“When are you going to fall in love with me?” Damian asks without any segue. Just slips it in after a discussion of using nth metals for batarangs.
Dick spits out his coffee and turns to eye Damian carefully who’s calmly drinking his own coffee.
“Wha- what did you just-”
“Tt. I said,” Damian replies, “When are you going to fall in love with me, Grayson?”
Dick presses his lips together, eyes wide, and replies, “I don’t...” He tilts his head, finally deciding on an incredulous, “What?”
Damian takes a deep breath in, narrowing his eyes irritatedly at Dick, “I’m certain you understand the concept. I’m not going to repeat it for you again.”
“Yeah,” Dick chokes out, “yeah, but I-” He ends on a high pitched note.
Except then Tim comes into the dining room and Damian’s attention is turned from Dick to insulting Tim’s pajamas and hair and existence.
“You go high. I go low?” Dick asks, watching their targets carefully.
“I go low, you go high,” Damian replies, his tone brooking no argument.
Dick has to roll his eyes at that as he turns to Damian. “Does it really matter?”
Damian’s expression is impassive before he gives Dick a cool look, “Do you have an issue with my tactics?”
“No, but-” Dick stares at Damian, and then he suddenly recalls the other morning. It comes with a rush of blood to his head. They haven’t talked about it, and he really doesn’t want to talk about it. As far as Dick knows, according to Bruce and the records in the Batcave, Damian hadn’t encountered any toxins or poisons the night before. At this point, Dick is just completely dumbfounded. Occam's razor, yes, but Dick can't imagine Damian having a crush on him.
Dick tries to interpret Damian’s expression and decides it’s better not to fight it.
His best guess is puberty and hormones.
He just gives a little quirk of a smile, and Damian’s satisfied grin in return is sharp and fast, reading Dick’s acceptance easily.
And then he’s off, cape flying behind him.
Damian’s sitting on Dick’s usual chair. It’s not something he usually does. He usually prefers one of the larger chairs in the corner that has enough room for Titus, Jerry, and Batcow all to pile on top of him.
He’s alone for once without his pets.
“Hey...” Dick starts placatingly. He doesn't need more arguments today.
Damian flips a page and doesn’t look up. He’s reading up about neurotoxins which is concerning to Dick, but he’s still bothered as to why Damian’s in his chair. Damian had mocked it for being ratty and old and lacking in general taste.
“Yes, Grayson?” Damian practically sighs in a patronizing tone at Dick’s continued presence. He’s still reading.
“You’re...in my chair,” Dick says slowly, phrasing it as a question.
“Indeed. Astute observation skills, Grayson. Shall we have a ceremony to award you?”
Dick presses his lips into a thin line.
“What?” Damian continues, “Is there a problem?”
“No...” The chair doesn’t really matter to Dick except...Damian’s been unreasonable lately, and to top it all off, Dick had just come back from a mission with Jason. Dick’s not in the mood to give something he likes to someone who’s not going to enjoy it. He's really not in the mood for Damian's passive aggressive calls for attention either. “I'd just been planning on taking a nap here.”
“Oh?” Damian replies, flipping the page again. “There’s more than enough room.”
Dick bites down on his tongue by accident, wincing, as he stares at how Damian is sprawled out on the chair that already isn’t very wide. Even if Damian is still small, smaller than even Tim still, there really isn’t room.
“Um,” Dick says, intelligently, everything inside him slowly backing away from this situation.
“Well?” Damian looks up, “Or do I make you nervous?”
It’s a childish tactic, and Dick has some idea of where it’s all leading even if he doesn’t really want to go any further along that train of thought. It still shouldn’t irritate him as much as it does. He takes a breath and forces himself to put it into perspective. Incredulous amusement rises over the irritation just like that, but now he has the ordeal of stopping himself from laughing at Damian.
He barely manages to transform it into an easy smile before he says, “Yeah, I think I’ll just go sleep in my room.” When he turns, he runs his hand through Damian’s hair, ruffling it as he leaves.
“Tt,” Damian says.
“Have you considered your answer yet?” Damian says, attempting a different approach this time, while they’re having a mock battle with Jason and Tim.
“For what?” Dick asks, too caught up in checking that the dimensions for the trap are correct to realize the hole he just dug himself.
“When you’re going to fall in love with me.”
Dick nearly falls out of the tree.
“I don’t- I think we should maybe finally have a talk about this, Damian?” Dick replies, finishing tying the trap.
“About why you think I’m going to...” Dick can’t think of a nice way to phrase it. “About why you’re assuming that we’re...going to...have a romantic relationship.”
“Who said anything about a romantic relationship,” Damian asks as he gives Dick a pointed look first, looks at the knot and then gives Dick another pointed, patronizing look. Then he unties and redoes Dick’s knot.
“You just asked me when I’m going to fall in love with you,” Dick states, slamming down on his exasperation. His knot had been fine.
“Yes,” Damian says, looking up as if Dick is the crazy one.
“Yeah, so...that implies...”
“That you’re going to fall in love with me,” Damian replies, cutting Dick off as if he’s the insane one. “I never mentioned how my end of our relationship would develop.”
Dick vaguely imagines how good it would feel to just shove the kid out of the tree.
He doesn’t. Instead, while he tries to navigate his way through the conversation, he ends up falling into their own trap and gets laughed at by Jason and Tim while Damian watches him, eyes disturbingly intent on Dick.
Dick trails behind Damian who’s pushing the shopping cart with a vengeance.
“Are you listening, Grayson?” Damian asks, scowling.
“Yeah. Yeah,” Dick tries, and then at its failure to convince, says, “No. No, I wasn’t. What’d you say?”
“We need a large amount of eggs, matcha powder, rose water, and pistachios.”
“...because?” Dick asks, not sure what they’re making with only eggs and flavors.
“Macarons. We already have sugar,” Damian sighs. He eyes Dick and says, “Are you going deaf? Should we have you go with Pennyworth to his consultation for hearing aids?”
Dick grits his teeth, sighs and then runs his fingers through his hair. Damian’s been relentless recently, “No, I was just... distracted...”
“By what?” Damian asks.
Dick does a double take because any time Dick says he’s distracted, it usually means Damian will follow up with an insult about his lack of focus.
“You...really wanna know?” Dick tries.
“If I didn’t want to know, I wouldn’t have asked,” Damian replies, his tone bordering brattish.
Dick raises his eyebrows and replies, “Uh...thinking about how I used to sit in the cart and make whatever adult from the circus I was shopping with push me around.”
Damian makes a considering look before he stops the shopping cart, adjusts the placement of several items and then gestures with an arm.
“Uh,” Dick says.
“Well?” Damian says, “Get in.”
“I-,” Dick protests, “I’m a bit big for that now, I think.”
At Damian’s stubbornness, Dick eventually offers, “How about you get in, and I push? You still look youn-”
Damian’s expression is near murderous, and Dick looks up at the ceiling, praying Clark would crash in with an emergency mission or something.
He doesn’t, and Dick ends up giving in, sitting in the cart, his knees pressed to his chest, trying to not die of humiliation when kids point out the weirdo in the cart to their parents.
