Chapter 1: How It All Began
It was Steph's fault really - she should have known better than to make jokes around Damian. Because this was Damian Wayne, and really, when you said something like "Dick Grayson is totally the mum in this crazy little family!" he wasn't going to understand or acknowledge the humour in the statement.
No; he'd get up, walk calmly to Dick's room, and demand to know whether he was engaging in sexual relations with his father. Of course, this resulted in Dick spluttering in horror; Bruce arrived, found out what Damian had said, and started spluttering in horror; Tim arrived, and started spluttering in horror; and Steph, well, she collapsed to the floor in hysterics.
It was Alfred who finally cleared up the misunderstanding, and explained that no, Bruce was not in a romantic relationship with his adoptive son, and no, Dick was not secretly a woman either; Steph had been kidding around, she simply meant that Dick was a gentle soul in a family full of expressionless, sociopathic, argumentative individuals. And that was the end of that.
…Until something else happened to bring it into focus again, and drag the already crazy Bat family to a whole new level of insanity.
That 'something else' just happened to be Santa Claus.
Or rather, a classmate of Damian's who thought it would be a good idea to say "I saw Santa kissing mommy last year," in the middle of a class discussion about what they all thought Santa would be bringing them that year ("I wrote to Santa requesting that Drake be disowned," Damian had responded, proudly. "Or if that is too difficult, simply killing him off would suffice").
"So did I," another girl replied, nodding her head.
Damian snorted. He knew very little about this 'Santa Claus' fellow; the first he'd heard of him had been last week, when Grayson had pressed a sheet of paper into his hands, and had told him to write a letter to the old man, informing him of what he wanted for Christmas. If Santa truly had the powers to grant him whatever he wished, then Drake's days at the manor (and possibly this world) were numbered.
"You saw this Santa fellow kissing your mother, and you weren't the slightest bit concerned that your parents marriage may have been coming to an end?" he asked loudly.
His teacher shot him a reproachful look. "Damian!"
The girl frowned. "But mommy and daddy were fine the next day," she argued.
Damian shrugged. "That is probably because your father never discovered the truth. I assure you, had your father known, a divorce would have been fast approaching."
The teacher looked panicked (foolish woman, Damian thought, frowning). "Alright, let's move on — "
"I think Santa goes around kissing mums," the boy next to Damian said, nodding his head. "It's probably a Christmas tradition or something, right miss?"
The teacher flushed. "Well, I wouldn't say — "
"Wow, has Santa kissed you?!"
"Eww, girls have cooties! Why would Santa do that?"
Damian snorted. "Clearly this 'cooties' virus does not exist, or else all our parents would have it, you buffoon."
"Well I have two daddies," one girl announced, shyly. "I saw Santa kissing daddy last year…so it's not just mommies that he likes."
Damian tapped his chin thoughtfully. "So Santa goes for the next best thing then…"
"Alright!" the teacher snapped, looking extremely frazzled. "Change of topic! How about we discuss — "
Damian's focus, however, was elsewhere. The damage had been done; Steph's words from earlier that day would soon be coming back to haunt the Bat family.
Did that mean Santa would be coming for his father? Damian cocked his head to the side, considering this. No — if the old man was capable of flying around the world, and delivering presents to every child in one night, surely he wasn't idiotic enough to kiss the Batman, and expect to survive. No, he had to be coming for someone else…
…Someone who played the role of mother in their dysfunctional little family…
"…I think this…man…is coming for my brother."
The teacher blinked. "What man?"
"Santa Claus!" Damian slammed his hand on his desk. "Keep up woman! Fatgirl clearly said that Grayson is the mother in our family, which means — " He clenched his fists, " — he is the clear target in this situation. I cannot allow this to continue — do you know what will happen if Santa decides that Grayson is a suitable choice for this routine molestation?!"
"Miss, what does 'molestation' mean?"
The teacher choked.
" — Grayson has such an appalling choice in romantic partners — Gordon, that alien harlot — I refuse to allow this ridiculous man to delude him, and force himself into our family. Tell me, does he have red hair?"
"He wears a lot of red!" a girl informed him.
Damian narrowed his eyes. Yes — something had to be done.
Chapter 2: Damian's Letter
Antonia Fields was exhausted.
It was only her second week as a teacher here, and, if that morning's lesson was any indication of how the rest of the year would go, then packing up and running for the hills seemed like an absolutely brilliant idea. Who knew a simple question about Christmas presents could lead to utter chaos?!
'Damian Wayne,' her mind spat with contempt. Perhaps it was wrong to feel such anger towards a child — she was a teacher for crying out loud. She was supposed to love children. But god — god, that boy had come to this school with the sole purpose of torturing her. It didn't matter that he'd been here long before she'd arrived — somehow he had to have known she'd be coming, and he'd been waiting for her. Perhaps he'd used his father's billions to purchase some whacky fortune-telling device…in this age of aliens and superheroes, who knew what you could purchase on the market?
Oh sweet lord, the child was certainly out to devour her soul.
"Damian," she choked, her head swivelling to the doorway. Said terror stood there, his arms folded across his chest, an unimpressed look on his face as he scanned the room. On her first day, she'd requested he call her "Ms. Fields"; one demonic stare later, and she'd never brought it up again.
"Sweetie, you're supposed to be having lunch now," she said, trying to hide her unease.
"I'm not hungry," Damian grumbled, closing the door behind him, and walking into the room ('why, why, WHY?!'). "My mind is preoccupied with more pressing issues at the moment."
'What child TALKS like that?!'
"You see, the discussion about this 'Santa Claus' has troubled me greatly."
Antonia sighed. "Honey — "
"Please refrain from using such demeaning terms."
" — Santa's nice. He deliver's presents to…good little boys like you — "
Damian scowled. "I am not a little boy!" he spat. "I do not need any presents from him — I assure you, Fields, my father can give me whatever I want. There is one thing though…" Damian's eyes shone, and Antonia shuddered, as she remembered just what this 'one thing' was.
The boy moved to sit on one of the empty desks. Antonia inwardly cursed; she knew she should have gone to the staff lounge. At least then she could have thrown one of the other teachers to the demon in front of her, and hid in the bathroom until he left (okay, maybe that was a little extreme, but — but — god, this kid was creepy!).
"You see, Fields," Damian was saying, "I know nothing about this man. Asking my family is not an opinion — as you are qualified to lecture a class on the nature of Santa Claus, surely you can answer my questions."
'Lecture a class?' Antonia thought, incredulously. 'I asked them what they wanted Santa to give them for Christmas!'
"Honey, it's lunchtime," she said, forcing her tone to remain gentle. "You need to eat."
"Questions first, food later," Damian snapped, briskly. "I need to know how I can keep this man away from my home!"
"I — honey, why would you want to do that? You'd never — " She paused, her brow furrowing. Her mind went back to Damian's fucking creepy comment in class, about wishing his brother dead. Perhaps keeping his mind off Santa Claus wouldn't be such a bad idea — Arkham was already filled to the brim after all.
"Look why don't you…why don't you write a letter to Santa?!" Antonia choked at last, when nothing else came to mind. God, all she wanted to do was get the little brat to leave (without triggering his terrifying demon-glare).
Damian's eyes narrowed. 'Oh god, it was coming, the demon-glare was coming…' "Were you not listening in class?" he growled. "I wrote him a letter — "
"A new letter…to request that he not come to your house!" She clapped her hands together eagerly; oh yes, she was a genius. "In fact, why don't you write it now? I'll send it for you, to the North Pole. Santa is bound to listen if an adult tries to contact him, right?" She smiled, hoping that her desperation wasn't obvious. Faux cheer was surprisingly hard to master.
Damian frowned, and she felt dread settle in her gut. "That's the most ridiculous — " He paused, cocking his head to the side. "That boy did mention that you were one of Santa Claus' conquests…"
"I'm not — uh, yes. Yes I was."
Damian nodded stiffly. "Alright then, Fields — I'll write the letter, and you shall send it to the old man." The child frowned thoughtfully, before reaching into his bag and pulling out a small notebook, and a coloured pencil (if she didn't know any better, she would have thought it looked almost cute).
Damian sat still, his brow creased, his hand moving rapidly as he scrawled on the paper. After a while, he leant back, staring down, chewing on his lip thoughtfully. A moment passed before he nodded his head, looking pleased.
"Here," he said, thrusting the paper towards her. "You'll see that this is sent to the right address, won't you?"
Antonia blinked. "…Of course."
"Good." And with that, the boy picked up his backpack, walked towards the door, and left the room. Antonia felt a sense of euphoria, realising that he was gone (and then crushing horror as she realised he'd be back the following week), before turning her attention to what had been written on the paper. Of course she had no intention of mailing it — she'd burn it later. But she was curious about what he had written…
Dear Santa Claus,
My name is Damian Wayne, and I am writing to you to request that you avoid entering Wayne Manor this Christmas Eve. You see, I have an idiotic older brother. He is a fool, but red-headed woman across this world, and beyond it, seem to have a fondness of bedding him. This fact is of quite some concern to me, as I am aware that you are a fan of red yourself. I feel that if you were to involve my brother in your annual Christmas molestation, a long term relationship would be expected by Grayson, which would have unsatisfactory consequences for both of us:
I do not want you as a brother-in-law — save for father and I, and perhaps Cain, my family is filled with utter imbeciles. I've had enough.
YOU are married man, and I doubt Mrs. Claus would be happy to hear about your exploits. Yes, I have heard about your wife - you may try to keep her locked away in the North Pole, away from prying eyes, but her existence is common knowledge. You WILL keep away from Wayne Manor, and FAR away from Richard Grayson, or I will be contacting her next, and informing her of your whorish ways.
I still expect you to grant me my requested gift - however I'd prefer it if you sent one of your elven slaves to murder Drake in your stead.
Damian was not pleased.
That wretched woman had agreed to send his letter to Santa Claus, and he had no doubt she would — she was a fool, but she seemed to have grasped the desperate nature of the situation by the end of their conversation — but that did not mean the old man would bother to respond. After all, the woman may have been a former conquest of his, but what did that matter, when practically every woman — and in some cases, man — on Earth (and possibly beyond — who knew how far his powers extended?) could place themselves in this category.
To put it simply, Damian didn't trust the man. And that was why he had done the only rational thing he could think of doing in the present moment — he'd snuck into the Batcave, hacked into the computer system, and had typed the name "Santa Claus" into the criminal database.
Somehow, there had been no matches.
Damian stared at the screen, a scowl etched onto his face. How was that possible? The man wasn't a great catch — Damian had seen pictures. He was overweight, wore too much red, didn't understand how to use a razor — there was no way people across the world were falling for this man's charms alone. No — there had to be something sinister at play here.
Santa Claus had been getting away with this for years. And, oh yes, the old man was highly skilled — he had the entire police force deluded; the entire Justice League; even Batman had fallen for the tricks and charms of this criminal.
But what Santa didn't realise was that he wasn't going to be getting away with it for much longer. Damian Wayne was on to him now, and Santa wouldn't be getting close to Grayson this year.
Damian leant back in his large chair, staring determinedly at the screen. So what if Father hadn't collected any informing on this man as of yet — and so what if Santa had deluded everyone into thinking he was a generous, jolly old man. Damian knew where he could get information. After all, who knew more about a criminal than other criminals?
And it just so happened that they had a criminal (anti-hero) in the family.
Perhaps Todd would prove to be useful after all.
Chapter 3: Jason's Plan
Oh this was just too good.
In all honesty, Jason had been pissed off as fuck when he'd first received the text from the Demon Brat. It was bad enough that Dickhead had somehow acquired his number — now he seemed intent to share it with the whole family (if he started getting calls from Bruce, asking him to come to the next Sunday brunch, the world would soon be hearing about the Wayne family massacre).
The brat's message — 'Rooftop meeting. In costume. Urgent.' — had been cryptic as fuck. Jason had fully intended to ignore it, but that annoying part of him that he wished he could stick a bullet in sometimes, was ever-so-slightly curious about his youngest brother's latest mess (he wasn't concerned though - nope. Not at all).
Of course, he'd been ready to punch the brat in his smug, miniature-Bruce-like face after spending close to an hour searching for the right rooftop when the bastard refused to give him an exact location — did he know how many bloody buildings there were in Gotham?! Obviously the little shit had forgotten that the Red Hood had guns, and lots of them — guns he was willing to use on smug, annoying little brothers.
But then the little shit had opened his mouth, and had said the best thing Jason had heard Roy's drunken "when I was younger, I wanted to be a professional ballet dancer" confession.
"Grayson is in danger from the man in the red suit!"
…Well, okay, that wasn't the amazing line that had Jason barely able to hold back hysterics. In fact, it had only added to his confusion, and his barely repressed urge to use the Demon Brat as target practice. But it had eventually led to the sheer brilliance that was the current situation, so Jason wasn't going to complain (or kill anyone…for now).
But, to put things simply, the lead up to Jason's current glee, and Damian's continued frustration and Santa-induced stress, had started with that simple, confusing-as-fuck line.
"The man in red?" Jason asked, incredulously. "Who the fuck are you talking about? Arsenal?"
Damian blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Or — Flash? Is it Flash?" Jason cocked his head to the side thoughtfully. There were a lot of superheroes that wore red — the ones he'd just mentioned, Red Robin…himself…
"Wait, you aren't talking about me are you?" Jason's eyes narrowed. "Because seriously, if you dragged me out here to tell me that — "
And then he stopped, because Damian looked close to having a heart attack. Seriously - the bug-eyed, chest-heaving look couldn't be good for a ten year old. He should maybe mention it to Dick — the kid was way too much like their old man for his own good…
"Harper…West…" Damian choked (the brat seemed to have forgotten the concept of secret identities). "They…they both have red hair."
"Yes…and they both have red suits," Jason said, slowly, having absolutely no idea where this was going. Why the fuck would Roy or Wally West want to kill Dickhead? As much as Jason wanted to punch his older brother in his overly-enthusiastic face most days, the entire fucking superhero community seemed to view him as their bloody mascot. And didn't he and West have some weird life-partner thing going on (they called it being best friends, but Jason knew better)?
"Oh Lord," Damian was moaning. "This is worse than I thought!" The boy shook his head, obviously struggling with…well, with whatever the hell was going on. Jason still had no idea why he was here. "One thing at a time," the brat muttered, clenching his fists. "I can deal with those idiots when the time comes. For now — Santa Claus is my main focus."
And that's when Jason knew — good things were coming (seriously, even at this point, he knew there was potential for tons of Bat-family torment).
He stilled managed a quick, "what the fuck?!" because, while this may have had the potential for greatness, it still made absolutely no sense.
And so that led back to why the current situation was oh so fucking good. Because most kids thought that Santa was the greatest thing ever. Most kids wanted to stay up all night on Christmas eve, and leave cookies for Santa, and lie in bed, staring out their windows, and hoping to see a reindeer or two flying past.
But no — right now, Jason was talking to the one kid in this entire fucking world who thought that Santa Claus was a serial molester, determined to marry Dick Grayson, and establish himself as Bruce Wayne's first son-in-law.
