Series: Sir Zachary
Author: Aravis Tarkheena
Pairing: Tim Drake (Red Robin)/Zachary Zatara
Rating: over all R
Warnings: Angst, violence and Zat's temper
Disclaimer: Not Mine, everyone's more than legal.
Word Count: 5,000w this chapter
Wednesday September 23, 2010 8:02 pm
The Suburbs of Augusta, Maine
Manfred kept his display rooms spotless. Not a speck of dust or an iota of dirt was to be found in any of the four rooms. Every item that he had was in a specially made display case with temperature and moisture indicators. There were no windows, only one door and walls were painted white with several layers of sealant.
The security alarms for the rooms were never off. There were cameras that monitored every inch of the room, pass codes, finger print scans, armored doors and scale censors under the floor that kept track of how much weight was being placed on the floor boards. Six guards, poached from a defense contracting firm, took shifts watching the security footage and keeping an eye on the house and its contents.
Zatanna had only been in Manfred’s display rooms twice and both times she had to beg, cajole, plead and wear several low cut tops before he agreed. Each time she had been both in awe and slightly bemused. She respected the stout, balding little man. He obviously had a great deal of reverence for and a keen interest in the items he collected so religiously.
Zatanna appreciated that he was making a great contribution to the magical community by keeping these items safe, protected and preserved. She didn’t even mind how difficult it was to get into view and study the items as it indicated how serious Manfred was about security.
Some of the items that he possessed had the potential to be quite dangerous. Two of them could kill in undetectable ways, one could cripple a man, another could change the climate of a particular region.
Zatanna had seen the effects of that item first hand. She was the one who had taken it from its previous owner after he had laid havoc on another magical dimension. Zatanna had taken it with her when she headed back to Earth and after several days of serious contemplation, decided that it should go to Manfred for safe keeping.
The day she had given it to him, he had nodded solemnly, told her he understood what she was asking. Two days later he upped his security and poached the guards from Lockheed Martin. She had felt good about her decision, confident that the item would be safe with Manfred and his impenetrable defense system.
Zatanna had been so confident in Manfred’s systems that when Manfred called her two hours ago to tell her he had been robbed, Zatanna had not believed it.
Now, as she stood in the wreckage of the display cases and broken magical objects, she was dumbfounded. Magical energy was thick in the air, it buzzed along Zatanna’s nerves as it was dispelled from its former vessels. Sparks intermittently erupted from severed and frayed electrical wires and cameras were ripped from their wall mounts.
Manfred stood in the middle of the ruins of his life’s work, his tear stained face solemn. There was worry to the set of his shoulders and grief in his eyes. Zatanna laid a comforting hand on his shoulder and asked the question she had been dreading to ask the minute she walked into the first of the rooms.
“What was taken?” she asked, keeping her voice as soft and calm as she could.
Manfred swallowed visibly before answering in a choked voice.
“Item 157 and item 862.”
Zatanna felt herself go cold and sweat broke out across her upper lip.
“Are you sure they’re the only ones that are missing?” she asked tightly.
Manfred looked up at her with bleak eyes.
“Isn’t that enough?” he asked bitterly and Zatanna couldn’t think of an answer to that.
“Do you know what happened, exactly?” she asked and Manfred closed his eyes hopelessly.
“It looks like there were two of them. They over powered the guards and just… magically muscled their way into the rooms. One of them took off in a car and the other just vanished.”
Zatanna nodded and said a quick a spell to see what other spells had been used in the area in the past few hours. She came up with some stunning spells, one to get past the locks, two locator spells and the spell that ruined all four of the rooms.
“There were two thieves using two different types of magic. This is probably the first time they worked together as they haven’t learned to blend their magic. I think they only ruined the rooms to buy themselves some time while we figured out what they took,” Zatanna explained to Manfred. She saw him swallow hard when she explained the reason behind the destruction of his treasures. He was a difficult man, but Zatanna couldn’t help but feel deeply sorry for him.
The last spell she found, the only spell she decided it was best not to tell Manfred about, was one that would transport the magic user into another dimension. That spell and the magic behind it felt very familiar to Zatanna. Just like fighting styles, magic styles were very distinct. One magic user could tell the teacher, region and strengths of another magic user just by examining the way they performed their magic.
Zatanna knew who had taken item 862 and she knew where he had taken it. She could feel the magical signatures of the man and the item combined in the last spell. Zatanna and the thief had tangled several times before in several different dimensions. It was long past time that she put him out of business once and for all.
