Cut To The Quick

Chikorita-Trainer1

M

Disclaimer: I don't own any DC characters

Author's Note: This is another one of those stories that I had stuck in my head for a while but couldn't get it together right away. I finally did, and I hope you enjoy it.


Damian Wayne was not your typical child. He had very different experiences. At an early age he'd been taught to kill, and he had killed. He was always taught to slay his enemy. He was always taught that the way to solve a problem was to face it violently, head-on. In most cases, the problem was a person, or something that a person was doing, and therefore the obvious solution was to kill that person. But when the person was a member of your family, even one you WANTED to kill, it's hard to know what to do. When the problem that needs to be solved is psychological, Damian is as ignorant as a normal ten-year-old.

Usually, Damian knew how to manipulate situations and make sure they worked out in his favor. But the problem he encountered one evening left him totally confused, because he didn't know how to get it to work to his advantage.

"Master Damian, would you kindly go upstairs and tell your brother that dinner is ready?" Alfred asked one evening at Wayne Manor. Damian said nothing, but silently complied.

Wayne Manor was huge, and it took him about five minutes to reach Tim's room. The door was closed, but that wasn't going to stop Damian. He wanted to just barge in and tell Tim to come down for dinner, but the door was locked. He knocked, but Tim was blasting music so loud that it couldn't be heard.

Childish loser, he thought, as he whipped out a few trusty tools and began picking the lock. He made short work of it, and opened the door slowly. He figured that he could use this as an opportunity of Tim not being able to hear him to sneak up on and scare him.

Tip-toeing into the room, Damian quietly approached Tim. He was hunched over at his desk. Not hunched OVER the desk itself, but his swivel chair was turned to the side, and he was sideways to the desk. Damian crept a little closer, and noticed some blood on the floor.

What the fuck…? Damian thought to himself. At first he just assumed Tim had accidentally injured himself. It was easy and fun for Damian to make these assumptions, because he hated Tim and loved to entertain ideas of the older boy making mistakes and hurting himself. However, Tim had not made a mistake in any sense of the word. What he was doing, he was doing deliberately.

Damian lowered his eyebrows in confusion as he watched with a somewhat-obscured view what Tim seemed to be doing. What it appeared to be was extremely puzzling for Damian.

Tim was cutting his wrist with a razorblade. On purpose. This frightened Damian, because he had never encountered anyone who would have wanted to cut themselves. Every time he was in the same room with someone who was bleeding, it was because HE had been the one to injure them. No one ever needed to inflict pain upon themselves when Damian was around.

O…K… the child thought to himself as he backed out of the room. He quietly closed Tim's door, and stood in the hall, stupefied for a moment. That was…weird. he thought. Then again, Drake has always been retarded. Still totally flabbergasted, Damian put on a poker face and went back downstairs.

By the time got back downstairs, Dick was at the table, along with Bruce, and Alfred was bringing them their dinner.

"I thought you were getting Tim," said Dick.

"Yeah, he's busy," Damian replied. He was able to pass this statement off as a fact, because it was somewhat true. If he just concentrated on the part of it that was true, his face wouldn't betray anything. Dick shrugged.

"Kinda sucks, since I came home this weekend specifically to be with the family," Dick sighed.

"Tt. If you want to see him so badly, just go up there and drag him down," said Damian. What he really wanted was for Dick to go up to Tim's room, discover Tim cutting himself, and then deal with it. That way, Damian wouldn't have to be concerned.

"No. If he doesn't want to come down I'm sure he has a perfectly good reason," said Bruce.

"It's probably because he doesn't want to see him," said Dick, talking with his mouth full and pointing at Damian.

"Dick!" hissed Bruce.

"Mm! Bruce, it's fine," said Dick, swallowing his food and wiping his mouth with a napkin. "They both hate each other and they both know it."

Damian was too troubled to talk, but he managed to clean his plate.

