Title: We Can't Have All These Empty Frames
Rating: strong T
Word Count: 4,000+
Summary: She lost count how many times they were photographed by paparazzi when she and Dick first got together.
Prompt: #79: picture
Other Inspirations: none
Note: College 'verse, and a follow-up to "You'll Always Be For Me", though they can stand as separate stories. Also, I didn't beta it or anything, so just a heads up!
We Can't Have All These Empty Frames
The weather has been getting warmer lately so she feels less bad about wearing dresses all the time. She's always been the kind of girl that liked to dress up even a little bit, and would wear a skirt and stockings underneath a fur coat in the middle of winter. She's just gotten so used to the cold that it honestly doesn't bother her anymore.
People give her looks sometimes, but it's not like she doesn't try to match the season. She just enjoys feeling a little more put together when she goes out because her father used to do shows nightly and of course she had to look nice for them. And it's not like she doesn't own jeans or sweats or leggings, either, because she does and is perfectly capable of rocking those, too.
She just likes her skirts more.
Plus, when you're dating the son of an international celebrity, you kind of have to dress the part.
She lost count how many times they were photographed by paparazzi when she and Dick first got together. They were everywhere.
Dick handled them with ease because he's used to them, and he'd said that she'd done a pretty good job, too, but it sure as hell didn't feel like she did. She just thinks she didn't like, crack under pressure or something because she's used to acting on a stage and that sort of kicked in and saved her from humiliating herself.
They're a lot better now but that's because Bruce Wayne made some sort of arrangement with the school. She doesn't know the details, but basically there are a few more security guards than before and cameras aren't allowed on campus unless approved by the principal. It definitely helped calm everything down, but obviously there's no way you can completely prevent someone from snapping a shot.
It's a good thing she's photogenic.
Anyway, it's really bright out as she's stepping out of the building, but when she reaches in her tote to pull out her shades, a hand gently grasps her wrist.
"I like seeing your eyes," a voice tells her, and suddenly Dick is standing there and smiling down at her. "They're pretty."
"So are yours," she laughs and he just grins. He's always wearing those shades and she has no idea why. Well, obviously because he likes them, and she remembered him telling her when they were little that it was helpful when the paparazzi likes to show up out of nowhere and catch him off guard.
(Considering how many times he's completely scared her by popping out of nowhere, that's something she finds nearly impossible.)
But the paparazzi haven't been that much trouble in the past few months so she doesn't see any reason for him to keep wearing them. She thinks maybe it's a habit or like a security blanket, which she understands, but she really does love looking into his eyes. God, that sounds corny, but it's true. His eyes are the perfect shade of blue and are sort of mesmerizing to stare at.
So she reaches up to pull his shades off and still feels totally giddy when he lets her. He's never once stopped her in all the years she's known him, even though every time someone else has tried he's stopped them. It makes her feel special.
"Perfect," she says when she has them off and tucks them into her tote.
"Yes, you are."
She rolls her eyes, which is kind of useless because she's blushing, and he chuckles before sliding a hand over the small of her back and kissing her soundly.
Then his other hand curves around her hip, his fingers ghosting up her stomach and making her blush because gosh is he really doing this in public? She's barely begun to try to pull away when his thumb brushes over the clasp on the back of her neck and tugs the thin silver chain upward a little, so that what's hanging on it becomes visible just above the dip of her neckline.
She smiles, and he leans his forehead against hers as she reaches between them to hold the ring between her thumb and index finger.
The only reason she doesn't wear it on her finger in public is because she doesn't want people getting the wrong idea. Of course she wants to get married to him, it's just that obviously they're not going to right now with school and everything. And she knows the kind of grief he'll get if people think they're getting engaged right now and she doesn't want him to have to go through that.
When she'd asked him if he felt weird about her not wearing the ring all the time, he'd admitted that yeah, it kind of sucked. But he also agreed that it does make sense in a lot of ways to keep it private.
Besides, she has no doubts about their relationship and neither does he, so that's that.
"Are you ready for this weekend?" Dick asks, and she nearly drops the egg carton she's putting back into the fridge when she looks at him.
Bruce's girlfriend, Selina Kyle, is this huge supporter of wildlife and an avid environmentalist. She's pretty involved, actually, and is famous internationally for saving zoos and funding restorations and everything of the like. And this weekend the Gotham City Zoo is having this event in honor of her saving this wildlife reserve on the border of the city from being turned into another hotel.
Which she totally forgot about.
"I'm taking that as a no, then," he laughs.
"It just completely slipped my mind!" Gosh, has she not looked at her planner recently? Did she remember to put it on her planner? "I'm not usually this forgetful."