It takes a very long time of circling around the supermarket, the employees’ protests being scared off by Damian’s expression, before Dick is able to relax into the steady hum of the wheels rolling.
He watches the rows of cans and bags and boxes pass by under the glaring white lights, listening to Damian mutter to himself about the lack of logic in supermarket organization.
Damian stops the cart.
“Hand me the bag of ground almonds.”
Dick sits up a little higher on the cart to grab it and hands it to Damian who considers it with a quiet sincerity that Dick’s ever really only seen with Damian and animals. His brow is furrowed a little. Dick wants to tell Damian that he looks like a little old man when he does that, face all wrinkled. He sniggers, pretending to look at peanut powder when Damian snaps his head up.
It takes Damian another few minutes as he assess each brand of almonds.
Dick has an arm propped on the side of the cart, and he leans his head on it as he watches Damian, consideringly. “You really liked them when Alfred made them, didn’t you?”
Damian doesn’t look up from ingredients and nutrition info when he replies, mind distant, “It is one of the desserts I’m more partial too.”
Dick can’t help but grin at that. He wants to say that Damian’s good at whatever he puts his mind to, that it’s nice that he’s taking an interest in cooking one of Alfred’s favorites just as the old butler’s fallen sick.
But he’d probably get punched, so he doesn’t.
“This is ridiculous,” Damian growls, covered in water and possibly mold.
They’re in Dick’s apartment trying to fix the sink since his landlord never seems to be available.
Damian throws the tools on the ground, stomping to the edge of the tile to strip off his soaking wet shirt and pants, left with only his boxers.
Dick stares at him, noting the curve of his tapered waist and his broad shoulders before he says, “It isn’t really necessary to strip.” Dick’s soaking wet too, and he’s been dealing with that.
“What isn’t necessary,” Damian rears around, growling, “is for piping this pathetic to exist.”
He stomps back to the sink, picking the tools up with a vengeance.
Dick had been pushed out of the way an hour before, Damian citing his incompetence as the reason for his exile.
“...well,” Dick says, “since I’m not doing anything...I’ll go get you a change of clothes.”
Damian pauses at that, the shadows of the muscles on his back shifting. “Your clothes?” he asks.
“Yeah?” Dick says, “No one else lives here.”
“Tt. No thanks.”
“Um,” Dick says, a little offended. “It’s just a solid color T-shirt and jeans. I wasn’t going to give you anything ridiculous.”
“I refuse,” Damian replies.
“Look, they’ll fit you fine, and since the water’s busted all over my apartment, I can’t wash your clothes.”
“They’ll be big on me,” Damian finally says after a moment.
“...yeah?” Dick replies, “I mean...it’s better than them being too small. That one time I had to borrow Tim’s clothes was horrible. I was probably better off not wearing pants at all.”
“Tt,” Damian repeats, “I have no interest in wearing your clothing.” He continues tinkering with the sink.
“Alright...” Dick says, rolling his eyes. “Have it your way then.”
Dick is sweating unbearably under the hot sun. He adjusts his cap, squinting at Damian who doesn’t seem to even notice the heat. He’s busy drawing the animals, laying out their anatomy and focusing on detailing their figures.
“It’s hot,” Dick says, just trying to make conversation.
“It’s the summer, and we are outside. What else did you expect, Grayson?” Damian replies, but his tone isn’t particularly mean. He’s just making the motions, too focused on his art for anything else.
“Hey...” Dick says, leaning over Damian’s shoulder to try and get a glimpse. He gets a charcoal smudged hand shoved in his face instead.
“Oof,” Dick says. He straightens back up and asks, “C’mon. Not even a peek? I came out here with you today even though this heat could literally melt a person.”
“Take off your shirt then,” Damian suggests.
“Um,” Dick manages. Damian’s been better at making him speechless recently. In a painful, tooth-pulling way. He’s toned down the snide comments for suggestive statements and Dick’s not sure which is worse. “I think I’m good for now.”
“Or pour water over yourself,” Damian suggests, pulling off a nonchalance, as if that were the most reasonable choice of action possible.
“...I’m...good on that too,” Dick says. He pauses, going around the bench to sit down next to Damian, putting his hands in his lap. Damian flinches, pulling his sketchbook closer to him, and Dick only grins, looking straight forward. “I won’t peek. Promise.”
Damian grunts and continues drawing with the sketchbook held close to him, relaxing only a while later after a suspicious glance at Dick.
“Um so...” Dick starts, staring at the armadillo house, wondering when it’d come out, “Do...do you have a crush on me?”
Dick has never seen someone freeze up so instantly or so still than Damian does at that moment. It's only for a second though. Then he goes back to the way he was before, as if that had never happened, and Dick is left wondering if he’d just imagined it.
“Why would you think that, Grayson?” Damian asks, a forced drawl at the end.
Dick stares at the armadillo, keeping his promise of not peeking, and says, “You...sort of flirt with me. A lot.”
“Do I?” Damian asks, and there’s almost a challenge in his voice.
“Yeah,” Dick says, “you do.”
“That’s your perception,” Damian replies, and again, his tone isn’t mean. He just states it matter-of-factly, and it’s bordering on a mumble as Dick sees from his peripheral view the movement of Damian glancing up at the armadillo and then back down again.
“...I wouldn’t make fun of you, you know, Damian. It wouldn’t matter who your crush was on...” Dick says quietly.
“I’ll keep that in mind for the future,” Damian replies and then closes his sketchbook with a snap and stands up. He tucks his materials under one arm and with his other hand, grabs Dick’s and starts walking, holding Dick’s hand.
Dick follows, dumbfounded at the roughness and heat of Damian’s hand in his. He doesn’t think they’ve ever held hands before. Not when Damian was a kid...and not any time that he’s been a teenager.
Dick doesn’t shake Damian off, and Damian doesn’t look him in the face as they finish making rounds in the zoo. The only time Damian lets go is when he’s sketching, but after he finishes, he always takes Dick’s hand again.
Damian, Dick notes, has sweaty hands.
It amuses him in between the small panic attacks of bewilderment each time Damian resumes their hand-holding.
Dick is half asleep when he feels a hand touch his hair. He frowns. Alfred should stop treating him like a child. It’s been days since he’s had a good night’s sleep, and he’s pretty sure Alfred had slipped him something after Dick had ignored his unsubtle suggestions for the fifth time in a row. Drugging people isn't exactly ethical. Not that he really would have a leg to stand on and the old man would let him know that.
Except the hand moves to linger on his chest, over his heart. It's warm against his skin, the rest of him feeling the chill of the room in comparison. The fingers dig in slightly, tension in that hand, and while Dick thinks of moving his own to cup that hand and comfort them, it moves away.
There is just the barely audible sound of breathing that lets Dick know that person is still there.
He doesn't know why but the silence makes him think that person is frowning, and it makes his lips twitch. After a while, the silence lulls him back to sleep, but then there's the rustle of clothing and a hesitant hand on his hip, chapped lips pressed against his forehead. He hears a faint disgruntled "Tt."
"Go to sleep, Grayson. Pennyworth is going to use a larger dose next time if you don't."
