Gnashe
Roleplaying Log: Gnashe
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Tim finds Zatanna deep in her father's library, researching her recent mysterious headaches.

Other Characters Referenced: Batman, Giovanni Zatara, the Titans generally
IC Date: November 08, 2019
IC Location: Shadowcrest, Gotham City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 24 Nov 2019 02:18
Rating & Warnings: PG-13
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

As the adopted son of Gotham's favorite billionaire-bachelor, there are occasions where Timothy Drake needs to make an appearance in the Wayne Manor now and then, to catch up on his family and whatever else Bruce might have on his agenda. Zatanna is hardly ever privy to what happens in the shadows in Gotham, so whenever these occurrences come up, she isn't all that far away - just down the road, where Shadowcrest Manor's physical manifestation resides.

When Tim arrives in his crimson supercar, at such point whenever he is released from his obligations to the Waynes, Shadowcrest's physical will greets him in the form of a familiar turbanned butler, who bows to him and takes his coat before informing him that the lady of the house is in the library - a space where either of them could get lost for days, truth be told. Crossing that threshold puts him in the sights of Abelard and Chauncey, the stuffed dodo and the mounted griffon's head, as well as the shambling Hassan the Mummy, who addresses Tim with friendly hieroglyphics, given the young man's efforts in actually learning some for the sole purpose of being able to communicate with him - he may be centuries dead, but he appreciates it all the same.

He wouldn't find his girlfriend anywhere on the main floor, but where she's gone is evident enough, but it's certainly not anything he's seen before, or was familiar with in all of his visits in this chamber full of forbidden knowledge. The floor in front of Giovanni Zatara's massive desk, occupying the center of the cavernous, circular room, has been folded up and out, the carved, rose detailing on the hardwood floors unfurled in full bloom. There is a flight of stairs, carved out of pristine white marble, leading into the mysterious belly of it.

The Princess of Prestidigitation has mentioned this to him, once or twice. She called it the sub-rosa, and with its location and configuration, the secret room and vault is aptly named.

There's light somewhere there, easily glimpsed. That's probably where she is.

In a lot of ways, Wayne Manor was still 'home' for Tim.

He'd only spent a few years living there as his primary residence, sure, but a lot of important moments in his life had happened there. Or in the caves underneath, in many cases. So of course, he goes back there from time to time, whether for business or for family. Family, in this case, has a pretty high chance of including making sure Alfred doesn't have any reason to get passive-aggressive about him not visiting.

It was a place he'd never really be able to shake his connection to, just as Zatanna would never be able to shake hers to the home of her father.

The vigilante had never really gotten over the fact of the place's existence, or perhaps more relevantly the fact that he'd never even noticed it, even though it was (usually) in the very neighbourhood he grew up in. It was just one of those magic things, though of course it had inspired him to try and get Zatanna and the other two witches to put a similar sort of protection on the Titans' hideout, just a little nudge to redirect people's attention away from the mall. But, that was him all over, wasn't it? Even when out of his depth, he was always trying to find ways to make use of the things he learned.

Shadowcrest itself might veer towards the spooky - as if Wayne Manor didn't - but there was a kind of comforting familiarity to its strange residents, from the butler who was an incarnation of the house itself to the denizens of the library, all no doubt legacies of the strange career of Giovanni Zatara, or perhaps even his own ancestors.

Despite his best efforts, though, when he tries to reply to Hassan the Mummy in kind, he's still got an accent.

But Zatanna isn't there, not in the obvious vastness of the library. Rather, the way down to the depths of it are opened, the sight of which gives him a subtle prickle of goosebumps; the sensation reminds him of the first time he ever set foot in Arkham, surrounded by the deadly madness that haunted the city. But now, just as then, he doesn't let that stop him, instead starting down those white marble stairs.

"Zee?" he calls down curiously, rather than just stumbling in headlong. Maybe she's doing dangerous magic stuff in there. "What's up in your creepy magic bunker?"

"Tim? Is your weekly pilgrimage to Wayne Manor over? Come on down, nothing's going to explode, I promise."

Once on the stairwell, the young vigilante would discover that it leads straight down at an angle, where the tunnel widens into a marble hallway and into another space rendered accessible only because Zatanna is there. Serious protections wreathe the very stones surrounding him, incongruous perhaps to what most of the world knows of Giovanni Zatara, a stage presence and a showman with his quirky backwards talk - decades of discipline have been poured to construct this vault of secrets.

