Notes: In which I bring up some loose end from 'Brotherhood' :) Oh, and I made a mistake. Apparently the revelation of Damian's plan is in this chapter -_- Me and my swiss-cheese of a memory.
Bethlovesall: Conclusion's right here! ;D
Hybryda: Yeah, Damie will have to make up for scaring his big bro hehehe.
Mirror's Mirage: The hints aren't so obvious about the Games Master being a fake, actually. Damie was narrating about the man's too green eyes and too perfect teeth. Also, during the fight, the Games Master wasn't sweating as much as Damie was :) I wanted to make it seem like a real person but only when I admitted that it was a golem would readers realize the hints that they were. Guess I'll need to work on that. Wonder Woman's line was pretty much inspired by my playing DCUO - what smooth playtime I could get out of it. As for the out and the twist, aw thanks, though I thought it might have been a 'cowardly' move on my part because I really didn't want Damian to actually kill someone outright. Ah well.
Dextra2: Hey, I don't mind your not reviewing every chapter. I'm happy with whatever reviews I get :)
Reina Grayson: Aaah, next sequel's gonna take some time before I post. I have to finish writing it out first heh. So far though, first chappie's a fight scene hehehe.
jayfeather63: Even if Damie's gonna get a lot of mistrust, everyone's pretty much agreed he cares a lot about Dick. Also, the whole thing about family being important to Dick actually came from Rob Thurman's books. I love her stuff heh.
Minutes before they were to leave Marin's private dojo where the fight between Damian and the fake took place, the lifeless golem had turned into a large lump of dirt. Loose soil spread around the lump where previously there was a puddle of realistic blood. Similar dried dirt covered Damian's face and stomach.
"I guess he was telling the truth," Kid Flash remarked, warily crouching down to poke at the misshapen lump. "It really is a fake."
"Obviously." Damian said drily. "Why would a villain lie about the fake when speaking the truth would gain him the best result?"
"Speaking of which," Robin strode forward, gripping Damian's shoulder tightly, "We are going to have a talk about what you just did."
Damian returned his brother's partly dismayed, partly furious, but over-all relieved gaze with a blank expression of his own. He will not allow his guilt to show and make his brother disappointed in him. "I had known the opponent was a fake. Does this knowledge not matter?"
"It's not that!" Robin shook his head and was now gripping both the younger's shoulders with both hands. His lithe acrobat frame held steady but Damian could detect slight tremors in the hands holding him tight, could hear the increased heart-rate brought about by a rush of adrenalin and a strong emotional reaction. His brother had been...afraid. For him? Or of him?
Damian reached up and awkwardly patted one of Ro-Richard - for this was his brother and not his colleague - Richard's hands.
"It is...alright, Grayson," he spoke slowly, unfamiliar with the proper words of comfort. He had never trained, never learned how to bring comfort to another and what he knew came from watching Richard himself.
Richard gave him a little shake that barely rattled him. "Don't ever sneak out to fight my battles for me, got it?"
Damian crossed his arms. "T-t. I merely did it to keep you from falling into his trap. I would not let such a coward harm my brother."
"Circumstances aside," Aqualad approached calmly, "I am glad you were able to help your brother."
"Me too." Superboy added.
Kid Flash glanced from the Atlantean to the clone and back to Damian as he protested, "Waitaminit! What was your deal with Superboy?"
Robin raised an eyebrow and turned a questioning glance at Damian, to which the younger replied, "Our deal was for me to give Superman a reason to spend time with his clone. In return, Superboy will protect my brother whenever I am not present to watch his back." He tilted his head towards Richard. "Is that not what brothers do? The older takes care of the younger and the younger watches the older's back?"
Richard drew back, waving his hands right and left. "No way! You got it all wrong! The older takes care of the younger and the younger is there to be babied by the older!"
Damian snorted. "Don't be ridiculous, Grayson. I know a hundred ways to incapacitate you right now."
"But if you do that, who will take care of you?"
Damian conceded. "Point."
They rode in the bioship on the trip back to Mount Justice; the awkward silence heavy in the cockpit of the ship. Damian knew the rest of Grayson's team exchanged a mental discussion by their faces and hand gestures. Grayson though, either didn't have much to say or kept his face neutral by force of will because he merely stared at Damian the whole journey back. As for Damian...he refused to acknowledge that they were talking about him while he was there. He had much to think about.
He hadn't meant to reveal his confidential deal with the clone so early. But he couldn't allow any suspicion to fall on either him or the clone - it would only serve to make his brother's protection more difficult than necessary. Damian had arranged for his brother to be watched over, not to be thrown into harm's way thanks to annoying teammates.
"Debriefing in ten." Batman's command echoed through the hangar as soon as they stepped out of the bioship.
"Great," Kid Flash groaned. "We're going to get chewed out, aren't we? And we didn't even have to do anything."
"True," Damian agreed, "all you did was stand around and be an obstruction."
"Hey! At least we didn't-"
"You guys go ahead!" Robin cut in, dragging Damian to an unused storage room by the arm. "I just need to talk with my little brother for a bit."
Aqualad nodded, "We will explain your delay to Batman."
"What do you mean we have to explain-" Kid Flash's protest was cut off when the storage room door slid shut. Robin quickly coded in a lock and a privacy shield before he turned around to face Damian. They both pulled off their eye masks at the same time.
"Damie," Richard sighed, his voice sounding both defeated and hopeful at once, "Promise me you won't do that again. It's my job to watch out for you, not vice versa."
Damian crossed his arms and glanced away.
Damian refused to meet his brother's eyes. "I cannot."
A heavy sigh. "Why not?"
"Because," Damian drooped, all at once feeling the numbness he'd felt all those months back. He had forcefully forgotten that feeling in the recent months, and only Grayson's cheerful personality had helped. But now, when he first saw the fear and worry on his brother's face, that numbness had come racing back until he was nearly drowning. But Grayson was waiting for an explanation, and perhaps...he owed his brother one. "The day you were locked in my cell, do you remember?"
"Of course, I remember." Richard said softly. "What about it?"
"That was the day I overheard my grandfather's plans for his resurrection." He took a deep breath. Saying it out loud was as difficult as hearing those same words. "He was going to use my body as his new vessel."
"And I was going to let him."
A stunned silence fell over the room. Damian glanced up to find his brother's anguished face, mouth opening and closing as he strangled out, "Why?"
Damian clenched his eyes in remembered rage and fear. But he forced himself to continue because he couldn't bear to see his brother in distress. "When I awoke and saw you, I thought you were a test: My final evaluation to prove that I was worthy of being my grandfather's vessel. I wanted to make him proud. To give my mother a reason to keep me."
He opened his still dry eyes to meet Grayson's own. Damian had never cried all those years he was training in the League of Assassins' compound. He was trained not to. "But your condition contradicted my assessment. You would have been an easy match for me then. And it would be a poor victory if I were to win against you."
Richard nodded slowly, "And then what?"
Damian dropped his gaze again. "You told me stories. Of you. Of your team. My Father." He tilted his head and looked back up with curiosity. "And you told me how Superboy was created as a weapon, but helped you escape instead. And I decided to imitate him. I felt...I felt that I was not given enough information to make a choice." He relaxed his fists. "I wanted to have a choice between continuing as I am or letting my grandfather slay me."
He was half-expecting the hug. Grayson was always leaping for an excuse to hug him. But unlike previous times, he allowed this one and didn't move to shove his brother away - because that is what he had now: a brother, and a father. And to him, it was enough.