"May I be excused?" asked Damian. Bruce nodded and Damian quietly pushed his chair away from the table, hopped down and walked away. Bruce didn't suspect anything, because he didn't really know Damian very well. But Dick, who had spent extended periods of time with the young Robin, could tell something was up. Damian was never polite. Something was bothering him.

When Dick and Bruce finished dinner, Bruce went down to the Batcave and Dick went to find Damian. He searched Wayne Manor for about half an hour before he located Damian in the library, flipping through an old history book.

"Hey, D," he said. "What're you reading?"

"Nothing, really. Just skimming," Damian said monotonously. He had actually forgotten the title of the book, because his mind was elsewhere. "Uh…the Civil War," he said, flipping back the cover of the book to see the name of it.

"Is there something on your mind?" asked Dick. He immediately knew there was, since Damian didn't answer right away.

"No…just kinda bored," he answered.

"Damian," said Dick. "You've got to learn to lie better than that." Damian lowered his eyebrows in disdain at his brother. He hadn't expected to be met with a remark like that. But after thinking about it, he realized how obvious he must have been. If he was actually bored, he'd be down in the Batcave with his father, working on something. There were dozens of crimes that needed to be solved, which would have satisfied anyone's need for an activity. You don't go and read old books on the Civil War (and forget what you're reading) when you have many other things you could be doing.

"OK, fine. You win. There IS something on my mind," he relented. Dick closed the book in front of his little brother and sat down in a chair beside him, facing Damian.

"What is it?"

"Well…earlier this evening…I went upstairs to get Drake to come down to dinner…" Damian said slowly. "And…he didn't know I was there, 'cause he didn't turn around…and I saw him…cutting himself with a razor." Dick's jaw dropped.

"Are you serious?" he said after a pause.

"Yeah…just like…one of those plain old razorblades you use for cutting up lines of cocaine," said Damian. "He had it like this…" Damian reenacted the motion of Tim slicing his wrist. "…just, like, going to town. Just cutting slits in his own arm."

"Are you sure?" said Dick.

"Of course I'm sure! I'm never wrong!" Damian said. He didn't really mean for it to come out that way, but the child was distressed, and when that happens, people tend to snap and say things that aren't exactly true.

"Was he bleeding?" asked Dick, knowing full well what a stupid question that was.

"What are you, an idiot? YES he was bleeding, Grayson!" Damian answered. Dick just averted his gaze from Damian and sighed. "So what's up with that?"

"Well…" Dick began.

"I mean, why the hell would anyone want to do that? If you want to hurt yourself, there are so many ways to do it that aren't so…weird."

"Yeah, but Damian…"

"If he wants to feel pain he can just come and see me. I'll give him all the pain he wants!"

"That's not why people cut themselves!" Dick exclaimed.

"What do you mean…why 'people' cut themselves?" asked Damian. "Who would do that?"

"Lots of people," said Dick. "There are a lot of people who do that."

"Are you serious?" Damian challenged, mirroring Dick's earlier response to his own statement.

"Yeah. It's a form of dealing with pain, you know. People do it because it like, helps relieve emotional pain. It's not a very healthy way of relieving pain, but if people are that messed up…oh my gosh, Tim must really be messed up…" Dick trailed off.

"Uh…yeah," Damian agreed. "What do we do about it?" Dick quickly looked up. "What are you going to do about it?"

"Talk to him, I guess," said Dick, standing up. "And I won't say I heard it from you. I'll keep this strictly confidential." Damian shrugged, but he trusted that Dick knew that that was a good idea. "Thank you for telling me, D."

"No problem," the child muttered.

"Is he still in his room?" asked Dick.

"I don't know. Probably," said Damian. Dick turned and exited the library, and went up to Tim's room.

Dick normally wasn't shy about entering Tim's room, but he didn't want to walk in on his little brother in the act of mutilating himself. He wanted to confront Tim directly and calmly, but not actually see him doing it. Tim no longer had any music on, so Dick knocked.

