“Get dressed,” Dick says, knocking against the jamb as he pokes his head into his bedroom. Damian looks up with a small frown, tucking his bookmark into Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters to find himself being watched with an expectant expression and a grin.
Damian glances down at his sweater and jeans as he sits up. “I am?”
Dick, clad in a worn T-shirt and jeans of his own, leans against the doorframe, tongue between his teeth as he squints, scrutinizing him. At that, Damian makes to stand, giving his room a quick survey from his peripherals to note what is and is not out of place.
There had been a learning curve in moving in with Dick and Barbara, the least of which was learning how the shower worked and contending with where he now stood with his birth father. Damian had been present as he and Bruce laid out the terms of the agreement, as Dick had insisted because he was just as much a part of this as them. Damian would still see his father, of course, but for all intents and purposes Richard Grayson was Damian Wayne’s guardian now, and he’d told the boy they could iron out the finer details later because he had a room he had to finish decorating.
Now, Damian sets his book on his bed and turns his gaze back to his—brother? Guardian? Father? He still has yet to settle on what to call Dick, though he’d been told nothing had to change aside from Damian’s mailing address.
“So long as you’re comfortable,” Dick says with a shrug. “Come on, we’re going to the park.”
With that, he twists and pushes away from the door and leaves Damian staring after him in his wake.
“Can I ask what for?” he asks as he follows after him, sidestepping the runner in the hall and the pile of shoes across from it. He finds Dick in the kitchen, pulling a large bag off the table and slinging it over his shoulder. “I thought Gordon said today was laundry day.”
Dick pulls a face at him.
“It is, but there’s always time for that later,” he says and doesn’t offer up much beyond that. Still, it’s equal parts trust and curiosity that he trails after him out of the apartment after grabbing a light jacket at Dick’s insistence. He adjusts his grip on the bag, which Damian now notes is oblong and likely contains some sort of athletic gear as he locks the door behind them.
Dick lets him pick the music on the drive there, and then promptly chastises him because “You have to at least let a song finish before you change it,” as he flips through radio stations. Eventually they finally settle on one of Barbara’s Spotify playlists, and out of the corner of his eye he watches Dick tap to the beat of a Fleetwood Mac song, the name of which Damian can’t place at first.
“You’re not going to tell me what we’re doing or why we’re going there, no matter how many times I ask, are you?” Damian says about a block away from Aparo Park, and Dick’s mouth quirks into a grin as he looks back to check his blindspot as he changes lanes.
“Of course not,” he responds, reaching over to ruffle Damian’s hair as he rights himself. “Listen, it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon, things are calm right now, and Babs is meeting up with Dinah. We can do laundry when we get back home.”
Home is something Damian likes the sound of, but what he says is: “We? Given laundry was your task, that sounds more like a personal, singular undertaking.”
“Hey, you forget there are three names on the chore wheel now,” Dick says, despite there not, in fact, being any said chore wheel. Not that Damian has any reservations about helping out around the apartment, of course. He’s found he’s quite fond of spending time with Barbara in the kitchen, and for the most part they’ve told him he really only has to worry about his room. Between the two of them they’ll flip for who has to scrub out the bathtub.
Damian goes to scoff, but Dick’s already pulling into a spot and motioning for him to get out of the car and follow. After adjusting his coat he’s guided over to the far side of the park, Dick’s hand clasped against the back of his neck in a manner that’s more comforting than he wants to admit. The bag knocks against his thigh as they walk, and he can feel Dick tapping out the beat to Go Your Own Way against the base of his skull as he hums.
The park is fairly quiet for the day, as is Damian since he’s long since come to realize that the more he asks when it comes to surprises, the more Dick clams up, so instead he resigns himself to letting his brother tuck him into his side. A few people here and there glance their way, but most go back to walking their dogs, or lying out on blankets to read, or tossing a frisbee around.
They approach the baseball diamond, and Dick makes a grand show of heaving the bag off his shoulder to lay it on the ground before sweeping his hand over it. He unzips it to reveal a set of baseball bats, and a few balls and mitts to coincide with them.
“Da da da!” he crones, arms wide in the arm with a grin to match. “Today, on this beautiful spring day, we are tackling the fine American art of.... Baseball.”
From where he’s bent over poking through the bag, Damian glances up at him. Dick drops his arms.
“Fine, so maybe not an art. I was going to try to come up with an encouraging speech, but all that came to mind was There’s no crying in baseball. That may not start us off on the right foot.” He crouches down beside him, plucking a ball from the bag and weighing it in his palm. Dick sighs. “Okay, maybe I should have asked before, but you seemed a little down lately and the apartment doesn’t really allow much in the way of outdoor space. We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. Promise.”
Damian’s thumb smooths over the lacing on one of the gloves, too small to fit Dick and too worn to be new.
