How did he let them get captured like this?
Stupid, Grayson. Stupid.
And it wasn't even by one of the high-level rogues or one of their archnemesis, no, just some stupid lowlifes who had the luck to catch them off guard.
But they made a mistake.
They brought Damian into this.
That kid meant everything to him - even if he would scorn Dick for calling him that.
The last thing he saw was Damian kicking and scratching at his attackers before he got knocked out cold. Then everything went dark.
Dick startled awake.
It was dark in this room, his hands were chained behind his back and his head throbbed.
He was pretty sure that was blood sticking his hair to his forehead, but otherwise he seemed fine.
Okay, Dick, concentrate. Where are you? Who are they? What do they want? How to get out and where is Damian?
He started with the simplest one; the room was small, hard concrete digging his hands into his back. No windows. A heavy metal door.
They used large shackles on his hands, but nothing he didn't get out of before. He arched his back to get his feet underneath him, using his shoulders as leverage - only to find his boots gone. His gloves were missing as well.
Yeah. He was the first to admit that that was bad.
Dick slumped back to the ground, then pushed himself into a sitting position. His back hit the metal frame of a small bed, or rather cot. As far as he could see it was missing a mattress.
Nice, the only thing of comfort was useless, too.
He let his head hang.
Hopefully Damian had better conditions.
Dick was boiling with anger as he thought about what they would do to him. He shouldn't be worried. Damian was a capable fighter and knew how to use his limited resources, but. He was impatient, impulsive and liked to fight back. Dick knew guys like their captors.
Defiance would only encourage them even more to break him.
Fighting back a groan, Dick scooted to the door and tried to kick it. Not as hard as he'd like to, he didn't want to fracture his foot after all, but maybe it was enough to catch someone's attention.
He had to wait a few minutes before the door was opened.
Dick barely had time to close his eyes against the harsh light flooding the room and he immediately recognized the sound of a cocked gun.
So, resistance was not an option.
God, Damian, please don't do anything stupid.
“Well, well, well. Two bird with one stone, huh? Guess it's my lucky day. Such a pleasure to finally meet you, Nightwing.”
That guy must've been their leader. If the fancy clothes and arrogant-asshole-behaviour was anything to go by. His slicked back blond hair made Dick crave a shower and the slur of his words sent disgusted shivers down his spine.
“Pleasures all mine,” Dick replied, trying to keep up his cheerfulness and optimism. Successfully covering his concern for his brother.
“Well mannered. Oh, huge fan, by the way. The way you just,” the man mock-struggled for words, “collapse after a nice beating.”
The slight ringing in his ears was indeed a nice reminder.
“How do I come to that honor?” he asked, ignoring the taunt. Dick knew they wouldn't stand a chance in a fair fight. “It's too dark for a tea party and too cramped for torture. Personally I'm a fan of cheesecake, but whatever you've got available, I guess.”
The man chuckled. Dick felt a shiver run down his back.
“Yeah, I heard about your humour. Too adorable, really,” the man cooed, “but no, we actually got plans for the two of you.”
Dick furrowed his brows. As much as he hated the implication of Damian being held prisoner as well, he needed more information.
The man continued, “You see, I'm a ‘reach for the stars’ kind of guy. And you two are a pretty big deal, it seems. Wonder why no one else managed to capture you.”
They did and they paid for it, Dick wanted to say, but maybe threats weren't the best way. More information, need more to work with.
“I got a few people on the phone, some you may already know, and they seem really interested in getting their hands on you.”
Dick suppressed a shudder. He didn't need to know their names, but there were a lot who want to see him dead. Or worse.
“And till I get a nice deal, why shouldn't I have a bit of fun with you pretty lads?”
A growl. Dick actually growled. That's new.
“If you lay a hand on him - -”, Dick started, forgetting his ‘gather information before you throw out threats’ mission. The man huffed out a laugh.
“That's not very nice. You may want to bite your tongue, Nightwing, or you're giving me ideas.” The man sneered. His eyes flickered to the gun pointed at him. A constant and convincing reminder that they were not safe.