"Hey, don't beat yourself up about it or anything." He gets up from where he's sitting at the table and crosses the short distance between them. "So what if you forgot one thing?"
"I was my dad's calendar after my mom died," she reminds. "I never forget anything!"
"That's what you have me for, right?" he asks, and she just kind of has to stop being ridiculous about this so that she can smile at him. He sets a hand over her elbow, and she closes her eyes and hums a little when he presses a kiss to the underside of her jaw. "You had that big paper due two days ago, anyway, so you were probably just focused on that and forgot."
She grins at him. "Did I just make a huge mistake and get engaged to someone that's saner than me?"
Dick just laughs and kisses her forehead.
"So, did you not want to go anymore?" he asks. "Because I can just call Bruce and—"
"No, no, it's fine. It'll be fun, and besides, it's been a while since we've been home and seen our parents," she reminds. "It's a nice surprise."
"For you it is, since you were the only one that forgot," he amends, chuckling when she scoffs at him. "Chill, Zee."
"You're lucky I happen to like you."
He skims his thumb over the sliver of skin over her hipbone before hooking his thumb under the waistband of her flannel shorts and panties. "Don't you mean more than like?" he asks, and she takes her lower lip between her teeth and meets his eyes when she nods. He gives her this smile and tugs her by her hip towards his room, and their dinner is ice cold by the time they come back out to eat it.
It's a little after 10:00 at night (a Wayne Tech jet is supposed to arrive at the airport before midnight to fly them to Gotham) when she's checking her e-mail on her phone and sees that she has a new message from an address she's never seen before.
One of the last things she expected to see when she clicked on it was a picture of her.
There's more than one, actually, and they're of her and Dick together. More specifically, it seems like they were taken just the other day when Dick surprised her after class, because she's wearing that same sundress. And the angles of the shots suggest that whoever had been taking the photos had been at the top of the steps they'd been standing on.
And okay, if you ignore the fact that someone had been taking pictures of them from behind, they're actually… they're nice.
The lighting is kind of perfect and they look like they're from a professional shoot or something. There are six files: one of Dick coming up from behind her, two of her pulling off his shades, two of them kissing, and one of them with their foreheads together and their eyes on the ring between them.
"Uh, Dick?" she asks.
He looks over at her and then down at her phone. "Where did—"
"This girl just sent them to me," she explains, chewing her lip nervously. Gosh, if these pictures have been leaked…
Dick drapes an arm around her, though, and rubs it soothingly. With his other hand, he scrolls down the touch screen a little more and she sees that there's a message at the bottom: Don't freak! I haven't sent these to anyone but you two. I just love taking pictures of everyone and everything as practice, but I thought these turned out so amazing that I wanted to share them with you two.
"Disaster averted," he says simply, and she just looks at him because he seems totally calm considering. Maybe she's just overreacting again. "They're nice, though."
"Yeah," she agrees, looking back at the photos. "I think I'll use one as my wallpaper."
He laughs and kisses her temple. "Okay," he says, and she smiles when he runs his thumb over the clasp of her necklace again.
(But… is it bad that she kind of wished those pictures got leaked?)
The actual gathering is set up in the large garden between the two aviaries, which is really spacious for the amount of people actually attending. There's a canopy over the section where all of the food is and there are round tables, too, but the only people really sitting down are the elderly ones. Everyone else is standing up as they socialize, which she personally never understood, but whatever.
Part of the reason the place is so empty, too, is because a good portion of the guests are already walking around. They don't formally start serving lunch until noon, which is in about an hour, and they just put drinks and snacks out to hold people over until then.
There were paparazzi at the entrance when they first arrived but as far as she can tell, the photographers actually inside were hired or invited, which is nice.
She's kind of done with people taking secret pictures of her.
"There's the happy couple," someone says, and she turns around and breaks into a smile.
She's never called him anything but that, nor will she ever. The first time some reporter caught it—after her and Dick started dating, of course, and more people outside of Gotham actually knew who she was—they called endearing. And she wouldn't have stopped calling him that in public if they thought differently, but it's nice to know she's not hurting herself here.
(God, she hates having to think to superficially like that. And she'll only ever do it for Dick because even if he could care less, she doesn't want to do anything to hurt his reputation. She doesn't understand how people live happily when they have to worry about so many little things that, in the grand scheme of things, don't really matter.)
Her father squeezes her a little during their hug and places a kiss atop her head before she pulls away. "Hi, sweetheart," he greets, then smiles at Dick. "How was your flight?"
"Late," he exhales. "I'd say I'm amazed to be functioning on such little sleep if I weren't already in college."