When he finally reaches the heart of the sub rosa, it is nothing antiseptic; there may be certain expectations that everything would be in glass cases, items within protected by locks within locks. But the arrangement of the collection within is much more free, innocuous looking objets d'art are on white, mounted shelves, ridiculously powerful weapons and artifacts set with mementos of Giovanni's past; photographs taken on his wedding day, a lovingly rendered charcoal portrait of his wife, another picture, much older, taken decades ago and with faces familiar to John - Sargon the Sorceror and Tannarak, and another man he would not recognize. There are more pictures here of Zatanna as well as the Waynes. And another - a woman with dusky skin and dark hair, dressed in a high-necked gown. A deck of worn tarot cards wrapped in midnight-blue velvet has been placed under her picture.

Giovanni's phonograph, familiar to Tim if not just by its mention and what he knows led to Zatanna's discovery of her father's hidden side, rests next to an old, but obviously well-loved sitting chair, coated with dust, a distressing sign of the lack of use for a man who had a passionate love for music, once upon a time. Right next to it is a pedestal wrought out of white stone and what looks to be a stalagmite - close inspection would lead one to the discovery that it emits a strange hum, but otherwise appears to be ordinary rock embedded with bits of green and white crystals. Behind it is a large photograph of a picturesque city surrounded from all sides with snow - Nanda Parbat, its location known only to a very chosen few, rumored to be a place of great power and healing, buried somewhere in the more mystical parts of Asia.

And there are books.

Compared to what lies outside of this vault, the collection is modest in comparison - a selection of seven thick volumes covered in nondescript black leather. These are situated in a case and chained with an additional layer of protection. And underneath?

Thus far, the space has reflected no sign that there was any personal connection between Giovanni Zatara and John Constantine. But within the case, on the shelf underneath this precious collection of seven is a heavy box carved out of blue-black stone, and an envelope placed flap-down on top of it. He would recognize Giovanni's writing, scrawled in bold letters on top: FOR JOHN

The first of the three who stand to inherit blessings and burdens from the vanished magician.

Zatanna, herself, is situated on the floor surrounded by old books, in languages that he wouldn't have a prayer in understanding, if not just because they're not in any way languages spoken by humans. Ice-blue eyes are on the parchment, pale fingers tipped with black lacquer roaming over antiquated writing, but whenever he makes his presence visible, she's smiling at him already, standing up from the ground and dusting off her clothes; Fall has come to Gotham, she's dressed in a long black skirt, boots, and a tanktop underneath a long-sleeved black shirt wrought from lace. Purple ribbons have been threaded through the cuffs and up.

"Just catching up on some magical extra credit," she explains, lips and their purple lipstick curving into an open smile, arms already opening for him. "How're Bruce and Alfred?"

The reassurance that nothing's going to explode is nice, but it does leave all sorts of other things that might go wrong on the table.

Yet caution, as it so often does, only barely tempers Tim Drake's curiousity. It's that insatiable drive to know things that brought him to where he is in life, for good or for ill, and it continues to define him as it almost certainly will for the rest of his days. He has to wonder: What might the secret lair of a powerful sorceror, nested inside his already secret home that itself contains all sorts of potentially dangerous magical secrets, be like? Is it full of terrible relics that would rend apart the mind of any foolish mortal who got too close? Is it full of books, containing knowledge too dangerous to be left in the regular library?

And the truth is: Sort of. But it also has all the earmarks of being a private space where the man could isolate himself with his work. Could surround himself with reminders of the past, of the good he's done and the things he's lost. Really, it's…

"It's her dad's Batcave," Tim says quietly to himself. Maybe it's not a perfect comparison, but it's close enough. Close enough to make him wonder which inspired which.

He tries to not invade anybody's privacy too much (though that ship has long since sailed) but he does mostly keep his hands to himself as he notes the pictures and relics and the obvious signs of lack of use, the way he might a crime scene. And the something left behind for another of those whose life has been marked by their association with Giovanni Zatara, one of the three direct inheritors of the man's knowledge, doesn't escape his notice, either.

Maybe the presence of that, as much as the constant reminders of her father's absence, contributes to the witch not spending a lot of time down in the Sub Rosa.

When he finds her, she's unmistakably doing research - even if he can't understand the things she's researching, the simple fact of it is obvious, especially to him - but his presence pulls her from it. It makes him feel vaguely guilty that she gets to her feet to greet him, when she was obviously engrossed in her work. But the time when he could've resisted that smile has long since passed, and he slips into the invitation of her opened arms, pulling her closer with his arms around her waist.

"They're good," he tells her, resting his forehead against her own. "Alfred asked me to remind you that you're allowed to come visit too, and then Bruce grunted."

The space is full of the two categories of ghosts that follow Giovanni Zatara everywhere he goes - secrets and memories. Sindella Zatara's emerald stare looks out at Tim as he passes by her portrait, beautiful and wrought by hand. The artist's signature would be apparent on the corner, just by the frame: G.Z. in a flourishing, masculine script.

