“Look at you. You’re looking so sharp,” Dick chirps happily as he adjusts Damian’s tie. There was no need for it. Damian had already checked over his tie three times before going down the main stairway to meet his family.
“There is no need to be sentimental,” Damian sniffs.
"Dick. You’ve got a fifty year old man in your seven year old son’s body,” Jason says from the doorway. He, like everyone else in the family, was dressed for the formal fundraiser held at Gotham Elementary’s gymnasium. It was odd seeing Jason in a suit. Damian had never seen him wear much of anything aside from his usual preference of casual attire.
“My boy,” Dick praises, “is exceptionally smart with absolutely amazing vocabulary skills. He won the spelling bee, you know.”
“I don’t think you go a day without bragging about it,” Tim says as he messes with his cuffs. He then starts to smooth over his suit one last time in self-approval.
“You ready?” Dick ignores his brothers. He looks Damian straight in the eye with a bright smile.
“I won’t be if we keep dawdling here,” Damian claims.
“Dawdling,” Jason mocks.
Damian ignores him. Tim was already heading out the door, and Damian was intent on brushing past Jason to get to the limo. (This was an exceptionally rich elementary school, you see, with many wealthy families in participation)
“What are you? Modern-day Shakespeare?” Jason asks as he reaches out a hand to ruffle Damian’s groomed hair. Damian ducks on reflex. He’d spent an hour fixing up his hair. He wouldn’t have his uncle ruining it.
Bruce, Damian’s pop-pop, waits for them all at the limo. Tim takes the lead, Damian follows, and Jason and Dick trail behind. They all eventually filter into the limo. Damian tucks himself into Tim’s side as his eyes land on two familiar faces. His aunts had already settled themselves in the limo ten minutes in advance, and that’s because they wanted to enjoy the ‘experience’ that came when sitting in one.
“Scoot your butt over,” Jason says as he squashes Damian between him and Tim.
“You live to torment me,” Damian whines. “There’s plenty of room-”
“What? I thought you like getting snug,” Jason says.
“I do not like getting snug,” Damian claims.
“Oh? That’s too bad.”
“Jason, stop teasing him.” Tim rolls his eyes. “I’d prefer it if you didn’t push him into my side. Having his elbow in my ribcage isn’t fun.”
“Thanks, Uncle Bobo,” Damian mumbles as Jason relents in pressure.
“You still call him that?” Jason asks with eyes full of mischievous humor. “Why don’t you still call me Uncle JJ? What did I do to lose that privilege?”
“Maybe.” Tim interjects, exasperated, “it’s because you tease him all the time. Ever thought about that?”
“Aw. C’mon,” Jason says, capturing Damian’s neck in the crook of his arm. Damian yelps. “Damian loves it when I tease him.”
“Wh- Release me!”
"Release me, he says!” Jason laughs. “Let’s get real. I’m not going to let you go until you call me Uncle JJ again.”
Damian spends most of the limousine ride defending himself from Jason’s irritating behavior. He is all too eager to hop out of the limo when they make it to his elementary school.
“Hold on, sport,” Damian’s pop-pop stops him with a hand on his shoulder. Damian had gotten far too ahead of the group in his eagerness to leave Jason behind. “You can’t go inside without an adult.”
Damian grumbles something under his breath as Bruce guides them both to the school’s entrance. They wait about two minutes for everyone to catch up before seeking admittance into the building. It takes a moment of checking bags, purses, and pockets by a security team before they can enter.
“You’d think we’re criminals or something,” Jason mutters.
“They’re just making sure we’re all safe,” Dick hums.
Damian finally takes the lead. He makes confident steps because he knows the layout of his school better than anyone. It’d just been built recently for the children of the elite, and Damian had naturally been invited to participate in their first year of operation. Dick had been excited to let Damian go somewhere for free because Dick actually didn’t like using Bruce’s money all that much. The school’s main source of spending money would be through the generous donations of the filthy-rich families of Gotham.
