A/N: This story was written for the Free For All Fic For All-or FFAFFA for short-over on the Ask the Squishykins tumblr, wherein Twinings and I offer ourselves up to fill as many fic prompts as humanly possible with stories ranging in length from 100 to 16,000 words. The current round runs until May 1st, 2014, so if you'd like a fic written to your custom specifications, please don't hesitate to drop by and ask for it! :)

Prompt: The first time [insert hero here] was seriously tempted to kill someone; this is almost certainly not what you had in mind, but it's what happened.

Warnings: Abuse, severe depression, possible PTSD, the aftermath of abuse

Notes: I think I might be skewing a wee bit away from the canon of Grant Morrison's Batman run, re: whether or not Ra's was around when Damian was a small child, but I can't remember. And if not doing the research on what actually happened in canon to write a story is good enough for him, it's good enough for me! (But seriously, just as an FYI: for the purposes of this story, Talia's son is the result of consensual sex and love between her and Batman. Like he was before Grant Morrison's run, damn it all.)

Damian did not like the way Mother looked when she spoke to Grandfather. Grandfather was not unkind in any way that he could discern, but her proud, rigid shoulders rounded off and the light in her eyes grew dimmer when she spoke to him. Though she hugged him tighter, she showed less enthusiasm for Damian's crude crayon drawings and begged off reading to him, weary-looking and pale, in the evenings after Grandfather called her to him.

Damian knew Grandfather was not nice. In spite of his gentle tones and gestures, Grandfather was mean to Mother in ways he could not understand.

He did not like Grandfather. Grandfather made Mother tired and angry and bleak. Grandfather made Mother take away his crayons and storybooks, replacing them with things to hit with. Grandfather made Mother stop kissing him goodnight because, he said, it would make him soft. Grandfather made Mother's eyes fill with tears when he forbade her from holding him close anymore.

Mother fought him, always. "Father, he is only three—"

"He is old enough. You will do as I say, Talia."

But Mother never won.

Damian began to hate Grandfather. It was that special, pure hatred of a child; an uncontrollable, irrational anger that filled him up from bottom to top and made him stomp his feet and swing his fists and fill the air with ear-splitting screams.

But Grandfather put a stop to the tantrums, too, keeping Mother away from him until he ceased his crying. When he replaced the tantrums with furious pouts and angry eyes, he kept Mother from him for days until he became outwardly obedient and docile.

"You will thank me someday, Damian. Self control is a virtue." Whatever that meant.

When Damian learned to hit things with the tools he had been given, he thought of Grandfather. He did not yet understand the true meaning of violence nor its effects, but he thought of Grandfather. It made his aim more true. It made him hit harder. Better.

Mother became withdrawn. She grew gray and thin and her eyes emptied of all feeling. Her smiles turned lopsided and…wrong. There was something not right with Mother. Grandfather did that to her. Grandfather's orders, Grandfather's demands, Grandfather's wearing away of her will…

Damian wished very much that Grandfather would just…go away. Forever. If Grandfather went away, then Mother would come back. Her laughter would return and her eyes would sparkle again. Once more they could become a world of two, and she could hold him in her lap and he could hide his face in her perfumed hair. They would draw pictures together and be happy.

He learned to hit with more confidence and finesse. The League taught him many things; Mother, with her blank, dark eyes, taught him many more. It made Grandfather proud, but he did not do it for Grandfather. If he learned how to hit as hard as he could, Damian thought, maybe he could hit Grandfather hard enough to hurt him the way he had hurt Mother.

His birthday wishes were spent on prayers that Grandfather would go away. Even his dreams were fevered visions of beating his small fists into Grandfather's face and taking away his smugness; dreams of smashing in Grandfather's mouth so he could no longer tell Mother not to love him the way she used to.

Then, one day when he was five, Grandfather went away. But it did not mend Mother. She was still broken. She tried to regain her warmth, but it was not the same. There was a wrongness to her love, a sickness to it, symptoms of the black emptiness that Grandfather had caused in her.

Damian accepted her twisted affection, desperate for the evidence that she still loved him somehow, even if that love was unhealthy. Grandfather was gone, just as he wanted for so long, and he could cling to Mother all he wanted.

If he tried hard enough, and long enough, maybe he could help Mother find her way out of the dark.