2019-10-27 - Magic and Boys and Girls


Helena gets some girl and magic advice from Zatanna.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Sun Oct 27 21:30:37 2019
Location: Wayne Manor

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Theme Song



The call to hang out with Helena was unexpected after weeks of little to no contact, but welcome. Adulthood (or in Helena's case, impending adulthood) has taken away a lot of the time the two used to be able to spend together, and the whole hero thing doesn't help. Zatanna sometimes worries the job will turn her into a hermit. She resolves to learn some time spells.

Doesn't matter. She pulls up to the manor and steps out in her royal blue buttondown, her just above the knee patent leather skirt, her gold hoop earrings, her magenta and lavender and blue bracelet, and her high-heeled boots she seems incapable of not wearing on every occasion. She passes her keys off to the valet, who accepts them with the solemn dignity of a funeral director (has there ever been a valet who had any fun?) and drives her car off to where stray cars go. A car pound, or something. Zatanna lets herself in with a glance up at the security camera over the door just to make sure her face is on tape, then waits for the staff to announce Mistress Helena's visitor.

Alfred is there at the door, as is his custom, though for Zatanna his smile is a little more warm than formal. "Mistress Zatarra," he greets, ready to take a coat or purse. "So good to see you again. And using the front door." Portal spells are his bane.

Helena comes skipping down the stairs in short order, not nearly so polished as Zatanna in joggers, a tank top, and a hoodie, but as glad as ever to see the older woman. "Zee!" she exclaims, stepping in to claim a hug if not stopped. "Thanks for coming."

Zatanna has turned down hugs before, but Helena isn't a middle-aged English chainsmoker, so she ain't the one. Zatanna embraces the taller woman with an easy smile and kisses the corner of her mouth like she thinks she's European. "Sure," she agrees, and, because she's a jerk, ruffles the back of Helena's hair a little before letting go to look her over carefully, hands still on the younger woman's upper arms as if to prevent her from bolting from the examination. "You're looking good," she proclaims. What she means is she doesn't see any new scars from Helena's job, but she politely hides that under a layer of warm approval. "So how have you been, Helena? Talk to me, it's been ages.

Helena's in good shape. If anything, the last month or so has seen her in even better shape than usual, thanks to SHIELD's academy training. And so far, clear of any new scars. At least in anywhere inspectable. "I'm good," she grins. "Busy. The whole academy thing is…a lot of work, but it's mostly stuff that's not too new. And it's interesting seeing it from another point of view. Plus there are classmates I can help, and there's keeping up with other things and…Well, you know. Busy. Thanks, Alfred," she adds quickly, leading Zatanna to the den. "What about you? Been on another tour?"

Zatanna doesn't like being led places, so she gets her revenge (muhahaha) by stepping up to Helena and sliding an arm around her waist, keeping time with her as they walk not upstairs to Helena's bedroom, or westward to the kitchen, but to… the den? Hm, interesting. It implies things about the discussions to come. "Oh, you know the magic lifestyle," she banters lightly, keeping it vague as Helena's own commentary, presumably for anyone who might be eavesdropping. "Rehearsals to perform, tricks to design, alien dimensions to escape without having my sanity corroded by the touch of the Great Old Ones. The usual. So what's like like being out of the house?"

"Weird," Helena admits. "I mean. Kind of cool. But also weird. Mostly it's the sharing space that's weird," she muses, dropping down on one of the overstuffed couches. "Even with all of the adopted kids around here, there's always been personal space. I mean. That's one thing you can say for Dad. He respects the value of personal space." Possibly more than is entirely healthy, but hey, bright side. "So that's taking some getting used to."

Zatanna laughs a little and releases Helena to join her on the couch. "I bet. I never knew how you stand having so much space around here. How are your, uh…" She waves a hand vaguely as if trying to conjure a word from the air. "…classmates, I guess?"

"Interesting." Helena sits cross-legged on the couch, leaning forward with an easy smile. "The mix is the interesting part, really. You've got the smart kids, of course. They're fascinating. Then you've got the kids who are basically the jocks, destined for field work. A few legacies, which, you know, I sort of get, but they kind of tend to be jerks. Think they know everything. Though earlier today I met a field recruit. Seems to be another spider-powered person."

