Twenty One
Roleplaying Log: Twenty One
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Zatanna forgot it was her birthday. Unfortunately for her, Tim Drake almost never forgets anything.

Other Characters Referenced: Alfred Pennyworth, Batman, Cassandra Sandsmark, Dick Grayson, Giovanni Zatara, Starfire
IC Date: May 20, 2019
IC Location: Tim Drake's townhouse, Gotham City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 21 May 2019 06:14
Rating & Warnings:
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

It can be easy, in the press of things, for relatively mundane concerns to fall by the wayside.

They were busy people, for all sorts of reasons: The school year might've ended, but there was always more to worry about there, if they were planning to do any sort of advanced degrees. Zatanna had her career, too, and Tim had the at least rudimentary responsibilities of someone who was involved with at least one major corporation and also at least one major charitable organisation.

Plus, you know, the superhero thing. Whether in Gotham or in New York - or elsewhere, when the Work drew them abroad - there was always something. Always a dozen somethings, big or small.

So it'd be easy to forget about a birthday. Easy to let it be just another day, a wholly unremarkable entry on the calendar. There would be others, after all, right?

EARLIER

"Ah, crap," Tim Drake says in the kitchen of his spacious and modern townhouse in downtown Gotham. His longish hair is brushed back to keep it out of his face, and he's wearing a pair of black track pants and a green t-shirt with some kind of polyhedron on it: The visible face of the shape reads 20, and below it is the caption CRIT HAPPENS.

The various cooking surfaces of the kitchen have all been turned to purposes Tim has rarely used them for himself, because while he knows how to cook his self-made meals tend to be on the extremely simple side. Now, though, his phone is on the counter projecting a holographic screen with a YouTube video of… A cooking how-to? It doesn't seem to be going well.

LESS EARLIER

"No, Alfred, I can handle it myself, honest," the vigilante is now saying into the phone. He's actually not sure he can, and is kind of wishing he was out getting into a fight with a gang of lunatics instead of trying to cook. "I just needed some advice on… Yeah? Uh huh…"

MORE RECENTLY

He frowns as he adjusts the place settings (there are two) on the extremely seldom used dining table. Dark blue eyes narrow faintly; he rearranges the centerpiece, candles and all, for the fifteenth time.

GETTING CLOSER

Tim wonders if he shouldn't have just made a reservation somewhere fancy instead. It would've been better, right? That's what fancy restaurants are for. They would've—oh god is that the smoke detector??

NOW

It was about dinner time, on May the 20th. He knew Zatanna would be there soon, it was in fact what he'd arranged his whole day around, and with all the hard work done - one hopes! - the former Boy Wonder was… Laying facedown on the couch in a crisp red dress shirt and black slacks, his black tie and waistcoat both with a very faint pattern of a slightly more shimmery black. His socked feet were left dangling off of one arm of the couch. It's not really the most comfortable-looking position ever.

But otherwise, the interior of the townhouse was only dimly lit, with candles and the fireplace alight, and a faint blue glow from the aquarium. And something, which would presumably be dinner, is creating some pretty nice smells in the kitchen.

But the way Tim is unmoving on the sofa, the effort may have killed him.

It wouldn't be the first time she's ever teleported in the townhouse itself, but since she was enjoying the summer outside, she has elected to walk back from campus to where Tim keeps his bachelor pad.

She's dressed nicely - there had been certain elements about her transcript that she needed to speak with the Dean of Students about, and that required making a good first impression to the man who would make or break her chances at graduating with Tim in June. So when the security code beeps and allows her entry into one of the most secured places on the face of the city (and on the planet, really, because the man is a genius), she looks like she's about to go out somewhere else. Zatanna Zatara is dressed in a fitted turtleneck dress, though she has elected to skip out on the black, opting for a dark purple instead to match her lip color. Black heels, a lightweight jacket to match, she's got her hair up in that artful mess she favors, leaving wisps of it to frame her face. Past the merely-twenty mark and now considered an adult enough to gamble anywhere, she looks the part with the onset of her flowering looks.

Tim had asked her to make sure to return at this time, though truthfully, she doesn't know why. With everything going on in New York and their preparations to leave Gotham University behind - and setting themselves up to wherever else that could lead them - she made signs that she remembers her birthday. In fact it's a relatively safe bet that she doesn't at all.