"Who is it?" asked Tim.

"It's me," Dick answered cheerfully.

"Come in."

"Hey," Dick said with a smile, closing the door. "How's it going?"

"Alright, I guess," said Tim, who was now studying something on his desk. "How are you?"

"Not so good, actually," Dick answered, sitting down on the foot of Tim's bed. At this, Tim turned his swivel chair around to face Dick.

"What's wrong?"

"I just received some troubling information," said Dick. "I was just recently told…and don't shoot the messenger. Don't ask me who it was…that you have been…." Dick paused and looked up at Tim, just to make sure that Tim was looking him in the eye. "…uh, cutting yourself." Tim's expression immediately went from concerned to tense, so Dick knew it was true. For a moment, neither of them spoke, but finally, Tim lowered his head and said,

"Alright. So…what do you want to know?"

"Uh," Dick was a bit shocked at how calm his brother was being about this. Not denying, not scared, not angry. Just totally calm. "So…is it true?" Dick still didn't want to believe it.

"Yes," said Tim, looking up at him again.

"OK…how long have you been doing this?"

"Uh….I don't know…about…six months, maybe?" Tim replied. Dick's eyes widened. Six months? How the hell was it that nobody ever noticed this?

"How much…how often do you do it?" asked Dick.

"Uh…at least once a day. Sometimes three times a day," Tim said with utmost control. Dick had to keep stopping himself from either gasping in horror or dropping his jaw in shock.

"Where exactly do you cut?" asked Dick. "On your body, that is."

"So far just my wrists, and my arms," said Tim, rolling up his sleeve. There were tons of little inch-long scars, and some were still red scabs. "And uh, you can see here…well, I can't really roll my sleeve up past this point, but I have gotten all the way up to my armpit."

Dick closed his eyes and exhaled slowly as Tim rolled his sleeve back down.

"I can see this is upsetting you," said Tim. "But you asked for the truth, and I gave you the truth."

"Oh, I'm not mad at you, Tim. I'm glad you're being totally honest with me. Yes, it is horrifyingly upsetting, but I know that yelling at you is no way to solve the problem."

"This isn't a problem, Dick. This is a choice I'm making. Nobody is making me do this…this isn't a reaction to some weird drug or anything like that. This is something that I choose to do, of my own free will."

"It's still a horrible thing to do, Tim!" said Dick, raising his voice now.

"I know that's what you think, because when normal people do it, it's scary," said Tim. "But think about it, Dick; is it really any more dangerous than what we do? I mean, every night we run the risk of getting killed. At least when I do this to myself, I always clean the cuts and bandage them up when I'm done. This is controlled mutilation. It's actually a lot safer than fighting crime."

Dick had to resist the urge to slap Tim in the face just now.

"Tim…you know this isn't normal. Or healthy for that matter. Whether you want to admit it or not, this is a cry for help," said Dick.

"No, I've already found help. This IS the help," Tim explained. "This is how I deal. Some people drink, some people get high, some people like…play music…this is how I deal with my pain."

"But this isn't dealing, Tim," said Dick. "This is just an outlet! That's not the same as a solution!"

"Maybe so, but it gets the job done," Tim said, nonchalantly.

"What are you talking about? What job? What exactly are you looking for? Do you enjoy cutting yourself? Does it feel good or something?" Dick had actually begun yelling now, even though he had just said that yelling wouldn't solve the problem.

"No, it hurts a lot, Dick. That's the whole point," said Tim. "OK, you know what? This is pointless. I don't need to justify anything to you. I'm an adult, I can do what I want to my own body. I'm not hurting anyone but myself. It doesn't concern you, so you really don't get a say in this."

"YOU ARE HURTING SOMEONE BESIDES YOU WHEN YOU DO THIS!" Dick yelled, standing up from the bed. "IT HURTS THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU, WHO LOVE YOU AND CARE ABOUT YOU!"

