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Damian Makes Semple Proud (AKA. The Family Hobby That Forced Damian To Pay Attention to Socioeconomics)

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Bruce Wayne campaigns against hostile architecture on the social and political front.

Dick modifies it to no longer be an issue, using padding, expanding foam, and even building new benches/gazebos/public structures to be usable for ALL of Blüdhaven’s citizens. He also keeps addresses and phone numbers to shelters and social workers handy both as Nightwing, and as Officer Grayson.

Tim makes sure ALL Wayne and Drake Enterprise properties are hostile free and negotiates HARD every year to ensure their funding for public housing donations.

Jason straight up destroys it. Him and Roy do it in their spare time, hacksaws, sledgehammers, crowbars, metal grinders, all of it modified or made special so they can get the job done twice as fast (thank you Arsenal~). They know exactly what it’s like to have nowhere to go, and nowhere to rest. They remember, and they’re not going to forget anytime soon.

Steph helps Dick most the time, but makes sure to organize on her end as well with any kind of protest, rally, or direct action. Her words mean more to the actual people of Gotham than Bruce’s ever will.

Cass takes the time out of her nights to help people find better places to sleep. Communication not her forte, but she knows how to help people in need. Black bat might be a demon in the night, but the “new” girl in a plain black suit and domino is much better known for helping anyone in need in whatever way she can. She knows how cold sleeping out in the open can be.

Duke helps Steph and Dick, mostly. Mostly, because he doesn't patrol at night, and while sleep is, you know, important, it means he has his nights free, and will sometimes meet up with Roy and Jay to fix the problem directly. He doesn't take the violent joy out of it that they do, but he still knows that its good work. Work that NEEDS to be done. Sometimes he brings Steph with him (and if anyone hears Duke Thomas and the dead but not really dead Wayne kid talking about Austen and Hemingway while destroying some spikes under a bridge, they don’t say anything)

Damian doesn't quite get it at first, why the spikes under bridges, extra bars on benches, pyramidal cuts of stone on "aesthetic" make the rest of the family, at the very least, disgusted, if not fist-and-teeth-clenched angry. When he asks Dick during his first year in Gotham, the man gives him an answer focused on why no one should have to sleep out in open, how it’s meant to stop the homeless from resting in certain areas. Damian, still barely 11, doesn't quite get it. Shouldn’t the owners of any property have final say about everything that occurs there? Besides, he had to endure far worse than some uneven ground, cold temperatures and tight spaces in his training, even now, fully accustomed to Wayne Manor, while none of it would be comfortable, it wouldn't be too much of a problem. He'd survive. Dick tells him its more complicated than that, but doesn't really explain it well before they’re called off to an ongoing armed robbery a mile north. Damian doesn't really understand, and he doesn't get the chance too, not until he's long back from the dead and a few things start to sort themselves together in his mind.

Steph ranting about shitty corporate managers at her various part-time gigs.

Duke explaining he has a friend couch crashing for a few days until the current noreaster lets up, even if he doesn't really have the room, cause he doesn't him stuck out there.

Tim ranting on the phone with Kon about the latest bullshit some asshole at his parents’ company tried to pull regarding the starting wages at their various low-level positions, how said man had wanted to increase all high-level salaries shortly after, including his own

Dick calling Jason to help out in Blüdhaven for a few nights so he can work some shifts instead, because no one the fuck else is gonna turn a blind eye to the well-organized group that’s been systematically dismantling public and private property and replacing it with accessible, hospitable duplicates.

By the time he's 13 (he thinks...) Damian finally understands that it's not just that people are homeless and sleeping outside, it’s that most of them have been failed by the system that was supposed to serve and protect them. That they were betrayed by the machine that needs them to survive. A little research into how his father has slowly changed Wayne Enterprises over the years confirms that his father both sees this, and is trying to fix it, but he begins to understand why some of his siblings take such measures.

That said, he never really joins in.

Until.

+ + +

Until one day, while he's technically benched due to an elbow sprain that’s refusing to heal right enough to garner Alfred’s approval, he sneaks out in some black civies and a grapple gun, a simple black domino and scarf hiding his face. And when he goes to stop two broad figures from, what seems to be, destroying some local art, he realizes it’s not art. Its stone purposely designed to look pretty, and be impossible to sit on comfortably, much less lay on, and the brickwork arches above it, ones that both hide the sheer brutalist architecture of this side of town, AND provide a modicum of protection from the elements, are proof enough of why it’s there.