And it was so, so, SO fucking brilliant.
Oh god, the potential. The things he could do with this. The kid was fucking insane — he was a crazy, sword-wielding anti-christ, who would probably grow up to be as crazy as his mother and grandfather someday — and, the things he could do with that. With a few misunderstandings here and there — one or two white lies — Jason could wreak havoc on the Bat family, and in a completely non-lethal way for once. He could destroy Dickhead's dignity, scare the fuck out of Replacement, make Bruce get grey hair —
— and all he had to do was convince the kid that Santa really was a deranged lunatic, who really did want to wed Dickhead. Maybe he could even throw in a, "oh, and he totally wants your inheritance too — Santa won't settle for anything less."
The kid would go fucking batshit. He'd do everything in his power to save Dickie's virtue, and wouldn't stop until he had Santa's head on a platter.
'So. Fucking. Good.'
"Yeah, kid," Jason said, leaning against the wall, and barely concealing his glee. "I've been hearing stuff about Santa around here."
"Really?" Damian was barely able to hide his excitement — kid was no actor, that was for sure.
Jason smirked. "Oh yeah — tons. The old man is notorious around these parts, as a serial molester." A part of him wondered if he should really be saying this to a kid, but then he reminded himself — it was the demon brat. Kid couldn't get anymore fucked up if he tried. "And a kidnapper," he added, because making the brat freak out was just too much fun.
"Yup." Jason hid his glee with relative ease — having a helmet that covered your whole face was fucking great. Suck on that, domino masks (of course, in his days as Robin, he hadn't really been worried about the mask. The scaly green shorts and pixie boots had been far more humiliating). "He chooses a new lady…or guy…every year, and takes them away to his…dungeon in the North Pole."
"His dungeon?!" Damian demanded, his voice dropping dangerously. His were clenched tightly at his sides. "I knew those elves weren't there by choice."
Jason shook his head. "Nope. Guy's got a frozen fortress over there, where he keeps all his…Christmas conquests."
Oh, he was good at this.
Jason blinked. "Huh?"
"It happens on the night before Christmas, not on Christmas, you dolt," Damian snapped. Jason's eye twitched — 'think of the potential for Bat-family chaos,' he reminded himself, trying to obscure the urge to grab his gun with an image of Bruce's horrified face — and he nodded his head, slowly.
"Yeah…sure, whatever, pre-Christmas conquests then. Anyway, he takes them there and…the rest is history. You never hear from them again."
Damian's eyes flew open. He looked — well, he looked horrified. Huh. The kid really cared for Dickiebird. It was strangely unnerving to see the Devil spawn actually caring for someone…kind of like the equivalent of Batman and the Joker frolicking together through a field of daisies.
…Well, maybe not that extreme, but close enough.
"He's going to take Grayson!" Damian cried, panicked. "I mean, he's the obvious choice!"
Jason blinked. "Why the hell would be be the 'obvious' choice?"
Damian snorted. "Please, he's Grayson." Well…fair enough. "The old man is deluded if he thinks he's getting any better than that."
'…Does the kid realise what he just said?'
"I must do something," Damian continued. He continued to sound unnervingly concerned. This was so fucking weird — so fucking brilliant, but still weird, in Jason's opinion.
"We must do something Todd!"
And that was what he had been waiting for. For a minute Jason stood there, fighting back a grin, as a range of scenarios flittered across his mind. Replacement, screaming in protest as Damian tied him to the chimney as a 'sacrificial elf' (he had no idea what the fuck a 'sacrificial elf' was, but he was sure he could spin some sort of tale); Dick, hidden away in some secret location, safe from the whorish ways of Santa Claus, while the rest of the family went Bat-shit crazy at home wondering where he was…
But no; as much as he wanted to humiliate Dick, as much as he wanted to irritate the fuck out of Replacement…
…nothing would be as great as some good old fashion Bruce-torment.
And what better way than to get his ten year old son involved in his love life?
"It's simple kid," Jason said. He briefly considered draping an arm around his younger brother's shoulder, but — no. That'd be taking it too far. He needed this to be convincing. "You've got to find Bats a wife."
Damian's eyes narrowed.
"I mean," Jason continued, "if you had an actual mum, Santa wouldn't have to go for Dickiebird, would he?"
Damian's frown faded somewhat. He looked thoughtful. "…That makes sense," he said at last.
"Of course it does," Jason shot back. "I say, go for Wonder Woman." Oh, yes, just imagining that — the brat strolling into the Watch Tower, demanding that the Amazon princess marry Batman — Bruce would have an aneurism. "Or…Superman!" Maybe he wouldn't even make it to Christmas — what better Christmas gift to himself than the death of Batman. "Yeah, yeah, go for Superman, and tell him that Batman wants him badly — oh no, wait, Green Arrow! You have to track down Green Arrow, and convince him that you heard the old man moaning his name in his sleep — "
…Well he had been needing to get a Christmas gift for Roy — problem solved.
Damian snorted. "Are you being deliberately stupid?" he snapped. "We don't want to confuse Santa. We want this to be as straight forward as possible — he walks in, sees the new matriarch of Wayne manor, and takes her to his North Pole dungeon instead of Grayson."
"Fine then, go for Wonder Woman." Stupid kid - ruining all his fun. Oh well, this still had the potential for greatness. "Just go to her first, not to your dad. And make sure you tell her that he wants her, okay? Badly. Otherwise she won't marry him. Trust me kid, I know how relationships work."
The brat glared at him, but nodded his head — clearly he wasn't happy at the thought of his father marrying anyone ('Bruce, say goodbye to your sex life when this kid gets older'), but he'd do it for Dickhead. Jason bit back a grin — oh god, Bruce was going to have a field day with this.
"Go with Batman to the Watch Tower," he told Damian. "And then, confront Wonder Woman. Make sure you do it when the entire League is present — she's less likely to break the old man's heart if everyone is watching."
"Father doesn't love that woman!" Damian spat.
Jason winced; 'obviously, you moron, but that's not the point here.'
"Look kid, do you want Santa Claus to be the newest edition to the Bat Family?!" The brat vehemently shook his head; Jason smiled. Good. Things were still in motion. "Then, Batman needs wife, and I'm telling you, the best candidate is Wonder Woman. Just make sure the whole Justice League is present — that's crucial. Kid, I know how relationships work, and a woman will never say no in front of a crowd."
Well, maybe not, but the kid didn't need to know that yet.
Damian looked thoughtful. After a moment, he nodded his head slowly. "Alright Todd. I'll see if your plan works. I hope you understand that the fate of this family depends on it."
"Oh, I understand." 'I understand completely, and this is going to be fucking great. I wonder if I can ask you to film the whole thing, without making it sound suspicious…'
Once the imbecile — who had been strangely helpful tonight, but was still absolutely not a brother of his, no matter what Grayson said — had left, Damian sat on the edge of the rooftop, mulling over his predicament. He didn't have much time left — if he stayed here too long, father would start looking for him. It didn't matter though — he had what he needed.
Todd was right, he supposed. Wonder Woman was the obvious option, if only because Damian couldn't think of anyone else. There was that Kyle woman, but he'd sooner accept Drake as his brother than allow his father to marry that woman. Knowing her, she would never agree to a divorce after Christmas had passed — she was far too materialistic for that. And father had always had a soft spot for her — while his father was an intelligent, dignified man, he'd still raised a love-sick fool like Grayson; Damian wasn't taking any chances.
Other than Catwoman and Wonder Woman, the only other person Damian could think of was his mother. He was not sacrificing her to that dreadful man. If a member of the proud al Ghul line was dangled in front of him, Damian knew that Santa wouldn't be able to resist. And while his mother was a proud, strong woman, you could never be sure — if something went wrong and she — god forbid — fell victim to the old man's witchcraft, Damian may very well be left with a half brother, fathered by none other than Santa Claus.
He would not accept that.
He was Damian Wayne, heir to the Demon, son of Batman — he would not be competing with the son of Santa Claus.
Damian nodded his head firmly. Yes; the Amazonian woman was the only choice. Damian would find some way to accompany his father the next time he went to the Watchtower, and then he would make his move.
There was a week left until Christmas eve — surely that was enough time for a wedding to take place.
Haha, absolutely no Batman/Wonder Woman happening here; just Jason tormenting Bruce, and Damian going along with it because he has no idea what the hell is going on xD And this is only one of the many plans Damian will conjure up as he tries to think of a way to keep Santa away from Dick.
Hope you continue to enjoy this fic! Thank you to everyone who has read it so far!
Chapter 4: Wedding Bells?
Convincing Father to bring him along on his next trip to the Watchtower was easier than he'd expected. All Damian had to do was wait for the right moment — and the 'right moment' happened to be moments before Father was preparing to leave.
After a few insistent "Father, I demand that you take me with you to that ridiculous club house", and a few miserable, "I'm sure you've taken the others with you,", Father gave in relatively quickly. Damian was sure that it was a mixture of his desperation to leave, and the power of, what Grayson called, 'puppy-dog eyes' (it had seemed ridiculous when his brother had first mentioned it, but Damian was shocked at their influence). Father seemed to give in whenever he shot him one of those looks — Damian had scoffed at Grayson when his brother had claimed that these 'puppy-dog eyes' (what an absolutely ridiculous name) were powerful weapons, used for manipulation and brainwashing. But they worked on Batman, so that had to mean something.
The next steps in his plan had flowed smoothly. Father had left for the monitor womb, leaving Damian behind, with the strict instructions to, "look around if you like, but do not destroy anything!"
Damian had no intention of causing havoc. He was here on a mission, and one that Father would soon be thanking him for. After all, Father adored Grayson, and when he learnt of Santa Claus' malicious plan to kidnap him, the old man would be facing the wrath of the Batman if he ever chose to show his face in Gotham again.
Finding the meeting room hadn't been overly hard. Father had brought him to the Watchtower on other occasions, and he'd always been good with directions.
To his delight, a large portion of the League — including the Amazonian woman — were already inside. Damian hurried over to the group, aware that the next phase of his plan would have to be carried out swiftly. Father would arrive soon, and Damian didn't think that even the power of puppy-dog eyes (despite what Grayson thought) would be enough to keep him at bay.
He came to an abrupt stop in front of the Amazonian. She stared at him, her eyebrows raising in surprise (good — he wasn't sure how it would help him in this scenario, but the element of surprise was always a good thing).
"Marry my father," he told her bluntly.
The room fell silent.
"…What the fuck did he say," choked — Green Arrow? Damian squinted at him; green outfit; arrows and quiver; a horrible goatee. Yes, this was Green Arrow.
Damian silently dismissed him. He wasn't here to deal with imbeciles, after all.
"Marry my father," he repeated, glaring.
Wonder Woman coughed, her eyes wide. "Um…sweetie…"
Damian scowled. "Please do not speak to me in such a demeaning way," he snarled "It will only be temporary. You may divorce after Christmas — that is, if you aren't taken away to the North Pole dungeon."
"…I repeat, who the fuck is that kid?"
"Robin, obviously," replied — Green Lantern? Damian's brow furrowed; why did they all seem obsessed with the colour?
Green Arrow's brow furrowed. "That's not — "
"He's Batman's son." 'The Kryptonian,' Damian thought, scornfully.
"Batman's WHAT — ?!"
Damian clenched his jaw, and tried to ignore the incredulous voices. He needed to remain in his element — this was an crucial mission, after all. He would not let that old bastard get his perverted hands on Grayson.
"Will you marry my father or not?!" he snarled, eyes flashing. He watched as the Amazonian woman stared at him in shock. She opened her mouth, and then closed it, unsure of what to say.
"Damian what are you doing?!"
"Dammit," Damian hissed. Father was here.
He tried to hide his grimace as his father stormed up to him. There went his chance; this would be a lot harder now.
"Father," he said, nodding in the man's direction. He tried to ignore the glare he was receiving; after all, as the future Batman, he needed to be equipped to deal with all sorts of terrors (including the wrath of the present-Batman).
"Damian," his father growled. "What are you doing in here?"
"You never said that I couldn't come here," Damian pointed out. "And I'm on an important mission, if you must know."
There were a series of choking sounds from behind him. Damian inwardly rolled his eyes; these imbeciles were the ones protecting them? No wonder Santa's crimes had gone unnoticed for so long.
"The Amazonian," he said, and pointed at her. "You'll be marrying her."
Silence. The choking had stopped, although Damian was sure he heard someone fall to the floor. And Father looked stunned, Damian noted, almost gleefully — it took a lot to shock the Dark Knight, after all.
"…Damian," Father finally choked. "I…I'm not marrying Wonder Woman."
Damian's eyes narrowed. "Yes you will," he retorted. "You will marry her, before Christmas eve." His father opened his mouth, and Damian hurried on. "I know it may seem like a hasty decision, but really, it's the only option. And it's only for a day — you can divorce as soon as Christmas Eve has passed." 'And after that bastard old man has gone back to the North Pole WITHOUT Grayson in tow.'
Father sighed, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Let's talk about this outside," he said firmly.
Damian's jaw clenched. "You have too!" he yelled. "We need a woman in the house for the old man to target!"
"What?!" Father spluttered.
"I'm sorry?!" Wonder Woman cried (having the gall to sound offended, Damian noted with scorn).
"You fool!" Damian snarled, staring at his father, rage in his eyes. "You'd sacrifice your own son for the sake of this woman?!"
"What the hell are you talking about Damian?!" If he wasn't so furious, Damian would have been pleased at how confused his father sounded. He'd well and truly caught the man off guard. However, his mind was preoccupied with more pressing matters — namely, the thought of Grayson rotting away in a cold, dank prison, far away from his family (and, more importantly, from Damian).
Grayson was his, goddammit, and he'd be damned if he allowed that bastard to take him away!
"Grayson!" he howled. "If we don't find you a wife, the old man will take Grayson instead! And then…then…" His fists shook dangerously at his sides. "YOU insisted on adopting an overly cheerful idiot, without any common sense when it comes to relationships. I refuse to suffer for your mistakes! Knowing Drake, I'll have that idiot clone as a brother-in-law soon enough — I will not be having this 'Santa Claus' too."
And with that he turned around, and stalked towards the doorway. He left the room, and the door slammed behind him, the only sound in the dead silence of the room.
"…That was Batman's kid?"
"We're starting the meeting," Bruce growled, glaring viciously.
Bruce prided himself on a lot of things. His detective skills were one of these, and it didn't take a genius to realise that there was something off about Damian.
He managed to hold his tongue until they returned home. Damian was silent, scowling at the floor. Bruce changed out of his suit, walked to the kitchen, and sat at the table. Alfred glanced at him, his eyebrows raising.
"I take it something happened, Master Bruce?" Alfred inquired.
"Damian!" he called out, choosing to ignore the question. "Come in here — I need to talk to you."
There was a brief pause, before the boy finally walked into the room. He was still scowling, Bruce noted.
"Sit down," he ordered. Damian twitched in annoyance, but complied.
