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The Return

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Damian sometimes sat for hours in front of the Nightwing case.

It wasn’t a memorial. Not like Todd’s had been. Nothing had been set aside or changed in light of Dick’s death: it was just an old Nightwing costume on display, the same as it had been when Dick was alive. Damian wondered about that sometimes. He’d often heard people joke that Dick was his father’s favorite Robin- no, everyone’s favorite Robin, really. Yet, if his father was grieving, then he was keeping it hidden. The others were struggling to cope too, but they also kept it behind closed doors.

Grief over loss… it wasn’t something that was talked about in this family, but sometimes it was the only thing anyone seemed to think about.

Dying had been, well, hard. Coming back to life had been hard too and there was no one really there for him. Father was distant. Alfred was aloft. Drake had been more tolerable than usual, but in general he was still not welcome. Todd… sometimes Damian wished he could talk to Todd. He was the only one who knew both what it was like to both be in the League of Assassins and to come back to life. But Todd also seemed to resent Damian a little: Bruce had never tried to bring him back to life after all. Had seemingly proved once and for all that he didn’t love Todd as much. Had even made him relive his death so Bruce could try and find clues to resurrect Damian.

But that was fine, Damian didn’t really want to be close to any of them per say, and it’s not like he ever was before.

He realized now that it had always been Dick who forced his way past the walls Damian set up.Who’d offered support and unashamed affection. Who’d listened to Damian’s internal conflicts and hadn’t called him a monster. Who’d stood up to father on his behalf. Who’d cheered for him as Damian struggled and triumphed and was there for him when he failed.

It was Dick who he wanted with him now.

So Damian would visit Dick’s costume everyday in the morning while everyone was sleeping after patrol. Sometimes he would just look at it. Sometimes he could imagine little conversations he wanted to have with Dick. Damian’s Grandfather had had disowned him, his mother had deemed him deficient and tried to engineer herself a new and more perfect son, and despite having given up everything to join his father’s mission Damian was only accepted if he behaved only in ways that the family approved of… sometimes it seemed that the days that he could do that were few and far between. For all that he knew now that his father cared for him, it was still… hard. He imagined what Dick might say if he told him these things. How Damian would downplay things and Dick would see through him anyway. How he would complain and deny the Dick’s affections and how Dick would wrap him up in a hug anyway. He imagined Dick telling him that it was ok, that even if the others couldn’t see it, Dick knew he was trying really hard and that was what was important. That Dick at least would still be on his side even if this family decided that he was unworthy too.

Sometimes, Damian’s visits to the case were the only thing that kept him from falling into discouragement and self-doubt.

Once or twice, Drake caught him sitting by the case (the fool never slept sometimes). He’d say nothing, but Damian could feel the pity in his gaze and it angered and shamed him. Damian would snarl something rude at the older Robin and go march off to find a dummy that he could hack into pieces. Drake learned to pretend not to see him if he was visiting the case.  

Then one day on patrol, without any warning, Dick was just there standing before him looking as shocked to see Damian as he was to see him.

“You’re alive!” Dick exclaimed, his surprise melting into relief and joy.

You’re alive!” Damian choked back. There were a million thoughts and feelings crowding into Damian’s head but he couldn’t make sense of them. All that he knew was the next minute he was running and launching himself into Dick’s waiting arms.

Dick held him tightly and fiercely. He smelled just the way Damian remembered him, felt just as warm and loving and alive as Damian remembered. Damian didn’t care that this meant that his father and Dick had lied and kept this from him. The cruelty of the deception. He didn’t care. He had been raised as an Al Ghul. He knew what cruelty was. Dick hadn’t even been told he was alive again, Damian did not begrudge him for following Bruce’s orders. It was what Damian would have done in his place.

Even so…

“I missed you.” Damian found himself admitting before he could think better of it. Dick squeezed him a little tighter and pressed their cheeks close.

“I know kiddo, me too, me too.” Dick said back fiercely and Damian wondered if he would weep. He better not or Damian might too and that would be intolerable.

Didn’t stop him from clinging tighter and reassuring himself that this wasn’t a dream.

“Aren’t you going to tell me I’m an ass for hiding?” He could hear feel Dick smile against him, could hear the rueful teasing lilt in his voice. There was a rather spectacular bruise forming on Dick’s cheek, and Damian idly wondered which family member it was from. Probably Todd or Gorden is he’d have to guess. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand why they felt such pain and anger at Dick’s reappearance, but Damian also couldn’t bring himself to care.   

“Don’t you already know you’re an ass?” Damian retorted, “I don’t really see the point in me having to bother with it.”

He felt Dick laugh at that. A full bodied genuine thing that made Damian’s heart feel close to bursting. Dick set Damian back on his feet, but Damian refused to move very far, still pressing as close as he could without appearing too clingy.

The twinkle in Dick’s eyes told him that he understood anyway and didn’t mind in the least.

Instead, he kept an arm around Damian too and pulled out a gift from his Father and Ra’s al Ghul's first fight. He’d seen Damian be stabbed by his twin. Knew that his mother had allowed it. Yet he also knew how important that side of Damian’s family still was to him. Damian took the gift gratefully even though he projected dismissiveness. Not just because of the significance for his family, past and present, but because of the symbolic reminder that Dick knew him well enough to know it would matter to him.  

It didn’t matter that half of it was all still part of a cluemaster game Dick was playing with him and the others. Damian still believed Grayson meant it.

“To see what you’re doing, what you’ve become, I’m nothing but proud.” Dick smiled softly at Damian and giving his shoulder a squeeze.

Don’t go , Damian felt like demanding, don’t leave again . He wanted Dick to come live with them again. To stay close where Damian could be allowed to be part of his life. He wanted to remind Dick that his father wasn’t acting as Batman right then, and I can be your Robin again.

He said no such thing though. He let Dick leave him there. Duty came first and Dick had given him a task. He would just have to trust that someday Dick would still return.