Thanks to: my betas: anakinlove and BookJunkie. Without them, this story would be full of grammar mistakes and any other mistakes.
The first time Damian met Grayson, he thought the man was an idiot. A bumbling idiot.
Then said idiot sneaked up on him and he knew that no matter how stupid Grayson acted, he still was his father's protégé.
Dick's attempt at hugging Damian would have ended bloody, had Dick's reflexes not been so sharp, for Damian's first instinct when Dick had grabbed him from behind was to pull his knife and jam it backward.
Dick felt the prick of someone's eyes on him. In fact, he had been feeling the sensation since the moment he first stepped into the manor.
He knew from whom the glare was coming.
His baby brother.
Idly, he wondered what he had done to warrant such a heated glare.
Then Damian came, seemingly out of nowhere (and Dick was not surprised, really, the kid was the son of Batman after all, and had also been raised in the company of assassins), and kicked Dick in the shin, hard.
"What's that for?" Dick cried out as he jumped around comically on one foot, the other cradled in his hands.
"That's for yesterday's attack!" the kid said, head held haughtily before he turned around and walked away.
For a moment, Dick could only stare at his brother's fading back, wondering what the hell Damian meant by that. Then something clicked in his brain and he laughed.
The kid thinks a hug was an attack!
Damian didn't understand. He knew that that man who was in the coffin was his father. But he didn't know anything about the man, except what little he had glimpsed in the few months he had lived with him. He shouldn't be attached.
He still felt an unexplainable ache in his chest at the thought of never seeing the man again.
He felt something break.
With how annoyingly cheerful and sentimental Grayson was, Damian thought he would crumble at his father's funeral.
He squared his shoulders, head held high, and endured it in silence.
Damian would not admit it, but that was when he started gaining respect for the man.
When his father died, Damian thought that he would be sent back to his mother as soon as everything was settled. And as much as he hated to admit it, he dreaded the idea.
He didn't want to go back.
Then Grayson came, with a gentle smile on his face, and said, "I'm your guardian now."
And Damian sighed in relied, if only inwardly.
Damian wanted to be Robin, to be a part of the legacy his father had left behind.
So did Drake.
And Damian was sure that between them Grayson, as the acting Batman, would choose Drake over him. After all, Grayson had known Drake for much longer. Not to mention the fact that he was an assassin…
Damian was readying himself for disappointment when Grayson looked at Drake sadly, shaking his head.
"I'm sorry Tim, but Damian needs me more."
Damian wanted to argue, saying that no, he actually didn't need Grayson, but wisely kept it to himself.
Grayson chose him to be his Robin; that was all that mattered.
"I'm an assassin."
"You were an assassin, not anymore."
"… What am I, then?"
"Robin. My Robin."
The first thank you Damian got was from a mother whose daughter he had just saved.
"Thank you," The woman said, voice a choked whisper as she pulled her child close, kissing her face again and again as if she could not quite believe that she had gotten her girl back alive and unharmed. "Thank you," she said again, smiling at him even as tears streamed down her face.
Damian didn't know what to say, so he simply nodded before taking off. He didn't forget about that though. It felt... nice.
It made him think that saving people rather than killing them had its perks, despite much easier it is to do the latter.
What was nicer than getting a heartfelt "thank you" was to see Grayson look at him, a smile on his lips and pride in his eyes, saying, "Good job, kiddo."
Damian might not show he was interested, but he knew there were rumors surrounding the new Batman, his Batman.
He had heard that while Grayson was undoubtedly one of the best heroes out there, he was not fit to be the Batman.
He was too soft, they said. Too kind.
Damian wondered how kindness could be a weakness.
Damian knew better than anyone else how hard Grayson worked to live up to the Dark Knight's name.
Still, people talked.
That was when Damian decided that whatever Grayson's weakness was – his heart, his kindness, whatever — he would cover it. Wasn't that Robin's job? His job?
