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Memories are Fickle Things

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Damian doesn't remember his earliest years. He remembers his first kill, though. He'd been afraid. A tall man in a black uniform had come at him. There had been a knife near Damian. He did the only thing he could think of and threw the knife. It impeded in the would-be assassin's heart. Damian had only been three.

Everything in his life before that moment is gone. Everything after he can remember in picture-perfect detail. Ten years later and Damian can still remember exactly what happened every single day he lived with the League of Assassins.

Sometimes he wonders why three. Why doesn't he remember from four? Why three? Trauma from his first time killing a man and ending up covered in blood? He might consider that as an option, except he remembers killing the man, so that means it's not trauma. He suspects his mother has something to do with it.

It's never been a big deal for him though. He sometimes wonders, yes, but it doesn't affect his day-to-day life, so why waste time wondering about it? Whatever the case, he doubts that anything in his life before three is actually important. He's never even tried, that's how little it truly bothers him.

Today he's at Jon's apartment. The news is playing in the background on the TV while he and Jon work on homework. It usually doesn't take him long to do all of his but even so, Jon insists it's something friends do together. Who is Damian to ruin Jon's naive dreams? Othan his teammate, at least.

He's only half-paying attention to his homework in favor of watching the news. There isn't anything interesting on, just some fluff piece about an organization that helps locate kidnapped and runaway children. A woman is on talking about the organization. She doesn't look all that special. Her hair is a plain brown and tied back in a messy ponytail. Her eyes are a forgettable brown.

Yet still, even though everything about her screams that she is just another face in the crowd, Damian swears she looks familiar. He stops looking at his homework in favor of observing her and trying to piece together where he's seen her before.

"This is Molly Breal," the reporter narrates. "She has become the main face of LMECO, that is, the Location of Missing and Exploited Children Organization, ever since her three-year-old son was taken from his room at their home in Central City ten years ago." The reporter turns towards Molly Breal. Damian files the name away so he can figure out why she's so familiar. "Now, Mrs. Breal, how exactly did your son's disappearance lead you here?"

Molly Breal takes a deep breath on screen. Damian finds himself entranced.

"I know my son is still alive, and so are so many others that people have given up on. That's why I knew I had to do this. This way I can help others who are or were in the same situation I was and am," she explains, sincerity oozing throughout every word. "Eventually I'll find Damian, my son, and I know that somehow, this will be why."

Damian can feel the gears shifting in his brain. All he can focus on is her final sentence. Damian. Her son's name is Damian. It's probably a coincidence. It can't be anything more, because Damian knows who his parents are. There's only one little problem with that; Damian doesn't believe in coincidences.

Someone, somewhere, probably wanted him to see this. But why? What reason could anyone have to show him this? Damian's not an idiot. He knows how to perform a blood test. A DNA test. He knows he is his mother and father's son. And yet, the woman is still familiar. Why though?

"Do you have any leads on your son's disappearance?" the reporter asks.

Molly Breal shakes her head. Her eyes are surprisingly glassy. Damian's not quite sure what to make of that.

"No, nothing yet. I know he's out there though. I haven't stopped looking yet, and I don't plan to until I find him. Nor do I plan to stop working here."

"Well, I wish you all the luck in your search for him and your work with LMECO," the reporter says. "Now back to you, Jim."

The screen flashes and a man in a suit appears, sitting behind a desk.

"Thanks, Carol. Now, onto more news. How are your children's habits affecting their grades? We're heading over to Neal who's in New York City with the report. Neal?"

Damian stops listening at this point. It's not important. Molly Breal, he knows her. The memory is just out of reach, but he knows her. Not as an agent of his mother, he's sure of that. If only he could remember.

Damian squeezes his eyes shut. What is it his father tells him? Ah, yes. Treat your memory like a museum. All you have to do is walk through the halls and find the rooms.

Then as suddenly as he can close his eyes something flashes. A… giraffe? No, a toy giraffe. Molly Breal is holding one out to him. He reaches for it with chubby hands and laughs. There is a man standing behind her holding a camera. He's smiling too. They lay him down and when he wakes up next he kills a man.

His head spins from the memory. Damian opens his eyes, yet sees nothing. He feels himself slump against the Kent's couch that Jon occupies and slide to the floor. This is certainly not the most appropriate time for an internal crisis, but here it is nonetheless.

The thing is, again, Damian is his mother and father's son. He knows this. He looks just like them, not Molly Breal and the man from his memory. His DNA matches theirs. He's done the test himself. Molly Breal only bears a passing resemblance to him.

She has dark hair and green eyes, but other than that they're as different as can be. Her skin is almost as light as milk. His is a tan that betrays his ancestry. She speaks with a Midwestern American accent. He speaks with one that sounds British and Arabic.

"Damian, are you alright?"

Damian blinks, and the white fuzziness that fills his vision disappears to reveal Jon staring at him and hanging upside down from the couch. Jon's brow is furrowed. He looks worried. It's strange to see Jon looking worried.

