Crime doesn’t stop for a few broken bones, so neither can the Batman. Batman ignores the pain, maneuvers around the hindrance, and continues the battle while eluding his pursuers.
Even if said pursuer is the Batman-to-be’s own mentor, who is also the current Batman.
Damian takes no small amount of pride in the fact that he is winning the wild mad dash over rooftops and skylights even with his broken arm; truly, Grayson has much to learn.
One of the first things he has to learn is that Damian cannot be grounded if he does not want to be.
Stinking of weak old pig vomit and burning car, Bludhaven sprawls like a gutted whore. Gotham is closer to a mausoleum, a frigid slaughterhouse that receives some very nice sunsets when the light hits the pollution, but Bludhaven…
Damian supposes Grayson isn’t a total idiot. The city has no charm or inherent worth, but a man can build in Bludhaven as he cannot in Gotham, and despite Damian’s earlier reservations, Grayson is a man.
Most of the time, anyway. When he isn’t a fool or a righteous prick or puppet.
Grayson lives like an animal though, clumps of old-take out boxes and bags strewn across his tiny flat, dirty laundry nested in improbable places.
Grayson feels safe here, with little need to prepare for guests or murderers.
Damian has—deliberately—been raised without any sense of security, any sense of belonging, as a good assassin should.
The thought of cleaning Grayson’s apartment crosses his mind briefly; of sending a subtle message that Grayson’s facilities are far from secure, literally and emotionally.
Damian sets Grayson’s apartment on fire instead, and considerately tips off the Bludhaven Fire Department before he leaves.
Subtlety isn’t one of his strong points.
“Batman doesn’t kill, Damian, ever. Not as Bruce, not as me, Batman can’t—“
“He won’t.” Not couldn’t, not shouldn’t, but wouldn’t. Batman wouldn’t kill, but naturally no one else picks up on this significant distinction; not properly, anyway.
“—because then everything falls apart, every line and protocol we’ve built—“
“Your father built breaks, and Batman’s just another murderer. Another man killing people weaker than him.”
Grayson’s dressed casual, a gray turtleneck and dark jeans helping him to blend into the monotone coloring of the Batcave, the blue of his eyes barely showing in the gloom. Traveling all the way from Bludhaven to Gotham just to lecture Damian—as if Bruce and Alfred already hadn’t—is an exercise for a fool and a puppet, and unfortunately, Grayson is both. Damian can train it out of him, with time, but it will be a lot of effort and work.
“What’s wrong with Darwinism? What with all the aliens running around, the human race could use a little strengthening.”
Grayson’s eyes widen, and Damian’s lips twitch involuntarily. Grayson hadn’t spent enough time with him—truly—to completely adapt to his sense of humor, and Damian didn’t show that side of himself to anyone else. Especially not Bruce. “I’m joking. Relax.”
“You find this funny?”
Drake’s voice goes high when angry; Todd’s scathing; Grayson’s flat. Damian’s own tell is a mix of Grayson and Todd, flat sneering and dull vitriol. Bruce’s voice never betrays him.
“No. Though I’m a little hurt,” he isn’t, far from it, “to be accused of murder by a former partner. A former mentor.”
“Let me finish,” Damian holds up a hand, because he’s so sick of Grayson’s emotions, his pity and predictability. “While Bruce—“
“—unanimously began this endeavor, you’ve actually been in the business nearly your whole life. While you’re nowhere near his level of competency—“
Don’t smile don’t look he’ll distract you he’ll distract you.
“Your experience time far outstrips his,” Damian continues flatly, eyes on the keyboard, “in addition to having sampled the ‘crime-fighting’ methods of many of Bruce’s contemporaries. Your perspective would be illuminating on a hypothetical situation of mine.”
“Yeah?” Grayson half-smiles, half amused. Distracted, but not deterred. “What’s that?”
“Would a Batman who kills be more efficient? If you remove morality and arbitrary values from the equation, I mean.”
Bruce began the work to cope with the unavenged murder of his parents, Damian knows. It is emotionally and psychologically satisfying for Bruce to be able to prevent such future statistics, though the past remains immutable. With the slight—and mostly unimportant—possibility of Todd, Damian knows he is the only Robin and future Batman to continue the work without that psychological satisfaction. Bruce, Grayson, and Drake have all lost family to crime (Todd never had one due to crime), but Damian has lost…nothing.
His mother is alive; she does not love him. His father is alive; they share no connection, other than the work and genetics. Damian has nothing, has lost nothing, and is strangely grateful for this disparity.