Besides, item 862 was not something she wanted that man to have the use of anywhere.
Unfortunately, item 157 was still at large and on Earth and Zatanna could not be in two places at once. It needed to be found. While it wasn’t nearly as dangerous as item 862, it was still dangerous enough that Zatanna did not want it out in the open public for any more time than it had to be. It needed to be found and it needed to be found now.
She closed her eyes and composed her self before flicking open her cell phone and walking out of the room.
Wednesday September 23, 2010 9:53 pm
New York City, New York
“World’s Greatest Twenty-something Magician, how may I help you?” Zatara said into the mouth piece of his phone. He was examining the room service menu of the hotel in which he was staying and hadn’t bothered to look at the caller ID on his phone before answering.
“Zachary, it’s Zatanna,” came the response from the other end of the line and Zatara dropped the menu and sat up. Zatanna’s voice was tight with worry and she sounded more than a little breathless.
“What is it?” he asked and pursed his lips, wondering where Zatanna was and what she was involved in. She was clearly on Earth, she wouldn’t be calling his cell if she wasn’t. While it was possible to enchant cell phones to contact people in different dimensions, it was difficult and expended a great deal of energy. There were easier ways to get in touch with magicians.
“I have something I need you to do. It’s very important,” she told him firmly and Zatara nodded even though she couldn’t see him.
“Name it,” he said and he could hear Zatanna taking a deep breath on the other end of the line.
“I have to go away for a little while. There’s something I need to take care of in another realm. I need you to find something for me, though,” Zatanna said and Zatara furrowed his brows.
“What’s missing?” he asked and stretched out across his bed to grab his notebook and a pen.
“A friend of mine was robbed a few hours ago. The thief took an artifact with some serious magical properties. I need you to track it down and bring it back to him for me,” she explained.
“What does the artifact do?” Zatara asked, jotting down the relevant details.
Zatanna took a deep breath and answered him somewhat absently. It was clear her mind was elsewhere now that she had gotten him to agree to find the artifact.
“It’s call the Jewel of Sakar. It’s basically an energy source. It absorbs and stores magical energy. I don’t know what the thief wants it for because it can be applied to almost anything. The energy could probably be converted to charge your iPod. So I don’t know who the guy is or what he wants the Jewel for. I’m sorry it’s not much to go on,” Zatanna said regretfully.
“Not a problem, Zee. Did you get a reading on his spells?” Zatara asked, scribbling furiously on his notebook.
Zatanna sighed softly and paused to think before answering.
“It’s a man, probably from Eastern Europe. I can’t tell you his teacher but his style is unpracticed and unrefined. He’s less about skill or technique and more about raw power,” she told him.
“Ok, is there anything else I need to know?” Zatara asked, hoping she would tell him where she was going and why.
Zatanna had a bad habit of taking off and not telling anyone where she would and what she planned on getting up to. He wished she wouldn’t go off alone. If she had a partner, at least, then there would be someone to watch her back. However, she stalwartly refused to take Zatara with her whenever she left this realm. She told him he wasn’t quite ready yet and needed to work more on his technique and reacting under pressure before she would subject him to the unknown quantities in other dimensions. This did not reassure Zatara. The more and more time Zatara spent in the magical thick of things, the more he worried about her.
“Just to be careful. We don’t know what this guy is about, so be cautious and don’t just jump into things. Oh and be sure you don’t lose your temper. You get sloppy when you get angry,” she warned him and before he could protest, she had hung up on him.
Zatara spent several long moments staring at his phone with annoyance before he sighed and flicked it shut again. Zatara could never understand why everyone thought he had a temper. He didn’t. He wasn’t even impatient.
He just didn’t suffer fools gladly. That wasn’t a personality flaw it was an asset.
He snorted in frustration and glanced out the window of his hotel room. His view of the New York City skyline was obstructed by several large buildings but Zatara didn’t care. He wasn’t here for the view.
Had this been any other time Zatara would be on the phone with Robin right now. He would ask him if he could use the Bat-computer to do a little research on the artifact Zatanna wanted him to track down. He might even cajole Robin into joining him on his little quest.
Just the two of them. Together. Hunting down the bad guys and saving the world.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t any other time. This was now and now his Robin wasn’t Robin, the Bat-computer was more than off limits and no one even knew where his Robin was let alone whether he would be up to some bad guy hunting.
Zatara sighed; he tossed his notebook onto the lamp stand and rolled over, flopping onto the bed and closing his eyes. He felt the beginnings of a headache coming on and he willed the slight ache at his temples to go away.
