No Brakes
Roleplaying Log: No Brakes
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

An hour before Councilman Jennings' holiday gala, Zatanna Zatara meets Tim Drake at his penthouse in Manhattan to finish getting ready and talk about the holidays - addressing, for the first time in two years, some unresolved issues involving those who live in Wayne Manor.

Other Characters Referenced: Raven, Nico Minoru, Batman, Alfred Pennyworth, Nightwing, Red Hood, Starfire, John Constantine, Batgirl (Stephanie Brown), The Winter Soldier, Giovanni Zatara, Chas Chandler, Kate Bishop, Robin
IC Date: December 18, 2018
IC Location: Tim Drake's Manhattan Penthouse, New York City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 18 Dec 2018 02:36
Rating & Warnings: PG
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

While Tim's penthouse in Manhattan might not be quite as large or well-appointed as his Gotham townhouse it's still, you know, a penthouse in Manhattan.

It seems like a lifetime or two ago that he'd bought the place so that he'd have a foothold in NYC, a place to better keep himself in Zatanna's life while she was also in the Big Apple; a place that he'd also given her a keycard to, letting her know that she was as welcome there as she was in his place back in Gotham, one of a very few people he trusted so much. Who knows how many times she's visited since.

It's much the same as it ever was, open concept with a towering, cavernous ceiling; not so much two floors as one and a half, with the upper level a kind of mezzanine that formed a ceiling for the kitchen (all black and chrome, of course) and the dining room (similarly appointed). A half bath on the lower level with a full master bathroom on the upper, which was otherwise 'open air', the bedroom and the small office having no walls except for the half-height railings. Every inch of it screamed wealthy bachelor pad, down to the large living room with its sunken couch level, its fireplace and frankly ridiculously large television… The large balcony outside (actually created by the penthouse having a smaller footprint than the rest of the building) giving enough space to have a party in warmer months, with a small pool and an outdoor hot tub.

With the party impending, though, Tim was preoccupied with getting ready. He had showered, and shaved; pulled a crisp white shirt and black tuxedo pants on over slim-profile body armor, at least enough to protect the vitals. At the moment, he was in the master bathroom, trying to figure out exactly what to do with his hair. Not slicked back again, he'd just done that the other day. Maybe if he…?

Well, he's been at it for a while.

She is at the very least a polite visitor whenever she visits one of Tim's boltholes.

Zatanna texts ahead before she uses teleportation and whenever she stops by physically, she uses the keys he gives her. It is less out of protocol and more out of consideration for their friendship and the trust that they've managed to build up over the last two years - a trust that had come with certain costs and compromises well before they became as close as they are now. He'd hear the doorbell, note the relatively silent alarms that warn him that someone has breached his private space in Manhattan - and if that wasn't enough, he'd hear her clearly through the walls.

"Tim? I'm here! Not fully ready yet, though…."

The two of them had decided to meet in his place, situated within driving distance to the venue - she had been out and about investigating something mysterious and magical on her own, and she had popped back to Titans HQ quickly to get ready herself, though her efforts have yet to be fully completed. She was already running somewhat late, business had eaten up more of her time than she realized, and she only had time to make sure her makeup was in place and her dress was on before she was moving again. She had to bring the rest of her accessories in the clutch purse that she had brought.

Hanging up her coat, he'd easily hear her footfalls, the clicking of thin heels as she moves into his townhouse. "I guess you haven't had time to get this place ready for the holidays, huh? Not like you get a lot of visitors, do you mind if I decorate a little? Nothing like what I did back in headquarters, though." She asks permission still, too, to use some of her talents to at least give the impression that someone has turned this into a home - even if it's really only Tim and his few friends who would appreciate it.

Should he grant it while he gets ready, she cracks her knuckles and gets to work.

It's nothing too ridiculous - just a small wreath and a few festive candles on his mantlepiece, a few Christmas lights out in the balcony and a pine tree in his living room, with a box of spare decorations set down near her. She's busy draping silver-and-gold tinsel over the boughs once he's finished getting ready and the first he would see of her is the pale expanse of her back, left bare by an elegant black dress that follows the slender curves of her before pooling into the floor like liquid, midnight ink. Stars occasionally swirl on the black fabric, caught by the light - are those real stars? Probably, knowing the wearer. He'd find her hair swept up too, in an arrangement that looks artfully careless, with stray curls brushing her nape and held in place by pins rendered invisible by the darkness of her hair.

Do you mind if I…?

"What?" he calls back, though he doesn't actually wait for a clarification before adding: "Yeah, sure, okay."

He might not actually be sure what he just agreed to.

With Zatanna actually having arrived, he's running out of time for indecisive dithering: Only a few minutes later, and Tim is coming down the stairs from that upper level, with his hair only partially styled back, having ultimately settled on some kind of compromise between slicking it and letting it hang naturally. He avoids putting it up at all in civilian garb, of course. No point in drawing any unnecessary comparisons between himself and any costumed vigilantes.

