Damian had been looking forward to seeing the new Art Gallery for months, ever since he first read about its construction. Art was his passion, and the Gotham Art Gallery was supposedly going to be one of the best facilities in the nation. He hoped, in a few years, he could volunteer as a docent. That would be amazing. For now, he would have to settle with simply visiting.
He had been dropping hints at Father for weeks about attending the opening. But the man always shrugged him off. Simply grunted and nodded or said something as infuriating as ‘that sounds nice, son’ without even looking up from his reading. Father never paid him attention.
So, of course, opening weekend came and went without such much as a second thought for Bruce Wayne. Damian tried to let it go. Father was busy, after all. He wasn’t clear enough about his desire to attend. That was probably all it was.
But, then again. His father never did anything he wanted. Never took him anywhere he wanted to go. It would be different if he ignored the others, too, but he didn’t. Last week Drake wanted to go see the latest Star Wars movie, so his father had taken him. The week before that, Grayson asked to go to the circus, so of course Father had dropped everything to go. But when Damian wanted to spend one lousy afternoon at an Art Gallery, where was Bruce Wayne? At home reading reports.
It ticked Damian off to no end. He was the son. Him. Bruce was his father, not theirs. Why did he care about them more than him? Why did he enjoy spending time with them and not him?
He even loved Todd more than Damian. Todd. The psychopathic teenager who had shot Damian. The one who constantly bashed Father and trampled on everything for which he stood. Even after insult after insult, Father would go to the moon and back without a spaceship if Todd wanted it.
It was maddening.
So, when he and Father got into yet another screaming match early one morning, Damian decided he had had enough. He ripped off his tracker bracelet, turned off his phone, and set both on the top of his bed, waiting as a present for Father to walk in and see them. Then, he made his way out of the Manor and off the grounds.
Surprisingly, the security system did not stop him. He just simply walked straight out the front gates and away from the estate. It took him an hour to walk down to the main road, where he was able to catch the bus into the city. He was going to see that damn Art Gallery and no one would stop him.
Damian had skipped both breakfast and lunch by the time he arrived at the Gallery. He didn’t much care. He had been trained to ignore his body’s weaker desires, such as the need for food or water, but he knew he should probably get a bite to eat.
After purchasing entrance to the Gallery, using cash, thank you. He was not going to tip Father off to his location by using his credit card, he went to grab a meal at the food court.
He had been living in the States for almost a year but was still not used to American food. Everything was fried, or horribly greasy. He longed for the flavors of home. Nothing in the states was seasoned enough. Everything was so bland. Bland and greasy. He wanted cumin. Baharat. Cardamom. Was any of that too much to ask? Everything was seasoned with salt and black pepper here. Even foods advertised to be “spicy” hardly held up to Damian’s standards.
As was to be expected, the food court consisted of a burger place and a pizza place. Damian hated pizza, so a burger it was. The menu was basically several different types of hamburgers, a chicken option, and a vegetarian option. He could get a side salad, if he wanted, or chips. Why Americans insisted on calling them ‘French fries,’ he would never understand. They weren’t even French. One American thing he had taken a liking to, however, was ranch dressing.
He ordered a veggie burger with a side of ‘fries’ and a cup of ranch dressing and sat with his meal in an empty corner of the seating area. The ranch went on everything. He put some on the burger, along with some ketchup, hoping the delicious tangy dressing would help cover whatever awful brand of vegetarian ‘meat’ the cheap restaurant was using. It worked.
The meal hit the spot and soon Damian was feeling much better. He might have been able to ignore the pain from hunger, but simply being hungry and slightly dehydrated always put him in a foul mood, even if he didn’t show it outwardly. He refilled his bottle of water at the fountain and shoved it into his hoodie pocket, hoping to keep it hidden from security. He would not open it in the Gallery, he was not suicidal, but he also didn’t want to just throw out a perfectly good bottle. It seemed like such a waste to use it once and then toss it. Besides, he could use a bottle of water when he walked home later.
When a hand settled on his shoulder twenty minutes later, he thought he had been caught sneaking the drink out of the dining area. He had been wandering the exhibits on the first floor, admiring the sculptures displayed in grand cases. Each one in this room had been made by a different local artist, and all were meant to depict what Gotham was to them.
Damian froze, waiting for the security guard to admonish him for breaking the rules. The voice that spoke up, however, was not one he was expecting. “Looks like the demonbird slipped the nest.”
“Todd,” Damian hissed, before spinning on his heels to face the teenager.
Todd grinned like the smug bastard he was. “Seriously, aren’t you a bit young to be out here all by yourself? Where’s your daddy?” The condescension in his voice made Damian want to scream.
Leave it to Todd to ruin a perfectly nice afternoon at the art gallery. What was the street rat even doing there? It’s not like he enjoyed civilized things like culture.
“My father is probably at home. I am not a child in need of supervision.” Damian moved to walk around Jason, but the teen side stepped and blocked him. He was beginning to feel like a cornered animal. He could take Jason, easy, of course. But… right now he was Damian Wayne and what would Father say if he found out he got into a fight with Todd in public in their civilian identities?
Jason smirked and crossed his arms. “Is that so? Brucie just lets his precious ten-year-old son wander Gotham all by his lonesome? Give me a break, kid.”
Damian was trapped between two exhibit cases. He could probably flip over Jason, but that wasn’t a skill he should possess. He was trapped. Stuck in this pointless conversation, that was likely going to end in Jason calling his father.
He glared at Jason. “What do you want? If your inferior mind needs assistance interpreting the art, that’s what the docents are for. Leave me alone.”
“I don’t want anything from–“ Jason’s words came out slower and quieter with each word, all while a startled expression caught on his face. He appeared to lose focus on Damian and shift his attention to something else.
Damian looked around but didn’t see any danger. Was this one of Jason’s little moments of insanity?
Before he could react, Jason lunged at him, tackling him to the ground. “Todd!” he screamed, just as his back slammed into the ground. Jason’s arms wrapped around him as his entire body went completely on top of him. Damian felt when Jason lost consciousness, likely from slamming his head into the wall behind them, because suddenly all of Jason’s weight was slumped on him.
Then the building collapsed.