This is the kind of "Art" and city structure that always makes Richard frown. That makes Drake narrows his eyes slightly before making note of where they are on his phone. That makes Thomas sigh and Brown loudly curse whoever owns the property. That has his father making calls to real estate lawyers and campaign heads both.

He slips back into the shadows, content to watch, to see firsthand what’s about to take place, as he really hadn't until now. Until one of the two, slightly broader than his partner, turns straight to where Damian is hiding, and if the red and black domino over his eyes isn't a dead giveaway, his voice definitely is.

"Ay demon brat, you gonna come out already or what?"

And well, Damian could slip away. He could. But, he’s not sure he wants to. So he doesn’t. He steps out.

"Todd" he says in acknowledgment, and steps closer when Jason nods for him to. He glances towards the concrete structure behind the two. Jason answers.

"Corporate Fuckers for that chicken chain across the street lobbied for this to go up on public property. We're gonna fix it."

Damian considers his words for a moment, looking the "art" over once again.

"Won't they just replace it in a few days’ time?" He asks. Surely whoever put it up wouldn't stand for it to just be removed.

That earns a chuckle from the other man, who Damian now knew to be Arsenal in– well, he'd say civilian wear, but the man wears a trucker hat and a sweatshirt around Gotham nearly as much as his actual uniform. Never on missions, Damian knows, but still with his mask and bow.

"Yeah, they will. And they'll replace it the next ten times, too. Until one day, they figure out that they're not gonna catch who did it, and it’s not worth the money to keep replacing it." Harper says, apparently finding the whole thing rather amusing if the smirk he wore was anything to go by.

Jason laughs, something harsh from between his teeth that more sharply resembles Damian’s own tsk-ing than an actual laugh. Then he grins at Damian, the kind of grin, Damian realizes, is typically reserved for ranting off a crook’s sins.

"And the bitch of it all, Damian, is that they're going to pay more in lobbying costs and work fees in the next few weeks than they'll pay the staff at that place in the next year."

And that? that is what finally has everything clinking into place in Damian's mind.

So it's being put in place by the same people who cause the homelessness permeating Gotham. The same people who incentivize crime because it pays more, who cause the city’s problems in the first place.

Of course. That's why this kind of architecture makes the rest of his family so mad. The same people who put it up to stop the homeless from resting are the same people that could end homelessness. It’s hypocrisy and greed in equal measures.

It’s not just a systematic failure, it’s one with an essay fix that no one in charge is willing to commit to.

Damian doesn’t realize he's begun to scowl at the disgrace masquerading as "art" until both the men in front of him begin to softly chuckle.

Then, Jason holds out the sledgehammer he'd been gripping.

"Cameras around here are on a loop, for the next hour. You want first swing?"

Damian turns back to the structure, not even bothering to hide his scowl.

It hadn’t been made to express anything, nor to detail any inherent beauty. It was made to divide and torture.

"TT. It’s a disgrace to art."

He takes the sledgehammer.

...

Forty-five minutes later, they’re cleaning the cement chunks and dust off the ledge to leave it clean for whoever comes by, and to make sure the destruction looks professional, and will unnoticed for as long as possible.

As they finish up, Jason suddenly laughs, and Damian turns to look at him, confusion etched into his features.

Jason looks at him and grins.

"Semple would be proud, kiddo"

The last thing Damian expects is the low heat crawling up his face at the compliment, it’s... not rare, but certainly uncommon for any of his siblings, save Richard, to actually compliment him. That said, the pride that follows is expected. He grins right back. Perhaps Todd isn't quite his least favorite sibling after all.

Despite himself, Damian smiles.

+ + +

The next night, when Damian flies past the area again, he's not pleased, per se, to see someone sleeping beneath the stonework on the ledge they'd cleared; ideally the woman, (girl, really, as she’s not much older than Damian himself), wouldn't have to sleep outside at all, but seeing that she had somewhere that was at least dry, all because Harper and Todd refused to stand for the quiet violence of a few distant, disconnected individuals stand…

It brought something warm to his chest. He was glad she had somewhere.

If he slips a card containing the number and address of the WE outreach program for homeless youths into her jacket pocket before moving on, well, no one's ever going to know.

(No one, except the man in the red helmet hidden from sight a block away, grinning like an idiot and really, totally not planning ‘brotherly bonding time’ shut up, Dickhead. Just. Maybe thinking he's found a way to let the baby brat vent some frustration in a healthy, society-bettering way that’s NOT harassing jaywalkers. And maybe, he’s being a little proud, too).