Stiles had arranged that following his journey (the bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo, flying from Tokyo to New York, car from New York to Gotham) that he would take two days in Gotham to recover before taking the final flight to San Francisco so his dad could pick him up and he could spend the summer before going through it all again for his last year with the Sumeragi Clan and attending university in Kyoto. So by the time he had arrived he was done for, he thanked the hired driver, took his suitcases from the trunk and walked up the stairs to Wayne Manor.
He fussed around in his backpack for his key ring, which over the past few years had started to look like it belonged to a prison jailer it had so many keys and more than a few dangling things that he had collected. The beanie frog that Derek had sent him last Valentine's day, with it’s tongue hanging out and it's eyes sharpied into x’s, certainly made it easier to find, but it didn't make it easier to decide which of the twenty or so keys was the one he needed.
He wanted nothing more than to just get inside, and fall face first unto Alfred’s perfectly manicured carpets that were as thick as his hand and let his body catch up when it was ready.
He had what he was pretty sure was the right key, marked by glitter nail polish so he could tell them apart (Gotham keys were black, the keys to his Dad’s house were yellow, Derek's loft was red, the house in Kyoto was white, the university office he shared was blue) when the door opened. “You have the best timing," Dick said wrapping his arm around Stiles’ shoulders, “I hate to do this but we’ve got a huge blow up at Wayne Industries and we all have to go out, and it's Alfred’s date night.” Alfred maintained it wasn't a date, that he was just meeting Dr Thompson to go to the theatre because they had so much in common. “We need you to look after Dami." Jetlagged and done Stiles racked his brain to see if he actually knew a Dami. It was long moments before he realised it was Damian. “He’s mostly self sufficient but we need an adult in the house.”
Stiles agreed because he was about ready to agree to anything. “Don't let him leave," Dick continued, “don't let him burn the place down, and he's not to have coffee. Kay, thanks, bye," he said and he was gone, in a black coated whirlwind.
Stiles said something that should have been, “but I don't know the kid," or “what do I know about babysitting?” or “doesn't he have proper childcare?” but it came out ngyerh. It didn't matter Dick was already revving up his motorcycle and ready to go.
Stiles sighed, he was tired enough it was almost a yawn, picked up his backpack and his luggage handle. He had, on Bruce's insistence, gotten one with a handle that he could put his hand luggage on, but he never travelled with only one bag. The backpack carried his emergency kit, but everything else was in his bag and his tack. Sumeragi-sensei had, in his usual terse manner, packed a bento for Stiles, complete with chop-sticks because he was just that kind of person. That it was not shop bought and had been made to look like a pokemon battle was because the housekeeper liked to take care of the “poor children that are afflicted by learning with Sumeragi-sama”. Stiles was going to miss the bento over the summer.
However he had the most awful craving for a Big Belly Burger Belly Buster Supreme, but he didn't feel secure driving right now - he had used a bike in Kyoto because it was just too far to walk to the university and not quite far enough to drive, Yamamura, one of the students he was bunked with, was too lazy and used to take the bus although it was only a handful of stops. Yamamura, Yama for short, was the size of a mountain though.
There was a brief moment of wondering if he could put the kid into the back of one of the cars and just doing it, taking him into town to the nearest, nastiest, Big Belly Burger but then he didn’t know and wasn’t cogent enough to ask do ten year olds need car seats? He stopped dragging his luggage in the entrance hall and started to crawl up the stairs on hands and feet to reach his bedroom, which was, because he was so rarely in the manor, tucked away out of the way, so he could at least change into something that was comfortable if not designed to be seen. There was a pair of basketball shorts and a badly spelled Engrish teeshirt calling his name. As well as the fluffy slippers that Alfred kept for him.
Well they weren't fluffy, but velour, but he wasn't going to split hairs, they were comfortable and his feet felt like melons crammed into his vans, and his socks felt damp. Could over 24 hours of travel give you trench foot? He just wanted to strip, enjoy nudity for however long it took him to dress again and stretch his feet on the carpet before shoving them into his carpet slippers and seeing what Alfred had left in the fridge if he wasn't getting to Big Belly Burger.