Zatara had been staying in this hotel for almost four months. He had told his publicist that he wanted to do an extended tour in New York City because it was a Mecca for showmen. Just as people went to Gotham City for the architecture, they went to New York City for the arts.
His publicist had seen the logic in Zatara’s request and set him up for two shows a week over the course of six months. Zatara’s show received good reviews and while he rarely sold out, there were few empty seats in the audience. He was popular with families and jaded business men alike.
Zatara liked New York. The streets were full, the museums were interesting, the food was good, disposable income was plentiful and, most importantly, everyone minded their own business. He hadn’t been lying when he told his publicist it would be a great place for an extended tour.
He also hadn’t been completely honest about his motivations.
Gotham City was less than an hour from New York City. Zatara could make it in half that late at night if he didn’t worry too much about speed limits.
Zatara’s tour in New York started a few weeks after the craziness in Gotham began. He would head over to Gotham almost every night to help out where he could. He worked mostly with Robin, with Tim, and avoided Batman as much as he could.
It was hard, exhausting work. Some nights Zatara worried that he wouldn’t have enough energy to put on his show the next day but he continued to go to Gotham as often as he was needed. More sometimes.
He spent a great deal of time trying hard not to think about why.
Zatara knew, deep down, it was because he was fond of Tim. Tim was his friend, one of the few people who he could tolerate and, in kind, tolerated him. They had known each other for years, both in and out of uniform. It was almost impossible not to what with the close relationship between Bruce and Zatanna.
They two of them had formed a tentative friendship that grew as both of them matured. Tim was his friend and when a friend needed help, Zatara helped.
Zatara was glad he did. Tim had not been in good shape. He wasn’t sleeping enough or eating enough. Stress and worry were clearly written all across his features from the furrows in his brow to the tight knots in his shoulder muscles. The tension between him and the new Batman was almost palpable. Zatara had been worried more than once that he would choke on all the anger that hung in the air between them.
It scared him.
Zatara told himself, however, that as things in Gotham improved, so would Tim’s mental state.
He had been wrong.
The better things got in Gotham, the worse Tim seemed to get. It seemed like, with each crook they threw back in prison, the anger between Robin and Batman grew ten fold.
When Batman finally told Zatara and the other heroes that the Bats could handle Gotham on their own again, Zatara couldn’t decide whether to be relieved or terrified. He had gone that night, to find Robin.
He had slipped quietly into Gotham City that night, trying hard to avoid Batman. Zatara made the rounds, going to each of Robin’s favorite resting spots, in hopes that he would find him.
Instead he found something else entirely.
The new Batman had found himself a new Robin and Zatara left, confused and worried.
When he got home that night he used his communicator to hail Robin but the person who answered on the other line wasn’t Robin.
Or at least not the Robin Zatara wanted.
“Yeah?” the voice asked. It was young and impatient.
“Is Robin there?” Zatara asked, trying to keep the worry out of his voice and stay polite. His mother had taught him manners after all.
“This is Robin,” the young voice snapped and Zatara silently counted to ten.
“May I speak to the other Robin, please?” he inquired evenly as his face heated with temper.
“I’m the only Robin,” the voice spat back.
“Then may I speak to the old Robin?” Zatara asked through gritted teeth.
“He’s gone,” the new Robin told him and all of Zatara’s annoyance vanished as his stomach dropped out.
“Gone where?” he asked and he knew his voice was more than a little breathless.
The kid on the other end of the line was wearing enough body armor that Zatara could hear him shrug on the other end of the communicator.
“He’s just gone,” the kid said and hung up.
That had been almost six months ago and no one had heard from Robin since. At least not Tim-Robin.
He stayed in New York in the vain hope that Tim might show up again but that hadn’t happened.
Zatara had tried contacting his Robin in every way he knew how. He tried all of Robin’s phone numbers, all his email addresses, then he tried Tim’s and everything else Zatara could think of.
Zatara had even tried talking to the Titans and had come up with nothing. Not even Miss Martian seemed to know where he was and she could read minds.
Tim had vanished and it was clear to Zatara that he didn’t want to be found.
Zatara sighed and rubbed at his eyelids with a knuckle. He had a week and a half left before his run in New York City was up. Zatara decided he would spend the next few days digging up information on the artifact and the man who took it. He would be glad to get out of this hotel. Maybe he would spend some time traveling.
It was way past time he moved on, anyway. There was nothing left for him here.