Damian’s vision is bombarded when he finally enters the gymnasium. There were lines of buffet tables, families socializing in secluded circles, a makeshift stage for announcements, and multiple ‘game’ booths that were really an excuse to blow a lot of money. There was also a separate booth that sold merchandise with the elementary’s mascot, a black stallion.
“This place doesn’t even look like a gym,” Stephanie remarks as she takes in the decorations.
“You just gotta’ look underneath your feet,” Jason says. “It’s polished wood. Anyways, Baby Bat, wanna try out some games with me?”
Damian adopts an expression of uncertainty.
“The last time we played a game-booth you shot the vendor with water.”
“Jason?” Dick gasps.
Jason grimaces. “Yeah. That wasn’t intentional.”
“I’d rather go with… Uncle Tim…” Damian says with red tipped ears. He was too embarrassed to call him Uncle Bobo after the event Jason had made out of it.
Tim, ever understanding, doesn’t comment on it. He does make a face at Jason, though, and Jason rolls his eyes back at him.
“Stop looking at me like I’m a villain,” Jason snorts.
“This game is rigged,” Tim seethes.
“It’s for the fundraiser,” the booth manager says with the shrug of his shoulders, “it’s not supposed to be easy to win.”
“How could it not be easy to win? I have perfect aim, and the fact that I haven’t gotten one ping pong ball to land on a single red bottle is sketchy!”
Damian wanted to hide in his shirt like a tortoise.
"Perfect aim?” the booth-manager laughs dryly.
“You may think it is funny but-”
Damian tugs at Tim’s shirt.
“Could we go…?” he whispers, beyond embarrassed.
Tim gives him a second’s worth of a glance. “Give me a second, Dami, I’m giving this man a piece of my mind.”
Damian releases Tim’s shirt and mentally sighs. He knew they wouldn’t be getting away from the booth soon. Not unless Damian could somehow convince Tim to put his mind to something else.
Damian bites his bottom lip in contemplation. Finally, he decides to act.
“I’m hungry,” Damian whimpers, tugging at Tim’s shirt again, and giving him a set of woeful doe eyes. Tim glances at him again, but this time it sticks. Damian watches as Tim takes on a look of a moral dilemma. He was torn between tending to Damian’s needs and giving the booth manager a piece of his mind. “Can’t we go to the snack table already? We’ve been here for thirty minutes.”
And it was all Uncle Bobo’s fault.
Damian should have just gone with his dad.
“Look, Dami,” Tim tries, “you see that giant stuffed sheep?”
Damian follows Tim’s finger to look at the subject of his sentence. There was, indeed, a giant stuffed sheep displayed as a prize.
"After I win that for you,” Tim says with renewed determination, “then we can go to the buffet table.”
Damian nods dejectedly. Tim gives him a smile. Then he returns to arguing with the booth manager.
Damian wasn’t having a lot of fun just standing around. Tim’s back was turned, and Damian kept glancing over at the food table. He’d said he was hungry just to distract his uncle, but now he really was interested in seeing what they had.
Damian glances up at his uncle.
Then back at the table.
Snack table it is.
The buffet table had a huge assortment of interesting delicacies. Damian looks for the vegetarian ones, or the sweet pastries. He lands his eyes on a tower of french macaroons. Damian doesn’t hesitate. He plucks a pink one from the side. It’s in his mouth with a pop.
This is boring.
Damian grabs another french macaroon in slight annoyance. This was his school’s weird, incredibly odd, fundraiser. Why wasn’t he having fun? Wasn’t it catered not only to adults, but to children his age?
Damian swallows the french macaroon he’d turned into mush in his mouth before turning to address the childish voice that had called for him. Damian is not at all surprised to see Drew Barrows standing behind him. He is also not surprised to see his face twisted like he’d eaten a sour lemon except Damian was certain it was caused by pent up aggression instead. Drew Barrows had been in the same spelling bee that Damian had been in, but Damian was the one who’d obtained first place.
Drew Barrows was a short, round, kid with a face full of freckles. He always wore a pair of silver-coated glasses that’d been designed by his father’s company. His hair was red, he had brown eyes, and he held himself up pridefully.
