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You Are My Sunshine

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Lainey inhaled deep, fists tightening and untightening. Everyone was dressed so much nicer than her, even those not entering the gala. But Lainey didn’t mind, she loved her dress, unlike the tight, flashy clothes the celebs were wearing. Lainey wore a nice, comfortable plaid and denim put together outfit. A black bodice that wasn’t too snug, the bottom flowing out in a red haze of plaid. Thrown with her combat boots and favorite denim jacket, Lainey was good to go. Dark hair tucked back into a braid upon her mother’s request.

 

Lainey smiled, trying to walk the carpet as fast as possible. Flashing her pass to the security, she was allowed inside the ballroom. A deep breath falling from her lips as she left the flashing lights and annoying questions. If she ever became a professional photographer, Lainey vowed to never be that rude. Some people were just too into their jobs, paparazzi being one of them.
Lainey smiled at the hosts, explaining to them why she was there, who she was. The Sunshine cafe wanted to participate in the charity event. Photos to be hung on their walls of those who donate. For every pastry bought, another will be given to someone on the streets. It was Lainey’s idea, a way to help and to promote sales.
When the rich and famous of Gotham started arriving, Lainey took a deep breath. Giving herself a pep talk, she glanced around the room. Eyes wandering to those already inside, waiting for the perfect moment to take a picture of the donations being made. Perhaps she should find a good place to see them. This will be easy, right?

 

Halfway through the night, Lainey was regretting her words. Easy? No, it's not easy. The opposite, multiplied by ten was more accurate. If another pompous ass flirted with her, Lainey made no promises about them leaving with their noses in tact. With a heavy sigh, she dodged Vicky Vale, not daring to cross paths with the woman. She was known for her shrewdness, for her attitude, and Lainey would rather listen to the girls at her school trash-talk then talk to Vicky Vale.
She needed a break, eyes traveling the area; Lainey found one. A large, red curtain pulled off to the side of the stage. Right next to a plant, perfect. With a glance around, Lainey moved. Skillfully dodging creeps, flirts, players, and reporters with the curtain in sight.
‘I am a plant. I am a plant. I am plant.’

 

Not often do reporters or paparazzi leave celebrities alone. Not often do the rich avoid the other guests to this degree. Watching the girl slip behind the curtain, Damian found himself curious.
Upon arriving, he noticed her. A slender woman, clad in plaid and denim, sticking out like a sore thumb in the gala. From his observations, it was clear she wasn’t comfortable here. With conclusive guesses, it was safe to say she didn’t belong here. Here with rich, pompous celebrities. Those with money to burn, donating change to make themselves feel better.
Watching the camera being fiddled in her hands, Damian at first assumed she was a rookie photographer. After a couple of hours however, it was clear that wasn’t the case. She took pictures at random, often times scrambling as if she suddenly remembered the camera. Definitely strange, definitely intriguing.With that in mind, Damian had considered approaching her. After watching the way she glided through the crowd -skillfully avoiding servers, celebs, and Vicky Vale. His decision was made, walking across the gala with slightly narrowed eyes. Watching the curtain barely move as she stepped behind it.

 

Lainey sighed, hands almost running through her brown locks; freezing at the memory of her Mother doing her hair. Lainey rolled her eyes, taking a sip from her water bottle instead. Closing her eyes as she twisted the cap back on, Lainey breathed deep. Resisting the urge to mess her hair up, to return it to the same style she has everyday. Short, dark, waves curling at the bottom from where she had cut her hair earlier this month.

“You seem uncomfortable.”

The sudden voice caused Lainey to jump, brown eyes snapping up to meet the eyes of the intruder of her peace. Tall, dark hair, olive tan, emerald eyes. A nicely pressed black suit, a tie and handkerchief that matched his eyes, and dress shoes. Silently, Lainey prayed he wasn’t another rich, self-entitled, playboy. Biting the snarky retort, Lainey forced a smile.

“I don’t remember seeing you here before.” Green eyes exclaimed, his indifference would be believable if not for the curiosity buried in his low voice, his eyes burning with questions.
Lainey’s fake smile turned wry, her shoulders shrugging. “This is my first time here…” She trailed off, waiting for a name.

“Damian.” Green -Damian introduced, brows furrowed.

Probably wondering why she didn’t know his name, if she had to guess at his thoughts. Lainey didn’t question it, she never was one to watch TV or read magazines. If she wanted to know something, she could just ask a friend. It’d be that simple. Why lose valuable time focusing on a life that has nothing to do with her own?

“Damian.” Lainey smiled, holding a hand out. “A pleasure, I’m Elaine, most people call me Lainey.”

“You don’t care about who I am?” Damian blurted, cursing the arrogance in his tone. Looks like another dollar in the Rude Jar, and something owed to Timothy this time. Dammit.

She shrugged, “No offense, but why would I? You’re a person, I’m a person. Everyone is entitled to their privacy Damian.”

“Interesting.” Damian mused, blinking a couple times with surprise.

Before their conversation continued, a head popped behind the curtain, hopeful smile bright in the darkness of the curtain. A host or a sponsor, Damian guessed. Watching the way his eyes remained locked upon Lainey, something about that sent fire burning through his veins; his chest tightening, stomach curling and his fists clenching. He didn’t like the way she was being eyed, as if she were an object rather than a person.

“Miss Wolf!” He chirped, eyes lighting up brightly. “What did you say your scholarship was for again?”

She blanched, cheeks flushing. “Uh, music?”

“Perfect!” The guy stretched forward, hand snatching her wrist. “We need music! Our band can’t make it, apparently an injury or some sort of nonsense!”

Damian moved to react, his hand moving to intercept the hand, a low growl reverberating from his throat. A snarky comment on his lips, but he didn’t need to. Lainey tapped at the hand locked on her wrist, pulling back last second with a wince. The host-sponsor pulling her wrist almost as if he was gonna drag her from her hiding place.

“Wait! My-camera!”

Lainey struggled, reaching out for it. Forcibly removing the grip from her wrist to grab her stuff, she breathed deep, double checking her camera for any problems. To Damian, it looked like she was stalling.

“It’s impolite to force something on a person.” Damian snarked, crossing his arms.

For the first time, the man took note of Damian. He paled considerably, stumbling over his words, attempting to excuse his actions. Lainey may not know who Damian was, but he certainly did. Damian rolled his eyes at his squabbling, another retort on his lips, Lainey spoke, joining their conversation once more.

“Now, what exactly is going on sir? As you know, I’m supposed to be taking pictures of the donations.” Lainey exclaimed, “I was taking a brief break.”

“Well, our music was cancelled do to an accident from the head.” The man explained, fixing his suit. “Twas Madame Hawkins idea, you being of the musical sorts.”

“I would love to help, but as I said, I am taking pictures.”

“Done.”

She blinked, brown eyes confused. “Wait, what?”

“Sing, perform. Whatever it is, and we will get you pictures. Of the donations being made themselves and the people handing them in, of the performances, whatever it takes.”

Lainey blinked, once, twice. Her hands clenching and unclenching around the strap of the camera. At a guess, she’s resisting a habit. Probably because of the company, watching for another minute. Damian was prepared to send the man packing with wit and tact, when Lainey surprised him once again.

“You have to buy a pastry.” He stuttered, but Lainey nodded. Eyes hard, unbending. “From the Sunshine Cafe, you buy a pastry in the Belly of Sunshine deal, and I’ll do it; with the pictures owed.” The man swallowed, contemplating. “If you lie, I will find you. You won’t like it either.” Was she… was she threatening him? “You will find I never forget a face or something owed, Mr. Sterling. Do we have a deal?”

Mr. Sterling nodded, a grin overtaking his face as Lainey sighed. Her resolve shaking as Mr. Sterling cleared away from the curtain. Off to tell Madam Hawkins no doubt. Damian eyed her, curious to see what would happen next. So far, she was far more unpredictable than expected. She was stubborn too, stubborn, unbending, but willing to help even when not given the choice.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“If I didn’t, how could I say that I gave my all to this?” Lainey countered, “I volunteered this project, not to the… rich and famous, but I did. To feed those not so fortunate.”

Interesting. Again, she surprised him. He expected her to start grumbling about what just happened, to agree with him. To tell him off, even. But none of that happened. Her voice remained it’s normal volume, a calm, neutral tone. Yet, her eyes remained on the spot where Mr. Sterling was previously. Hands still repeating the motions of clenching and unclenching around the straps of the camera. Then, her eyes turned to him. Oh, there it is.

Swirling brown was gazing at him intensely, worry, fear, mixed with cool confidence, and strength. She was chewing her cheek, probably to prevent a freak out. But she breathed deep, hands rising to go through her hair. Stopping herself with a grimace, her hands went to her neck. Lainey was a nervous ball of steel and jelly, concern and calculation.
His heart ached for her, twisting in his chest almost painfully so. Damian wanted to ask if she was okay, he also wanted to remove her from this area all together. He did neither. Instead letting the silence reign between them, a snide comment forming on his lips when she stretched a hand out to him.

“Hey, Damian?”

“Yes?”

“If I faint up there, can you- can you keep the creeps from ‘helping me’?”

Her eyes were earnest, clearing the thoughts of this being a joke fade away. Foolish, as if he or his brothers and sisters, would let something happen without consent. She may only have been here once, but they know the disgusting perverts from the years before.

Damian scoffed, “Why accept if you’re incompetent?” Lainey snorted as his comment, scowling. Damian lowered towards her level, voice a deep baritone. “As if any of these creeps would get a chance to touch you.”

Lainey’s cheeks burned, her ears glowing in the dark as her breath hitched. Something about the way he said that… was strangely intimate. Turning her head, she noted the way inches separating them. Dark green eyes shimmering with flecks of gold and copper in his eyes. Lainey swallowed, darting her eyes between his. Suddenly, her mind cooled. Confidence surging just from a statement, of course she was still worried out of her wits. But now, she felt she could do anything. She was invincible, she was dying.

“If you could help someone, wouldn’t you do it Damian? Whether competent or not?” Lainey said, voice above a whisper.

Watching realization sink into his eyes as he stood to his full height. That was seriously unfair, he was definitely over six-foot, if Lainey had to guess, maybe six-two, six-three. Either way, compared to him, she looked like a dwarf, something she was not. Lainey was proud to admit she was around average height for a woman, thank you very much. Hearts pounding, but Lainey couldn’t tell if it was because of nerves or Damian. She didn’t want to think about it. Not now. She was mesmerized, unable to look away from his emerald eyes. She didn’t know if he was as entranced by her, as he was, but-

“Miss Wolf, are you coming?” The voice of Mr. Sterling broke whatever spell was holding them. “The guests are waiting.”
Lainey cleared her throat, eyes snapping forward as her cheeks burned again. She called out to Mr. Sterling, with a deep breath, and a grateful smile paired with a “Thanks.” Lainey was gone. Slipping from her curtain and being pulled into another direction.

Chapter Text

Lainey swallowed, nervously flexing her hands by her sides. She already talked about a song, about what music, the band, everything. There will be two cameras. To capture the donations being done. Everything was ready, but was Lainey?

She honestly didn’t know. One moment, she had all the confidence in the world; the next, she was dying. Okay, she was being over dramatic, but in her defense. The last time she actually had to spontaneously perform was auditions for choir in high school! Lainey breathed deep, Damian better be ready to fend the creeps off. She didn’t know if she could do this.

Damian had left the curtain not long after Lainey, eyes trailing to the stage to see instruments being set up. Hearing the complaints from the other guests, he rolled his eyes. Unamused by their unhappiness. Green eyes trailed to where he had seen Lainey disappear, Mr. Sterling leading her away with another grip around her wrist. At the time, Damian had to suppress the urge to growl and seperate the contact. Something about it rubbing him the wrong way.

Damian’s eyes trailed along the ballroom, eyes taking note of the change his family had taken. Tim was dancing with Barbara, smiling like idiots in love. Cass was nowhere to be found, leaving Damian to believe she had slipped into the kitchen to “assist” Alfred and the staff. Dick, Jason, and Stephanie to his surprise were actually chatting together, glasses of champagne half full. Bruce was keeping the image of playboy, chatting and charming some of the other guests.