Damian Wayne was ten years old. Stiles knew that academically. Dick had also said in his skypes that he was old for his age, and a little shit. That had been more than enough for Stiles, as he had no intention of spending any more time than necessary with him. He didn't do kids when he was one. He stood at the top of the stairs in lace up knee high boots, a red hoodie, and black jeans, tucked into his boots, looking like he was about to go out. “Who the hell are you?”
“Oh kamisami, you look just like him.” Stiles answered, not at all bothered by the fact he was still on his hands and feet, a backpack strapped to him looking like a turtle, so he was about knee level with the child.
Damian lifted his foot, hands burrowed in the kangaroo pocket of his hoodie and went to kick Stiles in the face and push him down the stairs. It was only the reflexes that Jade and Sumeragi-Sama had drilled into him until they were automatic that stopped him getting a kid’s doc marten boot in the face. “Not cool!” He added, straightening up by grabbing the bannister to use as a lever.
“And breaking into the Wayne Manor is not, as you say, cool." Damian repeated.
"I’m not breaking in," Stiles protested, "I’m your babysitter for the evening.”
“I am neither a baby or need sitting on. I am perfectly capable of looking after myself.”
“Tell that to Gotham PD, they tend to be really unfairly mean to parents who leave ten year olds home alone.” Damian, who really did look like a mini-Bruce, and who Stiles was calling BB!Bruce in his head, seemed to chew that over.
“That makes sense, providing a cover for law enforcement." He didn't untense because he had never been tensed in the first place. “But I don't need a sitter, I am perfectly capable of looking after myself.”
“You said." Stiles said, “I however want a shower, and to raid Alfred's fridge for leftovers, I have a pile of Japanese playstation games that I am more than willing to overlook the PEGI on.”
"I don't play games." Damian said.
"I do.” Stiles said. “They're good for reflex training." He wasn't quite whining, but he wasn’t far from it. This mini-Bruce was blocking the way to the shower.
“My reflexes are excellent.” Damian said.
“Your senses are off, because I know I stink, I want to shower, I have to just make sure that you don't drink coffee or leave the house." Damian made a noise like a strangled cat. “What you do I don't care if I get to shower.”
“You are ripe." Damian admitted. “A burglar would certainly smell fresher, and would have his eye on bigger prizes than Alfred’s custom soaps.” He moved to the left, allowing Stiles to go past. But followed along close enough to pass as a very suspicious duckling, making sure that none of the knick-knacks that littered the hallway went into Stiles’ backpack.
"I’m not a burglar," Stiles repeated, dropping his backpack on the floor, and tugging off his hoodie, before pulling his tee up over his head, to show the elaborate inkwork on his back, "I’m vaguely related, and making sure you don't drink coffee.”
“Alfred makes coffee that is like water. I drank coffee with my grandfather in Nanda Parbat, it was strong like the blood of gods, it tasted likes the ashes of eternity upon my tongue.”
"If you tried to make that in Alfred's coffee machine you'd break it, no wonder he doesn't want you drinking it. How do you feel about zesti?” He undid his belt, turning around to find the child going through his backpack. “Are you going to follow me into the shower?”
"No," Damian said, "I am going to go through your luggage for things you shouldn't have.”
“If you just want the games they’re in the big case.” Stiles said and toed off his vans. He had put them on in case he needed to take his shoes off for airport security. His socks followed, and he wondered if they needed a hazmat team to remove them.
After 4 hours on the train, 2 hours in airport security, 14 hours on the plane, another hour in airport security and 2 hours in the back of the hire car he was pretty sure his socks were epic. They had captain america shields on them so he hoped they were redeemable, but Alfred had worked miracles before.
Damian made a noise of fake amusement before leaving the room. “Don't leave the house!” Stiles shouted before closing the bathroom door.
He went back into his bedroom to find Damian sitting on his bed surrounded by his luggage. Stiles was still rubbing water from his hair as Damian weighed the Japanese short sword in his hands. It was still, Stiles noted, in it's leather saya, and the wax seal looked to be in place, but without actually taking it and checking he wasn’t able to be sure. “Not cool," he said, taking a clean tee and sweats from the drawer, dressing under the towel the way he had learned from years of lacrosse and other organised sports. “You did blood it if you unsheathed it, right?”
