“It’s time to go, Damian.”
“Yes,” the boy turned to the young couple standing behind him. “It means I respectfully decline.”
The man smiled slightly as he sighed and cocked his head to the side. “I don’t think you have a choice.”
“Says who?” Damian responded, throwing his chin up as he crossed his arms. “I don’t see any sort of god down here enforcing said lack of choice.”
“He sent us to do it for him,” the woman said softly. She reached out her gloved hand. “Now come with us, child. It’s time for you to rest.”
“I’m not tired.” Sarcasm dripped from every word. The man let out a chuckle.
The woman continued. “You’ve led a hard life, darling-”
“Hard?” Damian snapped. “You want to talk about hard, Grandmother? Try being your own son. You left him, he grew up alone. He lost everything at age eight. And you want to talk about my life being hard? Compared to Father, my life was a stroll in the park.”
“Damian,” the man said gently, putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Yes, Bruce’s life was difficult. But without those hardships, he would have never been able to help so many people. Without him, where do you think your brothers be, hm?” The man smiled again. “Through our loss, he gained so much. He gained so many powerful friends and family, who Martha and I knew could keep him safe. He gained you.”
Damian scoffed, looking away, back towards the Manor. “Oh yea, he gained me. And look where that got him.”
Thomas followed Damian’s line of sight towards the large window that housed the study. Bruce could be seen inside. He was sitting at the desk, his head in his hands, his body convulsing as sobs exploded through him. The three of them were across the grounds, by the entrance of the cemetery, but they could still hear his anguished cries, muffled only by the manor’s thick walls.
“He loved you,” Martha whispered. “Do not feel guilty for that.”
“Kind of hard not to when he looks like this,” Damian shrugged his grandfather’s hand from his arm.
“Is that why you don’t want to come with us?” Thomas asked.
“Regardless of if I feel guilty or not, I still decline your invitation,” Damian stated, hearing a door to the manor open.
Martha and Thomas looked at each other before Martha said, “Why?”
“Because someone needs to take care of them,” Damian said as he watched Dick and Tim come around the side of the building. No one spoke as the two neared them, and silently stared as they passed between their group, Tim accidentally going through Martha’s shoulder.
“Son, I don’t think you can-”
“I can still touch things. I can still feel,” Damian cut in. “I have retained all of my senses, I can do the things they’re too stupid to do for themselves. I can watch over them while they are in battle, I can be there when they need comforting because God knows they won’t ever go to each other.”
The Waynes didn’t respond as they watched Dick and Tim move to their grandson’s grave. Martha felt her throat tighten as Dick collapsed to his knees, trying to keep himself steady by gripping the tombstone itself. Thomas grimaced in empathy as Tim bent over, wrapping his arms around Dick’s neck, tears flowing from his eyes.
Suddenly Damian was standing next to the brothers, staring at the other souls, his arms still crossed. “Do you really expect me to leave them like this?”
“You don’t understand, love,” Martha said, stepping forward as Dick suddenly punched the stone. “They won’t be able to hear you, see you. It will drive you crazy.”
“So I’ll make them,” Damian said as he crouched next to Dick, wiping away some of the blood that was now dripping unnoticed from his knuckles. “Even if I can’t, it’s a small price to pay.”
Thomas opened his mouth to argue, but decided against it, and turned it into a sigh as he rolled his eyes. “Stubborn, aren’t you? Just like your dad.”
Damian looked away from Dick and Tim, and back at his grandparents with a grin. “Stubbornness must run in the Wayne family, then.” He paused. “…You two did the same after your murder, didn’t you?”
Martha nodded. “Like you said, Bruce was alone. And we couldn’t leave our baby alone.”
“How long did you…stick around?”
“Years. We even stayed here in Gotham with Alfred while Bruce went around the world doing all that training.” Thomas said. “We stayed even after he returned. We crossed over, though, I can’t remember what made us decide to. Do you, honey?”
“Of course I do, Thomas.” Martha smiled. “It was when Richard came to be a tenant at the manor. We felt Bruce finally had someone who would take care of him. Someone who would be able to battle the darkness that seemed to consume his life. Once Richard became a permanent fixture in Bruce’s life, we knew…well, we knew he was going to be okay.”
“Then I will do the same,” Damian said, standing. “I will remain until I am no longer needed. By any of them.”
“That day might never come, you know,” Thomas said as he and Martha made their way towards him. It seemed they were giving in to his demands.
Martha leaned forward and kissed Damian’s forehead. “I’m so proud you,” she whispered as she hugged him. “I cannot wait until I see you and Bruce again one day.”
“But hopefully not too soon,” Thomas said quickly. Damian looked at him as his grandfather put a hand to his face. “We’ll be waiting for you, kiddo.”
“Of course,” Damian smiled. “Goodbye Grandfather. Grandmother. Give the big man my regards.”
There was no giant white light. No thunderbolt or large wind. Thomas and Martha Wayne were laughing as they simply faded from view. Damian looked back down at his brothers, who were now both sitting in front of his grave, trying to dry the tears that refused to stop. Dick has his arm tight around Tim’s shoulders, while Tim cradled Dick’s newly injured hand, assessing the damage. Damian merely sat down next to them.
Until he was no longer needed.