Dick wants to make a joke that he's an elephant, but he really is tired, and he thinks, he'll save it for next time. Maybe it'll even make Damian laugh.
Tim is bleeding out, and Dick is barely keeping it together. Dick has his hand on Tim’s wound, staunching the blood, and the Batmobile is on the way, but it’s not fast enough. Oracle is yelling in his ear, saying something Dick can’t really make out, and the blood is warm over his hands.
Dick had made a mistake. They’d been standing on the rooftop, and Dick had knocked one of the thieves back with a blow to the jaw with his escrima sticks, making them fall into Tim and push him off balance.
Off the roof.
Dick had watched Tim fall, the three-story fall not enough time for him to do anything but scream out Tim’s title, arms reaching out and grasping nothing.
He watched Tim fall and the jagged end of a broken pole sink into Tim’s flesh, his body arching back, and it’s his parents and Damian all at once again and again.
Dick is pleading with Tim to open his eyes, cradling his head as he pulls him off the pole slowly, slowly, the blood pooling at his feet.
The Batmobile comes, and it’s Batman and Robin, and Dick has a hard time processing the two figures, who they are and why they’re running towards him. Instead, he’s clinging to Tim because there’s so much blood, and Tim’s pale, growing paler.
Robin and Batman wrest Tim from Dick’s hands, Batman carrying Tim to the Batmobile while Robin says something. Then he leaves, and it’s Robin standing, and Dick kneeling by the blood with his arms held out, missing what he hadn’t held onto again.
Robin is saying something, but Dick doesn’t hear him, and there’s a hand on his shoulder, and Dick is confused. Why’s Robin trying to comfort him. That’s Dick’s job. He’s...Robin...
“Grayson,” Damian pleads, arms wrapped around his waist, shaking him. “C’mon. We have to go. We can follow them on the bike. Grayson. Grayson, please.”
Dick slowly comes to, eyes focusing on the blood soaking into his gloves.
“No names in the field,” Dick’s voice creaks, distant.
“You...you weren’t,” and Damian sounds near about to cry, “you weren’t responding to any other name I tried.”
“Oh,” Dick says and Damian tries pulling him up and Dick lets him, standing up on shaky legs as Damian herds him to the bike.
“Did...did you change the design of the tires?” Dick asks distantly at the red grooves on the otherwise black tires.
“Yes. Yeah, I, Nightwing,” Damian says, low and panicked in his ear, helping him onto the bike. It’s hard for Dick to move. He feels like he’s wading through mud.
Dick is put in the front of the bike, Damian sitting behind him struggling to keep Dick steady.
“You have to hold onto the bike,” Damian says, and he sounds so sad.
Dick wants to tell Damian that they shouldn’t be riding the bike this way. Damian’s had a growth spurt and is practically the same height as Dick now, but it’d be hard for him to see over Dick. It’s dangerous for Damian.
He doesn’t, leaning back against Damian, and closes his eyes.
Dick’s eyes open immediately, and he tries to climb off whatever he’s been laid on. “Tim,” Dick says, stopped from getting off the bed by Damian who pushes him back gently. “Where’s. Where’s Tim?”
Damian stares at him, blood still smeared on his face and suit. He’s wearing the suit in the mansion. They’re...
Damian sounds irritated, but it’s with a hint of panic. “I told you already when you walked in here yoursel - he’s with Leslie. She said we’re not to interrupt for at least several hours. Father and Oracle are taking turns monitoring Drake.”
“Oh,” Dick says. He looks down and then shoots his head back up to ask, “Is he- is he going to be-”
“No vital organs were damaged, and Cain was able to supply her blood.” Damian swallows, dark bags under his eyes as he said, “Thompson stated that it was likely he would survive with only minor future problems.”
“Oh,” Dick says, looking back down, hands gripping the edge of the bed. “Oh.”
Dick doesn’t respond, his mind replaying the scene over and over again.
“Grayson,” Damian pleads.
Dick can see Tim falling, and there’s the sound of the snap of rope playing in the back of his mind. It then switches to the heretic’s voice as soon as Tim’s body sinks into the pole.
Dick can remember thinking the same lines after recognizing his parents and Damian’s deaths.
I could've saved them.
He'd noted something was off before the show. He'd known how dangerous Talia and the League were.
He could've saved them; it wasn't out of the realm of possibilities. It wouldn't even have taken Superman to do it. Let alone Batman.
This time, too. Tim. Just an inch away.
The wind is whipping around him, the concrete roof below him, the dark sky with the moon high above, and his leather suit tight around him, and he can see the little 'o' Tim's mouth makes when he falls off the edge.
“Grayson, please,” Damian is kneeling in front of Dick, his hands on Dick’s thighs, squeezing.
It takes a very long time for the words to process in Dick’s brain. Damian’s voice is so gentle and concerned that it makes Dick...
“Hey, Damian,” Dick smiles, tilting his head a little. His eyes flicker to Damian’s face and then away as he says, lightly, “I want to be alone right now. Could you tell me as soon as we can go see Tim?”
Damian stares at him wide-eyed.
Dick reaches out to rub the crusted blood on Damian’s cheek, and it turns grainy at his rough touch.
“You should go take a shower.”
“Let me stay with you, Grayson.”
“You should be saying that to Tim. Or Bruce. I’d bet he’s just standing out there outside Tim’s door, waiting. Skulking as usual.” Dick laughs.
Damian lets out a shaky breath and bows his head until his forehead is just barely grazing Dick’s lap.
Dick notices that he’s clean. There’s no blood on him any longer. He rubs his fingers together, the memory of warm blood dripping down his hands still replaying in his nerves. Dick doesn’t remember showering and changing.
“Alright, Grayson,” Damian says. He stands up and lingers in front of Dick like he wants to say something, but in the end, he doesn’t, and he leaves, closing the door gently behind him.
The sound echoes in Dick’s mind, and it sounds like judgment descending on him.
Dick sits by Tim whenever he’s not out on the field, and he’s out on the field less and less because Bruce fights him, and Dick’s too tired to fight back.
“You need to deal with this, Dick,” Bruce tells him, and Dick ignores him because Tim’s stable, but hasn’t woken up.
No one in their family blames him, but Dick would’ve preferred if they had. Even Bruce had only told Dick to be more careful, his back turned to him.
The only one who really doesn’t forgive Dick is Superboy who comes crashing into the Cave, laser beams crashing in fury, Jonathan chasing after him.
Dick looks up from where he’s sitting by Tim, working on case files, searching for a pattern, to blink at Conner’s visible rage, jacket flapping wildly under the force of his TTK.
“Conner!” Jonathan yells, “Stop. Stop it. Dad said he’d talk to him.”
“I don’t care!” Conner yells back at Jon. “Tim is half dead, and they won’t let me see him. What kind of bullshit is that? But they let the guy who nearly fucking killed him sit by him?”
Dick stands up slowly, watching the ceiling for any falling rocks over Tim in case Conner caused any damage, and Conner takes a step forward only for Damian to place himself in front of Dick, wearing only the bottom half of his costume. He’s big enough now to completely shield Dick.
“Get out of the way, Damian,” Conner says, anger brimming.