"Yes, I'm… fine," he says, sitting up. "I have to go, Jon. There's something important that came up. Sorry."

Jon looks like he wants to protest, but then simply snaps his mouth shut. He's too used to Damian being strange to put up a fight, or at least to put up a good fight. That, at least, is good in this situation.

"Okay," Jon finally agrees, flipping off the couch and standing up straight. "Just, call me if you need anything. Help kicking butt. A friend. And remember to come tomorrow."

Damian stands up and starts towards the door. Before he leaves he turns back to Jon.

"How can I forget?" he asks rhetorically. "You're annoying enough to remind me even if I do."

Damian smiles at Jon slightly and leaves their apartment. He takes the stairs down slowly. First things first, look into Molly Breal's son and his disappearance. Next, call his mother. Damian won't put it past her to have something to do with this. He can work from there.

Central City is everything Gotham City isn't. Bright. Sunny. Happy. Clean. The people are friendly. Birds sing. There are no gangs out to get him. Here he's just another teenager. He's most certainly not Bruce Wayne's son. He's just Damian. It's freeing if nothing else.

In no time he arrives at Molly Breal's house. It's a tiny one-story house with yellow walls and white shutters. There are flowers on the steps to the front porch. For a moment, Damian thinks he remembers climbing up the steps with someone standing behind him and someone else holding his hand. The flowers were purple then. They're blue now.

He looks once more at the address and takes his phone out, searching the name Molly Breal. He could always do a more thorough search on the Batcomputer, and he will once he gets home, but for now, a simple google search will do.

Her name comes up with several volunteer organizations for missing and exploited children and one news article in the Central City Citizen.

Damian clicks on the news article.

It paints a sad tale of a young couple in love, just married, and with a newly adopted son. The boy's name is Damian. It goes on the tell how they live happily for three years, but then one day, Molly Breal leaves town for a meeting a few cities over. She stays the night.

While she's gone someone comes into the house and takes her son

The article has a picture of the child who went missing. The child is Damian. He's sure of it. He recognizes himself. But none of this makes sense. He knows his mother is Talia al Ghul and his father is Bruce Wayne. DNA doesn't lie. What he doesn't understand is why he might have lived with a completely normal woman who seems to be uninvolved in anything nefarious only to be brought back to his mother. Why his mother would let anyone adopt him.

The only one who can give him answers is someone he doesn't want to see. Doesn't want to speak to. But at this point, it's the only way. Damian turns away from the house and leaves. He has to double check using the Batcomputer, just to be sure the woman is normal.

She is. A normal woman whose son was kidnapped. Damian calls his mother.

"Hello, darling," his mother says over the phone, voice smooth. "What do you need?"

"What makes you think I need anything?" he asks harshly.

Her laugh is quiet, tinkling. It reminds Damian of happier times.

"You called, didn't you? If I remember our last meeting correctly, you wouldn't be talking to me unless it was important. So. What do you need?"

Her voice becomes hard at the end. Damian's not sure whether to laugh or cry.

"Who is Molly Breal?"

The line is quiet. Not even breathing. Finally, there's a small sigh. His mother is annoyed.

"Where did you hear that name?" she asks sharply.

"She was on the news earlier today. Talking about her missing child named Damian," he tells her. "I remember her."

He doesn't mention that it's only a memory or two.

"The psychics obviously weren't thorough enough on you," she sighs.

"Mother!" Damian snaps. He's losing patience by the second.

"Don't take that tone with me," she commands.

"You're avoiding the question," Damian observes. "You're scared. Or maybe you're just a coward, mother."

Damian's words ring of challenge.

"Molly Breal was your adoptive mother. You were too young to be trained as a newborn. Optimal age to begin training is three. I needed somewhere without the danger of assassins for those three years."

His mother's voice is cold. It hits Damian very hard that she doesn't care. To her, he has always been just a weapon. It's all he ever will be. All she'll ever see him as.

"You were left at an orphanage after birth. The Breal's adopted you when you were a month old. I sent an assassin to retrieve you when you were three. I had a psychic in my employ wipe all your memories of them and left you to wake up in a room with the same assassin who took you. You passed the test perfectly."

"I hate you," Damian whispers. "I hate you so much, mother."

He hangs up before she can formulate a response and stalks out of his room. He's not sure where he's going or what he's going to do. All he knows is his feet are moving and he somehow ends up under Gotham Harbor and in his and Jon's base.

He sits down on the floor and wraps his arms around his knees tightly. This isn't right. Damian is perfect. He shouldn't be so hurt by his mother's actions. She willingly let him die. It can't get much worse than that. Yet this hurts more than his death. And unlike his death, there's nothing he can do about it.

What is he supposed to do with this information? Just leave that poor woman to continue looking for her son forever? That seems like a cruel fate to him. And perhaps if he didn't remember her and being three he might be okay, but now he remembers. Just bits and pieces. He was young, after all.