Dick took a breath. “What game do you want to play?” he asked. Regarding the smile spreading on the man's face, it was the right question.
“You learn so fast. I'm glad I caught you and Robin. That kid makes for a great insurance and I'm sure you don't want to see him harmed in any way, right?”, the man kept taunting and Dick physically had to bite his tongue. “Unfortunately I only bought supplies for only one captive. But since I'm such a generous host, I'll let you decide whether you want the goods for yourself or give them to the small bird. Same goes for comfort. Medicine. Punishments.
“But there is one little thing, that may encourage you to behave. The punishment for your misbehaviour will be directly sent to poor little Robin, and vice versa.”
Dick dug his fingernails into his skin to keep him grounded. Don't launch at him. It'll only hurt Damian. You can't let that happen. Swallow your pride for once.
“Understand?”, the man prompted eventually, signalling the end of his little monologue.
Not trusting his voice, Dick nodded curtly.
“I'm sorry? Didn't catch that?”
Nevermind, Dick was gonna slaughter that man when this is all over.
“Yes,” he pressed through clenched teeth and the man showed his own in a big grin.
“Wasn't too hard now, was it?” He clapped his hands and Dick thought he was going to leave, but apparently he still had a few things on his mind. “Almost forgot. Your first meal is due in a few hours. Do you want - -”
This time Dick interrupted, “No. Robin. Give everything to Robin.”
Dick noticed his mistake as soon as the words left him. He looked up in horror, hoping the man wouldn't take it literally, but the grimace told him otherwise.
“‘Everything’, Nightwing?”, he asked.
“No, I,” he licked his lips, “not the punishment. Not the torture, I'll… I'll take that.”
“Hmm,” the man mused, tilting his head, “make up your mind, I'm getting mixed signals here. One could think, you don't really want to be punished in change for your small friend.”
In a matter of seconds, the man was on him, grabbing his chin tightly and leaning his head back so far, it hurt his neck.
Shit, that guy was much faster than he anticipated. Instinctively his legs twitched, ready to push him off of him, but the threat of hurting Damian still hang over him.
He stayed still.
“I think I need a little more? To convince me. Would be a shame to destroy your beautiful face.” His cold gaze ranked over his features, then dipped lower over his body. Taking his time. For as fancy as the man looked, he smelled of cheap cologne, Dick couldn't help but notice. “You're almost too pretty to be broken, then again, that's what makes it so alluring. Especially if you really want it.”
The man looked at him expectantly. He knew what he wanted to hear and the longer he kept silent, the longer he put Damian in danger. Also his cheeks ached under the brutal grip.
Swallow your pride. It's okay. Just this one time, you can deal with the pain.
“I want it,” Dick croaked, ability to speak being impaired right now, “I want the punishment, hurt me.”
Dick swore he heard the man moan at that. Don't puke on his suit either, I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate that.
The hand loosened and slid down to wrap around his throat. Not choking, but just holding him, thumb brushing the spot under his ear that made him shiver involuntarily.
“I already love how responsive you are, Nightwing.” Why did his name sound so filthy coming from him? Dick glared at the man. “Makes this so much more fun.”
Before Dick could wrap his head around what ‘this’ meant, the hand retreated, only to connect with his cheek as a fist, whipping his head to the side. Blood gathered in his mouth at a rapid speed. He spit it out.
Then he made a show out of licking the remains off his split bottom lip, smirking at the man suggestively. “Please, more.”
They could hurt him all they wanted, but they wouldn't break him.
There were no words on this or any other world that accurately captured how downright pissed Damian was.
He was one snide remark shy from deliberately forgetting his father's number one rule.
Who did they think they were! Just some random street kids, biting off more than they could chew? Hah, try again.
They were Nightwing and Robin. Those names meant something. If Damian wasn't so determined on handling this on his own, he'd find comfort in Batman finding them sooner or later. Unfortunately for them, those thugs took all their equipment, rendering them near useless.
He knew they took Nightwing’s gear as well, he saw a minion playing around with his Escrima earlier when they came for his things.