Zatanna, who has been in the business long enough to not find powers inherently interesting, misses the hint to ask about the spider-powered person. She just nods along and seems more interested in terminology, which, given her line of work, might be predictable. "What's a field recruit? Like, what's the difference between a field recruit and you?"

"Someone an agent brought in from a field encounter," Helena clarifies. "This one ran into Captain Marvel and Natasha in the field, and they brought him in. Which is good, because for all his powers, he sucks at actually fighting," she chuckles, shaking her head ruefully. "I mean, he'll be great eventually, but right now the only time he really got something done was when it was reflexive self-defense. I'm a cadet. Just a plain, normal, put in an application and passed the entrance exams cadet." I.e. nobody knows.

Zatanna props her elbow against the back of the couch and rests her temple on her knuckles, neck lengthened and exposed, hair tumbling away from it down her back as she faces Helena straight on, smiling. That kind of thing seems to be second nature to her. "So how's your social life outside of work?"

"What's a social life?" Helena deadpans it for a moment, then breaks into a grin, shaking her head. "I'm kidding, but only kind of. You know me, the only people I know outside of the life are…Well. Peter." The grin softens a bit, fond. "But he's busy too. We get to see each other once a week or so, but…yeah." She pauses, lips pursing. "He has a lot of female friends, you know? Like. Smart. Pretty. Brave. Just generally cool female friends."

Zatanna runs a hand through her hair, tossing it pertly. "Well so do you," she reminds Helena with a grin and a raised eyebrow.

Helena laughs. "Yeah. Fair. Thanks." Apparently that's all it takes to set that little nervous voice in the back of her mind at ease. "Still, I wish I had a little more time to spend with him. He's pretty…Like, he is the nicest guy, and he's a genius, and he just, like…toothachingly good. Sometimes I just feel guilty spending time with him, like he deserves something better. Anyhow." She shakes her head, waving a hand. "Sorry, I'm babbling. What about you? Find yourself a European prince or something?"

Zatanna chuckles. "These days I'd be more interested in a princess than a prince, honestly. I just sometimes feel like my whole life is failing the Bechdel test, you know?" Her glance flickers up and down Helena, and her smile turns coy, before she continues more earnestly, "But no, really. I'm not really worried about relationships right now. The most interesting people I'm meeting are women, but they're not super into me. And sometimes I can't blame them. I mean, I look super straight" She tactfully doesn't call attention to her bracelet. "and I've got the celebrity thing going on so it probably comes off like I'm trying to do the rock star thing, you know? Sex and drugs and all that."

Helena's brows rise slightly, then she looks sheepish. "Wow, sorry. Totally put my whole leg in the heteronormative assumptions bucket there, didn't I?" She rubs a hand at the back of her neck, trying to come up with something reassuring. "Hey, for what it's worth, people in general are crazy if they don't think you're interesting. I mean, you're literally the coolest person I know and my dad is Batman, so. I feel like that's saying something."

Zatanna grins at Helena and squeezes the younger woman's knee. "Thanks, Helena, but try to keep your wild attraction to me under control while you have a boyfriend." Only the twinkle in her eyes shows she's teasing, but she rolls right on back into earnestness without a pause. "But seriously, don't worry about upsetting me. If you do it, I'll let you know. Turn you into a frog or something, I dunno, I hadn't planned out a proper curse yet."

"I dunno, Zee, these raging hormones are a lot to handle." Granted, Helena is the least raging hormones teenager just about ever. Short of Damian, maybe. Clearly it's Wayne genes. "Frog sounds a little harsh though. Maybe just a cat? At least then I could stick around here and no one would notice," she grins, just as one of the resident felines hops up into her lap as if on cue, earning itself some chin scritches. "Anyhow, boyfriend or girlfriend, you should at least still have, you know. Friends. It's pretty bad when Dad's got more close people hanging around than you do, you know."

Zatanna takes her hand off Helena's knee and sighs, eyes downcast. "It's just… I mean, you know the lifestyle, Helena. When you're rich and famous, you can only be friends with people you're sure don't want anything from you. It kinda restricts your social circles. I try to make friends with my crew, but I'll always be their boss, so that's kinda limited. I try to make friends with rich people, but that craps out because the cape stuff gets in the way. So that leaves a pretty small pond to fish in."

Does that metaphor make sense? Zatanna's never fished. It sounds good on a surface level, though, so she drops it.