Bruce watched him, wondering where the hell he had gone wrong. Well — the boy had been raised as an assassin for the first ten years of his life. He supposed he could blame the whole thing on Talia (except he didn't think Talia had asked the boy to march into the Watch Tower, and make plans for the wedding of Batman and Wonder Woman).
"Is everything alright?" he asked. He inwardly winced; obviously everything was not alright. You'd think, after four adopted children, and one biological child, he'd be better at this.
"Grayson is in danger," Damian growled.
"You said that," Bruce said carefully. He'd probably be more worried if Damian hadn't also been screaming about weddings and…Santa Claus?
"There's no point in talking to you about it." Damian glared at him. "You haven't apprehended him yet — no one has. It's been years."
…What were they talking about?
"Damian," Bruce said, trying to keep the exasperation out of his voice, "who are you talking about?"
"No one." Damian stood up abruptly, glaring at him. "I'll be going to my room now."
The boy's eyes narrowed, and he didn't move.
"Perhaps," Alfred interrupted, "you two should go out. Spend some time together - ice cream, perhaps?"
"Damian doesn't want ice-cream," Bruce sighed. He didn't know what Damian wanted (well, he'd read the boy's letter to Santa Claus, but there was no way in hell he was giving him that), but he knew what he wanted, and that was to get this whole situation sorted out.
"Why would I want a lump of frozen milk?!" Damian snapped. "What I want — "
"Actually, you know what, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea." After all, there were a lot of things he needed to speak to Damian about (and the fact that Damian's Christmas letter, requesting that Santa Claus murder Tim, wasn't even on the list, spoke volumes about how much help this family needed).
He needed to make sense of whatever Damian had been screaming about. Why on Earth did his son want him to marry Diana? And why did he think it would save Dick? And then, of course, there was that phone call he'd received from Damian's teacher — Ms. Fields? — about whether he'd, perhaps, book a few sessions for Damian with the school counselor…
"I don't want ice-cream," Damian snapped. "Clearly, you don't understand any of this Father. I'm disappointed." He turned around, and marched towards the doorway. "I'll be in my room."
Bruce opened his mouth to call him back, before realising that he had a lot to think about (namely, sorting through Damian's Watchtower rant, and working out what the hell it had been about). He'd deal with his son later.
He'd never thought his father was such a fool. Didn't he realise the gravity of the situation? Santa Claus was coming, and Grayson, along with this entire family, was in danger. Damian could understand if it was Drake, but this was Grayson — didn't Father care?
"It doesn't matter," he muttered, throwing himself onto his bed. "I'll protect Grayson, and defeat Santa Claus. I'll show the old man that he should have chosen some other poor fool to kidnap…"
His phone buzzed and he glanced down. He immediately straightened — it was a new message from Todd (he'd delete the fool from his contact list after Christmas, but for now, as ridiculous as it was, Todd was his only ally).
'Santa's at the mall right now.'
Damian's eyes narrowed, and he set the phone down on the bedside table. He stood up, his entire form tense.
He wondered if there was some way he could sneak his sword out of the manor…
"So Master Damian wants you to get married," Alfred summarised, sounding far too amused. Bruce shot him a disgruntled look.
"Can't you try to sound a bit sympathetic?" he grumbled. "The entire League was present. And not only was it embarrassing, it was completely baffling. Why would he want me to marry Diana? And he kept saying that Dick was in trouble…"
"Is he?" Concern slipped into Alfred's voice.
"I don't think so," Bruce sighed. "I mean, Damian didn't really sound like he knew what he was talking about."
"Father!" Bruce turned around, surprised to see Damian standing in the doorway. He hadn't been expecting his son to leave his room anytime soon. "I've decided I want frozen milk after all. Let's go."
"Alright." Bruce stood up. "But you don't need your sword to get ice-cream, Damian."
He really should be more concerned, but it was Damian. And he'd have plenty of time to interrogate his son in the car.
"Fine," Damian grumbled, dropping the offending item on the floor.
Chapter 5: Santa Meets Damian
It was moments like this that made Tim wish he'd been adopted into another family. Literally any family, other than the crazy one he belonged to. He could handle the death and destruction that came with the Robin mantle. He could handle Bruce's brooding. Hell, he could even handle the fact that two thirds of his 'brothers' wanted him dead.
But he drew the line at dressing up in silly elf costumes. Sure, charity work was important for the maintenance of their secret identities and what-not — but why did Bruce have to sign him up for this? What, donating a few thousands here and there wasn't good enough anymore?
No, obviously it wasn't. Because if it was, he wouldn't be standing in the middle of a crowded mall, dressed in a costume that reminded him far too much of the early Robin days (Dick had already proved he could handle leotards and pixie boots; surely this wasn't too much of a stretch), and having to be reminded numerous times to, "stop scowling — seriously Tim, you're scaring all the children!"
Oh god, he was channelling Damian. Charity work was supposed to be good for you, it wasn't supposed to turn you into a psychotic, creepy, demon-child…
"Smile!" came a frantic hiss from another volunteer — Max, Tim was fairly certain his name was. "Seriously, you look like you're about to go on a killing spree. I think that kid over there just wet his pants."
"Sorry," Tim muttered. "If you couldn't tell, I really don't want to be here."
Max's eyes narrowed. "Well," he said, "I hear that sometimes they buy all us volunteers ice-cream after this is done. So stop glaring, because if you make the kids cry, then we won't be getting any!"
Tim opened his mouth to reply — perhaps something along the lines of, "I'll by you an ice-cream if you shut the hell up" (okay, maybe not as harsh as that, but he was in a pretty foul mood) — when Max suddenly shuddered.
"What?" Tim asked, concerned.
"It's that creepy kid again," Max muttered, grimacing. "I swear, he's walked past us at least five times, and he keeps — staring…"
Creepy kid? Tim thought of Damian, and rolled his eyes. "Trust me," he said, "it could be a lot worse."
There he was.
There the old man was, sitting cheerily on his overweight bottom, deluding every imbecile in the vicinity. Damian couldn't understand how no one saw the spark in his eyes, or the malice in that supposedly cheerful laugh. How could these idiotic parents allow their children to go near this man?
Damian had felt almost nauseous when his father had laid a hand on his shoulder, and had said, "why don't you go up and speak to Santa?"
Dear lord — the old man had well and truly fooled everyone. Even after mulling over the situation for almost an hour, Damian still couldn't understand how he had managed it. Santa Claus had fooled the Batman, for godsake! His father, the world's greatest detective, had no idea that a vile, villainous creature was seated only meters away from him.
Damian's eyes narrowed, and he felt a spark of determination. Fine — the old man had fooled some of the greatest minds, but there was still one great mind that knew the truth. Damian would not rest until Santa Claus was brought down, and Grayson was free of his evil clutches.
Father hadn't allowed him to bring his sword along, but he wasn't overly bothered. He couldn't kill the old man — Father would never forgive him — but he could surely scare him into submission. Santa had lived most of his life with the majority of the world on his side. Surely, the realisation that someone knew the truth would be enough to shock him. That, paired with a quick, physical assault…Damian was sure he could put a stop to this, once and for all.
"So…" Damian's eyes moved swiftly to his father, who was studying him, his brow creased in hesitation. Father had tried numerous times to start a conversation, but Damian had remained silent. Clearly his father didn't understand, and Damian wasn't going to waste his time. After all, he had more important things to worry about. "How about that ice-cream then?"
Damian hesitated, before nodding his head. "Alright," he replied. "But may I stay here, while you go and get it? I think…" His eyes flittered towards his target, and narrowed slightly. "I think I'll go and speak to Santa Claus after all."
Father looked surprised for a moment, and then he nodded his head. "Sure," he replied. "What flavour would you like? …Damian?"
Damian — who had been staring venomously at Santa — turned back to his father, and shrugged. "I'll have whatever you're having," he responded. "If you like it, then I'm sure it is worthy of my taste buds."
"Alright then." Father hesitated, his eyes narrowing slightly. "Damian…are you sure you're alright?"
"Perfectly," Damian replied. "I'll be even better once I have some of that frozen milk."
Father stared at him for a few moments, clearly suspicious. Then, he relaxed, and placed a hand on Damian's shoulder. "Stay here," he said, his voice surprisingly gentle, before walking off.
Damian waited for a few moments. Once he was certain that his father was out of sight, he made his move.
He ran quickly, shoving past parents and children, as he made his way to the front of the line. He heard a string of enraged cries, and surprised shouts, but chose to ignore them. They weren't an issue — if they knew the truth, they'd be thanking him for saving their worthless children from the madman sitting a few feet away.
He was getting closer now. As if sensing the imminent danger, Damian saw Santa glance upwards, and watched in pleasure as the man's eyes widened in shock.
"Hey!" the old man began to yell, "I think that kid's about to — "
And then Damian attacked.
Tim was handing out candy canes, and pretending he could actually hear what the people around him were saying. However, with music blaring through his earphones, he really couldn't. He blamed Max; he'd tried to ignore his off-key singing at first (Max thought he was "bringing joy to the children" with his "brilliant Christmas carol renditions", but Tim, and his aching ear drums, begged to differ), but eventually he'd given up, and had decided that drowning out the horrible noise was his best option.
This method had been working just fine, and Tim realised (much to his pleasure) that he only had one hour left before he could leave. He could handle one more hour — and hey, maybe they would even let him have some of the leftover candy canes…
But, of course, he couldn't just have a nice, uneventful final hour, could he? No — just when he thought things were going fine, Max leapt in front of him, eyes bulging, arms flapping wildly.
"What's wrong?" Tim asked, pulling his earphones out.
"Oh my fucking god!" Max shrieked, "Demon-kid is killing Santa!"
"Huh?!" Tim asked, confused. What the hell was he on about?
"Oh my god, are you deaf or something?!" Max spluttered. "Look behind you, the kid — the one I mentioned before, the creepy-as-hell one — he's trying to kill Santa!"
Tim's eyes widened, and he turned, preparing to say something along the lines of, "then why the hell aren't you doing anything?!", when he caught sight of the 'demon-kid' in question, and stopped dead in his tracks.
Oh no — god, no. Why — why, why, WHY, why was he apart of this stupid family?!
He bit back a moan as Damian flailed wildly, his hand making a loud 'thwack!' as it slammed against 'Santa's' face.
"Do you want to intervene?" Max asked shakily. "Because, uh, kid looks crazy, and I didn't sign up to be murdered by the anti-christ."
"His name is Damian," Tim murmured numbly.
Max's eyes widened, and he paled. "Oh shit," he moaned.
Santa was screaming for help, and there were people rushing at him, but Damian didn't care. After all, he was certain he could take all of them if he really wanted to.
Still though…being the only one that wasn't completely delusional was becoming a little exhausting.
"Get off me, you worthless buffoon!" he snarled, kicking a man in the shin. "I'm doing you all a favour. This man is nothing but a kidnapper, and a pervert!"
"What?!" Santa howled. "I — I'm not! I have no idea what he's talking about! Oh my god, someone get him off me, get him off me, get him OFF ME — "
"Ha!" Damian crowed, "you're afraid aren't you? You're beginning to realise that someone knows the truth — you weren't prepared for that, were you? You had all of these people in the palm of your hand — put me down, woman!"
He lashed out, struggling as he was pulled away. Goddammit, these people were ruining his plan. He wasn't done yet! Santa looked afraid, but Damian had yet to inflict any serious bodily harm.
He reached out, grabbing onto the man's beard. To his immense surprise, it came right off. Damian stopped struggling, staring blankly at it.
"You —" He turned to the man, who was staring at him in horror. Oh — of course. That dratted man was smart…
"He planted a fake," Damian muttered, his hands clenching into fists. "A smart move indeed — planting this actor, to distract me from my true mission…"
"Alright kid, where are your parents?" a man (possibly the one he had kicked earlier, judging from the way he was clutching his leg) demanded.
"Shut up, you fool," Damian snapped. "I'm thinking."
Damian glanced up, and bit back a groan. What on Earth was Drake doing here — and what in God's name was he wearing…?
He felt a sudden rush of rage, and flung the fake beard to the floor. "If only I had seen this sooner!" he snarled, pointing at Drake. "The fact that you are here, Drake, dressed like that, is only proof of how mistaken I truly was. If that impostor over there was the real Santa Claus, you would not be here. I asked for your death or disownment — slavery was not mentioned once!"
"What the hell are you doing?!" Drake demanded, storming up to him. Damian side-stepped to avoid him, and hurried away, ignoring the frantic calls.
"I've had enough of this!" he yelled. "That old man will not get the better of me. I will destroy him, and save Grayson. And then I will laugh in his face when I emerge victorious."
He half expected someone to chase after him, but no one did.
If he looked back he would have noticed the looks of disbelief and horror, or how Drake looked like he wanted nothing more than to sink through the floor.
After everything he had been through, Tim shouldn't have been surprised. Damian was crazy — he'd tried to kill him before, for crying out loud. This should not have surprised him.
So then why the hell was his mouth still hanging open?
"It's okay," Max said, patting Tim gently on the shoulder. Tim continued to stare after Damian, his eyes wide, and his jaw unhinged. "I mean, that was pretty terrifying, but just think of the poor suckers who have to live with that kid."
Bruce was at his wits end.
He'd returned to where he'd left Damian, expecting to see his son standing in line, in a nice, calm, chaos-free environment.
But no — this was Damian he was talking about, so of course that wasn't what he'd returned to. What he'd gotten were frantic parents, terrified children, a bruised and shaking Santa Claus, and Tim, who looked like he wanted to punch someone in the face.
"What happened?" Bruce had asked.
"Damian happened!" Tim had snapped. "He went completely crazy — no surprise there — and…well, that happened." He gestured at Santa, and then glared, as if it were all Bruce's fault.
Bruce handed him both of the ice-cream cones (noticing the way the boy beside Tim stared at them longingly) before hurrying off in search of his missing son.
About an hour or so later — after some frantic searching, and a realisation of the chaos that Damian had created (Bruce would have to get busy with his cheque book later on…and possibly pay for Santa's hospital bill) — Alfred had called, informing him that Damian had caught the bus home. So he (holding back a frustrated howl), had hurried back to his car, and had driven home, ignoring all speeding regulations as he did so.
And that's how he found himself in his current position, standing in front of his sullen son, his fists clenched tightly at his sides, his breathing laboured.
"Please tell me one more time, why you felt the need to attack a defenceless man?!"
Damian glared at him. "There is no point in explaining this to you," he spat. "You don't understand. No one does."
Oh god, oh god, he was actually going to go crazy. He'd tried to be nice about this — he'd taken Damian out for ice cream, for godsake! And trying to figure this out on his own had proved to be useless, since none of this made any sense.
"No Damian, you are not pulling that one again!" he snarled. "I tried being nice, and then this happened. You are going to tell me, right now, what the hell is going through your mind — "
"I won't!" Damian yelled, taking a furious step backwards. "I can't trust any of you — that old fool has all of you under his spell! The only one I can trust is Todd!"
And with that he whirled around, storming towards the front door.
"Jason?!" Bruce spluttered. "What does he have to do with any of this?!"