Damian still regretted not having been completely lucid at that time. He woke up nauseous with a murder headache and spots in his vision. There was not much he could do besides weakly kick at the guy tucking off his utility belt and cape, and murmur a tirade of insults at them.
Earned him a few laughs, was all it did.
At least he got a swift kick in the guys face as he went for his boots.
The punch in the stomach was easier to handle than the humiliation.
They left him after that and he had to admit to being grateful that they didn't touch his mask.
But if they weren't after their true identities, then what was their goal? Something much more sinister than blackmail, he was sure.
Alone again and this time conscious, Damian struggled to lean against a wall. With his hands tightly bound behind his back and his stomach twinging sharply, it was harder than he was used to. They knew how to make it hurt.
The room he was in was small with a bed in a corner and as secure as the door looked, it had a window with bars, the light from outside brightening the room.
Damian leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes. The spot where he was knocked out was shooting a dull pain through his skull, making him sensitive to the light and the punch brought bile up his throat he had to will down again. He'd open his eyes, but he feared the world wouldn't stop spinning, so he didn't.
It wouldn't surprise him if he had a concussion.
He wondered where they brought Grayson. Last time he'd seen him was right after they got ambushed. Grayson fought against the men holding him down, never taking his eyes off him as he tried to push the men away himself. He, he couldn't remember what happened then. Only waking up here, hurting and alone.
Exactly two hours and twenty-four minutes passed before the door opened again. Damian kept count. What else was he supposed to do without his gear and input.
No matter how much his eyes hurt, he focused on the tall man entering the room, mostly blocking the brightness.
It took a few moments for Damian to get used to the new conditions and finally got a good look at the man.
He already hated his attitude, he decided. His entire posture screamed wannabe underworld boss.
Damian didn't miss the sadistic atmosphere around this man, but he held the cold gaze.
The man merely smiled at him and stepped closer.
Now Damian noticed the specks of blood on his dress shirt and the bruised knuckles. He could only assume who the recipient was.
“Nice to meet you, Robin.” What reason did this man have to sound so utterly pleased?
Damian remained silent, face clear of emotions.
The man huffed. As if he was accepting his challenge.
“You could at least say ‘hello’. Or perhaps a ‘thank you’. A little bit of gratitude. No, not for me, I'm just the messenger. But for your partner.”
The man must've noticed his stiffening shoulders. His eyes sparkled.
“I was wondering, correct me if I'm wrong, but he your brother by any chance?”
The man giggled. “Then your boyfriend? A bit old for you, isn't he?” Damian's face darkened. “Didn't peg Nightwing for a kiddie lover. Hm, it's always the pretty ones with the dark secrets.”
“Shut your mouth,” Damian spat at him. How dare he talk about him like that?
“Struck a nerve, kiddo? Maybe not your boyfriend then, but there's something.” The man trailed off, scrutinized him curiously. Damian wanted to punch that look off his face. “A crush, then. Pretty boy doesn't know how you feel, does he? Or he does know, but would never ever act on it and it hurts your poor little feelings.”
Damian trembled out of anger. What does he believe to know. He knows nothing. Not about him. Not about Grayson. And nothing about their bond.
But the man didn't stop.
“So you're horny over pretty boy, good to know. But a fine piece like him is bound to have a lot of dates and girlfriends. Boyfriends even. Mhm, who wouldn't want a taste of that perfect ass. Got me tempted.”
Patience, Damian reminded himself, but the voice sounded like Grayson. Stay calm, don't act on impulse, we talked about it.
He took a stuttering breath and the teasing glint in the man's eyes promised nothing good. He must be misinterpreting the stutter. Damn.
“Bet you're the type to get jealous easily, am I right, kiddo? With all the ladies and gentlemen hanging off his arms. From what I've seen, he's a real pleaser. Imagine him going down on a nice lady or a big guy.” He stopped to scratch on his chin coyly. “Man, I can't stop thinking about how he'd writhe and thrash under a real good pounding. He looks like the guy that wants to be dominated, don't you think?”