It was late at night and Damian could not sleep.
Before he knew it he had walked towards his father's room, hoping to find some comfort there even while knowing that the room would be empty.
He stood in front of the double doors, faltering only for a second, before pushing them open.
He went to the king-size bed, but found it was already occupied.
Grayson was laying on it, his black hair a contrast against the pristine white of the pillow, the velvety blanket pulled around his shoulders.
For a moment Damian just stared at the man, too surprised to do anything else.
Then Grayson's eyes blinked open and Damian found himself captivated by those solemn blue eyes.
"Want to come in?" Grayson asked, his voice soft as he pushed open the cocoon of blanket surrounding him.
Damian said nothing as he climbed onto the bed, settling beside Grayson, an arm-length between them.
Then Grayson pulled him closer. "You'll fall," was his whispered excuse.
Damian knew that he would not. The bed was big enough for three grown men. But he nodded anyway, resting his head on Grayson's chest, listening to his heartbeat.
"Good night, Damian," Grayson whispered, putting an arm around Damian's waist in a protective embrace.
"Night." Content now, Damian let the steady rhythm of Grayson's heartbeat lull him to sleep.
Damian's mother said that he was tainted now. Worthless.
He tried to tell himself that it meant nothing, that what his mother thought of him didn't matter.
He was not hurt. He ought not to be.
Still, it stung.
Then Grayson came and said, "You're quite perfect if you ask me." Damian just stared at him, wanting to believe him yet wary of doing so. "I can do without the attitude though." Grayson cracked a grin, ruffling Damian's hair affectionately.
Damian swatted his hand away, scowling, though it lacked the usual fierceness. He turned around and walked away, mumbling something about a "stupid cheesy idiot" under his breath.
"I can take care of myself just fine, you don't need to…" Damian paused, looking for the appropriate word, "… coddle me," he spat the word, face scrunched up in distaste.
Grayson merely raised an eyebrow. "I know," he said simply.
"But I want to."
And Damian had no answer to that.
Damian had been taught that death was not something to fear. It was natural, a consequence for incompetent fools. And despite his change of heart to "save" rather than "kill", he didn't think that particular rule would change.
So when he failed his task to subdue some faceless criminal and fell off of the ten-story building, he didn't panic, nor did he scream for help - he merely closed his eyes, accepting his demise as a sufficient price to pay for his failure.
To his surprise, instead of meeting with the hard cold concrete, he found himself in another's arms, being caught mid-fall.
He opened his eyes and saw Grayson in his Batman suit stare back at him.
"I got you," Grayson said, calm and composed. His slightly shaking hands belied his fear though. And Damian thought if the Batman himself could get scared over this, maybe he could too. So instead of lashing out at the older man he rested his head on Grayson's shoulder, trembling hands tightening around his neck.
It was close. Too close.
Damian was used to getting what he needed, anything he wanted. But it was never without a purpose. There was a reason behind everything he asked for, always. So when Grayson asked him what he wanted for his birthday he just stared at the man, not quite comprehending.
What's the point?
Damian would have expected irritation or even pity when Grayson finally realized that Damian didn't really understand the concept of wanting something for the sheer pleasure of it. But Grayson had smiled instead, gently, just like always, and explained it thoroughly.
"I can get anything?" Damian asked, "Anything?" he emphasized.
Grayson nodded. "As long as it's humanly possible," he answered with a grin on his face.
Damian looked down, a frown marring his young face, a telltale sign that he was deep in thought. Then reluctantly, as if he wasn't sure what he was doing, he reached out towards Grayson. He blinked, and his hand fell back to his side. "I don't want anything," he lied, looking away from Grayson, knowing the older man would see his lie should they lock gazes.
He wasn't sure that he didn't want for Grayson to see through his lie though.
"I see," Grayson said.
And for a second, Damian felt a pang of disappointment shoot through him. He wished the man would push the issue.
