Author's Note: I've been playing around with flash fics (stories of less than 1000 words) the last few days, and thought I'd try spinning out a short Batman tale. The result is what I think is a fun little romp with Dick and Dami, all centered on a quote from Marcus Aurelius. Let me know what you think about it; if people like these little glimpses I'll try writing them more frequently.
On a completely different note, there will be a new chapter of 'Sick and Twisted' tomorrow.
"…If Alfred catches you going out alone, you'll be grounded forever."
Damian straightened from pulling on his boots and glanced over his shoulder. "You'll receive the same punishment if he finds you walking around with a concussion."
"True," Dick agreed as he staggered closer. "I should sit down before I fall down." Smirking, he made a point of lowering himself onto the gloves and mask laying on the changing area's bench. "There. I feel better already."
"Grayson, get off of my gear!"
"If you don't move, I'll knock you out and take it."
"You wouldn't have warned me if you were really going to do that."
As annoying as the man's little game was, Damian couldn't deny that he was relieved to see him acting like himself. Batman had suffered a nasty blow to the back of the head during a fight with Two Face the previous evening, and had barely made it back to the car before passing out. Once they'd gotten home and Dick had been put safely to bed, Alfred had taken special pains to assure the boy that everything would be alright. He had scoffed at the time, but once he was certain the butler had retired for the night he'd sneaked down the hall to stand vigil outside his brother's door, listening attentively for any sign of discomfort from within.
During those long, dark hours of silent pacing, his rage towards the villain had swelled. Despite his feigned nonchalance, he knew very well that the injury his partner had sustained would have been life-threatening, if not outright lethal, had he not been wearing the cowl. The thunk that had echoed off the surrounding buildings when the two-by-four had connected still forced the youth to suppress a shudder when he recalled it, and fact that Two Face had escaped afterward only made him sourer still. It was for those reasons that he had slipped down to the cave after bedtime tonight, intent on chasing the criminal down and giving him what he had coming.
"…Then I'll get them some other way," he threatened, not willing to let his quest end prematurely.
"Sorry, little brother," Dick's grin softened into an understanding smile. "I can't let you go after him on your own."
"Go after who?" Damian tried subterfuge. "I'm just covering patrol while you're down."
"Damn it, Grayson…"
"Dami, listen to me for a second, okay? I get it," the man reached out to grab his wrist, pulling him around to face him. "I really do. There were more than a few times when Bruce was hurt on patrol that I just wanted to light into whichever asshole had done it. It was the same thing when Jason was Robin. After Jason…after Jason it was worse. When the Joker went for Tim, I…well, you know what I did."
"You beat the shit out of him."
"Ye – no!" he shook his head. "No. I was angry, Dami. I was so angry, and scared, and worried, because I thought I'd just seen someone I loved – someone else I loved – be murdered by that mad, creepy bastard. When I laid into him that night and didn't stop until Bruce pulled me off, I wasn't trying to defend Tim or bring the Joker to justice; I was trying to get revenge. In that moment I wanted exactly what you're craving right now, and it wasn't righteous in the least."
"I wasn't going to kill Two Face. Just…bring him in."
"Oh? So once you'd started hitting him, you'd have been able to stop? Once you started bouncing his head off the ground," Dick's volume fell as his eyes darkened, "you know you wouldn't have gone too far? If your hands wrapped around his throat and tightened, you can guarantee that they would have let up before his heart did? Can you ensure that, little brother? Because I couldn't."
Damian averted his gaze and didn't answer.
"…After that night," the man went on after a brief silence, "I remembered something Bruce had told me a long time before, when I was still Robin. It was something Marcus Aurelius – you know Marcus Aurelius, right?" he interrupted himself.
"Who doesn't?" the boy snorted.
"Okay, well, in Marcus Aurelius' opinion 'the best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.' Sometimes that's not an easy maxim to follow, I know, but…it's damn good advice, Dami. It's some of the greatest I've ever gotten, in fact."
"That's impossible advice, Grayson. Maybe not for you," he went on before an objection could be made, "but for me…well…I was born to serve as a living act of revenge, so how-."
"You are more than the desires of your parents, Damian Wayne," Dick interrupted fiercely. "And you're more than the desires of your brother, too," a faint trace of his earlier grin returned. "You're your own person. But I flatter myself that I know that person pretty well, so I'll tell you something about him; he's a thousand times over a better specimen of humanity than anyone he might want to get revenge on. More than that," his hands rose to rest on the child's shoulders, "he never accepts anything less than the best, from himself or anyone else. Am I right," he squeezed, "or am I right?"
Damian stared at him for a long moment. "The best outcome for last night would have been for Two Face to be..." His mouth worked. "...Off the streets."
"Right! And we'll make that happen just as soon as I can see straight. But together," Dick urged. "It's better together, little brother. Okay?"
"Great! Now," the man winced, "get changed and help me back to bed, would you? My head's working on its revenge."
Damian felt the corner of his mouth twitch upwards. "Fine. We'll go upstairs…together."