Thursday January 3, 2011 3:26 pm
There were more than six hundred different shades of red paint for detailing motor vehicles. Apparently shade forty two, the shade of Tim’s Ducati, was banned from Portugal because he could not find it anywhere. Tim had been to what felt like a hundred different auto shops all over Portugal, and had no luck. He figured he would have a better chance of finding it in the capital city but so far he had come up with nothing and his Ducati was left with a huge scrap all along its left side.
It was giving Tim fits.
Tim’s poor Ducati had been through a lot in the past few months. He had been riding it all through Europe checking Bruce’s old haunts and contacts. He had visited a martial arts instructor in Poland, an explosives expert in Ireland, an engineer in Austria and dozens of others along the way and none of them had heard anything about either Batman or Bruce Wayne.
Tim would have been disheartened if he didn’t know Bruce as well as he did.
There were three reasons why, if Bruce were alive, he wouldn’t come back to them: he couldn’t, he wouldn’t or he shouldn’t.
If he couldn’t come back then he was probably having some memory problems. Maybe he had amnesia like Connor. If so, Bruce would gravitate towards places that were familiar to him subconsciously. That would make Tim’s job much easier. All he would have to do was keep tabs on Bruce’s usual haunts. Unfortunately, that strategy had not turned up much information.
Another possibility was that one of Bruce’s enemies had him confined somewhere. In which case, they would need guards, food, tools and weapons to keep Bruce alive and imprisoned. Finding out if that was the case was as simple as putting out feelers in the criminal community. Tim went undercover in a few cities, pretending he was low level muscle looking for an easy guard job. So far, that had not worked either.
Tim had temporarily, and reluctantly, ruled out the ‘couldn’t’ aspect and moved onto the ‘shouldn’t’ and the ‘wouldn’t’. Those two options were much more troublesome.
Mostly because, if Bruce did not want to be found, finding him would be almost impossible.
Bruce knew how to disappear. He had studied and practiced the art for years. He knew how to travel, how to live, how subsist without his name or any thing that would cause him to hit someone’s radar.
Tim knew this first hand because he was using a few Oracle’s programs to keep an eye out almost everywhere. So far nothing tripped his protocols.
Bruce was too good at this.
Bruce Wayne had disappeared when Bruce was training across Europe and Asia when Bruce had been Tim’s age. Bruce had only become another tragic story the tabloids milked during a slow news day. No one, not even Alfred, had any inkling that Bruce was still alive.
Then, when Bruce had returned to Gotham, Batman had disappeared. Batman became nothing but urban ledged and stories whispered in hushed tones by junkies and gang bangers during the safety of the daylight hours.
Bruce had experience making himself disappear.
However, Tim had experience finding him.
It had been Tim who had discovered who Bruce Wayne and Batman really were. Tim could pull off at ten what dozens of villains and government agencies combined couldn’t pull off with ten years concerted effort. He was confident that, even if Bruce didn’t want to be found, Tim would find him anyway.
Besides, now that Tim was living under the radar, he was better learning the tricks of the trade. He had stashes of equipment and new papers in dozens of cities across Europe and a few in Asia. He traveled light, only used cash and never stayed in a place more than a few weeks. He made no friends, gave different names to the different contacts he made and was certain that the cops never even caught sight of him.
He changed his crime fighting modus operandi so even the members of the super hero community couldn’t find him. He still checked his old phones, communicators and emails, but he never responded and he was always sure to use several proxies from several different countries when he did.
While he still took time to call Cassie and Babs and would occasionally meet up with Beryl, Tim kept almost entirely to himself.
Just like Bruce must be doing.
It takes a thief to catch a thief, after all.
Tim sighed and looked apologetically down at his at his bike.
“Sorry sweetheart, maybe we’ll have better luck tomorrow,” he whispered to the Ducati before gathering up the tools he borrowed from the man living next door.
He was halfway through packing them up again when his phone chirruped. Tim didn’t recognize the number but it was his ‘work’ phone so that didn’t surprise him.
“It’s Pane. This line’s secure?” the curt voice cut across Tim’s attempt at a greeting.
“Yes,” Tim answered, he checked his satellite phone for bugs and taps every night. He never found one, but he kept checking just to be sure.
“Then I have a question for you,” Pane continued, sounding nervous and a little annoyed.
“Go ahead,” Tim told him and waited patiently, fiddling with a ratchet. Pane was one of the martial arts instructors Tim had questioned. He hadn’t taught Bruce himself but his teacher’s teacher and that was still considered a pretty close connection. The martial arts world was a very small place. Everyone knew every one else and they all gossiped more than soccer moms.
