Collision
Roleplaying Log: Collision
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Various elements from Councilman Jennings' gala drive Tim Drake and Zatanna Zatara into an inevitable collision course.

Other Characters Referenced: Batgirl, John Constantine, Jessica Jones
IC Date: December 18, 2018
IC Location: Tim Drake's Manhattan Penthouse, New York City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 20 Dec 2018 10:33
Rating & Warnings: R
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

The drive back to Tim's Manhattan penthouse is largely done in silence. Whatever effervescent good cheer that Zatanna has been exuding in the beginning of the night has faded off entirely to make room for bone-deep sorrow, always one who wore her heart in her sleeve. She was never practiced at hiding her emotions - she is easy to read, and even easier by someone who knows her well.

She is at least cleaned up and returned to her evening glamor, and it is late by the time the police had released them after giving statements. Their stories were formulated in seamless collaboration; Tim is nothing but prepared - they hid somewhere and kept their heads down until the sirens came, and waited out the carnage. During the drive, she had handed the world's third best detective the camera she had flying around, footage that he and his eldest (foster) brother could review later, but otherwise she has said very little.

It could be a lot of things; the senseless violence that ruined the event, her grisly discovery, or the fact that the fiction she had been so delicately holding up in an attempt to keep some semblance of a social status quo had been brutally shattered. She was not expecting John Constantine there in a tux, she didn't even recognize him until it was too late - though taken in the picture of the entire night, encountering him there was a minor discomfort compared to all the bodies waiting for the authorities in the bloody ballroom.

Once they arrive, the keycard inserted and opening into the relative safety of Tim's penthouse, she quietly undoes her cloak and hangs it up neatly.

"Some night, huh?" she wonders, her voice low.

She is unable to look him in the eye.

What Zatanna had been able to salvage of the surveillance footage could wait.

The way the witch wears her heart on her sleeve makes her current state of mind painfully obvious, especially, yes, to someone who knows her - especially especially someone trained by the Batman to be a keen observer of others. But he doesn't press her, during the drive back to his penthouse. The Aston Martin hums along like the finely tuned machine it is, the lights of Manhattan at night playing over its glossy black body.

Until eventually, finally, they were in the relative safety of his place. Not as secure as back in Gotham, but far closer.

Contrary to the neat way Zatanna hangs up her fur-lined cloak, Tim's coat is casually tossed aside, draped over a table in the entryway along with his keys, and the camera. He watches her, sidelong, dark blue eyes looking past a spill of inky black hair. He watches the way she doesn't quite look at him, as though she were ashamed. Was it because of the things she hadn't told him? Was it because she somehow saw her performance tonight as a failure?

Some night, huh?

"I didn't think we'd be lucky enough to have a quiet night," he agrees. "But I wasn't expecting all of that." He steps closer to her, shaves the distance between himself and the witch, though at least he doesn't reach out for her just yet. What would that say, if he did? Considering all the things that had happened?

Instead:

"Zee… Are you okay?"

Are you okay?

He closes the distance, leaving them in the heart of his open concept living space. Zatanna doesn't look at him still, her arms curling around her, fingers rubbing her forearms in an attempt to banish an imagined chill. Her head is tilted low enough that it obscures the view of those pale blue eyes from him, her own gaze trained to the floor, before slowly lifting, tracking to the lights still winking from the Christmas tree they had finished decorating two hours ago. Past that, through the clear glass of his balcony's double-doors, she can see ambient light reflecting off bits of falling ice.

It is still snowing.

"I wasn't expecting all of those bodies," she confesses quietly, discomfited at the memory of the carnage, forced to relive the moments of opening those double doors and finding the ballroom's interior painted scarlet. "I thought we would have time to save them, but…I mean, I knew coming into all of this that it's impossible to save everyone. It is. Daddy was careful to teach me that early on. But I can't….I can't help but hope sometimes, you know?"

Her fingers tighten on her elbow. Her chin dips lower until it almost brushes the lace cage that his gifted choker makes around her throat.

"…I wasn't expecting him there, either," she continues softly. "I thought it'd be safe. John doesn't…he hates stuffed-shirt parties and he was dressed so differently that I barely recognized him. You sure Barbara isn't a magician, too?" A half-hearted attempt at levity. "Because I'm pretty sure convincing him to dress that way took some serious degree of actual sorcery…"

Her voice trails off, and her silence lingers for a very long time.

Finally, she finds it in her to look up to meet his eyes, a stricken expression on her pale face.