"Alfred, please call my office and the school and tell them we can't go today," Grayson ordered. "Family emergency," he added, winking at Damian.
Unfazed, the old butler merely gave a curt "Yes, sir" in response.
Damian's head snapped up to look at Grayson. "What?" he asked, unable to hide his incredulity.
Grayson grinned cheekily. "Don't be shy, Little D; it's perfectly understandable if you want to spend the day with me. After all, no one can resist my charm."
Damian could only stare at Grayson for a while, before his brain – the part whose job it was to supply him with smartass comebacks — kicked in and he narrowed his eyes. "You wish!" he snarled aggressively, trying his damnedest to suppress the blush he could feel was coming.
Grayson's grin only widened. Damian's eye twitched and he kicked Grayson's shin before turning around and walking away, grumbling about a stupid big brother with too big of a head.
Grayson decided they would spend the day in the amusement park - where half of the rides were too childish for Damian's taste and the others were plain stupid. But Grayson forced him to ride every single of them.
What other choice did Damian have but to obey?
He did NOT enjoy every moment of it. Nope, not at all.
Dick was born a performer. He had learned how to act before anything else in his life - to always smile at the audience, no matter how he actually was feeling.
So it was just too easy for him to smile at anyone at anytime, even when all he wanted to do was to curl up in bed and just forget.
"You shouldn't smile that often."
Grayson blinked, taken aback by the out-of-the-blue and uncharacteristic comment from Damian, before he regained his composure and smiled at the kid. "And why's that?" he asked, humoring him.
Damian just shrugged. "It can't be normal."
Grayson's eyebrows raised in amusement. "And what is normal in our lives?"
Another shrug. "It is impossible, even for you, to feel like smiling all the time."
A thoughtful pause. "Are you saying I shouldn't smile when I don't feel like it?"
"Thanks." Grayson smiled again. But this one was shaky and unsure and on the verge of crumbling down.
"That suits you better."
Dick knew that people talked behind his back – some that were brave enough did it right to his face — that as a Batman, he was failing.
But what did they know? He was doing his best.
Then Damian got kidnapped.
And Dick knew that his best wasn't good enough.
Grayson was a good person, that much Damian knew. He also knew that whatever people said, Grayson was not that nice. The man was capable of some mean verbal insults and even meaner physical assaults when he felt compelled to.
Grayson pinned the kidnapper to the wall, holding him in a chokehold. "That boy," Grayson said, his voice calm, belying the rage simmering underneath. "is mine. Touch him again and I'll kill you."
"Bluff!" the kidnapper scoffed. "You won't kill."
"I won't," Grayson admitted. "Then again, there are fates worse than death, no?" he was smiling then, a gleefully malicious smile.
Trembling, the kidnapper said nothing, not wanting to test whether the Batman was really serious.
People said Grayson was too kind, but when push came to shove, Damian knew the man was capable of being as terrifying as the devil himself.
It was the next night when Todd came to "visit" the cave.
"There are rumors on the street," Todd said casually, though he kept his eyes on Grayson, "They say that the new Bat is just as scary as his predecessor."
"Is that so?" Grayson smiled, though his eyes remained cold.
"Well," Grayson's smile turned into a grin that could easily be described as predatory, bordering, even, on maniacal. "Let the rumors spread."
Todd seemed to be stunned, if only for a second, before he burst out laughing. His laughter echoed eerily in the cave. "We're not all that different, are we? You and I."
Damian just stared at Grayson, hoping that he would understand what the two of them were talking about. But Grayson was not looking at him, his gaze focused solely on Todd, eyes solemn, if tinged with the slightest bit of sadness.
"No, we're not," Grayson simply said. We both will do anything to reach our goals.
Damian knew that since the kidnapping incident Drake had come to be wary of Grayson. As if the man would turn ballistic on them.
Damian snorted. As if.
Grayson might be the devil when it came to villains, but when it came to his family he had too soft a heart.