Drew had never liked Damian from day one. His competitive streak wasn’t friendly. It was brutal. The fact that Damian had won first place had only increased Drew’s dislike for him.
“I saw you come in with your family, but I could help but notice something interesting.”
Oh. Here we go again.
“The press says that you were born out of wedlock-”
Who even says wedlock anymore?
Damian mentally pauses. He is horrified.
When did I start thinking like Uncle Jay?
“-and they all say that your mother isn’t in the picture. What happened? Are the rumors true? Is she a filthy, money-seeking, harpy?”
Damian takes a breath before he retorts, “Drew. You must try better if you wish to goad me. This is perhaps the worst jab you could muster.”
Drew smiles. “Of course. You are right. Then let us talk about your grandfather’s charity case, Dick Grayson, the circus boy. Is that what he hopes to mold you into? A freak, like himself?”
Damian returns Drew's smile except his lips are much tighter.
Damian watches Drew’s face fall for only a second. It returns to the fake ‘politeness’ that concealed his intentions from the people socializing around them.
“Do they even feed you in your family? You always look pathetically skinny-”
Damian grits his teeth behind his smile. His jaw tightens.
“-it’s as if they are purposely neglecting you-”
No. It’s because I grew up in a cult that fed me sparsely as a child, thus stunting my growth, and affecting my height.
“-so what do you have to say in their defense?”
“They can defend themselves,” Damian scoffs. “Here is what I have to say to you. You are an insecure child trying to compensate for losing by attempting to get a rise out of me. You want something to happen. You want to go crying to mommy because Damian Grayson was so mean! Right? I bet that’s all you ever do. You just cr-”
Damian stops when Drew throws his red solo cup, filled with punch, right at Damian’s face.
Damian dodged the cup.
He did not dodge the punch.
Damian looks down at himself in shock.
He recovers quickly. He readies and insult until-
“Did you just throw punch at my nephew?”
Damian inwardly cringes. Jason was literally the worst person to interfere. He was just… just… so over-protective. Drew had probably triggered his mama-bear mode, as Stephanie liked to call it, and Damian wasn’t excited to watch the fallout.
Drew turns to look up at Jason’s towering figure. Jason was making the effort to look intimidating, and he sure did a good job of it. His lips were in a nasty scowl, and he looked absolutely pissed.
“There’s only one person who’s allowed to mess around with my nephew.” Jason growls out, “and who do you think that is? Huh?”
“Um-” Drew stutters out at a loss of words.
“Drew Barrows, right?” A new voice joins in. Damian desperately wants to disappear as Tim joins Jason’s side with a giant sheep tucked in his right elbow. He holds up a phone with a screen showing that he’d been recording the conversation.
“I don’t think this is necessary,” Damian starts.
“Shuddup,” Jason silences.
Damian withdraws immediately at Jason’s no-nonsense tone.
“Dames, sweetheart, what did he do to you?”
Damian is turned away from the scene by two hands on his shoulders. Damian looks up at worried blue eyes. Dick removes a hand from Damian’s shoulder to grab a napkin from the table. He starts wiping down helplessly at Damian’s stained suit.
“Dad-” Damian stresses, “you need to help Drew. Uncle Jay and Tim are going to-”
“Giving him what he deserves?” Dick glowers.
Damian startles at that. His dad was the sweetest man he knew. To hear him even suggest such a thing-
“Nobody messes with my boy and gets away with it,” Dick huffs. He was still rubbing at Damian’s clothes like the napkin was going to do anything. “Nobody talks to you that way, either. I’m going to make sure he goes home with soap in his mouth.”
“You… you heard…?” Damian manages to put out weakly.
“All of it,” Dick confirms.
Dick pauses in his task. The napkin floats in front of Damian for a few seconds, but then it disappears. A gentle hand tilts Damian’s chin upward to meet blue once more.
“You know we don’t care what you look like, right?”
Damian presses his lips together. “Why are you angry about that? I thought you’d hate what he said about you.”