“I… apologize if my mood was one that made you uncomfortable, Ri—Grayson,” he murmurs, studying the crack in the webbing of the glove. Apprehension settles between his shoulder blades and then in his gut, because the last thing he wants is for Dick to change his mind and decide he’s better off without Damian around, carting him back to the manor. Maybe they can still patrol the same routes on occasion, but that’s it. “It was never my intention to—”
“Woah, woah, no,” Dick cuts in, hand on his shoulder. “Damian, that’s not what I meant at all, okay? You have nothing to worry about. I just know that things are still new and there’s going to be an adjustment period—for all of us.”
The glove creaks and warms beneath his palm, and he hears Dick take a breath.
“You, me, and Babs—we’re a team, okay? And I want you to know too that you can talk to us, either one of us, about anything, you got that? Whether it’s about how you feel living with us, how things on patrol are going, or the fake chore wheel, there isn’t anything you can’t talk about.”
“So you admit the chore wheel isn’t real,” Damian says, to which Dick laughs and squeezes his shoulder.
“Yeah, yeah. For now it isn’t, at least.” He leans, and Damian can feel his gaze drop and Dick reaches down to slide one of the bats from the bag. He glances to the glove in Damian’s hand. “Hey, that one used to be mine. I brought it with me when I first came to the manor and thought I lost it for a few years there.”
Dick stands, leaving Damian crouched on the ground and staring at a worn baseball glove like it’s a long-lost find. He turns it over in his hands, fingers smoothing over the surface and following all the cracks and indentations. As he turns it again, he spots a faded R.G. imprinted on the back. When he looks back up, he finds Dick swinging a bat and testing its weight.
“This was yours?”
Dick glances down and nods. “Yep. And now it’s yours.”
It’s hard to imagine Dick at his age, or younger, even, holding this same mitt, less battered by time and use, and harder still to imagine his own father out on the grounds of Wayne Manor and tossing a ball back and forth. But he imagines his father was a different man then, less worn and having more… time.
He tries not to think that his father is the man standing beside him, the one beaming down at him in the midday sun as his eyes crinkle in the corners with the beginnings of crow’s feet.
“So, what do you say? We playing or what?”
Damian nods, getting to his feet and still holding the glove. “Yes, let’s.”
“Cool,” Dick says, dropping the bat so it brushes against the grass before rolling up the sleeves of his sweatshirt. “You want to pitch or hit? I can give you the rundown if you need me to—”
“I understand the mechanics of baseball, Grayson,” Damian says, voice clipped as Dick only shakes his head and passes over the bat. He drops his old glove for the newer one, working it onto his hand and stretching it some and he tests it.
“Hey, never said you didn’t. At least you stayed awake to watch the game with me last night.”
“Gordon had a long day,” he offers, which had been true. She made it to perhaps all of the fifth inning, and Dick had gently picked her up off the couch to carry her off to bed, though not without getting the reminder that Damian was up past his bedtime.
“How do you think I always get stuck with laundry?” Dick mutters, but judging from the small smile Damian isn’t sure if he was supposed to hear that or not. “Alright, I’ll pitch.”
“I’ll go easy on you,” Damian says as he makes for home plate. Dick’s raising an eyebrow as he glances back. “That is your bad shoulder, is it not?”
Dick scowls, though there’s no heat to it.
“Hey, don’t forget who has the power to ground who here!”
“Don’t you know it.”
He’s laughing as he approaches the pitching mound, tossing the ball up in the air and catching it. He rolls his shoulders, then his neck, before turning back to face him. Damian adjusts his stance, then his grip, mirroring the last he saw, and something gives Dick pause. Perhaps he’s trying to determine whether he should throw with his arm with less nerve damage.
“You might want to hold the bat a little lower,” he calls, loud enough for Damian to hear but not loud enough to draw attention. He does and is only rewarded with Dick shaking his head.
Heat flares up the back of his neck as he calls out hold on and jogs over to him. It isn’t exactly shame or annoyance, per say; of all the skills he was taught, learning to play baseball for the fun of it was not one of them. There are a great many things he has learned how to utilize as weapons, and the bat feels heavier in his hands than he would have liked.
Dick comes to rest beside him, tucking his glove and ball under his armpit.
“Okay, first off, your feet are too close together.” He nudges the heel of Damian’s foot with his toe, and so he shifts, glancing down at the ground. “Good. Second…” Dick shifts so that he’s behind him, hands resting over his as he pantomimes holding the bat on his own. Never once does he address the elephant lumbering by the swingsets, watching and judging. Not once does he shame Damian because this is something someone his age should know already. “You want to lower this just a little, so when you swing you’re not… see? There you go, you’ve got the hang of this already.”
He lets go and then moves to step back with an encouraging nod.
“So… this?” Damian tries, eyes darting to meet Dick’s and then away again.
“Yeah, just like that. That’s perfect.” Stretching it out again, Dick puts his glove back on before toying with the ball once more. “Just keep the follow through and we’ll try it with a couple pitches, yeah?”