So while Drake kept his distance. Damian stayed close.
Everyone knew that Damian needed Dick, badly, even if the kid wouldn't admit it. Only a few people, though, knew that Dick needed his kid brother just as much.
Damian was Dick's anchor, the one who grounded him, keeping him from losing himself every night to grief stricken rage.
"You're avoiding me," Damian deadpanned. "Why?"
"Avoiding you?" Grayson parroted with just the right amount of disbelief. "What are you talking about, Damian?" he sounded truly confused and not a little indignant. Just as he should.
He could have fooled anyone with his act. Anyone but Damian, that is.
"Give me some credit, Grayson," Damian rolled his eyes impatiently. "I might be young, but I'm not stupid. I know you're avoiding me. What I want to know is why. Preferably now." He crossed his arms across his chest, letting the older man know that he would not be backing down anytime soon.
Grayson sighed. "I'm not avoiding you, Damian..."
"Then explain to me why you missed breakfast and dinner for ten days in a row!" Damian snapped, temper rising. "Explain to me why I've been forbidden to patrol with you."
"I'm busy. And I don't think you're well enough to patrol," Grayson answered calmly.
"Bull!" Damian snapped. "Are you afraid of me?" Damian asked when Grayson kept silent.
Grayson's head snapped towards him at that. "What? No!" he denied vehemently. "Of course not! What would make you think that?"
"I don't know, maybe because I was raised as an assassin?" Damian asked sarcastically.
Grayson laughed, a genuine laugh, his eyes shining with mirth. "You know what, you're the cutest assassin I've seen. And I've seen plenty." He grinned.
Damian narrowed his eyes. He knew what strategy his guardian was employing: this was classic misdirection.
"Then why are you avoiding me?"
Grayson sighed. "I'm not—"
"And don't lie." Damian cut off heatedly.
"Don't you trust me?"
"I do," Grayson answered, "With my life."
"But not with this?" Damian pushed. "I thought we were partners?"
"I fear for you, dammit!" Grayson snapped.
Damian started, taken aback. That was not the answer he had expected. "Scared for me? Why?"
"I lost control, Damian," Grayson explained through gritted teeth. "I was so angry that there was nothing I wanted but to kill that bastard. What if..." he faltered.
And Damian understood now. "What if you lost control?"
Grayson didn't answer. He didn't need it to. It was clear from the shame-filled look on his face.
"You don't know that." Grayson pointed out calmly.
"Yes I do."
"I can handle myself."
A weary sigh. "What if—"
"Don't you trust me?"
Grayson looked bewildered by the question, though he answered it nonetheless, once again, "With my life."
"Then trust me. I won't let anything happen." Damian said, locking eyes with the older man.
Grayson contemplated this for a while, before sighing. "Just... stay safe, okay?"
Damian was seething. Damn that Harper! How dare he come barging in to the cave, uninvited, and start insulting Grayson? Damn him to the deepest recess of hell!
And why the hell didn't Grayson say anything?
Despite popular belief, Damian knew the man could throw some nasty insults, if only he put his mind to it.
And it dawned on Damian.
Harper was Grayson's friend.
Or at least, Grayson still thought so. Which meant he wouldn't defend himself against him anytime soon.
The job fell to Damian, then.
Without hesitating, Damian pulled the knife tucked under his shirt and threw it at the archer, aiming for his throat. Alerted, Harper stepped aside, the knife whizzing past him.
"Insult my partner once again and I'll kill you," Damian said in his most venomous voice.
"Damian," Grayson said automatically, half-chiding, half-exasperated. In that first moment he had recognized only Damian's tone and the violence of the act preceding. Then the boy's words sank in and he blinked. "What did you just say?" he asked slowly, blinking owlishly as if not quite believing what he had just heard.
"I'll kill him," Damian said in a deadpan, crossing his arms across his chest stubbornly. "In the most brutal way," he added as an afterthought.
