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The Insecurities in the Strongest of Us

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For two nights, the family was out looking for Damian, day in and day out.

The morning after Halloween, pretty much everyone was on the verge of collapse. Bruce still had the antidotes of both fear toxin and laughing gas working through his body, its effects slowed down by all the caffeine and pain meds he had consumed. But he still had to pop into work, due to the yearly international board meeting.

Dick also had extra-strength pain meds coursing through his body, certainly not helping the fact that he had no slept for a couple of days now. His hair was oily and gross, but he had yet to have a chance to take a break to take care of himself.

He made calls all day, trying to reach out to see if anyone had seen Damian. He had Oracle on hold the entire time, reaching out every hour or so to see if she had found anything that could help them track down Damian. But there was no luck.

Dick also called Jason some twenty times. But Jason had sneaked out of the Manor at some point in the early hours of the morning, without a single heads up to anyone. Dick was pissed about that.

“Where the hell is he?!” Dick raged after the twenty-fourth time his call went to voicemail.

Tim came in with two cups of coffee, handing one silently to Dick. “I’m going to assume that’s a rhetorical question,” he yawned. Then, he pointed an accusing finger at Dick. “But you should be helping me find Damian. Jason can take care of himself.”

“It’s not that,” Dick huffed, slamming his phone onto the table. “He should be here. Helping us.” He rubbed his temples, trying to push back the pounding headache he had.

“Maybe he’s out there looking for Damian,” Tim said. “You know Jay’s not the type to just sit around and wait.”

“We’re not waiting,” Dick said irritably. “We’re taking a practical approach. If we all just went out into Gotham and searched blindly, who knows how long it’ll take to find him!”

“Dickie,” Tim said. “Maybe you should go take a nap. You’re really grouchy.”

Dick just huffed and crossed his arms, glaring at the far wall.

“There’s nothing you can do about Jason,” Tim said, turning in his seat to face the computer. He pulled up a map of Gotham and went back to scouring the traffic cams, street by street, sector by sector.

Dick slumped into his own chair, bringing a knee up to rest his forehead on. “I’m just worried,” Dick said softly. “I- Dami’s out there, alone and scared, and there’s nothing I can do about it! I just- I hate feeling helpless! And Jay’s gone to who knows where, and I just don’t like the idea that maybe I need to be worrying about him as well!”

“I know,” Tim said. “Which is why we need to keep looking. I don’t have a good feeling about this whole thing either. Trust me, I’m not fond of the idea that Damian’s out there in his state. But I can’t let my worries distract me, and you shouldn’t either.”

Dick kind of hated this practical, no-nonsense side of Tim. It reminded him too much of how emotionlessly Bruce liked to approach things. Dick knew that Tim was extremely bothered by the whole situation, but the second any bit of weakness dares show, Tim slides this blank mask up.

Dick thought about it a long time ago – why everyone just replaced their emotions with a mask of indifference. At first, he thought it was Bruce just rubbing off on everyone. Then, he thought it was a strange alpha thing, but Jason also had that tendency and Cassandra did not. It was then that Dick realized that it was not just their family that did it. A lot of people avoid their feelings when they do not know how to deal with it.

Dick did not like that. Sure, some feelings were hard to face, but he would prefer feeling over hiding and cowering behind some fake face.

Dick sighed. “I’m- I’m going to go call Babs again.” Dick stood up and left the Cave. He walked upstairs, ducking into an unused guest room before collapsing backwards onto the bed. He wanted to let his eyes drift close and take a long nap, let his muscles relax and rest.

“I’ve found nothing new, Dick,” Oracle sighed as soon as the call was answered. “Seriously, I’ll call you if I found anything.”

“Babs…” Dick said softly, staring up at the ceiling.

Oracle was silent for a second. “Yeah?” she then asked, her tone softer, slipping into her Barbara voice. “Are you okay, Dick?”

“No,” Dick admitted. “But hey, when am I ever? I was thinking… do you think maybe Damian’s not in Gotham at all?”

“What do you mean? Where else could he have gone? You said he ran out the front door.”