“No,” Damian replies slowly, “You do not come barging into our base and demand anything, Kent.”
“I don’t-,” Conner sputters, “I don’t get to do that? You’ve done that all your life. You and the rest of your brothers, your dad, don’t give a fuck about what anyone else thinks. You just do what you want. The only one not like that is Tim.”
Dick tries to step forward except Damian shoves him back with his arm, his hand gripping his shirt.
“Stay, Grayson,” Damian says, low, before he turns to Conner and says, “Drake has done many despicable things. I’m certain you’re aware, considering his obsessive habits in comparison to the rest of you. What he does for your team. You shouldn’t overlook his numerous flaws just because he’s half dead. He’s no martyr.”
“And,” Damian finishes with a sneer, “ we’re the ones who protect him. You’re not his family.”
It’s the wrong thing to say, and Conner rages forward, Jonathan grasping at him desperately until Superman shoots in, sending everything loose into a flurry to wrap his arms around Conner’s shoulders and pull him back and away, out of the cave.
Bruce, who was just dropped off, looks them over.
Jon wraps his arms around himself, floating a few inches above the ground, expression uncertain, and looks down before he glances at Damian and says, “Sorry about Kon, but... he is sort of right, D.” Then he follows after Clark and Conner.
Damian relaxes just the barest once they’re gone as he turns to Dick and looks him over. Dick is bleeding slightly from a paper cut on his cheek. The loose papers sent flying by Conner.
“I’m fine,” Dick says, swatting Damian’s hand away. He turns to Bruce to ask, “Clark convinced you to let Superboy visit Tim, right?”
Bruce stares him down before nodding slowly.
“Alright.” Dick looked up before saying, “Clark. I’ll be going upstairs. After Conner calms down, bring him back.”
Damian watches Dick as he collects his scattered papers and climbs up the stairs.
Dick is exercising in the gymnastic room Bruce had put in the Cave for him so long ago. He’s swinging on the rings, pulling himself up and flipping around and around as long as he can go until he’s dizzy. Eventually, he gets to the point that he’s nearly slipping off the rings with sweat and has to come back down to powder up again where Damian is waiting for him.
“Grayson,” Damian says, standing in front of the powder and Dick’s second gallon of water.
“Damian,” Dick nods, going around Damian to pick up the water and down it, aware of Damian watching the movement of his adam’s apple.
They haven’t talked about it. That morning or that afternoon with the chair or the one in Dick’s kitchen or the one at the zoo.
Damian doesn’t ask anymore. Not since Tim.
“When are you returning to patrol?” Damian asks, turning slowly to face Dick.
Dick finishes his draught of water, places it down and wipes his mouth with his arm. He bends down to cap the water and doesn’t respond.
“Drake has already recovered. He won’t have any lasting injuries. He’s forgiven you.”
“Mmm,” Dick replies, re-powdering his hands.
“Grayson!” Damian yells.
Dick ignores him and walks around him again, except this time Damian grabs him and slams him into the wall, bracketing him with both arms on the wall.
Damian’s face is too close, and Dick is looking everywhere except at the eyes that always watch him so intensely.
“I’ve been busy working cases, Dami, and someone has to the tedious lab work,” Dick finally says.
“You’ve been avoiding patrol,” Damian says.
Dick slowly turns to face Damian, and Damian is frowning just the slightest, the way that makes Dick want to smooth out the creases on his forehead.
Damian is frozen, almost entranced before he snatches Dick’s hand away, breathing heavily and he leans in closer, closer until their lips are almost touching and says, “People make mistakes, Grayson.”
He almost thinks Damian's going to kiss him.
“Yeah,” Dick says dismissively. He looks away. Their noses bump when he does.
“Then what about me?” Damian asks, his voice low and vulnerable.
“What about you?” Dick asks, a sigh in his voice, tiredly glancing back at Damian from the corner of his eye again.
“I’m the product of my mother raping my father. I’ve killed people remorselessly since the moment it was a possibility. I nearly murdered Drake. And even when I knew better, Grayson, I still murdered Morgan. A trail of bodies follows me. I’ve abandoned the Titans when they irritated me and allowed Starfire to be wounded. Last week I ignored Father’s orders and leapt in the gunfire, and Father was shot in the thigh protecting me. He’s old, and he’s taking longer than ever to recover. Again and again. But at the least, Grayson, at the least, you’ve always forgiven me for what I’ve done wrong. Can’t you forgive yourself?”
“You’re still a -”
“A child?” Damian asked mournfully, cruel humor in his eyes. “I turned eighteen two days ago.”
Dick froze. “Shit. I-”
Damian slides his hand from the wall to Dick’s face, sliding his fingers down his cheek as he watches him carefully. “I need you here, Grayson. Whole.”
Damian makes sure that Dick meets his eyes and then he slowly backs off Dick, leaving the room silently.
Dick walks into the Cave and Damian is the first one to spot him, eyes trailing over Dick’s body, but always returning to the blue across his chest. He doesn’t say anything or approach Dick. Just nods in between his stretching.
Tim is the one who greets him first, surprise morphing into a wry, warm smile. Or an attempt at one. Dick’s surprised, nervous at how excited Tim looks.
“Hey, Red Robin,” Dick says, a little smile on his lips. He says it with as much ease as he can muster. “You free to go on patrol with me?”
Tim stares at him and nods, the slightest hint of a smile on his lips.
Dick is grateful he doesn’t say anything more.
“Lemme just go get the results for the chemical we found, and I’ll be right back,” Tim says with a nervous energy. He glances back at Dick when he’s going as if he thinks Dick will change his mind. Dick offers a little wave, too tense to do anything but stand there, stiff by Tim's pseudo desk made out of the chairs and file boxes.
He’s moving just fine, Dick notes. Back to his usual strength, even if he’d loss a bit of muscle mass while asleep. That had been fixed with meals mainly of spinach and unsalted chicken, that Tim had complained about the whole time, along with weight training.
Tim passes Damian, and they snark at each in a friendly manner as Damian swings over the attack dummies.
Dick smiles wryly at that and glances back at Bruce who’s staring at him.
He nods at Dick, and then returns back to his work, barking out, “Robin, did you finish your report on the gang patterns in the dock area?”
Damian doesn’t respond, just silently stops the fighting simulation. He walks over to Bruce, passing Dick on the way, and when he does, he pauses, touches Dick’s shoulder lightly, saying, “Welcome back, Nightwing.”
“Glad to be back, Robin,” Dick says and he wants to say more, but is distracted by another thought saying that title draw up, and Damian’s talking to Bruce before he gets the chance.
“You’re wearing it,” Dick says as he lands beside Damian, a glint on his mask.
“I am,” Damian replies, not bothering to turn to him.
Dick looks over Damian’s new uniform, the black covering the body of his uniform with a rusty red on his sides like Stephanie’s suit, but in contrast, the red continues down the entirety of the underside of his arm like Dick’s and covers his entire palms. He has a dark gray hood that slopes down to his chest and goes back up over his shoulders to form a cape; it matches the boots. It’s still mostly black; the red is really more hints.
“It looks good.”
“Brown informed me that you’d been working on it since my seventeenth birthday.”