"And that's fine. If they worry about me, yes, that's nice. That's totally fine. But they can't do anything about it. I mean, seriously…look! Here's the blade I use," said Tim, pulling out a drawer and handing Dick the razorblade. "Here's the antiseptic I use and here are the bandages. You want to talk these away from me? Go ahead. I can still cut myself with just about anything. You can't stop me."

"Timmy…" Dick said, frightened and sad, clutching the razorblade in his hand.

"You can tell Bruce, you can tell Alfred, whoever you want. I don't care," said Tim. "Tell Damian for all I care, he'll probably be overjoyed."

"DAMIAN'S THE ONE WHO TOLD ME!" yelled Dick. "HE SAW YOU DOING THIS TO YOURSELF AND IT FREAKED HIM OUT!"

"Yeah, right," said Tim. "Damian…Spawn of Satan…saw me, cutting myself and it freaked him out?"

"It did, Tim! I could tell. I don't think he's ever heard of the concept of people cutting themselves."

"Not my problem," said Tim, turning his chair back towards the desk. "He would have found out sooner or later."

"YES, IT IS YOUR PROBLEM!" screamed Dick, turning Tim's chair around and making him face him. "You are endangering your life because you're too much of a COWARD to face your problems and deal with your pain! And you're trying to justify it by saying it's a "choice" or a "safe way" of dealing, which it ISN'T! It's sick, and dangerous and creepy! Any kid your age will tell you that! Oh, and by the way, you're not an adult, Timmy! You're 17 fucking years old! You're not done growing up! You think you're so smart and mature, but you're just a kid! And you've got problems!"

"SHUT UP!" Tim lashed out, pushing Dick, who then kind-of stumbled backwards onto the bed. "How is it dangerous? If you're going to tell me not to cut myself because it's "dangerous," then you may as well tell me to stop fighting crime. Because that's WAY more dangerous than cutting myself."

"Timmy, please…" said Dick, who looked close to tears. "Please…don't get mad at me for wanting to help you."

"YOU'RE the one who got mad at ME, remember?" said Tim. "You were doing fine and then all of a sudden you started yelling at me."

"I YELL WHEN I'M ANGRY AND SCARED, TIM!" screamed Dick. "Welcome to having emotions! When people are upset, it comes out in the way they speak! When people are sad, they cry! When people are angry, they yell! And in your case, when people are sad or angry or scared, they take a blade to their wrist!"

"So what?" said Tim, as calmly as ever.

"SO THAT'S DANGEROUS! WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE PUT THEIR KIDS IN PSYCH WARDS WHEN THEY DO THAT? WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE WHO CUT THEMSELVES ARE FEATURED IN LIFETIME MOVIES AND TEEN DRAMAS? BECAUSE IT'S A PROBLEM AND PEOPLE WHO DO IT NEED HELP!"

Tim didn't have an answer for that. And it didn't matter, because Dick kept talking.

"It's dangerous…because…what if you're all alone? What if you accidentally hit a huge artery? You could bleed to death if there's no one around to help you! THAT'S why it's dangerous, Tim! Also, you could get infected. I know you think that by using antiseptic that you're taking ALL the precautions…but Tim, you're not supposed to cut yourself! It's a sign that you need help!" cried Dick.

"Well, I have to disagree," said Tim. "You think it's a terrible thing, I think it's a quite effective way to calm myself down." Dick was fighting back tears at this point. Tim opened the door to his room. "Now, unless you have something else to discuss with me, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave."

"Tim…" Dick breathed. Tim merely gestured at the door again, and finally, defeated, Dick left.

Out in the hall, Dick covered his eyes in his hand and sobbed silently. How could he have let his little brother slip so far away from him? How could he have overlooked Tim's slope into deeper and deeper depression? How could he bring him back from this when Tim didn't even think he had a problem? Overwhelmed by these questions, he jumped a little when Damian touched his arm.