Her heels click quietly on the hardwood floor, setting down a paper bag full of things she needed from The Third Eye, moving over so she could situate herself on the couch, perching on the edge to watch Tim sleep. She can't help the smile that tugs on the corners of her mouth.

Fingers and their purple lacquer reach down, delicately brushing his hair back to make way for the warmth of her mouth pressing against his skin. "Were we going out today?" she murmurs. "You look nice."

He looked so adorable asleep that way that she notices the smells wafting from the kitchen only after that kiss. She looks up from where she's hunched over him, ice-blue eyes moving to the doorway.

He really wasn't supposed to fall asleep. Normally he's very good about not sleeping, to what is no doubt the occasional consternation of the very young woman who's perched herself on the edge of the couch, watching him. Though one would hope if he was going to nap, Tim would pick a more comfortable position. He just looks like he flopped on the couch and stopped moving.

Which he did.

He might've even stayed like that, if it weren't for his keen awareness, keyed to note his surroundings even while he was asleep. Certainly, enough to notice the feeling of the witch's dark purple manicure brushing through his ink-black hair, grazing lightly against his scalp. Most definitely enough to feel the gentle press of her lips, the warmth of her mouth, even before she speaks quietly in that throaty contralto of hers.

He'd promised himself he'd just lie down for a second. That he'd be back up before Zee got home.

One eye snaps open, looking up at her hunched over him, as her attention wanders across the largely open-concept space and into the kitchen. He goes from 'asleep' to 'awake' without really bothering with any of the steps in between, grogginess and confusion bypassed as though those concerns were just too slow to catch him.

"I was really planning on being awake when you got here," he admits, though rather than get up right away he instead shifts and rolls over on the couch, so he's looking up at her. At how pale she is, how it contrasts with the midnight dark of her hair. "But no, I figured we'd stay in. Just you and me and… Uh I made dinner, so hopefully it's good?" That's probably not an encouraging thing to say after making dinner for someone. Especially not for a special occasion. "Happy birthday, Zatanna."

Everything smells good; she's not about to let all of that effort go to waste, especially when she does most of the cooking in the house - though he certainly has never discouraged her, there. Tim enjoys even the simplest meals she prepares for him, so long as they were hers, unable to take even the littlest things of what she does for him for granted - the consequences, perhaps, of two years being on the unrequited side of the fence.

But he rolls over and despite having dressed up, he is effortlessly handsome and casual; part of her will forever be somewhat irritated at that, how he can make the most difficult things seem so easy, being naturally talented in things she can't even fathom. This bit, however, is one that she is perfectly fine with when he rolls over on the couch and opens those dark blue eyes, not moving from the couch if not just so he could look at her and the way she's dressed. He forever gives her the impression that he would never get tired of it, of looking at her the way he does.

I figured, we'd stay in.

"Okay," Zatanna tells him, smiling. "Let's stay in. You're very dressed up for staying in, though."

His greeting has her shifting closer, to drape herself on his chest, though her knees and legs are still over the edge of the couch. A hand and its slender fingers rests on his forearm, her other curled around him so her other set of digits can play into his hair. "Honestly, I forgot it was my birthday," she tells him quietly. "Thank you, and I'm really excited that you cooked for me. You never really do that, not outside of simple things anyway. You're not about to propose, are you?"

That shameless tease has her leaning forward further, her nose brushing against his.

"Hey," she murmurs. "Greet me properly."

I forgot it was my birthday.

Briefly, a dubious look crosses Tim's face, although he's not really one to talk - if anyone's definitely forgotten their own birthday before, it's Tim Drake. It just doesn't seem like the sort of thing Zatanna would do, even with all the other things weighing on her thoughts.

But she's draped over him like that, even as she makes that quiet admission about forgetting the day; it's tempting, very tempting, to just pull her the rest of the way onto the couch with him… Though that might result in another impromptu nap, and wouldn't that be a waste of all the effort he'd put in? Especially with her excited to actually try what he made for her. He isn't about to propose, is he, she wonders.

"I figured I'd wait until we'd been together at least a year first," the vigilante replies, just as seriously. But then she's closer. Her fingers toying with his hair, her other hand resting against his forearm. Slowly, he shifts that hand, until he's caught her slender digits, the pale and agile fingers of a mistress of sleight of hand, with his own. Her nose brushes against his, and she makes a demand… But she has every right, doesn't she? It's her birthday, after all.