“Yeah,” Dick laughs awkwardly, pushing his bangs back. “Can’t believe it took so long...and that to top it all off, I was late by a month.”
“That doesn’t matter. You still gave it to me,” Damian replies, still focused on the work in front of him. They’ve been tracking a serial kidnapper.
“Have you thought of a name yet?”
“No. I’m still considering.”
“Ok. But what’ve you thought of so far?”
“What?” Dick grinned, “Are they embarrassing?”
“-Tt-,” Damian says, turning to Dick to glare.
Dick’s grin only grows wider, but he doesn’t say anything more. They focus on surveillance instead, and it's quiet for a while, Dick not minding the silence.
“Why.... did you choose red?” Damian asks, breaking the silence, watching Dick’s expression carefully. The way Damian developed a habit of watching people so carefully in a reflective, thoughtful way is a little endearing. It’s a comforting quirk to see in him.
One that’s all Damian and not the effect of anyone else.
“Dunno,” Dick shrugs, “Seemed to fit you. Aaaaand from the way you’re looking at me I’m guessing you want a better answer than that.”
Dick licks his lips, leaning back against the chimney behind him and stares at the sky before turning to Damian to offer a faint smile.
“I guess...dark reddish-brown’s supposed to represent sturdiness and strength mixed with the usual connotations of red...or something like that? And even if you've been a brat, that's what you've symbolized for me for a while now. Which sounds a bit egotistical now that I'm hearing myself say it out loud.” Dick offers an easy smile. “Dunno...I figured a darker color was better for stealth too. I was a bit worried though.”
“Why?” Damian asks intently.
“Well...I wasn’t sure you’d like the design. I know you usually prefer wearing darker colors, but that’s about it for what I know about your favorite colors... Tim and Jason suggested red without hesitation. I sort of vetoed them hard, but thought it through...and figured it was better than my other choice which was dark green.”
Dick’s rambling, and he shuts his mouth, flushing a little.
Damian narrows his eyes, “That’s why you forced me to go clothing shopping with you for entire days when I was seventeen.”
“Yeah,” Dick says sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. “Didn’t really work though. You gave nothing up.” He pauses. “And I was worried green might look too much like Ollie’s colors...and you sort of hate Oliver, so that ended up a no-go.”
“I do,” Damian replies stoutly.
“Yes,” Damian says before turning back. “And if you would like to know, my favorite color is blue.”
“Wearing the color would defeat the purpose. I wouldn’t be able to see it, would I?” Damian replies too quickly even if his calm remains.
“I don’t have an interest in wearing it,” Damian says, turning toward Dick to slowly scan him over.
Oh. Dick thinks.
When he meets Damian’s eyes, Damian’s searching for something in his face and seems to be satisfied with what he finds.
Dick nearly thinks he’s going to ask that question again.
Then Damian’s hand reaches out and slides over Dick’s wrist, pulling him gently. Dick nearly flinches at the touch as Damian redirects his hand to the binoculars.
“Work, Grayson,” Damian orders, watching him for acknowledgment. Dick nods, a bit dazed, and Damian returns a satisfied nod before picking up his own binoculars.
Dick nearly runs Damian over in the mansion’s hallway, a wild grin on his face.
Damian stops, frowning a little at Dick. “Why’re you smiling?”
“No,” Dick says, “not smiling. Dying inside more like.”
Damian stares at him, giving him a flat look.
“I just-" Dick makes a pained sound, “went to check in on Tim since he keeps on forgetting to take change his bandages from his fight with Bane, and...Superboy was in there with him.”
“Jonathan?” Damian asks.
“No,” Dick says, “No. Nope.” Dick shakes his head, “ Conner Kent Superboy? Yes.”
Damian’s frown deepens, “And? It’s not uncommon for Kent to spend time with Drake.”
“Yes. No,” Dick says, “they were just...doing more...than spending time together.”
Damian blinks and then says straight out, ‘“They were having sex.”
“Yes,” Dick says, looking away. “I’m going to make fun of him later for it, but I also saw far too much. That explains Superboy though.”
“Oh,” Damian says, and he’s frowning again.
Dick grins, reaching out to smooth the wrinkles. Damian catches his hand, squeezing down on his wrist hard as he scowls.
“Hey,” Dick says, “I thought it’d be okay since you’ve been touching me a lot.” Damian had let him do it before.
Damian makes an irritated noise as he says, “I’m allowed to touch you, but you’re not allowed to touch me.”
Then he walks away, Dick frowning in his wake.
Dick, apparently, is good at walking in on people, because the next week, he walks in on Damian jerking off.
He walks in at the very end, and before he manages to realize what’s happening and escape, Damian lets out a loud gasp and is coming, spilling over his sheets, curled over himself.
He’s panting loudly, and the floorboards creak when Dick tries to backtrack.
Damian’s head shoots up, and there’s surprise on his face except it disappears when he licks his lips and strokes his softening cock, eyes intense on Dick.
Dick flushes, stumbling, “I-oh, I- shoot, sorry, Damian.” He nearly runs out the door, closing it tight behind him.
Dick is still flushing as he continues walking too fast down the hallway.
Damian watches Dick for nearly twenty minutes starting from the moment Dick had entered the Cave, and it’s only now that he approaches Dick, a little frown on his face.
“What’s up?” Dick asks, keeping his tone the same as ever, as he flips through possible firearm matches for the bullets he’d found at the crime scene.
“Grayson...” Damian says slowly as if he’s waiting for something.
Dick knows what he’s waiting for.
Something different in Dick.
Dick had realized what Damian had been waiting for over the past couple days, finally forcing himself to recognize that Damian was serious about those words spoken a little more than three years ago.
He came to the conclusion that it isn’t going to happen.
Dick’s recognized that he’s attracted to Damian, but he’s not willing to go any further than that.
Dick respects Damian, loves, admires him, but Damian's only nineteen, and Dick is in his thirties; most of all, Dick knows what it’s like to be a nineteen-year-old and that there are stupid decisions made during that time.
He doesn’t want to be one of Damian’s.
“Grayson,” Damian says again, his voice trembling just the slightest.
“Need any help with your dilution?” Dick asks, turning from the screen to smile at Damian, knowing Damian of all people wouldn’t need help.
He sees the betrayal in Damian’s eyes and turns quickly back to the screen, reminded that only a nineteen-year-old would expect being walked in on while jerking off to be the turning point in any relationship.
Dick hears Damian takes in a breath and say quietly, “Alright, Grayson.”
Dick ignores the way it hurts him, glad that at the very least, Damian understands.
After that day, Dick thinks he’s flipped a switch on Damian.
The first words to come out of Damian’s mouth at the beginning of every conversation is now “When are you going to fall in love with me?”
Whether it’s patrol or at home or in front of fucking Bruce or said hurriedly while helping Dick stop a half-dead man from dying.
It’s everywhere, and it’s the ongoing joke in Gotham now about how Kestrel is in love with Nightwing, and Nightwing is playing hard to get.
Dick really doesn’t like being called coy and having people yell at him to just make out already. Anytime he argues with Damian now, the kidnapped victims or bleeding-to-death victims for that matter, break out of their fear and tell them that the sexual tension is just too much.