Damian nods, and then Dick’s bounding back to the mound. He squints back at him, hunching down and then righting himself. For a moment he can’t tell if he’s stretching or showboating.
“Alright, folks!” He crones. Ah. Showmanship. “It’s the bottom of the ninth, the bases are loaded—because they’re always loaded—and Wayne’s up to the plate! It’s a real nail-biter folks, can he swing it?” Dick throws the ball. Damian swings, and he…
Dick pauses for a second, and then smoothly recovers as Damian retrieves the ball and throws it back, ears burning.
“And we’re just warming up! No worries in sight!” He smiles, but somehow he finds it’s not as encouraging as he wishes it was. Dick shifts his stance and nods. “There’s always next time, and are we ready?”
This time as Damian swings he manages to hit it, but the ball goes sideways and he ends up with a foul. Despite his growing humiliation and Dick’s constant commentary and assurance it’s not a big deal, there is a part of him that wants to ask if they’re done with this charade already. It would be one thing if they were at the manor, too, but here at the park he can also feel people glancing at them.
“We’re getting into it, folks! Things are sure starting to heat up,” Dick says before he throws it again.
He misses it. And the next. The one after that is a bunt.
Just as he’s starting to lose steam, Dick seems to have found his, even if it’s just by way of motivation chatter.
“Okay kiddo, one more and we can call it a day if you want. Or we can end it now, it’s up to you.”
After a pause, Damian only offers a curt nod, partly out of refusal to be bested, and refusal to let Dick down, though he knows Dick would never say anything of the sort. Dick returns it, and then shifts back into his pitching stance with a smile that has hardly left his face.
Damian lets out a breath, falling back into the first form Dick had shown him, adjusting his hold on the bat again.
Dick throws, Damian swings, and…
Hits. He watches the ball sail past Dick’s shoulder, and it takes a second for it to register before Dick’s turning on his heel.
“Run, Damian!” On instinct he makes for Dick’s direction, and is already skidding in the dirt and grass when Dick yells, “no, to first base!” He runs like he’s being chased, and Dick calls over his shoulder, “go to second!” as he takes off after the ball. The ball hits the fence, and in Dick’s moment of distraction to watch him, he opts to run for third while he’s at it. The chainlink rattles behind him, and he can imagine Dick having prepared to hop it if need be. “Damian, run home!”
There’s cackling behind him, outright whooping, and Damian determines that maybe Dick was right; his sweater isn’t exactly conducive to playing baseball. But he has little time to fixate on that when he’s being all but tackled from behind, the bat hitting the ground as Dick wraps his arms around him and lifts.
He’s small for his age, and has been told his father was small too, but that doesn’t mean he quite enjoys when the others take advantage of that. From Dick’s reaction though he doesn’t put up much fuss, and instead lets him cackle and beam.
Something like pride bubbles in his chest.
“That was amazing, folks! That Wayne kid really showed us how it’s done!”
He tries not to fixate on the name; would it be inappropriate to go by another? Would his father consider it a slight? He still has yet to settle on what to call Dick either, because Richard is too formal for a guardian and even with Grayson there is still that divide.
“Damian, that was amazing!” he says, and he lets him spin him around once more before being put back on solid ground.
While he appreciates the sentiment, he still frowns. “But I failed. Numerous times.”
Dick shrugs and ruffles his hair again.
“So what? We all fail the first few times. It’s all about getting back up and trying again, and you did that.” He shifts a little so that they’re closer to eye level, hand at the back of his neck again. His smile is bright and all teeth and real. “I’m proud of you.”
Though he tries to school it, he can’t help a small smile of his own.
Dick reaches down to pluck his glove off the ground.
“What do you say? Head home, start some laundry, make some dinner?”
He considers it for a moment, and then the smile grows.
“Let’s play again.”
-- -- --
“There you two are,” Barbara’s saying as Dick holds the front door open for him. She’s drying her hands on a dish towel, and she tilts her head as Dick bends to kiss her temple while Damian takes off his shoes. “Something tells me you were having too much fun to do laundry.”
“There’s always tomorrow,” Dick says as he stands. Barbara hums, but she’s still smiling at them.
Damian hangs his coat back on the hook and turns to find the two of them pulling faces at one another. He almost snorts before Barbara rolls her eyes. She pats his arm as he passes on his way to his room, and he finds comfort in that, too.
He lays the baseball glove on his bookshelf all with his sparse other knickknacks, beside a framed picture of him and Dick. He’d been told they could always add more, and he’d taken a good few during their journey to the park today. One of his particular, more recent favorites is one of he, Dick, and Barbara, and that currently sits in plain view on the TV stand where it can’t be missed.
Damian runs his fingers over the lacing of the glove with a gentle air of reverence. Briefly, he considers hiding away in his room and reading again, but instead follows the sound of laughter and home back into the living room.
Barbara asks that he tell her all about it as Dick goes to collect the baskets, and Damian hesitates at first before launching excitedly into a recap over their journey to the park, smiling all the while.