"Oh, Tim," she says softly. "I know after what happened, you've been trying your best to be honest with me and I've been trying to do the same, but…I couldn't. I couldn't tell you. Especially knowing…"

The line of her shoulders sags underneath the straps of her dress.

"…I couldn't," she repeats, voice barely a whisper.

She knew that it was impossible, in her line of work or his, to save everyone.

But she can't help but hope sometimes.

Tim could say something there, he could bring up the Bat as an explicit rejection of the very idea - it was something foolish, and childish, but then what was the Bat if not a child's attempt to impose order and meaning on a meaningless and capricious world?

Instead, though, he does what he so often does: He lets her talk, and he listens. He watches as her body language becomes closed off, defensive; her arms crossed to protect herself to hug herself. Her chin dipped to hide her throat, to erase feelings of vulnerability at a primal, animal level.

As she talks about John Constantine, and Barbara Gordon.

Tim had thought there'd been some manner of problem between the witch and the warlock, that they'd had some kind of a fight that had driven her to spend more time with the Titans, more time away from the places she had cohabited with the older man. There were little clues, here and there. Bigger clues, too. Now, of course, it was rather difficult to come up with a different explanation.

Not when she looks at him like that. Not when she says what she does.

"Why not?" he wonders, closer still. "Do you think I've stayed your friend for… What's it been, almost two years now since you shot me down… Just because I was waiting for the opportunity when you'd be back on the market?" She'd thought in the past that it would be easier, better if he'd been mad at her for rejecting him. He hasn't been. But this, at least, gets her a little heat. This lets Zatanna see a spark behind those dark blue eyes, if she looks for it.

But…

"I get it, you know. Not wanting to just… Vent every hurt feeling you have. I get that it's complicated because of our own past, that it feels weird talking about your relationship troubles with a guy you know has feelings for you. That you wouldn't want to hurt me more by rubbing it in my face."

He gets it, he does. He knows there are things she can't share with him, like what she experienced during her journey into herself. But he also knows that something's shifted. Those dangerous moments the other night, after they'd been at the club…

In the quiet, the fireplace crackles, throwing dancing orange light on the pair of them in concert with the white light from the Christmas tree.

"Zatanna, I stayed around you because I like being around you. Because I care about you. And that wouldn't change if you never looked at me as anything but a friend." But she does look at him as something other than that, doesn't she? How many times had they come close to kissing in the past few weeks? He knows that, too. He's not an idiot. He's not completely naive. "So just… Talk to me. Please. Don't keep it all bottled up anymore."

Do you think I've stayed your friend…just because I was waiting for the opportunity when you'd be back on the market?

This is dangerous territory and she knows it. There are very good reasons why they've not actually talked about this openly since his confession two years past; Zatanna had been with John, was devoted to him, faithful to him. Even now, despite the seeming death of it all, she clutches onto the ghosts of what they had with a firm grip, whatever small hope that Jessica sparked in her text dashed utterly by what she saw in the gala. And really, is this what they ought to be talking about now? There are people dead in the venue, they have footage to review and…

She sees the heat in his blue eyes and the part of her that wants to destroy herself manifests. At this moment, anger is more acceptable than sorrow. How many times has she cried over this already? She didn't want to cry anymore.

"Would you be able to look me in the eye and tell me honestly that you'd never hoped?"

The question is blunt. With pale fingers, she reaches for the javelins at her disposal - sharp barbs that could only be collected by years of close friendship - and hurls them right for his chest. He tries to be understanding still, but some part of her doesn't want that, clutching onto the vain and childish hope that maybe, just maybe if he got mad at her - really mad at her, just once, it would somehow scour away all the terrible guilt.

But when he tells her, pleads with her, to just talk to him, it is as if the dam finally cracks, savagely breaking under the pressure, a torrent of words spilling out.

"And you're right. It is weird. To vent or talk about my relationship, whatever heartbreak I'm enduring, to a guy who I know likes me more than he should." Emphasis on the words, her tone brimming with pain and heat. "I told you time and time again that I didn't want to hurt you by being me. Do you know what that means? What that really means?!"

She takes several steps away from him, cheeks flushing with her rant, her hand swiping sideways as if she could banish away everything physically, tendons in her forearm standing out at the frustration that she knows she can't. "It means that sometimes I can't help myself! It means that especially when it's hard, I think about you and all the ways you haven't hurt me, and I wonder what if, what if, what if! It means that sometimes, especially when you're being kind, I hate myself just a little, because I can't stop wondering what it would have been like if I tried just a little bit harder to move on from John the first time! That I want to taste, and feel, and do, and if I gave myself the room, I would. And do you think that's fair?! Do you think that's fair to you?! To only think of you that way when I'm struggling?!"