"Ah!" he gasped. "Damian."

"What's the deal with Drake?" asked the child.

"He thinks he's like, being smart, or whatever, by cutting himself. He claims that…it's less dangerous than crime fighting so that makes it OK," said Dick. "See, the thing about Tim is, he's smart as hell. So he has these ways of making everything seem logical, even when it's clearly NOT!"

"Why does he do it?" asked Damian. Dick removed his hand from his tear-streaked face and said,

"Because he's a freak!" And with that, Dick walked down the halls to his old bedroom.

Alone in the dark hallway, Damian was having a serious change of heart. Up until now, he'd despised Tim Drake with a passion. He figured whatever pain Tim received, he deserved. But after what he saw, he couldn't really remember why he ever thought that. Even though he wasn't the one cutting himself, Damian had been traumatized by what he saw. It had affected him deeply. He had been forever changed by that sight. And Damian didn't like not feeling in control of his own feelings. So he decided to do something about it.

He didn't even bother to knock this time. He wasn't going to waste time being polite, nor was he going to give Drake the chance to put his razorblade away and hide any evidence. It was out in the open now anyway, so why spare anyone's feelings? Damian barged right into Tim's room, shut the door behind him, and sat down on Tim's bed.

"Why do you cut yourself?" he asked. Tim didn't even turn around from his desk.

"None of your business," he said.

"It is my business, Drake," said Damian. "I had the unpleasant task of witnessing you making yourself bleed. It confuses me. I don't understand it, and I don't like not being able to understand things."

"Shyeah, well, have fun being 10, then. There's going to be a butt-load of shit you don't understand," Tim said with a laugh.

"If you can tell Grayson why you do it, why can't you explain it to me?

"Because Dick actually cares about me. You on the other hand, just want to know for your own reasons. Ergo, you don't want to help me, you don't care if I'm suffering, you just want to satisfy your own curiosity. And since I don't want you to be happy, just like you don't want me to be happy, I'm not going to tell you."

"Grayson cares about you and you still didn't give him the answers he wanted. And who said I just wanted to know for the sake of knowing?" said Damian.

"Uh, YOU did. Just now. You said you hated not being able to understand stuff, so you wanted to know just so you could have the answer."

"I didn't mean that I just wanted to know about cutting," said Damian. "You cut yourself because you're unhappy. I want to know why you're unhappy."

"Why?"

"Because...I don't…like…that you hurt yourself," Damian said, his voice cracking. He quickly looked away, squeezing his eyes shut, trying not to cry. "I want to know…I want to understand…" he said shakily. This time, a few tears did manage to escape his eyes.

Tim was about to tell him, but then he quickly put up another wall.

"Good job, Damian. I almost believed you for a second there," he said.

"What do you mean?"

"Nice crocodile tears. I guess in the League of Assassins they teach you to manipulate people by any means necessary. I guess that means turning on the sprinklers sometimes."

"Tim, I'm not faking it!" cried Damian. "Why do you do it?"

Tim thought for a moment. Had Damian really just called him by his first name? Damian never did that. Like Tim's choice to cut himself, Damian chose to address everyone by their last names only, so as to appear formal and business-like. If Damian could slip up, assuming that it WAS a slip-up and not a deliberate ruse to draw Tim out, then the kid must be being sincere.

"You really want to know?" asked Tim. Damian nodded. Sighing, Tim got up from his chair and went and sat down across from his little brother on the bed. He looked Damian in the eyes for a second. Not a trace of mistrust or evil or malice he saw. Damian actually looked like a freaked-out child. "OK."

Tim took off his long-sleeved shirt, revealing only a wife-beater covering his muscular torso, and both his arms covered in little scars and scabs. Damian's eyes widened. The only time he'd ever seen anything like this was when he battled Zsazs. And Zsazs was a pretty messed-up guy. Tim always seemed to have it together. So if Tim and Zsazs had this in common, Damian didn't even want to think about what other skeletons Tim had in his closet.