He discounts the Bat females out of hand; until a woman is potentially capable of holding the title of Batman, he doesn’t really care what they do, or why.
Grayson just stares at him.
“Think on it for a couple of weeks,” Damian shuts down the computer, and begins climbing the stairs out of the bat cave. “I want a well-considered answer.”
“You misspoke!” Damian snarls, half-turning; he’s surprised to find that some of the anger is real, that he really is…upset that Grayson would lie to him. Possibly lie to himself, as well.
“Bruce as Batman doesn’t kill. Oh, and myself as Robin, for the moment. Oh don’t look at me like that; I haven’t killed while wearing the proper Robin costume, and I wouldn’t lie about it if I had either. But the rest of you can’t claim that honor.”
It’s not really an honor, but it’s true; Damian’s never openly killed as Robin, not since he was actually given the status, instead of just stealing the costume.
“Has his secrets,” naturally Grayson would defend Drake first. “And he is incredibly defensive of his Titan harem.”
A grave error, in Damian’s eyes—an open wound paraded before the world that no one else seems terribly bothered by. Manipulating Drake into murder is not hard. “He doesn’t tell you everything, you know. He doesn’t tell anyone everything.”
“Damian,” Grayson’s voice is flat, neutral. “How did Marcus Quentin die?”
Ah. An unexpected attack from above. He should have expected that, and really should not be quite so pleased with Grayson either.
Damian blinks, twice for innocence (three for embarrassment, four for fear or grief), and knows that Grayson will think he’s lying, no matter what he says or does.
“That’s obvious. He fell.”
He is not, per se definition, stalking Grayson.
Stalking implies an amateur emotional component, and after being trained extensively in the arts of surveillance, spying, and espionage, Damian no longer qualifies as amateur, and hasn’t for some time.
Nevertheless, only a small amount of stalking is required to confirm his suspicions that Grayson needs, if not a sidekick, then a new mentor. Quite possibly a brain transplant, because it is shameful that such physical prowess and skill be at the mercy of subpar intelligence.
Grayson—Nightwing—is hogtied and hanging upside-down from the slaughterhouse ceiling from one of the many harvesting hooks. His captors—some sort of mafia/gang, Damian hasn’t bothered to look into it—quibble over his value, dead or alive, and who should get the proceeds. All and all, a rather work-a-day situation that should really be beneath Nightwing, as old as he was. Bruce only wound up trussed up when he allowed it, and Damian rarely, and mainly when Bruce insisted for the mission’s sake—he didn’t like to be on display. It hadn’t bothered him when he was younger, and so eager for attention under Grayson’s wing, and later Father’s, but now…
Well. He was no longer young, and if Grayson—Nightwing—doesn’t wiggle out of his little problem soon, he won’t have to worry about getting old—or older, as the case may be. Since Damian officially isn’t in Bludhaven—at the Titans to Bruce, and in Las Vegas to Oracle—he isn’t under any compunction to rescue Grayson. Which—considering how things have changed—he isn’t sure he wants to anyway.
What would life be like, without Grayson? The man who—almost—raised him in his father’s stead, the man who chose him as Robin until the original Batman tired of Drake. Batman’s first son, the one Batman loved—loves—best. Batman’s heir.
If Grayson were to die, who would replace him?
Damian doesn’t have an answer; if it were not for the paternity test, Bruce would have never accepted him as his son.
Black silk—almost, his hair is so very soft, the man is so absurdly vain—hangs over Grayson’s face, drenching it in charcoal shadows and sickly-looking flesh when he swings under the sodium lights. The play of light and shadow on his skin mimics light on the ocean, or shattered glass without the chill or sharp edges. People—too many, the man’s reputation is vile—have said Grayson is beautiful, but that doesn’t make the fact any less true.
Despite himself, Damian smiles as Grayson slips his bonds—slipped long ago—and falls on his captors, graceful and economical even against such scum. He later arranges his own ransom, in an attempt to find their leader—or someone’s leader, at any rate, since Damian has lost interest at this point and his little deceit will fall apart if he doesn’t get to Nevada in a hurry. He doesn’t have any real purpose in going to Vegas, but doubtless there’ll be some crime to fight somewhere.
The image stays with him throughout the trip however, and he’s unable to shake it until Alfred interrupts him; the imagery of water and shadow collided, the strong lines of Grayson’s neck and spine, the angles of his shoulders and arms while he’s all trussed up…
He prefers Grayson defiant. The realization hits him in an overly-dramatic strip club easily accessed with a fake ID, some extra $50s, and a stern chiseled expression. Prostitution is not, per se, illegal in Las Vegas (anymore than it is any large U.S. city, really), but whoring out kidnapped immigrants is another matter entirely, and Damian’s—Bruce’s—intel has led him here.