Love, too, can be a ghost and if he inspects it more closely, threads of it would be apparent with how the older magician had rendered his wife on canvas - breathed life and color back into her with his own two hands. Unlike everything else in this room, this is the only thing in this secret space that is untouched by magic; just a man's devotion to the only woman he had ever married, and had given him the thing he holds dearest in all of creation.

Whatever guilt Tim experiences is one Zatanna doesn't seem to latch onto; she may be empathetic but she's not a mind-reader after all, and as he reaches for her, her arms settle around his shoulders, no resistance apparent when he draws her in. There's a smile, brilliant and white past the seam of a dewy, expressive mouth, and before she says anything further, she luxuriates in the warm press of his forehead against hers, and then the feel of his mouth against her own the moment she closes the scant distance enough to kiss him.

She doesn't address the rest, at least not yet. Lips part underneath the pressure of his; the sudden temptation to leave studying behind and stumble their way to her bedroom is so overwhelming, if he somehow sensed it, she wouldn't blame him in the least, to while away the strain of the day and the mental stress of the last few hours in points and places where words - backwards or otherwise - cease to matter. It lasts for moments that simultaneously feel like an eternity and not long enough, before she disengages and looks up at him with hooded ice-blue eyes, her expression both dreamy and pained. As if he had taken a knife and slid it between her ribs.

"We can always drop by for breakfast tomorrow before we head back to New York," she suggests in a low murmur, implicative of a night spent in Gotham, though that does pave the way for other possibilities in turn. Her ebullient grin is suddenly out and teasing: "If I can keep you here and away from whatever police scanners you've got hidden in your clothes or watch anyway."

It was only a vague thing, a tiny little pang, whose life was momentary at best.

How could it survive, after all, when she smiles at him like that? When she's so clearly happy to see him, even though he's interrupted her 'magical extra credit'? So many things in their lives would never be called uncomplicated, and certainly that would include their relationship in a lot of ways - they were themselves both complicated people - but this ways something simple. Affection, and closeness, and the warm weight of another person pressed against you.

And the kiss. Kisses could create all sorts of complications in the long run, but in the moment they were anything but. Especially when it was her, filling his senses with the soft pressure of her lips, the taste of her mouth, and the gentle scent of her.

But she'd also feel the corners of his mouth turn up a little bit, even in the midst of that kiss. Because he's no more of a mind-reader than she is - probably less, actually, since Zatanna could surely manage it if she tried - but he does get a certain sense of where her thoughts turn.

"Abelard and Chauncey might start gossiping about us," Tim notes, teasing in his own peculiar way. "Can't imagine they've got a lot else to talk about. Breakfast does sound like a plan though, I'm pretty sure you can figure out some way to keep me here instead of haring off."

He pauses.

"And the police scanner is in the Nest, or the Redbird," he informs her, a bit awkwardly. "My watch just has a relay to the computer system, so I can check whenever."

So she was still right, just in a more roundabout way.

"So what were you up to down here? Consulting forbidden tomes?"

"Good," Zatanna tells him, her grin unwavering. "Not like they have a lot to do cooped up here all day, maintaining the collection. Maybe some gossip would do its work and keep them out of trouble." She might be projecting a little, among all of them, she's the one who tends to fall into the breach whenever she's bored.

There's a laugh, and another kiss, before she slowly releases him to take a few steps away, already missing the warmth of him the moment she does it, but it can't be helped. She takes a knee, to gather up the tomes on the floor and straightening once she has them. Skirts billow out at a pivot to head for the shelves, to return the volumes to their proper places; they occupy a long length of hard and sturdy oak, resting on top of Giovanni's antique file cabinet.

"I'd say something about having plenty of harnesses and handcuffs to keep you here until morning, but I'm relatively sure you've got your diploma from the Batman School of Escapology already." As in, Giovanni Zatara's own academy in the art, given who actually taught the Batman to do so. But she does wink at him over the curve of a slender shoulder, fitting the last book in place. Fingers brush lovingly over the spines.

Explanation behind the police scanner draws dark, elegant brows up her hairline, the look of her amused - but ultimately, unsurprised. She knows him well, before they even decided on succumb to the tension that had haunted them for over a year. "Well, I'll do my best to make you forget about the relay, then," she says with a teasing wiggle of those same brows at him, before taking several steps back over to him, the clink of black chains and amethysts heralding every movement from the rose choker she wears around her neck - a familiar, well-loved thing and a gift of his from the last Christmas.

"And yeah, you can say that. Consulting - almost literally, for one." She eyes the book that's bound by a lock on the shelf. "That one almost chewed my arm off when I started flipping through it, I had to beat it into submission before it would tell me anything useful." She draws up her sleeve to show him, spots of dark blood bleeding through the bandage she had applied, stark and lurid on skin as pale as hers. "Who knew my attempts at self-diagnosis would come to this." A hint of an apologetic smile plays on her lips. "They'd be fine if they were just regular headaches, but these happen to be one that tend to move things while I'm asleep."