“Yes, but maybe he circled around the house, and… I don’t know, went somewhere else? Maybe he called Jon to whisk him off to- to Idaho or something.”

“Why Idaho?” Barbara asked. Dick could almost see her wrinkling her nose. “We’ve already checked other possible places that Damian could be, including his HQ in the bay as well as the Teen Titans Tower in San Francisco.”

“Well, he isn’t in Kansas, Tim already checked, so I went with Idaho… never mind,” Dick sighed. “Is Clark back from space yet?” he asked.

“Nope,” Barbara said. “Bruce did say his mission could take a week.”

“So asking Clark for help is out of the question. We very well can’t ask anyone else to drop everything and come help look for Batman’s seventeen-year-old son. Is he with his mother?”

Barbara clicked her tongue. “I don’t know,” she said. “I have a lot of resources, but I don’t have any inside the League of Assassins, Dick. Haven’t you guys tried contacting Talia yet?”

“And possibly alert Ra’s that we dunked his grandson into the Pit and created some super killing machine?”

“Don’t sass me, Grayson,” Barbara said.

“Sorry, sorry,” Dick said, rubbing his eyes. “Well, I should get back. I left Tim alone in the Cave.”

Barbara hummed sympathetically. “I could try locating Jason for you,” she offered. “You sound stressed.”

Dick scoffed. “I don’t need that ungrateful- actually, yeah, that’d- that’d be nice.”

Barbara laughed.

“What?” Dick asked with a hint of a whine in his voice. He smiled up at the ceiling. “If I can’t take a nap, I need another method of recharging.”

“Uh-huh,” Barbara teased. “I’ll see if I can locate him for you. Now stop calling me. I will call you if I find anything.”

“’kay,” Dick said with a yawn. “Thanks, Babs.” He ended the call and continued to lay there for a few seconds. He wanted just to let the bed consume him so he could get some dearly needed sleep. But he needed to get back to searching.

He headed back down into the Cave.

“Did Barbara have any new information?” Tim asked, not looking away from the six traffic camera footage he had playing simultaneously.

“Nah,” Dick said. He nodded at Tim’s empty mug of coffee. “Want a refill?” he asked, wincing slightly.

“If you don’t mind,” Tim said, grimacing himself.

It would be Tim’s eighth cup of coffee that day and definitely a bad idea.

“Be right back,” Dick said, ruffling Tim’s hair.

“Don’t touch my hair,” Tim grumbled, reaching up to fix his hair.

Dick came back a few minutes later with a piping hot cup of coffee, grinning. “You never used to do that,” he said, setting the cup down.

“Do what?” Tim asked.

“Grumble when I mussed up your hair. Only Damian did that.”

“So?” Tim asked. “No one’s happy when you mess up their hair, Dick.”

“Yes, but I don’t know how I never noticed all these traits you guys keep picking up from each other. You and your grumbly, under-your-breath comments. And Damian with his newfound habit of crossing his legs when he sits.”

“I don’t cross my legs when I sit,” Tim said, as he uncrossed his legs. He sipped his coffee. “And we all see each other on a near daily basis. I probably picked up on your traits or Jason’s traits too.”

“Not the way you pick up Dami’s,” Dick teased. He poked Tim’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. I think it’s cute.”

Tim sipped his scalding coffee and did not even wince. “You’re not mad?” he asked.

“Why would I be mad?” Dick asked, sounding honestly confused.

“Because of a lot of things,” Tim grumbled under his breath. When Dick started grinning, Tim cleared his throat. He uncrossed his legs again. “For one, Damian’s seventeen, which seems to be something Jason was quite bothered about.”

“I trust Damian to make the right decisions,” Dick said simply. “He’s not a kid, so I don’t really see why we should hold him to rules that don’t really apply.”

“We’re both alphas.”

“Just don’t tell me who takes it up the ass,” Dick said cheerily. Then he paused and winced at that thought.

“We’re technically brothers,” Tim grimaced, still stubbornly keeping his eyes on the screen.

“Then I would be hypocrite, would I not?”