Damian’s almost—not really, but nearly---old enough to get in legally, but he feels a bit too old to properly appreciate the jiggling eager flesh swirling around the dance poles.
He’s never liked eager, never liked easy—one of the main reasons (besides Drake’s history) why he’s never stayed with the Titans for any length of time, and one of the very many reason he can’t stand high school now. It is one of the few attributes he and Bruce share, and even in Grayson he’s always hated the cheerful, easy attitude Grayson had around Drake or Starfire or anyone…
Work goes well. Damian gets his frustration out, and is very helpful to the authorities. The late morning nap goes less well.
Firelight flickers and flounders over Grayson’s bound naked body, lying on his side on the bare floor. The sharp curve of his hip hides his more…secretive elements, but the curve of his ass and long, flat planes of his thighs shine in the firelight, and Damian has a good view of the soles of his feet. When he was younger, he’d suspected Grayson of being a closet meta, with feet like a gecko or monkey, but in truth Grayson’s toes wriggle with only a little more dexterity than normal, and are long and flat, almost too big for Damian’s hands. They fit neatly—the calluses of Grayson’s heel against the calluses on Damian’s palm, Grayson’s eyes implacable, forbidding, silent—and challenging.
(Only makes sense that Damian would capture him, bind him—to prove a point? The touch him without Grayson running off?)
Grayson tastes like salt and blood under his tongue, courser than glass, and his eyes—he never takes his eyes off him—and his hips—
“Master Damian? I am here to take you home.”
Exactly how hard Damian had been drilling the mattress, he couldn’t remember—all he really remembers is his voice cracking as screamed at Alfred, and feeling his face flame.
Even that trauma doesn’t force Grayson’s image from his dreams, and Damian begins to wonder if he has a problem.
“You could call the cops. Throw me in a cell for a night.”
Damian usually didn’t have a lot of time for the authorities, but he would’ve taken any of overblown lectures from any donut-munching money-laundering flunky over this.
“Don’t be stupid kiddo,” Grayson makes him a cup of tea; generic brand, generic flavor. Generic Grayson. “We don’t spend enough time together as it is, and after you took all the trouble to come down to see me and broke into my house and test all my traps…”
Grayson smiles, but with his mouth only; rarely a good sign. He affects a western drawl, “That’d be downright inhospitable of me.”
“Spare me.” He doesn’t anything Grayson has to offer, but he can’t say that without giving away more than he needs to.
“Don’t be stupid kid, and you won’t have to listen to it,” Grayson’s referring to his inability to conform to social norms regarding visitations, not regarding sexual interests. “Not that I’ve started on it, but you get what I mean.”
“Oh goody,” Damian glowers at the dirty kitchen linoleum, and wishes his rage and bile would return. “Yet another Alfred impersonation, since you’ve given up on imitating Bruce.”
“You’re morally bankrupt and middle-aged, and you have no fanatical zeal to speak of. Bruce doesn’t lecture me anymore, and since he is the intelligent sociopath of the family, I fail to see what you hope to accomplish in his stead.” Besides waste time, and aggravate Damian with his very presence.
“Seems like you’re channeling Alfred enough for both of us, Damian. And I’m hardly middle-aged,” Grayson never raises his voice, never gets angry, and puts Damian’s tea down in front of him—a meaningless gesture, since Damian’s hands are still bound behind him. It’s been a while since Damian has wanted to throttle anyone so badly.
“Bruce was never one much for lectures anyway, except when it had to do with the mission. Or people. Everything else,” Grayson shrugs, trying to express a lifetime’s indifference in a single movement. “Why are you fighting in school anyway?”
Damian snorts, and works on dislocating his left hand.
“I didn’t believe it when I heard it,” Grayson leans against the kitchen counter, arms pale and trim in a sleeveless black tee. He has two new scars on his left bicep. “Next you’ll be kicking poodles and drowning bunnies.”
“Probably,” Damian examines the crumbs and splatters on the counter as he works his bindings—if he could’ve been out of the electrified net five minutes earlier, he could’ve set fire to another monstrosity with none the wiser. “I’ve already shot down most of Bruce’s bats. Proper archery, not that tomfoolery Arsenal does.”
“Liar,” Grayson grimaces, right for once, and puts a straw in Damian’s tea. “I always figured Colin could take care of himself. He can’t be that happy with you either, for losing your temper.”