The rest of his tuxedo is as black as the shirt is white, with a low vest rather than a cummerbund covering any unsightly bunching and the suspenders holding up the expertly tailored pants. At the moment, the jacket is slung over the back of a chair in the dining room, and his bowtie is left untied, hanging around his collar.

Though if he were giving much thought to finishing his own sartorial arrangements, those thoughts vacate the premises when he sees her. For a moment, his eyes widen as he watches the witch putting tinsel on the tree she's conjured from nowhere. She was as pale as the shirt he was wearing, her dress as dark as his suit if not darker, turning them into a curiously matched pair. There's a subtle movement of his eyes as he commits the sight of her to memory, every little detail as she works, her enjoyment of the season coming through as clearly as anything… But then, she was usually one to wear her emotions openly, especially joy.

"Nice dress," he tells her, which is just the simple truth - not many dresses glitter with actual stars - as he picks up a small package from the table and continues into the living room, continues towards her, drawn unerringly. "I thought you said you weren't fully ready, though," Tim adds, proving that he did catch some of what she said when she came in. "You already look like you're gonna be responsible for a heart attack and a few couples' arguments tonight."

There was a time when she wouldn't be able to conjure anything. As a teenager, she was skilled enough to transfigure objects - to take something that already exists and turn it into something else. These days? After the destruction of her father's seal and these small attempts to get to learn the infinite depths of what she had been born with, she was simply using more. It isn't to abuse it, but to become all the more familiar with the things inside of her that she fears the most - tiny, hesitant explorations. The tree itself had been plucked from pure ether, given shape and form by will and power. It glitters with all of the season's trimmings, and will continue to do so after Zatanna is finished decorating.

She pauses in her efforts, however, when she hears him come down the steps, turning around and letting her ice-blue stare fall on him and his tux, affording him a view of her elaborate neckline, comprised of thin straps that frame the bodice and curl into her decolletage to give it additional shape, and provide an additional contrast to her snowy pallor. Smoky eye makeup lights up her eyes and her lips are painted a rich matte purple, and while her dress is more contemporary than her typical style, she manages to find some way to leave some gothic elements to her look. Longer bangs have been pulled sideways, fashioned in a curling drape over one side of her face.

No accessories, however - no earrings, rings or bracelets. Then again, she did mention that she wasn't finished getting ready.

"Wow! Look at you," she says, her appreciation worn as openly as her smile, moving over towards him. Constant contact with someone tends to render physical changes a more subtle thing, but expert tailoring makes Tim's more apparent than it has ever been in the last few months - taller, older, broader on the shoulder, leaving boyish, athletic lankiness behind in favor of a stronger and more solid frame hammered upon the anvil of training and experience. "I don't think I've seen you in a tux since…" The Gotham City Antiquities Commission Gala two years ago.

Her hands reach forward, opting for a manicure reminiscent the color of amethysts, with a hint of shimmer on each nail to match the stars in her dress. Light fingertips curl into the untied bowtie left loose around his collar. "You're in luck, I'm an expert in these things," she says, standing toe-to-toe with him. "I've been tying Daddy's bowties since I was six."

His joke and compliment in one has her eyes lifting towards his, letting out a small laugh. "Me? I'm relatively sure I'm gonna have to remind dozens of young Manhattan socialites that you came with someone the entire event, though promise me if anyone catches your eye, let me know and I'll do my best to be a capable wing-person." She winks at him cheekily at that. "I haven't had time to put on my jewelry so I figured I'd just pop them on before we go."

Day to day, nothing seems to change. Then you look back and realise how different everything is.

"I remember," Tim says, when she vaguely brings up the last time she'd seen him in a tux. "You just about knocked me over with a hug, you were so surprised to see me there." The two years had made their mark on her, too. The girl she had been receding away to make room for the woman she would be. More confident, more sure of herself. And her beauty was only growing greater as it ripened, which honestly he thought was entirely unfair.

Toe to toe she stands with him, reaching up with pale deft fingers each tipped in a glittering amethystine nail to tie his bowtie for him, an act of casual intimacy. How must they look, if someone were able to spy on them now? Surely they'd draw the same sort of assumptions as anyone who'd seen them on their trek home the other night.

With her characteristic playful nature and a cheeky little wink, the witch offers to be his wing-woman in case any of Manhattan's heiresses grab his attention, as though he hadn't come there with a date. He was well aware what women in the more rarified social circles could be like, though in his experience it was more Bruce or Dick that drew their eyes.

"Not sure a lot of them are going to be in my age bracket," he says, trying to keep the banter playful, though of course the opposite idea occurs to him - that there will be eligible bachelors whose eye she might catch. That stirs… Something. Not quite jealousy, but… "Unless they manage to lure that Bishop girl out. Most of the heiresses are going to be at trendier parties. Anyway, I'm not going to get my eye caught, I'm going with you." And to work, but no point in putting that shadow over things right at the moment.