There isn’t any sexual tension.
And Jason’s snark really doesn’t help.
Dick bears with it delicately, sensitively the first fifty times, trying to explain himself in the most compassionate way possible but Damian flat out ignores him each time.
After that, his patience, stretched to the limit with tweets about him and Damian going viral, snaps, and he starts answering with jokes.
“When are you going to fall in love with me?”
“Next week,” Dick replies, “I already have an appointment for falling in love with Titus this week.”
“When are you going to fall in love with me, Grayson?”
“After dinner,” Dick replies, scarfing down Alfred’s cooking because it’s been a few days since he’s eaten any good, hot food.
“Have you fallen in love with me yet?”
“No. Give me a couple more days,” Dick says, not missing a beat in between explaining what their plan is for interrupting the drug shipment.
“When are you going to fall in love with me?” Damian asks while they’re giving Batcow a shower.
“Hmm,” Dick says, stroking Batcow’s snout. “What do you think Batcow?”
“Haven’t you fallen in love with me yet, Grayson?” Damian asks while they’re out jogging on the grounds of Wayne manor. One lap is three miles.
Dick is out of breath; it’s their fifth lap.
“No,” Dick gasps, “but I am about to fall on my face.”
Dick does, and Damian lets him.
Dick’s been avoiding Damian for a while now. It had seemed mean-spirited to continue with the jokes, and Dick couldn’t ignore him either, so he had just... taken the coward’s way out, and asks Babs to update him on Damian’s position during patrol and takes different routes to work.
He’s managed it for a month now, especially considering Damian has been working on a big case with Hawkgirl. They got along surprisingly well, Damian willing to take her advice.
Except, that ends, and now Dick has had several narrow misses.
Once after patrol when Dick lingers because of a conversation he's having with Tim.
Another time when Dick was wounded, though he ended up faking sleep.
And another when Damian literally sticks to his side the entire patrol, only being forced to separate at the very end when Joker and Harley Quinn attack at separate locations.
Eventually, Barbara stops indulging Dick and glares him down until Dick sheepishly agrees that the next time Damian hunts him down, he’ll do something about it.
Dick is coming home from an undercover mission, one with Roy where they’d practically messed around the whole time, and he’s in his civvies, walking towards his apartment building when it happens.
Damian is there, waiting outside, leaning against the wall, looking for all parts, like someone who could be in a magazine. He’s wearing a snug black sweater and dark blue jeans, frowning down at his phone. He looks good. And Dick’s probably staring at his slim fingers tapping his phone for far too long.
“Damian,” Dick says like it hasn’t been a month since they’ve had a conversation outside of patrol orders.
Damian’s head snaps up fast enough to give him whiplash. His eyes are a little wide before he turns his expression impassive again. Dick walks up to him, shifting his duffel bag with his undercover clothes higher up on his shoulder. He fingers the strap, and says, “Hey, what’s up?”
Damian blinks at him and honest to God scowls like he wants to murder Dick. He makes that familiar click of his tongue.
“H-hey,” Dick stutters.
“Your greeting is facile, lacks sense and presence, and your smile is idiotic.”
Dick hadn’t exactly expected the barrage of insults, not that he’d expected a happy welcome either.
“Thanks...did you need anything?”
Damian’s frown deepens. “Did I need anything, Grayson,” Damian asks in a sarcastic tone. “Well you would be curious, wouldn’t you, considering you’ve been avoiding me for an entire month.”
Dick presses his lips into a thin line at Damian’s glare. And then he releases in a sigh, “Yeah, alright. I was wrong. I’m sorry.”
Damian walks up to Dick, closer, towering over him. “You were wrong.”
Dick shrugs at that, shifting the duffel bag again. He looks away and then back again.
Damian lets out a long sigh, and it reminds Dick of the ones he’d made when Damian was younger, tired of his ridiculous antics all the time.
“Are you going to avoid me again?” Damian asks, cutting to the chase.
“No,” Dick replies after a moment’s hesitation.
Damian nods, eyes searching Dick’s face like usual. It’s unnerving being in his sights again even after just a month. Dick’s not as used to it anymore.
And Dick realizes, he feels a little like Damian is undressing him with eyes.
“Don’t avoid me, Grayson. I dislike it,” Damian finally adds again, frowning.
Dick meets his eyes, has to tilt his head up to even do it, but sighs, rubbing his forehead. “I’m sorry, Damian. Let’s get back to-” Dick’s about to say normal, but he can practically see the frown deepening on Damian’s face. “-to a good place, yeah?”
Damian nods, and he reaches out to touch Dick’s cheek with his palm, rubbing his thumb along Dick’s cheekbone. He then pushes the hair in Dick’s face back and takes his hand back.
Dick doesn’t know what to say to that, so he doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t help that he stopped breathing when Damian touched him.
Dick is sitting with Damian on his bed, shoulders a centimeter apart.
“You can say you miss him,” Dick says.
“It’s okay, you know,” Dick says again.
Damian turns sharply to glare at Dick.
“Drake is moving out to live with his boyfriend. There’s nothing to miss,” Damian hisses.
Dick holds up his hands, palms out, laughing, “Alright, alright. Fine, don’t let Tim hear that though. You’d break his heart.”
“No,” Tim yells from the hallway, breathily, “it wouldn’t.”
“If you and Kent are copulating out there,” Damian yells at the door that’s open just a crack. Dick hadn’t closed it all the way when Damian had called him away from helping Tim move.
“We’re not,” Tim and Conner yell in unison.
“Tim just has a heavy box and won’t let me use my TTK like an idiot,” Conner yells pointedly.
“Yeah,” Tim says, “go ahead, use your TTK like an idiot.”
“Not what I meant.”
Dick snorts, bumping shoulders with Damian, jostling the younger man and the bed. “They’re like an old married couple.”
“We heard that!”
Damian grunts in return, obviously distracted.
“So?” Dick asks, grinning as he turns away from the door to Damian. “What did you want to talk to me about again?”
“Kent wants to form a team.”
Dick nods, waiting.
“I...it vaguely interests me but I think that since I’ve only been working on my own a few years, I still want to continue along the path for at least a while until I take on Father’s mantle. I will be working with the League then, of course. However...Wilkes also was invited - his invitation isn’t contingent on my presence, but even though he attempted to conceal it, I don’t believe he would feel welcome if I was not there.”
Dick takes a moment to absorb the information before asking, “Who’s in the team?”
“Kent, Reyes, Harper, possibly West’s children....Kent wants to ask Ducard, but I’m certain she’ll refuse.”
“Who’s going to lead?”
“Myself, obviously,” Damian says, side-eyeing Dick. “That is my concern.”
Dick never thinks he’s going to stop being amused by Damian. He lets out a soft sigh, sliding his hands back on Damian’s bed and leaning back on them. “What did you think about working with the Titans? I know the first time with Tim’s team didn’t work so well, but once the people switched around....”
“Adequately. I don’t feel like I gained much benefit from it.”
“Did you like...how it feels to have a team? The dynamic of having so many people together?”
“No. They were, for the most part, frustrating.”