“Because otherwise the demon that possesses it gets pissy." Stiles answered.
“My grandfather says that demons aren't real." Damian said his hands clutching tighter on the white leather wrapping the saya.
“Then explain Etrigan."
Damian went quiet for a moment. “That doesn't mean that he is a demon.”
“He's a demon, demons are real, trust me on that." He scratched at the damp skin of his stomach, where there had been a terrible scar where a demon had cut Stiles open. “That sword is possessed but the Clan I was studying with struck a bargain, if you open it without blooding it - he gets pissy, and when he gets pissy he burns my hand, so did you unsheathe the sword, because if so we need to blood it.”
Damian put the short sword down, then he picked up the pink enamelled compact. “What’s this?” he asked.
“Does it work?”
“Do you see any werewolves around here?”
“That’s a false redundancy." Damian answered, “just because there are no werewolves in Gotham doesn't mean your repellant works.”
"Kid, there are so many werewolves in Gotham.”
“The Demon's Head says they were wiped out in the age of enlightenment.”
Stiles couldn't help the laugh he made at that. “Look, kiddo, open that compact and there’s powder, blow it in the face of a werewolf and they’ll go down whining. Blow it into the face of a suspected werewolf and they’ll go down. Win win.”
“So you don't know if the person you are blowing it into the face off is a werewolf, so it's entirely possible you’re wrong and they’re not werewolves at all.”
Stiles took a deep breath. “Werewolves are real. I know several. Most are assholes, some less so, but that stuff is a mix of tomb mould, grave dust, mistletoe, rowan sawdust, wolfsbane and ergheiz silver. It will drop most supernatural creatures.” Damian went to open his mouth. “They’re real.” Damian raised an eyebrow that suggested that he was humouring Stiles by agreeing. “You do believe in Vampires, right?”
“They live up in Canada." Damian said, giving it as an answer and was quite content with that. "They like the cold."
“So did you find what you were looking for?” Stiles said looking across the bed and his luggage that was mostly strewn across the floor.
“No,” Damian said, and then dived across the bed to answer the phone as it rang. “Moshi Moshi.” He said. "No he's not available right now, he’s in the shower.”
“Give me the phone." Stiles said but Damian being younger, fresher and just plain wily jumped out of his reach. “Me, I’m Damian, Bruce's son. Oh you're Stiles’ dad, that means you’re Dick's uncle.” He sounded, on the phone, like an average ten year old as he was dancing around the room staying out of Stiles’ reach. “Oh, you're a sheriff, is that like the sheriff of nottingham?” Stiles could hear his dad chuckle down the line. “No,Stiles is just looking after me tonight, he said we could make cookies.” There was a pause, “it is nice of him, he’s really tired from the journey, but I really like cornflake cakes and I can't burn myself on the oven with them, so he said we could make cornflake cakes, I hope Alfred doesn't mind a little mess.”
"I’m going to tear out your spleen.” Stiles hissed.
"I don't think he’s fallen asleep in the shower," Damian laughed, “But I can check. He said he was training with a clan of ninjas and maybe tomorrow he’s going to show me what he does, but I don't think it's as cool as being a sheriff. Do you get to arrest bad guys?”
And Stiles dad reacted exactly as Stiles expected him to to the hero worship of a ten year old child. He told him all about it, whilst Stiles glared at him and Damian just did a sort of mocking motion, rocking it back and forth with a mocking smile.
He slammed his feet into his slippers. "I aint making cookies with you." He hissed, quiet enough that he didn’t think his dad could hear him over the microphone, as Damian continued, talking to Stiles’ own father, talking about the things that would flatter his father but made Damian sound like the second coming.
"I have been to Japan, I've been to Kyoto but I didn't get to stay with a ninja clan." Damian continued.
“They’re onmyoji." Stiles corrected for what felt like the thousandth time, everyone always thought that a clan meant that they were ninjas, but there were lots of types of clans, and the Sumeragi clan were the best onmyoji in the world, and Stiles had needed the word of both Jason Blood and John Constantine, with a note from the mysterious Madame Xanadu to even get an interview. Then Baachan Sumeragi, the family’s elusive matriarch, took one look at him and shouted at Jason Blood for not bringing him sooner, bearing as he did, the shadow of a nogitsune on his soul. That first year had been learning how to contact her shadow and how to work with her, to the point he called her Romi, short of Hagoromo no Gitsune, which was a distinct title for a powerful possessing Nogitsune.
