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To Soothe an Ache

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Damian’s feet slipped on the roof as his world tilted, his balance failing him. It was as if he’d been pushed from behind, and he threw his arms out in a spiraling attempt at regaining a strong footing. He ended up on his knees, palms on the building, eyes squeezed shut against the way the world spun. He waited, breathing in and out in an attempt to make everything still. If he didn’t move he could almost pretend he was okay.

His stomach was sick, turning like he’d chugged a gallon of water on a dare. It felt like he’d held his breath too long, like he was swirling and drowning in the air. Worst of all his head was throbbing. If he wasn’t careful he’d upend all of Pennyworth’s wonderful dinner on the traitorous roof. The roof that wasn’t even slanted, that had seemed firm when he’d swung over to it.

He hadn’t felt bad when he’d left the manor. Or hadn’t felt this bad. He’d had a headache, a small one. Damian had dealt with headaches before, he rarely let them inconvenience him. Most could be wiped away with a reminder that he needed to eat or was somewhat dehydrated and needed water. This one only managed to grow with every attempt to stifle or ignore it.

It didn’t really hit him until halfway through the night, as he finished stopping a mugging. His grip lighter than he’d like as he zip tied the mugger. Now he was on this stupid roof trying not to gag, trying not to move.

A cold breeze hit his forehead, stilling the raging anger in his skull only until the air stopped. He couldn’t stay out here, collapsed on the roof like a helpless baby. He was already pushing his luck that someone would stumble upon him, find Robin in a compromised position. He was too far from home to make it on his own. He couldn’t call Grayson or Father, neither knew he was out. He hadn’t been grounded, only supposed to be resting (as if Father or Grayson took nights off). It was certain he’d be pulled from patrol for a week if either found out he was on patrol without their knowledge.

He could hear the lecture now. Father would remind him why they checked in regularly, how it was dangerous to be on his own with no back up. Grayson would point out that not only could he be injured by himself, but something unexpected like this strange headache could get him killed.

They would both be right. Damian would accept the grounding because he deserved it. That did not mean he wanted it, nor did it mean he was going to give up and walk into letting it happen. He had options. He was close to one of Todd’s hideouts and he knew for a fact that the Red Hood was patrolling on the other side of Gotham tonight. Or at least he thought he did. It was getting hard to hold onto all his thoughts.

The safe house was blessedly unlocked. Damian wasn’t sure he’d have been up to picking the lock if it weren’t. He didn’t stop to figure out why it was unlocked, instead he fumbled for the doubled doorknob and finally swung it open. He slipped inside and found a dark comfortable corner he could defend himself in and curled up.

The dark was helping. His head still felt like it was going to explode, but at the very least he wasn’t wincing at any kind of light anymore. Here in the corner he didn’t have to move. Not moving was excellent. It meant his stomach stopped lurching, and his head stopped spinning. It meant he could try hard to will his brain into feeling better.

What was wrong with him anyway? His head never hurt this bad. It had once when he’d taken a bad blow during training, but that had been an injury. He’d hardly been on patrol that night, let alone that week because of Father’s inane desire for him to be in bed at a ‘respectable’ time.
He swallowed back tears at the pain, hands pressing to his head. It hurt. He didn’t know how to make it stop. He wanted it to stop. He should have gone home, should have called Grayson. All he wanted was his brother to bundle him up and promise something wasn’t horribly wrong with him.

There was a click somewhere in front of him. It was familiar. Damian shouldn’t have missed the sound of it coming. Should have recognized it, but his eyes were closed. He cracked them open. Red Hood towered in front of him, the muzzle of a gun staring him down.

“My head hurts.” He said, his voice tiny in the darkness, if he was too loud it would hurt worse.

The gun lowered, was put away, the helmet pulled off, a frown was turned on him now. Jason crouched in front of Damian. He tried to scoot closer to the wall. His head hurt.

“Crap kid, what’d you do sneak out and get hurt patrolling?” Jason asked, sudden worry in his voice.

His eyes searched Damian, probably looking for a seeping wound. He knew Damian well enough that finding him in a situation like this was wrong. Damian made it a point not to be found displaying such weakness in front of his brothers. Grayson was an exception, Father as well. Todd and Drake? Never.

Damian shook his head and released a tiny gasp, moving was a bad idea.

“Okay, you’re not hurt, so it’s just your head or something else?” Less worry, his tone softer, like he could tell noise was making the ache pound harder.

“Head.” Damian whispered again.

Jason worried his bottom lip, he looked Damian over. “It hurts terribly?” Damian gave a tiny nod that didn’t hurt as bad as the big one. “Light makes it worse?” he nodded again. “Did the cold air outside make it better?”

“Yeah.” He pressed his lips together, “Todd?”

“Hm?”

“I am not dying am I?”

Jason shifted his crouch so he could reach forward and press the back of his hand to Damian’s forehead. Then he very slowly tilted Damian’s head this way and that, fingers brushing across the top and back of his skull. His hands gently pulled Damian’s away so he could check his temples. Maybe he hadn’t believed Damian when he said he wasn’t hurt, or maybe he thought it was something older coming back to haunt him. He didn’t really care since the gentle probing was enough to distract Damian temporarily from the hurt.

After a second, he pulled away and gave Damian a tiny smile, “The good news is you’ll be fine. The bad news is that I think you’ve just learned what a migraine is.”

Damian squinted at him. “What?”

“It’s like a super headache.” There was something soft in Jason’s voice, “Think you can stand?”

Damian almost shook his head again, instead he said, “I want to throw up.”

