A/N: Hey there! Come on, jump on my little let's-ignore-recent-comic-events-trip and have a nice story about Dick and Damian during their finest hour: as Batman and Robin! This story will mostly deal with Dick and Damian's relationship, but will brush on a few very serious issues on the way. Nothing explicit, no reason for an M-rating. Still, you're warned. This story is betaed by Callypse, who I suspect to be the Flash because she's incredibly fast. If you have to wait for an update, it's 100% my fault.
"The Division Bell" is an album by the awesome band Pink Floyd. One of their greatest, actually. It's main topic is communication or the lack of it. Just as my story, and since I'm terrible at picking titles, I chose to use the song titles. (This is not a songfic, though I highly recommend listening to Pink Floyd ;))
A division bell is a bell rung in parliaments as soon as a 'division', a voting method, takes place.
The Division Bell
Chapter 1: A Great Day for Freedom
Damian watched Grayson pace around the cave anxiously. Still in Batman gear minus the cowl, the cape swung behind him with every swirl and turn.
"Gotham's too dangerous to wander off alone, you know that..."
Damian tuned out the well-known sermon. He knew what was bound to come: 'There're too many madman out there, Damian.' 'You're too inexperienced, Lil' D.' 'I only care about you, Dami.' Grayson was still bleeding from a stab wound to the shoulder, leaving a trail of blood splatter everywhere he went. Damian had tried to point that out, but the idiot had just snapped at him and went on with his scolding.
Damian couldn't care less. If the moron wanted to pass out from blood loss and hit his head, it really wasn't his problem. He had tons of others; Damian smirked mirthlessly and recalled the meeting with his mother just a couple of hours ago.
His fists clenched painfully. She had replaced him. With a clone.
Damian felt the familiar rage bubbling up inside of him, choking him. After all her talk of 'love' and 'devotion' for her precious son, she had replaced him as soon she believed to have seen a flaw in Damian.
"...do you have any idea how worried I was? I've been looking everywhere for you and still..."
How detached she had sounded... though Damian had been so glad to see her. He had missed her dearly, even if he'd never admit it. Had missed her soft hands and proud posture. True, Damian had chosen to stay in the manor and be Robin, to leave his mother, but that didn't mean he hadn't missed her.
You are a fool, a voice in his head hissed, to believe that she would miss you, too. She had always possessed the ability to create another child, a better child. Damian knew his mother still kept samples of the DNA that created him – but stupid as he apparently was, he had believed she just wouldn't use it.
With a lot of willpower, Damian managed to unclench his fists and stared down at his hands. His nails had dug deep into his palms, angry red marks beginning to fade. Could she really replace him? Or was she trying to improve him? He remembered all the times she had told him she loved him, was proud of his achievements. Were they lies? Or had she stopped loving him?
"...just because the Joker is in Arkham doesn't mean we can stop being careful..."
Damian redirected his glance towards the one other person who had claimed to love him, and felt his lips compressing. Grayson was standing now, rubbing his tired eyes while rambling on. The idiot had no idea about Damian's meeting with his mother, and Damian had no intention to change that. During patrol he had gotten a signal from his mother and followed it immediately. Batman and Robin reunited near the cave after merely an hour of separation, and Grayson's reaction to his absence was completely unnecessary. He was perfectly capable of taking care of himself for a few minutes, but Grayson had insisted on making a scene as soon as they had stepped into the cave.
That wasn't anything out of the ordinary so far. Grayson shouting at him, pacing around while pulling at his hair occurred more often than not. Drake's disappearance two months ago had hit him hard, Damian knew, and his thread of patience was wearing thin and thinner.
They had begun to 'discuss' the topic as usual: Dick desperately trying to explain 'teamwork', Damian answering with spiteful insults. One day, he believed, Grayson would finally get it and accept Damian's way. He was no child, didn't need a brother or partner to back him up. He had sworn not to kill and was serious about that; no need to observe him on that matter either.
It had been when Grayson had pinched his nose in annoyance and begun his argument with the well-trodden phrase "I worry about you, Dami...", that Damian's defenses came up. Grayson said things like that all the time, but now it had catapulted him right back in front of his mother, who told him she was breeding another son to 'make things right.'
Grayson's open display of feelings had always made Damian uncomfortable. People didn't worry about him. They worried about his performance, about the future of the family or their plans, but not about his well-being. He had never learned to deal with the sappy emotions of a sappy imbecile, and frankly, Damian didn't want to deal with them, especially not after his mother had just basically told him to go to hell.
"Nothing happened, alright?" Damian mumbled, annoyed, more to himself than to Grayson.
The idiot heard him, of course. "But something could have happened, and I had no chance of finding you with your tracker off!"
Damian '-tt-'ed and rolled his eyes, but Grayson never got the hint. He just kept on rambling about family and responsibility and when he started to say that he cared about Damian too much to let him wander around Gotham alone, Damian felt how his temper got the better of him.