Chapter 6: Mommy Issues
"…So what you're saying is, Santa Claus is crazy, and…wants to kidnap your brother?" Colin stared at Damian with a mixture of confusion and disbelief.
"I don't think he's crazy," Damian replied. "It takes a lot of logic and planning to be able to pull off what he's been doing. I do however think he is a criminal, who needs to be brought to justice — or at the very least, kept far away from Grayson."
Colin's brow furrowed, and he shook his head. Damian let out a sigh — this was going to take longer than he'd initially thought. He'd be sure that Colin would immediately be on board with whatever he suggested. After all, they were friends, and what was the point of having friends if they didn't do everything you told them to?
"Dami, Santa isn't a criminal!" Colin protested. "Santa is great! He brings kids presents, and soars through the sky on a carriage pulled by flying reindeer."
Damian bit back a grimace. The sheer awe on Colin's face was almost nauseating. "So the old man engages in animal cruelty too?" he growled.
Colin frowned. "Santa is a good person, Dami," he said firmly. "Everyone says so."
Damian snorted. "Yes, because they are all delusional. Todd has told me all about the real Santa."
"You mean Red Hood?…Isn't he a criminal?"
"Exactly!" Damian replied, nodding his head swiftly. "They run around in the same circles."
Colin shook his head again, and Damian felt a spark of irritation. He couldn't understand why it was so hard for everyone to understand his point of view. Yes, he was a superior individual, but all it took was a little common sense to realise what a cruel, deceptive man Santa Claus really was.
"I don't know," Colin said, frowning. "You're pretty much the first person I've met who doesn't like Santa. Danny, from the orphanage, was telling me about how Santa got him this magic kit last year, just like he asked for in his letter! Why would he do that if he was a bad guy, huh?"
Damian's jaw clenched. "Did this 'Danny' fellow also tell you about how Santa Claus molested his mother?!" he spat.
"…Danny's an orphan."
"The nun then!" Damian leaned forward, his eyes narrowed. "Tell me — did Danny witness him kissing her? Because let me tell you — he makes sure to do that at every house he visits."
"Why would Santa kiss Sister Agnes?!" Colin demanded, sounding horrified at the mere thought. "Dami, you've got this all wrong. And anyway, Santa's not allowed to kiss Sister Agnes — she's a nun, and I've heard that nuns aren't allowed to do that stuff."
Damian's eyes narrowed. "Really now…?" he murmured thoughtfully. Well, if that were the case, then perhaps convincing Grayson to become a nun would be an easy solution. Or at least dress as one, since he was almost certain men couldn't become nuns. Although…would that really deter that perverted old man? Somehow Damian doubted it; someone who travelled all around the world in one night, with the sole goal to bring misery to every house on earth, didn't seem like the type to be deterred by small technicalities.
Also, the thought of Grayson in a nun's habit was almost more ridiculous than that hideous mullet the man had sported during his early years as Nightwing (Damian hadn't even believed Drake's claims, until he'd seen the photos).
"Never mind," he sighed, shaking his head. "There's no point arguing about this. I will be right, as I always am. Now — are you going to help me or not?"
Colin looked uncertain. "I don't think I should," he replied hesitantly. "You're my friend and all, but…Santa knows stuff. If I help you, I'll be the only kid in the orphanage that doesn't get a gift."
"I can't do it!" Colin averted his gaze. "…Do you want to get ice-cream instead?"
Damian scowled. "Why does everyone insist on offering me that horrid frozen milk?" he spat. "My idiot older brother is about to be kidnapped by a deranged lunatic, that can somehow sneak into any home despite being far too overweight to fit through those damn chimneys — and you want to get ice-cream?!"
Colin shifted uncomfortably, his gaze still averted.
"…Alright, fine," Damian snapped, glaring. "But don't think for a second that I will forgive you for this betrayal! And Colin, you'd better get a flavour other than that bland vanilla this time around!"
Damian had been sitting in his room, glaring furiously at the wall, and cursing the ignorant minds of those around him (the ice-cream had been admittedly nice, but Colin still seemed more certain than ever that Santa wasn't a perverted, cunning, serial molester), when his phone had begun to ring. He wasn't even surprised that it was Todd — up until this whole Santa debacle, Colin had been the only one that contacted him on his phone (Grayson had at one point, but after a series of annoying selfies, Damian had blocked his number), and seeing as he'd only just seen Colin, it wasn't too hard to guess who was calling.
"So kid, what's been happening?" Todd asked enthusiastically, the moment he answered the phone.
Damian's jaw clenched. "Nothing," he growled. "You are useless Todd. The Santa Claus at the mall turned out to be a fake!"
"Oh?" Todd's voice sounded odd. "And…how did you find that out?"
"How did I — ? Because his fake beard came off when I attacked him! That's how!" Damian snapped furiously.
There was a strange choking noise on the other line.
"What's that noise?" Damian demanded, his eyes narrowing suspiciously.
"Uh, nothing," Todd replied, coughing. "So you attacked him, huh? Well, it sucks that he turned out to be a fake. I mean, usually it's the real guy that shows up, but — eh, maybe he was on to you or something. So…how about the marriage thing?"
Damian noted that Todd sounded oddly pleased. His jaw clenched — of course than ingrate would find his failure amusing. Well, Damian would like to see how Todd would fare if he was the one actively dealing with this situation.
"That didn't work either!" Damian snapped. "I thought you said she'd agree if everyone else was watching! She simply stared at me, like the idiotic harlot she is! And then Father got angry at me!"
The choking noises returned.
"What the hell are you doing?!" he demanded.
"Uh, sorry, forgot to clean out my apartment," Todd choked out. "Lots of dust around."
Damian snorted. "Why am I not surprised?"
"So, uh, Bruce heard all of that, huh? That's — how did he react?"
Damian sighed. "We are getting off topic here! Who cares what Father thinks — we need to find a way to defeat Santa Claus!"
"No you do kid," Todd retorted. "I honestly don't give a shit if he takes Dickhead or not."
"Todd, I swear," Damian ground out. Oh Lord, if only he could be partnered up with anyone else. Perhaps he would even take Drake over this fool — no, no, that was going too far.
"Oh calm down brat, I'll help you — just don't get any ideas that I actually care. Look, just stick with the marriage idea. Try to convince a few people — Catwoman, maybe?"
"I don't have time to track Kyle down!" Damian snapped. "There is only a few days left until Christmas, and I have made no progress!"
"Alright, geez, keep your pants on!" Jason sighed. "How about…hmm…"
"Hey Dami, I'm making a sandwich. You want one?"
Damian froze, and sat up slowly, his eyes wide. That couldn't have been — how had that harlot gotten into the manor?
"What are you doing in my house, woman?!" he yelled furiously.
"Alfred let me in," Fatgirl called back. Damian's fists clenched — Pennyworth. Of course he had. "And I'll take that as a no."
"What the hell are you yelling about?" Todd demanded, and Damian remembered that his 'brother' was still on the other line.
"I'll call you back later Todd," Damian replied, his eyes narrowed, "I have to deal with Fatgirl. What right does she have to march into my home uninvited, as if she lives here — "
"Wait!" Todd cried. "Steph's there? …So you know how this whole marriage thing is going to be temporary, right? Well, I think you should have a chat to Steph about maybe — "
"Do not finish that sentence," Damian growled.
" — marrying — "
"I will not be asking Fatgirl to marry my father," Damian snarled. "The mere thought makes me nauseous."
No, that would be the one thing he would not agree to. They would simply have to find another way. It was bad enough that Fatgirl insisted on hanging around like the parasite she was — he would not have her becoming an official member of the family.
"Oh come on kid," Todd said, sounding exasperated. "It's not like you have any other choice. You said it yourself — time is running out. And how many women do you really know? There's Barbara, but she's all caught up with Dick, and Cass, but she's technically Bruce's daughter so that would be fucking weird."
"…Fatgirl is rather desperate, isn't she?" Damian sighed, his shoulder's slumping with reluctant acceptance.
"…Yeah sure, why not? So, I say go for it! Besides, this isn't going to last long. It's just until Christmas, and then you can say goodbye to your — HOLY FUCKING SHIT!"
Damian blinked. "Todd?"
"Uh, kid, you know what, you do that, and I'lll talk to you later, okay?" Todd rambled, sounding panicked. "Bye!"
He hung up abruptly, and Damian stared at the phone in confusion.
The phone dropped from Jason's hand, and Bruce stared at it, his eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"Was that Damian on the other line?" he demanded.
"Okay, how the hell did you get into my apartment?!" Jason snapped, glaring furiously. "And how did you even know where it was?!"
Bruce's jaw clenched. "Dick told me. Now — "
"Oh for godsake, Dickhead knows where I live?" Goddammit, he'd have to find a new apartment now — there was no way he was going to let his so-called family have ready access to his home. The next thing he'd know, Dickhead, Mr. Father-Of-The-Year, and the rest of the fucking Brady Bunch would be showing up for a family brunch that he'd never agreed to.
Bruce sighed. "Jason — "
"And what gives you any right to sneak into my apartment?!"
Bruce raised one eyebrow. "Would you have answered the door if I'd knocked?"
"Hell no," Jason snapped. "And there's a reason for that — I don't want you in my goddamn apartment! Now get the fuck out, before I pull out my guns." He jerked his hand towards the front door, which Bruce had oh-so-conveniently forgotten to use.
"Jason, stop acting like a child," Bruce snapped, having the gall to sound annoyed.
Jason's jaw clenched. "Old man, I swear…" he growled, his eyes narrowed.
Bruce ignored his threat. "I just want to know what you've been saying to my son," he said stiffly.
"…What?" Jason froze.
Bruce glared. "Damian has been acting strange for the past few days, and then, suddenly, he tells me that the only person he trusts is you. Tell me, Jason — what am I supposed to think?"
"…The kid said that?" Jason blinked; wow, this was going better than he'd thought (well other than Bruce being on to him and all).
"Jason — what have you been telling him?"
"Nothing!" Jason replied hurriedly. "Look old man — " He hesitated. He sure as hell wasn't ready to give up the whole charade already. There was still a few days until Christmas; still few more days to fuck with Demon Brat and the rest of his screwed-up family.
"…Demon Brat's been going through a rough time," he said at last, "and he thought I'd understand. You know…mommy issues and all."
Oh yeah, he was good.
Bruce blinked. "…What?"
"Yeah," Jason continued, "I mean, suddenly his mom hates his guts — that's got to be hard on the kid, right? And I had a pretty shitty mom too — well, two shitty moms. So who better to turn to, right?"
Bruce stared at him, and, well, he didn't seem to completely disagree with the idea. Jason mentally gave himself a pat on the back; if he'd managed to trick the goddamn Batman, then that just proved how amazing he truly was.
"…And how do I know you aren't just making this up?" Bruce said at last.
Jason rolled his eyes. "Oh come on," he snorted. "The kid randomly starts going around, asking people to marry you —"
Bruce flushed. "It was one person," he muttered.
" — it doesn't take a genius to figure out that he wants a new mom."
Bruce shifted uncertainly, and Jason knew then that he had this in the bag. "And, all that other behaviour…?"
"Happened after you refused," Jason finished swiftly. "See? Kid's pissed that you didn't listen to him, and he's acting out. That's all it is."
Bruce sighed, looking exhausted. Jason felt kind of bad for him, except…well, this was Bruce, and he wasn't supposed to feel bad for Bruce. Ever.
"I didn't even consider something like this," the older man sighed. "But of course…why wouldn't his mother's treatment of him bother him? He's just a child…"
"Yup, that's right," Jason replied. "Now — do you want to get out? The door's right over there, if you actually want to use it this time."
"I can't believe I didn't see this before…"
Jason's eye twitched. "Yeah Bruce, you were a shitty dad, it's a shock to no one but you. Now please — "
"Jason, if he truly trusts you with this…then perhaps you could talk to him?" Bruce looked hopeful.
"Okay fine," Jason snapped, his jaw clenching. "Now — the door — "
"…No, he's my son. I should be there for him, I shouldn't push my responsibilities onto other people…"
"Okay great!" Jason cried, flinging his arms in the air. "You've seen the light! Now, get the fuck out of my house!"
If Bruce thought his life couldn't get any more complicated, he was wrong. Because, with a family like his, of course something else would come along as soon as one issue was solved (if you could call the Damian dilemma 'solved' — Bruce still had to think of a way to confront his son).
But if he had any hopes that he could have some quiet time to sit down, and consider his options, those hopes were dashed the second he stepped into the manor, and heard Damian's furious shouts.
"You will do it," his son howled, "whether you like it or not! And don't pretend for a second that you aren't pleased, Fatgirl — we all know that beneath that flabby, unappealing exterior, lies the heart of a gold digger."
"Damian, for the last time, I do not want to marry Bruce!" Steph yelled back.
Bruce took a step backwards, and wondered if it was too late to run back to Jason's apartment, and beg his son to take over.
"Ahh, there you are," Alfred said, looking far too calm for the current situation. "I was wondering when you'd get back — I did try to intervene a number of times, but…"
"Oh my god, Damian, I am NOT marrying him!"
Bruce winced, and rushed over to his son. "Damian!" he yelled, "what are you doing?!"
Damian whirled around. "Father, you may not grasp the gravity of this situation, but I do!" he snapped furiously. "If you won't marry the Amazon, then you must take Fatgirl as your bride! She's the only one desperate enough to do it in such a short period of time!" Oh god, oh god, he was asking Jason to take over — he was equipped to deal with the maniacs and criminals of Gotham, but he was not equipped to deal with this.
"Kid, do I look desperate?" Steph shot back.
"Damian, I…understand," Bruce choked. "You're going through a hard time. You…want a mother-figure in your life — "
"I don't want Fatgirl to be my mother!" Damian yelled.
"Okay great, now that that's settled, can I go back to eating my sandwich in peace?"
Bruce rubbed his forehead. Oh lord, he was sure he could feel his blood pressure rising. What in god's name had convinced him that he was capable of being a father? If Jason Todd knew how to handle this situation better than him, then that spoke volumes about what a terrible parent he truly was.
"This…this is the wrong way to go about it," Bruce said, deciding to continue with his previous speech. "You have many people who love you…"
"Yeah Demon Brat," Steph interjected, her mouth full (and Bruce knew she was trying to help, but god, couldn't she just shut up and let him finish?!), "I love you even if you're the most annoying kid I've ever met. And I sure as hell don't need to be your mother to do that."
"For the last time, I do not want you to be my mother!" Damian snapped. ""I am simply trying to — "
"Am I interrupting something?"
Bruce turned, saw Dick and Cassandra standing in the doorway, and was reminded that he was, in fact, their father too.
Oh god, what had he been thinking?
"Dick? Cassandra? What are you doing here?" Wasn't Cassandra supposed to be in Hong Kong? And Dick in Bludhaven? Then again, Dick had always been great with Damian, so maybe this was a good thing.
"Yeah Bruce, I said I was picking Cass up from the airport, and then coming to stay here until Christmas," Dick told him, his eyebrows raising. "Did you forget?"
