Chapter 9: Keep Talking
-a month later-
Damian wasn't surprised when Grayson stomped down the stairs into the hallway, two heavy suitcases in his hands. In fact, no one was surprised – Alfred raised a skeptical eyebrow and handed a five dollar bill to Drake, who was grinning smugly. Father wasn't with them; he had stormed into the cave after the last argument.
So it was happening now; Damian had anticipated it since Dick's head wound had healed three weeks ago. He wasn't naïve enough to ever think that he and Grayson would still be partners once Bruce Wayne had returned, but he had enjoyed the time they got nonetheless. As soon as Grayson had recovered, he and Damian's father had tried to work something out – there were two Batmen around for a while, driving Gotham's villains crazy, and Robin had joined both of them for a time.
Needless to say, thinks didn't work out. While both Batmen were serious and efficient during patrol, Grayson and Father resembled a volcanic catastrophe when they had to interact without the cowls on. 'Normal,' Drake had called it in a precious moment when both men had to stop screaming to gasp for air; 'arguing,' Damian would call it. They wound each other up so quickly Damian usually didn't even pick up the subtle vibes or changes in tone that preceded the sudden screaming matches. Afterwards they both stomped away – Dick onto the roof, Father down into the cave. Complete opposites.
Not that his father was a bad person – he was just different than Grayson. He was quiet, but Damian was okay with that. Bruce Wayne made his words count, and that was certainly a quality to be valued. The only problem was that those words were almost exclusively spoken when the topic centred around the mission and Gotham. It was driving Dick mad just as it had Damian when the roles were reversed.
It was like a revelation to the boy, who couldn't help but wonder how stupid he had been to ask Grayson to act more like his Father. Apart from the fact that he didn't know Bruce Wayne back then, it must have been a cruel offence to Grayson to demand him to perform a U-turn in his personality – no wonder he had been so pissed off at Damian.
Things made so much sense, now that his Father was back and Damian could observe which personality traits and habits Grayson had picked up to resemble him. Speaking only when he had to. Hiding his praise in dubious lectures. Testing his partners again and again without telling them if they did anything right or wrong. Damian couldn't help but feel a bit of satisfaction when he watched that Dick too couldn't handle it any better than he had. Worse, actually, if anyone bothered to ask the boy. It was appalling how fast Dick lost his gentleness and patience when it came to the original Batman, while Bruce, usually such a controlled and quiet man, wasn't able to keep himself from firing back.
His father was still a complete enigma to Damian, who was still trying to find out if Batman or Bruce Wayne was the disguise. He would have settled for Batman, since all he ever got from the man were short sentences and Batglares, but there were different glimpses of emotions and character traits when he argued with Grayson. Damian had seen regret, offence and hurt for the tiniest moments, which were emotions the Batman didn't feel.
Basically, Damian only spent time with his father during patrol. It wasn't Bruce's fault – he had to come up with a ridiculous story of where he had been during the last year and had to work his way back into Wayne Industries and Gotham's situation. He chased criminals over Gotham's rooftops most of the night and spent the few precious hours he was at home sleeping. It was logical, reasonable and effective, but Damian still felt like there should be a little bit more effort to get to know his son.
Grayson thought so, too, and was never too shy to voice it. Damian knew that many of the arguments and verbal attacks were about him. For Damian's sake Dick had stayed around longer than necessary, but needless to say it didn't work out. They were both leaders, neither able to accept the other's authority – when Grayson grew out of Robin, he grew out for good, and a year of being the Batman hadn't exactly staunched his natural leadership abilities. Father on the other hand was used to good little soldiers and solitude for too long. He didn't know how to deal with Dick's steady presence, while Dick on the other hand needed company, talking, touches.
Damian didn't want Dick to leave, but it was the only logical solution. He was sure that as soon as there were three hours of motorway between them, Grayson and Father would work with each other brilliantly and go back to talking about the other with the highest praise.
Still, he wasn't happy to see Grayson leave.
"You're finally leaving," he observed once Dick had made it down the stairs, cursing and huffing all the way. Absorbed in his multi-lingual cussing, his former mentor hadn't even noticed the three people in the living room and had the decency to look a little bit embarrassed.
"Dami..." he began with regret, but obviously didn't know what to say.
"You're going back to Blüdhaven."
He was missing his old life, his own city, his own persona. Grayson never wanted to be Batman; he had chosen Nightwing as his alter ego, consciously distancing himself from Gotham and its protector. His obvious dismissal of Father's approach had always thrown a shadow on Batman and Robin's partnership, and the tension was almost unbearable once Bruce was back. Damian's run with his Father would be easier once Grayson was gone, taking all the old resentments between him and Batman with him.
"I will still be around often, I promise," Dick said now, looking sadly down at the boy he had raised for a year. Damian had a foreboding that a hug was coming his way, and took a precautionary step back.
"Does Master Bruce know you're leaving?" The butler's voice made the old dynamic duo look up.
"Well, I kinda shouted it after him..."
"Just call once you arrived, I'm sure he'll understand," Drake said easily and moved to give Dick a quick hug goodbye.
"You take care, yeah?" Grayson ruffled the teen's hair with an affectionate smile.
