Holidays were something Damian might have read about, but never really experienced first hand. He had a pretty solid grasp on what the major ones were all about, but he had a slightly worse understanding about others.
In this case, Father's Day.
Oh, he understood the concept of honoring one's father well enough, but witnessing the bewildered look on the boy's face, his brothers could agree that it was the how that escaped him.
“You think it's like with a puppy?” Tim commented to Dick. They were on their way back from the graveyard after visiting their respective biological parents. It had become somewhat of a tradition for the adopted Wayne sons after Jack Drake's death. “Like he wants to bring Bruce a fresh kill in a 'look what I can do!' gesture, but deep down he knows it won't be appreciated? And that's the only real idea he has so the kid doesn't know what else to do.”
“We can't expect him to just know things out of the blue,” Dick replied reasonably. “That's why I told him you'd take him shopping for Bruce's present after we get back.”
“What?” Tim stared at him indignant. “Why me?”
“Because I'm having lunch with Babs and Commissioner Gordon before we reconvene back at the manor.” His older brother replied reasonably. “And I know you're done with your present... umm... preparations. Besides, I thought you two were getting along better.”
“But this is out... in public!” Tim protested.
“He promised me that he'd be on his absolute best behavior. Don't worry about it.”
Tim wanted to point out that their darling little brother's best behavior rivaled the worst of half the inmates at Arkham Asylum, but he suppressed the urge.
“Is that my Father's Day present?” He questioned instead. “To give Bruce a break and take Damian off his hands till dinner?”
Dick grinned. “If you can both come back on time and unbruised, that's be great. Bonus if Gotham is still standing by then.”
That was around noon. By one Tim had Damian out the door and into the car. Alfred had offered to drive them, but he insisted that everything related to Father's Day was to be done by either him, Dick, or Damian. No exceptions. Easy to say, but if Tim was honest, he hadn't the faintest clue how to help Damian with his present.
“I'm guessing you're a little too old for the home-made macaroni and paste art?” He asked wryly, shooting an amused look at Damian in the passenger seat.
“I haven't a clue what you're talking about.” The boy glared.
Great, Tim thought. He's in a mood.
“Do you know what you want to get?” he asked more directly.
Damian gave a little shrug, which Tim translated as an I-have-no-idea and that was probably the source of all the trouble. He got the present concept down, that it had to be special, but whether it was Damian's upbringing or simply the fact that he hadn't actually known his father all that long, he had no idea of what constituted as 'special' for him. Bruce was a difficult man to read at best of times even for people who had known him for years. Maybe they should have consulted Alfred after all...
“The first Father's Day after he adopted me, I got him a specially inscribed watch,” Tim offered by way of conversation.
“I've never seen him wear it.” Damian said thoughtfully. “He must not like it very much.”
You're speaking, kid, and words are coming out of your mouth, but do you ever bother to listen to them or think about how what you're saying sounds? Tim gritted his teeth, hands tightening around the wheel, but another voice in his head – one that sounded suspiciously like Dick's – reminded him that their brother's upbringing lacked anything in the way of basic manners and empathy. Give credit where it's due, though, Damian had come a long way. He just didn't always think before speaking.
“It's actually in one of the cases in the museum down in the cave,” he said. “I ran into some trouble on the way home, and that watch fell victim to the usual on Gotham streets. I'm thinking about maybe replacing it this year. What do you think?”
Damian seemed a little startled that his opinion might actually matter to Tim, but finding no ulterior motive in the question, shrugged a little again. “You could, but he has watches.”
“I know. It was just nice to give him something inscribed. A personal touch, you know? My only other thought is to get on the phone with everyone from his Most Wanted list and ask them to please stay off the streets for a night so that Batman can have a nice peaceful Father's Day with his kids.”
“I don't think that'll work.” But there was a smile tugging at the corner of Damian's mouth.
Tim grinned. The day had just gotten a whole lot easier.
An hour worth of searching yielded nothing. A very late lunch ended up being a restaurant in Chinatown that was just about as far removed from authentic Chines food as McDonald's was from Alfred's cooking. Tim imagined the old man might have a heart attack if he saw what they were eating and filed it under the what-he-doesn't-know-won't-hurt-us category. Where he might have complained in the past, Damian approached the food with a mild curiosity, and Tim realized that things like bad Chines food were a real life novelty that he'd always taken for granted but the boy had never experienced. The kind of things he yearned for.
Like Pinocchio, the thought came unbidden.'I want to be a real boy.'
Something on the wall caught his attention then. Where most restaurants in this area might have had cheap Chines knockoffs, this one apparently didn't pretend to be too 'authentic'. Instead, the walls were decorated with photos from various Gotham landmarks and events. One in particular was of interest.
“Hang tight for a second,” he told his brother and got up to hunt down the manager.
Damian waited for a few minutes before craning his neck to catch a glimpse of Tim exchange words with a man in the back room, then hand over some bills, and shake the owner's hand. He came back out, grinning from ear to ear, and was followed by a waiter who went over to the wall, took down a picture, placed it in a bag, and brought it over to the table.
“Thank you, Mr. Wayne. Enjoy.”