The mention of her jewelry refocuses him, reminds him of the weight in his hand.

"Actually, I got you something," he says. "To wear, I mean. Jewelry."

Smooth, Drake. It's a real mystery why the girls always went for Dick instead.

"I guess most people our age aren't going to be anywhere near a political event," Zatanna muses with a faint smirk, suddenly reminded that they were both going to work and half the reason she agreed to attend was because she wasn't about to have him walk in by himself in a potentially dangerous situation. But she is as expert as she promised, a master at the art of tying bowties. Looping the black sash appropriately, she tightens it gently, before slipping a testing finger in between it and his collar to ensure that it has just the right amount of give, before smoothing it with her thumbs. "There, perfect," she murmurs, smiling up a him, and while her heels are tall, they aren't tall enough to overtake him in terms of height; he remains about two or three inches taller than her.

He seems quite certain as to where his interest will remain throughout the night, and while the fiction remains - she hasn't told him about the true state of affairs between her and John - her smile fills with rue at hearing it, feeling the spark and twinge somewhere within her ribcage. It was flattering, yes, but guilt settles like a pebble somewhere within her; there's no reason to, certainly, but Tim was her best friend and there is no one on earth more aware than she is as to how much she didn't deserve this level of regard. Didn't he deserve to be happy, too?

The declaration that he got her a gift has her blinking once, unmistakable surprise rippling over her pale mien. "…what? Really? Oh, Tim, you didn't have to! It's sweet that you'd think of me…" And it was a Christmas party. "It wasn't too much trouble?"

Their easy friendship has had them exchanging presents over the years, and it's certainly not the last thing he has ever given her that she could wear. For an occasion such as this, though? There's a lift of her brows at him. "Then again, it does kinda fit, doesn't it?" she teases him. "The Wayne bachelor modus operandi? You're gonna have to be careful, though - keep doing things like this and the tabloids might start gossiping about the both of us."

She accepts the gift, her smile lingering. "I don't think you've ever given me anything like this before though," she says, fingers unfurling the ribbon before opening the box. "I brought your gift with me too. I left a small something for you at the Titans tree, but I figured I'd bring yours here so yours wouldn't look so empty…"

"Nope," he agrees about the sort of parties their peers would prefer. "But you know, if it ends up being just boring stuffed shirts all night I'll call that a win. Besides," Tim adds, "I can't imagine being bored going anywhere with you."

Partially, that's because mayhem follows each of them individually like an eager companion, and when you put the two of them together it's bound to be a multiplicative effect.

But also because he likes spending time with her.

Weirdly, he hadn't exactly thought of the present as a Christmas gift, per se. He had, similarly, plotted out something else for her back at the Titans hideout, but well… He guesses this fits, too. Last year it was the starfield crystal ball and her Resting Witch Face t-shirt, and this year…

"Why would it be too much trouble?" he wonders, brow furrowing. Being a Wayne has a way of erasing a lot of those kinds of troubles. Though as she mentions, it does have its downsides.

"Probably, sooner or later," Tim agrees about the gossip rags, resignation in his voice. "I mean you saw the stuff they wrote about Dick and Kory. Bad enough the doorman here keeps grinning after any time you come over the old fashioned way." They would have to be careful, she was right. But still…

The contents of the box are deceptively simple. The choker's broad band was worked in black lace, almost like fine crochet, with a dark purple rose blossom of the same material on one side. Chains dangled from it, fine black metal links, strung from one side to hook under the blossom, hanging a pair of gemstones - purple sapphires, their tint a match for the rose, a near match for Zatanna's lipstick and manicure.

"That's what happens when you have different homes, I guess," he says of the empty tree, though odds are his townhouse isn't decorated either, unless Zatanna decided to ambush him with holiday cheer. But there was the mall, and there was the manor… "Here, let me help you with that."

'That' is of course the choker; assuming Zatanna lets him, he takes the jewelry and moves to step behind her, carefully draping it around the pale column of her throat, not wanting to disturb her hair or any other of the carefully chosen elements of her appearance. But it was just easier, wasn't it, if he helped her put it on? Standing close behind her, close enough that she could feel his breath against the back of her neck, feel the light brushes of his fingertips as he secures the band about her throat.

"It's not too tight, is it…?"

"Because every time we try to do something no matter how innocuous, something explodes?" Zatanna quips, grinning faintly. "I still remember what happened when we were walking home from the campus library that one night." When at least one of them has been trying, desperately, to hide their talents still from one another. "No, though, I know what you mean. Between you and me, it's been tempting now and then to just give up on normalcy altogether. But the few bits of it I've managed to experience over the last two years…it's nice. Like the other night."

Just hanging out with people their age, doing the ridiculous and crazy things that is expected from them. Blowing off steam, staying up in irresponsibly late hours doing something other than beating criminals with their bare hands or banishing demons and ghosts back to the abyss.