Well yes, he had, because with everything that was going on, it was hard not to forget. But Bruce wasn't going to say that to Dick.
"Uh, yes, of course," he replied stiffly. "It's good to see the two of you."
"Clearly," Dick replied dryly, studying Bruce's tense expression. His eyes flickered over the other occupants of the room — Steph, who was eyeing Damian like he was about to burst, Damian who was alternating between glaring at Bruce and Steph, and Alfred who looked like…Alfred.
"Everyone seems upset," Cassandra noted, sounding concerned.
Steph snorted. "Well, Damian's a little crazy, but nothing new." She reached down, and ruffled Damian's hair. He shot her a vicious glare in response.
Dick cocked his head to the side. "Little D?" he asked, his brow furrowing.
Damian stared at him for a few moments, and then took a deep breath. "You are an imbecile," he said.
Dick blinked. "It's, uh, good to see you too kiddo."
"Despite that," Damian continued, "it is my job to protect this family."
Bruce decided that there was something highly flawed with that logic, but realised that pointing it out in this moment probably wasn't the best idea.
"Therefore, you have nothing to worry about, Grayson." Damian stared at his brother with serious eyes. Dick stared back, looking bemused.
Cassandra cocked her head to the side. "You were worried about something?" she asked Dick, sounding confused.
"No," Dick replied, his brow furrowed. "Not that I was aware of…"
Damian straightened, and shot Bruce yet another furious glare. Bruce winced; yes, he definitely needed to find a way to deal with this situation. Soon.
"Father, you know nothing," Damian growled, before whirling around, and storming out of the room.
There was a moment of silence, before Alfred turned to Dick and Cassandra (both of whom were staring after Damian in confusion). "Shall I prepare some tea for the two of you?" he inquired.
"Yeah, that'd be great Alfred," Dick replied. "But, uh — does someone want to tell me what that was about?"
"I have absolutely no idea," Bruce sighed.
Chapter 7: Don't Worry, Santa's Real!
Damian wasn't happy.
Damian wasn't happy at all. Fatgirl had already left, in all her flabby glory. Damian had made sure to inform her that, "if you DARE show your face after the horrors have passed, I shall strike you down where you stand!"
Fatgirl had simply smiled, and informed him that, if presents and eggnog were 'horrors', she'd take them any day.
Damian had thrown a vase at her head.
Now, he sat at the dinner table, across from Grayson, Father, and Cassandra, all of whom seemed to be giving him a wide berth. No one was speaking, save for a few glances here and there, and Grayson's ever-present expression of confusion.
Father took a forkful of potato, and chewed stiffly. Damian mirrored this action, glaring at the wall.
"Uh…Dami?" Grayson said, sounding hesitant. "Are you alright?"
Damian stabbed a pea with his fork, and kept his continued to stare forward. "I will not answer that question in his presence," he spat.
There was no question about who 'he' was.
Grayson blinked. "Uh, okay, I feel like I'm missing something here. Did something happen between the two of you?" He glanced between Bruce and Damian, his brow furrowed. Beside him, Cassandra looked equally concerned as she eyed her father and little brother.
Damian popped a pea in his mouth, and chewed it with exaggerated movement.
Cassandra leaned forward. "Little brother?" she prompted.
Damian shot her a glare. "I refuse to speak!" he spat.
Father slumped back in his chair. "Oh, for god's sake," he sighed. Damian felt a hint of satisfaction at that. If Father was exhausted, then he deserved it. He was supposed to be Batman, not some ignorant fool!
"Uh…" Grayson stared at him helplessly. "Is it…Tim? Is this about Tim? Because he isn't here — "
"Tim is with the Titans," Father replied. Damian's scowl deepened at the memory of that dreaded mall, and that — that fake! It was embarrassing, really, that the old man had outsmarted him, but Damian would ultimately emerge triumphant. Santa Claus would not win — he could not win. Grayson was an ignorant fool, but Damian wasn't about to sacrifice him to that monster.
(And, of course, Grayson was a clueless dolt, who would probably fall in love with the old man. And then they would all suffer).
"…Okay?" Grayson appeared even more confused. "Well then…would someone please just tell me why Damian looks like he wants to stab you with his fork?!"
Damian dropped the fork, and stood up, his eyes narrowed dangerously. "I refuse to speak!" he snarled. "Every time I try to explain the situation to Father, he misinterprets everything I say." His hands clenched into fists. "To think that I would marry you to Fatgirl of all people — "
Grayson eyes widened. "Uh, wait, what — ?"
Father stood up, and had the gall to look disbelieving. "Damian, the only reason I think that is because you said those exact words!"
"No I did not!" Damian retorted heatedly. "I was very clear about the terms of your marriage — I do not want that woman for a mother!"
Grayson sat still, his mouth hanging open, and Cassandra appeared just as lost.
Father's jaw clenched. "Look, Damian, I understand why you're acting out. I'm sorry that your mother isn't here for you, but trying to marry me off to every female we know isn't the solution!"
"I DON'T WANT A MOTHER!" Damian roared, slamming his fists on the table. "WHY ARE YOU PEOPLE SO DAMN CLUELESS?!"
There was a moment of silence. Damian let out a furious huff, and turned on his heel, marching towards the open doorway.
He was done here. This was simply pointless — Father was being an idiot, and there was no way Grayson would be any better. Perhaps Cassandra, but at this point, Damian was tired of his family. Even Todd's advice was proving to be useless.
If he wanted to succeed, he'd need to come up with his own plan.
Dick sat still, gaping at the empty spot where Damian had stood. He glanced at Cass, who looked just as bewildered as he felt. Bruce sat down beside him, and Dick heard his adopted father let out a sigh of frustration.
He turned to him, eyes wide. "Bruce, what the hell?!" he choked.
Bruce slumped morosely in his chair, and didn't respond.
"Bruce!" he repeated. "What is going on?!"
Cass glanced uncertainly at the open doorway. "Should someone speak to him…?" she murmured.
"You do it," Bruce replied stiffly. "Or Dick can. I've been dealing with this all week, and I've had enough."
"And what exactly is 'this'?" Dick asked, because he had absolutely no idea.
"Hell if I know," Bruce replied, rubbing his forehead. "He just…he came with me to the Watchtower the other day. And then he…tried to convince Diana to…marry me." The last part was forced out, and Bruce grimaced as he said it.
Dick felt his eyebrows raising. "You're kidding right?"
Bruce stared back at him, and, okay, it was pretty obvious that he wasn't joking about this. "Dick, this past week has been a living hell," Bruce growled. "I just walked into my house, after finding out my youngest son had attacked a man at the mall, and heard him trying to convince Stephanie to marry me!"
"I have no idea what I'm supposed to do about this, and I would love a better suggestion than 'take him out for ice-cream' Alfred!"
And then Alfred — and where the hell had he been for all of that?! — walked calmly into the room, raising one eyebrow at Bruce's disheveled appearance.
"I told you to talk to your son, Master Bruce," Alfred retorted, while Bruce scowled in response. "Something you have clearly neglected to do."
"I talked to Jason today," Bruce said, avoiding Alfred's pointed gaze.
"Jason?" Dick frowned. "What does Jason have to do with this?"
And what the hell was 'this'?
Bruce grimaced. "Apparently Damian has been…talking to him. He told me that Damian is having a hard time with his relationship with Talia. Or…lack of one, I suppose."
Dick's brow furrowed. "So what, Damian wants a new mum?"
"That's what Jason thinks," Bruce sighed. "He says he's just acting out…I have absolutely no idea. And I don't like not knowing!" He ran a hand through his hair, and glanced at Dick, exhaustion in his eyes. "Dick, maybe you could try talking to him. He has mentioned you a few times…"
Alfred frowned, disapproving. "Master Bruce, palming your son off to the nearest family member is not talking to him!"
"That's not what I'm doing!" Bruce protested.
"I'll talk to him," Dick interjected. There was no way he wasn't going to — Damian had sounded so upset, and Dick's big brother instincts were screaming at him to do something about it. Even if Bruce hadn't asked him to, Dick would have spoken to Damian.
"Oh thank god," Bruce sighed.
Alfred raised one eyebrow.
Dick decided to take Damian to the mall the next day. When he saw the skittish looks Damian kept shooting people, and they way his fists kept clenching and un-clenching, he started to wonder if that was such a great idea.
Dick had wanted to speak to Damian last night, but Cass had pointed out that he needed some time to cool off. Dick agreed — and besides, he needed to consider the situation first. The last thing he wanted to do was say the wrong thing and make things worse.
"Why are we here?" Damian demanded, staring at the bustling crowds with a scowl on his face. Dick thought it was a wholly inappropriate expression for the mall — it was was bright, and warm, and when you were here with big brothers, willing to buy you anything you wanted, you didn't frown — you headed to the nearest toy store.
(Then again, this was Damian, and as much as Dick adored his little brother, Damian wasn't exactly the poster child for 'normal').
"We're here…because the mall is great. And you are great. So it's a perfect combination!" Dick beamed, and ruffled Damian's hair. Damian sighed, but endured it for a moment, before swatting his hand away.
"So, anyway, we need to talk," Dick informed him. "But first…anything you want to do? Visit the toy store? Get some hot chocolate?"
"No," Damian replied curtly.
"…Well, okay then, talking it is! Want to go and visit Santa Claus — "
"No. God no!"
Dick blinked. "Well, right then. This…there's a bench over there! Let's sit and talk. How does that sound?"
Damian sighed, and walked over to the bench. Dick followed him, and then sat down, smiling at his younger brother.
"Father is being an ignorant fool," Damian grumbled. "Obviously, I am distressed about this change in temperament. My father the most brilliant mind I'd ever seen, and he has been reduced to this — a man who is so blinded by his aversion to marriage that he refuses to do what is necessary for the survival of this family!"
…Well, okay, Dick had absolutely no idea what to do with any of that. But…at least Damian was talking? That was a good sign, right?
"Um…right. Okay," Dick said, and yes, he had absolutely no idea where to start. "Let's…let's just break this down okay?"
"Oh lord," Damian muttered.
"So — we've got marriage. We've got the survival of our family…we have Bruce being an 'ignorant fool'." Dick playfully imitated his brother's posh tone, but Damian simply stared back, unblinking. Dick bit back a sigh; right, clearly jokes were off the table. "Now we need to connect these ideas…clearly…you want Bruce to get married, so you can have some little brothers and sisters!"
Damian blanched in horror.
Dick pat him gently on the shoulder. "Dami, I get the appeal of having younger siblings — I don't know what I'd do without you guys — but I don't think pushing Bruce is the best way to do it — "
"I don't want younger siblings!" Damian snarled. "Dear lord, what is wrong with you people?! Why can't you understand what I'm trying to say?!"
Dick blinked. "Okay," he said, "why don't you just tell me what you're trying to say? No more long rants — as adorable as they are — just come out and tell me exactly what's been bothering you."
Damian stared at him for a moment, and Dick felt his heart sink — clearly this wasn't going to work either — but then Damian sighed, and Dick saw a hint of determination in his eyes. Yes — yes, that was a good sign!
"Grayson," Damian started hesitantly, "has anyone…strange…spoken to you recently?"
Dick's brow furrowed. What?
"A…man," Damian elaborated. "Wearing red. With a white beard, and a belly far too big to allow him to sneak through all those chimneys."
Dick blinked. Wait…was Damian talking about…?
Well, okay, that just made things even more confusing than before, but hey — at least he had something concrete to latch onto now.
"Dami," he started, "are you talking about Santa Claus?"
Damian grimaced, and oh my god he actually was.
Damian was upset about Santa Claus. And just like that, his previous confusion and frustration went out the window — his baby brother was worried about Santa Claus.
His baby brother believed in Santa Claus.
For once, he was acting his age, and Dick resisted the urge to hug him, because, judging from what Bruce had said, Damian certainly wasn't dealing with this in a healthy way.
Well then — it'd have to be big brother Dick to the rescue.
"Have kids been talking about Santa at school?" Dick questioned. "Have they been…telling you things about him?"
Oh, he definitely knew where this was going.
"Yes," Damian replied, his eyes narrowing slightly. "Why?"
"…It's not true. None of it." Dick leaned forward, and tried not to sound too urgent. Damian was a lot smarter than the average ten year old, and there was no way in hell Dick was going to ruin one of the few things Damian shared with other children his age.
If Damian stilled believed in Santa Claus, then there was no way Dick was going to let those awful kids at school destroy this for him, and tell him that Santa wasn't real. Dick still remembered when he'd found out — it had been the same year Bruce had taken him in. He'd searched for his gift from Santa, and had asked Bruce where it was.
Bruce had absently replied, "Santa isn't real," before realising what he had said, and freezing in horror.
Alfred had glared at Bruce, and smacked him over the head.
And Dick…Dick had been absolutely devastated. When you were a kid, especially one in their profession, you wanted to believe that things like Santa, things that made the world seem just a little bit magical, were real.
Which was why he leaned forward, smiled at his little brother, and said, "Damian — Santa has spoken to me."
Damian froze. "What?!"
"Yeah, it's crazy, right?!" Dick nodded enthusiastically. "But I know for a fact that he is real, so whatever those kids said to you — just ignore all of it!"
"Grayson you absolute imbecile!" Damian roared. "Why wouldn't you tell us that he had been in contact with you?!"
"Uh, because, I didn't know you were worried about it! Dami, you're so mature, sometimes I forget that you're just a kid." And wow, wasn't that the truth. "But Santa, wow, he is definitely — wait, where are you going?"
Dick stared at Damian in confusion. His brother had stood up abruptly, his fists clenched at his sides.
"I need to discuss these recent events with Colin," Damian spat. "And Grayson, you fool, do not speak to Santa Claus!"
…Well, okay, once again he had no idea what was happening.
"Um, wait, what?" Dick called out, as Damian stormed off.
Guys, I am SO sorry about how long it took me to update this!
Hopefully this chapter was worth the wait! Tell me what you think :)
Oh and btw guys, I made a few changes to this chapter since I first posted it - as many of you guys pointed out, I completely forgot the fact that it is Winter during Christmas in America (I'm from Australia haha). So while I originally had Dick taking Dami to the beach, I changed it to the mall.
Chapter 8: Christmas Carols
Staring at Roy's incredulous expression, Jason couldn't help but grin. Yeah — this entire situation was awesome, he was fucking awesome, and Bruce and the rest of the Bat Crew were going to suffer this Christmas.
And the best thing was, none of them knew it but him.
Sharing the story with someone else felt amazing. Because sure, this entire thing had been great (except for when Bruce had snuck into his apartment; that had been decidedly terrible), but telling someone else about his victories just seemed to legitimise his glory.
"You have got to be kidding me," Roy said disbelievingly.
"Nope," Jason replied, without missing a beat.
"The kid — he actually bought all of that? He actually thinks that Santa Claus is going to kidnap Dick?"
Jason smirked. "Yup. How great am I?"
Roy sat back in his seat, looking amazed. Jason threw himself down on the sofa next to him, grinning proudly. The chair creaked under his weight, and Jason was almost certain he'd felt a loose spring; he'd have to convince Roy to replace the thing somehow. Most of the things in Roy's apartment were shabby at best, but sitting on a broken chair wasn't the greatest experience, and Jason spent way more time here than he should.