"You realize that I only got away because you didn't pay attention, right?"
Dick stopped right in his tracks, interrupted by Damian's insolent comment. "That's not the point," he said finally, eyes narrowing. "This is about your behaviour."
His own mother had lied to him about love and family – his mother. As if he could ever believe Grayson, who wasn't even related to him by blood. He didn't need to hear another blatant lie, especially not from the person who was responsible for all this mess. If Grayson hadn't offered him the mantle of Robin, Damian wouldn't have stayed in Gotham. He knew he was too young yet to take the cowl, and being Robin was the closest he could get to his father's legacy. Neither Todd nor Pennyworth or Drake would have let him stay, no doubt about that. Grayson had been generous and Damian had accepted the offer, only to disappoint his mother and jeopardize his legacy thus.
"If you were only half as capable as Father was -"
"We're not discussing my performance, Damian," Grayson interjected, obviously distressed. He crossed his arms to look resolute. Idiot.
A razor-sharp smirk appeared on Damian's face. "Because that would take too long?"
"Because you need to listen to me."
"How could I listen to gypsy trash?" Damian asked with an evil smile and was pleased to see Grayson flinch at the unexpected turn of the conversation... It was so easy to wind him up, really. Grayson stared at him out of wide, surprised eyes, and Damian felt a rush of reassurance wash over him. He was in power now, he had this under control. "I still don't understand how my father could be foolish enough to take you in. Maybe your mother did some magic trick on him in that dirty circus of yours?"
"Damian!" Angry now, Grayson raised his voice in indignation.
All it took to make Grayson fly off the handle were a few derogatory comments about his parents and his heritage. Mixed with a few well-aimed punches at his and Father's issues, and he was spitting fire. It was so easy, and it felt so good to lash out. Grayson had forgotten the cause of their argument entirely by now, and Damian couldn't resist the push of adrenaline. A conversation he overheard during the last charity event of Wayne Industries popped up in his mind. He recalled Francis Bolton's whispered remarks, spoken through a lot of very expensive wine.
"Why so surprised Grayson? Isn't that what you gypsies do to screw wealthy people off money?"
"What the hell are you talking about!?"
It was so easy. Before he knew what he was doing, the next words slipped out, the words of his mother. "I'm talking about you taking away my legacy."
"Taking away your legacy?!" Grayson took a step back as if he had been slapped."Damian, I never took anything from you!"
"You're wearing my father's cowl, even though you'll never be good enough compared to a Wayne."
The words were pouring out, Bolton's, his mother's, and Damian breathed in the triumph of watching Grayson's hands ball into fists. He didn't need his mother, he didn't need Grayson, he could do this all on his own, better than any of them.
"Damian, I swear if you don't stop talking right now-"
"I shouldn't be surprised, right?" Francis Bolton had leaned heavily over the equally drunk Janette Reese and looked at her conspiringly before whispering the next words. "Your folk never managed to put up a good fight. What happened in Europe was just what you deserved."
Damian had been right beside Bolton and Reese that night, but hidden in the shadows. The two drunken idiots hadn't noticed him, too intoxicated and dimwitted. Damian had just wanted to get a break from the phoniness and snobbery, but the way those two had whispered while shooting looks in his brother's direction had attracted his interest. Reese had started to giggle madly after Bolton's remark, trying ineffectually to hide her excitement behind a hand clasped to her mouth, and Damian was left wondering if he had heard right. He didn't know what might have happened to any gypsies in Europe – during the excitement of their fight right now, the words had come automatically.
Obviously he had understood the wealthy man correctly, for the words seemed to have ultimate impact on Grayson. Drawing a sharp breath, his 'brother' took a step backward.
"..what?" he asked, a mixture of defiance and disbelief. "What did you just say?"
"You heard me well, Grayson."
He was waiting for Grayson's return, but none came. Dick was simply staring at him, kind of lost, shocked and hurt at the same time. Damian felt the satisfaction bubbling up – finally he had made the idiot shut up and actually take his words seriously. The next time he met his mother, he swore, he'd do the same with her. They wouldn't take him for a stupid child ever again.
Dick still hadn't said anything, nor moved. Damian's triumphant smirk slowly dissolved when he felt the skin of his face itch; Grayson kept staring at him, not even blinking.
Then suddenly, he nodded. "Okay," he said silently, voice barely above a whisper. "I see."
His gaze shifted a few inches above Damian's face, but never lost its confusing expression. With a few long, swift strides, Dick walked past Damian, without a further word or glance. Damian turned around to watch him make his way over to the stairs to the manor, unclasping the cape and discarding it unceremoniously beside the first step.
"Don't you have anything more to say?" Damian called after him, unsettled by the sudden change in the older man's behaviour. Dick never so much as slowed down.
"You should at least try to defend your heritage, Grayson!"