“Why are you so- so okay with all this?” Tim asked, pausing the videos and turning to face Dick. “Jason needled us for months after he found out about our relationship. The only reason I think he didn’t really care about it is because he thought we were just fooling around and that we wouldn’t last.”

Dick stared at him for a few seconds, considering. “I’ve seen my share of strange things, Timbo. This isn’t really strange. Unexpected, sure. Strange, not so much. The only weird thing about it is that I don’t know how I did see it earlier.” Then, he paused. “When did Jay find out?”

“Like, a year ago,” Tim said, sipping his coffee again to hide his blush. “I think he suspected, and then his suspicions were confirmed when he walked in on us. He was strangely calm, just like you are.”

“But you said he needled you guys about it.”

“Yeah,” Tim said. “He didn’t think we were serious, and when we finally told him we were serious, he was a bit more outraged about the whole thing.”

“I… can somewhat understand what he’s coming from,” Dick said slowly, wincing. “I’m not against you guys, trust me. Good for you, in fact. I’m happy you guys are actually getting along.”

“Really?” Tim asked, with a shy smile.

“Yeah, of course,” Dick nodded. Then, he gave a wry smile. “I’m just kind of sad one of you isn’t an omega or a beta. Because you guys would have had the cutest kids. Second cutest. My kids are the cutest.”

“You don’t have kids, Dickie.”

“Future kids, Timbo,” Dick said. Then, he fell silent, biting the inside of his cheek as he thought about his conversation about kids with Jason only last night. 

Tim silently drummed his fingers against the keyboard, not noticing Dick's inner turmoil. He bit his lower lip.

“What?” Dick asked, pushing away his thoughts to focus on Tim instead.

“Nothing,” Tim said. “I didn’t say anything.”

“You wanted to,” Dick said, raising his eyebrows. “Well?”

“I want kids with Damian,” Tim whispered. “I- I know he’s still seventeen and all, and I certainly don’t mean now, but… someday.”

“Even though you’re both alphas?”

“It’s not impossible,” Tim said. “I mean, Damian himself is proof of that. His parents are both alphas.”

Dick snorted, amused. “So you’re going to go to Talia and plead her to help you create her grandchild? You realizes she's probably considered psychotic in normal people standards, right?”

“If that’s what it takes,” Tim said with a shrug.

Dick laughed quietly.

“Don’t laugh at me!”

“I’m not laughing at you,” Dick said. “I’m laughing because it’s relieving to see you so- so hopeful. I like it. If this is what your relationship brings, I completely stand by you. You’re happy, and that’s good enough for me.”

Tim rolled his eyes and looked away. “Shut up, Dick.”

“Another Damian thing. Damian says that.”

“No, Damian would have said," Tim cleared his throat. "Tt, shut up, Grayson," he finished with a perfect imitation - tone, pitch, sass and all - of Damian.

“You’re right. He- He would’ve…” Dick trailed off. All their talk about Damian was making his heart clench for the youngest Robin. “We have to find him,” he said.

“Yeah,” Tim said, his voice cracking the slightest bit. The playful room in the Cave suddenly turned somber again. “We do.”

~

Late in the afternoon, Alfred came down into the Cave only to find that both Dick and Tim were still working, and Bruce had joined them.

Alfred clicked his tongue at them. “Master Dick, Master Tim, you both need to go take a break.”

“I took a break earlier,” Tim muttered. “A coffee break. Speaking of which, I need another cup.”

“That is absolutely out of the question. You will go upstairs and take a nap. No less than five hours.”

“That’s- That’s not a nap, Alfred,” Tim huffed.

“Upstairs, Master Tim,” Alfred snapped. “You too, Master Dick.”

“But Alfred-” Dick protested. Alfred sent him a glare, and Dick deflated. “Fine…”

“And take Master Timothy with you,” Alfred said as Dick stood up and grabbed Tim’s wrist, physically dragging him out of his seat.

“Don’t expect me to fall asleep!” Tim called as Dick pulled him upstairs.

When they left, Alfred rounded on Bruce. “Master Bruce, you need to go sleep as well. I decided not to embarrass you in front of your sons, but I will not allow you to keep working while you are still healing.”

