"No. Listen to me. I don’t care who your parents were," Damian hissed, his voice wound steely-tight. She could barely hear him over the conversations around them, the polite murmuring punctuated by the bright chimes of silver cutlery on fine china and crystal glasses meeting in toasts. What he had to say was only for her ears, so she had to strain to hear every word. "I don’t care how you were raised, or what mistakes you have made. I don’t care that you are not accustomed to gifts. I. Do. Not. Care. These facts are inconsequential to me. I want you to have these things because you deserve them—-because I want to give them to you. I want for you to not want for anything. You give so much. You care. You deserve to be cared for in return. Frankly, fuck the fucking sommelier. His taste in wines is subpar at best and he is a weasel. I wanted this to be nice for you. Because you’re healed, now, and. And I didn’t—-I didn’t know how to do it."
Stephanie was completely speechless. She opened her mouth to say something, to deny that she wasn’t worth half of this, to explain that she was just trying to make up for all the stupid, selfish things that she’d done over the years, to apologize for what she’d said, but no words were coming.
Nobody had ever said that to her before.
"That fucking sommelier, and m-my mascara isn’t—-" Her breath hitched as she tried to stave off the real waterworks. "—-it’s not waterproof, and I’m going to look worse than I already do, a-and—-"
"Shut up! I mean—-please. Shut up, please."
"You shut up," she laughed, but it came out a ragged-edged sob. "This was nice. I’m just not good at nice. Nice makes me break out in hives."
"I didn’t…that wasn’t meant to make you cry," Damian said, sounding half-helpless. "I didn’t mean for any of this. Did I misspeak?"
She reached across the table and took his hand, knotting their fingers together tightly. His face slid and swam in her aqueous vision, blurred by candlelight and tears.
"Nah," she said, her voice reduced to a shaky croak. "That was effin’ beautiful."
"I meant it," he said, staring down at their tangled-up fingers. "Do you doubt that? Is that why you’re crying? Don’t be angry. I can do better. Tell me how, and I will."
"No," Steph said, her mascara-gray tears rolling down her cheeks. "I know you mean it. That—-that’s why I’m crying."
"You make no sense."
"I’m a woman. You’ll get used to it."
Damian waved for the check. The poor waitstaff were probably praying for them to leave, so it didn’t take long for it to get to their table.
"How was it, sir?" The maître d’ asked, peering at Stephanie out of the corner of his eye. She left mascara smudges on the fine linen napkin she was wiping her eyes with, then blew her nose loudly.
"You should fire your sommelier immediately,” Damian said loudly as he signed his name. She could almost watch his voice carry through the room, heads tilting toward their table. “His wine choice so insulted and upset my companion, she can barely keep her composure.”
"Sir," the waiter said, with the tired flatness of a man who had to deal with spoiled rich children regularly. "I do not see how that can be."
"Oh, no? Please, allow me to explain," Damian said, and now all the chairs in the room seemed to be leaning toward his magnetisim. "He claimed to be serving us a 1992 Château d’Yquem, at a price of three hundred dollars. As I pray you know, the entire 1992 vintage of Château d’Yquem was deemed unworthy of the name and was summarily discarded. We were served a 2009 Ygrec d’Yquem, a wine worth three times less, and told that it was the Château. I have sat here and asked myself, why would he do such a thing? The only thing that I can surmise is that he paired my wine not to my meal, but to what he imagined my taste in women to be. He scoffed at her inability to hold her utensil properly and looked down upon her appearance. This woman," his voice rose, then, boomed. "Is a survivor. This meal was meant to be a celebration, since this is the first time in months that she has been able to hold a fork at all."
From NDND: Part Three, requested by mah bukkit.
THAT’S NOT 500 WORDS, BUKKIT. But because you are mah bukkit, I’ll overlook that. The amount of background reading that I did for this scene is ridiculous, even by my standards. I make no bones about my love of writing fancy parties and fancy clothes—-I’m quite comfortable with my tropes, thank you very much. The only fancy dinner that I’ve been to myself was when I received a writing award in my teens. I skipped high school, so I missed out on the whole prom experience. As a creature fascinated by sparkly things, I use any old excuse to throw fictional fancy parties. Look, I never grew out of my love of tea parties. Instead of staging them with stuffed animals, I write them down and add plot.
The background details that I put in are almost wholly for me, since obscure references make me just about as happy as fancy parties with fancy clothes. When I have to describe clothing, I usually track down a reference picture for myself. For this scene, Steph was in this, and I can’t seem to track down the ref I had for Damian’s suit (I lost it in the hard drive crash that happened shortly after I finished NDND), but he was wearing a snazzy yellow tie. Yellow is a color that I associate with both of them, because they associate it with each other—-Damian thinks of Steph’s hair, and Steph thinks of his old Robin cape. Yellow is the standard color for Robin capes, but Damian had a much more tactile relationship with his cape than any of the other Robins. He hid in his hood when he was upset, and he flared it dramatically whenever he felt he wasn’t getting enough attention. The sunny canary yellow of it always amused Steph, so she likes seeing him with yellow acessories. She mentioned that exactly one time, but Damian doesn’t let things like that go.
When I was researching the wine, the Château d’Yquem, I knew that it was definitely something that he would have picked out with Steph in mind. It’s a sweet white wine, made from grapes infected with botrytis cinenea—-grapes like ashes. They’re infected with a gray fungus that, if the weather is too wet, will ruin the crop. In the right conditions, though, the fungus becomes a “noble rot”. What should have destroyed the grapes makes the wine exceptional. The Château d’Yquem is known for its longevity, aging well past a century, and it turns a brighter golden yellow as it ages. Damian is so internal—-especially at this point in his life—-that most of the thought that goes into his gestures is left unexplained, but the dinner was supposed to be about Stephanie. To him, the wine choice was about supposedly ruined grapes turning into something beyond compare, given time. He was going to explain the process/metaphor to Steph, but the waitstaff tried to pull a fast one on him. Damian honestly forgot that the rest of the world would look at her scars and age and see rotten grapes, not the fine wine that was his parter, Batwoman. He didn’t mean to make her uncomfortable, but he didn’t know how to get his point across in a way that would show her that we was An Adult Now. He tried to pull a Beauty and the Beast (since it was one of the movies that he not-watched with Steph when she was laid up from surgery), but it turned into
I TRIED TO DO THE THING
BUT YOU ARE CRY
HOW DO I MAKE YOU STOP
I WILL STOP WOOING YOU IF YOU’LL STOP CRYING
because he really didn’t know what to do! It’s hard to woo a lady when your examples of wooification are The Time Mommy Drugged Daddy and Made a Baby Assassin and everything that is Dick Grayson. (Though, he tried to do what he thought Dick would have done. And it killed him that he couldn’t ask him for advice. He would have ignored all of the advice, but Dick would have made a big show of HOW HAPPY HE IS THAT HIS BABY BROTHER IS ASKING FOR LOVE ADVICE; IT’S EVERYTHING HE EVER WANTED. Dick tried to give him love advice after his eventual return, but by that point, Little D was Daddy D, so he considered his mate successfully wooed.)
I love this scene a lot. I could go on, but this post is already stupid kinds of long. PS, the 1992 vintage of the Château d’Yquem really was thrown out—-much like another 1992 product that we know and love.