For Joyfulldreams' request for Chalant fluff on the YJAM. First time writing for this pairing; huge challenge balancing exploration of Robin and Zatanna's (angsty) common ground with the lightheartedness that seems to be the cornerstone of their relationship.


|January 1, 01:16 EDT

"You're looking pretty... chapfallen."

Robin glanced up from his holographic computer. When he noticed Zatanna leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed over her chest, he closed the window without once taking his eyes off her.

"Chewed up," the magician continued, taking a few tentative steps into the room. Normally Robin's room remained a fortress of solitude (for him) and mystery (to everyone else). Apart from Wally, it seemed the team had collectively concluded that the region was a booby-trapped, likely surveillance-camera-heavy-i.e.-Batman-stalked place. Note to self: avoid at all costs.

"Don't forget 'chalant'," the Boy Wonder added, his gaze trained on her even though his eyes were probably unfocused with weariness beneath his mask. Zatanna made a vague sound of agreement before perching herself upon the bed. The memory of his arms settling contentedly around her waist replayed itself in her mind.

Almost as if fearing a Bat-family mind-read, the magician cleared her throat and remarked, "Lots of 'ch' words."

"Yeah." The sound came out as part of a breathy cackle so undeniably Robin she had to resist breaking out into a huge grin. But then he winced, visibly, his face scrunching up in pain. She knew that he had to have taken quite a beating to let it show. Zatanna hadn't been there when Robin and Superboy had fought Batman and Superman, but, well, Batman and Superman.

She didn't say anything, though, and after a moment he continued, "'Chaff' is another one. 'Good-humored fun, talking or joking; banter'."

"Mm." Non-committal, but at the moment Robin barely seemed to notice, absorbed as he was in thinking of more words. Maybe all butchers of the English language were like that. Start the conversation with wordplay and away on a tangent they went.

She cocked her head to one side. "Let's see. If I wanted to be nice I'd describe your laugh as a chuckle."

"I'll give you half a point for that one," Robin responded playfully, swinging his legs up onto the bed so that he sat cross-legged facing her. Zatanna mirrored his action, and the undeniably childlike quality of the position reminded her strangely of long-gone nights of whispering campfire secrets to two sets of listening parental ears.

Robin held up two fingers. "Making the score two and a half to two."

"I wasn't aware we were playing a game." Still, she complied and with a little effort managed to get her index and middle finger upright while keeping her ring finger bent at the first joint — the proximal interphalangeal joint, Wally had mentioned once while in an especially science-y mood — to signify a half.

Making a sound that could best be described as a scoff, Robin replied, "Everything's a game. Just that sometimes you can't see the enemy, and, well..."

"What?" With her free hand Zatanna prodded her companion's knee. He barely seemed to stir.

"A lot of the time, in the games we play... If we lose, there are no second chances. No replay button, no extra lives." And the words seemed to hold hands and stumble their way across to her; his voice was not so much breaking as it was broken.

It was like they could both literally feel the atmosphere in the room pull a Titanic. In the palpable tension Robin seemed to make up his mind about some long-mentally-debated matter. He let his peace-sign-displaying hand fall to interlock fingers with its counterpart. "About your dad," he began, his voice strong and devoid of its earlier hesitation. Wringing his hands a little and waiting for Zatanna to abruptly find somewhere else to be.

A slight intake of breath, but she didn't move, just kept holding her two and a half fingers up as though she could do nothing else. Which, strangely enough, had proved true just over an hour ago. "Yeah?"

"I lost my family too," Robin said quietly. Testing the waters. Her hand, suddenly on both of his. Warm and soft. He quickly withdrew, averting his gaze so he wouldn't have to see the hurt look on her face.

"Long time ago," he covered up. He smirked, but there was a distinct bitterness, a world-weary resignation in the tension of his lips. "Still haven't found a word for the feeling it gives you. Prefixed or otherwise. Guess it's — guess it's different for everyone."

"Weird thing about heroes. Can't solve your own problems? Go save the world from theirs." Zatanna paused before forcing a little playfulness into her voice. "Guess that's why Batman's all... chary." She made a still bigger effort to look triumphant as she made her ring finger's half into a one. Half a point, Z. For saving everyone but yourself.

A smile returned to flit across the Boy Wonder's face, even if it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Are we still playing?"

"I was under that impression." And again with that flirtatious lilt in her voice that was just... unfair, really. "Two points to my three, Boy Wonder. It's the new year. Cut loose. You don't have to be all—"

"Chivalrous?" His grin widened microscopically as he upped his score to a proud three. "In that case... 'Charisma': 'a spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority," and Robin looked meaningfully at Zatanna at this point in his recitation, "over—'"

"Ssik em."

Robin raised an eyebrow. "Ooh. Kinky."

"Might as well use that influe—" The word was cut short leaving her mouth as he leaned forward — as ordered — not an ounce too impulsively, to close the short distance between them. Robin paused barely an inch from her face as if asking permission, then caught her lips for a light kiss for the second time.

"How do you feel," Zatanna asked, pulling away for a moment, "about girls," another peck, but softer, more tender, "who make the first move?"

"Love 'em," he replied swiftly, if not quite as suavely as he'd hoped, and held back only long enough to remark, "Knew you had some good moves." The troubling thoughts of what awaited the team rose to the foreground of his mind again, but he pushed them away resolutely.

Zatanna smiled against his lips, and whispered, "Checkmate."

Without pulling away Robin's four raised fingers felt for hers; they met halfway and for a moment just marveled because the spaces between my fingers are right where yours fit perfectly.

And there weren't enough words, beginning with 'ch' or otherwise, as they allowed their fingers to remember and their minds to temporarily forget. But suffice it to say that Robin was very much feeling the aster, and even Zatanna's love was in love with him.

Reference to Owl City's Vanilla Twilight near the end because there were no better words.

I am quite proud of the last line.