“I’m fine, Alfred," Bruce grunted. "I've almost figure out why the Pit affected Damian so irregularly, and how to possibly reverse, or at least avoid, those effects."

“Master Bruce…” Alfred said in a warning tone. “I will revoke your access to the Cave, if you do not march yourself upstairs right now.”

“But Damian’s-”

“Master Damian is fine,” Alfred said snappily. “In fact, he is on his way back right now, with Master Jason. I will wake you up when he arrives. I refrained from telling Master Dick and Master Tim because they would insist on staying up and waiting. I only hope that you will be more mature and head to bed.”

And with that, Alfred pushed Bruce out of the Cave, locking the doors behind him, giving the man no choice but to go sulk in his bedroom and wait.

~

Tim stomped his way to his room, slamming the door shut for good measure. He then turned around and stared at his room. He had not been in his room since Halloween night, when Damian had tried to strangle him to death in his own bed.

Tim flopped face first into his bed, the cold, rumpled sheets greeting him. His bed smelled faintly of Damian’s shampoo, and it made Tim miss Damian all the more.

Though Tim did not want to sleep, especially without Damian safely by his side, his leaden eyelids betrayed him, and he drifted off into the all-consuming darkness.

Tim dreamt of Damian, no surprise. He always dreamt of the younger alpha when he was missing him. As embarrassing as it was, Tim felt somewhat comforted knowing that he would at least see Damian at some point during his day.

In his dream, they were walking through Central Park in New York City of all places. They had first visited Central Park together a couple of years back, when their relationship was just budding – cautious and unofficial.

Tim had been in New York City on business, and Damian was there with his Teen Titans. They had run into each other, and somehow wound up getting lunch and taking a stroll through Central Park in the middle of the day.

Secretly, Tim thought of it as their first date, even though their relationship was not yet serious. Their actual first date would not be for another six months.

“I cannot fathom what is so remarkable about this city,” Damian had grumbled, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his coat. His scarf was wound tightly around his neck, covering the bottom half of his face. It was cute then, and it was certainly cuter now.

“The food,” Tim had answered, half-joking at the time. Tim had offered his falafel to Damian, who glared at it before taking one. “Good, huh?”

“Disgusting,” Damian had spat. Tim had laughed because he knew that anyone who had taste buds would not call the falafel disgusting. “The only good New York street food is the fish tacos.”

“Fish tacos?!” Tim had exclaimed, scaring some ducks as he had done so. “No way! Falafel, you uncouth simpleton.”

“Uncouth simpleton?” Damian had sputtered. Tim had laughed at him because it was the first time he had honestly rendered Damian speechless for a second.

It was a nice memory to dream about, Tim decided.

In his dream, Tim was walking down that same road with Damian, but this time, they were holding hands and their shoulders brushed occasionally. Damian was chattering on and on about something, but Tim paid attention to none of it. He was busy watching the way Damian’s face caught the light as they walked. Damian’s eyes were a calming, dark green. He was passionate about whatever he was talking about, gesturing with his free hand.

Damian huffed. “Are you even listening to me, Tim?”  he asked.

“Hm? Yeah, I was. You were talking about saving baby birds. Keep going.”

Damian rolled his eyes and smiled. “You’re not listening. You’re distracted by something. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Tim said brightly. “Why would anything be wrong? You’re here with me, it’s a beautiful day, and we don’t have any responsibilities. What could be wrong?”

“Hm,” Damian hummed. “You’re right. It’s nice today. It’s one of those moments where I wish time would just stop and I could just spend the rest of eternity in that moment, you know?”

Tim smiled unconsciously. He gave Damian’s hand a squeeze. “Yeah, I know.”

~

Dick managed to fall asleep a few doors down, though it was a restless and uneasy sleep. He did not manage to fall asleep deep enough to dream (though he was sure he would only have nightmares anyway), so when the warm arms came wrapping around his waist, Dick was immediately awake.

“Mmm.” The soft, content humming in his ear made Dick’s heart leap with joy.

“Jay!” he said with as much excitement as his tired body could muster. He squirmed, turning around. “You’re back!”

“Mhm,” Jason hummed again, making no move to explain his absence or his sudden return.