“No, thank you. And tell Mr. Wong I'll send back a copy in the original frame.”
The waiter nodded and rushed off, and Damian looked over Tim's shoulder to see the photo he'd apparently just purchased. It was old and the colors were faded from the sun, but the boy easily made out the words “Haly Brothers Circus” scrolled across the banner that hung at the entrance to the Big Top. Assembled in front of it were a dozen or so performers.
Conspicuously absent was a certain family of acrobats.
“It's from their second visit to Gotham,” Tim told him. “After... you know... Bruce offered to take Dick, but I think the memories were still too fresh at the time. He went afterward, though. Even performed there once or twice.”
“Oh.” Damian appeared to be deep in thought for a long moment. “Do I need to buy you a present as well?”
“No. Why would you?”
“I don't know. You bought that for Dick, so I assume it has something to do with this whole... elder male relative holiday.”
“Well, no,” Tim corrected. “It's Father's Day, not Big Brother Day, which has all kinds of weird 1984 connotations to it... Moving on...”
“Then why are we getting him anything?”
“Because he's our brother, and we love him? There doesn't always need to be a reason. Unless we renamed it Batman Day to have all the bases covered.”
It was meant to be a joke, one that he was sure Damian would scoff at, but the boy actually appeared to be indulging his attempt at humor, turning the thought over in his mind.
“If they get Batman Day, we should get one as well,” he declared with a completely straight face. Tim blinked at him in surprise, but then grinned.
“A Robin Day? I don't know... we might have to share with quite a few people...”
“It's only for current Robins,” Damian amended. “Todd doesn't deserve it, and Dick would get two holidays, and that's not fair.”
“You're absolutely right.” Tim nodded sagely. “And since you're on the track of good ideas, how about coming up with those presents for Bruce?”
The boy chewed on his lip for a moment and looked around as if the answer could be found on the restaurant walls or the Chinatown streets right outside the window. Apparently he did find something that caught his attention because his eyes went wide before turning back to Tim.
“I need your phone.” His brother frowned. “Sorry. May I please borrow your phone?”
“Where's yours?” But Tim was already handing over his cell.
“At home. I'll be right back.”
They walked out of the restaurant a half hour later; Tim with the photo, and Damian in a rare happy – almost bouncy – mood. Whatever call he'd made had apparently set him for the rest of the day. Tim eyed him warily from the driver's seat as they headed out of Chinatown.
“Do I need to worry about what you got?”
“No.” The boy grinned.
“Okay... so that's it then? Going home?”
“We can't! We have to pick up Father's present at the docks. It should be here around six.”
It was a good thing they had a red light because Tim might have honestly crashed into something. “What did you get that it needs to be delivered to the docks? What happened to the macaroni and paste idea?”
“You can do that if you want after we pick up my present.”
“Smart ass. Dick explicitly asked us to leave the city standing. I was hoping to go at least today without suiting up.”
“We don't have to...”
“Yeah, we do. How do you think it'll look when Bruce Wayne sons show up alone somewhere as shady as Gotham docks?” Tim glared at him but was already turning a corner. “Call... whoever it is and ask them to leave your... present by pier seven. I can't believe I'm doing this.”
He still couldn't believe it even as he and Damian in their respective Red Robin and Robin gear crouched on the edge of one of the many large metal crates that turned the Gotham dock yard into a virtual maze. Fifteen minutes before six, an unmarked ship lumbered towards the pier, and they watched as two men unloaded a sizable wooden crate. Red Robin tensed, noting their masked visages with contempt.
“The League?” he hissed at his brother. “You went to the League of Assassins?!”
“No,” Robin hissed back. “I have other connections.”
“What connections?! You're ten!”
Dick should have taken him, Tim cursed inwardly. Dick would have never let this happen. He was just grateful that this time his own gift was safe and sound in the cave in case of a fight. To his surprise though, the masked men simply set the parcel down and departed without a word. Once the ship was well away, Damian hopped off their perch, landing gracefully next to the crate. With another silent curse, Tim followed.
They were, of course, late for dinner.
Alfred and Dick met them at the gates, a mildly annoyed look written on their brother's face which faded quickly when he saw the two Robin suits tossed under the back seat. He glanced at the main part of the city in the distance then at Tim who was getting out of the car.
“Well, I guess one out of two isn't bad,” he commented. “And you two don't look terribly bruised. What happened?”
“Ask your partner.” Tim jabbed a thumb at Damian who was not so much walking as bouncing towards the trunk. Seeing the large crate, Dick quickly moved to help. When the box was safely on the ground, he eyed it with the same dubious look Tim had when he first saw it.
“Damian, what is this?”
“Father's present.” Give the child credit, but he could look utterly innocent when it suited him.
Dick looked at Tim, but the middle brother just shook his head. I have no idea what he's up to, he was silently but clearly saying. He's your partner. You deal with him.
“Okay.” He nodded decisively. “I'll take it to the cave and put it next to Tim's present. Meanwhile, go finish making dinner. Potatoes are done, but Tim's on steak duty, and Damian, you've got the salad.”