“That’s pretty common.” Jason said, “If you can make it to the bathroom I promise a shower will help.”

He eyed his brother, “Why are you helping me?”

Jason raised an eyebrow at him, opened his mouth probably to say something sharp and biting, then everything on his face softened, “I know how bad migraines can get. I used to get them all the time as a kid. The last thing I’m going to do is leave you to deal with this on your own.”

“Tt.” he said, but it was weak, more of a hiss of sound made worse by the fact that he’d decided to move.

He braced his hands on the walls beside him to help him stand. Jason steadied him. Damian resisted the urge to shake off his hand. It would only stir his stomach up worse, plus he needed the support. He didn’t want to admit it, but he was fairly certain he wouldn’t make it anywhere on his own, everything was spinning again and he just wanted to curl back up in his corner.

Damian pressed his eyes closed against the fluorescent lights in the bathroom when the stepped in. It was like his eyes hurt, and his head, and he was in serious danger of losing his dinner again.

“Gimme a sec, and I’ll fix the lights.” Jason said, as he flipped a few switches, turning the bright fluorescents off and the half lit vanity on.

He pulled a towel out of a cabinet and set it on the counter, “While you shower I’ll grab you some clothes to put on, and some medicine to take. Call if you feel dizzy or if your head hurts worse.”

Damian was already fumbling for the shower. He didn’t care what kind of clothes Jason was looking for or what medicine it was. Compared to the bright ones, the dim light was helping, but not enough. The knob doubled, and he swore softly. Jason reached around him and flipped the shower on.

The moment Jason was out of the room Damian stripped down, his haste only slowed as he reached for his mask. The last thing he wanted was to make his head hurt worse by making the spirit glue pull or tear at his skin. He climbed into the shower mask still on and pulled the curtain in place.

The hot water pelted his head, almost instantly making him feel better. It was probably a placebo effect from Todd telling him the shower would help, but he didn’t care. He stood there until the water started to go cold, letting it beat his head and neck. Hoping it was some kind of miracle cure. He hated that a headache could render him useless. What would Mother say? He knew that answer, a headache should not bother him. He’d pushed through far worse, so why was he letting this of all things make him weak?

He found a stack of clothes on the counter when he got out. Instead of the oversized hand-me-downs he’d been expecting he found clothes just his size. Did Todd keep clothes for all the bats at his safe houses? He couldn’t just have something for Damian, right? He wasn’t sure it was a thing he really wanted to worry about.

He finished changing and opened the bathroom door to find Jason walking towards him. A glass in his hand, and a pill in the other. He handed them to Damian.

“It’s for migraines.” Jason said, “It’ll take maybe half an hour to kick in.”

Damian swallowed the pill and a gulp of water. “Thank you.” He winced.

“No problem.” Jason said, a small frown on his face, “Hold on a second.” He said, and his fingers brushed across Damian’s face. He peeled something, his mask Damian realized, back. His fingers worked it gently to make sure it didn’t pull Damian’s skin. Then stood and folded it on itself.

Any other day Damian would be angry or embarrassed, today he was grateful. As minuscule as the weight was, having it off his face was nice.

“There, that should help a bit too.” Jason said, “Migraines suck, I’m sorry.” Jason told him, his voice sincere, “Let’s get you comfortable while you wait for that pill to kick in.”

Somehow Jason got Damian seated on his couch, snuggled into a large blanket, and propped against fluffy pillows. Damian had no idea Todd even had such comforts, but he was happy for them. The room was dim, quiet, Todd sat beside him, rubbing the spot between Damian’s thumb and forefinger with his own thumb. The action was soothing, and seemed to make his head feel better.

“Todd?”

“Yeah?”

“Did you alert anyone to my presence?”

He didn’t want to look at his brother, to know the answer by his face. It hadn’t occurred to him earlier to ask, to tell Todd not to call anyone. Of course Todd would call Father or Grayson. He was not equipped or expected to take care of Damian. Damian should not assume even Father or Grayson needed to care for him either. He should have been able to handle this on his own, should have known. Even if he’d had no idea what a migraine had been like hours earlier.

The thumb didn’t stop rubbing circles, “Dick called me. Alfie called him first.”

Damian sighed, “It would have been better if I’d stayed at the manor.”

“If it helps, I don’t think Goldie is going to be mad at you for having a migraine.” Jason’s voice hadn’t raised above a gentle whisper. “Even Alfred and Bruce should have pity on you for it. The things are horrible.”

“I will still be grounded.” Damian muttered.

“Kid, when has that ever stopped you?”

He looked up to find his brother grinning at him. It was the brightest thing he’d been able to look at since the headache had come on and Damian let himself smile back.

“Never.”

“That’s what I thought. You know, you and I have a lot in common.”

Damian rolled his eyes, “Todd, if you are going to spend the time it takes Grayson to arrive trying to convince me of that, I will regret sneaking in.”

“You’ve got to at least let me make a case for Big Brother of the Year. I did keep your head from exploding.” There was something playful in Todd’s tone, and Damian wondered if he wouldn’t enjoy spending more time around the man than he did.

“You told me I’d be fine.” He said.

“Because that’s what you’re supposed to tell scared kids.”

“I was not scared.”

“Right, and I’m Batman.”

Damian let Jason tease him further, not because his head was too distracting but because it was a relief to be able to listen without everything hurting. He further allowed advice on how best to prevent and deal with future migraines, and found himself somewhat sleepy by the time Grayson arrived. He was warm and safe, with his two oldest brothers whispering above him, when he finally let the world fall away into blissful sleep.