“Hey, you don’t get to just fall asleep on me, jerk!” Dick said. “I’ve been looking for you! Where the hell were you? Dami’s missing and you go disappear on one of your unexplained-”

“I already found him, Dickie,” Jason groaned into the back of Dick’s neck.

Dick tried to turn over more, but Jason’s arms held him tightly in place. “What are you- You found Damian?” he asked. “What? Where? Jason, why didn’t you say something! At least you could’ve given me a call-”

“Lemme sleep,” Jason grumbled. “M’tired.”

“You- I-” Dick sighed. He could feel Jason’s exhaustion, and his own fatigue was not helping. He just wanted to fall back asleep as well, especially with the comforting thought that his omega was back in bed with him – safe. He relaxed into Jason’s arms reluctantly. “Don’t think this is over, Jay,” he warned, yawning as he did so. “You’ve got a lotta explaining to do… later…”

Jason gave him a small squeeze in response. Dick closed his eyes and smiled, lacing their fingers together on his stomach. It did not take Dick very long to fall asleep again, and this time, he did dream.

A few hours later, Dick woke up, having turned over in his sleep, and was now facing Jason. Jason’s arm was still thrown over Dick’s waist, though his hold was looser now. Dick found this a little offending, and purposefully moved closer.

Dick knew it was strange for an alpha to want to be held in his sleep, but he liked the sense of comfort it gave him. Dick liked the idea that he could let his guard down because there was someone there to protect him in the slight chance that something bad does happen. He never told Jason that though because he did not want to make Jason feel that he was responsible for protecting Dick while he slept. It worked out perfectly with the fact that Jason was the exact opposite of him.

However, that did not mean that Dick would never return the favor and hold Jason, or that Jason refused to be little spoon when cuddling. They just had preferences that worked, so they really saw no reason to defer from it.

Being held also left Dick’s hands free, and he could freely touch Jason. Dick looked at Jason’s sleeping face, taking in his serene expression. More often than not, there were furrows between Jason’s eyebrows, and Dick had reminded him over and over again that they would end up permanent if Jason kept scowling all the time. It usually just made Jason scowl harder.

But in those rare instances where Dick got to observe Jason while he was asleep, Dick only realized all over again all the things he loved about Jason. It made Dick smile, huffing out a happy little breath.

Jason’s eyes fluttered open. He yawned. “How long’ve you been awake?” he asked.

Dick smiled. “Not long,” he whispered.

“Creep,” Jason grumbled. “Don’t watch me sleep.”

Dick giggled. “You’re cute. I like it when you’re asleep.”

“Weirdo,” Jason said. He rolled over and stretched. Dick propped his head up on elbow. “What time’s it?”

“Nearly eight PM,” Dick said. “I hope our kids have freckles like yours.”

Jason pulled a face, his nose wrinkling. He unconsciously went to rub at his nose, where there was a light dusting of said freckles. “I thought you said we weren’t fit for kids.”

Dick’s sleepy, content mood plummeted and reality hit him. He stopped smiling, he looked away from Jason. “…I did say that,” he said softly. “Well, dreams die hard, I guess.”

Jason stopped moving. “Dickie…” he said slowly. “Hey, look at me.”

Dick reluctantly brought his gaze back to Jason’s. Jason stared at him hard, his eyes searching for something. Dick wanted to look away. He did not want Jason to see his vulnerability, but his stubborn pride kept him still.

“Were you serious about that?” Jason asked. “You’ve- Dick, what? You’ve been talking about kids for as long as I can remember! Since you were eighteen, nineteen, Dickie!”

“I- I know,” Dick stammered. “But with everything that happened-”

“Fucking hell, not this again,” Jason said with a frown. “We’ve been over this, not two days ago. Nothing that happened in the past day was your fault! Stop fucking blaming yourself for everything. Just because one thing goes wrong, it does not mean everything vaguely related to it will go wrong each and every time!”