He would know, having been woken up by them once or twice - a quiet rattling on his bedside table where alarm clocks and water would shift, or the occasional spots of blood from her nose when she wakes. Rare enough that it could be blamed on seasonal changes at the time.

Normally, Tim would move to help Zatanna without even a second thought, but down here he has every reason to be more careful, for all that his fingers might itch to give her a hand, or see one of those books. Or maybe both.

Instead, though, he watches her gather up the tomes to put them away, once she's slipped away from him. Which leaves him in a perfect position to get winked at over her shoulder when she teases him about his own talents in escapology, Giovanni Zatara's techniques passed down through Bruce Wayne, and about her no doubt impressive collection of restraints (for her magic show (presumably)).

"Well, you know the real secret to keeping somebody restrained is psychological, Zee. Make them think they can't get away, or give them reason not to, and you've already won." Because he also got his diploma from the Batman School of mind games.

He watches her approach, a faint smile playing over his lips as she does, and as she teases him some more about keeping him distracted from any hi-tech surveillance of whatever mayhem might be going on in Gotham tonight. She gets closer, and she admits…

There's a sharp, short intake of breath from Tim, who she well knows puts his body on the line with a near total disregard for his own wellbeing on a distressingly regular basis; she's seen his scars, some of them nearly a decade old, won in the alleys of Gotham and elsewhere. But when she draws up her sleeve to show where the book attacked her, he gives her a look of mild reproach before gently reaching for her arm, to keep her from covering the bandage back up again. He's checking, of course, to see how good of a job she did with it, and whether she needs further attention there. Already, he's planning to redo the dressing, seeing how she's already bled through it.

"But they're not regular headaches," he says, because he hopes regular headaches wouldn't make her do any of those things. "Maybe you should go see a doctor, Zee. Or a wizard doctor. Self-diagnosis in magic books is probably like… The arcane version of checking WebMD." He jokes, lightly, but it's the kind of joke that does a poor job of covering real concern.

"Or in your case, emotional." The imp in her is visible on her pale features, the devil's own light lighting up ice-blue eyes. "I can just widen my eyes, put on a slinky red dress, and pose on a bed holding the original Star Wars Trilogy in my hands. See if you'd want to leave me for the evening then, Timothy Jackson Drake."

All teasing fades, however, at the sound from the vigilante, his concern visible first at the wounds on her arm, and what she says about her headaches. She lets him examine her wounds - she could always heal them, that is hardly the most challenging magic she has ever performed in her entire life. But considering the state of her head and the fact that she tries not to abuse it if she can help it, there's a certain reluctance to push her condition in a way that might make things worse. The way he frowns at it, though, earns him a warm press of soft lips against his cheek.

"It's not that bad," she tells him - the wounds are probably minor, but deep enough to still bleed, typical of bites. "The first aid kit is upstairs, we can go get it and fix it, if it'll make you feel better." Her fingers drop to tangle with his, and if he allows, she leads the way - further up the marble stairs and into the heart of the house. Their physical shifts at the wake of them, whenever they exit the sub rosa - the rose detail starts folding back in the moment a Zatara leaves its confines; she, herself, is the key to her father's heart of hearts…literally as well as figuratively.

"And no, not regular headaches," she finally confesses, seeming awkward about it, but admitting it anyway because it had been part of their agreement. There'll always be secrets, but there is a marked effort to minimize them, certainly not the information that would make him feel that she's cutting him out of her life. If nothing else, she is a woman of her word. "I've been thinking about it, but considering the current state of affairs, I'm reluctant to hand myself over to anyone or anything who'll need to take a blood sample. So wizard doctor it is, I think. Hopefully it's nothing."

It isn't long until they find the first aid kit, moving up the stairs and into her large bedroom, the four poster mattress dominating the center of it, and its luxurious threadcount pristine and well made. She lets go of his hand then, to vanish in her en suite bathroom and appear with it, handed over to him with both hands. Between the two of them, when it comes to mundane wounds, he is the expert - he is, after all, the genius.

Searching his face, she flashes him a smile that she hopes is reassuring. "I'm sure it's an easy fix," she tells him, sinking onto the edge of her bed. "Try not to worry too much, okay? Tell me about your day?"

A slinky red dress and the original Star Wars Trilogy, she says.

“That seems like mixed signals,” Tim replies. “How am I going to pay attention to the movies if you’re dressed like that, Zee?” If there’s an innocence there, it’s purposely feigned; there’s no way he’d miss the point that badly.

Especially considering he follows it up with: “Plus, wouldn’t it be more fitting with the movies if you were in the gold slave bikini?”

