A/N: Hello m'dears… I hope the week has been a good one for you!
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"Tt," Damian muttered as he sat scowling at the cold, white world outside his bedroom window. He'd been sitting in this spot, staring at the same partition of road, waiting for the same person to come home for the last five and a half hours. His body and brain had started telling him to give up over an hour ago, that he needed to sleep so he could take that stupid biology exam in the morning, that it was pointless to sit here when Kean wasn't coming home anytime soon anyway, and redundant for him to lose sleep because Grayson couldn't swallow his pride long enough in order to go and get her. Damian refused to move from his position in front of the window, though. To move would, in his mind, be akin to giving up on them. It would be like saying he was losing hope in them. It would mean having to admit he was wrong about them.
And Damian Wayne was many things, but wrong was never one of them.
So why, then, was he twisted up in a dozen different sized knots?
The simple answer was because his world had been flipped completely upside down and turned nearly inside out. Grayson's complete mishandling of things with Kean had created a chasm between the two that was almost wider than the Grand Canyon. And Damian did not like it one iota. He didn't like whenever Raya and Dick were merely at odds with each other. He didn't like when they were mad at each other. He found he liked them walking around so miserable even less.
"Tt," he muttered again as he slouched deeper in his chair, his mouth screwing up into a sneer. "You just had to go and foul things up, didn't you, Grayson?"
Even he'd been appalled by the when, where and how of Grayson's proposal. He knew Kean would balk the moment she heard the word marriage. He should have anticipated that her reaction would not be the blubbering one most of the women in those stupid romantic comedies Brown made him watch seemed to have whenever a guy popped the question. He should have handled things much more delicately, approached the situation with caution and logic and shut his rapid fire mouth off. He hadn't, though and so here they were.
Oh, he didn't hold Grayson as solely responsible for the vat of chaos he'd been dumped into. No, Kean was just as much at fault as Grayson for the twisted balls of agony he currently was in. They were both acting like complete idiots in his mind. Grayson was being stupid by allowing Kean to avoid him like she was. And Kean was stupid for believing that by telling him the truth about what really happened the night her mother was murdered that he would stop loving her.
"Fffff," was his response to that bit of inanity.
Grayson had a shopping list of his own faults and drawbacks. He could be selfish. He could be cold-hearted and cruel. He could be inflexible about listening or accepting anybody's opinion but his own. He could be reckless and blind when it came to someone hurting a member of the family. Dick also had a habit of shoving people away from him. Damian knew it was mostly so he could protect them and himself from being hurt, but it was also the way he dealt with his anger, frustration, fears and stress.
Grayson also had Father's intendancy to bury himself in a case just so he could avoid dealing with complicated interpersonal situations (as well as his own feelings). All of the psychological traumas he'd endured throughout his life, coupled with the things he'd seen and done as Robin (and later, Nightwing) had made him develop the same icy shell that encased Batman (and Bruce Wayne). It was the defense mechanism that kept him from being sucked down into the emotional hell that a great many of those housed in Arkham Asylum lived in.
Yet he also knew that Grayson was a man in possession of deep emotions (much as Father was). He felt keenly for the people he allowed close to him and about the people he chose to do his best to protect.
And the one thing Damian knew with one hundred percent certainty was that Richard Grayson loved Raya Kean (and vice versa).
It wasn't something he'd understood at first, the unconditional love the two had for each other. Gradually, he'd come to understand that they cared for each other, and about each other. By watching Raya and Dick he'd learned what it was to care about someone else's feelings and well-being. He discovered how doing things that made someone other than himself happy could also bring him the greatest of pleasure. Small touches or glances could convey thoughts, wants, needs or feelings. Love meant loving someone in spite of their flaws, and despite their strengths. Love was uncertainty, and confusion. It was a burning feeling in the pit of the belly, and a type of agitation that beating up thugs didn't cure. It was a mind-numbing fear for someone's safety, and a willingness to do whatever was necessary to see the other survive.
"Love, Master Damian," Alfred had told him when he'd demanded an explanation for the unusual feelings careening around inside of him, "is when one feels so much for a person that it overwhelms nearly everything else."
Damian had thought it felt absolutely terrible.
Then he'd come to realize how love was only terrible when the people you cared for were away. He'd realized that his happiest moments during the long months Father had been gone were the ones he'd spent with Raya and Dick. He was happy when he was with them.
And he'd come to realize how they were only happy, truly happy, when they were together, as well.
Three Years Ago.
He loved listening to her sing.
Not that he would ever admit it, of course.
As Damian watched Raya mop (something he felt Pennyworth should be doing) the front entry hall floor from his vantage point upon the stairs, he found himself coming to realize just how much he loved listening to her when she would sing.
And he most especially loved listening to her when she sang this song.
This hauntingly sweet, achingly sad song that seemed to fill the Manor's cavernous halls with the voices of a hundred women uplifted in synchronous harmony.