But all her banter fades away when she unwraps her present and finds the lace choker inside the box, with its delicate chain and the dark purple rose made out of silk embroidery thread. It isn't made out of gold and there isn't a single diamond in sight, the purple sapphires catching ambient light dangling from the black metal links. It isn't all too expensive, which brings some faint relief in her - it would have been jarring to receive something like that from him, especially jewelry, but the style and the colors are very much her, indicative that the giver was someone who doesn't just know her, but knows her well. A delicate fingertip touches one of the tiny hanging gems.

"Tim, it's beautiful," she murmurs, her expression gentling considerably as she looks up at him. "I'm really…" She pauses, and flashes him a sheepish grin. "Well, surprised, really. I mean, I shouldn't be, you pay attention all the time, it's just…"

I've never received anything like this from you before.

She takes his offered, gentlemanly assistance by turning around, to let him secure the lace band around her throat. It stands out against her pale skin, leaving the chains dangling against her collarbone and leaving her sapphires brushing against it like purple tears. A hand reaches up almost immediately to brush her fingers against them while goosebumps rise visibly from the smooth expanse of her nape. Rough fingers tease dormant nerves as they fiddle with the clasp, every exhale he makes stirring the short curls that remain loosed from her coiffure.

"No," she says quietly. "It's perfect."

The magician shifts, turning around slowly so she could meet his eyes. Her fingers remain touching the sapphires faintly, dangling like stars from the thin chains that suspend them. "What do you think?" she asks, tilting her head further so he could see how it settles over the hollow of her throat, the small purple rose situated sideways.

…it's been tempting now and then to just give up on normalcy altogether.

He knows that, of course. Perhaps similar sentiments have passed the witch's lips before, or perhaps it's just because Tim Drake is a keen observer. Because he's someone who knows what it's like, to divide your time between a normal life and a decidedly abnormal one, and how sometimes it feels like it would be easy - and maybe even better to surrender pretensions of being like everyone else.

God knows he's even flirted with actually doing it, before. Why else would he be in the same year at college as Zatanna, despite being older than her?

His year off was like a rumspringa, but with more assassins.

"It turns out I actually have okay taste when I put my mind to it," Tim jokes, the banter and Zatanna's genuine response about the jewelry distracting him from worrying thoughts for the moment. "I'm just lucky it goes with what you're wearing right now." He isn't actually prescient but it was pretty likely that the witch would hold to her 'wear black or go naked' motto when it came to the ball, and from there it was liable to be either red or purple accents…

Helping her just as she helped him with the bowtie, Tim secures the choker around her milk-pale throat, smoothing it out at the back once he's gotten it fastened, once she assures him that it isn't too tight on her. Slowly, she turns, meeting his eyes with her own, her glittering purple nails touching the glittering purple gems that dangle from the choker's chains, as though she were still marvelling that it was there, even as she lifts her chin, baring her throat to let him see how the ornament settles there, how the rose blossom sits.

What do you think? she asks of him.

I think you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life, he thinks, but doesn't say.

"It suits you," Tim says instead. "Though it'd be hard to find something that doesn't."

"I think you spend time with enough goth chicks to know," Zatanna points out, her grin taking on a more teasing bent. "I mean with me, Raven and Nico hanging around you all the time, plus that incredible memory and deductive prowess and whatnot, I'm sure you can make logical leaps - even when it comes to fashion." Her fingers lift once more to toy with the two violet gemstones hanging from the black chains, rolling them between her thumb and forefinger absently as she converses with him. "And if it was red or any other color, it's an easy fix for me to change my accents. I'm not exactly above cheating."

He confirms that it suits her - ever the dedicated, devoted, biased friend, and the young woman practically beams at him. "Well, I guess I can try wearing orange one day, and shock you with how terrible it looks on me," she says with a laugh, reaching out to gently take his hand within her own and tug him towards the tree. "We have a few minutes yet, so help me finish hanging this up before we go. It doesn't look too bad, right? For a quick job? I mean, if I had enough time, I'd have been able to get your place really ready, but we have a party to go to."

It's women's magic on its own, really, how they can manage to make walking on heels look easy, especially on thin stilts like the one his fellow Titan has on as she pivots over her floor, towing him along with her. There are a few ornaments left, the tinsel already on the tree; a string of lights are coiled up on the floor.

"Are you visiting the Manor at some point over the holidays?" she wonders, picking up a delicate glass ornament with her fingers and handing it to him. "I keep wondering whether I should at least see Alfred. I haven't really talked to Bruce since that grudging encounter on the rooftop a year ago."

There's also a gift, wrapped up with her typical flair, sitting on the bottom of the tree, but Tim remembers the rules - not until Christmas.