The Sumeragi had been very good to him, treating him like he was one of their own, and after the possession he had needed it. They had gotten him into Kyoto University to study mythology and Baachan was so patient helping him with words he didn't understand, explaining the mythology in ways that worked for him, endlessly patient, so he got frustrated when they inevitably got called a ninja clan.
“Oh he’s out of the shower now," Damian said, “do you want to talk to him?”
Stiles took the phone, “hey Dad." He said, Damian smirked and left the room. “No making coffee." Stiles called after him. “He’s not a bad kid," Stiles lied, there was no point in explaining to his dad that Damian Wayne was the antichrist in a hoodie. “And put your pyjamas on, it's late." He added. He didn’t believe for an instant that Damian would but it sounded responsible.
He talked to his dad for about ten minutes, telling him about his journey, which was long but not eventful, before he noticed it had gone suspiciously quiet. He checked his luggage, the box containing his magical stuff was fine, still sealed, the short sword was there, as was the compact. He wondered for a moment if there was anything else there that Damian could get in trouble with, and decided there was not, the video games were there, although the systems were set up in Tim's room, and his summer reading was loaded on his Waynetech reader. Whatever Damian was doing it was unlike to be with Stiles' stuff.
“Dad I have to go," he said, “it's gone really quiet.”
“Yes, you have to go, that is not a good sign.”
“I was thinking that, love you, see you on Saturday.” He hung up, slipping his phone into the pocket of his sweats.
Damian was in the kitchen, with a reheated plate of Chicken Parmesan in front of him, and a second on the island for Stiles, complete with cutlery neatly wrapped in a kitchen towel, exactly like Alfred did - which suggested he’d been the one to lay out the cutlery. Damian had taken the opportunity to actually put on his pyjamas. They were suspiciously cute. Green pants and trim on what were clearly powerpuff girls pyjamas. Stiles suspected Dick was to blame.
Dick was usually to blame. “Dick?” Stiles asked looking the kid up and down.
“Dick." Damian answered, “but they’re really comfortable. I think they’re girl pyjamas.”
“I have Japanese candy and a mad craving for a Big Belly Burger Belly Buster supreme with extra pickles, do you know if they deliver?” Stiles was not above bribing him for the information. Japanese candy was weird to his American palate and had very little sugar. It wasn't a bad thing to give to him.
“I don't eat fast food, it’s just grease and salt and empty calories.” Damian said using his fork to cut into his chicken.
“That’s why everyone else eats it." Stiles conceded, a look of complete bafflement crossed the child's face. "I've been in Japan, I've been eating so healthily I’m shitting starshine, the closest I've come to eating crap is okonomiyaki.”
"Kansai is the world leader in okonomiyaki." Damian added sagely, like he actually understood it to the point he had been all over Japan to try the Okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki was street food, considering that Damian was quite stuck up Stiles thought he was just repeating what he had heard.
“And the US is the world leader in grease, salt, sugar and empty calories tasting like god's food." Stiles said, unwrapped his cutlery, the weight of it feeling a bit odd in his hands after months of using chopsticks and started to eat the chicken. It was good, because everything Alfred made was good, but it wasn't a Big Belly Burger Belly Buster Supreme.
“So what’s your plan for the rest of the evening?” he said, if Damian wanted to be treated like an adult Stiles could talk to him as one.
“I have some interesting reading." Damian admitted.
“Artemis Fowl? Harry Potter? Percy Jackson?” Stiles asked. He’d read them all, he had no issue helping a ten year old with his reading when the books were fun and worth reading. He might have an old Jonathan Stroud book in his room.
"I don't read fiction." Damian said calmly, sopping up sauce with his chicken. “I’m currently reading a rather fascinating biography about Caesar's expansionist politics.”
Stiles dropped his knife and fork, “and I thought my reading was boring, and I’m reading about the different Hells in Japan, the rise of poetry in the first shogunate and Shinto and you.”