Her fingers ball tightly into fists, her eyes growing incandescent with unshed tears.

"I don't want to be that person who ends up using someone she cares about that way! Like some…sponge who mops up the mess of me because I might want or need too much, or too badly! Or be…that chick who wants all the toys in the sandbox! Especially you! Not you…if I used you that way…I can't…I…I've done enough. I've done enough to you and everyone else…"

Her eyes squeeze shut.

"I've done enough, without adding that onto everything."

She asks a question, dangerous. But then, they were already on dangerous ground. They had been for weeks.

Could he look her in the eye, and tell her honestly he'd never hoped?

"No," Tim tells her, honestly. Looking her in the eyes. And of course, it hurts to hear her ask him that. It hurts to have to answer it, because he never wanted to be that guy. He never wanted to be the 'best friend' who just hung around in her orbit waiting for the opportunity, or the martyr who saw himself as the wronged party because she was with someone else instead of him.

But he was no saint. He was imperfect, flawed. Just because he tried to act by a particular code, tried to follow the better angels of his nature didn't mean that there weren't devils in there too, weak and petty and selfish.

But he asks. Asks her to just talk to him, to not keep it bottled up.

And she obliges him.

It comes out like fire, as her restraint cracks. Fire that burns her, that part of her wants to burn him with too. He doesn't interrupt her: For one, that would be a deeply stupid thing to do, because she's Italian and has vast magical powers, but also because it wasn't his way. Not with her, especially. So she rants, and again he listens. Her anger, her pain, her frustration… All things she'd been bottling up for who knows how long, letting them out. Things she'd been holding onto for a year, at least, though he has no clue of the details.

"Why do you think so poorly of yourself?" he asks, so quietly that the words barely carry over the snap and pop of the fireplace. So quietly that she can only hear him because he's moved again, closed the distance again, standing in front of her as she squeezes those big blue eyes shut, showing nothing but her smoky dark makeup against her pale skin. "You always talk about yourself like you're some kind of monster, Zatanna… You lost control. Do you think you're the only person in the world who's ever done that?" He's told her before about his own brushes with the same. How he'd come close in the past to breaking the Rule. A difference of scope, not of kind.

Unless she moves away, the next thing she may well notice is the feeling of his hands cupping her cheeks, his fingers threading into her tousled black hair, brushing against the earrings dangling from her lobes. He was close. Very close. Dangerously close.

"I don't want you to hold back anymore," Tim tells her, close enough that his nose brushes against hers, that the breath of his every word tickles against her mouth in turn. "I don't want you to freeze me out of part of your life because you're worried I'll get hurt. I want the mess of you, Zatanna Zatara."

"I'm not holding back anymore, either," he warns her, before he kisses her, seeking those purple-painted lips as surely as he has any other target in his life. Presses his mouth to hers not with heated urgency, or frantic need, but softly at first. Gently, as though he was worried she was some confection of spun sugar that might shatter if he pushed too hard.

Why do you think so poorly of yourself?

"Would you forgive yourself so easily if it had been you?" Zatanna shoots back, hurling whatever lightning bolts she can at him in an effort to fan that spark she had glimpsed within the depths of his blue eyes earlier, in hopes of turning it into a bonfire. This wouldn't do, she wanted his temper. She wanted him angry. She wanted him to flay her with his detective's logic and mercilessly scourge her with his reason. She didn't want anything gentle, or caring, or forgiving.

She wanted him to make her pay. For hurting him. For even thinking about doing the things that would. Because as selfless as she tries to be, she is no angel either. She, too, can be selfish. A harsh word would be enough and as her eyes open, those ice-blue eyes implore with him. Plead with him. Anything would be preferrable than his generosity. Anything would be preferrable than his kindness.

But he closed the distance in those few moments of shuttered darkness and he is near again when she opens her eyes, emphatic with her need for some kind of penance. Rough, warm palms cradle her face and tremors spill down the arch of her spine.

I don't want you to hold back anymore.