Dick snorts, “Alright. I know you weren’t the official leader, but for the missions where you did take charge, how was that?”
“Better. Working with equals is...when I lead, there is less of an attempt on their side to form a connection with me.”
“We have very different mindsets,” Damian says. “And I have no intention on changing for them. It leads to frustration.”
“Yep,” Dick says, letting out another sigh. He glances at Damian from his peripheral view. “But this team, they’re your friends, aren’t they? They already know what your mindset is like.”
Damian seems to be considering it again, the same way he had looked at that bag of ground almonds so long ago. Dick smiles at that thought.
“I don’t think they’ll expect you to act like anyone but yourself, and it might be good for you to practice a little more on working with others. Plus this way, you’ll get out of Gotham a little more.”
Damian glances at Dick for that last statement, looking like he’s trying to decipher Dick’s intentions. Dick tries his best to look innocent. Dick has been spending more time in Gotham, worried about an aging Bruce, and so Damian and him have been spending a lot of time together. That’s not why Dick wants Damian to join the team; Dick knows it was good for him, for Tim, Jason, Babs, but Damian probably wouldn’t believe him.
“Alright. I shall keep that in mind, Grayson,” Damian says with a serious finality that has Dick grinning. Damian glances at Dick through his peripheral view and smirks a little, saying, “But we’ll always be the best, won’t we, Dick?”
Dick's jaw drops just enough to part his lips, and he takes a moment to process it. He wants to tease Damian about how they've finally made some progress, but then Damian might snap back and never use his nickname again. Or conversely, Damian might stop calling him Grayson, and Dick would miss the cheek inherent in Damian's word choice. Both would be good and bad. He really can't decide what he wants, Damian's dark, curious eyes filling his vision.
“Grayson?” Damian asks, leaning in.
“Nothing,” Dick mutters. He jerks his head back up, looking forward and away from Damian as he gets up. “Let’s go give Tim a hand and make sure they don’t actually start making out everywhere.”
Dick is sitting on the couch with Damian, watching a movie.
Damian had asked for it because he was going to go with Milagro, Colin, Lian, and Jon on an outer space mission as ambassadors. Dick had told him he didn’t even need to ask.
After Damian’s obligatory question and Dick placing Damian’s cheddar cheese popcorn and m&m’s in his lap, they’d fallen into quiet.
There’s just the flashing of the screen in front of them in the dim room, curtains open, letting in moonlight.
Damian is pressed against Dick, a warm, desirable heat on his side, and Dick is almost half asleep.
“There’s a robin,” Damian says.
Dick blinks himself awake, rubbing his eyes groggily as he sits up. “Don’t remember that being a line in the movie. Or is Terry here again?”
Damian taps Dick’s jaw, turning him the right direction. The touch jolts Dick.
And Dick sees the little robin perched on the window sill, strutting around. He can’t help the small laugh that passes his lips. He sits up, watching for a moment before finally standing up and opening the window and the screen.
The small bird flies in and lands on Damian’s head as Dick watches by the window sill.
“You going to adopt it too?” Dick jokes, referencing the veritable zoo Bruce had finally built for Damian in the backyard a few years back.
Damian shoots Dick a look and turns back to the movie, slowing his breathing, the bird still perched on his head. Dick knows he doesn’t want to scare it away.
Dick leans his cheek on one hand and watches Damian from the window, eyes half-lidded, enjoying the night breeze.
“Well?” Damian says, eyes flickering towards Dick.
Dick grins, eyes still on Damian and the robin on his head. He stares for a while longer before Damian reaches for the remote to pause the movie causing Dick to jump forward, saying, “No, no, hey. It’s fine,” and returns to his seat, his side warming up again.
“You know, Grayson...” Damian says, watching Godzilla crush another building. Dick’s eyes are still on the robin fluffing its feathers on Damian’s head. “I was an ungrateful child, and you treated me as such for many years. It was appropriate, and I was - am still fortunate. But I’ve grown, and I’ve put a great deal of effort into ensuring my progress.” He turns to Dick. “I want you to acknowledge it.”
Dick looks at Damian, breathes out through his nose, and says, with a little smile, “Yea. I know, Damian. I’ve noticed, and sorry if I didn’t show it, but...I know that’s not all you want from me.” Dick adds carefully, “And I don’t know if I can give you what you want from me. Even if I thought I could? You’d still have to give me time. You’re twenty, and even if I wasn’t your parent, I still acted as your guardian, felt like I was your guardian for six, seven years. I can’t change out of that habit so easily.”
“Seven, at the most?” Damian questions.
“So then at around seventeen, you ceased to think of me as a child to protect.”
“Yea,” Dick admits, taking an m&m from Damian’s bowl. He adds, sounding a little too enthusiastic, “And then you were my brother.”
Damian stares at him and then snatches the m&m from Dick’s hand, their fingers brushing, frowning. He keeps his eyes on his as he flicks the m&m into his mouth.
He chews slowly, swallows and then licks his lips, watching Dick the whole time.
“I’m not your brother, Richard,” Damian says finally.
Dick meets Damian eyes, impassive, thinking before he says, “No. No, I guess you’re not.”
Dick’s not sure when that statement became true.
Then Damian scrutinizes Dick impassively before giving a nod of satisfaction.
He turns back to the movie, the light from the scene flickering over his face, while Dick continues watching Damian, not bothering to hide it.
The robin chirps at Dick once before doing a little dance on Damian, and when Dick reaches out for it, grinning, it flies away, gliding expertly across the room and the window.
Damian and his team finish the mission without any complications. Bruce doesn’t say a word, just gives them more responsibilities little by little, and that’s enough.
Damian ends up spending more and more time out of Gotham even if he still officially lives in the mansion.
Dick actually...ends up spending less time in Gotham too since Bruce one day took one look at him and told him off for his indecisiveness before informing him that Duke would be taking over for Batman whenever necessary.
Dick spends more time in Bludhaven or working with Wally or Roy when he can; he’s been working in partnerships more frequently, and Dick has to admit it.
Working solo isn’t the same as it was anymore.
Damian’s presence had drawn him back into interacting with his family even long after Dick had returned to being Nightwing, and Dick’s been better. He doesn’t need that freedom from people that Dick had yearned for so desperately when he’d first tried to work on his own.
Working with Wally and Roy is even easier now after having had to deal with Damian and Spyral; the two of them have mellowed out too. Roy more than Wally, but that’s the usual.
He’s also been volunteering at a children’s center and teaching gymnastics and acrobatics, and Dick is in a good place with everyone he cares about.
Everything’s good. Everything has been amazing recently.
Dick still hasn’t been sleeping well, waking up to dreams that slip away the moment he tries to pin them down. They’re only left as memories of half touches and smiles, yearning. Dick figures it’s not a big deal. The mystery tugs at him, but in the end, they aren’t nightmares which satisfies his criteria for ignoring it.
Dick wouldn't be able to put it into words anyway. The way he feels a missing part of him.
When Bruce has a fall down the main stairs, Damian is suddenly back home a lot more often, even with Terry and Duke, and Dick is too. They’re worried, and nothing Bruce grouchily says is listened to. Which is the usual for any Robins.