Grayson blinked, a smile tugging up his lips. "And before that?"
Damian could not decide which nightmare was his worst: either that of failing Dick and watching him die or the one in which his mother barges in to snatch him away.
His mother came. She asked, no, demanded he be returned to her.
Returned, he spat the word hatefully. As if he were merely a possession instead of a human being with free will.
Teeth gritted, hands clenched tight by his side, Damian was ready to snap at his mother. The only thing stopping him was Grayson's gentle hand on his shoulder, silently asking him to let him handle this. Damian backed away, though half-heartedly.
"I'll let Damian go," Grayson said softly, making Damian's head snap up to look at him, wanting, needing to know if the man was being honest. But Grayson kept his gaze on Talia, refusing to meet Damian's eyes. "On one condition."
"Name it," Talia said, sure that she would be able to fulfill whatever it was he asked, one way or another.
"If Damian wants it," Grayson answered, as if it were obvious. He turned to look at Damian then, lips tugging up in a soft smile, blue eyes compassionate. "Do you want to go?" Damian was so taken aback by the question that for a moment all he could do was stare at Grayson. "It's all up to you, Damian," Grayson prompted at Damian's silence, "whether you want to stay, or leave."
Damian said nothing, but when Grayson let go of his shoulder, as if letting Damian go, instinctively, Damian reached out to Grayson, pulling his hand back. "No!" Damian cried out, not even thinking what he was doing as he did so.
And that was good enough for Grayson, it seemed, as he smiled down at Damian, blue eyes shining with... relief? pride? Damian couldn't tell.
"You heard him," Grayson said, focusing back on Talia.
"He's my son," Talia hissed angrily.
"Was," Grayson countered smoothly, not missing a beat. "Not anymore." He stepped in front of Damian protectively.
"I'll take him back," Talia promised, eyes blazing.
"You can try," Grayson said, head tilted back in a challenge. "You will fail."
Damian stared at Grayson's back, awed. True, Grayson had claimed guardianship over him, but Damian had never thought the man would actually fight his mother for him. After all, it was his fight. And never in his life had someone tried to fight his battles for him. No one could be bothered to. Not that he would let them, of course. Still... It was nice having Grayson defend him.
He took hold of the hem of Grayson's shirt, hoping he could convey his gratitude in that simple gesture. Grayson looked at him over his shoulder and flashed him a bright smile.
Damian knew there was something wrong with Grayson the moment the man came to breakfast.
Grayson was smiling, as usual. But somehow his smile was different. It was less... bright, like there was something burdening him.
Damian frowned, not liking it. Grayson's cheery attitude annoyed him to no end, but this... listlessness was even more annoying.
He was determined to change it - to make Grayson his usual annoyingly cheerful self.
It was the anniversary of his parents' deaths. It had been years. Still, it hurt.
He tried to act normal, if only for Damian's sake.
"Yes?" Dick turned to look at his little brother.
Without saying anything, Damian stepped closer to him and wound his arms around his waist.
Dick just stood there. He was stumped. What?
Then he realized that Damian was hugging him.
Damian, the biological son of the Batman, who was raised as an assassin. Was. Hugging. Him. Voluntarily!
Dick smiled, and put his hand on Damian's back, pulling him closer.
Today looked brighter all of a sudden.
At first, Damian was nothing but "Bruce's child" to him. Then somehow, it changed. It was "my brother" now, and "Little D" instead of plain "Damian".
End of Part I
Thank you for reading. For those waiting for the so called sequel of Villains' Guidelines and/or Things Robin(s) Should Never Do, I'm so sorry. I still don't know if I'll ever finish them. Plot bunnies keep coming and leaving me as they please, never staying long enough for me to write them. Damn them! But worry not, Snapshots is already finished actually, I just choose to divide it to three parts, so I won't leave you hanging for long.
Disclaimer: Nope, still don't own them.