Damian didn't know how to act like a little boy. This had been clear since Talia had placed him with Bruce, and yet, it still amazed Dick to realize this. And now that Bruce was gone (permanently like the world insisted or just missing, like Tim said, what did it matter when he wasn't there and Dick's chest tightened painfully at the thought), Dick was around Damian enough to be constantly reminded of this fact.
Ten year olds didn't reward noogies with bloody noses. Ten year olds didn't threaten painful death to good-natured teasing. Ten year olds played tag and video games - not tinkering in the garage, and training like a soldier.
Damian did, however.
Dick would be the first to admit, he hadn't exactly had a normal life once he had started living at Wayne Manor. Hell, compared to most kids, his entire life had been a string of exotic events, one after the next. But he had at least grown up with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step.
Damian was just now slowly learning how to utilize such things.
When Dick had to take up the cowl, he hadn't really expected to have to take up the mantle of fatherhood, too. In some ways, he hadn't really considered, yet, how much Damian needed someone there - and though sometimes Dick really just wanted to throw his hands in the air and give up, he couldn't. He couldn't abandon Bruce's legacy - not for the man that he admired and loved in every way, and not for the little boy who was a lot more lonely than he ever let on.
There was always this weird swell in Dick's chest, when Damian was at a loss for words. When he looked surprised that someone could do something nice without looking for repayment. It was sad - heart breaking, really, that this kid had grown up not knowing of unconditional love, or support, or the idea of being kind for kindness's sake. But it was the greatest feeling in the world, knowing that slowly but surely, he was getting through to the littlest of the birds in the nest.
The first real victory didn't dawn on him until a month after it had begun happening. Damian had begun falling asleep at the desk in the study, books like War and Peace, and Crime and Punishment sprawled under him. Light reading, Dick had noted with a roll of the eyes. Carefully, the first night, Dick leaned over Damian, shutting off the desk light with a click, and picked the kid up, who molded into his arms like a dead weight.
It was surreal, tucking him in like he used to Tim, but it was nice, seeing Damian curl up into a ball under the covers, secure and snug.
It was only recently that Dick realized that Damian was doing this on purpose - sometimes, there were small catches in his breath that just wouldn't occur if he was really asleep. Dick didn't mention it, though. In fact, after he realized the fact, he just leaned against the wall outside Damian's door with a big grin on his face.
Damian wanted to be carried to bed, and tucked in. He liked it, or he wouldn't pretend to sleep just for it.
This night was no different. Damian was hunched awkwardly over the desk that was still just a little too big for him, face down in some unbearably small print of a book written in the 19th century. Dick had been planning on taking him along on a second patrol - already suited up, the cape sweeping the halls, though he hadn't yet lifted on the mask. But seeing Damian lay there, he didn't have the heart to 'wake' him - and he certainly didn't want to let on that he knew about the game they were playing.
Dick ran a hand through the spiky hair, before crouching and collecting the small body in his arms, cradling him carefully. He stood again, and hesitated, pausing to give Damian a real - if all too brief - hug. Then it was off down the hall and up a flight of stairs, to Damian's room.
He wouldn't mention the second patrol, come morning - neither would Damian. Convinced that this was true, Dick tucked Damian in like normal, and sat on the edge of the bed, watching him for a moment. Then, affectionately, he ruffled the boy's hair, and leaned down, kissing his forehead. He did his best not to laugh at the telltale signs that Damian wanted to make a face at that.
"Sleep well, Damian." He murmured, and left the room to go make good on his other duty to Bruce's memory. Not that either one was really a duty anymore. Not an obligation - he wanted to do both of these things. And maybe, just as bad as Damian needed these small things, just like any ten year old boy would, maybe Dick needed them too. The small things really did make him feel a whole hell of a lot better.