"Believe me, I get it," Helena shakes her head, rueful. "Honestly, it's part of why I went into SHIELD. I mean, not to widen the dating pool, I'm good on that front, but Peter's a pretty once in a lifetime find. More because, well…" She gestures broadly to the other woman. "Everything you just said. At least SHIELD is a place where even if people know who I am, they're supposed to act like it doesn't matter. As much as they can. It's a place where I can just…be Helena. Which is pretty nice. Maybe…something like the Avengers?"

Zatanna laughs and squeezes Helena's knee again. "I'm not ready to be around Tony Stark yet. Either his Hugh Hefner meets Elon Musk thing is real, in which case he's in trouble, or it's a game, in which care I'm in trouble." She finally takes the hint, though, and asks, "So you've been bringing up Peter a lot. Is there something you wanted to say about him?" Her tone is light and supportive, but she's a good enough magician to know a misdirect when she sees one. Inside, she's on high alert to hear that he's not as wonderful as she keeps gushing about.

"Peter? No. No, Peter's good." Sort of a lie, but Helena doesn't seem to be going down that path anyhow. "He's great. But there was a different thing I was thinking about talking to you about. Do you anything about…animal totems?" she asks, squinting a bit when she says it.

Zatanna nods. "Sure, but that kind of spirit stuff, anything you know might be right one minute and wrong the next. Why, what's up?"

"So, there's this…guy. Hunting spider-people," Helena starts to explain, then pauses, trying to choose her words. "His name is Morlun, and apparently he's some sort of being or something from another universe or something equally weird. But he's hunting down people with totem animals. And apparenty he figures if he takes out Spider-Man, then all the spiders will fall. Or something. Which is news to me, because I was under the impression Spider-Man's stuff came from science and not magic, but that's all way not my area of specialty. But the guy is nutso powerful, Zee."

Zatanna's eyes flicker up as she scans her memory. Does she know the name Morlun? No. Okay, skip that for now. "The thing about magic is, it's irrational. It doesn't make sense the way science does. It makes poetry sense, or dream sense. So if Peter's powers are scientific, they could become magical over time by becoming iconic enough to personify an archetype in people's minds, which might even make the magical nature resonate backward through time to be retroactively true. You know, like in a dream where first you're in the shower, then you're at school naked, and being at school naked means you were never in the shower in the first place."

Yeah. That's Zatanna's world.

"Is any of that helpful for what you're dealing with?"

Helena mulls that over, letting it sink in for a moment, before nodding. "All right, I can see that." It helps when your bedtime fairy tale stories actually had useful rules about fairies and what to do if you had to deal with them. "But the thing is, he's coming after Spider-Man and the rest of the spider people, which is bad. And they are…nice people, and very good at what they do, but in no way equipped to deal with that kind of power. Any thoughts on how to take something like that down a notch?"

"All things that have definite physical shape must abide by the laws of the form they inhabit. Does Morlun change shape that you know of?" Zatanna asks. The flirting is gone now: her back is straight, her eyes are cold, and her already almost impossibly black hair is darkening as if it's not hair at all, but a night sky. Stars are beginning to sparkle in it. Helena is now in the presence of a Mistress of the Mystic Arts.

"Not that I saw," Helena answers, head tilting as she thinks it through. "He had red eyes. Sort of a dracula look going on. Jumped out of a building and landed without a problem. Strong enough to crush someone's head like a melon," she adds, grimacing at the last. "Fast enough that he put the hurt on some spiders, and those guys have a sort of precog thing going on, so…Either he's sidestepping that through mystical means, or he's crazy fast."

"So you've seen him in person? I can ask you about him and you can answer?"

Helena pauses, brow quirking. "I mean, yeah. Briefly." She holds up a finger, pulling her phone out of her pocket. "Hold on, I was wearing the mask, so I should have the footage." It takes a few tricks to tap into the background program that lets her get to the computer downstairs, then she's got footage on her phone, leaning over to share it.