“I didn’t say I wasn’t,” Dick replies, “That boy really needs to learn some manners. But, I was more concerned about you. When he said you looked… well… malnourished… I thought he hurt your feelings. I know it’s hard for you to think about when you were with… Ra’s.”
“It’s fine,” Damian says. He tugs his chin away. “I’m used to it.”
Dick’s face falls. “Oh, kiddo,” he breathes. “You’re breaking my heart, here.”
Damian didn’t know why he was making such a big deal about it. His dad even tugs him into his arms to give him a short hug.
“Your suit-” Damian warns.
“Isn’t worth it,” Dick interrupts. He pats a hand on Damian’s back before withdrawing. He then leans down to press a kiss on Damian’s forehead, and Damian turns another level of red.
“Could you please save the affection when we’re not in public?” Damian complains.
Dick answers with another kiss on his forehead. He has the gall to look smug about it.
Damian pulls himself away from his dad with an eagerness to be rid of the embarrassment of the entire situation. He wipes at his forehead in an effort to show the surrounding witnesses that he was not as childish as Dick made him seem (because he was much too mature for kisses), and then turns around just in time for Tim to stuff his prize in Damian’s arms.
“Don’t. Leave. Me. Again.” Tim sounds one word at a time with furrowed brows. “You nearly gave me a heart-attack when I found out you weren’t next to me.”
“It’s probably because you were boring,” Jason offers. Drew was suspiciously missing.
“He wouldn’t have been better off with you,” Tim shoots back.
“I’d disagree with you there.”
“Could you guys stop?” Damian hisses. “You’re embarrassing me!”
Tim and Jason both turn their attention to Damian. That wasn’t always a good thing.
“Oh, no! We’re soooo embarrassing!” Jason presses the back of his hand against his forehead dramatically. “Oh, woe is me!”
Damian had a hard time believing that Jason was the same person who’d just scared the crap out of a kid who’d thrown punch at him.
“Guess I’ll just have to ruffle you up a bit for that sentence!”
Damian is unprepared as Jason ruffles his hair aggressively.
“What are you doing!?” Damian barks angrily.
Jason uses two hands to mess up Damian’s hair, and Damian couldn’t do anything to stop it. Not with the sheep in his hands.
“Jason.” Dick tugs Damian backward until he hits his chest. “You’re impossible. Could you please explain to me what happened to that kid who threw punch at Damian before you get carried away?”
Jason’s smile disappears instantly.
“I threatened him.”
Tim nods. “He really did.”
“Jason. We don’t threaten children-”
“I don’t know why you’re upset with me. Tim did it, too.”
“No,” Dick exhales, “sweet, sweet, Timmy? He’d never do that.”
“Yeah? Well, I saw him do it.”
“I neither deny nor confirm this fact,” Tim says.
“What did you even threaten him with?” Dick asks.
“Oh. You know. Broken bones. Bankruptcy.”
Dick drops his jaw. “You probably scarred him for life!”
Jason folds his arms across his chest. “Well! Good! I sure hope so! You don’t mess with one of us and get away with it scott-free!”
Pop-pop, Damian thinks desperately as his family bickers over his head, where are you when I need you? I want to escape.
Damian instead settles for slipping his hand in his dad’s, and then giving him the best puppy-eyes he can manage.
“Can we go home?"
Dick looks down at Damian. His face instantly softens.
“Look- He falls for it every time-” Jason grumbles but thankfully Dick seemed to have tuned him out. The situation is turning in Damian’s favor.
“We can go in a few,” Dick says, “we just have to find that kid’s parents so that we can explain the situation to them.”
Oh. No. I want to leave now.
"But my legs are tired,” Damian whines.
Dick coos, “Oh, my sweet baby, why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
Damian allows Dick to crouch down to lift him off of the ground. Damian is hefted upward.
Dick hums happily as Damian buries his face in the crook of his neck.
“He’s spoiled,” Jason states as Dick turns to carry Damian out of the gym.
“You weren’t any help,” Tim elbows him. “You’re half of the reason he turned out the way.”
“Eh. I guess you have a point.”