Now though, now he remembers calling her 'mama'. Now he remembers a cake shaped like a dog with three candles. He remembers a man with dark hair and a deep laugh. He remembers squealing at a park and running around with a blonde boy.

The memories are fractured, and definitely not all there yet. Still. It's a strange thing. He remembers a happy, carefree childhood, yet he also remembers killing and running and climbing mountains. He remembers a time when he didn't have to worry about anything. It's hard to believe such a time even existed.

There's nothing to do, not really. Damian… misses her, in a strange way. She was only there for three years of his life, but she loved him for those three years. If someone discovered it though, he might be forced to live with her. He had been up for adoption, after all. She has the real claim.

Damian doesn't think she would do that, but people can change in ten years. That's a long time, after all. It only took a few days at most for his mother to make him a killer. Ten years, a lot can happen.

He has to stay away, no matter how much the ache he doesn't even realize he had makes him want to see her again.

Damian lasts almost two weeks before he gives in and arrives at the house in Central City again. The flowers are just as bright as last time. Just as bright as he remembers them being from his childhood.

He takes a deep breath before walking up the steps slowly. The door is a bright green, different from the cheery blue he remembers from his childhood. He raises a hand and freezes.

What is he doing? This could put his father in danger. Damian isn't exactly a hidden figure in the public eye. She'll no doubt put two and two together and she might come after him. She might blame his father.

Suddenly, Damian realizes he doesn't care. He'll tell his father what he did later. He'll find something, a way to keep his father happy. A way to maybe, if she agrees, see Molly again without having to leave his father. Later though. Now he just wants to, for once, live in the moment.

He knocks sharply once, twice, three times.

A moment later he hears footsteps and the door creaks open. The woman from the news, Molly Breal, her face appears. She smiles at him tiredly.

"Hello," she says, stepping out onto the porch. She's wearing a plain pair of jeans and a red sweater. Her hair is tied up in a messy ponytail. There are a few pieces of grey.

"Hello," Damian greets, after staying silent a moment too long. "Um, the flowers are blue instead of purple. Didn't they used to be purple?"

The Molly's mouth drops open. She blinks, then shakes her head gently.

"I'm sorry. What was that you said?" Her voice is full of apprehension but hope too.

"They were purple, ten years ago, weren't they?" It's dumb, but Damian's brain seems to have stopped working. Still, her face lights up and her eyes grow glassy.

"D-Damian?" she asks, almost as if voicing it will make him disappear.

He nods his head. "Yes."

Her hand flys to her mouth, hiding a gasp.

"Y-you're here? How? Where did you come from? Just, how…" She trails off, leaving Damian to guess at what the rest of her sentence might have been. It's not hard.

Damian hesitates. "My mother, she wanted me back. I, my father never knew about me, not until a few years ago. I didn't know I was… about you until I remembered. I saw your appearance on the news."

Her eyes are still glassy, but she moves aside and gestures inside.

"Well, it looks like we have some things to talk about."

Damian takes a step forward. The house is the same as he remembers, little as that is. Even the smell is the same. Flowers and chocolate. He looks at a picture of him, sitting on Molly's lap with a man behind them, touching it gently.

"I live with my father now. My mother and I don't speak. He doesn't… he doesn't know I'm here. I wasn't sure what to tell him." Damian smiles wryly and turns to look at her. She's not particularly tall, and he's only an inch or so shorter.

The woman is still looking at him as if she's unsure he'll disappear or not. Damian, guiltily, realizes that he will be. He can't just live here. This is something from his childhood. He belongs with his father and working as Robin now.

"I just, I wanted you to know. That I'm okay," he finishes lamely.

"I believe you, that you think you are. How, though, do I know you are who you say?" she asks. Her eyes are hopeful though.

"I'm not sure," Damian admits. "My mother, I asked her about you. She admitted I was your… adoptive child. Is there anything that can prove it?"

"Um, my, my Damian, he had a scar on his palm, from a hot pan he managed to reach. It's shaped like a half-moon."

Damian promptly holds his right palm up, showing off the scar on his thumb. He's had it for as long as he can remember. He's never been sure of where it came from though. Well, now he knows, he supposes.

As if she's been waiting for this exact moment, she lets out a sob and runs at him, wrapping her arms around him in a tight hug. Damian freezes and stiffens, but he wraps his arms around her after a moment in a quick hug. It's been so long, he's not even really sure how to hug someone.

After a moment longer, she pulls back, but her hands remain on his shoulders. She drinks in the sight of him. Damian finds himself closing his eyes against the close scrutiny.

"I can't stay," Damian says finally. "My father… I don't want to leave him."

"Of course," she says. She sounds unsure. This is what Damian's been afraid of.

"I can't leave him," Damian says. "I don't, he's my father. I just can't. It's nothing about you, it's just, he's my father."

It sounds lame, even to Damian, but she seems to understand what he's saying. For a moment, Damian wonders why all civilians can't be this reasonable.

"I understand, Damian," she says, caressing his face. Damian leans into the gentle touch. "Just, come back?"

"I will," Damian promises. And he means it.