"He's going to kill you when he finds out," Roy told him.
Jason snorted. "I'd like to see him try."
"Dick too. And Batman — oh god, Batman is going to destroy you. And Red Robin might join in too, from the sound of it."
"…Yeah maybe." Jason shrugged. After all, if they did try to kill him, it only meant his mental torture had been a success. "But you know what, Roy? If I die, this time it'll actually be worth it."
Roy stared at him for a moment. "Yeah, well, if anyone asks, I didn't know about any of this," he said at last.
Jason snorted. "Please. If I'm going down, I'm taking you with me."
"This is the first time I've heard about any of this, you asshole!" Roy spluttered.
"Well, now you know." Jason leaned back, smirking. "You know, I tried to get him to ask Oliver to marry Bruce."
Roy sat up straight, his eyes wide and hopeful.
"…Yeah, he didn't fall for that one."
Roy stared at him for a moment, and then slumped back in his seat, a scowl replacing his previous enthusiasm.
"I hate you," he muttered.
"So…I spoke to Damian, like I said I would."
Bruce sat up abruptly, and turned to Dick. He was aware that he probably looked far too hopeful, but at this point, he was beyond caring. He'd been sitting at the dining table with his eldest son, finishing up his lunch. He had absolutely no idea where Damian was at the moment, and he was torn between feeling concerned about this, and feeling relieved — because with everything that had happened, did it really make him a bad parent if he just wanted some peace and quiet?
And if Dick had made progress with Damian, then Bruce might just hug him. And beg him to move back to the manor, because clearly Dick understood Damian in a way that no one else possibly could.
"Well," Dick started, "good news is, he believes in Santa Claus."
…Or maybe Dick was just as clueless as the rest of them.
"Yeah I know, crazy right?" Dick let out a strained laugh, and Bruce felt a headache coming on. "I didn't think Damian believed in that sort of thing. But he does, which means there's still a spark of childhood buried deep within — "
"Dick! Focus!" Bruce breathed deeply. "What's the bad news?"
"…Right. The bad news. Well…" Dick let out an awkward laugh, rubbing the back of his neck. "I'm pretty sure I made it worse."
"Yeah…sorry about that."
"Dick…" Alright, he needed to stay calm; Dick wasn't the problem here, the problem was Damian. So Dick definitely didn't deserve any verbal abuse right now; at least that's what he kept telling himself. "How exactly did you make it worse?"
Dick hesitated. Bruce shot him a warning glance, and he continued on hurriedly. "Right, so, he started yelling at me, and asking if Santa had been in contact with me. Which…makes absolutely no sense since I thought we were talking about the issues with his mum. By the way, are you sure about that? Because he was pretty adamant that he didn't want a new mum."
"Dick, I don't know what to think, so you really aren't helping," Bruce gritted out. "Did he say anything useful?"
"Uh…well he told me not to speak to Santa Claus."
Bruce's eye twitched.
"Look, he said it, not me!" Dick cried defensively.
Bruce groaned, and rested his head in his hands. "What is going on with that boy?" he muttered. "He's attacking people in public, trying to marry me off, conspiring with Jason…and now he's what, talking about Santa Claus?"
Dick's brow furrowed. "How…is any of that connected?"
"I don't know Dick!" Bruce growled. "If I knew, I wouldn't be sitting here, asking you about it!"
"Yes, and that's precisely your problem Master Bruce — you don't know how to talk to your children."
Bruce lifted his head, and gave Alfred a flat look. Alfred walked forward, unruffled, and collected his and Dick's empty plates.
"That's not the issue here, Alfred."
"Damian hasn't tried to talk to me," Bruce continued, shooting Dick a sharp glare. "He seems determined to do all of this behind my back."
Dick and Alfred exchanged glances, much to Bruce's frustration.
"I have tried to talk to him, you know! Multiple times in fact. I even took him to the mall for ice-cream, just like you suggested Alfred! It didn't help."
"…Have you thought about hot-chocolate?" Dick asked. "Because it is winter, and hot chocolate in winter is…uh…" He stared at Bruce, taking in his clenched jaw, and the dangerous look in his eyes. "Never mind."
"Any useful suggestions?"
"Perhaps you could try speaking to Master Jason again," Alfred suggested. "He seems to have a clearer idea of this situation."
Oh no, he was not doing that again. Jason was his son, and he loved him, despite everything, but…Jason was the absolute last person he'd ever want to discuss personal feelings with.
And besides, he'd already spoken to him once. Surely there wasn't anything else Jason could tell him that he hadn't already disclosed (at least that'd what Bruce told himself — and it was probably true. He had great instincts about these things).
"No, no, we should focus on Damian," he told Alfred firmly.
Alfred let out an exasperated sigh.
Damian sat on the couch, staring silently at the walls of the orphanage, and trying to formulate a convincing argument in his head. Frankly, it was ridiculous that Colin still didn't believe him, but Damian supposed that not all ten-year-olds could be as rational as he was.
Two children raced past him, squealing wildly, and and Damian inwardly scoffed; well, that just proved his point.
He'd called Colin as soon as he'd stormed away from Grayson, and his friend had told him to stop by the orphanage so they could talk. Damian had done just that, without a moment of hesitation; the last thing he wanted to do was waste precious time.
"Colin," he said at last, "I understand that you don't believe me, but it is very important that we solve this problem. Lives are at stake."
Colin shuffled awkwardly beside him. "Yeah, about that…"
Damian frowned. "What?"
Colin glanced at him, and took a deep breath. "Well…I didn't really believe you about the Santa Claus thing. Because he's Santa, and he gives presents to kids, and flies, and has magic — "
"…But then the nuns were playing some Christmas Carols, and I started listening. Really listening. And Dami…I think they all have hidden meanings."
Colin stared at him, his eyes wide, and Damian felt himself relax slightly. Perhaps there was hope for Colin yet.
"Go on," he urged.
Colin nodded. "Okay so — we were listening to "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and…could I borrow your phone?"
Damian nodded, and handed it to Colin. Colin glanced down, tapping away at the screen, and, a moment later, he lifted his head and turned to Damian.
"Listen to this," he said, turning up the volume on the phone.
"You better watch out, you better not cry…"
"See!" Colin cried. "If Santa's so nice, why do we need to watch out?!"
Damian's felt unease curl in his gut, and continued to listen.
"…he sees when you are sleeping…"
He froze. "What?!"
Beside him, Colin nodded frantically. "I know, that gave me the creeps too! Dami, do you really think he can see us when we're sleeping?!"
Damian's fists clenched at his sides. "I don't see why else they'd put that information in these songs. Clearly this is all public knowledge."
Colin frowned, evidently disconcerted. "I don't want anyone watching me when I'm sleeping," he said, chewing on his lip. "Not even Santa Claus."
"This man is a menace!" Damian spat. "How the police haven't arrested him yet is beyond me. Incompetent fools."
"We need to do something about this!" Colin cried. "I know he's Santa, and lot's of people are going to be mad at us for putting him away, but…we can't just ignore this!"
Damian turned to his friend, his eyes narrowed and determined. "We have an advantage here Colin. What that fool doesn't realise is, by releasing this information to the public, he has placed himself in a vulnerable position. Listen to the repetitive verse of this song — Santa Claus is coming to town."
Colin stared, uncomprehending.
"To town Colin. He arrives in towns. That therefore eliminates any city of suburban areas."
Colin shook his head. "That can't be right," he argued. "Kids all over the place get presents from Santa."
Damian closed his eyes, and rubbed his forehead. There had to be more to this. There had to be some way to lure the old man out before Christmas. If they could just get him alone, perhaps they could overpower him, and find some way to trap him.
"There must be more to this," he muttered. "Town is very specific…why not just say "Santa Claus is coming" instead? Why town?" He sighed in frustration. "Perhaps he targets the towns first, which might give us an advantage…if we map out the important towns close to where we live, perhaps we might be able to catch him before he arrives at the manor. No, no, that won't work — we simply don't have the resources for an operation this large. Perhaps if Father and the others were helping us…but they all seem determined to ignore the danger, so I'm not wasting anymore time on them."
Colin shrugged. "There are other songs," he told Damian. "Listen to this one."
He fiddled with the phone for a moment, and then another song started playing.
"…Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer…"
Damian listened for a moment, his brow furrowed. As far as he could see, there wasn't any particular significance to this song. He glanced at his friend, confused.
"Why is his nose red?" Colin asked, and there was an edge to his voice. "I'll tell you why — I think Santa is abusing his reindeer."
"That…that…insolent oaf!" He leapt to his feet. "How dare he?! What, is the kidnapping and molestation not enough?! Now he must hurt innocent animals as well?!"
Colin shook his head. "I didn't want to believe it," he said quietly. "But…Santa's not a very nice man." His voice wobbled, and that made Damian even angrier. This man was a menace, but now he thought he could upset Damian's friends as well? No — he wouldn't stand for it!
"It all makes sense!" he snarled. "Of course he's hurting the reindeer…he makes them drag a sleigh across the entire world for Christ's sake! He has no heart — no morals…"
"We can't let him do this!" Colin cried. "We need to do something!"
Damian took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. He could feel his anger and frustration engulfing him, and he couldn't let that happen. He needed to maintain a clear mind if he had any hope of coming up with a solution. Anger would only make him slip up, and then the old fool would win.
And there was no way he was letting that happen.
"I need to keep Santa away from Grayson but…I don't even know how to find this man. Not to mention, we'll have to find a way to defeat him for good — we simply cannot allow him to continue these atrocities. But first, I need to get Grayson away from Santa Claus, and I only have a few days left to do it…"
Colin cocked his head to the side. "You could get your brother to leave," he said hesitantly. "It wouldn't be a very fun Christmas but…Santa can only visit when kids are there, right?"
"So if your brother is alone…then Santa can't visit him!"
"Colin…I think I have an idea," Damian murmured, feeling a spark of anticipation. "It won't bring the old man down for good, but at this stage, we're running out of ideas. I just need to keep him away from Grayson…and then we'll have the rest of the year to track him down, and defeat him."
Colin nodded firmly. "We could go to the North Pole."
Damian nodded his head. That sounded like a plan — he'd make travel arrangements once Christmas had passed. Of course Father would probably disagree, but Damian would deal with that situation when it arose. For now…he had a plan. And a plan meant that he had a way to save Grayson.
"Thank you Colin," he told his friend, and allowed some warmth to enter his voice. "You are clearly superior to all of Drake's friends."
Colin beamed. "Wow, thanks Dami!"
Damian stood up, dusting himself off. He told Colin goodbye, sneered at some nearby children, and then walked to the doorway with a newfound sense of determination.
The old man would have to find another target — Grayson would not be going anywhere.
His father was waiting the moment he entered the manor. Father walked into the room, having evidently been waiting Damian's arrival. He stood, watching Damian, seeming more than a little wary. Damian shut the door behind him, and returned his father's stare, waiting for the man to continue.
"Damian," Father said at last, "where have you been?"
"I was with Colin," Damian replied.
"Oh…and what are you doing now?"
"Going to my room." This was good; simple. If Father continued with these meaningless utterances, then maybe Damian could slip away unnoticed. He'd planned what to say — he'd had to come up with an excuse for his previous behaviour, because his plan depended on Father believing that the whole thing had been a mistake.
Father coughed. "Well then…make sure to come down for dinner."
Damian started at Pennyworth's voice, but Father simply sighed in frustration.
"Ah, Damian," he said stiffly, "before you go, I really think we should…talk."
Biting back the urge to groan, Damian said, "I know what you're going to say Father."
"Yes, well, I know you think I won't understand — "
"You were right," Damian continued, somewhat hurriedly. Just finish this, and then he could go. Father would, hopefully, not suspect a thing. "I do…struggle with the absence of my mother. It caused my to act inappropriately in the past week, and I'm very sorry about that. It won't happen again."
Father stared at him, evidently surprised. Damian counted that as a victory.
"You — what?"
"You don't have to worry," Damian continued. "I won't be continuing this…childish behaviour. I apologise."
"But — the mall?" Father looked bewildered. "And what you told Dick about…Santa Claus?"
Damian held back a wince at the mention of that vile man, and forced himself to stare unflinchingly at his father.
"I wanted your attention," he said. "I felt…lonely, I suppose. Father, I am truly very sorry. It isn't very becoming of me, and I know I've embarrassed you — "
While he had been talking, Father had begun walking forward, and now he stood in front of Damian, and lay a gentle hand on his shoulder. Damian stared at it, uncomprehending.
"Damian, you haven't embarrassed me," Father said quietly. "If anything, it's my fault. I didn't see that you were struggling, and I went about this in the wrong way. If anyone should be sorry, it's me."
Damian swallowed. "Yes, well…"
"If you ever want to talk about anything — anything — then don't hesitate to come to me. I know I'm not always the most open person, but…I'm your father, and I'll listen. I promise."
"…Thank you, Father." Damian averted his gaze. "May I go to my room now?"
Father squeezed his shoulder. "Of course," he said, his voice soft.
Damian turned around, and hurried out of the room.
That was…odd. He'd expected Father to be angry. Or disappointed, maybe. Not…that.
"Childish behaviour," he muttered, because it was far easier to focus on his lies. "Please."
He walked into his bedroom, and closed the door behind him. He paused for a moment, listening intently for any signs that Father had followed him. After all, his behaviour had been strange. Perhaps it was an elaborate ruse to lull him into a false sense of security. A moment passed, and when Damian was certain that Father was not lingering nearby, waiting for him to slip up, he walked away from the door, and over to his bed.
He sat down, and pulled out his phone. Before anything, he needed to call Todd, and inform him of the current situation.
"Hello?" Todd answered, after a few rings. "Demon Brat?"
"Todd," Damian said in greeting.
Todd responded immediately with a barrage of information. "So, I have a few new ideas — I'm thinking, instead of Dick, maybe you can lure him out using Replacement. This is the plan: Replacement can do what he does best, and replace the angel at the top of the tree, and then Santa will walk in and see the little shit-head sitting up there, and think — "
Damian cut him off. "The tree would collapse under Drake's immense weight. Anyway, Todd, I called to say that your help will no longer be needed. I now know how to keep Grayson safe."
"It is a temporary plan," Damian continued calmly, "and I will need to find a way to defeat him for good, but for now, Grayson's safety is my utmost priority. Thank you for your services, but that will be all."
"…Uh, thank you? But seriously kid, what's this great plan of yours — ?"
Damian hung up the phone.
He set it on the bed and smiled. Todd, he'd admit, had been a great help throughout these events, but the man was irritating. Now, finally, Damian could take control of the situation, and work towards a resolution on his own.
He knew what to do now. It was so simple, and he wondered why he hadn't thought of it before. Of course, it wouldn't rid the world of Santa Claus, but that wasn't his goal at the present moment. First and foremost, he needed to keep Grayson safe. And once Christmas Eve had passed, and the threat of Santa had gone with it, Damian could focus his efforts on hunting the man down. He'd have a year to do it, and that was plenty of time to formulate a good plan.