Her father laughs at that. "How is that going for the both of you?"
So they stand around at talk with her father for a few minutes, and it's one of those times where she's really glad she's known Dick as long as she has. He's totally comfortable around her father and her father likes Dick a lot. Actually, she thinks Dick is the only boy her father has ever been this easy with, which is amazing because he's always been the deal breaker for her past relationships.
And her dad knows about the ring, and so do Bruce and Selina and Dick's sister and three brothers (all adopted). They announced it over brunch when they flew home the weekend after Roy and Jade's wedding.
Her dad's totally the old-fashioned kind of person that knows how serious a promise ring is. Bruce and Selina do, too, despite obviously being a more modern couple, and she lost count of the number of times people told them they were wondering what took them so long.
Anyway, Dick and her father get into a conversation about sports (which is odd, considering both of them are pretty apathetic of anything in that genre short of the Olympics) and that's right around the time that she gets whisked away by Cassandra, Dick's sister, and Stephanie, the girlfriend of Tim, who is one of Dick's brothers.
Cass is generally soft-spoken, but Stephanie's this social butterfly and makes up for it. And she's not sure how serious Stephanie and Tim are, but considering that Bruce always makes sure she gets invited to exclusive family events like their brunch a few weeks ago, she figures Stephanie is more or less family. She's glad, actually, because they're kind of perfect for each other.
So Cass tells them about her trip to China for a few minutes before Stephanie tries to be subtle about hers and Dick's relationship plans until Tim appears out of nowhere like an angel and gets her to stop talking because, seriously, Stephanie is as subtle as a train wreck.
She and Cassandra end up sitting with Leslie Thompkins, an old friend of Bruce and her father, and Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family butler, and talking with them for a while. Alfred is kind of hilarious and sweet while managing to be completely formal the entire time, and Leslie is laughing most of the time.
Honestly, those two are adorable together and the smile Cassandra gives her confirms that they're both thinking the same thing here.
A little later, Cass goes with Alfred when he gets up to get drinks, leaving her and Leslie alone at the table. The woman gives her a wrinkled smile and Zatanna slips her hand in Leslie's when she holds it out leans forward a little when she does.
"You will show me the ring later, won't you, dear?"
She doesn't know why that makes her blush, but it does. "Of course," she assures.
"I used to watch you two, you know," Leslie goes on, sitting back in her chair. Zatanna laughs and nods because yeah, she remembers. "You two were inseparable back then, practically joined at the hip! Your dad told me you had a hard time adjusting after you moved away, and it took the longest time for Dick to accept it, too."
"I know," she says, because honestly? She never really got over it. She remembers exactly how much that entire ordeal sucked.
"Your father told me that he thinks you still never forgave him for doing that to you two," Leslie adds, and she raises her eyebrows a little. This is news to her. "Oh, yes," Leslie continues after seeing her reaction, "That's why he's so happy for you two now."
Zatanna is kind of surprised when she begins to feel her eyes water, but Leslie just smiles wider at her and places her other hand over their joined ones.
"Do you want to know what I told him?" She nods. "I told him that it was okay, because look at how they are now. Look how happy they are. I told him that I knew how you two were. If you two hadn't had that time apart, you never would've realized how much you guys would end up needing each other. You guys would've been too shy to do anything about it, and you would've waited too long."
She bites her lower lip and laughs a little when Leslie hands her a handkerchief to wipe at the corner of her eyes with.
Then she feels fingers gently grasping her chin, making her look up and into Dick's eyes. "Hey," he says softly, "is everything okay?"
"Everything's fine, Dick," she smiles.
Dick looks to Leslie, but the woman is already getting out of her chair. "I think I'm going to go bother Alfred about those drinks," she announces, and waves dismissively when Zatanna tries to give her back her handkerchief.
When she's walking away, Dick puts a hand on her elbow and helps her up. "Seriously, 'Tanna, what's wrong?"
She shakes her head. "I just… I just really love you."
He blinks and then gives her this smile. "I love you, too," he says, and even if he still seems a little surprised, it's not because this is the first time they've said it or anything. He just seems curious as to what brought this on right now, especially since she'd been tearing up a few seconds ago, but instead of asking, he pulls her close and gives her a lingering kiss.
Selina starts her toast a few minutes later, Bruce standing beside her with a pleasant smile on his face as she talks about the beauty of nature and about an elaborate web of strings that a gravitational force holds together, even over vast distances and against opposing forces, as part of a greater picture.
As everyone cheers at the end of the speech, she turns to face Bruce and clinks their champagne flutes together. Bruce whispers something into her ear and she holds onto his arm as she laughs.
"They're falling in love, you know," Dick mumbles against her temple.