“But, I just-”

“No!” Jason said, his voice raising a bit. “Do you hear yourself? You- For the past four years you’ve been going on and on about these kids you want us to have,” Jason said, his voice cracking once somewhere in the middle. “I- I used to hate the idea of having kids, of- of creating children with my body, but your stupidly hopeful dreams changed my mind, you know that?!” Jason’s eyes were dangerously wet. “I know I always seemed to be against the idea, but I wanted it. I wanted it with you. You convinced me, Dick! And now what? Now you’re telling me that I got my hopes up for nothing because you’re not confident in your own parenting abilities? In our parenting abilities?” Jason shook his head bitterly. “I should know by now that whenever I get hopeful, I’m just let down.”

Dick felt like his heart had just been crushed. “No… Jay, I- God, I didn’t know you felt that way,” he said, his own eyes filling with tears. He reached out and touched Jason’s cheek. Jason moved his hand instinctively, and Dick thought Jason was going to brush him away, but instead, Jason’s hand hovered, then rested over Dick’s.

“I shouldn’t have said anything,” Jason whispered hoarsely. “I don’t- I don’t know why I said all that.”

Dick did not know what to say. He wanted to comfort Jason, but at the same time, he really was not feeling comforted himself. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I just thought- I thought I was the only one who really wanted kids, since you were so against everything that an omega stood for-”

“Don’t you fucking go blaming this on me now,” Jason said fiercely.

“No, no, it’s my fault,” Dick said quickly. “I should’ve asked, not assumed. I’m sorry, Jaybird.” He brought their foreheads together, and Dick closed his eyes. “I’m so sorry. I got scared, and I felt lost, and everything just seemed so bleak in the past couple days, I- I panicked. I shouldn’t have been so extreme, I’m sorry.”

“That’s why I’m here, Dickie,” Jason said in a shaky voice. “When you’re feeling scared and lost. You- You’re supposed to come talk to me.”

“I know, I should have,” Dick whispered. He thought about his revelation earlier that day, about how he thought he was the only one in the family that did not hide and cower from his feelings. Dick realized then and there that maybe he was not an exception to that.

“I know you’ll be a great father, Dickie,” Jason whispered. “Instead of looking at the things that weren’t your fault in the past two days, look at things that were your fault in the past ten years. You were there for me when Bruce wasn’t. You were there for Tim when he had no one. You were the only one who got through to Damian. You were a leader to everyone – not just those in our family. People looked to you for advice, for a listening ear, or maybe just a simple hug. Dick, you wouldn’t make a perfect parent, but you’d be far from terrible.”

Dick sniffled, unaware that he had been silently crying. “Y-You think?” he whispered.

“I believe in you,” Jason whispered. “And I want our kids to believe in you. But we’ve gotta have them first.”

Dick let out a half-laugh-half-sob. “Shit, I- I love you, Jay.”

Jason smiled, and he gently kissed Dick on the lips. “I love you too, Dickiebird. Don’t you question our future like that again, got it?”

Dick cried a little harder, but of relief. He nodded, their foreheads rubbing together. “Yeah,” he sobbed. “Got it.”

~

It was dark outside when Tim finally woke up. He had grabbed a pillow and pulled it to his chest sometime during his nap. Tim groaned and sat up, letting go of the pillow. He rubbed his eyes, his sight adjusting to the darkness.

He turned over to glance at the digital clock by the side of his bed, when he became aware of an uneasy feeling.

Suddenly, Tim realized that he was not alone in the room. Someone else was sitting in the dark corner, in an armchair Tim never used.

Tim gasped, eyes widening. “Damian.”

The dark shadow of a person flinched. “Don’t- You shouldn’t say my name.”

Tim scrambled out of bed, and on wobbly legs, he ran towards Damian, throwing himself into the younger alpha’s arms.

“You’re back,” Tim sobbed, his eyes watering and his tears spilling over. “Oh, god, where’d you go? Dami, I-”

“Todd found me,” Damian said in a low voice, still making no move to hug Tim back.

“How-”

“He… I don’t want to talk about it,” Damian said, his shoulders slumping. “I just-” He cut himself off again like it was physically hurting him to get the words out of his mouth. “Tim, I didn’t want to come back. I don’t- I’m scared I’ll hurt you, or Grayson, or Father again, and I-”

“You’re not,” Tim whispered fiercely, locking his arms stubbornly around Damian, even as Damian tried to push him away. “I’m not going to let you. You’re not going to hurt anyone, and you’re not leaving me.”

