for as long, as Zee... This situation with Jason bothers him deeply. "This is my fault. I always thought I was helping them, but I wasn't. I was helping myself.. I tought them all to fight, I tought them to survive. I didn't stop long enough to wonder if they'd learned how to deal with survival."
"This isn't your fault, Bruce. Don't lay the blame for this on Batman. Blame the people who deserve the blame. The Joker for killing Jason, and Ra's for bringing him back. You gave him a life and tools and a purpose. Don't decide for him whether it was right or not, that's his determination to make."
Zee doesn't withdraw her hands from his skin, using the touch as an emphasis, to remind him he is a man, not a god who could force those children to do his bidding. They did it out of respect for him, and love of his city. She lets out a breath then, and pulls her hands away slowly. "I'd tell you to not exert yourself until that has had a few days to heal, but we both know that would be like telling the sun to stop shining."
Bruce stares off at nothing, likely the middle distance between here and the past. Every mistake his made where Robin, which ever was in the suit at the time, are concerned. Richard blaming him for the world being unfair, Jason blaming him for dying, and Tim...
His brow elevates slowly, shaking his head, "No, this is my fault, Zee. I've never been the father they wanted me to be. I turned them into weapons and I sent them at a city of corruption." Gotham has always been Batman's problem to deal with. Bruce pulled others into it.
"I thought I could change who I was, through them. I thought I could give them what I'd lost.. and instead I've been shaping them into me. It's all I know."
As for taking it easy? He just looks at her with a cool grin that's probably a lot colder than he meant for it to be. "I can't afford that kind of time."
"My father did the same with me Bruce. He taught me everything. He made me his living spellbook. And I love him all the more for making me the strong, capable woman I am," Zatanna points out. "But I'm sure, wherever he is, that he is as deeply worried about what he turned me into as you are over the Little Bats. That's what actually makes you the father they wanted and needed." She smirks and cocks her head to one side as she strips the gloves off and drops them in an medical waste bin. "Mind you, showing a little bit of affection wouldn't kill you once in a while. At least to me. I should charge you in hugs or something. But I'm sure the kidlets would be satisfied with a grunt of approval or pride from you."
Bruce can't help smirking at the mention of affection, "Is that all it'll cost, Zee?" Opening his right arm out wide near his side, even as the thoughtful expression remains on his face. "I.. Don't know. I just know what they're capable of and I don't see the point in congradulating them for doing what I knew they could. I'm not trying to be harsh, I'm trying to make them self reliant. They shouldn't 'need' approval, though should do it because they can."
Because that's how he's lived his life. While he might wish he could be different, can he be? Probably not. There's so little room in his mind for anything but the mission. His eyes close a moment, mouth pressing to devour the smirk into a thin line.
"They're not me though, are they?"
Zee slips into the curve of his arm, hugging him gently, no doubt to the pure glee of the lurking Alfred. "Think of it this way, Bruce. You looked up to your father, respected him, loved him for all he provided and taught you. How much would one word of pride or approval from his lips have meant to you?" She shakes her head. "You don't see it. They /are/ you. Just the you if your own father had been there to train and teach you. They want what you would have wanted from Thomas."
Bruce lays his arm across the back of Zatanna's shoulder and curls her in agains tthe side of his chest resting his jaw sideways on the length of black hair as she speaks. All the time he looks across the cave at the map, but he's seeing something else, hearing words from a conversation that's over four hours old.
'You're not even happy to see me, are you?'
Bruce's forehead stretches, eyes closing as he sighs. "I don't know how to be that way, Zee. I /am/ proud of them. I just don't know how to show it and I don't have the words to say it." He's a very complicated man. Stronger than most, possessed of a singular determination that rivals almost any on Earth, but incapable of the simplest things that people would take for granted.
"I know you're right. I'm not arguing that it's not the truth.. I just... can't. All Jason wanted to hear was that I was glad he wasn't dead.. and I couldn't say it."
"Have you asked yourself why?" Zatanna asks, resting comfortably in the arms of her oldest friend. "What are you afraid of? That it will show a weakness to them? That they won't respect you as much?" she murmurs. "If you can't say it, show it. A nod of acceptance. A new toy to play with. A more challenging patrol route. They understand you, and they'll translate."
"I have." Bruce assures her, nodding. Check brushing against her hair, comforted by it. Not many people could ever say they can get this close to the man beneath the cowl, Zatanna belongs to a very small group, the only other is sliding a tray of tea onto the console beside them.
"Richard is the difficult one. I thought he was smarter than he's acting. I downloaded files full of information for him to 'find' for the Titans and a schematic for a aircraft I've been working on for their use." Shaking his head slowly.
"I shouldn't have to spell it out for them. I think I'll probably have to, with him. But I'll try..." Tim seems like he realizes, even when Bruce is harsh, he's not unfair.. He hopes that the boy does. And Damian? He still hasn't figured that one out.
Zee pulls back finally, to look up at the man with a smile. "Sounds like a start then. All anyone could ask. I mean, you are the goddamned Batman after all." She grins wickedly then. "Leave Robin to me. I still have some torture to inflict on the ice pack boy."
Bruce smirks again and nods, "I am Batman." More of a repository statement than a declaration, but it has to count. His hand pats lightly on Zatanna's shoulder as he nods yet again. "Thank you for coming Zee. I didn't realize I needed to talk to anyone until you got here."
Alfred knew, but Alfred always knows. That or he's just lucky and it always appears as if he does. In either case, he looks rather smug about it as he pours out two cups of tea and slides the plate of biskets closer. "If there wont be anything else, sir, I think I shall retire for the evening."
"No Alfred, I think you've done enough damage for one evening."
"You are quite welcome, Sir. Ms Zatara, a pleasure as always."
"Good night, Alfred. I'll keep him company for a bit and make sure he doesn't start bleeding again," Zatanna promises. She pulls up a chair, realizing she's about 99% likely to be ignored while he focuses on work, but that's why she magics herself up a trashy romance novel to read while she sips her tea. Magic rules.