Damian closed his eyes, sighing with a sip from his own glass. His frustration was building, a slight migraine already forming in his temple. Perfect, he thought bitterly.

“You okay there, babybird?”

The warm concerned voice of his eldest brother, Damian's emerald eyes opening. Blinking to meet the piercing blue of Dick. Out of all his siblings, Damian got on better with him, for the most part, anyway. Dick just seemed to… understand Damian when he was young, much like Tim and Jason. To a degree, all of them were close, but still. Officially speaking, Damian prefered the presence of his older brother.

Dick was handsome, nice black hair elegantly waving around his pale skin. A strong jaw and a narrowed nose, he was attractive. Stopping at Damian’s jaw, Dick was known for his charming flirt. A warm smile, a wink, a sweet comment here and there, and people adored him all the more. If only they knew how much of an ass he could be, at least, in Damian’s opinion.

“Grayson,” Damian greeted, nodding his head as he continued to scope the crowd. “Don’t you have girls to flirt with?”

Dick chuckled, watching with curious amusement as Damian snatched one of the finger sandwiches from a tray carried by one of the servers. Already picking it apart, Dick grinned. He was waiting for the usual game to start up. Since he was eleven, being forced to attend to the charity balls, galas, Damian was quick to find a way to entertain himself. That didn’t involve making reporters cry, or getting into fights, anyway. This required accuracy, stealth, and speed. Dick took a sip, fighting a snort as one of the men getting handsy with a woman, slid on a piece of cheese. Dick took the pickle offered to him, eyes watching the crowd as he spoke what was on his mind since the beginning of the gala.

“You disappeared there for awhile.”

“Excellent observation, Richard.” Damian mused, smirking as yet another victim fell prey to a pickle.

Dick chuckled again, the game continuing. “Just curious, babybird.”

“About Damian hiding behind the curtain for nearly an hour?” Stephanie mused, slipping into the conversation with Tim right behind her. It was Jason’s self-proclaimed turn to dance with Barbara. “I was curious too, especially since he followed a reporter.”

Damian scowled, “She’s not a reporter.”

A bun went flying, one of the arrogant hosts falling flat. A smirk curled Damian’s lips, ignoring the smug and eager looks his siblings sent in his peripheral. His ears tinging pink to his annoyance. He handed lettuce to Stephanie, waiting for her turn.

“So, there’s a girl involved.” Dick mused, a shit eating grin coloring his features. He ignored the disinterested persona Damian was showing, knowing very well that a normal girl wouldn’t have made his brother follow behind a curtain. “Do you know her Damian?”

Damian debated for a moment, lips pursing before opening with a snarky comment when the annoyingly high voice belonging to Madame Hawkins filled the room. Everyone quieted, stopping what they were doing to look at the main hostess. A red feather boa covered her shoulders, a black dress hugging her with long brown hair swayed behind her. Damian made a look of disgust and irritation, both at the woman. For stopping the game, and for drawing attention to her obviously make-up caked, botox filled face.

For what seemed forever, she went on and on. Commenting on the charity, the gala itself, the hosts. Thanking those for donations, and such. Needless to say, Damian drowned her out until a name rang through the room. Eyes snapping to the woman now taking Madame Hawkins’ place on stage. Elaine Wolf.

Lainey swallowed nervously playing with her dress, hair disheveled since Damian last saw her. He assumed she lost the battle to not run her fingers through it, a habit he quickly observed. She licked her lips, eyes closing for a moment as silence reigned through the room. Momentarily, Damian prepared for her to truly faint, as she said she would. He was not expecting what came next.
Enchanting. That was the best way he could describe the soft, low sound that rang through the room. Upon first glance, it’d be expected her to have a high voice, one people would describe as “angelic”. Damian would be the first to admit that wasn’t the case at all. It was harmonic, sweet like honey, gentle likes the crashing waves against the rock. The sound was strong, but fleeting. Shining through the room like a beacon, enchanting everyone with the sound.

Watching the words fly from Lainey’s vocal cords, Damian treasured being wrong. The melodic notes wrapping around the very room, filling the dark corners and easing the minds of troubled souls. Briefly, Damian noticed how many more donations were being made.

Smirking as eyes couldn’t seem to break from the sheep in the pack of wolves. ‘Good. Wait…’ Damian shook the thoughts from his head, refusing to give attention to anything but Lainey in this moment. She deserved it, the confidence filling her visibly. Shoulders relaxing, posture straightening and eyes burning the room with her warmth.

All too soon, her voice lowered, growing faint before disappearing entirely. Leaving the room feeling much less warm. Lainey didn’t stray on the stage, disappearing quickly in the silence following the applause. Damian couldn’t help but chuckle, a sheep hiding in a room of wolves, indeed.

Chapter Text

Lainey guzzled her water, breathing heavy and wiping sweat from her forehead. She couldn’t help her smile however, she always loved singing. A scholarship to Gotham had made her day, especially when her parents encouraged it. Opening another shop in Gotham to help her get use to the city in the previous years attending.

 

Lainey beamed, snatching her camera from the wooden table and slipping the straps around her neck. She forgot how nerve-wracking it could be performing in front of people that weren’t family or students. Wiping her mouth of excess water, the brunette escaped to the front of the room. Smiling kindly when approached by a dark haired, blue eyed male.

 

“Bruce Wayne.” He greeted, offering Lainey a hand.

 

“Elaine Wolf,” She accepted it, shaking firmly. “Most call me Lainey.”

 

Bruce smiled, “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.” A quizzical brow, and he elaborated. “Lucius talks highly of you.”

 

“Oh.” Lainey flushed, “Mr. Fox is very kind, offering me a secretary job, well, intern till I have the proper training.”

 

Bruce nodded in understanding, eyes briefly trailing the room to make sure his sons weren’t up to no good. Finding most chatting together, he returned his steely blue gaze to the distracted Lainey. Her fingers were fiddling with the camera straps, bottom lip being gnawed on by her teeth.

“He never mentioned your talent of singing.” Bruce watched her cheeks burn brighter.

 

“Well-” Lainey cut herself off, clearing her throat. “Probably because Mr. Fox doesn’t know. I mean, it never really came up.”

 

Bruce nodded, preparing to ask her another question. Curious, he had witnessed her and Damian hide behind a curtain for almost an hour. Together. Honest curiosity, not everyone can catch his youngest son’s attention, much less hold it. Not everyone could handle Damian either. Already, she was causing intrigue. Worry, but intrigue.

 

“Marvelous!” The shrill tone of Mr. Sterling cut in, a smile overtaking his features. “Wonderful job, Miss Wolf.”

 

Lainey smiled, but it was quick to shift. A professional edge coloring her face, brushing loose strands from her eyes. Lainey’s back straightened, shoulders falling back. Gazing at him with a guarded look, disinterest dulling her brown eyes.

“I hope you keep your word, Mr. Sterling.”

A monotone surprised Bruce. Before Mr.Sterling arrived, Lainey was warm, bright, and according to Lucius she often wears her emotions on her sleeve. This was not something he was expecting. A professional distance, coming off as indifference. Perhaps… they were wrong?

“I would hate to have to play my hand.”

“Of course, Miss Wolf.” Mr. Sterling bowed, hand stretching as two more joined them. “Pictures, as requested. All pictures taken when you were preoccupied.”

 

Lainey smiled, thanking them as she received the memory from the cameras. Turning her attention back to Mr. Sterling, her lips pulled into a smirk. A moment of her forcing her lips back into the controlled smile.

 

“And?”

 

Mr. Sterling swallowed, paling considerably before sighing. “And I will purchase the sunshine-.”

 

“Belly of Sunshine.”

 

“The Belly of Sunshine deal, from the Sunshine cafe.”

 

“Thank you,” Lainey beamed, “Twas a pleasure to do business with you; Mr. Sterling.”

 

He nodded, moving almost instantly away, while Bruce watched with amusement in his eyes. Mr. Sterling was one of several hosts for this event, and one of the most self-entitled men Bruce has ever met. To see him acting scared of a woman barely coming to Bruce’s bicep, was probably the most amusing thing he’s seen all day. Turning, he saw the spark in her eyes shine brightly once more, mischief curling a smirk on her lips. He saw it now, what Lucius talked about, and maybe what kept Damian’s attention.

 

“Sorry about that, Mr. Wayne.” She said sheepishly, running a hand through messy hair. “Speaking from experience, I’ve seen things go sour to fast when it came to deals like that. Been in a few myself.” She shrugged, “Anyway, what were we talking about?”

Bruce smiled, he liked her.

 

-#-#-#-#-

“You didn’t faint.”

 

The curt tone brought a smile of mirth to Lainey’s lips. She knew who it was, after all, she only brought fainting up with one person. With a shrug, Lainey turned. Meeting the emerald eyes of Damian once more, except for this time, the two weren’t hiding behind a curtain. Well, she wasn’t hiding behind a curtain. Though, she will admit, she was tempted.

 

“I didn’t.” Lainey agreed, taking a sip of the glass Damian had offered. “That would’ve been embarrassing.”

 

“To being booed offstage?”

 

His question had Lainey coughing, hand covering her mouth to prevent spitting up her drink. She wasn’t expecting that, breathing deep, Lainey supposed she should’ve expected that. Examining him once more, she had a feeling he wasn’t one to hold back from speaking his mind or otherwise. Good, she smiled wryly, that makes him twice as interesting compared to the fakes in the room.

 

“Please,” Lainey playfully rolled her eyes. “Nothing worse than crashing your parent’s car. Right after getting the chance to drive.”

 

“Oh you didn’t.” Damian mused, smirk brightening with disbelief as Lainey beamed.

 

“Yep.” She popped the ‘p’, drinking a sip of her champagne. “Right into a church.”

 

“A church?” Damian repeated, “No way.”

 

Lainey shrugged, “Believe or not believe, the point being my parents have banned me from being behind the wheel.”

 

“You’re bluffing.”

 

Lainey put her glass down, staring him straight into the eyes. Tone completely serious as she spoke.

 

“I took my mother’s mercedes into Gotham Cathedral. I was seventeen.”

 

Damian and Lainey remained like that, staring intensely into one another’s eyes. Damian searching the big brown eyes for any amusement, any lies. Instead, all he could find was pure honesty and seriousness. After a few more moments, Damian snorted. Quickly, that changed to chuckles, then full, rich laughter. Lainey smiling proudly as she chuckled herself.

“I told you.”

-#-#-#-#-

“Is… Is demon-spawn laughing?” Tim questioned, eyes locked onto the scene across the gala. Barbara had an arm around his waist, his around her shoulders. “Like, honest to God laughing?”

 

“Yeah, I think he is.”

 

“The world is ending.”

-#-#-#-#-

Lainey couldn’t chuckling, snapping another picture of someone making a donation. Damian was funny, his wit rivaling her sass. Often, he would be all serious, or indifferent, but Lainey could see through it. Knowing what to say, to do, to make that mask crack like plaster on the wall. Her heart was pounding throughout the night, stomach aching from how much she was laughing. Even her cheeks were aching with how often she was smiling.

 

That was the reason for the recent fits of laughter the two were going through. Lainey was rubbing at her cheeks, earning a questioning look from Damian. Which somehow ended with Lainey attempting to reach his cheeks, poking at what she could reach in an attempt to get him to lean down some. Demanding to know how all this smiling wasn’t killing his cheeks, she quickly dismissed the claim that he was used to it.

 

Lainey had thought of a wonderful idea that may or may not have included a chair, or jumping onto his back to try and reach his face. Even then it didn’t work, the chair ending with him snorting as he stepped out of range. The jumping onto him… well, that’s another story.

 

Now, he was whisked away in a circle of Richies, as Lainey had dubbed them. While she snuck away, standing in front of the curtain to snap another picture. Pleased with the image, Lainey let the camera fall back to her stomach. Breathing a sigh, when she noted the lack of Richies around her.

 

She wasn’t in the mood to play dodge the hands, her feet starting to hurt, eyes blearily blinking back the tiredness seeping into her bones. How long does this gala go? Lainey ran a hand through her hair, fighting a yawn when suddenly she was yanked backwards. A yelp on her lips, before a palm covered her mouth. Lainey was seconds away from biting the hand, preparing to dig her elbows into ribs or noses.