He didn't know the words of the song, nor even its title.
He didn't know what language she was singing the song in, or whether it was even a real song for that matter.
All Damian knew was that when Raya sang this song, the Manor no longer echoed with a burning silence. Nor was the Manor wrapped in the arms of the cold shadows that always seemed to slither across the floors. The tangled web of memories that hung over the house were chased away by her dulcet tones. And the dark secrets hidden deep within the Manor's brick and wooden infrastructure were again locked in their cages. But he'd learned that it was not just this song, or her voice that brought about the changes in the Manor.
It was her.
In the month since his father's return, Damian had come to understand that the dozens of little things that Raya said or did was what caused a change, not only in the Manor, but in the people who inhabited it as well. Now the manner in which she did things was no longer strange to him, had become more of a familiar that felt right for her place within his family. Raya was reason and authority. She was truth and justice. She was intellect, pride, and passion. She fostered his independence and challenged his intellect, nurtured his desire to experiment with new thoughts or ideas.
She was his lookout while he stole a sword from Todd.
His alibi when he dropped a bucket of paint filled water balloons on Drake.
His co-conspirator in the Manor's sudden series of cookie jar heists.
His partner in midnight pillow wars with Grayson.
And the bridge between him and the father who was largely still a stranger.
In Raya he'd found something he'd thought he only had in Grayson: a friend.
Damian had found he liked having her around. Whenever Raya was in residence at the Manor it became a place suddenly sparkling with hope and happiness, whose mortar seams were near to bursting with love and laughter. And it became something more than just the haunted domicile in which he resided.
It became home.
Yup, he thought, resting his cheek against the cool railing while he listened to her sing the song he so loved. She made the Manor home. But the only way to keep her home (where she belonged) was to convince her that she needed to move back into the Manor. He found himself now asking himself one important question, how?
He didn't have a clue.
A piece of paper waving in front of his face drew him out of his pensive reverie. He looked first at the paper, and then up at the man who was holding the paper between his fingertips.
"What is this, Grayson?"
"The words to what Raya's singing," Dick Grayson said before settling himself on the stair next to him. "I figured you might like knowin' just what it is she's actually sayin', given how much you love listening to her sing this particular song."
That Grayson had known he was curious about the lyrics of Raya's song did not surprise Damian any. As he had come to know and understand Raya Kean, so had he come to know and understand Richard Grayson. And just like Raya, Dick just had a knack at getting him. He knew when he wanted to know something and was being too prideful and stubborn to simply ask for the information. He took the paper and quickly scanned it. He then looked at Dick with a slightly annoyed expression upon his face.
"This is in Gaelic, Grayson."
Dick gave him a cheeky grin. "Ya didn't drop me any hint about wanting it to be translated, Dami."
Damian tapped his fingers in unrestrained impatience upon his knee. And silently contemplated the consequences involved for either kicking him in the shin or punching him in the side. He opted to do neither because of how it would displease the woman down below. He did cut him a look that eloquently said how he found him quite annoying at that moment. All Dick did was give him that goofy grin of his.
Realizing he would not get his answer otherwise, he sighed and asked in a grumpy voice, "What is it that she is saying, Grayson?"
Dick settled more comfortably upon the stair before replying.
"She's saying, 'to the Goddess, I do pray. To grant me power, and the strength to fight. Banish this curse, hold back the night. And with these words, fill this home with eternal light'."
Damian mulled the words over silently. He thought it interesting that she was singing a Wiccan incantation rather than an actual song. Why she was chanting a spell remained a mystery, though. One it interested him to solve. Raya, much like the rest of the family, did not openly practice any type of religious affiliation. Her choosing something so spiritual in nature was...bizarre. Interesting, he had to admit. But bizarre. He angled his head to look down first at Raya, and then over at Dick, an unspoken question in his eyes.
"She's always been intrigued by mysticism, shamanism and magic," came the automatic and amused reply. "She spent hours researching the subject when we were kids."
"You'll have to ask her that. I don't actually know what intrigued Raya about magic and shamanism and mysticism. However," he added when Damian heaved a sigh, "If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say some of it is about feminine empowerment."
There were lots of things Damian wanted to ask Raya. There were a multitude of things that he wanted to say to her, that he wanted to do with her, in fact. The problem was that he didn't know how to go about saying or asking any of those things. How am I supposed to ask if she will take me to the Museum when I can't even ask her for a glass of water without insulting her?
Oh, but he wanted to learn. Desperately in fact. But to do that... he tilted his head against Dick's shoulder and sighed softly.
"I want her to come live at the Manor again, Grayson."
If Dick was surprised by the admission he didn't show it. No, he just draped an arm around his shoulders and said softly, "I know, Dami. Me too."
Raya chose that moment to cross to the stairs and slowly wave a mug back and forth in front of Dick.
"Coffee, bird boy?"