At those words, Damian couldn't help the pictures flooding his mind, when he caught Grayson with Deathstroke once while on patrol. He heard a loud shriek coming from an alley and he went to investigate. The shock when he saw Grayson, back to the wall, legs around the older man.
He was so close to intervene, but then he caught the noises Grayson made. Noises that didn't originate from pain. How desperately Grayson clung to his enemy. Head dropping against his shoulder. Deathstroke's steady rhythm. The grip on Grayson's thighs, holding him up and trapped between him and the wall.
Damian couldn't fight the blush creeping on his cheeks, warming him from the memory. The shame was unbearable, he avoided Grayson for almost a month. Sometimes it was still difficult, since he and Deathstroke continued to be a thing. And he couldn't understand why.
“Oh shit, I'm right?” The man crouched in front of him. Damian watched every movement. “It's something about him, hm, something he can't turn off. Like, you look at him and you just know that lad enjoys getting fucked by a big guy. Now you got my attention. Who is it, kid? Who gets to - -”
But he didn't get further, as Damian launched forward and slammed his head into the man's face. At the same time a warning shot passed right beside him, reminding him of who's in charge here.
All that didn’t help his headache, but the man staggered backwards, so that's a win.
The man groaned, but he still found the moment right to laugh. “Feisty little thing, aren't you?” He rubbed his head, strands of hair falling into his eyes. He called his man back with a wave of his hand. “Nah, I don't care. Fight all you want, not my problem.”
Damian glared at him with a fire in his eyes that'd put Superman to shame.
“Dinner's at six, don't forget to wash your hands.”
Dick's eyes stayed trained on the door, leg fidgeting restlessly.
The shot still rang in his ears, like it went off right beside him.
They wouldn't possibly…
No, they wouldn't dare.
Before he could sink deeper into speculation, the door swung open, the blond man storming inside.
Dick didn't get enough time to comment on the bruise on his forehead, just an unforgiving grip around his throat. Then a knee hit him in the stomach and he doubled over. But he couldn't care less. Not right now.
Spluttering, he asked, “W-what did you- - d-do to him - -”
A kick on his shoulder pushed him backwards. Concrete scraping his hands. The man was over him a second later, hand back on the neck, cutting off his air supply.
“Don't worry, your little Casanova is just fine,” the man snarled. He tried to sound calm, but it came out strained. Dick gaped. “Made my man waste a good bullet though. So, guess who's going to pay for it?”
The hand loosened enough to gasp for breath, but he couldn't push him off. His panic spiked as another man took a hold on his legs, pulling them straight.
He began fighting for real when a third man came closer, flicking off the safety on his gun.
They can't be serious!
“No, I can pay, stop! You can't!”
But the gunman pressed a heel against his knee, pushing him down. The blond man looked over his shoulder.
“Avoid the bone.”
His scream drowned the echo of the gunshot.
At first Damian denied the meal that was brought to him later that day, while he desperately tried not to think about the second gunshot.
Or the scream that was undoubtedly Grayson.
Did they actually shoot him, because they had to give off that warning shot? Grayson didn't do anything! Why punish him?
Damian resented everyone of them. They were lucky to steal his gear. He already had fifty ways to incapacitate them with only his lock pick.
Eventually he gave in to the intoxicating smell of freshly cooked food and shoved a piece of bread in his mouth, tasting of guilt. He didn't want to eat their food, but as far as he knew, they didn't want to kill them. They even switched his shackles for a regular pair of handcuffs, with his hands in front of him.
His cheek hurt from the backhand he received when he attacked the guy. But at least he could eat like that.
Swallowing the bread down, he took the cheapest of cheap plastic spoon and carefully separated the little pieces of meat from his rice before eating it. The rice still had a faint taste of chicken, but the steamed beans covered it up good enough.
Afterwards he downed the water from the plastic cup.
An hour later, a man came to his room, or a kid rather. He couldn't have been older than Drake.
He seemed insecure, entering with a blanket and a few other items in his hand.