 

“Do not bite me.” Damian’s voice stopped that, a hissed whisper. “I’d rather not lure those snobs, or my siblings over because you decided to bite.”

 

Lainey rolled her eyes, shoving the hand from her mouth as she took a deep breath. Glaring at Damian for startling her, Lainey “accidentally” dug her elbow into his stomach. Hearing his grunt as she put distance between them.

 

“Does this count as kidnapping?” Damian arched a brow, prepared to make a comment when Lainey continued, plopping onto the floor. “Screw it, I don’t care. My feet hurt too bad to fight.”

 

Damian rolled his eyes, “You can’t kidnap the willing, Elaine.”

 

“Says you, kidnapper.”

 

Lainey smiled as his eyes rolled again, Damian sliding to the floor across from her. Good, he was too busy to notice the shiver Lainey had at the use of her name. The way it was uttered in his smooth voice, it made goosebumps rise, but Lainey ignored that. Moving to instead, run her fingers through her hair.

 

“How long are these parties?” She questioned in exasperation. Damian rolled his eyes, something he does a lot, Lainey noted.

 

“This is a gala, not a party.” He corrected, meeting her disinterested look with his indifferent one. “There’s a difference.”

 

“Okay, then, how long are galas, smart one?”

 

Damian rolled his eyes, ignoring the taunt at the end to cross his arms. Instead, he closed his eyes, enjoying the silence. Going by the sigh of relief from Lainey, she did as well.

 

They spent the rest of the night behind that curtain, occasionally stepping out. To snap photos, or snag food or drinks from one of the many servers. Besides that, they spoke softly when they did, enjoying the break from the pompous snobs and handsy players surrounding the ballroom.

 

They didn’t mind the fact that they had to be somewhat quiet. To stifle some of the laughter or sneaking outside the curtain and back. Lainey and Damian enjoyed it, so much so that by the end of the night. Their cheeks were red, stomach twisting and hurting from giggling like teenagers.

 

When the gala finally ended, minutes after a red cheeked Damian and Lainey left the curtain for the last time. Giggles and chuckles escaping them, despite them trying to stifle it. As Madame Hawkins spoke up, talking about how successful the charity was. Damian had dropped his coat, letting it hang on Lainey’s shoulders as they stood off to the side. She had started shivering shortly after leaving the curtain, and Damian being a gentleman, graciously offered her his coat.

 

In other words, he removed it and wouldn’t let Lainey accept or decline it, before he dropped on her. When she attempted to duck away, it landed on her head. Obscuring her vision and causing her to stumble around in the massive, black coat. Lainey learned many things tonight, most of them about Damian. He could be rude, abrasive, and snarky, but beneath that he was kind, witty, and simply lacking social cues. With a bregruding sigh, Lainey had shifted around. Finally getting her arms through the sleeves, ignoring the burn in her cheeks as it engulfed her petite form. The bottom was longer than her dress, the sleeves hanging several inches past her fingers. The scent of old spice, cologne, and something detectably nice that she couldn’t describe wrapping around her, along with warmth.

 

“Thanks…” Lainey muttered shyly, struggling to get her hands to peak out of the sleeves. “You are a freaking mountain, Damian.” He snorted at her grumble, something that she pouted at.

 

“You’re just short.” She glared, something Damian returned, his mask of indifference cracking with mirth in his emerald eyes.

 

“I’m perfectly average, thank you.” Damian scoffed, earning a cheeky grin as she nodded to confirm her words. “I am. I’m over five-foot.”

 

“Maybe in your head.” He looked away, ignoring her protests and fighting the grin that threatened to break the mask of indifference. “Are your parents coming to pick you up?”

 

Lainey shook her head, eyes focusing on Madame Hawkins for a moment. It took Damian poking her in the side to return her attention back to him. She questioned him silently, curious as he cleared his throat. Repeating his question, he watched her blanche. Was it so weird for him to ask? He pondered.

 

“N-no, I should be fine walking home.” Lainey stuttered, cheeks burning against her will. “I usually walk everywhere, so I should be fine. Thanks though.”

 

“Are you sure? Pennyworth wouldn’t mind.”

 

“Pennyworth?”

 

“My driver.”

 

Lainey arched a brow, “You have a driver?” She shook her head, answering her own question as she stopped him, “Right, forget I asked, of course you have a driver.”

 

“Do you want a ride or not.” Like that, Damian’s eyes hardened, arms crossing as he scowled.

 

“Again, thanks, but no. I will be fine walking home, but if I’d like to make it before curfew, I better head out now.”

 

Damian watched as she fiddled with her camera for a few moments, starting to shrug off the jacket when he stopped her. She may refuse a ride, but Damian is a gentleman, he won’t let her freeze. Again, Lainey scrunched her nose with confusion. Slowly trying to get the bulky coat off her shoulders, Damian huffed.

 

“You’ll freeze if you go outside like that, Elaine.”

 

Lainey froze, again with her name. Something about it coming from him sent shivers down her spine, the way it was so rarely heard from anybody except for her parents when she’s in trouble. Stomach knotting, Lainey swallowed. Her tongue like lead in her mouth as Damian tsked at her, fixing the coat, even going as far to button it up all the way.

 

“There.” Damian mused, tone prideful, lips pulled into a barely there smile.

 

Lainey swallowed again, cheeks burning. “Uh, thanks.” She cleared her throat, “Sorry, I- I have no idea how to get it back to you.”

 

Once again, those sharp green eyes rolled. “Don’t worry about it.”

 

His chuckle cut off Lainey’s stammers, shaking her from her stupor enough to actually focus on the world around her. Lainey smiled brightly at him, darting to give him a tight hug around his waist. Judging by the grunt, he wasn’t expecting that. Good. Lainey thought, feeling him awkwardly move to hug her in return.

 

“Thank you Damian,” She said softly, “You made tonight bearable.”

 

It was Damian’s turn to stutter, something that made her giggle. The soft sounds broke Damian of his stutter-fest, a scowl overtaking his features. Cheeks burning, and heart beating faster. Damian stepped back, nodding. With a glance around the room, to Madame Hawkins who was droning on and on, much like Damian’s school teachers. His brothers, sisters, and father were listening politely. With a glance to the doorway, then down to Lainey, he resisted the smile. Since when was he ever one to follow the rules?

 

“Allow me to walk you to the entrance, then.” Damian said, hands in the pockets of his slacks as Lainey sputtered. An odd sound escaping her throat in surprise, Damian smirked. Chuckling as he turned his back to everyone, walking towards the doorway. “Aren’t you coming?”

 

The sound of her boots on the smooth, pristine floor brought a true smile to his lips. This time, Damian didn’t bother resisting it, if he wanted to smile at the girl, then he was allowed to smile. It wouldn’t kill him.

 

“If you keep smiling like that,” Lainey remarked from his side, earning his attention as she huffed. “Your face might crack, so maybe try being careful? I can’t imagine the expenses being wasted on fixing such a pretty face.”

 

“You like my face?”

 

Lainey froze, apparently not realizing what she had said. The furrowed brows, scrunched up nose, wide eyes, and bright red cheeks had Damian laughing. Lainey frowned, attempting to raise her hand at him in a sign of stopping. However, Lainey misjudged the action, the excess sleeve slapping Damian at the jerky movement. She froze once more, catching Damian’s bemused and surprised expression before he started to laugh once again.

 

“Shut up Damian.”

 

Lainey pouted, attempting to walk ahead of him. Unsuccessfully. Damn his long legs. Stupid giant. Still, Damian continued his chuckle, long after leaving the ballroom, much to Lainey’s annoyment. She rolled her eyes, but couldn’t help the bubbling warmth inside that absolutely burned at the sound. She learned many things that night, things that made more sense as the night went on.

 

A few of them starting as nothing more than guesses. Damian didn’t laugh much, he didn’t smile all that much either, that was confirmed when she heard someone comment on how rare, weird, but rare it was for the “babybird” to smile and laugh. That made Lainey all the more giddy. Considering from the sounds of that conversation, she was one of the few able to do it, it made her feel ridiculously special.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want a ride, Elaine?”

 

The deep, smooth voice brought Lainey from her thoughts, repressing shivers at the use of her name once again. ‘Seriously? Every time?’ Lainey thought bitterly, smiling kindly at Damian with a shake of her head. She was a big girl, she didn’t need someone to protect her, she could do it herself.

 

“I’m sure, Damian.” She said aloud, “I’ve walked home before, nothing happened, why would it now?”

 

Damian didn’t like that, going by the expression sent her way. Lainey winced at what she said, that was asking for trouble, but she can handle it. She’ll be fine. She always is, Lainey reminded herself. Smiling confidently, she stretched. Taking a hold of his tie, Lainey pushed onto her tiptoes. Pulling Damian down a few inches, she pressed a kiss to his cheek. Lips tingling just a bit, as she pulled away. Releasing his tie, and returning to her feet. She smiled, watching the blush stain his olive cheeks. Even his ears were turning pink.

 

Lainey resisted the laugh, instead turning at the sound of the applause making her way home. Waving over her shoulder, fingers wiggling as she called out goodbye. She heard him stutter a response, laughing as she turned a corner.

Chapter Text

Damian couldn’t help the rush he was in. As soon as he was given the chance, he was in the car, demanding the others to hurry up and get in. He hadn’t even waited for Alfred to come to a complete stop, before he was out. Practically running into the house, and rushing to change clothes.

Now, as Robin, Damian sprinted across rooftops. Eyes on the blinking tracker on his scanner. Tonight, he was actually content with the fact that Bruce put a tracker on everything. Most, everything anyway. If he checked the batcomputer, all his father would see was Damian in his room. Assuming he had an exhausting or irritating night.

Damian jumped, coming to a halt a few feet from the signal. Looking down onto the street, he swallowed. The Narrows. Why, why didn’t he insist on her taking a ride with him? The Narrows weren’t safe. It was dangerous at all times of day, but like the rest of the city, at night it was a nightmare for those who couldn’t protect themselves. Along for those criminals lurking in the shadows, preying on those innocent souls.

“Hey, just give us your money and you’ll be fine.”

Damian narrowed his eyes, watching the thugs surrounding a civilian. It took only seconds to realize that it was Lainey in the center of the circle. The coat’s sleeves were being haphazardly pushed up her arms, falling down no matter how many times she did. Damian would’ve thought it cute, if his blood wasn’t boiling. How dare the-

Robin, report.”

Damian scowled, trying to ignore the authoritative tone his father used. At first it worked, emerald eyes locked on the scene below him when the voice sounded again.

"Robin.” Bruce growled, “Report.”

Damian turned away from the scene with a scowl, pulling up the video footage of his father. He was in so much trouble, going by the Batglare on Bruce Wayne’s face. Damian was unfazed, retorting with bite.

“Father.”

-#-#-#-#-#-#-

Lainey swallowed, hands up in surrender. Eyes darting to the thugs around her. They were armed, several had bats, a few with firearms, the remaining either holding a knife or their fists. Of course, the one time she’s exhausted the thugs are armed and outnumber her. Well, unless…

“You don’t want to do this.”

Lainey attempted, one chance. Just one chance, for them to walk away. For her to not have to worry about hacking, about using a laptop for wiping a system. They laughed, loud, throaty gurgles from most of them, mixed with the typical maniac laugh. They spoke amongst themselves, joking, taunting. One of them, the leader she assumed, pointed his gun at one of his men, gesturing towards her. An attempt for one to forcibly retrieve her items. Something inside Lainey curled, violently awakening and she resisted the pounding in her head. ‘No. Not now.’

What happened next was a flash, Lainey couldn’t recall what happened first. Whether it was someone touching her, the guns being loaded, or an order. But something started it, and Lainey didn’t hesitate. Eyes shutting for a second, hand rising to her temple out of habit. Instantly, she was aware of everything around her. She was aware of the people in their homes, the homeless people on the streets burning stuff in the garbage cans. She was aware of the countless thugs and gangs littering the entirety of Gotham, thankfully the handful around her were the only ones within the area at the moment. She was aware of someone standing on a rooftop a few blocks away from her.

Lainey triggered the blast, hearing the sharp piercing sound of her mind blast filling the air. Reminding her much of a flash bomb, the high-pitched wail ringing in the ears of those within the radius of her. Drifting from her ears to theirs. She blinked, seeing most knocked onto the ground, their weapons laid astray.

