Talia looks at the fetus, her offspring, floating in the artificial womb in front of her.
Surrounding her, floating in their own wombs, are her failed attempts.
Make me an heir unlike any other , her father told her. A man above reproach.
The original fetus that was plucked from her womb, the one floating before her, did not carry the Y chromosome.
She no matter what she tries, when she manipulates the genes, takes away the X chromosome and adds the Y, the results are unhealthy. She keeps them asleep, and keeps them with her. For further observation, she tells her father. They would never survive on this island if they were let out. It breaks her heart.
Her father did not bother to ask the sex of the fetus when Talia began her experiments. Talia supposed it was immaterial. He expected a male heir.
The same sliver of bitterness lanced through her, comfortingly familiar after a lifetime. It was no secret that her father blamed any weakness of herself or her sister on their gender.
“You are perfect the way you are,” she tells her child.
She looks around the lab, listening for eavesdroppers in the shadows. There are none.
An idea, and then a plan, began to unfold in her mind. She would need to silence any technicians who assisted her in the birthing process, but that would be simple enough. If her father could be deceived, she could raise living proof of his folly.
“You’re perfect,” she repeats, softer. Her mind is made up.
“Well done, my son,” Talia says.
Damian finishes a downward stroke and turns around, a grin breaking through the toddler’s face despite training that urged against such actions.
“You are done training for today. Wash up, and meet me in my quarters in ten minutes.”
Damian bows and scampers off.
Talia dismisses the tutors as well, and travels back to her room, thrumming with pride.
When Damian eases open the door, she calls a soft greeting.
“Sit down, Uzma.”
Damian does so, a bit apprehensively, pinched expression showing.
“You must get used to your true name. Someday, you the whole world will know you by that name.”
“Of course, mother.”
Talia pours two cups of tea and slides one over.
“Now repeat to me what I told you at our last meeting.”
“Never let anyone touch my hips, not even my teachers. Never take my clothes off unless it is in a dark room when i am alone.” The words come quietly from the three-year-old’s mouth.
Talia nods in approval. “Very good.”
“Yes, my daughter.” Those words were so beautiful, falling from her lips.
“Why would I be killed, if they found out I am a girl?”
Talia purses her lips. “Is my word not enough?” she asks, a bit sharper than she means to.
The child bows in deference. “My apologies.”
Tea is sipped in silence until Talia breaks it.
“Your grandfather requested I give him a male heir,” Talia explains softly. “I defied him when I decided to have you.”
Small eyes widen in wonder. “Why?”
Talia reaches over,and smoothes dark wisps of hair in a rare show of affection. “Because you are perfect the way you are.”
“You must go to your father,” Damian’s mother tells him.
“Why?” Damian whispers. The wind sweeps softly through the darkened terrace that his mother summoned him to.
“You are getting close to the age where it will be difficult to hide the truth. You must go where you are safe.”
Damian scowls, clenches his fists. “I am strong enough to--”
“You would be crushed if Ra’s moved against you now,” Talia says flatly.
“Why now, mother? I am ten years old. The earliest age on average to undergo puberty is twelve for females.” Damian wants to lean into her, but he knows he will be rebuffed if he does.
“I was eleven,” Talia says. “I won’t risk it. Plus, I fear that Ra’s is planning something for you, something that he will not tell me.”
Damian looks at the ground, seething.
“You have much to learn from your father,” Talia says, softer. “It will be good for you. Besides, with him, you can finally stop living a lie.” She takes his chin, gently, and lifts it until he meets her eyes. “You deserve to have pride in who you are.”
“I am already proud of who I am,” Damian says, but he knows it is futile. He is going whether he wants to or not.
She wanted to drop Damian off with Bruce herself, but Damian insisted on going on his own. Eventually, she relented, perhaps for the first time in Damian’s life. He was right, after all -- it would look more suspicious if she went as well as Damian, if she sent correspondence that had the risk of being tracked. He was used to travelling the globe alone for training purposes. This would just look like another trip.
Damian thought it was a bit awkward, figuring out how to introduce himself. Should he cause a ruckus in the city and wait for his father to come running? Would it be too formal to literally ring his doorbell?
He wanted to impress the man, prove that he was worth taking in.
He did end up causing a ruckus, and got off very much on the wrong foot.
Batman loomed over Damian’s form, not unlike the demonic beings he had faced in his training. Damian was above being afraid, thankfully.
“What have you done?” Batman snapped, gesturing at the bodies littering the alley.
“Protecting the city,” Damian said proudly. He wondered if his father was merely angry that Damian moved in on his territory.
Batman stooped, moving a step closer. Damian instinctively inched backwards towards the brick wall behind him, hand brushing his sword.
“You’re… just a child,” Batman says.
Damian swallows, stands up straight.
He is glad that he managed to convince Mother not to accompany him or introduce him.
He wanted to have this, this moment.
“I am your son,” he says, heart racing in his chest.