"Why can't you just be mad at me?" she asks him softly, her lids growing heavy. She manages to be proud of herself, for not shedding any tears for now, no matter how acutely she feels them weighing down her lashes. The tip of her nose finds the line of his own, his warmth chasing away the chill of the winter's evening outside. "Why can't you just…"

It is hard to miss the words - words that illustrate his willingness to risk, to claim the mess…to want it, no matter how wounded she is or uncertain she is. This was the last place she wanted him in. This was the last position she wanted to place him in, and some part of her mind can't help but wonder, presently, whether this is what Barbara hopes. That underneath all the mess, unresolved feelings and open heartbreak, there is something worth salvaging. That there is something real to find, and have, and cultivate into something more.

She shouldn't. But she is exhausted and she is tired of fighting this. Tired of keeping herself away from something that could salve the open wound left behind by the idea that she isn't worth mourning. Only this time, she has something she didn't have before.

His willingness. His permission.

It is hesitant at first, but there is nothing shy, or sweet about it. He claims her mouth and her fingers lift, to curl over one of his wrists. It's soft, and chaste, for a moment…until it isn't anymore.

She doesn't want anything gentle.

Her mouth parts in open invitation and now that the gates have been thrown open, there is nothing left but to succumb to heated, restless movement, digging into what she has always been - a creature who throws herself body and soul in the act of wanting, and taking, and having, reminding Tim of what she had said earlier. To taste, and feel, and do. And she does - all these things when she practically collapses against his chest, her own hands lifting to tangle into his hair, leaving him to catch the brunt of her. As he requested, she holds nothing back.

Nothing as fumbling, impatient fingers hook on his bowtie to unravel it. Nothing as she pushes his tuxedo jacket off his shoulders in a blind, mad dash towards the inevitable.

Nothing.

Would he forgive himself so easily if it had been him?

No.

He has never forgiven himself his own near-lapses in control, the times he's skirted so close to the edge of forsaking the path he'd chosen to follow only to come back at the last moment. He'd even told her, that day in the infirmary, about the never-fading shame of how angry he'd gotten when she'd had her soul stripped away. How he'd wanted to kill those responsible, no matter the consequences.

She wants his anger, wants to be torn to shreds by him in the hopes that it will absolve her guilt, that it will be a panacea for whatever unresolved things lurked between the two of them: But he doesn't give her that. He doesn't dissect her with his keen mind, or hurl whatever resentment might linger somewhere inside of himself at her. Instead he gives her that care, as much as he can.

Instead, he kisses her, just as he's wanted to for two years now. Just as they'd each warned the other might happen for weeks.

And after that night on the subway, there could be no hiding, no dissembling. They both wanted it, and they both knew it.

Here, there's no taste of chocolate as the witch's lush purple lips part for him in invitation, and the vigilante takes the offer. Here, her weight is thrown against him, her fingers with their glittering nails tangling in the darkness of his hair, forcing his own hands to drop to catch her, to hold her up, as the chastity of the kiss vanishes, as he plunders her mouth with his tongue - learning, exploring this new space that had previously been forbidden to him, teaching himself the taste of the witch he'd loved hopelessly for months, now.

She doesn't want anything gentle, and she gives him no gentleness either as she fumbles with his bowtie, finally leaving the strip of fabric to fall on the floor. As she pushes off his tuxedo jacket, his arms blindly switching off his grip on her to let the garment fall off of him, its existence already forgotten. He worked to help, unbuttoning and shrugging out of the vest, the suspenders holding up the tailored pants falling off of his shoulders at the same time, and then his hands are on her again, blindly, needfully committing the shape of her curves to memory by touch, squeezing her and…

She doesn't want anything gentle. He can tell that; she throws herself wholeheartedly into it, giving herself over to want with body and soul alike, and so he does no less.

The first alarm on the clock by the bed goes off at 7:00. It gets slapped off with a grumble. The second goes off at 8, then another at 9, at which point the clock is thrown off the loft. Somewhere along the line, they'd finally gotten under the covers, exhaustion settling in and dragging them to sleep. Like the one in his townhouse in Gotham, the bed was wide and low, with more than enough room for the both of them… But even so, he'd kept her pulled possessively close, even in sleep. Pulled up against his side, to her head could pillow on his shoulder, so his arm could wrap around her. It's ten in the morning by the time Tim finally gives up the hope of further sleep, looking down with bleary eyes at the witch, before turning his head to nuzzle against the crown of hers, a faint smile hidden against her midnight dark hair.

The morning light spills from half-drawn block-out drapes, a sliver of sunshine finding their entangled bodies in the dark of his room. The fact that he hasn't let go of her while bundled up in expensive sheets would be enough to assure him that this isn't a dream. Her hair clings to his pillowcase, his shoulder. Her soft breathing brushing against him.