"Does that mean I should apply my deductive prowess to more in the future? I mean you've got a birthday in a few months." He knew she was a bit of a vain creature, though it wasn't surprising since she was a performer, after all. It wasn't like she was going to do stage magic in ratty old sweatpants and a shapeless grey tanktop; even her youtube videos had a certain goth girl glam to them.

She beams at him when he delivers a safer version of his opinion of how the choker looks on her, then makes a joke about herself in orange, before dragging him along by the hand towards the tree.

"Wouldn't orange make sense with black, though? You know, Halloween colours…" Though he was aware that Halloween was more of a working season for the witch than a chance to enjoy that most gothic of holidays. "I mean if you really wanted to prove that some things look bad on you, you could always go for like a beige tulle or something. Something really shapeless and grandma dress-y." He wouldn't put it past Zatanna to have used some actual magic to make life in high heels easier, given her propensity towards wicked-looking stilettos. Especially when she was going out.

"You could probably even do lighter colours, that whole pastel goth thing," he muses, though it's kind of distracted. "I, uh, I did research."

Which, yeah, of course he did. He's Tim Drake.

He goes for the lights, since they need to be strung up and history tells him that's the man of the house's job, though he's kind of amazed when he sees they're completely untangled: Zatanna really is magic.

"Of course," he says, when she asks if he'll be at Wayne Manor over the holidays. "I don't think I'd survive the consequences of missing Christmas dinner and Christmas morning. Alfred takes that stuff real seriously." He's distracted from the lights by Zatanna handing him a glass ornament, which he finds a bare patch of the tree to hang from. But of course, there's still those lingering problems with her and Bruce, something that would understandably keep her from wanting to spend too much time there, for all that they were neighbours. For all her family's connections to the Waynes.

"Hey," he says, reaching out to catch her pale hand with his own again, briefly, giving her fingers a light squeeze. "You know you'd be welcome there, and Alfred would be happy to see you. I'd say you should come for Christmas dinner, if you don't have other plans, but I get that you'd be uncomfortable."

"Yeah," Zatanna laughs. "The big twenty-one. You know what that means, the typical traipse to Vegas where the celebrant gets to legally go into all the places and engage in activities that make it fun. Though some of the shine's taken out of it when I can just magic a proper driver's license even if I'm not of proper age." Guaranteed, probably, to make Tim 'Fun Police' Drake frown, but he's been exposed to this for two years, he knows by now that he wouldn't be able to stop her. "You think I should shake it up, maybe? Go some other place instead where there's casinos like…I don't know. Monaco? What about Macau? Or maybe something simpler with the rest of the team like a beach trip, maybe. Out in the Caribbean or the Keys before it gets too summer-hot."

She reaches for an ornament and hangs it up one of the middle branches of the tree, the scent of pine and the outside world clinging to the needles. She leans in and closes her eyes, taking in a deep, savoring breath. "Anyway, veto. No orange or beige, not for me." There's a sideways glance at him, surprised at the pastel-goth idea. "I never thought of that…or that you would bring it up," she says. "Wow, you really did your research, huh? I honestly ought to stop being surprised - of course you would."

She waits for him to put on the lights, leaving it for him to do - it is his job after all, though she's definitely done the difficult part for him. She takes a few steps back so he could do the honors, and light up what they've created together.

Certainly, the young magician would say something more, but he catches her fingers and the gesture draws her attention unerringly back to him again, blinking once. "I don't have any plans for Christmas dinner, really, and…I do miss them. Bruce and Alfred," she confesses, glancing down at their intertwined fingers. "It's strange that I'd come from stopping by on them often and to just suddenly…not. I kept wondering whether I ought to make the first step after all, you know? After all, if I could forgive what Bucky did, I could…should…try to forgive Bruce, right?"

Her eyes lift to meet her friend's darker blues. "I don't want to surprise them, though," she tells him. "If they say it's alright, then…sure. I'll come. Though if that's the case, I'm gonna have to transfer what I brought for you to the Manor."

She's clearly endeared by the suggestion, considering the achingly tender expression on her features as she regards him. "It's sweet that you would extend the invitation in the first place. Thanks, Tim." The words are soft, low, in an effort to blunt the other things shifting under the surface - not just the fact that it would be her first Christmas in a while without John and Chas, though the former wasn't much for celebrating it in the first place, but the end-of-year holidays is when she misses her father the most, and like all things that often relate to Giovanni Zatara, she never really talks about it.

But Tim knows. How could he not? He had been there since the beginning of that entire affair.

And at present, he is giving her the avenue to make amends with that old circle, reconnected there by the new.

"It…means a lot. It does." Her hand squeezes his own in turn.

They never did end up going to Vegas for his own twenty first birthday: There'd just been too many other things going on.

Still, it might be better when the other people around are also legally of age, or at least legally of age as far as anybody can tell.