“Deal!” The boy shouted. He was already running inside.
“And shower!” Dick called after him.
A half hour after they were supposed to be there, everyone was finally at the table, and Tim couldn't help but note how silly and out of balance it looked. It was the long dining room one that could sit a houseful of guests, but when it was just family, the people and food all tended to crowd around the side closest to the kitchen. Bruce sat at the head with Dick at his right and Damian at his left, the place given to him by Tim in a moment of generosity. It was his first Father's Day with him, after all.
“So I'm kind of short on creativity this year,” Dick was saying when Tim tuned back in. “Whatever those two got you has to be better than me promising that you don't have to set foot in the Gotham Wayne Enterprises office for a few months. And before you ask, yes, Lucius is going to make sure I don't do anything too stupid.”
“I didn't say anything,” Bruce pointed out, bemused.
“No, but you left the company to Tim in your will for obvious reasons.”
“I left you Batman.”
“Yeah, I never did thank you for that...”
“If it makes you feel any better, Dick,” Tim interjected. The exchange seemed like a good time to bring out his find. “I got this while we were out today. I know you already have a few, but I couldn't pass it by.”
He pulled out the photo of the circus and passed it across the table which Dick took inquisitively. Tim watched with satisfaction as a huge grin spread across his brother's face.
“This is fantastic! Where'd you get it?”
“Ahh, you know that place in Chinatown? The kid and I went there for lunch,” He couldn't help but quickly glance at Alfred who sat at Dick's left. How he managed to look both stoic and disapproving was impressive to say the least.
“That's great, guys. Thanks,” Dick was still smiling as he passed the picture to Bruce for inspection. “I'll... I'll put it in my quarters in Wayne Tower. Someone's been telling me there's not enough of my junk there.”
“Personal touch,” Alfred amended diplomatically.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Tim grinned. “But in the meantime, Bruce, your presents are down in the cave. If everyone's done with dinner...”
“Of course,” the patriarch rose. “I've been wondering what it is that had you two returning to the manor with that refined odder of Gotham docks.”
Tim gave Damian a look, but it wasn't really his fault. World's greatest detective for a father and all...
He considered himself lucky Bruce had been abroad for most of the time since he began this little project. It hadn't taken long, really, but Tim knew as they descended the steps, that only Dick had seen what was under the large tarp that covered the latest addition to the museum down in the cave. Alfred, Barbara, and Stephanie had either not looked or simply hadn't said anything, and he had Dick to thank for keeping Damian working from the bunker beneath Wayne Tower and out of the cave.
“I asked Clark and Diana...” he began as they approached.
“You're on a first name basis with Superman and Wonder Woman?” Dick raised a brow. “And here I am still calling Commissioner Gordon 'sir'.”
“That's because you're dating his daughter.”
“Yeah, we'll just pretend we're all gullible,” Damian rolled his eye. “Can we get on with this? I want to get to mine.”
“Anyway, they said it was safe to take all this back to the cave, and since we all know how sentimental you are...” Chuckles and snorts. “...I put together this little addition to the collection of all the other momentous of your adventures..”
The cloth was pulled aside to reveal a new glass case with several artifacts inside. Everyone stepped closer for a better look, and Tim grinned in satisfaction. They were all impressed, and watching as Bruce's keen eyes traced everything from the piece of rock with the warn charcoal bat symbol to the early twentieth century Batman-like costume, he could tell his adoptive father was pleased as well.
“With everything that's been going on, I haven't even thought of any additions.” He wrapped an arm around Tim's shoulder. “Thank you, son. For everything.”
He didn't need to say anything more. Everyone who knew about what had happened understood that without Tim's absolute belief that Bruce had somehow survived his encounter with Darkseid in the last crisis, the original dark knight might have truly been lost to them. Or he might have returned and accidentally killed everyone else in the process. Tim didn't want to think about either possibility. It was in the past, and he was just glad to have Bruce home.
“Not bad,” Damian, obviously impatient, commented. “But mine's still cooler than a bunch of cave paintings and boxes.”
Before dinner Dick had helped him set up the contents of his own gift under a small tarp next to Tim's. Though privy to both of his brothers' gifts, the eldest remained wisely silent on the matter. Now that it was unraveled, Tim had to admit that it was pretty cool, if not too far off the mark of his earlier comment about bringing Bruce a fresh kill.
Two elegantly curved swords rested in a beautiful display rack. Damian picked up the slightly smaller of the two and unsheathed it enough to expose the freshly oiled metal and ornate character near the hilt that Tim couldn't quite recognize.
“This one says 'legacy',” the boy explained and returned the blade to its resting place only to pick up the second and reveal a different character. “And this one is 'honor.' I ordered the inscriptions especially for you, Father.”
“Copycat,” Tim muttered. “What was wrong with the ones in Chinatown.”
“These are imported from Tibet,” his brother replied haughtily. “Not some cheep...”
“They're beautiful, Damian,” Bruce smiled at his youngest and went to pick up the larger sword. “Amazing balance and overall craftsmanship.”
The boy beamed.
“In fact,” their father continued. “I like them so much, I won't even ask how you got them.”