Damian’s color flames down to his neck—his mother would be horrified at this lapse in control. Social convention suggests he denies everything vehemently, but logic suggests…Grayson already knows too much, and there’s no point in looking more the fool in his eyes. Damian keeps his face and voice steady, though there’s really no point. “Oracle?”
“Deduction, my dear boy.” Grayson shifts. “Once I heard it was a field trip with student who didn’t go to your school…well, only a couple of people fit that bill.”
He’s stonewalled Bruce a million times before (not that it makes a difference, Bruce has never had to speak to anyone to get what he needs from them), stonewalling Grayson will be a breeze.
“Those restraints are for Martian shape shifters, FYI. J’onn tells me he’ll treat dinner for anyone who can break out of them.”
He hates aliens. He hates Grayson too, but for different reasons, and refuses to look up from the counter.
Grayson sighs, and moves around the counter to begin picking up his shattered living room. Damian refuses to turn around to watch, and relies on the sounds of shoving the couch back into position and piling the broken electronics into a pile to tell him where Grayson is and what he’s doing.
When Grayson hugs him from behind, silently, Damian jumps out of his skin, lunges against the counter and unbalances the stool under him and probably would’ve shouted, if his throat hadn’t closed up. Grayson’s skinny, for a fighter, and Damian’s grown quite muscled through the years. In raw strength Damian should’ve been able to overpower him. It’s too hard to think though, too hard to see, when he can smell Grayson’s sweat and feel his heat through his clothes. He struggles, but it’s in short, abortive movements, weak and awkward as a newborn elk.
Grayson doesn’t let go, and holds him too tightly to let him fall.
“It took years for Bruce to realize friends weren’t just a liability. Years, and those years cost him. You’re not Bruce and I’m not Bruce, and that’s not a bad thing to be.”
“I don’t—I don’t—“
“You do kiddo, constantly, and I’m not the only one who’s noticed the comparisons. Even Bruce mentioned it, and we both know how rare that is for him.”
He can’t breathe, can’t breathe, Grayson’s breathing down his neck!
“So what, what’s you’re point you don’t have a point—”
“My point is you did the right thing, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“Starting fights?” Damian attempts a condescending laugh, and comes out sounding as giggly as Drake when drunk. When he is able to think straight, he will be tempted to maim himself. “Starting fights with civilians? That’s your great wisdom?”
“’Stand with your friends’ is my wisdom, idiot,” Grayson has called him an idiot. Clearly, he has fallen into an alternate universe without realizing it. “Even when it’s not logical or for the mission, oh, and also ‘Emotions won’t kill you, so don’t be stupid about them’ should be on that list too. And how about ‘Bruce isn’t perfect, and even if he were, I still wouldn’t want to be him.’”
“He’s better than you!”
“I know that kiddo,” Grayson squeezes him, sighs, and Damian’s heart hits triple time. “And I’ll always admire and love him, but that doesn’t mean I want to be him, and you shouldn’t either.”
“You’re no one!” Damian can’t breathe, think, or stand to have people tell him what he should and should not do. He does realize he’s shouting when Bruce’s cold ‘I’m a sociopathic ice cube and nothing anyone does can affect me’ voice would be more effective, but he really can’t think.
“You can’t even decide if you want to continue this life or go live with the normals, you’re not even sure if you can stand being alone for the rest of your life! Where the hell do you get off telling me what to do when you can’t even figure out your own life?!”
Todd’s resilient, decisive, Damian has never doubted what he’s wanted and never hesitated to go after it, and even Drake is a realist. Drake is an ineffective whiny realist, but even he knows there’s no life for them outside of the dark streets and freezing rooftops.
Grayson’s a washout, a flunky, and an undecided fool. He doesn’t just flirt with men and women for information and sexual gratification; he actually flirts with them…to know them. To incorporate them into his life.
“Why are you keeping track of who I’m dating?”
Clearly, Grayson has no idea the many aspects of his life Damian does keep notes on, independent of Bruce, and Damian is in no mood to share the breadth of his research.
Damian isn’t sure if Grayson wasn’t aware of his many failings and weaknesses before, or if he was just ignoring them until Damian pointed them out. He ignores Grayson’s own questions—awkward, invasive questions—and his heart rate doesn’t slow until after the extraterrestrial handcuffs come off.
“Get out.” Grayson’s voice is flat, blank.
For the next several weeks, Damian receives neither emails nor texts from Grayson, and thinks Grayson holds a grudge almost as well as Bruce.
Grayson likes him.
It’s not a truth that sits easily with either of them, and Damian knows (thinks) that Grayson is mostly influenced by ideals of a conventional family, and obligations therein.