Look, he’s just saying.

Sadly, there are more serious concerns to distract them, in the now. That Zatanna hasn’t healed herself could mean all sorts of things, though it could simply be attributed to the relative difficulty of healing magics, especially when worked on oneself. Tim knows intimately how much of a pain it is to do your own stitches, and he can’t dismiss the possibility that magic is much the same. But it also could mean worse things, especially if the witch is concerned enough about her condition to go delving into her father’s most secret library for answers.

But his concern over her injury gets him a soft kiss on the cheek, enough to blunt his razor-edged worry just a little. It might not be a terrible injury, but bites have a way of getting infected, and that’s when they aren’t inflicted by an ornery magical tome. If there’s anything Tim’s learned about arcane things over the handful of years he’s known Zatanna, it’s that they’re seldom antiseptic.

He lets himself be mollified by her assurances, lets himself be led away, out of the strangeness of the Sub Rosa and through the honestly only slightly less strange interior of the library, of Shadowcrest itself. It was a fascinating place, even if it sometimes made him wonder if they’d somehow inspired the Addams Family; it was above all else though her place, as though it were a part of her or she of it, a perspective he held because he’d never set foot in the halls of Shadowcrest before forming his connection with her. That association, then, of the house with the witch herself, gave Tim a kind of fondness for it.

“Hopefully it’s nothing,” he agrees with Zatanna, because he definitely doesn’t want her to have anything wrong with her. But he was never the type to just ignore a potential problem and hope it turned out fine on its own, was he?

Her boudoir was probably bigger than most of the apartments in Gotham, but fortunately Tim was long since inured to oversized living spaces. There were no doubt all manner of reasons why Zatanna usually stayed with him, at his townhouse near the university or his Manhattan penthouse - though when they were at the Mall, it was almost always her room there that he retreated to, his own being spartan to the point of emptiness - but the simple effect of it was that he’d set foot in this room few enough times to count on one hand. But it, too, had a definite her-ness, and that’s without even seeing the pocket dimension in her closet.

An easy fix, she suggests, but Tim isn’t so sure; there are rarely any easy fixes in his experience. But maybe he’s just worrying too much. Maybe he should try not to, like she asks. Not that trying necessarily means he’ll succeed.

“I’ll try,” he says, because like her there was an effort to break out of old patterns, to be more open. To try to be better than, perhaps, he had in the past. And that means trusting like this, too. Right up until he has a good reason not to.

But what about his day?

“Well,” Tim answers, while carefully unwrapping Zatanna’s self-applied bandage so he can inspect the actual injury, which proves to be not as bad as he’d feared. “We had lunch in the cave, because Bruce was in the middle of something when I got there. Then he decided to test my Baguazhang, which I guess I’ve been neglecting a little…” Because of course Bruce ‘I trained in every martial art’ Wayne would want to make sure his proteges also kept up on every individual style.

Gently, he rubs some disinfectant into Zatanna’s wounds, before applying gauze, and then carefully wrapping it with a cloth bandage. It’s only once he’s done that Tim eases his grip on her arm, drawing rough fingertips over the inside of her wrist as he brings her hand to his mouth, a light kiss on each darkly-lacquered fingertip.

“Then I came here, and found out my girlfriend got her ass kicked by a book,” the vigilante says quietly, with a faint grin.

With the bandages unwrapped, he would be able to glimpse the damage easily; there is already black and purple mottling around the bites themselves, forming a semi-circular array of puncture wounds that tear at pale, almost alabaster skin. They're still bleeding by the time Tim administers his more mundane care upon the injury, handling her with such gentleness that she can't help but feel like made from blown glass. But her expression is laden with profound affection, watching him silently while his dark-haired head bends to the task of treating and binding the wounds - they hardly seem to actually hurt her, in the end, her attention largely captured by how carefully he handles her forearm until the work is done.

"So the more things change," Zatanna banters, lightly, regarding Bruce. "At least he's still actively teaching you and ensuring that you're kept sharp instead of passing the baton off to Dick to train you." Brows furrow faintly, head tipping sideways in a slight incline towards him. "What's Baguazhang?" She majored in languages when the two of them were studying in Gotham University, so it probably isn't surprising that her pronunciation is on point when she attempts to repeat the word, curiosity glinting in the depths of those ice-blue eyes. He has been good at passing on his knowledge as far as that goes, but in spite of the clear effort to ensure that she's prepared to handle any situation even if her use of magic is somehow crippled, she has long accepted the fact that she would never be able to come close to his level in hand-to-hand combat.

Not that she needs to be an expert; that's one of the perks of running with a crew. One doesn't have to go at it alone.