Zatanna's not normally a deep sleeper, but last night left her exhausted. She hasn't stirred at the grudging attempts to shut up his alarm clock, and his groaning and grumbling only had her turning further into him, murmuring in her sleep….assuring him, somehow, even while trapped in the Sandman's embrace. In the end, it's the nuzzling that has her eyes flickering open, the drowsy climb to wakefulness apparent.

Her eyes slide back shut, her arm pulling around him. "What time is it…?"

She'd know well that he preferred to keep the temperature cool, and so the air conditioning was on, humming as it worked overtime to try and soothe out the heat of what they'd been doing all night, to clean the air of it. But even that impressive air conditioning system can only do so much.

Zatanna's own reluctance to wake up is pretty obvious, the sorceress opening her eyes only briefly before shutting them again, her arm tight around him as she pulls herself closer under the covers. His arm tightens around her in turn, and he thinks about how he really doesn't want to get out of bed, especially with her there. How he really doesn't want to break whatever spell this moment has.

"Ten," Tim answers her question, though, his fingertips lightly caressing her bare shoulder. "Should probably get up at… Some point…" he admits, albeit reluctantly. "But honestly I'm pretty content with how things are right this minute."

Though his stomach might start to disagree soon, the last time he ate having been well before they went to the councilman's ball the night before.

His obvious reluctance to go anywhere at the moment has her smiling; he'd be able to feel it against his skin, even if he presently can't see it on her face with the way she's positioned. "I really must be magic if you're still in bed at ten and not wide awake by five in the morning," Zatanna murmurs, and for a while, she says nothing else - just breathing deeply. He couldn't be blamed if he thought that she had returned to bed, to float away back into dream space. Perhaps she ought to tell him one day that magicians don't dream the same way ordinary humans do.

Finally, however, he'd feel her shift as she turns until she's fully on her front, though still framed by the draping arm around her, still tucked against his side. It lets her rest her weight on her elbows, the tangled river of her hair splashing over one shoulder, pooling into his covers. Sleepy pale blue eyes find his, her hand cupping her own cheek as she looks at him. Truthfully, she's never seen him look so content. Absent fingers lift, to brush his hair back from his forehead.

After watching his handsome, languid features for a moment, she can't help but smile, leaning in to press her mouth against his face, close to the corner of his mouth. "Good morning," she tells him softly.

She pauses, and then she eases back to look him in the eye. "You know, it's usually customary for one of us after this sort of thing to make breakfast," she murmurs. "Like…omelettes or something. Scrambled eggs….coffee. Do you want anything else with your eggs?" Her eyebrows waggle playfully. "Do you want me to serenade you while you shower?"

She won't really do it, though. That would be pretty weird, and shouldn't they leave last night at a high note?

A fingernail absently traces the line of his collarbones. "What do you think?"

"Were we even asleep by by five?" Tim wonders in response to Zatanna's quietly murmured comment, though at least he refrains from pointing out that she finally figured out a way to get him to sleep in. Instead, he lays there contentedly as she possibly drifts back off, his fingers moving up from her shoulder to absently toy with her dark hair. He's not intending to go back to sleep, but it wouldn't be so bad to lay there with her for a bit if she did.

But eventually she shifts, laying on her front beside him under the covers, propped up on her elbows. He watches her, of course, a faint smile playing over his mouth as she brushes his touseled hair out of his face… And then she's smiling, and leaning close to kiss him so gently.

Good morning, she says.

"Good morning," he tells her, his smile broadening to get closer to her own.

His expression turns a bit more am-I-supposed-to-laugh-at-this? when she starts not just talking about breakfast, but waggling her brows to suggest she serenade him in the shower. Her index finger traces over his collarbone, her manicure still glimmering, though the effect is perhaps not as striking when it's not dark out. What does he think?

"Well, I think no on shower serenades, please," Tim replies. "Any not to get all manly man chauvinist pig on you but wouldn't the traditional thing be for me to make breakfast since you're my guest? Did you have a strong emotional connection to eggs, because personally I feel kind of pancake-y."

Were we even asleep by five?

Zatanna's brows furrow, turning her head slightly as she attempts to remember. "Honestly, I can't remember, by that point I wasn't exactly…." Able to think much at all. She tries to be nonchalant about it, but the incisive detective's stare paying sharp attention to ever tic and nuance of her expression has her grinning faintly. "Well, you know." Mischief ripples over her pale mien, inclining her head at him. "You know for someone who's never done this before, it didn't feel like it, but I know you. You're a fast learner." She supposes that there's also a reason why he wasn't shy in asking her what she likes in the doing.