"Wow," he said.

"This was my first one," said Tim, pointing out a shiny little scar on his wrist. "I did it accidentally. I was working on some blueprints, and I dropped my pen on the floor. And when I bent over to pick it up, I, like, scraped my wrist on the sharp corner of my desk. And it hurt like hell, and as I was squeezing it, trying to keep it from bleeding until I could find the bandages…I remember feeling this weird…like…light-headedness. And it felt like how you feel after you hold your breath for a long time, and then you finally exhale…you kinda feel satisfied. And…I was like… 'oh…wait…this feels good.' And for the first time in a long time, I was feeling something other then sadness and anger. I felt relief…and I felt like…I can make myself feel something. I don't have to rely on someone else to come make me feel better. And then I tried it again with a letter opener, and it worked. And I already knew how not to cut myself too deep. And the rest is history."

"But what do you feel when you aren't feeling physical pain? What are you trying to distract yourself from?" asked Damian.

"Lots of stuff," sighed Tim. "The grief of losing my parents…the frustration that I can't trust the one girl I love…the resentment that Dick replaced me with you. All of that emotional baggage."

"Me? You're still mad about that?" said Damian.

"Well, you have to admit, you do kinda rub me the wrong way," said Tim.

"So I make you want to hurt yourself?"

"Not JUST you. Damian, this is not your fault. Like I told Dick, this is something I choose to do. I'm not blaming anyone else," Tim explained.

"Well, I wish you'd stop," said Damian. "It's not right. Nobody should hurt themselves."

"It's fine, Damian, I've got it under control-"

"You should stop! You're hurting yourself! You shouldn't do that! You should find a more constructive outlet for your pain!" Damian declared.

"Like what? Go out and cut people's heads off?" Tim challenged, referring to the time that Damian went out and beheaded The Spook.

"NO! And I only did that once!" yelled Damian, standing up on the bed so that he was taller than Tim. Tim stifled a chuckle. Damian looked and was acting so childish right now. It was one of the few times that Tim could look at Damian as a kid, and not a weird hybrid-human/killing machine.

"Look, Damian…"

"I don't like that you cut yourself, Tim!" Damian cried, sitting back down. He allowed himself to cry again, since Tim had already seen him at his most vulnerable, and hadn't made fun of him for it.

"Why?"

"Because…" Damian struggled to say. "Because you're…" he kept having to take in deep breaths before continuing. "…you're a part…of this family…" Another little gasp. "…and, you should, like, talk about your problems. Not create…more problems. And…if you…end up cutting a major vein, or get infected…" Tim now had to let both these possibilities sink in, since both of his brothers had brought them up. "…and if you die…Grayson will be sad, and I won't…have…" Damian squeezed his eyes shut again.

"You won't have what?" asked Tim.

"I won't have…two…brothers anymore," Damian finally stated. Tim suddenly felt this tingling numbness overtake his entire body. Just for a second, but it was enough for him to realize that something in him had been touched. Damian…the demon seed…the kid from hell…actually thought of Tim as a brother? And was worried that he might die?

"I didn't know you cared about me," Tim said quietly, reaching out to hold Damian's hand.

"Me neither," muttered Damian, wiping his eyes. "But I don't want you to die. I don't know why, I just think…it would be bad."

Tim smiled and then looked down at his scarred arms. All these lines on his flesh were all the times he was sad or angry…and was too afraid to talk to someone about it. And then he looked up at Damian, who was trying to stop crying. Damian had had the guts to come in and tell Tim what was bothering him. It was hard. Damian clearly didn't want to do it, but he did it anyway. He allowed himself to break down emotionally in front of his brother because he was worried. If a ten-year-old, maladjusted assassin could be brave enough to face his fears, why couldn't Tim?

"Thank you, Damian," said Tim. "I don't want you to die, either." Damian smiled.