Her hand lifted, that affectionate look softens further, gaze fixed in his dark-blue one when he deposits those warm tokens on her fingernails. "For your information, there was hardly an asskicking," she huffs, amusement playing over the line of her mouth in spite of her tone. "I established dominance over the damn thing….eventually. It took some convincing but it realized who I was afterwards and I was able to read a little bit of it, for all the good that did." She sighs. "I suppose I'm going to have to reach out to the community, see if they can recommend anyone to look into these headaches."

She falls silent for a spell, watching his face, before she leans forward to press her lips warmly against his forehead. "Stop," she murmurs, no matter how futile it actually is to prevent him from being apprehensive. "It'll be fine, Tim, I've survived worse things than a few bad headaches." If anything, he had been present for the very worst one - when she had most of her soul torn out of her, and she had spent two weeks slowly fading away. Not that she could blame him for worrying, and keep worrying - that particular incident had been a very close one, impressing upon the both of them how finite human lives really are, no matter how powerful or how skilled.

Still, she attempts to soften the blow of those worries. Her hand in his squeezes his fingers gently.

"I'm glad you're able to catch up with Bruce," she continues. "What about the rest of the family? Dick? Barbara?" One might expect a brief flicker there, given the latter's involvement with John Constantine - there might have been, a few months ago, but there is no trace of that now. Her eyes are riveted on his handsome profile, instead, watching the play of light and shadow upon his features; he'd find his twin reflections within her eyes with their close proximity, accentuating the fact that within the inner landscapes of her, he is taking up all the places he should…and all the places that matter.

What's Baguazhang?

"It's a Chinese martial art, one of the Wudang styles. Lots of Taoist philosophy underpinning the whole style - Bagua refers to the eight trigrams that represent the fundamental principles of reality, they're the same symbols that make up the I Ching." He talks while he works, it's easy enough to focus on the two things at once, explaining even while he cleans and dresses Zatanna's injury. "A lot of it has to do with circle walking, mixing strikes and grappling, and avoiding attacks. It's… Um, they call it an 'internal' style. A lot of focus on the mental and spiritual aspects of the art. Some qi gong stuff."

Which is as close to mysticism as Tim and the other acolytes of the Bat ever get, generally. Those practical, internal applications of focus and energy to help themselves heal, to help them push themselves more than they should. Plus you never know when it'll come in handy to temporarily still your own heartbeat.

"Probably wouldn't help you much against a book, though," he teases, for all her insistence that it was 'hardly an asskicking,' and she just had to assert her dominance over the tome, which seems like a lot of trouble. Hopefully not something she'd have to do on the regular. Especially in a situation where the book's contents proved less than helpful.

Of course, she's right when she tells him she's survived worse than some headaches. He's seen some of the awful things she's survived, particularly that terrible, traumatic loss she suffered at the hands of Hydra. But even when she tells him to stop worrying, she soothes away any sharpness that might lurk in the curt instruction with a soft press of her purple-painted lips against his forehead, with a squeeze of his fingers with her own.

"I know. You're tough, Zee. But sometimes it's hard for me to really accept there's things I can't solve." Whether with his mind or with a judicious application of violence. Or, more commonly, both.

But what about the rest of the family?

"Oh… Well, Dick's around, I've seen him in the cave. And Barb does her own thing a lot, you know. She was never one to just hang around and hope somebody remembered Batgirl…" He is, in truth, kind of surprised to hear Zatanna ask about Barbara so easily, without any pang of jealousy or regret, but instead…

How long had he wanted that? How long had he wanted the witch to look at him exactly the way she was now?

"Hey," he says to her, quietly. "If we do Thanksgiving at the Manor… D'you wanna come with me?"

She listens intently when Tim informs her of a thing that she knows next to nothing about, perpetually hungry not just for knowledge, but these bits and pieces of his life. There are miraculous feats out there, after all, that a regular humans could reach if disciplined enough - to the point that they're almost like magic. "Does it help?" she wonders, after his litany. "All that internal improvement?" Mischief dances over her expression here. "If I knew some, who knows, maybe I would have been able to assert my dominance against the book faster."

Zatanna slowly lowers her hand, though it remains entwined with his. "I know," she replies, her low contralto a touch rueful there. "You're Bruce's successor, as far as his title as the world's greatest detective is concerned. Mysteries are meant to be solved, problems are meant to be fixed. Whatever this new thing is, I'm sure it's something that we can deal with together, especially when it seems so minor compared to everything else. It'll be fine, for all I know it's some easy fix or some other currently unknown thing my father would have explained away already in a hot minute. I'll call around tomorrow, and see if we can get it fixed ASAP. Okay?"