It’s a bad night after patrol, Dick having driven all the way back from Bludhaven which he goes out to five nights a week, and he’s tired, anxious because it’s the anniversary of his parents’ death and when he gets back to the mansion, Bruce is handcuffed to one of the medbay beds in the cave, glaring daggers. He has an oxygen mask on and bandages.
Dick doesn’t miss a beat, snarks at him, briefs him on to him recent connections he’s made in cases while internally thanking every deity, from Diana’s to the new gods, that Bruce is still here. This is what Dick had wanted, wasn’t it? That night he’d cried while Bruce was lost in time, he’d watched the dawn, saying that he’d always known, known that Bruce would die before his hairs greyed and he got liver spots and wrinkles. He’d been wrong, and this is what Dick wants.
Bruce falls asleep, and Dick goes upstairs to his room to clean up, but instead, he just sits there on the bed, staring at nothing. He hears footsteps.
Damian enters Dick’s room quietly, closing the door with barely a sound and sits beside him on the bed.
“It will be alright.” Damian says.
“How do you know?” Dick laughs a little, looking down before turning to see the pain on Damian’s own face. He swallows and then pulls Damian in, tucking his head under his chin and wrapping his arms around him as tightly as he can as he takes a breath. “God.”
“I’m sorry, Damian,” Dick says, “I’m sorry.”
Damian’s response is a little muffled when he replies, “Father is happy. He’s been happy for a while now. And when he dies...he will be with his parents again.” Damian still shakes in his arms anyway.
“Bruce?” Dick jokes, his voice a rough and watery, “Happy?”
“He is, Grayson,” Damian insists, hand a brand on Dick's hip. He's holding on too tightly.
Dick breathes in even as he strokes Damian's back. He doesn't think Damian's lying; Damian doesn't lie to Dick unless it badly and out of embarrassment. Dick thinks Damian believes it, is scared to believe it. And to be honest, Dick is too.
If Dick looks at, he'd say Damian is right. Bruce is enjoying it, teaching Terry and Nell, knowing that all of them, Dick, Barbara, Jason, Tim, Damian, Stephanie, Cass, Duke, Harper, are good at what they do because of him and most of all, alive. Bruce smiles more often now, is less strict, and even makes jokes occasionally. Maybe not happy exactly, no, but Dick doesn't think there's another word to describe it, the contentment that's visible in him now. Dick's breaths are calmer at the thought, and he pulls back, snickering, “Imagine that. Bruce happy. Imagine what he'd say about that ten years ago.” He lets Damian go to bump his shoulder, and Damian raises his eyebrows.
“How about you,” Dick teases a little, “are you happy?”
Dick chooses the wrong question, and it's thoughtless in his attempt to change the subject.
Damian’s smile is a little sad even as he says, “Yes. Yes, I am, Dick.”
Dick opens his eyes blearily, seeing the white curtains being cast out at the wind, and then he sees the moon, shining painfully bright in the endless dark night.
Then his head snaps back too fast to the figure crouching over him.
“I love you,” Damian says, staring at him with blue eyes too light for the darkness. He looks ethereal like a ghost, feeling like a soft brush everywhere he happens to touch Dick. He’s only wearing sweatpants and the near golden skin of his torso and arms look translucent.
He’s looking at Dick fondly, but there’s sadness in his expression too.
Dick’s caught in the feeling that Damian’s going to disappear and that it’ll be cold again when he does. The feeling after he steps out of the shower in the winter and the droplets of water on him chill him to the bone.
It’s not real.
Dick knows it’s a dream, but it feels real; there's a gnawing urgency in him, and Dick reaches up to cup Damian’s cheek. His cheek is surprisingly warm, the skin soft, and Dick revels in the sensation for a moment. He could stay there forever, just soaking in Damian's presence, in the quiet certainty it brings. He doesn't know how much time he lets pass as he lies there, his breathing steady and slow, eyes on Damian's blue ones, Dick too awake, the whole scene in sharp clarity.
He meets Damian’s eyes, holding steady, and in the quiet that only comes along with the night, says, the words falling naturally like the force of gravity guiding his lips, “I love you.”
Damian reaches out and -
Dick wakes up hard and sweating, his heart beating out of his chest and the lingering sensation of fingers sliding over his lips. Dick flushes and sits up on his bed, swinging his legs over the side to put his arms on his thighs and stare at his knees in the darkness.
He sits there for a long time as his heart rate starts to slow and the sun begins to rise.
Dick is already at the table when Damian pauses, blinks at Dick's presence so early in the morning, and then greets him groggily before going for kitchen. He takes a plate and piles it up with fruits and oatmeal before placing it on a tray, but when he’s about to go upstairs, Dick says, “I already did that. Alfred says good morning.”
Damian pauses at the doorway and gives him a look, “Tt. And you couldn’t have informed me of the fact earlier?”
“I could’ve,” Dick says. He’s smiling very faintly as he sips on his coffee.
Damian glares at him as he removes the plate and bowl from the tray and places it on the table. Then he goes to the kitchen, returning minus a tray and plus a mug with coffee.
When he returns, Dick is humming, polishing off scrambled eggs.
Damian sits down, frowning a little, and he glances at Dick every so often as he eats the fruit and plain oatmeal, chewing slowly. Dick scrapes his plate clean, drains his cup and pauses for a moment.
‘What?” Damian asks when he notices Dick staring at him, scowling a little, obviously still tired, but Dick knows he’d woken up at a more normal time to make Alfred breakfast. Dick knows that after breakfast, Damian would also go check on each of his pets, scarily gentle and warm to them, take Titus the second on a run and to play catch, and then work on making connections in cases in bed until he falls asleep again in the late morning sunlight. Not that he'd ever admit it, but Dick's caught him more than once, caught Damian waking up, smiling almost goofily when he notices Dick while half-asleep.
Dick knows that after Damian's nap, he starts working out, showers and then he'll make Bruce and Alfred lunch, never offering a word of complaint. He knows Damian would then work on cases in the cave, Alfred napping contentedly in his lap, or go meet up with his Team to help out, a better leader than Dick has ever been. Damian makes them laugh, Dick knows, and they like him for good reasons. Damian's the right balance that Dick and Bruce never were. Then he'll return for dinner, usually only making one plate for Alfred, him and Bruce only eating a fruit and granola, and then get ready for patrol as Kestrel. He cuts a frightening figure with the modifications he's made over the years, but Dick knows, has seen it, the way Damian can so gently comfort a crying child and convince them to trust him.
People have told Dick that he represents hope to the superhero community; Dick only laughs and knows he knows better than that, has known better than that for a very long time.
Damian frowns, not understanding. “What do you mean?”
Dick just says, “Ask me again, Damian.”
The dawning of Dick’s meaning is slow, and Damian’s expression makes Dick’s chest feel too full.
The night that Dick lives in is too dark, but it’s not cold, and Dick isn’t scared. Not of monsters under the bed. Not of Two-face. Not of Batman’s shadow. Not of being alone.
“When are you going to fall in love with me?” Damian asks, eyes intent.
Dick grins, says, slow and soft, “Now.”
And kisses Damian.