The kiss is tender, a slow burn rather than a raging conflagration as he presses his lips against her dark purple ones, as though familiarising himself with the feel of her mouth all over again. No rush, no hurry. All the time in the world to lose moments to kissing her.

"Welcome home," he breathes against her lips, so very quietly. "Did you have a good day?"

I figured I'd wait until we'd been together at least a year first.

The riposte has Zatanna laughing quietly; she isn't serious at all, but there's a good bet that if they can joke about such things, between the two of them, at least, it is going well. There's no resistance when his arm eases away from her, just enough to encage her digits with his own, lacing them together - unconsciously done to trap her further against him. Subtle, and barely noticed, but that was Tim all over - even when it came to emotions and relationships, he was a bit of a ninja.

The temptation is one that she also feels, and shares, to just kick off her shoes and curl up against him, to close her eyes and drift off in his arms and let the world be saved by someone else. And he doesn't help with that when he turns his head and kisses her the way he does. Slow, tender, but not at all uneager because of it, her mouth parting under his to sink deeper into the token he gives her, her heart twisting in the glory and ache of it when he takes his time.

"Thanks," she whispers. "But I want more."

Doesn't she always? She tilts her face the other way, her mouth finding his, and for a few moments, they don't speak. They can't do this for long, not really, but it does result in her shifting to join him on the couch, cradled by the breadth of his chest and tasting the way his tongue meets her own. Their every day is routine, but even after several months, it doesn't feel that way. Somehow, every kiss he gives her feels new, and as fresh as the night he decided to dispense with all hesitation and took what he wanted.

But dinner is getting cold, and finally, she eases away, though not far. "What did you make me?" she asks. "Let's do that first, and then I'll tell you about my day."

'Routine' isn't how Tim would describe pretty much anything in his life in the past several years… But there is a kind of comfortable familiarity that comes with being able to just spend time with Zatanna, without having to even do anything. It was curious that perhaps the thing in his life that came closest to normalcy was the time he spent with a young woman possessed of vast magical powers.

Or maybe that was just his life all over.

She shifts onto the couch, her lighter form sinking against his like that; his hand not currently entangled with hers slips around the witch's waist, his fingers running over the material of her dark purple turtleneck dress, settling around the small of her back and curling against the dip in her spine there. She wanted more, and his only immediate response to those whispered words is a faint chuff of amusement before her mouth is on his again, and he gives her exactly what she asked for. He'd never been one to reproach Zatanna her greed in this, both because he very much enjoys indulging her and because he knows just how hypocritical it would be: Since they'd crossed that line, since he'd taken what he wanted the first time, Tim had proven to be quite greedy where she was concerned, himself.

But eventually, she eases away from him.

His mouth tingles with the taste of her, her natural flavour faintly mingled with her dark lipstick, and his eyes open to look at her across the brief distance between them. "I almost don't remember," he admits, wryly, both his hands lifting to cup the sides of the witch's face, curling his fingertips against her delicate earlobes as his palms rest against her cheeks. "Um… Crab and penne in an alfredo sauce, and there's salad… I was trying to bake a cake too but it caught slightly on fire so I ended up having to order one…"

He was greedy, surprisingly so. She could never forget the first time he astonished her with his hunger, as if bent on making up for the last two years of missed opportunities. And while passion is wonderful, and she could never be without it, it's the little things that keep her enraptured, in the end. Like this present moment, the look in his eyes when he talks to her so softly, intimately, his rough hands lifted to frame both sides of her face with them. It isn't just the hunger, but the little things - these small nuggets of affection that he effortlessly offers her, tiny reflections of what he keeps inside of his heart and the shape of her inside it.

Her face turns, pressing her mouth against the center of his right palm. "That sounds delicious, and we should eat them before they get cold," she says quietly, though she makes no move to shift away from him. He's warm, and the way those blue eyes roam over her face is a caress in and of itself - it's a growing addiction that she finds herself unable to escape from, even in the moments when she's annoyed or angry with him.

Though there's a grin; it lights up her face, unapologetically blinding him with it. It can't be helped, she's busily imagining him flailing and attempting to put out a cake pan with a fire extinguisher. "Did you ask Alfred for tips?" she asks.