"Pennyworth does not tolerate suits upstairs!"
The rain was drumming on his head, and Dick flicked his wrist to get rid of a damp strand of hair that kept falling into his eyes. It was the first movement in what felt like forever.
Years of silent stakeouts and kidnapping had trained Dick to rely on his feeling of time without any devices, and now he guessed he had been standing on the rooftop of Wayne Manor for at least 2 hours. Being up high always helped him calm down and think, and from here, even Gotham looked like a peaceful, beautiful bubble that radiated light.
His feet were aching. It fit well with the pounding of his head and the pain in the shoulder he still hadn't taken care of. After walking out on Damian, Dick had swiftly changed in his room and headed for the roof. Alfred's glare followed him, but the old butler knew him too well – if Dick headed out on the roof at this weather, he needed to think...
...to think about Damian.
Dick sighed, for the upteenth's time. Damian. Things needed to change, and they needed to change fast.
He shifted his glance from Gotham to the few plain crosses on the estate that were visible from up here. Bruce's grave still looked out of place to Dick, and it still gave him a pang every time he saw it. It had been almost a year now, and he still wasn't used to Bruce's absence.
Tim was gone, too. Stormed out of the Manor and refused to talk to him. Dick didn't know if he was alive and well, he only hoped that Barbara had an eye on the boy. Jason was off somewhere, far away from Gotham.
That basically left Dick alone in Gotham, alone with Damian. In a town he didn't want to be in with a kid he wasn't able to raise. Who didn't want to be raised by him, most importantly, and let him know at every opportunity.
And Dick was growing sick of it, sick of being sick and tired. He had been running low for a while now, and never seemed to get a break.
'you'll never be good enough compared to a Wayne.'
It wasn't by far the first time Damian had thrown that in his face, and like always, Dick couldn't argue – he wasn't as good as Bruce. Damian had never made a secret out of his discontent with the new Batman, and attacking Dick's heritage was common strategy. So his words had cut deep, but the one thing different this time was Dick himself.
He just wasn't up to more fighting, more insults. If he kept going at this rate, Dick knew he would simply collapse. Wayne Industries, Batman, parenting a child and trying to stay Dick Grayson at the same time were wearing him out.
"He didn't mean what he said," a heavy British dialect disturbed his musing. Alfred.
"You heard it?"
Dick turned his head slightly to look at the old butler. Alfred was leaning out of the window of the uppermost story, a few metres away from where Dick stood.
"No," he said, shaking his head, "but I know the two of you. He's angry, Dick, and he doesn't know how to deal with it."
Usually Alfred's counsel helped to calm him down. He usually told him that he did well with Damian and soothed his worries about being a complete failure as a parental figure. The problem was that Alfred had never raised a kid like Damian, as Dick remembered on bad days: Dick had been younger when he came, and too afraid of being sent back to the orphanage to open his mouth. Tim was already a teenager when he came living at the Manor, and Jason had been rough and angry, but never as vicious as Damian could be.
Dick loved the kid, truly, dearly. After all Damian had been through, he wanted to give him a family, a home, and happiness... but slowly but steadily, Dick started to wonder if he was even able to do that.
"He said my folk deserved the porajmos*."
'What happened in Europe was just what you deserved.'
Alfred let out an audible breath. "An ill timing, only a few days after your parents' death's anniversary. But it only emphasizes what I just said: he didn't mean what he said."
No, he didn't, Alfred was right. Dick knew when Damian was lying, and the boy clearly hadn't had any idea about what he was saying back then. Probably heard it somewhere and used it on this special occasion to hurt him. It stank of Francis Bolton, the head of Bolton & Sons, or maybe Loreena Hughes, Bolton's ex-wife.
Damian had probably been groping for words that hurt him – Dick still didn't know why – and that was even worse. Dick could deal with over-dramatic reactions to grounding or wrong decisions in the field. Damian often said things without meaning them or without a complete understanding of the impact his words had. He had not been trained in social skills; but intentionally inflicting pain no matter what was a new, more serious action.
"I don't know what to do with him anymore, Alfred," Dick sighed, turning towards the city's lights again.
"You're doing fine, Master Richard. He'll be a happy child as soon as he grows more comfortable in his new surroundings."
But Damian had been living in 'new' surroundings for about a year now, and his bad behaviour had only increased. Just today he had disappeared into thin air, leaving Dick to roam the streets of Gotham frantically for hours. Every attempt to reach out to the boy had been interrupted with harsh words or harsher actions. After almost a year of trying, Dick was running out of ideas and energy.
"Right now I don't worry about him being happy," he admitted silently. "I just want him to stay alive."
Things needed to change, fast.
*porajmos (also Porrajmos, Pharrajimos) is the Romani word for the Romani Holocaust. During WWII, 220,00 - 1,500,000 Roma were killed in Europe, though the exact number is impossible to define.