A/N: Wrote this before Invasion. This is my… reaction on the New Years moment for Chalant (Rob/Zee).

Disclaimer: Own nothing.



He's just shrugging his jacket on after a trip back from the cave. The thirteen-year-old looks to his mentor where he lingers in the doorway. A sheepish grin consumes his boyish features. "I know I wasn't supposed to be out, but Zatanna rented a movie, and don't worry, Conner was there the whole -"


Pausing, he actually tilts his head to keep his foster father's gaze. "What?" he asks with a little bit of attitude in his voice, a biting tone coming out of his mouth.

Bruce hates every word. He hates thinking it. And he just knows he'll hate the look on his ward's face even more when he actually says it.

"I don't think you should see Zatanna anymore."

Shades thrown aside, the blue eyes glisten and glare with a blend of hurt and hatred. "What? Why?" he asks, fury seething from the syllables.

"I'm worried," comes Bruce's patient, sober voice, "that's she's emotionally compromised." His eyes are hard and serious, a dangerous combination, something that tells Dick that the man isn't joking.

He scoffs and throws a hand out in disbelief. "Trust me," he said viciously, "I would know if she were compromised. Besides, you don't even know her!"

Wayne tries to interrupt but finds himself quickly cut off before he can even open his mouth.

"It's not like you've ever supported us," he spits, angry beyond compare. "I mean, you've said hi to her, what, once? And she's never over at the manor because of the secret ID thing that you keep imposing on me. I'm not a kid anymore, I know when to keep a secret."

"Richard." His voice is sharp enough to cut through steel; the boy falls silent. "I'm trying to protect you."

"From what?" asks the acrobat, gaze practically slicing the Dark Knight to bits. "From getting my heart broken? From falling in love? What's so wrong with getting close to someone, Bruce?"

"It's not about that," insists the father. "She's dangerous. After losing Zatara, she needs someone to cling onto. You're willing, and she'll stay until she feels better." His stare hardens to stoicism. "Or until she finds someone better."

Hostility dies out in the boy's eyes for a long moment. He knows some of it. Zatanna's always been incredibly nice, but she has always, generally, just used him as a shoulder to cry on or another presence in the room. Tension fades from his shoulders as he realizes that Bruce could, potentially, be right.

It scares him.

The aggression flares up again, hot as lava. "It's not like that!" he urges; yet he steps away from Bruce, further into the shadows. Now the seed of doubt has been planted and the roots are spreading, making him second-guess all of it.

"I'm trying to protect you, Richard. If you believe she's truly with you for the right reasons, by all means, I have no right to stop you." The man even tilts his head to one side, looking on as crystalline tears suddenly begin to boil in his beloved son's eyes. "But if you doubt her-"

"I don't," he defends, lying to even himself.

There are times when she feels distant. Even a few months ago, upon confessing that he loved her, she smiled and planted a kiss on his sad, desperate little lips, while saying nothing; a contented sigh had passed her lips and the moment was over.

"I know Zee, and she would never betray me." His eyes have become hard as steel and dangerously fierce. "She cares about me, and I care about her. Isn't that all we can ask for?" The tone of his words is biting. "Not like our line of work really makes anything long-term possible. We take what we can get, and if we can get each other, what's there to complain about?"

Bruce, through years of experience and observation, can instantly pin down the dynamics between the two: Zatanna is needy, and Dick is dedicated to taking care of her, as if it is his duty in life. "I understand," he responds dully in a sober attempt not to strike up a fight with his apprentice.

"I trust her. If you don't like it, leave us alone. We're both all-in right now, and no matter what you say, she needs me." He swipes his shades off the table and shoves them into his jacket pocket before pushing past Bruce and into the heart of the Batcave. The kid doesn't want to argue right now; he's too busy questioning his girlfriend's actions.

Silently, he watches the boy walk away, never looking back. Bruce knows how bad it'll be when his open heart is crushed, and the man even expects it. Zatanna may be emotionally compromised, but Richard is emotionally invested.

It's a deadly combination.

A/N: There you go. Review?