“Oh, you’re gonna pay for that girly!”

Lainey jumped, turning to see a couple stumbling to their feet. Judging by how loudly they yelled, she assumed they were still feeling the effects of the attack. Swallowing once more, Lainey took off down the street. Sprinting like her life depended on it, which it did. She cursed for a second, her senses still stretched too far. Hearing cats meowing, dogs barking, family fighting, and the fights amongst thugs and gangs. Lainey winced at the sound of one of the guns going off, narrowly missing her. She needed to shrink her awareness, otherwise the same thing as last time will happen again. Lainey isn’t one to repeat mistakes, especially that one.

If she wasn’t running for her life, it would’ve been much easier. But unfortunately, life was never easy. Especially her’s. Focus Lainey, she instructed herself. Taking a chance to close her eyes, to feel the wind whipping her face, to focus on her feet pounding on the ground. On the sound of her boots pounding on the pavement. Lainey narrowly avoided tripping, jumping over the fallen trash can. Smiling with glee as her awareness span shrank back to just around her. Xavier would be proud, she managed to control her range whilst running for her life! Woohoo!

Lainey didn’t stop running, not even when the feet behind her stopped. Not when the sounds of grunts, not until she was at the backdoor of the Sunshine Cafe. Breathing heavy, sweating profusely and her hair an absolute mess. She knocked loudly, remembering the rules for coming home after curfew.

“Lainey? That better be you.”

The sound of her mother had a grin splitting her lips, the door opening to her tiny mother with auburn brown hair in curlers. Lainey always found her mother beautiful, with a warm accented voice that always brightened her day. Often times, when she was first taken in, Lainey had wondered if Teresa Lopez was actually an angel sent to earth to bless the world with light, fluffy pastries. The sound of music downstairs alerted Lainey to her father in the shop downstairs. If he wasn’t with her mother, he was with his second love, the pastries. No one could separate Matthieu Brun from his loves. Either of them. Well, except his children, but that was different.

“Honestly, how long are those parties?” Teresa huffed, locking the door behind Lainey. “You’d think them-”

Lainey chuckled as her mother trailed off into spanish, most likely muttering curses about the self-entitled pricks of Gotham City. Her mother loved Gotham, she was born here after all, it was only when she was on a class trip that she found her way to Metropolis, where she met Matthieu, a French baker intent to change the world, one pastry at a time. According to Teresa, it was love at first bite. Literally.

“Galas, momma, not parties; galas.” Lainey remarked, cutting into the long string of words, and chuckling at the muttered question. “According to my new friend, there’s a difference. He didn’t say what, but that there was.”

Teresa laughed, eyes twinkling at glee when there was a sudden crash downstairs. Lainey always enjoyed making friends, and much to her father’s horror, most of Lainey’s “new friends” were boys. Many whom, according to Matthieu, had questionable intentions. Teresa always got a kick out of it, considering Lainey didn’t necessarily get along with female classmates. Something about crazy, backstabbing, woman being terrifying.

“A boy, huh?” Teresa exclaimed, eyebrows dancing suggestively. Lainey paled at the crashes, but her mother only continued to rub salt in the room. “A new boy, one you met tonight?”

“Boy!?” Her father yelled, suddenly pounding feet and several more crashes later. Followed by words spoken in Lainey’s father’s mother language as he emerged from the staircase, a metal baseball bat in hand. “Not my daughter, you heathen!”

“Dad!” Lainey exclaimed, cutting over her mother’s laughter. “No boys, no boys!”

“Ah, my Little Lainey!” The bat clattered, shortly after Lainey was pulled into a hug. “How was your gala sweetie?”

Lainey beamed, declaring proudly information about her friend, Damian, and about all the pictures. She also brought up the meeting with her boss’ boss, Bruce Wayne. Her parents listened with rapt attention, nodding and making comments or asking questions throughout the discussion. Lainey didn’t bring up the attack that happened outside, or being dragged behind a curtain.

Knowing her parents, they’d hunt Damian down and beat him with old bread. Old bread was as hard as stone at times, and considering how protective they could be? Not counting her siblings, Damian would have a hellish time fending them off. Even Lainey had a hard time when wrestling her family, and they go easy on each other! Still, Lainey loved her family. She wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Chapter Text

“What were you thinking?” Bruce demanded, anger clear.

Damian arrived home hours ago, his tracker remaining in one spot. He remained there for an extra hour, just to make sure, before he returned to the Batcave. Damian managed to dress down before the scolding started. Clad in his dress shirt and slacks, Damian listened to his father with indifference. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d get a lecture. Especially from Bruce.

“Leaving to patrol without a second glance, or telling anyone else?!” Bruce scowled, “I expected better of you.”

Damian rolled his eyes, of course, he could’ve avoided all of this if he’d interrupt his father and explain himself. But Damian didn’t want to, rather face a scolding than being forced to reveal he was worried for someone he barely knew. Besides, this way he could keep something to himself without his brothers sticking their noses into it.

The idea of keeping his new friend, secret sent a thrill down Damian’s spine. Eyes lighting up, lips pulling into a smirk against his will. Trying to school his features into indifference was proving to be difficult, and for a moment, Damian cursed the spell she seemed to have on. What is this sorcery? To smile at the mere thought of another person, to feel his heart beat rapidly, his stomach twisting and turning.

“Something wrong, Damian?” Bruce’s comment snapped Damian from his… dilemma. “You’ve been acting weird all night. Are you feeling well?”

Damian scoffed, rolling his eyes. Shaking the thoughts from his head, the images of her smile, the way her eyes laughed with her. The sweet sound of her voice, Damian could imagine the different ways his violin could harmonize with a voice like hers.

A hand on his shoulder, and Damian finally shook the thoughts away. Cutting the daydreams, the scenarios in his head in half as he met the worried blue eyes of his father. In seconds, Bruce could go from angry to concerned. Something that always interested Damian as a child. Switching between what his siblings called the Batman mode to Bruce Wayne in seconds.

“Damian?”

“I’m fine, father.” Damian shook his concern off. “Just tired is all.”

Damian didn’t let him talk, cutting off whatever he was saying with a good night. Walking up the metal steps, Damian continued, not stopping until he was in his bedroom. Changing into his sweats, he was tempted to workout till he dropped of exhaustion, to prevent his traitorous thoughts from turning back to the witch who had entranced him at the gala.

That was the only logical solution to why willingly he took a berating from his father. The only logical reason to why he felt all these different things throughout the night, and why these… thoughts, these scenes, and scenarios were playing through his head. Each one leaving him feeling warm and light.

That was also explain how she managed to take out several men by lifting only a hand. Magic. The weird abilities he never quite understood. Not even when his beloved older brother was dating Zatanna the Magician, it didn’t make sense then. It doesn’t now. Of course, Lainey Wolf was a little witch.

Yet, all Damian could think of her was as a sheep surrounded by wolves. Damian being one of the wolves, willing to protect the little lamb with his life.

Chapter Text

Lainey grumbled, waking too early for her liking. The sun blaring through her window, the peaceful stillness of her room leaving her with time to properly wake up. Lainey wasn’t much of a morning person, adding the migraine from last night’s activities?

She scowled, annoyed with the groggy thoughts questioning her choices last night. True, the last time she had to use anything in self-defense was when she didn’t want to fight with civilians who wanted her dead. Nearly falling into an alleyway to escape, not aware at the time to gleeful smile or the excited disbelief shining in smokey brown eyes.

Lainey snorted, begrudgingly giving up on sleep. Lainey didn’t expect Teresa to step towards her instead of yelling in fear, definitely not expecting when Teresa shouted for the world to hear that she “had another baby”. Lainey had jumped several feet into the air when Teresa did that, and when Matthieu did it upon arriving home. Lainey couldn’t help the smile on her lips as she dressed, rubbing at her eyes. After a much needed energy drink, Lainey would check her calendar and schedule. She couldn’t remember if she had school or the internship today.

####

Damian yawned, stretching. A glance to the clock on his bedside table, revealed the time to be a quarter after nine. Damian frowned, he rarely sleeps in. ‘What did that witch do to me?

“Babybird?” Dick called, opening the door a bit to peak in. He smiled, “Look who joined the land of the living. Again.”

Damian arched a brow, “What are you doing here, Grayson?”

“What? Am I not allowed to check on my brothers?”

Damian rolled his eyes, sitting up and shifting to make room for Dick. Silence stretched between them, Damian eyeing the oldest with scrutiny. Dick didn’t meet his gaze, not at first. He sighed, and Damian arched a brow.

“Damian,” Dick started, eyes on his clasped hands. “Where did you go last night?”

Damian scoffed, “Father send you to get the answer out of me?” Typical.

“No, I came to see if you were okay.” Dick remarked, “You disappeared most the night behind a curtain. You glared at several hosts when they tried to get you to stop during the times you left the curtain. Then, you left to patrol after coming home missing your coat.” When Damian didn’t say anything, Dick continued with a chuckle. “Am I right in thinking this has something to do with a girl?”
“As if.” Damian scoffed, rolling his eyes. “If anything, it involves the stuck-up company the night of the gala. Acting as if by being there, it made them better. Giving out spare change to those in need.”

Dick nodded, “I get that, but to immediately go out to patrol?” Damian didn’t answer, staring with narrowed eyes at his brother. “C’mon, babybird, you know you can trust me with anything.”
That was true, Damian knew it was. But to tell another of Lainey, when she remained such a mystery, a witch who seemed to entrance him via her eyes, her smile, her laugh, her voice… her everything that made his blood rush through his veins, his heart beat sporadically.

Lainey occupied his every thought, his senses. To close his eyes, Damian can see her. Round cheeks crimson, a wide smile, a snort escaping her because she was laughing too hard.
He inhales, catching the faint fragrance of vanilla, overbearing smell of lavender, a twinge of something that had Damian searching his vocabulary for the words needed. It wasn’t strong enough to identify, not weak enough that he couldn’t smell it.

He can still hear her voice. The smooth, honeyed tone wrapping around him. Harmonious notes entrapping him in her spell. She was everywhere, but nowhere at the same time. Again, he was reminded of his thoughts the night before. A sheep in a room of wolves, but was she really a sheep? Maybe he was a wolf, and she was a bear in sheep’s clothing attempting to trap her prey, to kill it.

I’d die a happy man, Damian thought to himself, sighing aloud. Dick put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing in reassurance even though he didn’t know exactly what he was assuring his brother of. Damian looked to his brother, blue meeting green. Would Dick be as entranced as Damian is if he had met someone like her?

####

“Lainey?”

“Yes, mom?”

The appearance of her mother in her doorway was concerning. Her mother was wringing her hands, a perplexed expression taking over her face. Lainey glanced up from her phone completely, tossing the device to the couch.

“Mom?”

Teresa was never someone who got nervous easy, her voice stumbling as she spoke, “There’s a uh, guy? Asking for you? In the bakery?”

Lainey blinked, confusion scrunching her nose up. A guy? What guy wou- oh. It clicked, her features smoothing over as she stood. On her way down, she snagged the apron off the hook. Sliding it on, and tying the knot over her pantsuit. She had work after the pictures finished printed, no need to get her clothes dirty.

Lainey took a step behind the counter, briefly her heart fluttering at the brief idea of Damian showing up. Lainey shook that thought away, no way, he doesn’t even know about this place. It’d be impossible. She sighed, but painted on a chipper smile. It faded as she recognized the male nervously standing in the center of the room. Mr. Sterling. A business smile took the place of her frown, eyes guarded as she cleared her throat. Drawing the man who stuck out like a sore thumb in the Sunshine Cafe’s main floor.

“Mr. Sterling,” She greeted, watching as he strutted across the room. “A pleasure to see you keep your end of our deal.”

“Yes, well, you are very convincing, Ms. Wolf.”

Lainey smiled wolfishly, she knew what word he truly meant. Her boss talked to her about it all the time, Lainey could be as kind, charming, and persuasive as necessary, but she can also switch at a time to professional, guarded, and intimidating. Of course, the natural charisma was compelling to all to seek her out during business events and such, but Mr. Fox always said she’d be a shrewd dealer.