“Tim…”

“Please don’t leave me.”

“I…” Damian sighed in defeat. “I’m… not comfortable,” he admitted. “Being here, and- and knowing I could hurt you. Badly. I feel…”

“Scared? It’s okay, I know,” Tim whispered back. “I am too. But I’m not scared of you, Dami.” He finally pulled back a little bit, taking a good look at Damian’s face. He looked tired, and even in the darkness, his eyes were flat and dull. “I’m scared that the more you push me away, the more likely I’ll lose you.”

“And if you keep me close, the more likely I’ll lose you,” Damian bit back. “I don’t want to risk it.”

Tim swallowed hard, swallowing back the longing to protect Damian and keep him safe. “Then what are you doing here?” he asked, almost spitefully. “If you didn’t want to see me-”

“I never said good-bye,” Damian whispered.

The words died in Tim’s mouth. “Wh-What?”

“I… left without saying good-bye. Todd said I should come back and at least bid everyone farewell.”

“He- He made you come back and say good-bye to me?” Tim asked incredulously. He pushed Damian back, shaking his head. “And you came?” he asked, his voice trembling. “Damian… I… you’re planning on leaving me?”

“It’s too much of a risk to stay,” Damian said, his own eyes apologetic and sad.

“No, it’s fucking not, you fucking coward,” Tim said, taking a step back. “You’re just scared and unwilling to ask for help, so you’re running away instead.”

“Tt, I am not unwilling to ask for help,” Damian snapped, his infamous irritation suddenly coming through. Tim almost wanted to laugh. “You just can’t help me. No one can.”

“You haven’t even tried,” Tim hissed. “You’re just avoiding it and hoping you’ll wake up someday and it’s all going to fucking rainbows and puppies, aren’t you?!” he asked, suddenly exploding. “You’re just going to sit on your hands or twiddle your thumbs until you convince yourself your problems are gone, or you perish because of it! Is that what you want? Huh? You’re not even going to try to fight this battle, are you?!”

“I am not waiting uselessly for the universe to solve my problems, Drake,” Damian growled, taking a step forward and pointing his finger at Tim’s face. “Don’t you accuse me of not trying. I try. I’ve tried, and I’ve fought with everything I’ve had, and all for what? I fought for a place in this family, I fought for the title of Batman’s son, I fought for the right to make my own path in life, I fought for our relationship, so don’t you fucking dare tell me I haven’t fought for anything!” Damian yelled.

Their faces were inches apart now, and they were both breathing hard, teeth bared, fists clenched, but neither was willing to make the first move.

Tim pressed his lips together, and he backed down, shaking his head. “Then why are you giving up now?” he asked sadly. “You’ve come so far, and now you stop fighting?”

Damian took a deep breath, and his head dropped. “Because,” he said softly. “If I lose this fight, I also lose everything I worked so hard to gain. And I don’t think it’s worth it.”

Tim stared at him for a long time, taking in the way Damian’s hunched shoulders made him suddenly seem smaller. It suddenly hit Tim that Damian really had been through a lot. He was only seventeen, for goodness’ sake! Even if he were not, it would be a lot for one person. Tim sighed softly, and he took a couple of steps forward, bridging the gap between them. “Hey.” He put his hands on Damian’s shoulders and leaned up, his lips hovering over Damian’s for a second before he pressed a kiss gently to those trembling lips. “It’s okay.”

“Is it?” Damian asked vulnerably. “How could you say that?”

Tim kissed him again. “Because it is worth it. Because we can win this battle, Dami.”

“We?”

Tim smiled, kissing Damian a third time. “Of course. You fight, I fight. I’m not letting you go through this alone. I’m your alpha, remember?”

Damian let out a little snort. “Well, I’m your alpha.”

“Exactly,” Tim said. “So we have to stand by each other and do what’s best for each other. Which is why I’m not letting you let me go.”

“You’re going to get hurt again.”