It's not to embarrass him - alright, maybe a little. It wouldn't be her if she didn't rib him a little about how talented he seems at every little thing, even when he attempts something in the first try. But she supposes any physical activity would be easy for someone trained by….how many master assassins and ninjas? Honestly, she's lost track as to how many in Tim's personal history, which reads more like a ridiculous, Hong Kong martial arts, hard-boiled action flick than anyting resembling the life of a normal twenty-something in a big city.

But then he asks about eggs and pancakes. She smiles at him impishly.

"I'm fine with pancakes, too," she tells him.

She watches him as he gets out of bed, open appreciation writ on her sleepy expression. All that training, all that punishment did not go to waste, though once he's scrambled down the stairs to his main living area, she turns her face into the pillow underneath her, and screams a little within it. And she doesn't know whether it's out of terror or awe. Maybe both? She's in her best friend's bed and she can barely feel her legs.

What was she going to do now? It was a bad idea to rush into anything, wasn't it? Wasn't it? Would it be weird to ease back a little after…that? Would he think she was psychotic if she asked to take things slowly when things were so fast and furious the evening before??

"You've officially lost your mind, Zatanna Zatara," she says against her pillow.

His question was perfectly innocent, or at least as innocent as it can be under the circumstances, but Tim probably deserves the rejoinder anyway. Warning alarms go off in his head when mischief lights up the goth girl's expressive face, and then what she says makes his mouth open, wordlessly. And then it closes. And then it opens… Nope, still nothing. He does start turning red, though.

"I… Was it that obvious? I mean, I tried to…" Nope, don't do it, don't dig yourself further, Drake! Just talk about breakfast!

She gives him that impish smile, last night's lipstick long since worn away, the matte purple replaced by her natural rosy hue, and she admits she's fine with pancakes, which at least gives him an excuse to be routed with dignity. Slipping out of bed, he quickly puts on some clothes from the nearby dresser - pajama pants and a t-shirt that reads 'THEY CALL ME PI BECAUSE I'M IRRATIONAL AND DON'T KNOW WHEN TO STOP', before he does in fact scramble downstairs towards the kitchen.

Which leaves him with no idea that Zatanna is screaming into a pillow, or having any kind of crisis or freakout whatsoever. They probably shouldn't have done it, he knows, they should've behaved themselves. It wasn't fair of him to put any of that on her, not when she was hurting, not when she was still dealing with all of that, but… Well, he can't find it in himself to regret it. He can't find it in himself to feel any real guilt.

"There's some fruit," he calls up instead. "How are you on blueberries?"

While he's downstairs, he misses the sight of the young woman in his bed flailing spastically, and while she's unable to regret much of what happened the evening before either, it still doesn't exactly leave her closer to a solution as to what to do now.

After several minutes of silence from the loft area, he'd sense her gentle footfalls find the expensive hardwood of his penthouse, Zatanna entering the kitchen dressed in one of his shirts - large enough that she has to roll up the sleeves, and long enough that it hangs to her mid-thigh. It's his bunsen burner shirt, with the words 'I'M MOSTLY INTO EXPERIMENTAL STUFF' emblazoned on it. A pale hand reaches for cooking spray and a skillet.

"I was trying to tell you that it wasn't obvious," she tells him at last, flashing him a look. "The only reason I even had an inkling was because of…the things you said while…you know." There's a touch of color on her pale cheeks when she recounts it, and she clears her throat, giving the skillet a quick spray before handing it to him.

"I decided to help," she says, opening the fridge to find the eggs they'll need for pancakes. "And blueberries sound great. Where's your maple syrup?"

She finds the eggs, setting the crate on top of the counter, her shoulder touching his as she stands side-by-side with him, preparing breakfast for two.

Oh.

Well, that's dangerous.

The sight of Zatanna wearing one of his t-shirts causes Tim a momentary but noticeable distraction from what he was doing, his dark blue eyes blinking owlishly as the witch demonstrates the legendary 'boyfriend shirt' technique. Well, it's not like he didn't offer to lend her clothes when they were training at the Nest, but this is… Different. For a whole host of reasons, few of which have anything to do with logic or reason, this was different.

Especially since her return from the loft comes with a belated answer to his earlier embarrassed semi-rhetorical question.

They blush in concert, the detective's head bobbing a few times, before he reaches up to brush his hair back out of his face, then taking the skillet.