“Thank you Mr. Sterling.” She gestured to the pastries lining the displays. “Now, how may I help you? Would you like to hear about our deal?”

“You’re what?”

“Our deals, sir. We are offering many, several of which will help feed the poor, homeless, and misfortunate of Gotham City.”

“Oh,” Mr. Sterling swallowed, attempting to regain his dignity. “Of course, do tell me more about these… benefits you’re offering.”

“Gladly.”

Lainey ran through the lists, smile never fading and answering every question with a sweet voice. Her parents watched, eyes never trailing away for long, and when able this listened in. Shortly after Lainey took the man to the register, her parents shared a look. Pride coloring their eyes, the air around them speaking the silent words. That's my girl.

Mr. Sterling left, and Lainey smiled genuinely at the regular customer. She hadn’t seen him in a week, but then again, she hadn’t seen much besides her teachers, classmates, boss, and parents in the week.
“Alfred! What a pleasure to see you.”

Alfred smiled kindly, “It’s nice to see you as well, my dear. From what I heard, you were buried in work and homework.”

Lainey nodded, “Yeah, finals week plus the internship makes for a very busy Lainey.”

Alfred chuckled, “Don’t work yourself too hard, Miss Lainey.” Alfred sighed, taking the box of pastries. Well, he was going to, Lainey intercepted, smiling cheekily as she lifted the box into the air. “Heaven knows I have enough overworking individuals at home.”

Lainey laughed, “Are they giving you a run for your money?”

“They certainly try to.”

The two shared laughter, before Alfred was waving goodbye and driving away. Lainey was smiling, entering the cafe before cursing under her breath in pastries. Her father laughed at the scandalized look her mother took on, Lainey struggling to remove her apron. Tripping upstairs with unbalanced steps, the yellow and green apron being placed on the hook before Lainey was rushing out the backdoor.

Chapter Text

In all honesty, Lainey never expected to see Damian again. She hoped, dreamed, and wished. Never thought she would however. She accepted this, but that didn’t stop her heart from sinking into her gut. The way her stomach would knot, how he was usually the first thought she had in her head in the morning, the last thought at night. Why? She didn’t know, she suspected Jean would’ve chuckled and patted her on the head if she were able.

Lainey sighed, stretching from the recent lecture she sat through. Who knew college was more exhausting than regular school? Especially Gotham University. Of course, a good majority of students were the children of the rich pompous pricks from the gala. A small fraction being those lucky students who managed to get their hands on a scholarship.

Lainey ran a hand through her hair, eyes on the cloudy skies above. Rain was sure to come, but she didn’t mind. She loved the cloudy skies, the cold rain, the gentle breezes that can turn as harsh as loving in a second. It brought a sense of surprise, of comfort, of… home.

“Watch it!”

The shouts from the mob getting through the walkways in hordes could be heard even with the doors shut. Something Lainey was getting used to. Enough gawking, time to get going. Lainey sighed, walking the path, occasionally jumping onto the cement holders with trees or flowers blooming from the past season. She was singing under her breath, tone smooth like whiskey.
Lainey continued the soft tune, only stopping when sunlight shined through the clouds, blinding her temporarily. Her nose scrunched up, stopping to rub at her eyes. After rubbing the sun from her eyes, she smiled at the once more cloudy skies.

Eyes darting to look around when she stopped. Her heart thudded painfully fast, stomach knotting as her thoughts raced a mile a minute. Gaze never moving from the sight before her. It’s him…

There, sitting on a bench, a pad and pencil by his side with a book opened in his lap. Spiky black hair, green eyes narrowed in concentration. Lips curled into a deep frown, and brows scrunching together. Damian. Damian at Gotham University?

Lainey shook her head, the more she thought about it, the more it made sense actually. He was part of Gotham’s rich, of course he’d attend college here. Thinking on it, her heart plummeted into her stomach. He was part of Gotham’s rich, what’s the chances he’d still want to hang out with her after he finds out just how far down she comes? Still, it won’t hurt to try…

With her confidence renewed, Lainey smiled. Taking measured steps towards his bench, gnawing on her cheek. Chanting confident boosters to herself mentally, repeatedly. She came to a stop, swallowing any of her apprehension. Speaking with a soft tone as he sighed.

“Damian?”

####

His heart stopped. Green eyes widening, before he forced indifference onto his features. Unsuccessfully so. His head snapped as the familiar voice repeated herself, the waver in her tone suggesting she might’ve called someone the wrong name.

He was correct, the grin stretching across her lips making his heart sing. Lainey Wolf, the woman who lives in a bad part of Gotham, the girl who’s had his heart beating fast by the mere thought. He swallowed, attempting disinterest once more. The witch who cursed him with these feelings.

“Elaine.” He greeted, tone steady despite the uneasy feelings inside him. “What are you doing here?”

She snorted, rolling beautiful brown eyes. “Well, this is a college, believe it or not.” He narrowed his eyes, earning a hint of her beautiful laugh, “Oh, don’t be so cross. I’m simply teasing.”

“I noticed.”

She took a seat, the scent of vanilla, lavender, and a twinge of something he couldn’t identify. Was that… bread? He didn’t have time to try and decipher it, every inhale of the scent was shifting in his nose and made his heart pound stronger. Damn this witch.

“Are you calling me a witch, Damian?” Lainey asked, barely containing laughter in her voice. “Rather rude, don’t you think? Here I am, about to offer you my lovely presence, and you’re calling me a witch.” She snorted, glancing towards the sky.

Damian lips tugged into a wry grin, he tried to resist but as Lainey continued about his comment about the things she would do if she was a witch, he couldn’t resist. She was too cute. Wait…

Lainey gasped sharply, drawing Damian’s attention from his thoughts to the brunette. Her chestnut brown hair was messily displayed today, stray locks moving across her face and going behind her ears. The urge to play with her hair had Damian clenching his fists, jaw tightening as he tempted to regain control of himself. Her finger poked his cheek, drawing sharp green eyes back to her warm brown. She was smiling, finger poking his cheek more. Feeling the warmth of his blush, she sat back chuckling.

“Careful there,” Lainey warned teasingly, tucking a loose strand behind her ear. “Don’t want your face to crack from smiling too much, now do we?”

Damian smirked, catching her still extended hand in his. Watching as her cheeks burned rosy red, Good. Damian pressed a kiss to her fingers, starting with the one that poked him. He resisted his smug smirk as with every kiss, her cheeks burned darker. The red falling down her neck and coloring what he could see of her chest.

“I seem to recall,” He mused, eyes meeting hers and hearing the hitch in her breath. “You warning me of that same thing at the gala, Elaine.” She shivered, Damian felt pride swell in his chest. “I remember, I asked you a question. You still never answered me.”

“Holy… strudels…” Lainey breathed, swallowing.

Damian smirked, his lips pressing into her knuckles. Her brain was short circuiting, her eyes growing hazy. The pressure was feather-light, but left tingles tracing up her arm. Heart beating faster and faster, her stomach was doing somersaults and she couldn’t tell if she was still alive at this point. Did she run into a pole? Knock herself into some kind of sleep? If she did, oh she didn’t want to wake up.

Elaine.” Damian’s voice came husky, low, demanding.

Lainey’s voice fluttered open, when did she close them? She cleared her throat, meeting his smirking green eyes. The color darkened, a dark, forest green rather than a shining emerald. Lainey smirked, at least she wasn’t the only one affected by this. An idea struck, and Lainey’s eyes flashed with hazy mischief.

Damian swallowed, attempting to keep control of the game they were suddenly playing. Her hand stretched outward, her thumb stretching to trace his lips, her fingers grazing his jawline, caressing the skin she could reach. Pink returned to his olive cheeks, the color inspiring some more boldness from Lainey.

He pressed a kiss to her thumb, eyes challenging her. ‘Let’s play, Damian,’ Lainey thought, eyes meeting his. She bit her lip, dragging it into her mouth before letting it fall. Oh, she hoped to whatever god was out there that it looked more seductive than it felt. Honestly, she felt absolutely ridic- Did he just growl? Oh, ooh, well then. Lainey’s heart beating a drum, briefly she wondered if perhaps Damian’s was beating just as fast.

Why not find out~” Something purred inside her head, for some reason it sounded like a brilliant idea.

It was as she was thinking of a way to just… do that, that reason caught on. She shook her head, instead, stretching her hand through his grip to cup his cheek, his lips trailing fire down her wrist. Lainey released a shaky breath, her thumb caressing his cheekbone for a few moments. Her eyes closing, she felt his smirk on her skin.

Open your pretty eyes for me, Elaine.”

She did, eyes half-lidded to meet Damian’s feeling a grin on his lips as she did. His lips never leaving her skin, but Lainey could’ve sworn he told her to… open her… eyes. She swallowed, eyes widening at the implications. A tickle growing in the back of her mind, the unknown coloring her senses, leaving her feeling something exotically foreign. Her lips parted, a shaky breath as she attempted to pull herself back. We shouldn’t be doing this…

“Damian… ” Lainey’s voice came out breathy, tone needy.

Her blush darkened, horror filling her eyes as she realized what it sounded like. Damian chuckled, pulling back with smug satisfaction coloring his features. His lips pulled into a proudly pleased smile, eyes still dark, still clouded. Her insides melted at the sight, damn him.

“Shut up.” She breathed, moving to reclaim her hand when Damian pressed one last kiss to her palm. Lainey scowled, “Stop that.”

Damian smiled wryly, his lips lingering on her palm. Electric shocks coursed through her veins where his warm lips lightly brushed her skin, instead of the burning inferno, it left Lainey warm, at ease. Like when you’re sitting in front of a fire, the warmth relaxing and gentle. Lainey sighed, the idea of melting sounded more and more appealing by the second, but she resisted. Her will reinforcing at the mere thought of her being considered easy.

Damian spoke into her palm, the words a low whisper, his cheeks flushing at the natural curl of his native tongue. Her eyes brightened, curiosity burning bright in pools of chocolate and honey. Lainey’s smile turning gentle, bottom lip red from where her teeth played with it, when she grew so flustered and sucked into her mouth. Briefly, Damian wondered if this is what she would look like after kissing? Lips red, cheeks burning down to her collarbone, messy hair even more when it’s not from the wind, but instead his hands. Would her hair feel as soft as it looked? Would it tangle easily? Would Lainey taste as good as she looked?

That idea snapped Damian from his succor, his ears burning darker red, his cheeks matching the shade of her’s. Damian released her hand, resisting the urge to tug her into his chest and never let her leave his side. To press kisses all over her face until she was a giggling mess, teasing him between laughter. He wanted to drag her to bed with him, cuddle her into his chest and wake up to face her the next day. He didn’t want to sleep without her warmth burning into his side, he wondered was she a restless sleeper? Was she one of those who could hit the pillow and sleep instantly?

A clearing of the throat, and Damian was turning to look at Lainey. She was still flustered, the blush slowly deteriorating. What sorcery is this? Awkwardness crackled through the air, and Damian was rubbing the back of his neck. He caused this, it was his turn to fix it.

“My apologies, Elaine.” Damian said after a moment, looking straight away. He resisted the urge to pull at the collar of his turtle-neck, feeling suffocated. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

She let out an unamused laugh, “I didn’t exactly stop you, Damian.” Wait, what? Despite every fiber in his breathing demanding he looks at her. Damian stopped himself, listening to the rest of what she said. “Besides, I think you smiled more than at the gala. So, at least you smiled.”

 

Damian didn’t say anything, finally glancing at her in surprise. She was looking down, playing with her overcoat. Was she… she didn’t think…

“But, just so you know,” She said quietly, “I’m not a plaything, I am a person with feelings, and if you ever think differently, I will beat you into next week.”

“I would not think so lowly of you, Elaine.” A door slammed shut, and Damian ignored it in favor of placing a hand hesitantly on hers. “I am aware of you being a person, most only see me for my last name. I will not think of you as so, in exchange for the same thing.”

She snorted, “Do you even need to ask?”

Chapter Text

Lainey sighed, shifting in bed for the millionth time that night. She didn’t want to keep thinking, but it seems her wants weren’t being considered today. She’d like to be sleeping, especially after everything that happened at school today. It took hours before the fire burning her blood, the electricity tingling her skin finally all went away. Even now, she could still feel the lingering sparks dancing across her skin.