"Well, I'm not the one with a cutting problem," said the young Robin.

"I'm not either. Not anymore," said Tim. He leaned over and drew Damian into his arms, hugging the boy tightly. "Thank you so much, Damian."

"So you're going to stop? No more cutting?"

"No more cutting," said Tim. He knew it wasn't going to be that easy- he might very well cut himself a few more times on the road to recovery. After all, people don't just quit smoking cold-turkey. It's a process. A step-program. But Damian didn't need to know that. He'd received enough information for one night.

Later on that night, Dick had finally managed to shake off the trauma of the fight he had with Tim, and was ready to go apologize for yelling at him. He got up and walked down the hall, only to find light coming from under Tim's door.

He approached the door and slowly opened it to find his two younger brothers sitting on Tim's bed, talking.

"What's your favorite movie?" Tim asked.

"Kill Bill," said Damian. Tim scoffed at that.

"That IS something you would like." The two of them laughed.

"What about yours?" asked Damian.

"Eh…it changes periodically…whenever I see a new good movie…so my favorite changes. But right now, I'd have to say…American Psycho."

Dick couldn't believe what he was seeing. His two brothers, who supposedly hated each other's guts…were bonding? Were getting to know each other? He couldn't believe it.

"Favorite song?" asked Tim.

"Um, don't laugh," said Damian. "Lose Yourself."

"Why would I laugh? That's a good song," said Tim.

"Yeah, I like Eminem," Damian admitted. "But I like other music, too."

"What bands do you like?"

"Um, The Misfits, Megadeth, Metallica…stuff like that." Tim laughed again. These answers all seemed kind-of silly coming from Damian, but at the same time, made perfect sense.

"What's your favorite song?" asked Damian.

"Mmm…probably Basket Case," said Tim.

"Very fitting, I must say," said Damian.

"Then I guess it makes perfect sense that you like goth and...violent death-metal!" said Tim. He and Damian burst out laughing and giggling. It was really the first time Tim had ever heard Damian spout laughter. Real, happy, innocent, child-laughter.

"So you two are finally getting along, eh?" asked Dick. Both brothers turned to look at him with a smile.

"Hi, Dick," said Tim.

"Are you both…like…cool?" he asked.

"Yeah. We hashed it out and…I think we're finally friends," said Tim, wrapping his arm around Damian's shoulder and drawing him close. Damian giggled.

"That is so GREAT!" Dick exclaimed, leaping onto the bed and hugging his brothers. "OMG, you have no idea how happy this makes me!"

"What do you mean?" asked Damian.

"Do you have any idea how hard it was to see my two little brothers, who I love more than anything, fighting all the time? Putting me in the middle? It was torture, I tell you!" Dick explained.

"Yeah…sorry about that," said Tim. "But I guess we just needed to connect on our own terms."

"Yeah," said Damian.

"Well, I'M happy as all hell!" said Dick, standing up. "I'm going to crash. Tomorrow, let's all hang out, OK?"

"OK," said Tim.

"C'mere. Give me a hug," said Dick. Tim stood up and hugged Dick. "I meant both of you! Come on, D!" Damian rolled his eyes and joined in, making it a group hug. "I love you guys so much," said Dick.

"Love you, too," said Tim. Damian just made some "mm" sound that indicated that he felt the same way.

"See you in the morning," Dick said, giving each of his brothers a kiss on the forehead.

"Goodnight," said Tim.

"What time is it, anyway?" asked Damian. Tim glanced over at his bedside clock.

"1:34," he answered. "We should probably go to bed, too."

"I guess so," Damian agreed. Tim smiled gently at the ten-year-old, lifted him up, and laid him down on one side of his bed. After he turned out the lights, Tim got into bed on the other side.

"Come here," he whispered. Damian snuggled up next to his brother, and Tim wrapped his arms around Damian and drew him close to his chest. "I love you."

"Love you, too."


THE END
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