There's a hint of a grin; she's unapologetic there, too, remembering her former crush on Dick Grayson, what she often considers a perfectly understandable affliction considering the man's looks and charm. "I'm glad you're keeping a bead on him, too, just in case we have to fish him out of trouble. You know how he is when he doesn't have anything to do, and he's still Titans alumn." There's a nod regarding Barbara, also, but otherwise she says little about her. She does pull a faint face, however, considering rumors about her and the Punisher.

It's his last and quietly posed question that coaxes her to search his eyes again. "Are you still worrying?" There's a hint of a tease to it - this time about the prospect of spending the holidays alone, with her father so conspicuously absent. "Or is this a boyfriend move?"

She leans in to rest her forehead against his, her impish smile lingering on her purple mouth. "I'd love to come," she tells him, softly and simply. "It'd be fun, and I haven't spent any time with Bruce or Alfred in a while. It would be great to interact with them outside of the entire capes and tights thing."

Though Tim and the others who follow in the Batman's footsteps might say they're just normal people, it's clear from things like that - those absurd feats they've trained themselves to be able to do - that they might not be superhuman, or even on the level of the various so-called super soldiers out there, but they're hardly normal. How many people out there could really do what they do, even if they were inclined to put in the work?

And maybe that was more evidence that Zatanna was right, when she'd talked about fate before. What were the odds that Batman would find one other person able to keep up with him like that, let alone enough to make up that makeshift family who wear the bat?

"It helps, though I kinda doubt it's that different from things you already do," he replies, meeting her mischief with a look of jokingly affected suspicion. "Still, if you want to learn, I'm sure we can make you more than a match for any book out there."

He only says that because he doesn't know what some books were like. But if he did, would that really discourage him?

He'd fight a book, you don't even know.

"Dunno if I'd go that far," Tim does say, when she refers to him as Bruce's successor in detective work. He might not idolise the Dark Knight quite the way he did before time and tide injected reality into his hero worship, but he has to acknowledge the gap he sees there, and suspects might always be there. "But yeah, together. We're a team, right?" Even leaving aside the superhero team they were on; that was really what it boiled down to, the efforts they were both making towards the other. To make sure their relationship was a partnership, a team.

Which meant, for the moment, that he'd just have to rely on Zatanna's ability to find things out among her own community. It's not like he expected her to slack on it… She was the one having the headaches, after all.

"Oh, you know me, I keep track of everybody," is the response about keeping a bead on Dick Grayson. Besides, was anybody going to complain if he put emergency trackers in their costumes? Not if they never found out!

But he asks her about Thanksgiving at the manor, assuming it happens - holiday-themed crime is almost a guarantee in Gotham - with a certain tentativeness. Not because he's worrying about her health, specifically, but because he knows things might still be a bit awkward, there.

A 'boyfriend move', she calls it.

His eyes slide shut, when she rests her forehead against his, a faint chuff of laughter escaping him.

"Unless you'd rather do Titansgiving," he suggests, even though she talked about interacting with people outside of a cape context. "Should probably do both, though. Maybe a team potluck the weekend after? We can convince Kory to buy a cake or something instead of cooking herself this time…"

“No, thanks,” Zatanna tells him, though the straightforwardness of her words are inevitably softened by the laugh that spills from her. “You’re bad enough training me with the easy stuff, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it is to internally regulate your body’s natural processes to take real and solid advantage of the art. I’m not a teenager anymore, Tim, I’m getting old.” This said with no real seriousness - she had only turned 21 recently, after all; she’s hardly geriatric.

His affirmation - that they were a team, and not just in the business sense - softens her expression palpably, fingers squeezing his fingers. She says little else, but her smile at the moment is more eloquent than a thousand words ever could be. It’s clear on her features that she’s grateful for it, the recognition that being in a relationship entails that in some instances, they have to operate as a unit.

“You’ve grown wise beyond your years, Timothy Jackson Drake,” she tells him with a faint grin, clearly referencing his youth; around the time she had met him, he was much more solitary than he is now. There was always something about him that struck her as lonely - and one of the many reasons why she befriended him in the first place, that desire to reach out to another person, and assuage that isolation, if only a little.

His forehead is a warm, welcome weight against her own, and she eases her fingers away from him so she could wrap her arms loosely over his shoulders. With the way he closes his eyes, her smile is more felt than seen.

“I’d go to both.” She never refuses a chance to socialize, hungry for fun and contact from those she considers her friends. “Thanksgiving in Wayne Manor, and Titansgiving the weekend after. I mean, it’s not so bad, I think, to have two celebrations. If anything, Bart would probably love it. He gets to have two Thanksgivings.” And the young man could eat, and there’s always a lot of food left over once the girls start cooking.

“Though, yeah, we should definitely convince Kory to buy a cake instead of making it herself, this year. I still remember the insect jelly-thing that she brought for the New Year’s Eve bash.”

I'm getting old.