"Well, uh, good," he says. "It was a real 'fake it 'til you make it' situation." Fortunately, the witch is headed to the fridge, explaining that she's decided to help with breakfast. Wanting to know where the maple syrup is.

"Cupboard over there," he tells her, as the two of them set about making breakfast together. The high-end cooktop soon has things sizzling, though eventually he does add a little bacon for himself, cooked separately from the pancakes so as to not trouble with witch's conscience or palate.

"Hey… Is everything okay?" Tim wonders, midway through the breakfast making. "You seem a little…" he trails off, for once not quite sure of the exact way to put it. But his concern is still clearly genuine.

Fingers find the maple syrup, relief in her expression as she sees that it's the actual good stuff and not…well. Aunt Jemima.

She is not a blusher, but recounting the words he told her at the heat of the moment is enough to pull color in her pale countenance, exacerbated by the fact that she never thought that she would actually be in this position with him. But the flush fades quickly, and she reaches for a mixing bowl, looking for the flour. True to her Italian roots, with a childhood spent in her nonna's kitchen, she foregoes ready-made batter. She finds the milk in the fridge as well - what people often don't know is that making homemade pancakes is actually easy, with a well-stocked pantry and a whisk.

She measures from memory - even when it was just by themselves, she often cooked for her father. Holiday dinners often came from her hand, but now that he was gone, her friends get the brunt of her culinary endeavors. And today…

She leaves him to cook the bacon while the spray-and-buttered skillet waits for the pancakes, the batter made quickly and soon she's standing by him at the large stove, ladling the mixture into the center. It makes an almost perfect circle.

His concern has her turning to look at him as the top of the first cake accumulates the telltale bubbles. "Oh, I was just…last night was…"

Zatanna falls silent, and flips the pancake with a flick of her wrist.

"….we really fell into one another, didn't we? Like…almost literally. We were so…you were a little angry and so was I…"

She transfers the warm pancake into a plate.

"I don't regret last night," she tells him. "But I've been trying to wrap my head around….what to do now. I know where you're coming from, and you know where I'm coming from. And maybe it's a little crazy to wonder whether we should slow down after what just happened. But I think…maybe…we owe it to ourselves to try."

Her eyes lift to find his profile. "…do you mind?" she asks quietly. "Even if it's just…slowly, for now?"

It might come as a surprise, given a lot of other things about him, but Tim's been cooking from a young age too. Sure, he comes from a wealthy background - wealthy enough that he was mostly raised by his family's housekeeper until his father was rendered homebound after coming out of the coma he'd been put in by the Obeah Man, but the older Scottish woman hadn't been one for letting him lollygag. Which occasionally made for a real trial when it came to the whole secret identity thing as Robin.

You want to know why he doesn't sleep much? Because a terrifying old Scottish woman would rouse him from bed at 7am sharp no matter how late he stayed up punching human traffickers with Batman.

So you'd better believe he learned how to cook breakfast right quick.

There's a sense of anticipation when he asks his question: It's the feeling he gets before jumping off of a very high building, halfway between terror and excitement. The knowledge that this might be the time some mechanical failure, some one in a million chance fouls his gear and leads to him plunging to his grisly death. And yet, there's the old monkey brain, hearing the call of the void. Wanting to do it. Jump, it says. Jump.

So he jumps.

He jumps, and Zatanna leaves him twisting, at least a little. That her disquiet is about the night before. About what happened, about what they did together. Immediately, worst-case scenarios start playing in his imagination. Her telling him it was a mistake. Her telling him that it was just a one-time thing. Her saying…

I don't regret last night.

…No that wasn't it. He keeps a close eye on the bacon, making sure to get it just how he likes it, while Zatanna talks. But rather than following up that reassurance with something crushing, she says they should take it slow. Which is not stopping, or trying to pretend that nothing ever happened, it's…

Unbidden, his mouth pulls into a smile. The bacon crackles.

"I can do slowly," Tim says, turning to look at Zatanna. "The last thing I want to do is make you uncomfortable, Zee, you know that. I don't want to put any pressure on you, or put you in a bad position… But I mean… Is this something you want? Us? Because I do, I want to try."

I want the mess of you, he'd said.

"You… Wanna go on a date sometime?" he wonders, with a casual air that can only be described as elaborate and unconvincing, turning his blue eyes back to the bacon. "I know a lot of really nice restaurants in Gotham, and pretty much anywhere will give us the best table when I make a reservation for 'Wayne'…"

Okay, now he's just bragging.