“I need to know something about another member of your little community,” Pane told him, his voice sounding slightly distasteful.
Pane didn’t hate capes like so many other people, in fact he respected them. If he hadn’t had such a great dislike for meta-humans, he would probably be suited up and saving the world right out there with Tim.
“Which one?” Tim probed and reached for a wrench after he dropped the ratchet into the tool box.
“He’s a magic user. Zatara, I think the name was or something like that. It had a ‘Z’. He called a friend of mine who deals in antiques. I told my friend not to give the man any information until I heard about him from you,” Pane told Tim and he sounded a little worried.
“What did your friend tell Zatara?” Tim asked, pausing with the wrench in his hand.
“He just put him off a little. He didn’t lie, exactly. Just stalled him,” Pane explained hesitantly.
“What did Zatara want?” Tim was interested now. Zatara was usually pretty good at finding things without resorting to random contacts who didn’t even know if he was on the up and up. Zatara was a bright guy and quick witted. This failing around for information didn’t seem like him at all.
That worried Tim.
“He’s looking for an artifact that may be in my friend’s possession. Only, I figure, if this Zatara guy’s looking for it, it might be dangerous. So we were both hesitant to confirm that my friend might know where it is,” Pane explained and Tim nodded.
“Good idea,” Tim conceded. “Zatara’s a good guy. Tell him you’ll only give him the info if he comes to see your friend in person. Where are you, by the way?”
“France, in Toulouse,” Pane told him and Tim nodded.
“Meet with Zat. If he’s this desperate to find the thing it’s probably better that your friend doesn’t have it anymore. Make sure no one else knows about it and quash any rumors you can,” Tim instructed and finished packing up the tools.
“Can you be there? If I call you tomorrow and tell you when the meet is, I mean?” Pane asked tentatively.
“If you’d like. Why?” Tim asked.
“Just in case something goes wrong. I’d like an insider and some back up,” Pane explained and hung up when Tim promised he would get there as soon as he could.
Tim flicked his phone closed and paused for a few long moments. He ‘hmmed’ softly to himself as he considered the implications of the call.
Pane was worried, that was clear. He suspected that there might be something more to the artifact his friend was holding on to. He was worried enough to work with someone with meta-human powers. This was also worrying.
The artifact was probably dangerous and probably magical. Pane hadn’t told Tim what it did and from the sounds of it, Pane didn’t know. This made things even more complicated as they would probably require an expert to identify the artifact and tell them how to properly handle or dispose of it.
That brought Tim back to Zatara. He hadn’t seen Zatara for a little over a year, not since he helped them get a handle on Gotham after Bruce vanished. Zatara had tried to get in touch with him. He had even gone so far as to ask Cassie how he was and Zatara loathed Cassie more than just about anyone.
Tim had felt bad about not getting back in touch with Zatara but he really hadn’t felt up to it. He didn’t want to see anyone these days and while he knew that Zatara would probably understand his need for space, he didn’t really feel like having to explain it.
He suspected that Zatara was not going to be in the best of moods when Tim showed up in France. He was clearly desperate to find the artifact and probably pissed at Tim for disappearing.
Even still, it would be nice to see Zatara again. Tim hated to admit it and tried hard not to think about it but he was feeling lonely. Tim had always been something of a loner but he had rarely even been alone.
Between Bruce and the Titans and his friends at school, there was always someone around to distract Tim or try to cheer him up. He had reveled in the loneliness at first. It felt liberating and peaceful.
Now, more than a year into his little sojourn, it was starting to wear on him.
He was calling Cassie and Beryl more and more often and spending longer periods of time in one place. Tim was almost certain that the only thing that was keeping him moving along in this quest was his surety that Bruce was still alive and out there somewhere.
Tim sighed heavily and stood, picking up the box of tools. He had borrowed them from the man who was renting him the room. He was a nice old man who thought Tim was taking a year off of school to travel around Europe. He beamed at Tim whenever Tim came down the rickety stairs that lead to his room and asked the man if he could borrow his tools.
It was clear the man was lonely too, and Tim felt slightly bad that he would have to leave this house and the old man early tomorrow morning.
Tim sighed and rolled his still scratched Ducati into the garage and tucked the tool box under one arm. He had a long drive ahead of him and he needed to collect some supplies before he left tomorrow.
Who knew, maybe he would even find his paint somewhere in France. It did border Italy after all.
Part 2: Zat's not even remotely charming, but Tim saves him anyway.