For now though, he simply had to keep Santa Claus away from the manor until Christmas Eve had passed. Colin's suggestion had paved the way for a broader plan. Santa Claus couldn't arrive if there were no children present. Therefore, as long as he ignored the mental states of both Grayson and Drake, the old man had no way of entering their home.
Damian would simply have to leave the manor on the night of Christmas Eve, and return the next day.
It was simple, really (or so he thought).
Okay, so I'm pretty sure this'll have about 2 chapters left. Thank you so much to everyone who has read this story, and for all the lovely comments you guys have left - it means so much to me! After this is done, I might try to write another chaptered Batman fanfic (I've done a whole heap of one shots since I first started this, but I haven't really written any other chaptered Batman fanfics since this, so it'd be fun to start a new one).
If I was to start a new chaptered fic, what characters would you like to see featured prominently?
Anyway, once again, thank you to all my readers, and I really hope you enjoyed this chapter!
Chapter 9: The Great Escape
"Are you sure you don't want to stay up and wait for Santa?"
Damian resisted the urge to snap — as much as he would love to grab Grayson by the shoulders, shake him violently, and yell that he was doing this for his own good! — doing so wouldn't help his cause. It would simply encourage Father's ridiculous perception that he was losing his mind, and that was the last thing he needed. Having a suspicious Batman on his tail would hinder any chance he had of escaping before the old man arrived.
"No," Damian told Grayson stiffly. "Goodnight."
He took a moment to examine the small group sitting on the sofa — Grayson, Father, Pennyworth, Drake and Cassandra — and ignored the small twinge he felt. He turned around, and walked towards the staircase leading to the bedrooms.
"What?!" he heard Grayson hiss. "He believes okay?! Doesn't like him much…but we can work on that!"
"Dick…." Father muttered in response, his voice a mixture of exasperation and warning.
Damian sighed and picked up his pace as he left the room. He needed to move swiftly; time was of the essence, and he had no idea when Santa Claus would be making his dreaded arrival.
Father seemed fairly distracted. Grayson's demands that they all stay up and watch Christmas movies would have been irritating under any other circumstance, but right now, it was exactly the kind of distraction he needed. Everyone was camped out in the living room, staring blankly at the television screen (with the exception of Grayson, who was practically grinning from ear to ear), and that meant they were all far away from where the bedrooms were.
Hopefully it'd be a while before they realised he was gone.
"We really should be on patrol," Bruce muttered, and winced as Alfred immediately shot him a reproachful look.
"Oh no — we spoke about this, Master Bruce."
"Alfred, really — "
"Gotham can wait for one night." Alfred's voice held a hint of warning, and Bruce felt his shoulder's slump. It gave him flashbacks to when he was a child, which was utterly ridiculous, because he was a grown man, thank you very much.
He tried again. "There could be all kinds of maniacs out, just waiting to use this holiday as an excuse for — "
"One night, Master Bruce. That was the agreement."
Bruce averted his gaze and sighed.
A moment passed, and then Dick stood up abruptly. Everyone turned to stare at him.
"I'll be right back," he promised.
"Master Dick!" Alfred admonished. "This was your idea."
"I know," Dick agreed, nodding. "I won't be too long. I just want to check on Damian."
Bruce frowned, and opened his mouth to protest — he did not think it was a good idea for Dick to be disturbing Damian right now. The last thing he wanted was a repeat of Damian's attitude throughout most of that week.
"Just let me make sure he's alright!" Dick insisted. "I know he said he wanted to sleep, but it's Christmas eve, and it's the first one he's spending with us." He paused, and his eyes narrowed slightly. "He needs to enjoy it — who knows when he might find out Santa Claus isn't real."
He shot Bruce a pointed look, and Bruce had no doubt that it translated to, "you ruined Santa for me, you absolute arse."
Bruce sighed, and nodded his head. Dick beamed, and left the room.
"…Can we go now?" Tim asked hopefully, and winced as Alfred shot him an admonishing glance.
Bruce settled back in his seat, and waited, almost expectantly, for the sound of Damian's furious yells. As much as he loved his son, the boy wasn't the best at reining in his anger.
A short while later the yelling started — although they certainly didn't belong to Damian.
(He'd later realise that, by that point, Damian had been long gone from the manor).
When Dick arrived at Damian's room, and poked his head through the door, as stealthily as he could manage, he caught sight of the small, child-sized lump under Damian's blanket, and smiled softly.
He stood there for a moment, debating whether or not to approach Damian. On one hand, his little brother looked fast asleep, and Dick didn't know if it was a good idea to wake him up. On the other hand…
'It's his first Christmas!'
'But Bruce is right, he is having a hard time…'
'…All the more reason for him to celebrate Christmas with us!'
'But no one seems to agree with me…'
'…Oh who cares, they're all emotionally stunted idiots!'
'…who I love dearly, but still.'
He walked over to the bed, grinning widely, and reached down to pull back the blankets.
"Little D! Little D, wake up — "
He then stared down, uncomprehendingly, because…well, under those blankets, there was supposed to be a child.
Not a child-sized mound of pillows.
Dick's jaw opened and closed for a moment, and then he managed a weak, "…what?"
Bruce had been sitting, staring blankly at the television screen (basically exactly what he'd been doing when Dick had left the room) when the expected yells reached his ears. Oddly enough though, they belonged to Dick rather than Damian.
Bruce took a moment to silently curse his own existence.
Alfred stood up, alarmed, as Dick ran frantically into the room.
Bruce resisted the urge to bury his head in his hands.
"What happened?" Cass asked, sounding concerned.
"I can't find him anywhere! He did that weird pillow thing to make it seem like he was in bed, but he's not there, and I have no idea where he went!"
"Oh god, I told you there was something wrong with that kid," Tim muttered.
"Tim! Not helping!"
Alfred stood up. "Everyone calm down! Did Master Damian mention he was going anywhere tonight?"
"No!" Dick cried, shaking his head fervently. "He just said he was going up to bed."
"Okay, everyone's freaking out, and really, the only issue is that he's not in bed," Tim said. "It's Damian, there's a whole number of horrible things he could be doing right now — "
"Not helping Tim!"
Bruce groaned and rubbed his forehead. He could feel a headache coming on. He silently swore that, when they did find Damian, he was not letting the boy out of his sight for at least the next month.
"Maybe he went on patrol?" Cass suggested, her brow furrowed. "No one was happy staying back tonight."
"Wait what?! No one?!" Dick yelped.
Tim nodded. "That makes sense."
"No one was happy with staying back tonight?!"
Bruce nodded, and stood up. "I'll go and see if the Robin suit is gone."
"We have Christmas movies! Popcorn! Presents waiting to be opened under the Christmas tree! What else do you people want?!"
It turned out Damian's suit wasn't missing, which brought up more questions than answers. Bruce had been almost certain that his son had snuck out to go on patrol. Now that that had been proven false — there's no way Damian would be patrolling without his suit — Bruce had absolutely no idea where his son had disappeared to.
"What is that boy doing?" he muttered, frustrated.
Tim, Dick, Cass and Alfred looked equally bewildered. They'd all been searching the house for Damian, but after regrouping only minutes before, it'd been clear that each of their efforts had been fruitless.
"And we can't even track him since he isn't in costume," Tim groaned.
"Dammit!" Dick cursed. "I knew something was wrong. I should have spoken to him about it."
Tim sighed, and placed his hand comfortingly on his older brother's shoulder. "Dick, it's not your fault. Who knows what that kid is thinking."
"That doesn't matter," Dick snapped, shaking the hand off. "He was obviously upset. We should have done something."
"He attacked a guy at the mall, and tried to marry Steph off to Bruce," Tim reminded him, raising one eyebrow. "Can you blame us for not wanting to get involved in that?"
Everyone turned to Cass, who stared back at them, her expression firm.
"He's family," was all she said (and Bruce supposed that was all she needed to say).
Damian was family. He was the baby of the family, for Christ's sake. He'd obviously been upset, and they hadn't tried hard enough to help him. That was on them.
"Maybe he's doing some last minute Christmas shopping?" Tim suggested weakly, before sighing, and shaking his head. "Okay…has he taken his phone with him?"
Dick shook his head, his shoulders slumped. "I saw it in his room."
Alfred groaned, running a hand through his hair. "What is that boy doing?!" he muttered. "Master Bruce, he's worse than you were at his age, and that is really saying something!"
Bruce shook his head. He didn't understand any if this. One moment Damian was fine — well, as fine as Damian could be — and the next moment this happened, and the only person who seemed to understand any of it was Jason of all people —
He froze for a moment, and then walked briskly to the phone.
"What are you doing?" Tim demanded, as he, Alfred, Dick and Cass hurried after him.
"Calling Jason," Bruce replied, grabbing the phone off it's hook. "Damian actually spoke to Jason; told him what was going on…"
Cass frowned, confused. "I didn't know they were close."
"They're not," Tim told her. "But come on — does any of this make sense?"
Bruce dialed the number, ad held the phone to his ear. "I don't care," he muttered, "Jason is not hanging up until he tells me everything he knows…"
His voice trailed off, and he turned his head in the direction of the living room. The sound of another phone — one that certainly didn't belong to any of the occupants of this room, and one that had started to ring the moment he had dialed Jason's number — persisted, and was followed by a loud, very familiar, curse.
Dick blinked. "Um, I'm not the only one who heard that, right…?"
Bruce rushed towards the living room, and wasn't surprised to see Jason standing there.
He wasn't even surprised to see Jason trying to make a hurried escape.
What he was surprised about was what Jason was wearing. Because, for the life of him, he could not figure out why Jason was currently dressed like…Santa Claus.
...With horns. And a fake arm sticking out of his sack.
Once again, Bruce found himself wondering just why he'd ever thought it was a good idea to become a father.
"Master Jason?" Alfred exclaimed, evidently stunned to see him.
"Oh my god," Tim groaned. "This family is actually so screwed up."
Bruce found himself agreeing wholeheartedly.
Where did Damian go? What is Jason up to? Find out in the next chap!
And tell me what you think of this one :)
Chapter 10: Damian's Night Before Christmas
"It's not a real hand!" Jason cried, as if that was the most important thing. As if the fact that Damian was missing wasn't more worrisome, or the fact that Jason looked like a discount Santa from the $2 Shop of Hell.
No, of course the fake hand was more important!
(…Okay, considering who Jason was, and what he did on a nightly basis, perhaps confirming that it wasn't a real hand probably was a smart idea. Especially since he was standing in Batman's home, surrounded by irate Bat-family members).
But still. Damian was missing. And they needed to focus.
"Jason," Bruce ground out, while Dick continued his internal panic-attack, "what are you doing here, and what the hell are you wearing?!"
"Uh…" Jason let out an awkward laugh. "I thought I'd be nice for once, and leave some gifts for those little munchkins, Tim and Damian?"
It was phrased as more of a question than a statement. Even Dick, in his perpetual state of naivety and hopefulness — his brothers would get along someday! — wasn't about to believe that explanation.
"There's an arm," Cass said, pointing.
"Yes, but it's fake. See?" Jason picked it up, and waved it around. Dick heard Tim mutter a disbelieving, "oh my god," and didn't blame him one bit.
"And look, we all know how fucked up Demon Brat is. Regular toys aren't going to cut it for him."
Everyone continued to stare at him in disbelief.
"Look, I was trying to be nice, okay?! Aren't you always telling me to act like I'm part of the family? That's what I'm doing! Just get off my back assholes!"
And then, for good measure, Jason tossed the arm.
No one moved to pick it up.
"How did you get here?" Bruce demanded, his eyes narrowing.
Jason snorted. "Oh calm down old man, it's not like I broke a window or anything. Dick gave me a key." He nodded in Dick's direction.
The others turned to stare at Dick, disbelief in their eyes, and Dick shrugged. Jason was part of the family, he'd only thought it fair. And besides, Alfred looked approving, which was a pretty good indication of morality around here, right?
"I'm not an idiot," Bruce said, rubbing his forehead. "What are you really doing here?"
"I told you — "
"I'm not playing around here, dammit! Damian's missing and I want to know exactly what he's been telling you!"
Bruce's eyes flashed dangerously, and Dick realised how stressed he really was. He'd been so preoccupied with his own concern for Damian; it was easy to forget that Damian had other family members that were concerned about him too. Even Tim was worried; he tried to hide it, but Dick had always been good at reading his little brothers.
(Well, he liked to think so anyway).
"…Demon Brat's missing," Jason repeated, his eyebrows raising in surprise.
Bruce's glare deepened.
Jason shifted. "Look…it wasn't my fault, okay! If the kid was smarter, he wouldn't have fallen for it."
Dick's eyes narrowed. "What wasn't your fault?"
"Look — "
"Jason," Bruce growled, taking a threatening step forward, "you are going to sit down, and tell me everything — "
The phone chose that moment to ring, which was probably a good thing — Bruce looked furious, and Jason was starting to look more than a little defensive, and everyone knew that mixing Bruce Wayne, Jason Todd, and highly stressful situations, never ended well. It was like throwing a lit match into a puddle of gasoline, and expecting it to burst into rainbows and sparkles.
Bruce turned around and walked over to the phone. Dick turned to Jason, intending to give his brother a good chewing out — he loved all his brother's equally, but Damian was ten, and if Jason had done something to cause this…well, Dick wasn't going to let him off easy — when Bruce's alarmed voice met his ears.
"…yes, Damian Wayne is my son…what?! What do you mean he's in the hospital?!"
Dick felt his chest seize in terror.
Yes, Damian was in the hospital.
Yes, the family — including Dick — were on there way to said hospital, foiling Damian's supposedly fool-proof plan to draw Santa Claus away from the family.
And yes he was going to be angry. Very angry. And no one ever liked an angry ten year old, yet alone an angry ten-year-old Damian Wayne.
But to understand how we'd gone from an innocent plan to run away from home (said no one ever), to hospitals, furious child assassins, and a fast-approaching Santa Claus, ready to whisk Dick off to the North Pole (at least in Damian's mind)…well to understand that, we'd have to start at the events from earlier that night.
While the Bat Family had been happily (in Dick's case) and grudgingly (in the case of everyone else) been watching Christmas movies, and devouring popcorn, Damian had made the first steps in his master escape plan.
Let's just say, the workers at the 24 hour 7-Eleven were not amused.
Damian had briefly considered spending the night at a place that was actually tolerable. He was sure Colin would be willing to let him stay for the night, and the nuns would probably be too busy fending off Santa Claus to notice an extra child in their orphanage. However, Damian didn't want to risk it; if his family noticed him missing (not that that was likely; he'd gone through great pains to hide his whereabouts), he didn't want to be in a predictable hideout. A random location like this one had seemed like the best idea.
That didn't mean he was happy about this. When all of this was over, and he was finally able to go home, Grayson had better be willing to show his appreciation. Damian had many demands, but perhaps a public declaration that Damian was his favourite brother, and Todd and Drake were useless buffoons, would suffice.