Zatanna leans against Helena's shoulder as she watches (okay, maybe the flirting isn't entirely put away, then), eyes cold, lips turned down in a frown. She taps the phone to pause the video when the pink woman hammers Morlun through the street, and muses, "This is interesting. If he was a purely mystical being, his invulnerability would leave him disconnected from the world. He wouldn't be driven through the street like this because he'd choose not to interact with it in that way. That means his reality is at least partially objective. To some degree, he's real. That would make wards and banishments difficult to pull off, but not impossible. It also means he has a real body with real needs. He probably needs things like food and air, but maybe not the kinds we understand as food and air."

"Do you think maybe…" Helena considers for a moment, working through things step by step. "What if it's a fuel sort of thing?" she rephrases. "Like he's siphoning power from these totem animals he's going after. Powering himself up. So what if there was a way to drain the tanks, so to speak?"

Zatanna frowns in thought. "Yes, but draining life energy like that is necromancy, and you only learn necromancy by studying death. You should be afraid of someone who can do that, because you don't know how they practiced to get that power or what they'd do with the energy they drain." Zatanna snaps her mouth shut suddenly. She's explaining the rules, and explaining the rules is always bad in magic: it instills doubt in a power that only runs on confidence.

"Ignore the mystical angle," she commands. No more explanations; just certainty delivered as an imperative. "Focus on physical limits. Morlun can be driven through the ground, so that means his legs are vulnerable. Two-legged creatures never have any balance. Try attacking his breath. It looks like he can tear off webbing, so be brutal. Fill his nasal passages and throat with webbing where he can't use his strength to dig it out. Take away his senses with light and sound. I'll study it from my end and see what I can do."

"No need to worry there, I'm definitely afraid of him," Helena grimaces. "I just…if I leave the spiders to handle it on their own, they'll get themselves killed trying to save each other. They're…" Emotional. "Irrational like that." And lord knows, it's a trait the bats train out of themselves. She nods at the advice though. "The flashbang worked, to a degree. That was something. But we got lucky surprising him."

Zatanna frowns a little at Helena. "Are you going to do the 'we have a code, we don't kill' thing? Because whatever Morlun is, it isn't alive. It only looks alive because of all the life it's consumed. It's an avatar of death."

"We don't kill…people," Helena says slowly, giving Zatanna a significant look, though she lowers her voice. It's not something they talk about in this house. "I'm pretty sure this guy doesn't technically count as a people. Although maybe, if he were cut off from his power source, he'd power down into a people? But I'm not going to let him kill people if I can stop it."

Zatanna nods once, abruptly. "Good. Do you have any leads on Morlun?"

Helena shakes her head. "After he went into the sewer, we lost him. But he was dead set on getting to them. Spider-Man especially. You can bet he'll show up again."

"Right. I'd better go check my books, then." Zatanna rises from the couch without a word, as if Helena had actually asked her to help. "In the meantime… you know your business, so you know not to take stupid risks, but I'm telling you anyway not to take stupid risks."

"I promise not to take stupid risks," Helena says, standing in turn with a small smile. "Thanks, Zee. I really aprpeciate the help. Weirdly enough, they're about the closest thing I've got to friends. Even if they don't actually know who I am."

Zatanna grimaces. "Ouch, Helena."

"Hey, don't take that personally," Helena laughs, leaning forward for a swift, tight hug. "You're family. Like the way cool aunt I don't have because both of my parents are, you know, incredibly family-challenged. Or the super cool older cousin I can go to when I need to ask stupid questions about how far to go with my prom date. You know. The important stuff you really don't want to talk to your mom about because she'll tell you way more than you want to know."

Zatanna, who never had a mom, hugs Helena back (mission accomplished) and nods along as if she understands any of that stuff about moms. "Good. As long as you don't forget it."

Selena is…an interesting mom, that's for sure. And while Helena's had any number of adopted siblings in her life, sometimes you need a slightly bad influence. "No way. Nobody beats you for coolnees, I'm not giving you up," she promises. "And, you know. Call me if you ever want to hang out and do cool things. I could definitely use some tutoring on being cool," she winks.

"Well, to be cool, first you have to drink and do drugs. I know you don't have a hookup, so I'll give you the number to my guy. Just call him and tell him you want to order one drugs. He'll know what you mean." Zatanna grins, leans in, kisses Helena again. "Okay. I have to take this seriously. I'll stay in touch with you, Helena."

"One drugs, will do," Helena nods somberly before a grin breaks out again. "All right. You be careful too, Zee. I don't want to find out you ended up in deep trouble because I brought it up to you."

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