Grayson likes him. Hardly anyone likes him, not enough to actually put up with him. Tolerate him. But Grayson likes him, at least until Damian opens his mouth or follows his instincts or reminds him too much of Talia, of Bruce, of Todd and million other ghosts Damian can’t seem to name properly, but Grayson goes through people like a dog through pissing poles; each one deserves its own attention and investigation, but he always needs more than he has piss and none of them are the pole he’s looking for.
For a previous Batman, Grayson is really quite needy.
Grayson can control him. Not well; Damian isn’t bred to suffer directions well. But it’s something of a joke within the Bat family and crime fighting circles, that if the mighty Batman can’t talk his demon down, then Nightwing can. It’s a degrading joke, but worse because it’s true; he usually listens to Grayson, in his own way.
Damian doesn’t like liking anyone.
Despite the hostility in their last encounter, Grayson still opens his home (tiny, messy, awkward apartment) to him after Grayson’s latest flame has flared out.
“Say one smart word, and I will punch your nose inside your skull.”
“That would be child abuse.”
“Kiddo, you almost as tall as I am; I feel no guilt.”
The television box—an actual box, not the LED screens everyone else has, truly Grayson is a dinosaur, even Alfred isn’t this far behind—drones on about some game show, volume low, while Damian dominates one side of the couch and Grayson the other. A bowl of half-eaten (cheap, disgusting) popcorn sits vigilantly between them.
“Just so I’m sure,” light and shadows dance over Grayson’s face, highlighting his cheekbones and curves of his lips, “you’re not here for anything urgent or mission-related, right? I’m guessing not, but if something horrible is about to happen, I’d like to have my tights on and hair fixed early.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Damian huddles deeper into his corner. “I’m just—“ visiting he almost says, except he doesn’t visit. Fulfilling social obligations regarding pseudo family members. Following Alfred’s orders to keep you company. “—Bored.”
“And you had to come all the way to Bludhaven to be bored?”
“Yes.” He has nothing better to do, honestly.
“You must have Gotham by the short hairs if you have to come to my town for trouble.”
Implied warning? Threat? Sarcasm? He’s never seen Grayson so flat, so unwilling to act fierce or playful or animated. Grayson is also—unbelievably—unwilling to chatter. Neither of them are paying any mind to the TV show—now switched to news, dull coverage on dull politicians and dull polls and dull weather—but Grayson is content to stay inside his head and Damian is…not.
He’d actually been counting on Grayson’s neediness leading the way—either to conversation or reconciliation or (in his wilder daydreams) the bedroom, and hadn’t bothered to develop either an attack plan or exit strategy.
“Mind if I stay here tonight?” No point in returning to Gotham until he’s won or ready to retreat.
“Sure. Couch is yours.”
He’s not a fan of this new indifferent Grayson; its annoying, childish, and unbearably arousing. It’s rather much how Damian had imagined a defiant Grayson behaving, minus the self-righteous vigor. The low-lighting and implied intimacy only make it worse; this is his best opportunity to engage his target, in a long history of planning and stalking and guerilla warfare, and his ass is firmly cemented into the couch.
Grayson mulls that over, “For what, exactly? Not that I’m ungrateful, but there’s actually a lot you could be sorry for, and I’d like to keep track.”
“Your inability to find a suitable pair-bonding mate. My condolences.”
Grayson snorts, stays silent, and the operation is officially a failure. He’s wasted his time and shown a little too much of his hand and—most importantly—doomed himself to a sexually-tense evening without an outlet or escape. It is also not impossible to extrapolate the general themes of this evening—the tension, awkwardness, and physical longing—into his future long-term relationship with Grayson, that will very likely remain sex-less.
The situation doesn’t get any better when Grayson curls up on the couch, displacing the popcorn with his stomach and shoving his head against Damian’s thigh; Damian’s heart rate jumps uncomfortably and his body flushes and his hand shakes.
None of that actually stops him from stroking Grayson’s hair (so incredibly soft, warm and heavy) and stocking up memories for his next (probably very soon) masturbatory experience (Grayson’s mouth is extremely close to his lap), but that’s no excuse.
“I don’t like you,” Damian speaks with all sincerity.
“Welcome to my life, kid. Seems like all the people who’ve ever been important to me are ass holes or maniacs or they hate me. But I still love them, and they’re still important.” Grayson blinks too fast (twice for embarrassment? He can’t remember right now), blue eyes dark in the shadows. “Sucks, but you get used to it.”
To his credit, Grayson smiles at that.
I’m gonna start charging you money for being vague.
--Yusuke, Yu Yu Hakusho