Other than that, she'll remain, until he's ready - and whenever he does deign to get off the couch, she'll offer her hand up so he can lead her to where her surprise is waiting.

It's only natural that Zatanna would be amused by his admission about the slight fire… Especially given the way Tim generally presents himself, and the way she often perceives him as unflappable, as skilled at seemingly everything he puts his hand to. Maybe baking just isn't one of those things.

But if Tim was going to be annoyed by how entertained the witch is by her mental image of him frantically trying to put out a fire in his kitchen, it's pretty effectively forestalled by that bright grin, her darkly painted lips curving and her whole face lighting up so brilliantly. It makes his heart lurch in his chest, her smiles seldom failing to make him miss a beat, to feel as though that life-giving muscle had only just been stirred to action by her expression. As though he'd started existing just then, by the grace of her.

He does let his eyelids lower, though, putting on a look of mock irritation as his eyes hood. Especially when she gets an unexpected bullseye when she asks him about Alfred.

"He knows a lot more than I do about that stuff," the young man admits, only a bit huffily. "Though he was also the one who told me where to get the cake from…" Suspicious, maybe, given the butler's acclaimed skill in the kitchen. Or maybe knowing when to let someone else do the work is one of Pennyworth's own myriad talents.

Eventually, though, they do rise. Tim straightens up off the couch first, and when Zatanna offers her hand he takes it, helping her to her feet - but also lifting her hand enough that he can kiss her knuckles before he leads her towards the dining table, drawing her along by that captured limb. Even with her around, it doesn't see much in the way of regular use; now, though, it's actually properly set, candles lit to provide atmosphere.

He may have gotten advice about this, too. Which is a measure of just how much he wants to do this right, even if it means exposing himself to the butler's dry barbs in the future.

"I got wine, too. I figured, hey, you only turn twenty-one once, right?" And now she can legally drink, not that this has ever stopped her before, rather European as she is. That he might be willing to imbibe was just further evidence that this was something important.

"He does," Zatanna tells him, as he helps her off the couch, though before she can give him too much crap about his lack of skill in the kitchen, she's stayed by the gesture that follows. Her grin softens into a warmer, softer look when he presses his lips against her knuckles; he'd often described himself as a terrible boyfriend, at least in his younger years, in the rare moments when they would talk about his romantic history - usually in the dark, his hard body cradling hers, liquid and spent after their mutual exertions. But he learns quickly, also; this wouldn't be the first time when she wonders whether he is determined not to make the same mistakes in her case.

The dining room is lit, low but enough to give it the ambience a private dinner deserves. Her face lights up again, her face turning to press warmly against his cheek. "It looks amazing," she says. "So did you talk to Alfred and Dick?"

She's teasing him, of course, but it's done with affection - he would never recognize her if she stopped. It's the wine though that has her ice-blue eyes widening as she looks at him. "Wait, you're actually going to drink a little with me tonight?" she asks, incredulous, before she throws her arms around him and laughs, tilting her head back. "This is officially the best day ever. I mean, I know you won't really get drunk and let's face it, I've always wanted to know what that's like, but…" She knows about the patrols, and the last thing she wants is for him to risk himself when the people in the other side of the line are just as brilliant, and dangerously insane.

His kiss left with another kiss, she slips her fingers from his. "Music?" she asks. Low enough to maintain the background mood without interrupting the conversation. But once that's set up, she'll take a seat, though she does wait for him to pull out the chair for her.

Tim Drake might be acknowledged as a canny observer and cunning deducer, protege of the Dark Knight that he is, but Zatanna was no slouch herself.

Because, of course, that recurring thought that tugs at the back of her mind is right: He was determined not to make those same mistakes again. It wasn't always easy, because those old instincts were still there. That part of his thought processes that was most like Bruce was always there, cautioning against leaving himself too open. Warning him about the dangers of distraction, of the surety that he would hurt her or she him.

Being in love with her was the easiest thing in the world, but he'd never let her know how sometimes it really was a fight. Not against her - against himself.

"If I took Dick's advice I would've been waiting for you wearing nothing but a leopard print thong," he retorts. "Not that I couldn't pull it off, but there's something to be said for subtlety."

Plus where would he even get a leopard print thong?

His surprise when Zatanna reacts with incredulous glee at the idea of him having a glass of wine with her is completely genuine, though he doesn't have any cause to complain about her hugging him like that while she laughs. He really hadn't expected her to be that excited about it, but maybe it's an Italian thing?