The kid didn't talk when he put the blanket down on the bed and they never broke eye contact.
Only when he noticed the nearly empty plate, he spoke up, “You liked the food?”
He almost sounded hopeful, proud. Damian kept quiet. The kid shuffled from foot to foot.
“Anyway, I brought you some painkillers. Don't worry, they're really just that, promise,” he said and put a water bottle on the small table, the pill next to it. Then he took the plate. He narrowed his eyes. “You don't eat meat?”
Damian tilted his head quizzically, then shook it.
The kid nodded. He put the empty cup on the plate and left again.
He didn't realize the spoon was missing.
Damian didn't dare to sleep.
But he took the pill regardless, since the headache was getting worse.
He wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and if he listened closely, he could hear distant wails.
Clutching the blanket harder, he hoped weren't coming from Grayson.
Damian dozed off for about half an hour.
The next time the door opened, the man with the gun from the day before came in.
Damian didn't care what he had to say.
He held the split spoon firmly in his hand as he stabbed it between his ribs.
Later he was gifted a mattress.
Damian tried not to listen to the heart wrenching screams down the corridor as he rubbed the blood off his hand.
He saw the kid again as he brought him his dinner. He had a bruise on his cheek, dark purple against tanned skin.
Neither said a word.
Damian knew it was his fault for taking the spoon.
Though he didn't feel an ounce of guilt when he ate the soft fries.
Two days passed without a visit, safe for the kid that brought his food. Surprisingly enough he never again served him meat.
Damian suspected he was a prisoner just like they were.
A few goons stopped by, taunting him through the bars, but they were easy enough to ignore.
What wasn't easy to ignore, not even close, was a man that came in late in the night, waking him from his position on the bed. A bad decision on his part, honestly.
The look in the man's eyes freaked him out. That kind of hunger did not belong in the direction of a fourteen year-old, or anyone for that matter.
Damian unwrapped himself from the blanket and got ready to dodge whatever that man was gonna throw his way.
He didn't expect him to just pounce on him, trapping him with his larger body. His bound hands made it difficult to fight back, not that he wasn't trying.
Just as the man's hands landed on his hips, intend clear as day, Damian unwound from his grip and connected his knee with the assailants face with great force. The man went down with a grunt, but Damian went after him. Straddling his chest, he brought his cuffed hands down in his face again and again and again and again.
He didn't see anyone else streaming in the room until he was dragged from the unconscious man. A new face held him against the wall as they scraped the bloody mess off the floor.
Once he was gone, the unfamiliar man left, too. Leaving Damian alone to slide down the wall, legs not capable of holding his weight any longer.
His hands were shaking uncontrollably as the blood continued to drip to the floor. He knew they were going to hurt later, the cuffs had cut into his skin where he hit the man, but the adrenaline kept the pain away and his heart running.
The screams never sounded that bloodcurdling before.
Damian ceased to fight back after that.
He couldn't take the cries anymore.
The sound of gunshots hit his ears, prying him out of an unintended nap.
Damian was on his feet immediately, heart beating fast despite himself.
What was happening…
He heard screams, angry shouting, more shooting and eventually silence.
After all the noise he heard a door open, hushed voices talking to each other, arguing.
Pressing up against the door, he grabbed the bars and pulled himself up, looked down the hall, where the muffled voices came from.
“- -ve him to me.”
Damian nearly cried out for him, but remained silent.
“Better get the little one.”
Wait - - what was…
What was Deathstroke doing here?
There was a pause. A moment later Batman rounded the corner and spotted him through the window.
Damian instinctively stepped away from the door, and indeed, it flew open seconds later. Batman's silhouette standing in the doorway.
“Are you alright?”, he asked as Damian drew closer, a heavy hand landing on his shoulder.
He nodded. “I'm fine. But where is - -”
As he entered the corridor, he saw him.
“Oh God,” escaped his mouth before he could stop it.
Grayson looked absolutely wrecked. His uniform was torn, the mask missing, he was bleeding profusely from several places, especially from a gruesome wound on his leg. Damian recognized it as the gunshot. But that was a week ago.