But who wouldn't try to impress the girl you're asking out?

Unbeknownst to either of them, Zatanna mirrors his interior landscape, with the hesitant way she tries to express her current emotional state. After all, she is still nursing her earlier misgivings - would he think her psychotic, or crazy for suggesting such a thing? For stepping back when they've sideskipped everything else and fell into bed together in a fit of emotion? Would he look at her and decide, yes, that's it, this is probably why it ended with John Constantine?

Because yes, it's probably crazy, isn't it? The last time she had suffered a major break-up, also with John, she spent most of it eating her feelings until an unfortunate accident in a European nightclub left her embarrassingly wedged in a toilet seat, unable to get out on her own - a dark moment in her past that she has never told anyone ever. She has never done…this. She has never fallen into bed with a close friend who she is fully aware harbored strong feelings for her for at least two years. It's thorny. It's messy. It's…

Amidst the crackle-sizzle of bacon on his pan, she braves looking up to meet his eyes, and finds a smile. It startles her a little, blinking once and finding herself tilted off-balance at seeing it.

And with his own reassurances, she suddenly feels lighter, the earlier weight banishing entirely. No pressure, he said. Being as considerate as he always has, paired with the endearing, boyish expression that remains a signature despite the passage of time, out of their teens and into their most trying years as adults. She can't help but smile back, flipping another pancake and setting it on a plate - not a huge stack, two for each, because pancakes have a strange effect of making you crave them, and then sick of them after the second piece.

"I want to try, too," she tells him, shutting off the burner and turning to face him once he's done cooking his bacon.

His invitation has her smile quirking upwards in a grin, given the tone he adopts - so casual it's decidedly not, and one that only broadens until the dimple normally hidden in her left cheek manifests when he starts talking about restaurants, the weight of the Wayne name…

Her hand reaches to rest gently on his forearm so he'll look at her.

"That was awful," she tells him with a laugh. "But adorable. Is this the part where I bend a knee, twist my hair around my pinky, give you the eyes and say 'I would love to, Timothy'?"

She leans in, bussing his cheek lightly.

"I haven't been to the Winter Carnival at Bryant Park, yet," she suggests, resting her chin against his shoulder. And while delicious food in an upscale restaurant never goes out of style, those sorts of surroundings don't exactly scream 'pressure-free'. "They hold it every year…have you ever been? Would you like to go? There'll be food, and shopping, games…ice-related shenanigans."

I want to try, too.

Just as his reassurances helped lift the weight from Zatanna's shoulders, so too do those words alleviate some of his own fear. Fear that she wouldn't want to - and who could blame her, when she'd so recently come out of a serious relationship, in a manner that was traumatic enough that she hadn't really told anybody? Fear that the tension between them recently really had been entirely physical on her end. That all the worries she'd expressed about herself the night before had some grain of truth to them.

Or worse, that while she might reciprocate his interest to one degree or another… That it wouldn't matter. That she wouldn't want to risk their friendship in a gamble on the possibility of more.

Instead, she wants to try.

Her hand touches his, drawing his attention towards her - the bacon is done, anyway, cooked just enough that it's still chewy - and then she rightly points out that his initial attempt to ask her out was awful. But at least it also merits an 'adorable'.

"Oh god," he says. "Don't call me Timothy, please. Save it for when you're mad at me so I know just how pissed you are." It'll happen. It has happened! And if they're going to try for something more, it's guaranteed to happen. But her chin rests on his shoulder, and she's close… Close in a way that's soothing, surprisingly, given everything. "No, I've never been," he admits about the carnival. "But yeah I guess that does sound better." He turns off the burner for the bacon, putting it on his plate along with his pancakes. "Definitely much more chill."

No, Zatanna, it's too late to back out now.

With their breakfast plated, Zatanna eases away, to return the milk and the rest of the eggs in the fridge and withdrawing a carton of orange juice. She'll let him carry the rest, but she does set it in the middle of his large island between their chairs, and finds a couple of forks. His quiet groan about using his first name has her laughing again, that returning, mischievous expression sent his way. "Does it remind you too much of Damian?" she wonders, pouring both of them glasses of juice and waits for her breakfast to be delivered by her host.

Definitely much more chill, he says of the Winter Carnival.

Easing into a seat, as he approaches, she points the tines of her fork towards him, a warning in emphasis.

"Don't make me regret this," she says mock-seriously at the pun, but that brilliant smile returns regardless.

And with that, she digs into her breakfast.

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