"You just think that because you spent all your time with old people before I forced you to make more friends your own age," Tim says in dry reply to this joking example of Zatanna's still-lingering oldpersonitis. "I half expected to see you guys playing Bridge one of those days… Or maybe slipping off to find the most happening bingo hall you could, before getting back in at eight at night…"

Not that his idea of exciting nightlife really maps to most people their age's either.

But he's still more likely to get back in at eight in the morning.

"Besides, I thought you liked being trained by me."

And yet, not so long after jokingly claiming that she's getting old, Zatanna just as facetiously says that he's gotten wise beyond his years. Some people would say that's been true for a long time, though that was largely out of necessity as much as anything else. There's not a lot of room for foolishness when you do the sorts of things he does.

But even that teasing is just laid over the more genuine, wordless response that it follows, the way her expression softened, the way she squeezed his hand. Sometimes, you get a very clear indication that you said the right thing: This was one of those times.

Though it's nice to have his wisdom acknowledged, too.

Certainly he hadn't been the only lonely one, when she'd first befriended him. His had become the first contact information in her phone after her arrival in Gotham, grievous losses still heavy in her heart. But it wasn't her way to isolate herself, the way Tim might. It was her way, even at a time like that, to reach out to another person.

Resting close against her like that is easy now, far easier than he might ever have imagined a year ago. Not that the witch was parsimonious with affection, even when they'd been in more dangerous interpersonal territory, but now… Now he didn't hesitate, the way he might've. Instead, when her arms drape loosely over his shoulders like that, he pushes away the first aid kit with one hand and then draws her crosswise onto his lap there on the edge of her bed, his arm curling around her slender waist while his other drapes across her legs.

I'd go to both.

"Works for me," he says. "Worse comes to worst we can just get her to bring… I dunno, napkins? Paper plates, cutlery…" It's a fair bit nobody around the Mall really likes to do the cleaning up, especially with a big group meal like that. How do you even clean alien worm goo out of dishes? "Maybe I should delegate, make that your project," Tim adds, grinning a little. "Can you handle Kory wrangling?"

“Yes. That’s what you are. My savior from premature Alzheimer’s,” she teases delicately. “And I do like getting trained by you, but I’m not going to lie, love - it hurts. You have no idea how many times I’ve had to stop myself from screaming, or burning through an entire gallon of Rocky Road every time. I’m hanging by a thread here.” Ice-blue eyes widen in an exaggerated fashion, making her look much younger and more innocent. “You’ll show me some mercy, won’t you?”

Even with the things he doesn’t say, Tim Drake demonstrates just how closely he has been paying attention to her in the last two years. It is his function to anticipate, in a sense, but there is part of her that knows without a doubt that when it comes to her, it’s all the more prominent. There’s a smile, however faint, and shadowed by the darkness he casts over her face when he leans forward this way.

Zatanna moves willingly, when he tugs her into his lap, resting crosswise over his thighs. The band of her arms doesn’t loosen - they do the opposite, instead, her fingers slipping into the dark strands of his hair, letting them tangle at her ministrations. Her mouth finds his, soft kisses imbued with heat, reflective of passions however subsumed by the tenderness of the moment - but it’s always there. It never really goes away, no matter how quiet she feels like being, or how exhausted she actually is.

“I can handle Kory wrangling,” she murmurs instead. “But only if you promise to handle wrangling me. Starting now. Right now.”

She tugs on her collar playfully there, lips taking on a more wicked bent.

She teases him, though it would be weirder if she didn't. She offers up a plea for mercy, though given the way she looks when she's doing it, it's difficult to tell how sincere Zatanna is being.

Which is par for the course when you're dating a young woman who cut her teeth on illusion and misdirection.

"Nah," Tim answers her, playfully.

"But if you're really that worn out, maybe we should've taken a proper vacation," he suggests. He does, after all, know the importance of proper rest and recuperation, even if he might act like he doesn't sometimes. "Could be whatever's causing your headaches is stress-related, some time to unwind might do you some good…"

He pulls her in closer, until she's sitting crosswise on his lap; it only encourages her to tighten her grip on him, her pale, elegant fingers tangling into his hair, the dark shine of her manicure somehow managing to be a shade darker than those black locks. Soft kisses, gentle, but hardly chaste; Tim re-familiarises himself with the taste of her mouth, as though it had been an age since they were last this close, instead of them falling asleep tangled together more often than not.

In between those kisses, she speaks softly to him, so quietly. She'll do what he suggests, but in return she wants a promise from him. A very immediate one.

"I promise," Tim answers immediately, drawn in by the way she tugs at her choker, by the twist to her purple-lipped smile. He bites lightly into the latter, white teeth sinking into the plushness of her bottom lip, tugging it a bit before he lets go.

Thank goodness she's got such a big bed.

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