"It's not like I've never done it," he says - which is true, he has! Very little, and extremely rarely. Otherwise, his dedication to remaining teetotal has been pretty solid, though. "But, you know… Today's special. And I'm not going out later, anyway." Because, again, the day was special. He had every intention of spending the rest of it with the witch, after they'd both taken up so much of it with other things.

The mention of music reminds him that he totally forgot to do anything like that, but fortunately in a modern world of curated streaming playlists and on-demand music it was easy to set something low and appropriate… And then once that oversight of his was dealt with, he did indeed pull Zatanna's chair out for her, seeing to it that the birthday girl was properly situated before he started serving up everything else.

"I like the confidence," Zatanna tells him with a laugh. "I didn't even have to say anything, just right there with the 'Not that I couldn't pull it off'." It is, in fact, objectively true - superhero bodies are like that, and Batman's Guide to Being Ripped So You Can Defeat Your Enemies With a Pinky is something that she knows both Red Robin and Nightwing take upon themselves to know backwards and forwards.

It isn't as if Tim makes it look effortless like he does anything else; she knows when it comes to relationships, it isn't that easy. She knows because she has had her share.

But with his agreement about the wine, she laughs and claps her hands together. "Great, let's get to it then. I'm glad you think it's special, it's just another year but it is twenty-one. Kind of a big deal, right? I mean…we'll be leaving uni shortly, too. Like everything's moving forward and impresses on the fact that we aren't kids anymore." They weren't really - they spent the last few years growing up fast, almost too fast. But this time, it's real, and felt. This time, it's official.

The fact that he isn't leaving the house this evening puts that glowing expression on her face, her eyes gleaming with mirth and a lion's share of affection. She is visibly endeared that he isn't going anywhere - he chose the vigilante life, but at least tonight, he is determined to spend time with her. In fact, she has never had to complain, ever since they got together this way, when they decided to try. He never made her feel neglected; always in the front row for her shows, the first to send her flowers.

Seated now, she unfolds her napkin and sets it on her lap. "So my day was good," she tells him, watching him as he serves up the first course. "I cleared up a misunderstanding with the Dean of Students regarding one of my history credits, so I think you won't have to graduate without me. Did some looking into on some active paranormal investigations out here, and then stopped by Gerry Craft's place to restock on some essentials. You? What did you do today, other than being amazing?"

Most people would say twenty-one was a big deal, probably the last real milestone before one turned thirty. Tim was of course too clever to bring that one up, though.

"People keep telling me I haven't been a kid since I was sixteen," the young man notes, although it's difficult to tell how serious that observation is. "But no, you're right. We're really adults these days. Kinda scary, if you think about it." Adults who were lucky enough that they'll never have to get 'real jobs'. Adults who've been carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders since before they were old enough to vote.

What he doesn't let his thoughts linger on is that they've both had to pass all these milestones without their parents. It was supposed to be a happy day, after all - no point in focusing on old hurts, right?

And she makes that easy, too, with the way she radiates happiness when he tells her he means to stay in, stay with her for the night instead of go haring off across Gotham's rooftops, looking for bad guys who need their teeth rearranged.

"It is special, though… It's not just the year, or even the day, it's you, y'know? Besides, I actually thought about something like this for Valentine's Day, but you really showed me up on that one. Got my competitive streak up and running," he adds, wryly. They both know that the difficult thing to get out of a moment is meaning. It's hardly difficult for either of them to make a big production if they wanted - he has access to wealth that might as well be limitless, and she has tremendous magical powers at her fingertips - and so these sorts of things between them can't just be about being flashy, or the exchange of things. The only way for it to work is to touch something deeper. To make something.

With her seated, his hand brushes lightly against the back of her shoulders, through the turtleneck of her dress as he slips away to busy himself with actually serving the meal. But she talks, answering his earlier question about her day, and he listens. School had unfortunately always been a bit of a precarious situation for Zatanna, where Tim had chosen to attend Gotham University rather than a more challenging school because he could do the work with a concussion (which he had on more than one occasion); but it was Zatanna who, for example, had to take time off when her soul had been stolen, or missed weeks of classes because she'd been trapped in literal Hell. It hadn't taken too much work to get her excused as having been trapped at home with mono for that one (just a little fraud) but she probably hadn't enjoyed the big stack of work he'd left for her when she'd escaped.

