Damian. He's my son. But however hard I try, I'll never be his father. I've thought about it a lot. Well, more than a lot. Every time I see him. Correction. Every time I see them. Together. My sons. Damian may be the flesh of my flesh and the blood of my blood, but Dick is the heart of my heart and the soul of my soul.
And I left them both. For the War that I fight. A war on the evil that destroyed me. The me I was. I left them for my parents' memory. I left them for my selfless and unrelenting fight. Or is it selfish?
I can hardly lie to myself. I am the most selfish person that I know.
I wanted Richard to stay Robin. I wanted him to stay in my control. I didn't want to lose my son, and I risked the bonds that we had so carefully forged over the years, because I couldn't let him go.
I destroyed Jason Todd, simply because I wanted my eldest son back, so badly. I killed him. Effectively. I am his murderer.
I took Tim Drake under my wing. But I fear I have passed on my obsession to him. His family, dead. His girlfriend, his teammates. Dead. Once. Still. Once is bad enough it still feels like forever. A feeling that I fear may never leave him.
They are all so young, those that I have named.
I could name so many more. All of them scarred by me.
But still they remain dedicated to me. To the mission. To the War.
I am one of the richest men in the world. I could have the lust of any woman I want. I could have millions of people devoted to me. Willing to do anything I said.
But not for me. If I was penniless, the masses would find Bruce Wayne to be nothing. Just another hopeless, helpless soul on the street, waiting for redemption.
Bruce Wayne is barely there anymore. Whoever he was. If he even ever was. I don't know if he lived or died that night. I don't know where he is buried. I don't even know if there ever was a grave, or a funeral. All I have are the broken pieces of a face with nothing behind it. A shell of a man that never was. An automaton.
No one but they know and care for who I really am, even though I take and take and take, and all they do is give and give, tenfold what I take.
Dedication. Devotion. To me? To the mission? To what?
I'm obsessed. It's unhealthy to let that obsession pass unto them. I hardly think that I need to worry about Dick. It's really Tim that I worried about in that way. The obsession with stomping it out. Evil.
. But Damian… And Richard… Dick. My Eldest.
I've thrust fatherhood upon him. Dickie Grayson. More of a real playboy than Bruce could ever have been. More real and lasting relationships than I ever had. And now, he's a father before his own time. He has to make adult evaluations and decisions that he has never before had to deal with.
I wasn't ready either. And now he is headed in the same direction. Raising the child that isn't his own. A brother, but still. Being the father of a boy who has no other dominant parental figures, who has lost much, and is totally unique. A situation that I wish on no one. Much less the son I raised. Richard. He is still that son.
And I cannot see him become me. No matter how good he is with Damian. I can't… I just…
My mistakes are many. My pride is few.
Richard is my pride. The only thing I ever did right. Hell, if I did it all over again, with him I'd barely change a thing. Just one.
I's say those words. Just those four. An I. An L. A Y. A S. There should be more consonants and some vowels in there, and a comma, but if I never said them then, what good will they do now?
20/20 vision in hindsight. That's what I have heard. That is what I have experienced.
I have let my mistakes and others mistakes define who I am today. I won't let my mistakes define my sons.
"Damian, go back upstairs," Dick whispered as the two exited the stairwell of the Batcave II. Damian looked up at his older brother in outrage.
"Why? We have to-"
"Just go, I want to talk with Bruce. Alone." After a moment of consideration, Damian relented. There was no point arguing. Any discussion with the Batman was bound to be short enough.
"Fine," As the newest Robin made his way back up the stairwell, Dick Grayson walked purposefully up to the chair where Bruce Wayne sat, stock still, in front of the Computer system. He was unblinking.
"Bruce?" The sound of Dick's voice called him out of his reverie, and Bruce looked up, his face expressionless, shrouded in the dark.
"Dick? What is it?" Emotionless. That was how Dick remembered hearing his mentor and father figure described by all those who had met him. It was one word of few, and it stood out.
"You're brooding again," There was a reigning silence before the sudden storm that Dick suddenly knew was to come. Jaw clenched, eyes glazed in a far away look, their depths stormy and wicked with the dark thoughts that so often enshrouded his mind. That was the image of the man underneath the cowl.
Sometimes, Dick hardly thought him a man at all. But he had rarely ever looked more human than the moment he spoke, his deep and quiet voice barely a murmur in the still silence. Yet to Dick it sounded like a thunder-crack, loud and clear.
"I'll never be his father.
"What are you talking about? Of course you're his-"
"How can I? I'm never around. Ever. How Can I be there for him?"
"Bruce, he looks up to you, we all-
"But he isn't comfortable in my presence. Like he has to live up to my expectations. That isn't how a son should feel. He shouldn't feel obligated to be perfect. No one is perfect. No one. Not even him. How could he be? I'm not the father I should be, I -
"But you've done great. With me. With Tim. We turned out just fine, we ne-
"No. I failed you, Dick. You and Tim. Jason. And now Damian. I'm hardly his father in any more than blood-
"No! Stop! Just calm down. Damn your talkative this evening,"
"You're his father, Dick. You take care of him. You care about him. I've seen it. You can be there for him, when I can't. And then someday, when I tired, and beaten and sick of this obsession, maybe soon, I can be there for him. The way that I want to be. Just promise me that you'll be there for him. Promise me son,"
"Hindsight is 20/20. You know that, don't you Dick?"
"Yeah. Everyone sees their mistakes looking back,"
"I'm sorry for the ones that I made with you,"
"It doesn't matter. It's in the past,"
Bruce looked down. "But there are still things left unsaid. Lots of things left unsaid," Glancing back up at Dick, Bruce locked his gaze. "Thing that you need to hear yet,"
"I know everything that you could possibly think to tell me," Bruce chuckled at his eldest son's response.
"But it's never the same as hearing it,"
"I need to retrieve Damian. He was expecting this to be short and we need to be on patrol," Dick said quietly with a sence of finality. He turned and headed back up the steps. When he was just to the doorway, Bruce spoke, no more than a murmur.
"I love you, Richard. I always thought of you as my son,"
He could have sworn that Dick had paused. The past was the past, but hindsight was a constant reminder of the past. Perhaps it was time to fix some mistakes. Starting with Dick. And then Damian. He should spend some quality time with them both. He vaguely wondered if Damian liked dogs. Or cats.
Bruce smiled for a moment. He could be so happy if he wanted to. There was so much potential to have a happy life. A happy family. Perhaps it wasn't beyond his reach.
And suddenly Bruce had only one thought.