"I hope you don't expect me to clean up the mess you left in the computer files," Damian piped up sourly and glared at Drake, who just huffed and stepped away from Grayson. Good.
"Master Dick never cleaned up any mess he left anywhere," Pennyworth answered and grabbed one of the suitcases to carry it to the car. He and Grayson shared a grin, and then it was Damian's time to say goodbye.
Grayson knelt down to reach eye level and immediately ruffled Damian's hair, too. "You know this has nothing to do with you, right?"
"-tt-, of course it doesn't."
"Your father is just such a pighead, it's driving me mad."
"I noticed. I'm sure he would say the same thing about you."
"Yeah, you're probably right." Grayson flashed him a bright grin. "I'll visit, and then we'll patrol together, okay?"
"That... would be acceptable."
"And I'll buy you ice cream and we'll visit the zoo. You've never been to the pets corner, have you?You'll love it – there are rabbits and guinea pigs, and sometimes even goats or ponies!"
"Grayson..." he growled, appalled, and Grayson laughed and pulled him into a hug. Reluctantly, Damian brought up his arms and returned the embrace.
"You can always call me, right?" Dick pulled back and was all serious now. "If there's a problem, I'll come back immediately."
"Yeah, I know," Damian said and sent a smug look at Drake. Maybe the idiot could turn out to be useful after all.
"Any serious problem," Grayson corrected with rolling eyes. Damian nodded. He would make it serious, no problem there.
Three and a half hours later, Damian grabbed his phone and texted Grayson. He had just checked the traffic news – no traffic jams or accidents on the road to Blüdhaven, and Dick was usually driving fast anyway. He was home now certainly.
'14.35pm: Grayson, you need to return at once.'
Two seconds later, he heard Drake's annoying ring tone. Crap. After three minutes, his phone buzzed.
'14.38pm: I just talked to Tim. Nice try, kiddo.'
'14.39pm: It's not about Drake.'
'14.39pm: B.'ll come around, u need to give him time.'
'14.40pm: My mother took my DNA and cloned me because I failed her.'
'14.42pm: LOL! Ur mother's not that stupid!'
'14.46pm: Shit, r u serious?!
'14.47pm: I'm on my way.'
Damian grinned. Very good. Now he only needed to teach Buddy how to ruin Drake's shoes.
A/N: aaaand that's it! Thank you for reading and reviewing. This story has been a lot of fun. After Lifelines, it really felt good to write a shorter, more light-hearted story like TDB (lol, at least it was more light-hearted to me ;) ). I used this story to learn how to write a complex character like Damian, and to show character growth. I used a lot of small techniques to portray it, like Damian calling Dickiebird 'Grayson' in the beginning, 'Richard' when it realizes that he actually misses him, and 'Dick' once they made up again (only in his head, of course). Did anyone even notice that?^^
I also learned a lot about story writing, like DON'T TRY TO WRITE CANON IF YOU DON'T KNOW THE CANON! I finally got around to read the Red Robin Comics in Marseille, and argh. I didn't know that they lived in the Batbunker and not in the Cave or the Manor (why?), or that Bruce Wayne was never officially dead and they used Thomas Elliot (which makes soooo much sense). Also I was super mad at myself when I read that Damian once cut Timmy's lines. WTF? Here I try to built some super-stupid racism-related argument between Dami and Dick to make Dick really furious, when all the while Damian cut the lines of one member of Dick's family?! OMG I can only hope someone will write THAT story, Dick must have been so disappointed and terrified.. ah well, on the other hand I got around to brush a few topics I really want to write about one day, like sexual violence and racism. They are pretty delicate, and it was very interesting to read your reactions.
I'd like to comment on two issues that caused a bit of controversies. The first is the idea that it was actually Dick who suffered the most from his and Damian's deal. Actually, I think that's not right – of course he wasn't happy about it and it hurt him to be so cold towards his little bro, but I tried to show that Dick is cleverer than that. He was cold towards Damian, but used his other friendships with Steph, Roy and Wally and Babs to stay true to himself (in the end, that is an issue of interpretation, and both versions are legit!). The second controversy was about Dick's one night stand, and related, the fact that it wasn't Babs! So first of all, it only happened because I wanted Dick to have some fun in a way that would piss off Damian. In my opinion, having sex is not that big of a deal so I didn't think about how 'well' it fitted to Dick's character. I was a bit surprised that so many of you thought the lady was Babs! :D To he honest, I never even thought about her. That is because 1) I am hopelessly un-romantic and 2) Babs didn't have a proper role in this story and I like her too much to have her only appear as 'one of Dick Grayson's flings'. It wouldn't do her justice, she's a way too strong character! … does that make sense? oO
To the poll! It's closed now, and the winner is the 'Bruce needs to be saved by Officer Grayson' story! With only one percent! Thanks for everyone who participated. Since the Commissioner Gordon-prompt was leading almost the entire time, I didn't even begin to think about a plot for the winner, lol, so I might need a bit to come up with something. I may take a while since it involves Dick in uniform and that usually makes me retreat into my own world of heavy fangirlism and unfinished sentences that start with 'OMG I can't even'...
Another announcement at the end: I decided to write a Lifelines sequel, already began to plot, and hopefully come around to posting in only a few weeks :D See you then!