What the hell was going on? It’s just a guy. She shifted once more, yeah, but maybe because it wasn’t just a guy, it was Damian. Someone she barely knew for a few weeks, but felt like she knew forever. Damian the man who made her feel so safe and warm, and like everything was going to be okay, so long as he was beside her. She doesn’t even know his last name!
For the love of eclairs, he could be using her to get his jollies off and could’ve lied about… about everything he said earlier…

No, Lainey sat up, groaning into her hands before running them through the chestnut brown locks. Giving a slight tug as she attempted to rationalize everything with logic. She’d know if he was lying, even without-

Lies and honesty was something that stuck out like a sore thumb. Lainey sighed, shifting to get out of bed, the light streaming under her door meant her parents were still up. Maybe listening to them talk or cook, or anything will help relax her racing thoughts enough to sleep.

Lainey ran a hand through her hair, quietly opening her door to look down the hall. The living room lamps and the overhead light in the kitchen glared at her, eyes squinting to see. Blinking against the blindspots dancing across her vision, Lainey furrowed her brows at the lack of people in the living room and kitchen.

The murmured voices from the bakery downstairs, had Lainey quietly walking to the staircase. Recognizing the sound of her parents, she moved. Slinking a few steps down the stairs when she detected the worry.

“-can we even afford it?” Matthieu asked, the sound of papers shuffling around.

“We will have to try, my love. Otherwise, our expansion will flop. Again.”

“If it flops again… “

“No. No if’s, but’s, or anything.” Teresa cut off, sighing heavily. “We will pull through, we have to.”

Silence, Lainey swallowed at the grunts and cracks of bones and feet on the hardwood. This didn’t sound good, not good at all. Lainey quietly slid down another step, peering into the office bakery. Thankfully the stair lights weren’t on or she’d of been detected in seconds.

“Should we tell Lainey?”

Teresa shook her head, resting her head on her husband’s shoulder. Her arms wrapped around his broad shoulders, thick chocolate curls streaming across his white shirt. With the golden rays from the overhead light, Lainey momentarily was reminded of her first impression of her mother. Her warm sienna skin glowing gold, the view ethereal. An angel sent to Gotham in times of need.

“No, we can’t.” Teresa sighed, “We both know her, she will do anything to help, to fix our problems. At the price of her own life, even.”

“She’s certainly a little ray of sunshine, isn’t she?”

Lainey smiled, turning to crawl to her room as her parents shifted. Letting them have a tender moment, she frowned. They were right, Lainey would do anything for them. Lainey knows her death wouldn’t benefit anyone, but she can’t let her parents stress over an idea. An idea, Lainey herself came up with. They acted on her idea, it’s time to act on their half.

Sneaking into her room, Lainey shut the door softly, licking her lips nervously. It’s time, there’s no choice. She snatched her phone from its charger, unlocking it and chewing her cheek as she tapped away at the bright screen. Hopefully, the people of Gotham tip well.

####

Damian groaned, head falling into his hands. His pencil rolling around the desk, homework forgotten. How is he supposed to focus on math when he can’t get the events of the day off his mind? Her blush, her darkened eyes, rosy lips, soft skin that smelled strongly of vanilla, lavender, and something that Damian can only describe as her.

Damian knew she wasn’t a witch, it was evident today that she wasn’t. Still, Damian couldn’t stop his mind from running with the idea of magic at work. Why else would he be feeling all these things? How else could he explain the effects the mere thought of Lainey had on him?

Still, a smirk made its way on his lips, at least if magic was at work, it seems he wasn’t the only one affected. The image of Lainey earlier popped into his head, the whine she gave of his name, her trying to resist the effects he had on her. Amusing, here he was, thinking it was just him, and she was a witch, causing all of this. When it seems they shared these… reactions. Honestly, if it was magic, Damian couldn’t bring himself to curse it.

Picking his pencil up, Damian went back to work, thankful for whatever magic spell that entrapped him, glad it chose him and her for this.

Chapter Text

For the next few months, Lainey’s days went about the same. Go to school, converse with Damian outside about anything that came to mind before leaving either for the internship, or when Damian’s ride would pull up. Always ending the same, a decline to his offer of a ride home, much to his dismay and growing puzzlement.

 

Lainey goes home to help with the bakery, pretending she knew nothing of the financial struggles. Her siblings would be arriving in a few more months, that is if they keep the bakery running. When they arrive, they will take over the position for Lainey, or their parents. Afterwards, she would change, before heading to Wayne Enterprise for her internship. Working with Lucius Fox on some matters, talking and discussing what would be expected after her internship ends and she starts to work there. Usually, she will do filing, helping with computer troubles, and paperwork along with scheduling meetings.

 

Then, Lainey would go and work her second job. Working until the middle of the night, bringing home enough money to last years. Arriving home, she’d quietly retire to her room, count the money and replace certain things throughout the house. Refilling her mother and father’s wallet with the cash that was spent throughout the day. Sometimes, leaving over hundreds of dollars in the bakery tip jar. Before she’d allow herself to slide between the sheets for rest. Only to wake up the next morning, down an energy drink before helping in the bakery. Downing another energy drink to start the day all over again.

 

Despite the extreme exhaustion, Lainey didn’t mind. She was helping her parents, that was enough to make everything worth it in her mind. Lainey valued the little sleep she managed to get between her busy day, but that didn’t dampen her mood. Even if Teresa and Matthieu didn’t know it was her helping, didn’t know about the work she was doing to help them stay afloat in a dog eat dog world. 

 

It made her feel better, more reassured when she noticed the lack of stress weighing her father’s large shoulders down, noticed the energy returning to her mother. The brightness and life reviving in their eyes, their smiles. Then again, there’s a chance that the warmth she felt was from the amount of energy drinks she consumed in a day. Oh well, she was fine, her family, her friends, everyone was doing okay. She didn’t mind if she had to slave a few sleepless nights to help, it worked, therefore no problems. To her anyway.

 

“Good morning Alfred,” Lainey smiled, blinking the sleep from her brown eyes. “The same order as usual?”

 

“I’m afraid I have to triple it this morning, Miss Lainey.” Alfred sighed, “The boys have brought friends over last night, and unfortunately two of them have bottomless stomachs.”

 

Lainey laughed, folding the cardboard into boxes. “I’m sure they’ll be no match for the Sunshine pastries.”

 

“I sure hope so,” Alfred grumbled, placing money into the empty jar despite Lainey’s protests. “Nonsense. You three deserve it.”

 

“Thank you, but I mean it, Alfred.” Her smile turned tired, placing some pastries into one of the yellow boxes. “I got it covered.”

 

Lainey missed the look of concern Alfred sent to her back, eyes darting to meet the worried gazes of her parents in the doorway of the office. Alfred frowned, looking back as she hummed to herself.

 

“Of that, I have no doubt.”

 

Lainey didn’t hear, singing a soft tune as she filled another box of pastries. Closing the lid, to fill another box. Her mind elsewhere, sluggishly working to wake up before her classes started, before the internship. Thankfully, it was just those two for her today.

 

####

 

“Pennyworth,” Damian greeted, nodding his head as he held the door open for the butler. “I see you’ve decided to add to the morning delights. I take it Drake and Richard’s guests are still here then.”

 

“Indeed they are, Master Wayne.” Alfred muttered, walking into the kitchen.

 

Damian froze, the stench of vanilla, lavender and something incredibly strong stung his nose. Lainey? But, not? Damian’s brows furrowed, tempted to follow and ask Alfred just where he went every morning to get the pastries.

 

The others had a habit of waking up late, rushing to eat and get out the door. All the numerous years spent caring for the entire Wayne family has given the old butler tricks and tips. It seems no one was aware that Alfred never saved breakfast to those who did not wake up for it. Damian being one of the few getting a chance to taste Alfred’s cooking. The others being given store bought delights from something-something.

 

All Damian knew about it was that it was a hit in Metropolis before trying to spread to Gotham. He rolled his eyes at reading the news, the peppy, go-lucky people of Metropolis in dark, crime-filled Gotham? Not likely.

 

“Pennyworth, I-”

 

Alfred raised a hand, “Not now Master Damian, I am currently trying to pinpoint the change in behavior of a friend of mine. Please excuse me.”

 

Damian stared, watching Alfred go about the kitchen in silence. A furrow in his brow, a deep frown on his lips. Posture rigid, and not an ounce of the normal sassy butler.What on earth?

 

####

 

Lainey yawned, stretching her arms above her head. Her last class of the day finished, she had maybe a couple hours till she had to head out to upper Gotham. Most of that time will be spent at the bakery, helping with the lunch rush that her parents were no doubt being flooded by. A glance to the bench, she frowned. It wasn’t often Lainey got out earlier than Damian, but when she did, it left her feeling backwards. Like something was missing.

 

She snorted at her thoughts, rolling her eyes as she practically plopped onto the bench. Of course, she should probably head home, get a good amount of time in at the bakery, but she couldn’t help herself. It didn’t feel right to not talk with him after classes, especially since it’s been a part of her routine for the last few months.

 

Lainey sighed, resisting another yawn. She hasn’t been able to stop all day, it was starting to get irritating. She also knew Damian wouldn’t let it go, should she yawn in the middle of their conversation. He still hadn’t let the time she hiccuped during an argument go. The biscuit head.

 

Lainey stretched, shifting on the bench. She can spare a few minutes, to wait for him at least. No more than that, if he’s not here, she’ll head home. Simple, right? Right. A few minutes, no more, no less. Then a walk home to wake up, maybe down a cup of coffee, mixed with chai anda  monster. Maybe a five-hour energy?

 

Damian grunted, a scowl covering his features as he made his way from his last class of the day. The lecture had droned on and on, the professor -a half-wit with a degree, refused to let anyone leave with the bell because he wasn’t done yet. Damian rolled his eyes, if he missed Lainey because of that imbecile, someone will end up becoming a kabob. Especially, if she left thinking he didn’t wait for her this time.

 

Despite the self-assured confidence Lainey radiated, Damian knew she could be quite self-conscious. Her insecurities only coming into light in front of him on rare days, those times he wondered if that was what she chose to reveal, how bad must it be inside her head? Often, Damian wished he could stab her problems, hugging her insecurities, and kissing her fears away. 

 

She was bright, a warm glow that charmed everyone caught in her radius. To think of her alone, crying because of the thoughts inside her head? It made his chest ache, heart painfully break in his chest with blood boiling in anger. He can’t stab the problems away, but he wished he could.

 

Damian stopped, eyes narrowing through the crowd in an attempt to find her through the people. Unsuccessfully, Damian sulked. Shoulders sinking as he made way to the place he sat everyday. Despite knowing how to drive, they had to keep up appearances. Unfortunately.

 

Damian sighed, only to halt at the sight on the bench. Lainey was still there, her back was to him, but he knew. Unkempt hair flying with the slight breeze, she’s been complaining about it’s growing length, complaining about how she didn’t have the time to schedule a proper appointment. He always made comments, often teasing her about it.

 

“My apologies,” Damian remarked, coming around to face her. “Mr. Tyler woul-”

 

He stopped, eyes widening slightly at the sight. Lainey was sleeping. Lips pursed together, cheeks red from the chill of the wind, features relaxed. Damian frowned, only one other time has she fallen asleep, she woke instantly upon the sound of his voice. 

 

Today, Lainey didn’t budge. Even when he took a seat next to her. The bench dipping under their shared weight. She remained fast asleep. Damian’s features pinched in concern, brows furrowing and nose scrunching as his eyes took in the paleness of her skin, the deep purple bags under her eyes. Her face was thinner, her denim jacket practically wearing her today. Has she always looked so small?

 

Damian swallowed, moving some of her hair to the side, he pressed his finger gently to her pulse point. Relief coursing through his body, a sigh leaving his lips at her heartbeat. ‘Definitely alive, good .’ 

 

Damian hummed, he had a feeling she’d pass out soon, he was hoping it’d be in her own bed though. Not on a bench. Alone. In the middle of the campus ground, where someone could do something to her. The thought alone had his fists clenching, a breath being sucked between his teeth in an attempt to regain control of his temper. ‘ Focus Damian ,’ he ordered, reminding himself that he had gotten there before anything could happen. Everything was fine, Lainey was mostly fine.