Damian felt more than saw Dick's eyes shift, landing on her and then on the cup she held in her hands. Without hesitation he took the mug, drank to clear away the sleep fog still thick in his voice.
"Babe, have I told you how much I love you lately?"
"Yes, you told me how much you love me yesterday morning," she replied dryly. "Right after I brought you coffee and breakfast in bed."
"That's not why I was saying I love you, Rae," Dick said with a waggle of his eyebrows.
"Little ears, ya ass."
"What?" He grinned down at Damian. "Dami knows about my obsession with your waffles."
"And we all know you'd spill state secrets for my waffles."
"Nah-uh," he stated right before he grabbed hold of her t-shirt and tugged her down on the stair in front of him. "And that's final."
She settled back against him before saying, "Whatever ya say, buzzard beak." Her lips twitched then. "Fact is you tell everyone who brings ya coffee that ya love them."
"I love you most of all, Rae."
"Ya better," she retorted saucily. "I'd take away your coffee if'n ya didn't." Then her face softened and she leaned up to place a kiss to Dick's lips. "And I love you, too... jerk."
"See that, Dami?" Dick complained. "Woman tells me she loves me while insulting me."
"I'm allowed to insult you."
"Oh?" Dick drawled. "And why is that?"
"Because I've had to put up with you for all these years."
Damian watched their interplay in silence. He liked watching them when they were together. Their playful banter and physical displays of affection were not things his mother would have allowed. There were lots of things he'd learned from them that he hadn't during his time with the tutors his mother had hired. Like the complicated nature of male and female relationships. By simply observing the two of them he'd come to understood there was more to relationships than business associates or partnerships.
There was a genuine affection between them, and a kind of friendship that allowed for them to say, or do anything without fear that it would cause their relationship irreparable harm. Raya frequently called Dick out when he was being thoughtlessly cruel or hardheaded. Same as Dick did whenever she was being extremely foolish and unnecessarily reckless.
He'd often wondered why, considering the genuine feelings between them, that they were still only calling each other friends. They were a couple to his way of thinking. But he didn't ask them why, figured that it was another of those questions that would receive the patented "when you're older" response. So deep was he in his thoughts that it took him a full minute to realize that Raya had spoken to him.
"What?" he only barely remembered to sneer. "Did you decide to finally include me in this little conversation you were having with Grayson?"
"I asked if there is anything that you would like me to make for dinner tonight."
It was not a question that he found he could simply shrug off or coat in his usual wall of disdain. It was a question that carried hundreds (if not thousands) of yummy possibilities. His reaction was ridiculous, he knew. Pennyworth made him anything that he desired to eat. But there were things, wonderfully sinful and delectably mouth-watering things, that Raya knew how to cook that the butler did not. Like...
"Pad Thai," he announced with a nod. Then he added, his voice silky smooth, "With green tea ice cream for dessert."
Dick ruffled his hair. "Way to think on your feet."
Raya made a soft sound, between a snicker and a hmm before she snagged Dick's mug and took a small sip of the slightly bitter brew. Dick growled playfully and snatched his mug back from her.
"Mine," he said sternly. "Don't touch."
One brow arched. "Did Bruce somehow forget to teach you the age old lesson about sharing with others?" she asked dryly.
"Considering how Bruce doesn't share well with others," he replied as he set the mug far out of her reach. "Least of all when it comes to his first cup of morning coffee, no."
"Anyway," she said with a roll of her eyes. "I can handle making both Pad Thai and a batch of homemade green tea ice cream," she slanted a look at Damian and smiled. "But we'll have to run to the store for a few of the things that we'll need. And you know the rule about if I have to go to the store..."
Outwardly, Damian responded by rolling his eyes and snapping, "Yes, I know the rule, Kean," before he got to his feet and stomped up the stairs.
Inwardly though, it was taking every ounce of his willpower to not scream and shout as he raced down the hall. That he was excited to do something as lame and boring as grocery shopping horrified him. However, just the chance to have a few hours alone with Raya more than made up for the embarrassment that going grocery shopping with her might cause him.
None of them were happy right now. And out of all of them, he knew that the two people who meant the most to him outside of Father and Pennyworth were the unhappiest about their separation. Well, he'd fix that. He'd bring the Fenix home this time.
And then he'd lock her and Grayson in their bedroom until they got all this marriage nonsense worked out.
Fired by his purpose, Damian strode out of his bedroom, down the hall, moving with the rush of youthful impetuousness. He heard voices as he passed his father's study and realized Grayson was likely briefing his father on what information he had uncovered about this new prison project. I don't have much time, he thought as he headed down the stairs. If he was quick, he could get to Drake's, retrieve Kean and be back before anybody knew he was even gone. He moved through the house, into the kitchen where something baked in the oven that had his mouth watering, and out the front door, followed only by his loyal companion, a big black dog named Titus.