"That's good," he says of her hopeful graduation, which considering all those other things is kind of an understatement. "How's Mr. Craft doing these days anyway?"

But what did he do today?

"Tried to not burn down my townhouse," Tim answers as he provides the purple-clad witch with her salad. "Had to do some grocery shopping too, obviously. I haven't even been in the Nest today."

"It is kind of scary," Zatanna agrees. "Especially since it wasn't really all that long ago that we were teenagers." It feels simultaneously like an eternity and no time at all.

There is a bit of a struggle, in the end. Twenty-one is a milestone, and it's a raw, open wound that her father isn't there to celebrate it with her; perhaps the real reason why she has elected to forget about her birthday instead of remembering it. But with Tim pulling out all the stops to celebrate it, she can't help but feel somewhat guilty for doing that - after all, wouldn't her father want her to be happy? Isn't it enough to know that somewhere out there, he was alive and doing what he did best?

She pulls her thoughts out of that pit, ice-blue eyes watching Tim as he moves around, turning on music and assembling the first course. "Daddy would be happy that you're here," she tells him quietly. "I don't think he'd want me to be alone today."

With the salad provided, she reaches up to pluck the corresponding fork off the table, grinning ruefully. "Gerry? He's alright, he's actually been in a pretty good mood when I saw him. How you know that it's almost summer, I think. Means that Cassie's coming back from San Francisco to spend some time at home." Cassandra Craft, Gerry's only daughter and, presumably, one who shares his unique talents - she had mentioned her to him before. "I was thinking of visiting her when she's back, actually. Would you like to meet her? Or would that end up being too suspicious?"

Tim and Stephanie never had this problem - from what she understood, they could freely interact in their civilian and costumed identities, but their circumstances are slightly more complicated. As far as the world was concerned, Red Robin and Zatanna Zatara were merely comrades in the Titans, with the latter rumored to be romantically linked with one of Bruce Wayne's sons; understandable to a few, the Zataras were part of the Gotham elite, though never as predominant as the Waynes, Kanes, or even the Drakes. Some people have just assumed that since they operated in similar circles that of course they would end up together.

Taking a bite of salad, she listens, and grins when Tim reveals the extent of his day. "You sure?" she teases. "You didn't review crime stats or listened to the police scanner today? Wow, you're really determined to stay in today. I'm not complaining in the slightest, mind, but does this mean I get to brag about this to Kori?"

She must be hungry, because she tackles her salad with gusto. It isn't long until she's finished.

As elephants in the room went, Zatanna's absent father - no matter how justified his absence was - was bound to be a doozy.

How many birthdays had the witch passed since she last saw her father? Three, now? And Christmases, and Thanksgivings, and all those other sorts of holidays people typically spend with their families. Plus maybe the Zataras do those magic holidays too, given what she's already told him in the past of the real mystical significance of things like Halloween. Lupercalia? Beltane?

Tim doesn't know, but he does know the horrible, gaping wound that lives in your heart when those people aren't around. You can fill it with found family, to be sure, but it's still there. You still know.

"Yeah, that's still gonna be a terrifying 'meet the girlfriend's dad' moment once I get the chance," Tim replies, just as quietly but with a bit more levity, not wanting her to dwell on it. He knows just how easy it is to dwell on it. "But I don't think he'd want you to be alone any day, Zee. Call it a hunch."

Rather than keeping their place settings at opposite ends of the table, Tim elected for something a bit more intimate, with his own seat just around the corner of the table from hers. In the midst of everything else he somewhere along the line had found time to put in a centerpiece as well, roses of red and purple and black among the candles. Colours chosen more because of her typical palette, maybe, than because of any metaphorical significance.

"If she's like her father I doubt she'd be tricked by any of my cunning disguises," Tim notes with a wryness that just brushes up on being put out by the fact. "But I'm sure we could figure out a way to make it work."

Their circumstances were definitely complicated, thanks to the necessary deceit that lay at the heart of Tim's dual identities, but one of the things he was definitely not going to take for granted was Zatanna's willingness to put up with it. They'd just have to find a way to make it work. And hopefully avoid anyone thinking the Princess of Prestidigitation was in a love triangle with her teammate and a handsome rich guy.