 

Damian sighed, speed dialing Alfred. He waited for the line to pick up, pinching the bridge of his nose in irritation. Why of all places, was it a bench? By herself, much less. At least when she passed out the last time it was because of fin-

 

Yes, Master Damian? ” Alfred’s voice interrupted his train of thoughts. “ I thought you said you’d be late today .”

 

“Change of plans, Pennyworth.” Damian sighed, his hand ran through his hair, eyes flicking to the slumbering woman beside him. “I need a ride now, I also would like to request you to keep quiet about my… friend.”

 

A pause, then Alfred’s voice crackled over the line, “ Of course, Master Damian .” Damian released a breath of relief, “ I will be there shortly.

 

“Thank you Pennyworth.”

 

Damian sighed, shoving his phone back into his pocket. He trusted Alfred to not dally, nor to share this information with any of his family members. True, when Damian was younger the two didn’t exactly get along. Even Damian can admit, his past self was an insufferable little brat. Over the years, Damian has managed to grow and build a decent relationship with his brothers, his father, sisters, and Alfred. Of course, many of their antics get on his nerves, but his patience has increased over the years. Thankfully, otherwise several members would probably be sporting scars from a katana. Damian was quite the terror as a kid, he’ll claim that.

 

Damian sighed, flipping the pages in his sketchbook. Stopping on a blank, Damian removed his pencil from the rings holding the papers together. He hummed, eyes focusing on the paper in front of him. Dark gray lines taking form on his page, Damian continued not quite realizing what he was drawing till it was done.

 

“Master Damian.” His head snapped up, meeting the blue eyes of Alfred. He flushed, book closing and returning his items to his bag. He stood, clearing his throat. “Is this her?” Alfred questioned, resisting his smirk.

 

Damian nodded, “Elaine Wolf, I’d like her to remain sleeping.” Damian’s eyes remained locked onto her, unaware of the stiffening of the older man next to him. “She’s been exhausted as of late. Refusing to talk about her troubles. I… I don’t know where she lives…”

 

“I do,” Alfred remarked, a hand on Damian’s shoulder. “Although, I’m not sure it would be wise to take her there.”

 

Damian’s eyes hardened, the worse conclusion springing into his mind. His mouth opened, a snarky, defensive comment on his tongue when Alfred scoffed. Halting on words from Damian as he collected Lainey’s bag from the bench.

 

“Not like that.” He remarked, sass dripping from his voice as he turned from Damian. “She won’t get much sleep, if she’s anything like you and the others, the cycle will repeat when she wakes in her own bed.”

 

“Oh,” Damian cleared his throat, watching Alfred before turning his gaze back to Lainey. “I will not  let her sacrifice her health.”

 

Ignoring the look sent his way, Damian carefully shifted Lainey into his arms. One hand sliding beneath her knees, the other wrapping around her back. She barely shifted, eyes only opening for a second to mumble a barely coherent question. Damian tsked, shaking his head as his mask of indifference covered his irritation. Her hand clenched into his shirt, a hum leaving her exhausted form. Half asleep and she still managed to ask questions, typical.

 

“We are taking you home, no if’s, and’s, or but’s.” His voice left no room for argument, even if she did have the energy and conscious thought to fight him. “There, you will sleep, eat, and regain your much needed health.”

 

“You’re one to talk, Master Damian.” Alfred snorted, holding a door open for the two to slide in.

 

“Shut it, Pennyworth.” Damian snapped, eyes hard.

 

Alfred’s chuckle was cut off by the door shutting, Alfred slipping into the driver’s seat while Damian adjusted them in the back. How he got both in a single seatbelt, Alfred didn’t, and quite frankly doesn’t want to know. Much to their relief, Lainey didn’t budge once falling asleep again. Not when a driver forgot a blinker, forcing Alfred to slam the breaks. Not even when they arrived at Wayne Manor, Damian carrying her to the front door with Alfred’s help, before the old butler disappeared to call Lainey’s parents.

 

While he did that, Damian carried her upstairs, quieting Titus before he could bark in excitement, and gently placed her on his bed. She hummed, shifting into the soft pillows with a small smile pulling her lips. Damian smiled warmly at the sight, shifting to remove her shoes and carefully, sliding her denim coat off her shoulders.

 

Again, Damian thanked his lucky stars, placing a small blanket over Lainey. Not once stirring even when Titus did bark, quickly, being quieted. Damian shut the door, blocking all sound outside his room as he went to his writing desk, pulling homework from his bag and getting to it. She should be sleeping for awhile, it’ll give Damian the time to do his work.

 

####

 

Lainey groaned, head pounding. She really needed to slow her consumption of energy drinks, it might just kill her, and then who would help her parents by working two jobs. ‘ Wait a minute ,’ Lainey’s eyes opened, she doesn’t remember going home. She didn’t even remember falling asleep.

 

Lainey bolted upright, eyes wide and taking in her surroundings. Against her better judgement, she stretched her awareness. Eyes squeezing shut at the increased throbbing behind her sockets, her body protested, but still, Lainey forced it. Stretching them, when a familiar tsking sound filled the room. Forcing her eyes opened, she breathed in relief. Damian stood at the foot of the bed, hands folded behind his back. The mask of indifference hiding his emotions from her, the headache didn’t help. Making it hard to see through bleary eyes to read his.

 

“Ow, my head…” 

 

“Yes, well,” Damian’s snark cut through his monotone, causing Lainey to peer through squinted eyes at him. “That is  what happens when one neglects their health.”

 

Not again.  “Damian…”

 

“No. We are talking about this.” His tone brokered no room for argument, eyes blazing green flames. “You’ve been overworking yourself, downing caffeinated drinks like a man dying of thirst. When was the last time you properly slept?”

 

“Damian-”

 

“Elaine.” He narrowed his eyes, “Answer. The. Question.”

 

Lainey glared, “Aside from today? Last night.”

 

“Your snark isn’t appreciated.”

 

“Neither is your attitude.”

 

They met eyes, glaring darkly at one another. Neither were willing to bend, to yield. Their hearts hammering a samba, but they didn’t care. Right now, the easiest emotion to latch onto was anger. Anger at her lack of self-care. Anger at him treating her like a misbehaving child.

 

“When did you last sleep for longer than three hours?” Damian asked, Lainey didn’t answer, he continued. “When did you last eat a meal that didn’t involve an energy drink? A caffeinated drink?” No answer, Damian took measured steps towards her. Like hell will he let this continue, she was stubborn, but so was he. He stopped on the side of the bed, hand stretching out to grab her ankle. Careful to not hurt her, he yanked her towards him. Ignoring her startled yelp, as he met her glare with his own. “Answer me, Elaine.”

 

Lainey straightened up, invading his space as she hissed, “Shut up, Damian.”

 

“Why? Because I’m right?”

 

“Because you’re being an insufferable ass right now.”

 

Lainey forced herself up, temper flaring in her darkening brown eyes. She pushed against him, for the first time ever cursing this mountain of a man. There was no way to avoid this, she knew that. With his strength, he could easily overpower her, but Lainey couldn’t bring it in herself to care. She wanted to leave.

 

“I’m being an ass? You’ve been shutting me out for weeks, hurting yourself physically, mentally, emotionally even!”

 

Damian’s concern burned through his eyes, but Lainey wasn’t paying attention. Scoffing as she rolled her eyes at him. He growled low in his throat, why couldn’t she see he was worried about? Why was she so… so- so difficult!

 

“Oh, I’m difficult?!” Lainey retorted, a ring of amber coloring her pupil and spreading throughout the brown of her irises like a fire. “You’re the one demanding shit, rather than asking like me, you just-” She cut herself off with a groan. “Whatever, I’m getting out of here.”

 

Damian’s hand caught her bicep, stopping her on the way to the door. She froze, eyes flicking to his hand and then to his eyes. Her eyes questioning his actions. Lainey was right, he was demanding. He needed to try asking, to speak civilly. He may have blown any chances with her, but he refuses to let her turn out like his brother.

 

Tim Drake was the most sleep deprived person he knew, he ran off coffee, pure will, and occasionally sleeping a few hours before passing out completely for twelve hours straight. He worried everyone in the family, especially when he will randomly just pass out, body demanding rest forcibly. Damian didn’t want that for Lainey, Anyone but her … 

 

He swallowed, tempting to control his rage. His tone coming out controlled through clenched teeth. The anger was still there, burning his blood, but his worry for her outweighed his anger. The concern softening the rage bit by bit.

 

“So you can repeat the cycle?”

 

That… that was probably not the correct thing to say. She glared incredulously at him, brown eyes questioning if he truly said that. Lainey removed her arm from his grip, stepping into his space once more and going as far as to bump his nose with hers. The urge to tease her tiptoes was strong, but Damian resisted, Lainey wasn’t someone to forgive, forget, and tease. Not when she was angry anyway.

 

“I am fine.” She hissed, her eyes narrowed. “I don’t need you to babysit me!”

 

Damian growled, “Caring for you is babysitting?!” He scoffed, moving to block her path to the door. “Maybe if you weren’t being so childish this wouldn’t be happening.”

 

“Ex-freaking-scuse me?” Lainey sputtered, anger mildly mixed with confusion… and something that Damian hoped was enough for him to talk through her rage.

 

“Elaine,” He breathed deep, “I meant that I am worried for you… r health. You barely stop these days, if you aren’t rushing to the bakery, it’s to the internship, if it’s not that, it’s home.” His features morphed to concern, a tender hand brushing her hair from her face. “I just…” He sighed, hand slipping from her face.

 

“Damian.” The softness of her voice brought his eyes to hers. The anger was fading, her concern, her gentleness, the spark of kindness returning to her brown eyes. “You can tell me anything.”

 

“But, can you tell me?” Damian watched the surprise flash across her features, she wasn’t expecting that. His tone earnest as he pressed on, “I always thought, if you had troubles, you’d come to me. But you’re shutting me out, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one?” Her eyes fell to her feet, toes wiggling as she chewed on her cheek. “I just want you to be okay, Elaine. I don’t want you to hurt yourself because you're bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

 

Lainey swallowed, fighting the quiver threatening her lip. The tears stinging her eyes, has she really been such a bad friend? Oh God, what has she done? What has she been doing? Even the strongest people are allowed to break, to fall. To have a moment to breathe right? But these are my burdens to bare

 

“You are not alone.”

 

Those words. Those four words broke Lainey. Her eyes burning, tears threatening to fall. A lump formed in her throat, heart sinking into her stomach. Her shoulders were hunching, anger fading as her eyes fell close. Trying to remain strong to the last moment.

 

What?! No! Get angry! He was yelling at you! Get. Angry.”

 

Lainey stopped, holding her breath as that voice sounded in her head. The low, angry notes, the purr from when she and Damian were having a… moment of sorts months ago? All of it was familiar, now it made sense. Her.She feeds off me, and I’ve been falling into her trap time and time again .’ Angry growling filled the back of her mind, images flying behind her eyes rapidly. All with a common theme, Her being in control, Her hurting Damian without Lainey able to stop. Her taking a good life, a new start and destroying it. Just like everything else

 

Lainey swallowed, she couldn’t bring her head up. Couldn’t meet Damian’s emerald eyes, warm hands on her shoulders and Lainey resisted the urge to melt. Anything can tip the scales now. Anything. Too much, too little, all of it filling into a cup. Another drop, just one more and it will overflow.

 

“Elaine…” Damian’s low voice was soothing, a salve for her racing mind. A relaxer for her guarded walls. “Let me in…”

 

"Yes, let him in. Do it."

 

Lainey’s will was faltering, the idea to let him in sounding more and more appealing. Relax, close your eyes. Let loose. No .

 

“I…” Lainey struggled, fighting with all her might to keep Her back, to keep control. Damian’s forehead resting on hers was proving difficult to keep focus. Very. Difficult. “I… I can’t…” I can’t let you have control.

 

Damian’s breath hitched, but Lainey didn’t hear it. The war becoming a lost cause the more she fought. She had to get out. Needed to get out. Now . Lainey’s eyes went to the nearest exit, the window. Perfect . Ignoring the protests from Her, Lainey pulled away from Damian. He breathed hard, trying to control himself. His heart shattering into pieces in his chest, his fists clenched. Stomach knotting, he swallowed. His mind racing at the sound of his window opening.