"Monaco could be fun," Tim says. "I haven't been there in a while. Though, yeah, beach trip… I mean, I do sort of own an island," the detective says offhandedly while stringing the lights from the tree. "It's not big, but it's tropical. Not sure about bringing people who don't know my secret identity, though…" He'd been debating it, since the Titans were forced to go more underground. Should he bring Nico, Raven, Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel into the trust circle, as it were? But of course he couldn't expect Spider-Man to do the same, which would be a whole other set of complications.

"Well, we've got a few months to figure something out."

A few months during which who knows how many terrible disasters will crop up, a few months in which the registration situation will only become more tense, with the March deadline.

He gives her an almost apologetic smile when she expresses a lack of surprise that he did research into goth styles - presumably while trying to figure out just what to get her when he decided to pick out some jewelry.

"Honestly, I like the way you dress. I have since the moment you sauntered into that classroom in that cheongsam and those thigh high boots. But I wouldn't judge you if you wore pink sometimes," he adds, teasing her lightly.

The tree lights up, and he steps back to stand alongside her, the sleeve of his crisp white tuxedo shirt brushing against her bare arm, her skin as pale as the fabric he's wearing. He catches her hand to snag her attention, to provide her a little bit of simple human comfort, turning to look the short distance down at her when her eyes lift to meet his, watching the way her always expressive face shifts as she admits she has no Christmas plans of her own - a fact that carries a lot of weight with it - and as she muses on her checkered past with his adopted father. Slowly, he turns to face her more fully, reaching to catch her other hand as well, until she can feel his warm, callused palms and fingers curl around her elegant, deft ones - her hands made for tricking the eye, for weaving spells, trapped by stronger ones used to violence.

"You don't have to forgive anybody," he tells her. "But… It might do both of you some good. You're both connected to each other's pasts in a way that's becoming less and less common. And if it doesn't work out… I'll sneak off after dinner there and we can have Christmas dinner part two. You don't have to be alone, Zee. Okay?"

"That stuff, I leave up to you, but I couldn't blame you for wanting to keep the circle of trust closed," Zatanna tells Tim with a furrowed brow, an expression that grows relatively indescribable when he adds that of course he owns a small, private tropical island. "That and some part of me is kind of wondering whether you really would wear a domino mask to the beach." Lips insinuate her laughter with the way they curve upwards, eyes glittering with mischief.

She's able to leave that behind, at least - they have a few more months to worry about it, and it isn't as if they wouldn't have plenty of more serious things to tackle before then. Still, it's nice, to think about things other than the present state of the world.

The first day of college; he reminds her of the day they met, and she shoots him with an amused look. "I don't know if I managed to remember anything you taught me about Physics, but I came away from that class with something more important than that anyway." That year had been eventful and it injects a more somber note to her face. "I'm glad we managed to stay friends, though."

Her eyes take in the lit up Christmas tree, reflected by the glass doors leading out to his balcony, its spectre dusted faintly by falling snow from the outside world. The chill has finally crystalized to actual powder and looking at it from this angle, it looks like any pretty landscape that would easily remind one of like, miniature tableaus trapped in glass globes. But she's made to look away from it when her other hand is captured, Tim's shadow dwarfing her own.

She glances down at their intertwined hands. "I know, but it isn't as if I don't understand why Bruce did what he did. I don't think he did it for selfish reasons. Bruce lost his family, too." The effects of which had reached her own household; Giovanni was a close friend of Thomas Wayne, and the very reason why her childhood took a darker turn as far as her father was concerned. "Now that he has his own, I can see him going through great lengths to protect it. Alfred and Dick, you and Damian. Especially with what happened with Jason…I never heard it from Bruce, but Alfred had plenty to say to me about it. I don't think he's ever forgiven himself."

She falls quiet at that, remembering the conversation between herself and the butler on the drive home to Shadowcrest. Slowly, her head tilts to rest her forehead lightly against Tim's shoulder.

"Anyway, you don't have to do that," she tells him quietly, squeezing both his hands this time. "You hardly ever see them during the year, you should spend as much time with your own family as you can. I'll figure something out if it goes that way. Besides, you've done so much for me this year already, I don't want to be a leech."

Her pale blue eyes glitter with mischief. Her purple-painted lips curve up in a laughing smile.

"I totally would," Tim tells her. "The adhesive is waterproof, so it would stay on my face even if I went swimming."

He's not even kidding.

He looks briefly exasperated when she admits she's not sure she remembers anything he'd taught her as her physics lab partner and tutor, though the idea that she came away with something more important than a basic understanding of classical physics, and that she was glad they'd managed to stay friends, banishes it, softening his own expression in turn.

He knows full well how improbable she considers their ongoing friendship. How she could never quite understand why he was so able to be around her easily after what had happened. It was the easiest thing in the world, he'd told her once, but he wasn't sure if she really understood what he meant, or really believed him either.

The topic of Bruce Wayne is understandably still a tender one for the witch, given everything that had happened… But maybe the intervening years, and other betrayals that have been heaped upon her in the time since, have given her the room to look at things in a different light.