It does seem like the sort of love triangle a girl like her would get into though, doesn't it? At least neither of 'them' is a vampire.

"The only thing I looked up today was recipes, honest," the vigilante says, eating his own salad while his knee brushes up against Zatanna's leg. "I mean… It wasn't easy. But I wanted today to be about you, not about work. The psychos and supervillains can wait a little while."

Though he knows she's teasing, he's not sure just how much she's kidding when she mentions bragging to Kori, as Zatanna would be able to tell from the way he squints suspiciously at her.

"You… Could, if you wanted. Or to Cassie, I guess. Sandsmark. How do I know so many Cassandras?" It's weird, honestly. "Save some of that appetite for the pasta," he adds, with how Zatanna massacres that poor, defenseless salad.

"You should be terrified," Zatanna tells Tim, as casual and confident as can be. "My dad nearly burned down your dad's Batcave."

She finishes that sentence off with a bite of her salad, though a mischievous light gleams off of those ice-blue eyes as she looks at him. The fact that he's situated close to her on the table is welcome also, her ankle brushing against his, the toe of her shoe nudging against the hem of his pants leg. It wouldn't be the first time they played footsie under the table, the occasional game they play in fancy restaurant dinners. But thankfully she reflects his own levity as far as Giovanni Zatara is concerned. She will never be accustomed to his absence, but she recognizes the reality for what it is.

The roses at the table are taken notice, and she reaches out to pluck a red one from the arrangement, checking for thorns before she slips it behind her ear. Her palette, yes, but half of his, also, the only shade missing being gold embellishments of a kind.

"From what I understand, she is like his father," she confirms, perhaps enabling him to build a mental file on the mysterious and oft-mentioned Cassandra Craft. "She was also blind since birth but…you know. Not so blind."

With her salad decimated, her fingers reach for his sleeve, curling into his inner wrist in a casual but intimate drape. She leans forward to press her mouth against the corner of his. "Don't worry," she tells him. "I'll eat every bite, I promise. Besides, this crab penne sounds amazing. I can't wait to try it. As for Kori and Cassie, I don't know if they'll believe it. But I'll tell them what I tell everyone else."

Candlelight flickers a little. She flashes him a wink.

"It's because I'm magic."

There's not a lot of people who could project mischief - at least, not relatively good-natured mischief - about the idea of the Batcave getting burned down.

Most people who would find amusement in that would be a lot more sinister about it. There'd be gloating, evil laughter. Probably some kind of death trap they figured would be inescapable.

But even while she brings that up, a memory from a less than pleasant event in the early days of their acquaintance, she rewards him for his choice of position at the table, the toe of one of her black high heels moving against his leg. They'd traveled a strange and circuitous path to get to where they were, but they both knew well that moving on, moving forward, was never necessarily a straight line. And now…

"I'll try really hard to not give him any reason to burn down anything of mine," Tim says, a concerned part of his mind brushing briefly on the thought of the lead-lined safe, and the carefully locked vault he'd constructed under the Nest to contain it, with that dangerous feather lurking inside. He barely worried about any other celestial entities spying on him more than twice a day now, with the reassuring comfort of a year's distance from those events. "But you know how dads can be, you'll still be his little girl no matter how many demon invasions you help stop. He might not like any guy who gets involved with his daughter… Still, if I have to get a little singed to be with you, it'd be worth it."

He has, admittedly, only gotten second-hand knowledge at best about the real Giovanni Zatara, his face-to-face encounters having been with a rather more super evil version of the man… But in his experience, if a girl her age still calls her father 'daddy', then she's going to be his little girl even after they've crumbled to dust.

A grin plays across Tim's face as the young woman uses one of the roses - it's a deep, rich red, like blood and passion - to decorate herself, tucking it into her midnight-black hair and behind her ear. She leans in closer once she's finished her salad, and he's done the same, her fingertips brushing against the inside of his wrist, setting nerve endings alight; her lips pressing lightly against the corner of his mouth, as she assures him she's going to eat the whole meal. And if she brags to the few of their friends who know about them, who know both sides of him, and they don't believe her, she'll just say…

It's because I'm magic.

"You really are," he agrees, watching her like nothing else existed. Maybe, in these quieter moments between the two of them, nothing else really did. "That's another reason this day is important, Zee. I just wanted to celebrate that you're in this world… Because it's a better place for it."

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