He didn't even want to get started on Grayson's appearance, how frail he looked. Like he would break any moment.
Then why was Deathstroke holding him in his arms? Grayson's head rested on his shoulder as Deathstroke held him in a bridal carry. Damian wanted to be furious, but Grayson was barely breathing, eyelashes fluttering on his bruised cheeks, stuck together from tears. He could see the lines crossing the blood and dirt on his face. And he really didn't want to know where the stains came from.
All the while they treated him so well. With so much care.
Damian’s hand reached for a sword on his back, only then realizing it wasn't there.
That's not fair. No, he had to do something. They couldn't get away with hurting Dick like that!
His horror must've shown on his face, because his father was by his side again, hand tightening on the spot on his shoulder.
“We should go,” he said. Deathstroke nodded his head once, then turned around to leave in the direction they came from.
A pained whimper stopped Damian and he reached for Deathstroke's arm immediately, almost screaming, “You're hurting him!”
That only ripped more cries from Dick and he curled up in the mercenaries arms. Damian let him go, like he got burned.
“Put him down,” Damian demanded, but the heat was gone.
Deathstroke regarded him with a cold stare. “You want him to walk by himself?”
“What! N-no, I - -”
He didn't know what to do. What to think. He was completely helpless! Why was the mercenary even here? His father hated him! And now he was standing here, like he was one of them and not an enemy, holding Dick, like he cared.
Dick's shaking hand aimlessly grabbed at Deathstroke's chest, mumbling pleas without knowing what he's saying or asking for. The man pulled him closer and Dick calmed down again. Damian's heart skipped a beat. It hurt to see them like this.
But how could he ever admit, that he wanted to be the one carrying Dick, cradling him to his chest, spending the comfort and safety he needed.
His father's hand slipped from his shoulder, urging them to move already, to get Nightwing to a safe place to treat his wounds, and that was the motivation they needed to leave.
Dick woke up slowly, piece by piece.
The warm comfort of a bed was a bliss.
The steady beeping of a heart rate monitor filled his ears.
Soft light shining into the spacious room from the hall outside.
Someone beside him stirred and he felt a tentative touch on his arm.
Tired eyes locked with Bruce's, searching for a hint of discomfort on his face. He gave a small smile, hopefully enough to rest his mind.
He hadn't felt that good in a long time.
“How are you feeling?”, Bruce whispered.
Dick tried to sit up, but the sudden pain on his ribs stopped him, as well as the stern grip on his arm. The painkillers did a good job, but broken ribs always sucked.
“‘m fine,” he offered weakly. His throat was sore. Well, he remembered a lot of screaming on his part, so he wasn't surprised.
A beat. Then, “How long was I out?”
Bruce seemed to consider lying to him, but said, “Three days.”
Huh, after a week full of terror and literal Hell, that was a nice quota.
“He never left your side.”
After he looked at Bruce with question marks over his head, he followed his gaze and it fell on a small bundle beside his bed. Half sitting on a chair, half lying on the bed with him, Damian held onto his bandaged hand for dear life. He was sound asleep.
“What happened to you?”
Leave it to Batman to approach a touchy subject subtle.
Dick licked his cracked and split lips, and the monitor showed his accelerated heartbeat.
“They, er,” he was searching the right words, looking over Damian one more time to make sure he was actually asleep, “they made me choose. Do I eat, or give it to him? Do I want to sleep on a bed, or let him? Wanna get medical treatment for myself,” he stopped, gulped, “or him.”
He knew from the beginning, he wasn't gonna get a ‘thanks’, a ‘well done, son, you protected him when I couldn't’ or a ‘I'm proud of you for being so strong’, no.
Instead Bruce's hand moved to hold his, careful to avoid the fingers that had been broken, and it was almost enough.
Dick exhaled, blinked away tears, he couldn't believe were still coming. Then he fully turned to Bruce, eyes pleading.
“He can never know,” he breathed, barely audible to his own ears, “Don't tell him, please, B, please. Don't - -” He choked.