“The one about poetry sounds interesting." Damian said sagely, “is it the Minamoto or Fujiwara period?” And wasn't it awful that a ten year old knew more about it than Stiles who hadn't read the book yet because it was next year’s study.
“So is Artemis Fowl, it's about a ten year old super criminal.”
"I don't read fiction. It’s a waste of time.” Stiles clenched his teeth around his fork with a clang.
“What do you do for fun?”
"I try to avoid it, the world is full of things that it is necessary for me to learn in order to be the best version of myself. I enjoy combat.” He said it so succinctly.
“But," Stiles started.
“You sound like your cousin.” Damian cut him off, “he is overly fascinated by my reading and practises. He thinks I should sleep more and possibly be interested in action figures.” Stiles made an acknowledging noise which Damian took the opportunity to continue. "I have no interest in the construction of little plastic pieces and why such a thing as whatever Star Wars is will incite me to open the boxes.”
“Dude, really?” Stiles asked, finally cleaning his plate. “What did I do, kamisama” he asked the heavens, “to be surrounded by people who haven't seen Star Wars?”
"I don't read fiction, why would I waste several hours of my life on an interpretation of it.”
“Because it's Star Wars." Stiles answered. “Let’s make a deal. If I sit for more than ten minutes I’m going to drop like a sack of potatoes. So I put the film on, you agree to watch it, and then when I fall asleep as long as you stay in the room you can put on one of those British documentaries for their open university, deal?”
Damian considered it for a moment, giving a few minutes thought. “I can work with that.”
Stiles rinsed off the plates before sliding them into the dishwasher, and took down two glasses and poured out the strawberry milk. Perhaps Damian might think he was going to sip some expensive Beaujolais or perhaps a jasmine scented green tea, but he was getting Strawberry Milk.
Stiles drained the glass and then refilled it, preferring to pour in the vitamin added milk that Alfred swore by - they were all growing boys in his house Bruce included - then argue.
The parlour was a small cosy room, one of the few in the manor. It was full of overstuffed chairs that were a little too deep to sit comfortably, and a huge bookcase full of blurays and dvds, there were even a few VHS that hadn't been transferred to DVD yet. Another bookcase full of novels lined another wall. There were blankets draped across the backs of couches - probably made by Stiles’ mother who had left a trail of patchwork blankets in her wake, she had used to joke, you shall know my by the trail of knitting but she was long gone before he understood the joke. Still wrapping himself up in one of those blankets was like wrapping her love around him.
He wondered for a brief, simple moment, if Damian would appreciate it, he looked like the kind of kid who needed a mother’s hug.
“These blankets are ugly," Damian said because Stiles had already learned that the child had no filter, “but I like them," he tugged the one from the armchair around his shoulders, “they are warm and comfy, and they smell nice." Stiles decided that perhaps the child didn't need to be wiped from the planet.
"My mom made them." Stiles said, doing the same thing, folding it over into a triangle and wrapping it around his shoulders, taking a moment to appreciate that first moment of warmth and softness.
“Then she had worth." Damian conceded sitting down on the armchair and pulling his feet, in his padded Toothless slippers - that looked like he had slipped his feet into the brain pan of the dragon in question, which is why the face on the front of the slippers looked so pained. “These blankets are wonderful, Alfred has put one in my bed, and I am not above sleeping with it, for it is warm and soft and smells of lavender and lilacs.”
Stiles wondered if Damian's pronouncement of “she had worth" was his attempt at trying to appreciate her, the blankets were wonderful and Damian had been born after she died, and perhaps she would have liked offering him comfort. But the knowledge he slept with one of the blankets, probably curled around him, made Damian seem very small.
With the blanket around his shoulders Stiles lifted down the black boxes of the unaltered Star Wars DVDs that Bruce had. It had been Bruce that had gotten Stiles addicted to Star Wars so introducing his son to it felt appropriate.