I don't think he's ever forgiven himself, she says of the Dark Knight and the Robin who fell before Tim.

"He never does," Tim tells her in the quiet that follows, as her head slowly tilts forward, her forehead resting lightly against his shoulder, against the dark fabric of his tuxedo vest. Almost without thought, Tim moves his head closer to hers, careful to not disturb her coiffure too much when his nose and mouth find the crown of her head.

"Not that Abelard and Chauncey and the others aren't great company, but they don't really seem like the meal sharing type to me. Or… Wait, do they eat?" he wonders, at best half-seriously, against Zatanna's midnight black hair. Of course, it's quite possible that there's others among the Titans - especially her fellow goth girls - who won't have other Christmas plans, but what's worrying him more is the idea of her holed up by herself in Shadowcrest. "Anyway, you're not a leech, Zee, and you never would be. Maybe I just want to spend the time with you."

"Well…no. Chauncey's just a head, and Abelard doesn't really have…you know. A stomach." Amusement bubbles up from Zatanna's tone, however, reminded of the magical curators of Giovanni's personal collection - a disembodied griffon's head and a stuffed dodo. She isn't surprised to find out that Tim remembers them, having spent days exploring her father's library, and chatting up the denizens who live there. The only reason why he's knowledgeable about ancient hieroglyphics now was because of Hassan the Mummy. She's even surprised that he hadn't tried to borrow Cagliostro's astrolabe, though she did allow him to borrow da Vinci's notebooks.

"Yeah, I know. But you know me, I always figure something out." She lifts her head to look up at him, her smile returning. "So don't worry too much about me, okay?"

With that, she slowly loosens her grip on his hands, easing back. She reaches for her purse. "Anyway, we should probably get going." Tucking it under her arm, she slips a bracelet on, and reaches up so she could fasten her earrings into her lobes - compared to the lace choker and her dress' elaborate neckline, her other accessories are nondescript, to keep the focus on her face, the stars on midnight-black fabric, and the unique choker clasped around her throat, these sparse pops of color naturally drawing the observer's eye.

"I mean, here's hoping that it's a relatively quiet night, right?" she says, though judging by her tone, she doesn't believe it herself. She's been to enough of these things to know that there's no such thing in their line of Work.

Reaching out with pale fingers, she holds up his tuxedo jacket to him.

Despite his fascination with them, Tim was at least very conscientious about only poking around magical relics in the presence of an actual magi, in this case Zatanna.

Borrowing them would probably be a different kind of danger than he's used to.

Not that he would probably get lost for a week if he were actually let into Zatara's sub rosa.

Slowly, though, the witch extricates herself from him: She's right that they do need to get going if they're going to be there anything resembling on time. For all her smiles and reassurances, however, it's a guarantee that he's going to worry about her anyway. While she busies herself with the rest of her jewelry, he adjusts the cufflinks on his tuxedo shirt (if you were to guess they were gimmicked and not just mundane cufflinks, you would be absolutely correct) though he does give the witch a smile of wry amusement.

"At least I got to help decorate you and the tree, tonight," Tim tells her, though he just lets her comment about a quiet night waft away on its own. They both know that's not particularly likely, not with the threats against the councilman holding the event. Which is, after all, the very reason why they're going.

But when she holds up his tuxedo jacket, he crouches a bit to slip his arms into the sleeves, letting Zatanna help him put the jacket on before he turns to face her, adjusting it and doing up just one of the buttons.

"What d'you think?" he wonders, turning her earlier question around on her. "Not too bad for you to be seen in public with me, right? Oh, right, speaking of… I hope you don't mind, the Ferarri is still back in Gotham," so he almost certainly came to NYC in the Redbird. But they're definitely not going to be driving that to the ball, right? "Is the Aston Martin okay? It's new, haven't really broken it in."

The glint of those cufflinks catch Zatanna's attention, a wry look cast towards her best friend, before she watches him stoop so she could slip the jacket over his shoulders. It reminds her once again that he's gotten taller since meeting him two years ago, a good three inches once he had officially left his teens. With him turning around and doing up a button, fingers reach for him, to smooth out his lapels and adjust the tux's pocket square just so.

What d'you think?

The look of her had been emphatically appreciative before, but when called on it, she plants one foot back so she could examine him from another angle. "…I guess you're cute enough to be my date," she says, with an air of mock-reluctance, before she grins at him cheekily. "I think you look fantastic," she tells him genuinely, brushing her fingers against the loose black locks that have tumbled across his forehead. "Honestly, if I hadn't known about your dad, anyone could tell me that you're legitimately Bruce Wayne's son and I would believe it. You and Dick both have the black hair, the blue eyes, the light tan…"

Her index taps lightly on his chin, her grin growing. "…the jaw."

And then he talks cars.

