A/N: And welcome to my first Batman fanfiction. This is roughly based off of Batman and Robin #2 (which I don't own) and takes place roughly in that continuity. Any feedback would be nice, even if its just one word. Enjoy!
This story is from the POV of Dick Grayson.
A sharp knock woke me from my sleep abruptly. I jerked upwards and shook my hair out of my face, trying to remember what was going on. I was on the couch of my apartment. And…those were the bills I was planning on going through on the floor. Great.
Oh, well. I could always pay them tomorrow.
Knock, knock, knock.
"Coming," I called halfheartedly, slowly getting up. I stretched and straightened my clothes before lumbering to the door. I was still a little stiff from patrol last night. That one henchman was a lot heavier than I expected.
I'd no sooner opened the door an inch when a small figure burst his way through, jabbing an elbow into my gut in an attempt to move me out of the way faster. I stepped back and watched in confusion as Damian – Damian Wayne, that is – marched in and started pacing up and down my hallway.
"Hello to you too," I commented, closing the door behind him. He didn't respond to me, but that wasn't unusual. This unannounced sort of visiting was. "Would you mind taking off your shoes?" I asked him lightly instead of voicing my concerns. "You're getting mud everywhere, and you know I hate cleaning."
"Father's trying to placate me with a dog, Grayson," Damian blurted out.
I stayed calm, leading the way into the living room and clearing everything off the couch so there was room for us to sit down. "Really?" I asked, keeping my voice neutral. "He got you a puppy?"
Damian snorted, following me into the room but not sitting. "Hardly," he responded. "It's a full-grown Great Dane. It's practically the size of me."
"And you want a…smaller dog?" I guessed. I wasn't quite sure why were were talking about pets, but hey. At least Damian was talking instead of...
"No!" he shouted. "The dog himself is fine!"
"Great," I said smoothly. There was the shouting. Bound to happen sometime. "Ah...What'd you name him?"
"Tt." Damian rolled his eyes. "Ace. He's a good hound."
"I don't see the problem."
"I'm not here to talk about my problems!" Damian shouted at me, his hands balling into fists at his sides.
I raised my palms. "Of course not," I reassured. He took a deep breath and calmed down, which was a good thing. I needed the time to figure out why the heck Damian was here to talk about his problems. Damian was a lot like Bruce, in that he liked to lock away his troubles and pretend they don't exist, whether he locks them up in Arkham or in the corners of his mind. The fact that he was here meant that something was catastrophically wrong.
As his big brother, it was my job to figure out what.
"So…why are you here?"
Damian walked away from me, towards the front of the room, and stared out the window. "I need your opinion," he stated, not making a move to turn and face me. "Do you… do you think I'm a killer?"
"No!" I answered immediately, jumping to my feet. "Damian, what's up? Did you run into Talia again?" I took a few steps towards him.
"No," Damian answered softly. "I doubt Father would take me on such a trip so early into our partnership."
I stopped a few feet away from him, resting my hands uneasily inside my pockets. "Then why would you ask that?"
He didn't answer for several seconds. I was about to ask another question when he answered, "I killed a bat the other day."
He turned suddenly and walked to the other side of the room, putting as much distance between us as possible. I sighed and watched him go. "I haven't killed anything in a while, Grayson. I thought maybe…" He stopped, and then continued, "Father thinks I'm a killer."
"No, he doesn't."
"Yes, he does!" Damian yelled back at me. He finally turned to glare at me for a second, before stomping over to the couch and plopping down on it. "I can see it in his face whenever we fight."
I slowly walked back over to the couch, doing my best not to scare him away. "Is that why you killed it?" I asked softly. "To see if he was right?"
I stopped at the edge of the couch, watching Damian was the boy stared down into his lap and bit his lip. "The bat was flying too low," he began, and I settled myself in for a story. "Its wing wasn't working right. A joint popped out of its socket, or something. It was damaged. It wasn't normal. It wasn't flying with the others. So I caught it. Originally I was going to fix it, to make it normal again so it could fly properly."
He stopped, drew a breath. "So I caught it, in my hands. At first the bat was scared. It struggled so much I thought helping it would be impossible. But then I pet it, and – it relaxed. I was amazed. Something so small, so…helpless…
"Then I started squeezing it. Strangling it. By the neck. It was just an impulse, I swear, I - I knew I shouldn't. I knew it was wrong. I knew the bat was innocent. But for once, I had the power. For once, I had the ability to do something. For once, I wasn't helpless while all the adults made the decisions for me. For once, I wasn't the bat-!"
"I killed it!"
He cut off roughly, breathing hard. He was still looking straight down into his lap and his eyes were scrunched up like he was going to cry. "Damian," I repeated, much softer, bending down to sit on the couch and pulling him onto my lap. "Hey. Hey. It's going to be fine. Everything's going to be fine. Don't worry. Don't worry about anything, okay? I love you."
I let my words die away there, just holding him as he wrapped his arms around my neck and took sob-like breaths against my shoulder. I held him until his breathing calmed down and he pulled away, muttering, "You're so stupid, Grayson."
"I mean it."
"I know you do," he told me, scooting off my lap and as close to the other end of the couch as possible.
I gave him a moment to settle there and regain his composure. When he looked calm, I said gently, "I'm sorry you feel helpless, Dami."
"Don't call me that."
I ignored his halfhearted objection. "I know a lot of things have changed recently. I know I left, and you're not used to working with your dad."
"That's no excuse for being a murderer."
"I'm sorry," I said.
He jumped to his feet, looked back at me, and started walking out towards my front door. I would have traded anything to know what he was thinking. "Damian," I called after him. He paused before turning around. "I know you're not here to talk about your problems. But if you ever were…"
He nodded. "I should leave now," he said hoarsely, jerking his head back towards the door. "Pennyworth will be wondering where I am."
I stood up. "All right." I strode past him to the front door and starting toeing my shoes on.
"What are you doing?"
I grabbed a jacket. "I'm taking you home, of course. A ten-year-old shouldn't be going out alone."
"I can manage myself, Grayson."
"Yeah, yeah, little bird," I said, reaching for a name my parents had called me.
"What did you call me?"
I stopped, the door halfway open. Damian was still frozen in the hall, and he looked like he had no intention of moving. "What?" I asked. "I can't give you nicknames?"
"You've given me enough for five people," he retorted, still not moving.
I sighed, closing the door and taking a step closer to him. "Listen, Dami," I said, kneeling down so we were at eye-level. "You're not the bat. You're not stuck in a cave all your life listening to the bigger bat's decisions. You're better than that. You're free."
I stood up, grabbing his hand as I did so. "Come on," I said, opening my door and leading him out into the world. "You're definitely my little bird."