“Get comfy, and prepare to have your mind blown.” Stiles said putting the disk into the drive, it was simply labelled in sharpie “Star Wars,” the other disks were labelled “Empire" and “Jedi”. Tim had the expensive box set with the altered versions, and the prequels but Stiles liked the Star Wars, Empire, prequels, Jedi order and there was no way he was going to get the kid to sit through six movies
He would be lucky if he got him to sit through the first one. With the remote in hand Stiles burrowed into the couch, which was full and soft and warm, with another blanket draped all over it, and tugged a pillow under his arm, and turned the tv and film on.
He had meant to last at least until they reached the Deathstar, but after a few questions about the droids, and how the sand would destroy them Damian went quiet and started to pay attention. He had the impression of someone taking notes over the landspeeder in particular. Stiles wondered if the Millenium Falcon would give him a nosebleed.
That’s when he decided he had been in Japan too long.
Damian was far too young for that kind of comparison.
At the cantina he had the look of a kid who come December and the release of the new movies he would not only be in line but in costume.
Stiles' Dad had always spoken of the contact high of introducing someone to something you loved and seeing them fall in love with it. Stiles hadn't understood it to this moment, watching Damian flinch and his mouth fall open in a sort of unadulterated joy as Han shot first. That this was a story where bad guys could do bad things because it saved their hides, not because they were good people. Most fiction for kids was patronising and the remasters were but the originals weren’t. And Stiles was there to watch the moment where Damian Wayne fell in love with Han Solo. And Stiles knew that Damian was going to lose his shit over Darth Vader when he saw him in his glory, not just threatening Leia but flying the x-wing, and the light sabre battle in Empire because Damian did not know.
He was unspoiled.
Perhaps Stiles was going to lose his shit too.
But his eyes were flagging, his body felt made of warm gooey lead, soft and warm and comfortable and his journey had been long. He'd slept on the plane, between episodes of Beelzebub on his Waynetech tablet, but it wasn't restful sleep, and he had a full belly, and he knew what was going to happen, he knew the movie and Damian was rapt.
He didn't make it as far as Alderaan before he was asleep.
He was woken by a long thin sharp finger to his soft exposed belly.
After his possession Stiles had changed his sleeping pattern from a comfortable sprawl, what his dad called a bed nazi as he had fallen in a sort of swastika in the centre of the bed taking up as much space as possible. After his mom died he had learned to sleep with a pillow in his arms but eventually sprawled into a weird position often with his hips in the air. After the possession, when Stiles was at his most broken hearted, he had started to sleep in a foetal position, held in place by Derek in case he woke up screaming.
The years in Japan had eased him into lying on his side in a strict straight line, so it wasn't a surprise that he had fallen asleep wedged into the gap between the cushions and the back with the pillow held like a teddy bear in his arms.
“Oi, burglar," Damian said, poking him again, “it’s over, what’s the next one, you said there was more than one.”
“Empire," Stiles muttered, still mostly asleep, “then Jedi.”
The weight lifted off the sofa, there was some sound of movement then the weight went back on the couch and a little body burrowed into the couch where the view of the screen was better, and secure all was well Stiles went back to sleep.
When Alfred came back from an enlightening performance of Miss Saigon performed by the high school dramatics department of PS147 in East End, so it was mostly the disadvantaged kids that had plenty of talent but no funding, but nevertheless they tried hard and finding any culture in Gotham, especially on a monthly basis, was a feat worthy of Hercules. There was lights on in the parlour, but he went into the kitchen first, and made himself a nice cup of tea from the black tin all of the boys were not allowed to touch, in the good china that most of them weren't allowed near because boys were rambunctious and china only bounced so much, letting it steep before he went to check that Damian had not murdered young Sasha, because it was terrible getting blood out of the tapestry cushions of the couch.
Alfred liked young Sasha, he listened to him. He wasn't his favourite for Alfred did his best to not have favourites, but he did like him. He cleaned up after himself which went a long way in earning Alfred’s good will. So he hoped Master Damian hadn't murdered him.
On the couch in the parlour, curled up and swaddled with blankets, with the tv showing the menu screen for the Empire Strikes Back made by Dick years before on Nero when they took the unaltered version from VHS to DVD, was young Sasha and curled into him was young Master Damian, thumb in his mouth.
Alfred reacted entirely as one should in such matters, he snapped a photo on his phone, turned off the tv and dvd player, then turned the light down. Master Bruce could certainly carry them both to bed later.