Her expression flattens comically at the question. "No," she tells him, deadpanned. "The new Aston Martin? Forget it, I changed my mind." And then she pivots on her heel, making an elaborate show of intending to leave.

But then she turns around just as quickly to swat him lightly on the arm. "Said no one ever," she exclaims with a laugh. "Tim, you could insist on a horse-drawn buggy and I'll still come with you. 'If I mind'…is this the part when I tease you about how long it's been since you've been on a date?"

She winks over her shoulder at him as she moves to retrieve her coat. "Seriously," she says in the most reassuring tone she could muster. "It's just me."

"It's weird, right?" Tim says, when Zatanna points out the superficial similarities between Bruce and his adopted sons. "I got my hair from dad and my eyes from mom, though," he adds, referring to his birth parents, the now years deceased Jack and Janet Drake. "Couldn't tell you what Dick's excuse is. I mean he's too old to be Bruce's secret lovechild…"

He definitely doesn't have the kind of jawline Bruce Wayne does, though, and the way his brows lift when Zee mentions it with her tapping finger and broadening grin shows he knows it. He and Dick tended more towards pretty, which is an amazing feat since they spent their teenaged years getting hit in the face a lot. Would it have been worse if they hadn't? Would their beauty be too much for anyone to behold without the occasional fist or brick to the face as they were growing up?!

The question about the car, itself partway to a joke, gets a responding one from the witch who pretends she's about to leave because the car isn't up to standard. And then she wonders if this is where she should tease him about how long it's been since he's been on a date.

"Probably like four years?" he guesses, with a faint shrug. "There was Zoanne in my last year of highschool but that didn't really…" No! Not the point, Tim!

It's just me, Zatanna says, to reassure him. Like her, he goes to retrieve his own coat, something suitable to be worn over the tuxedo but not enough to impede him while driving.

"Could get some subway tokens instead, then," he retorts. "But really, Zatanna," he says, opening the door out into the short elevator hallway, and gesturing for the witch to go first. "You're never just anything."

She is clearly teasing him about the jaw thing with the way she looks - Zatanna knows it too; an incorrigible aesthete and one who was never usually shy in expressing her admiration, she's certainly the type to dissect the elements that make up the handsome men in her life. She just rarely ever mentions it until it's time to be mischievous. "I told you that Gotham's got some ancient, magical bones deep in its history, right?" she wonders as she slips on her own coat, though it's less of a coat, really, and more like a cloak, lined on the inside with black mink to keep her warm. "Maybe it was just fated to be that way. Or maybe it's a psychological thing - it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to think Bruce saw a glimpse of his younger self in all of you and your coloring might've also influenced his choices over the years."

It doesn't explain Jason, though, who was, or as she understands from Alfred, a natural redhead - but he had dyed his hair.

There's a glance at him when he mentions an old high school girlfriend, lips lifted in a faint smile. "It's fine," she says. "Honestly I'm surprised we lasted two years without knowing much about each other's romantic histories." With the exception of the most recent ones - John and Stephanie. "Then again it wasn't as if we didn't have a hundred things to deal with that were infinitely more important."

His joke about subway tokens has her laughing again, taking a step out of his Manhattan penthouse and towards the elevators.

"Yeah, well, I know for a fact I'm addressing a terribly biased audience, though," she says, reaching out to curl her fingers into his inner elbow. "But I'm glad you think so. I can say the same about you."

"You've mentioned," Tim says as the witch, appropriately, garbs herself in a black cloak to keep herself warm. She looks magical, for all that she was worried her more contemporary styled black dress would blunt her usual gothic style. She looks, well, gorgeous, though Tim has already complimented her appearance about as much as is probably safe. "Though maybe that's true, maybe Bruce did see us as reflections of himself." Dick had certainly had the tragedy for it, when the Dark Knight first found him… Tim, though, took his time before mirroring the orphaned life of his mentor.

What Zatanna says about their respective romantic histories gets a sidelong glance from Tim that tends towards the dubious. Though it was true, those unmentioned exceptions were surely their most important and impactful relationships - their first loves, one could say without hyperbole. But… "'Tantas curvas y yo sin frenos'?" he quotes in flawless Spanish, reminding her of the anecdote she'd told him once, back in the Nest. "I guess I officially know more about your romantic history than you do about mine." His is mostly nothing to write home about anyway. And bloodier than your average 'friends dishing about their pasts' stories anyway.

Once the door to his penthouse apartment shuts with a beep, he offers Zatanna his arm; her pale fingers and her glittery manicure stand out sharply against the inky black of his coat, as they walk to the elevator, to head down to the garage.

But there was no chance they were going to have a quiet night.

He reminds her of the story she told him about clubbing in Barcelona, and Zatanna ends up laughing, the sound of it spilling into the hallway as they go.

"'All these curves and me with no brakes,'" she translates as the elevator emits a small ding, opening the doors for them. "You know what's sad? It's still the best pick-up line I've ever received."

And with that, the doors close.

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