She smiles. Yeah, she knows.
"Do you want to see the aviaries later?"
She bites her lower lip and tips her head back to meet his eyes, nodding. She's always loved birds.
Dick is standing at the sink in nothing but his boxers when she steps out of the shower, and he smiles at her and hands her a towel. He's playing with her ring on the necklace chain as she pats herself dry and cinches the towel around herself, and he puts a hand on her hip when she walks over to him.
"What's on your mind, Zee?" She looks at him, eyebrows pulling together, and he smiles without taking his eyes off of the ring.
"What do you…"
"That was a courtesy question, by the way," he informs. "You've been preoccupied ever since we boarded the jet last night. And before you ask whether or not you're being that obvious, no, you're not. I just know you too well. At least," he turns to look at her this time, flashing that pearly white smile of his, "I hope I do, after all these years."
She opens her mouth but ends up laughing and shaking her head. "Why ask questions you already know the answer to?"
"Why dodge questions you already know the answer to?" He sets the necklace onto the counter and places his other hand over her hip, too. "If I'm being pushy, let me know."
"You're not," she says softly. "…Do you have your heart set on waiting to get married? Or, engaged, I guess?"
He smiles at her.
"Have you looked at your ring recently?"
"What do you mean?" she asks, but he's already unclasping the necklace and sliding the ring off of the chain. He places it in her palm and she shoots him a strange look (he's still smiling at her) before looking down at the ring and tilting it in her palm a little.
That's when she sees the engraving on the inside of the platinum band:
Will you marry me?
It's in Italian, though, which her mother used to speak all the time when she'd been alive.
She doesn't even realize that she's crying again until Dick's wiping the tears away with the pad of his thumb, tilting her chin up so she's looking at him. "Shouldn't you be down on one knee or something?" she asks just above a whisper, and he laughs breathlessly. She has no idea when he got the engraving done, because she's sure it wasn't there when he first gave it to her.
But she forgets to ask him because suddenly he's taking the ring from her hand and sliding it onto her finger, and then kissing her soundly.
"I'm going to take that as a yes," he says against her lips.
She laughs and nods. "And I was thinking," she whispers, fingers dipping over his abs as she slides her hands up his bare torso, "that we can tell the world by anonymously sending in those pictures that Donna girl took of us. After asking her, of course."
"I like the way you think," he chuckles. "You know, I think I'm rubbing off on you."
"That's funny, because Artemis thinks so, too," she informs, and then blinks. "I should probably call her to let her know I'm engaged, or she may kill me for making her find out on her own again."
He gives her this smile and pushes her back against the tiled wall as his hand dips underneath the hem of the towel, her eyelids fluttering closed and her legs parting a little more. "Did you want to call her right now? Because I can stop if you do."She's biting down on her lip as she shakes her head, and he uses his thumb to nudge it out from between her teeth, kissing her forehead as she lets out a moan.
God, being this in love with him should unhealthy or something. Not that it would stop her, but still.
They're at the boys' apartment when they send the e-mail to all of the major sites and blogs, because they told Wally and Artemis in person as soon as they got back and Artemis wanted to approve the pictures before they went public. Donna wanted to remain anonymous, too, and she said in her reply to their e-mail it's because she didn't want to make money off of the photos like some paparazzi.
She and Artemis both spend the night (which isn't a first) and end up waking up in the early hours of the morning and venturing out into their kitchen while the boys are asleep (also not a first).
They sit at the table with their chairs together and a slice of the cheesecake they bought to celebrate between them. Artemis is wearing the plaid button-down Wally had on earlier with only two or three of the buttons actually buttoned, and the Wayne Tech shirt she has on just barely covers her hips.
"So," Artemis says after swallowing a bite, "You're engaged."
She smiles. "Basically."
"Honestly? It took you guys long enough."
"We're barely over twenty!" she laughs, shoving Artemis's shoulder.
"Uh, that doesn't really matter considering how long you two have been in love with each other," Artemis says matter-of-factly, and she just rolls her eyes.
Artemis laughs. "We really shouldn't be eating this."
"At least not without sharing!"
Wally and Dick are both shirtless and in boxers as they walk over to them. Artemis feeds Wally what's on her fork and Dick slides his hand up her back as he kisses the top of her head. "This would make for an interesting picture," he comments, and she laughs because, yeah, they probably look a bit ridiculous, the four of them wearing almost nothing and eating cheesecake this early in the morning.
So naturally Artemis makes them take one, and they laugh as she prints it out and slides it into the frame hanging over the sink.
(But yeah, she asks Artemis to send it to her, too, because that one's definitely a keeper.)