 

“Elaine, I-” Damian’s eyes went wide, rushing to snatch her from the windowsill. “Elaine! What are you-”

 

Her voice came out strangled, eyes flickering between bright amber and dark brown. Her jaw clenched, hands digging into the wooden frame. Her breathing ragged, Damian frowned. “I’m. Sorry, Damian.”

 

Then, she was leaping from the window. Damian running to try and catch her. To his surprise, she glided down. Tumbling upon contact with the ground, instantly springing up with a run as she bolted out of the grass and down the driveway. His brows furrowed, their conversation playing through his mind. Something wasn’t right, the way she seemed distracted made Damian wonder if she even knew she spoke aloud? Either way, Damian was bolting to the Batcave. If he’s fast enough, he might be able to catch her.

Chapter Text

Lainey was breathing heavy, fighting for control against the ruthless laughter ringing through her mind. Ugh, how could she be so stupid?! How could she of forgotten?! After what the professor said, about Jean… Ugh! Stupid, stupid .

 

Lainey closed her eyes tight, jumping to the opposite roof. Why was she even doing this again? Why was she running on the rooftops? Why when she could be heading home? A sudden cackle pierced her ears, and she remembered. Her. The person of Lainey’s worst nightmares. The thing Lainey didn’t know about till a training exercise went wrong. It’s not a who, it’s a what.

 

Well, isn’t that rude? Here I am, I give, I give, and I give, and you are refusing to even acknowledge my existence!

 

Lainey scowled, rolling onto another building. Hissing mentally, “Shut up.

####

 

Damian followed the path Lainey made, knocked over trash cans, an escape ladder with a broken gear. He scowled over the rooftops, zooming in he spotted her leaping from roof to roof. What the hell? He didn’t have time to question, Lainey was very quickly heading into very dangerous territory, especially on the rooftops. He needed to get to her now, no time to demand answers when danger is lurking about.

 

Damian and Lainey ran across rooftops, jumping between buildings. Unlike Lainey, he was used to this dance, he has done this every night since he was ten. He knew what paths were faster, which to avoid, how to land properly without taking time. It was clear when Damian was little more than a rooftop distance from her.  Damian’s eyes were narrowed in concern, she wasn’t even aware of her surroundings. The upcoming gap was bigger than the previous ones... 

 

“Elaine!”

 

Damian’s voice echoed through the streets of Gotham, face morphing to the uncaring mask he used oh so often. ‘ If she won’t listen… ‘ He swallowed, pulling the gadget from his belt, he really, really didn’t want to do this. Not to her. Please, not her.

 

“I’m sorry…” He breathed, the weapon flying from his fingers. He heard the squeak, the hitch in her breath at the sight of the red, metal batarang. She froze, he swallowed. Moving closer, he wasn’t expecting her outburst.

 

“Stay away from me, Damian!”

 

He froze, how? How did she- there’s no way. No possible way for her to know the truth about- about that . No one knew, no one but his brothers, sisters, and father. And that’s because they had a secret identity too. How did she know? Damian frowned, eyes examining her form. Something is very wrong .

 

“Talk to me, please.” Damian swallowed, “Please, let me help you. I’m here for you.”

 

Lainey squeezed her eyes shut tighter, hands digging into her palms. Her lips just barely moving, silent words coming out. Her hair was a mess, skin flushed from running, and her socks had holes in them. Exposed skin covered in goosebumps, she was shivering.

 

“Dami-”

 

She didn’t finish, couldn’t. Her brown eyes were finally opened, one the same color as molten gold, the dark brown of her other iris slowly burning in a ring of yellow fire. A flash, a clatter. The sudden bang as smoke filled the space between them, Lainey yelped in fear. The last thing Damian seeing was her hands moving to shield her face before the smoke obscured everything.

 

“Elaine!”

 

Damian charged into the smoke, fear spreading ice through his blood. Mind going blank at the lack of response from the female inside the smoke. He knew better! He knew better than to have a conversation like this on a roof in the middle of gang territory. Damian cursed himself, eyes searching fruitlessly through the smoke. Logically, he knew he should wait for the smoke to fade with the growing wind, but logic wasn’t here right now. Damian breathed deeply, swallowing the growing lump of worry in his throat. Stomach knotting, heart pounding fast with blood rushing loudly through his ears.

 

In moments, the smoke finally cleared. Lainey kneeling on the ground, fists tightly lost inside her dark hair. She was panting, but her eyes briefly flickered open at the sound of steps. She winced against a pounding in her head, barely managing to warn him through clenched teeth.

 

“I… don’t want… to hurt you…” She was shaking, her muscles tensed so tightly Damian’s worry grew. “Please, leave… before-”

 

A throaty laugh sounded behind them, Damian whirling around to become face to face with the growing number of thugs. Masks obscuring their features, marking them as members of Black Mask’s gang. Of course, nothing’s ever be simple, Damian sighed at the thought, baring his teeth at the men’s taunts.

 

“Unless you want-”

 

Damian wasn’t able to finish, Lainey stood slowly. Features relaxed compared to moments prior. Eyes opening only to stare boredly at those around them. With a scoff, she flicked her wrist. Sending three flying, her lips tugged into a smirk that sent shivers down Damian’s spine -not the good kind.  He furrowed his brows, this… this didn’t seem right. Her chocolaty brown eyes were glowing amber, molten gold glaring harshly with mirth at the thugs. Staring down at her hand after the action, she waved it in the air. Eyes lighting with obvious delight as she did. Her fist clenched, eyes moving to go over the remaining thugs.

 

When her eyes went over him, Damian resisted the unease that bubbled in his gut. She giggled, moving her hands back and forth, a glance revealing the thugs now floating in the air. The weapons of the remaining being yanked from their hands, turning slowly to point at themselves. Damian scowled, this wasn’t his Lainey. He moved quickly, swiping at her feet. Sending the not-Lainey falling to the cement with a surprised grunt. The thugs dropping to the ground along with the guns, Damian growled an order. Watching as they left upon instant snarl, cowards. Another grunt, and Damian’s eyes returned to the not-Laniey. She glared darkly, amber eyes narrowed.

 

“You’re gonna wish you never did that, birdboy.” She snapped, standing with clenched fists. “And here I was gonna spare Lainey the thought of killing you, guess not.”

 

She lifted a hand, the weapons left by the thugs rising into the air. She didn’t blink, completely concentrated on the guns. Damian scowled, this wasn’t his Lainey, but it was her body. He refused to let this- this taint harm her. With a deep breath and a silent apology, Damian swiped her legs out from underneath her. Catching her before she could fall completely.

 

“Elaine, I-”

 

Thwack!

 

Damian grunted, he wasn’t expecting the punch. Turning his head last minute, her fist slammed into his cheek rather than his nose. He spat blood, mistakenly keeping his eyes off of the girl. She rolled away, standing up as she bared her teeth.

 

“Lainey isn’t here right now.”

 

Damian didn’t care for her sentence, thinking back to how many times he was in a rage that Lainey managed to talk to him through it. How many times he was wearing his mask, his attitude repelling everyone. Except for Lainey.  She held him tightly, or playfully poking him, talking him through his snark, his biting comments, his repressed anger. She talked to him through everything, she was always there for him, now? Damian’s lip pulled into a determined smile, he will be there for her. As long as she is there for him, if not longer.

 

“Elaine, I know you’re in there.” He spoke through her attacks, blocking, ducking, and throwing his batarangs at anything launched his way by Amber-Eyes. “Fight with me, please!”

 

She snarled at him, throwing the firearms that he deactivated. Damian narrowly avoided the first one, grappling out of range and missing the second one entirely. He swung from his spot, rolling out of the range of his batarangs.

 

“Elaine, it’s me! Snap out of it!"

 

“How many times must I tell you?!” Amber-Eyes snarled, hands running into her hair and pulling hard, “She’s not here!”

 

Damian growled, managing to get closer to her. Hands rising only to get caught by his, they grappled. Taunts, snarls, grunts, and growls leaving her lips. She attempted to free herself, eyes flashing when she tried to use her abilities to knock him off, to get away. A quick squeeze on her wrists disrupting her concentration, the sound of whatever she had snagged with her invisible powers clattered to the ground.

 

“Elaine, please…“

 

Damian managed to plead, voice rough with the struggle of stopping her. She was shaking in his grip, her eyes narrowing as she fought all the harder. Pants escaping her, it was no use, she was no match for his brute strength. Not without him disrupting her concentration at every chance. They lowered, dropping to the ground as she attempted to knock his feet out from under him. Damian didn’t surrender, pressing his forehead to hers. His breath was warm against her nose, the goosebumps disappearing under his breath. Her skin was red from the cold, lips slowly turning purple as she fought harder and harder to rid herself of his hands, his touch.

 

“Elaine… “ He breathed, trying once more. His tone thick with worry, concern, pain. Heavy breaths leaving them both despite his higher stamina giving him an edge. His eyes opened, staring deep into the amber ones glaring at him. “Come back to me, please…”

 

She blinked, the colors swirling in her irises as she shook her head rapidly. Eyes squeezing shut, murmurs of protests leaving her lips. She fought, she truly did. Damian’s eyes fluttered shut, his heart aching in his chest when he heard the hitched breath once again. Emerald eyes opened to meet dark brown.

 

“Elaine?”

 

Lainey nodded, watery eyes staring at him with an array of emotions. She sniffled, her cheeks turning red as she fought her tears. The fight Amber-Eyes was providing was nonexistent, his grip loosening in seconds. Her tears falling as she made contact with Damian’s chest. His hands wrapped around her instantly, pulling her small, shaking form into his hold. He held her tight, lips pressing into her head as he squeezed his eyes shut. Relief easing his rapidly beating heart, his stomach doing flips as he held onto her tightly. As if afraid she would disappear if he loosened his grip for a second.

 

“I’m sorry.” Lainey sobbed into his suit, her hands tightly clutching at anything she could hold on to. “I’m so sorry! I-I didn’t want to… I didn’t! Please, believe-”

 

Damian shushed her, pulling back to swipe at the tears running down her cheeks. He gave her a smile, the one saved just for her. He held her cheeks in gloved hands, eyes staring into the teary, dark brown. The color never more gorgeous, never more heartbreaking than this moment in his eyes.

 

“It’s okay,” Damain’s voice was reassuring, a strong, steady rock in the storm of emotions, of rushed thoughts. “I believe you, okay? I promise.”

 

Lainey sniffled again, nodding. What would she do without him? Honestly, she hoped to never find out. Her eyes took in the cut on his cheeks, images flashing in her mind of when She got a lucky shot. A bullet grazed his cheek, the same one She punched.

 

Lainey bit into her inner cheek, horror at the sudden bruises and cuts along his face, his arms. ‘ I did this? I… I did this. ’ Her stomach twisted, nausea spreading throughout her entire being. Her heart ached, the sight of his pain, the sharp breath he took in when her hand gently ran across the scar on his cheek. She swallowed, what kind of a friend did this? How could she even call herself his best friend? How could she even think to have feelings for him when she hurt him so? Her stomach knotted itself tightly, the lump returning to her throat.

 

“Hey, look at me,” Damian’s tone was soft, no argument allowed. Lainey’s chin was lifted between his thumb and forefinger gently. Green eyes, no mask in sight, staring straight through. Shivers danced her spine, his other hand was rubbing her skin, attempting to warm her. This boy… why is he still here? I hurt him, I don’t deserve- “Stay with me.”

 

Just like that, his words a balm to her injured mind. The thoughts racing through, halting to a blank. Not even She made a comment, thankfully . Lainey’s mind was blissfully silent and empty. Her eyes staying locked on his as he gently rested his forehead on hers.

 

Lainey nor Damian knew how long they stayed there. Just, sitting in each other’s arms. Energy returning as the night wore on, voices quiet murmurs that not even the wind carried away. Answering each other’s questions, gently warming the energy between them. As if today hadn’t happened, as if Damian hadn’t chased Lainey across Gotham in the middle of the night. As if Lainey never lost the battle of wills against her demon, as if they had simply met one another on the bench as always, and joked with each other.