“Then hurt me good, sweetheart,” Tim whispered again Damian’s lips.

Damian made a noise in his throat. “Well, Tim.”

“Hm?”

“Good is an adjective. It should be ‘hurt me well’.”

Tim rolled his eyes and smiled. “There’s the Damian I know and love.”

“Tt,” Damian responded, his own hands tentatively coming up and resting on Tim’s hips. He was still hesitant, Tim could tell.

“You need some sleep, baby,” Tim said, taking a step back and looking Damian up and down. “But a shower first, hm?”

Damian stared at him, then gave a weak laugh. He reached up and wiped at his eyes, which had tears shimmering in them. “You’re too good for me,” he said.

“No,” Tim said, leaning up and gently kissing Damian on the lips once more. His heart fluttered excitedly when Damian finally kissed him back. “You’re perfect, and I love you for that.”

“Perfect?” Damian echoed.

“In every way,” Tim said firmly.

“Even- Even if I’m…” Damian could have said a lot of things there. He trailed off, not knowing what he believed kept him from being with Tim.

“In every way,” Tim repeated. “Now go take a shower, stinky. Or a bath, if you would prefer. Then, come to bed.”

Damian winced silently. “I don’t think that’s a good idea-”

“You’re tired, I’m tired, we’re going to bed, Damian,” Tim said. He took a step back, finally letting his arms fall to his sides. He gave Damian his best glare. “Bathroom, now.”

Damian cracked the smallest of smiles before giving in and heading towards the bathroom in Tim’s room. Tim heard the shower turning on after a minute. Tim went around his room, looking for clothes that would be comfortable enough for Damian to sleep in. He found a large t-shirt Damian must have left in his room ages ago.

Tim brought the t-shirt up to his face and took a deep breath. It did not smell like Damian any longer. Which was perfect because that meant Tim could keep the t-shirt when it did smell like Damian again.

Tim snagged a pair of Damian’s briefs, which he had taken from Damian’s clean laundry pile a couple of weeks back. He cracked open the door to the bathroom and set the pile of clean clothes onto the counter. Tim then crawled back to bed, pulling the covers up to his chin.

He stared at the ceiling as he waited for Damian to finish his shower. He heard the water turn off some ten minutes later, and Damian came out, wearing the t-shirt and drying his hair with a towel. He was back-lit by the light in the bathroom, giving him a hot male model look.

Tim flipped over the corner of the covers as Damian hesitantly made his way to the bed.

Damian stood there for a few seconds, not moving. Tim knew that Damian was still haunted by the incident a couple nights back.

“Just get the fuck into bed,” he growled, allowing a bit of his alpha voice to come out. Damian shivered imperceptibly and obeyed.

Immediately, Tim latched onto him, tangling their legs together, forcing Damian’s arm around his waist, and snuggling up into Damian’s chest. He listened to Damian’s slow heartbeat, and he matched his breathing to it.

“Todd told me what you came up with. Your… theory about my abnormal reaction to the Lazarus Pit,” Damian mumbled. “I… Do you really think I can control it?”

“If anyone can, it’s you,” Tim said. He turned his face up towards Damian. “I believe it.”

“Why?”

Tim snorted softly. “Seriously, Dami? You’re Batman’s son. You grew up in the League of Assassins, learning how to kill before you learned how to walk, and now you’re Robin, and well on your way to inheriting the cowl! That’s not something anyone can just survive and live with. You said it yourself – you’re a fighter. If you put your mind to something, I know you can do it.”

“You sure have a lot of faith in me,” Damian sighed. “But maybe you shouldn’t have such high expectations.”

“Damian, all you’ve done since I met you is exceed my expectations. I have no doubts you’ll exceed these as well,” Tim said. He leaned up a bit and pressed a gentle kiss to Damian’s lips. “Besides, you’re the world’s most stubborn alpha. The only person more stubborn than you are is Jason.”

Damian snorted.

“What? It’s true, isn’t it? He somehow convinced you to come back here after all.”

Damian went silent for a few minutes. For a while, Tim thought he fell asleep.

“No,” Damian said. “He didn’t. You did.”