Damian may not have wanted to be here, but the workers at this unfortunate 24 hour 7-Eleven sure as hell didn't want him here either.
Wanda and Henry had wasted way too many years working in this damn convenience store, but it had never really struck them how bad it really was. And now…well, if they were forced to deal with this demon-in-a-child's-body (and his name was Damian apparently — how fitting was that?!), on Christmas Eve of all days, surely that was a sign that they needed to reassess their lives.
"He can't stay here!" Henry hissed from behind the counter, eyeing the Damian warily. "We cannot have a kid staying here all night!"
Wanda ignored him, and turned to Damian. "Honey, are you sure you're alright?" she called out.
"I told you, I'm not finished yet, woman!"
Both worker's cringed.
"You can't just stay here — " Henry tried.
"I'm not — I'm buying something." Damian took a slow sip of his Slurpee, and glanced at the chocolate isle. "I'm trying to decide between the Kit Kat and the Hershey's bar."
"Brat's been trying to 'decide' all night," Henry hissed. "Seriously Wan, I just want to get drunk and watch Christmas movies."
Wanda snorted. "Right, because that's not going to get us fired."
"No one comes around here at this time — not until this kid."
Henry shot Damian another irritated glance. Damian saw it, and took another exaggerated sip of his Slurpee.
"I can hear every word you're saying, by the way," he added, after dabbing his mouth gently with the sleeve of his top. "Oh, and perhaps this other chocolate will suit my palette more — "
"Oh, I'll show you what'll suit your palette, kid!"
"Henry!" Wanda snapped. Then, in a louder voice, she asked Damian, "alright hon do you want me to call your parents? It's a bit late for you to be out on your own."
Damian snorted. "My father has no qualms about what I do in my personal time."
Henry cringed again, and Wanda shot him a reproachful glance, as if to say, 'shut the hell up and let ME deal with this, you useless human being.'
"Well I'd feel better if I spoke to him," she told Damian gently. "Besides, you don't want to be spending Christmas Eve all by yourself do you?"
"And we don't want to be spending it with you," Henry grumbled.
Wanda nudged him sharply with her elbow.
Damian took another loud sip of his drink. "No need. I ran away from home. These taste terrible by the way."
Wanda's brow creased with genuine concern. As strange and unnerving as Damian was, he was still a kid. "Aw hon, you don't want to be having a fight with your folks on Christmas Eve."
Damian rolled his eyes. "I assure you, my relationship with my Father is fine. I plan on returning to the manor tomorrow morning. However, I cannot go home tonight, not with the fat man lurking around, searching for houses where children reside within.
He calmly took another sip of his Slurpee.
"Honey, what did you just say?!"
Damian sighed. "The fat man. Everyone knows about him."
(Perhaps if Damian had specified that he was speaking about Santa Claus, it would have cleared up a lot of confusion. It would also have put forth the question of which adult in this kid's life had screwed him up the most).
"Someone's trying to hurt you, kid?" Henry asked, sounding genuinely concerned for the first time.
"No," Damian replied, scowling. "I'm far too skilled for some overweight fool, with no real weapons, to defeat. I'm simply trying to protect my brother from the deluding ways of this serial molester, and the entire family from the ghastly aftermath."
"Did you say serial molester?!"
"Yes," Damian said calmly.
Wanda's eyes bugged. "Oh god, hon, if you want us to call the cops — "
"The police?" Damian snorted. "That won't be of any use — if the police were competent, surely they would have caught him by now. Even Batman hasn't managed to apprehend this fellow."
The last part was said in a particularly bitter tone. The two worker's supposed that the kid was probably a Batman fan. As if he needed a broody role model to look up to — kid seemed to be doing fine in that regard all on his own.
"Look, kid, if you think you're in trouble — "
"Are you a complete fool?! I said no one is after me! It is my brother the old fool wants!"
"Yeah but — "
This conversation probably would have continued for a lot longer, and probably would have ended either in violence (Damian), storming out (Damian), or lots of screaming (from both sides), if the armed robber hadn't chosen that moment to walk in.
…Yes. The armed robber. As if things weren't bad enough as they were.
"Right, empty the till and give me the fucking money, and no one gets hurt!"
Damian turned in surprise, while the two idiots behind him let out identical shrieks of terror. Damian's eyes narrowed sharply when he caught sight of the man in the doorway, a black mask pulled over his face, and a gun in his hand, and thought, 'oh, I know EXACTLY what's going on here.'
"Okay!" the idiot woman stammered, "calm down, no one needs to get hurt — "
Damian scoffed. Please. This fool waltzes in here, thinking he has the strength to best Damian Wayne, son of Batman, son of Talia al Ghul, heir of the Demon, Robin — but Damian knew better. He knew how the old man's mind worked, and he should have expected something like this. Did he honestly think Santa Claus would just let him go? When there was a prize like Grayson waiting in the manor?
Well, Damian would show that old fool exactly who he was dealing with.
Damian stepped forward, ignoring the idiots' frantic yells. The gunman peered down at him, surprised. Clearly he hadn't been expecting any opposition. The naive fool.
"I suppose the old man sent you after me," he spat, is eyes narrowing.
The man blinked. "What? No, I just want the money — "
"You tell your boss that he will never have Grayson, as long as I am alive!"
"Who the fuck is Grayson?! I just want my money!"
And with that, Damian let out an enraged yell, and threw himself at the man. He knew his Father would probably discourage such a rash move, but he simply didn't have the time to think up a better plan. All Damian knew was, he needed to stay far away from the manor for as long as possible. Grayson was counting on it and — goddammit, Grayson deserved this. After everything he had done for Damian, after being the first person to believe in him, the first person to care about him, Grayson deserved this.
"OH MY GOD, WHAT IS HE DOING?! OH MY GOD YOU FUCKING PSYCHOPATH, STOP, WANDA, TELL HIM TO STOP — OH MY GOD, I THINK I JUST PISSED MYSELF — "
And the gun went off.
"Dammit, I want to leave!" Damian snarled, struggling furiously on the ambulance gurney. "I am completely fine! The bullet just grazed my arm!"
"Come on, this isn't fair!" the gunman protested, as he was escorted into a police cruiser. "I wasn't actually going to shoot anyone, that crazy kid jumped me! If anyone's a menace, it's him!"
Wanda and Henry watched on in stunned silence.
"We don't get paid enough for this," Wanda whispered.
Henry sniffed. "It's Christmas Eve, dammit."
A polite cough caught their attention, and reminded them that Officer Something-or-Another was still trying to take their statement. Of course, amongst the constant rambling-fits, switching trains of thought, and disbelieving exclamations, it wasn't an easy fete.
"Do you mind telling me what happened tonight?" the officer pressed.
"The kid's insane, that's what happened!" Henry snapped.
The officer blinked. "The kid. The little boy, who just got shot."
"It grazed my arm, dammit! I am completely fine!"
The officer sighed.
Wanda swallowed, still looking pale. "That man walked in, and started demanding that we hand over all the money we had," she said shakily. "And then that kid — Damian — well, he jumped on him. And then the gun went off I think."
"The kid has been hanging around all night," Henry added. "Might be one of those homeless kids, or something."
The officer scribbled something on his notepad, and then glanced up. "Actually, that's Bruce Wayne's kid."
Henry and Wanda gawked.
"…I always knew the rich ones were crazy."
Okay, so while I intended to have the Batfam find out in this chapter, I've decided to move that to the next chap. The next chapter WILL be the last one, and will wrap everything up. It'll also hopefully include some Batfam fluff at the end haha.
Hopefully you enjoyed this, and tell me what you think!
Also, since this is October, and Halloween is fast approaching (yay!) I've decided to write a series of Halloween-themed Batman fanfics throughout this month. If you have any prompts for this, send me a message, or post them in the comments! Anything Halloween-themed, or of the horror genre is welcome :)
Chapter 11: The Truth Comes Out
Bruce was aware of the stares they were receiving as they passed by. Usually this wouldn't have been surprising; he was Bruce Wayne after all, and this was his family, and being the richest man in Gotham/related to the richest man in Gotham meant that gawking and staring soon became fairly mundane things.
Right now however, he was fairly sure the staring had less to do with their status, and more to do with the fact that Jason was still wearing the Santa Claus costume, and those goddamn horns.
They walked up to the receptionist's desk. He could hear his children bickering in the background, but at this point, he really didn't care. He was worried about Damian, furious at Jason (who had yet to explain what the hell was going on), and just sick of Christmas in general. If they got back to the manor and Dick insisted on finishing those godawful movies, he was locking his eldest son in the Batcave. He was sure he'd receive plenty of help.
"We're here for Damian Wayne," he told the receptionist. The woman glanced at Jason, and raised her eyebrows.
"I'm here to spread Christmas joy," Jason said, deadpan. The woman quickly glanced down at her desk.
Tim winced. "Oh god. Please shut up."
"I'm his Father," Bruce pressed, when it looked like the woman was close to calling for security. "Just…ignore them. Please."
If he could manage it on a daily basis, surely she could deal with them for a few minutes.
The receptionist glanced up, and looked like she was about to argue. Then her gaze settled on Bruce, and her eyes widened in recognition.
Bruce inwardly sighed in relief. She rattled off the directions to Damian's room, and they headed off towards it. Bruce had no idea what to expect. He'd been told that Damian had been shot, and the bullet had grazed his arm. All Bruce had been able to think was, 'Damian, what in God's name were you DOING?!' Because gunshots, and injuries, and whatever the hell else, sadly weren't strangers to him or his family, but Damian was supposed to be tucked up safe in bed tonight, not…out doing whatever he'd been doing.
He rounded the corner, and hurried into his son's ward, with his family following in suit. Inside, Damian sat on the bed, scowling. He looked fine, save for some heavy bandaging around his arm, and Bruce felt himself relax.
They crowded into the room — it wasn't a private room, unfortunately, and other families milled around. Damian glanced up, and his eyes widened in disbelief.
"Little D!" Dick cried, hurrying forward.
Bruce followed close behind, trying to keep his anger and worry in check. "Damian, what the hell were you thinking?"
"Does it matter?" Damian's eyes were glued to Dick. He sounded angry and frustrated. Bruce felt a tinge of annoyance at that, because if anyone had a right to be annoyed, it was him. Not Damian, who never should have snuck out in the first place; not Jason, who had probably caused this entire mess; not Dick, who'd made them sit up watching those terrible movies, when they should have been out patrolling — he didn't care what Alfred said, crime never stopped, so neither should he.
Bruce was done being oblivious. He was the world's greatest detective — he didn't earn that title by being clueless.
"How dare you let him come here!" Damian yelled. It took Bruce a moment to realise that the accusation was directed at Jason. "You of all people knew what would happen and you still — you still — "
Well, that confirmed that Jason was involved.
Dick frowned. "You don't want me here, little D?"
"Of course I don't!"
Damian continued, undeterred by Dick's wounded expression. "The whole reason I ran away was to get away from you!"
"Damian!" A part of Bruce was stunned that Damian was saying these things to Dick. Had it been Tim, or Jason, he wouldn't be surprised; disapproving, yes, but not surprised. But Dick? He was the only sibling Damian admitted to tolerating ('tolerate' being code for love of course).
Dick sat still, staring at Damian with wide, hurt eyes.
"Master Damian," Alfred said disapprovingly, "Master Dick has been very concerned for you. To speak to him in such a way is simply cruel!"
"Yeah brat!" Tim nodded. "Even if you're a little shit, Dick cares about you, so you could at least — "
"Shut up! How is it that after all this time, you still don't understand?! I'm doing this because I care about Grayson, you air headed fools!"
And then there was silence. The occupants of the ward stared at them in confusion and shock, but Bruce was preoccupied with that familiar feeling of not knowing what the hell was going on.
God, he hated that feeling.
"Alright, that's it! Damian — we are not 'air headed fools.' We are not idiots. No matter how hard I try, I cannot piece any of this together, and that's because there is no possibly way to do that!"
Tim coughed. "Er, Bruce — "
Bruce ignored him. "Let me tell you exactly what we've understood from all this. First, you try to marry me off to Diana. Then you attack an innocent man at the shops, then you try to marry me off to Stephanie — and let's not forget your strange correspondence with Jason, where he claims you're struggling with the absence of your mother — "
"Todd said what?!"
" — and then you run away and end up in the hospital! So Damian, just tell me right now — what is this all supposed to mean?!"
There was a moment of silence.
Damian blinked. "I…was truly that unclear?"
Tim gestured at the doorway. Bruce turned, paused, and inwardly cursed. Outwardly, he forced an awkward smile onto his face, and nodded politely at the two cops standing in the doorway.
"Mr. Wayne?" The female officer glanced at him uncertainly. "I'm Officer Willis, and this is my partner, Officer Davis. We're here to talk to your son, Damian, about what happened tonight. This should be quick, so I hope we're not…interrupting anything."
Davis, a tall, bulky man, had his eyes glued on Jason.
Jason raised one eyebrow. "What? I'm just trying to spread Christmas joy to the world."
"Oh Jesus," Davis muttered.
Willis shook her head and strode forward, pointedly staring away from Jason. "Damian?" She came to a stop in front of Damian's face, a gentle expression on her face. "How are you feeling honey?"
Well, it was a lot kinder than Bruce had been expecting from his youngest, although he still shot Damian a disapproving glance. Judging from the look of incredulity on the male cop's face, he probably should have done more, but…right now he really wasn't in the mood. Besides, Bruce Wayne was supposed to be an air-headed idiot, so this was just playing into that facade.
Damian turned to Bruce, his expression changing from annoyed to serious. "I'll tell you everything, if you promise to subdue and apprehend the old man."
"Sweetie?" Willis interrupted, apparently not willing to give up. "Is everything alright? Look, this will only be brief — we were talking to the workers at the 7/11, and they said you claimed that man was following you?"
"Yes," Damian said, glaring. "The old man sent him after me to lure me back to the manor."
"Oh?" Willis frowned. "And why would he do that?"
"So he could have his way with Grayson." Damian paused. "The old man, not his ridiculous lacky."
"The hell?" Davis muttered.
"Sweetie," Willis said, interrupting Bruce's, "Damian, what — ?", "who do you think sent him?"
Damian's expression darkened.
Yes, nothing in Bruce's life made sense.
"Santa Claus," Davis said flatly. "You think Santa Claus sent a gunman after you?"
"Okay, I did not see that coming," Tim said, blinking incredulously. Beside him, Cass and Dick nodded slowly.
Willis turned to Bruce, her eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"I didn't tell him that!" Bruce cried, when he realised that they thought he was the one who'd been filling Damian's head with this insanity. He may not be father of the year, but he sure as hell wasn't that bad.
"He's a serial molester!" Damian's fists clenched tightly at his sides. "He goes around kissing the unsuspecting mothers of young children. That's what Fields said. And since I don't have a mother, he'll come for the next best thing — Grayson."
Damian turned to Dick, shooting him an angry scowl. Bruce heard Tim murmur, "oh my actual God," and silently echoed that sentiment.
Cass nodded slightly. "Makes sense."
Bruce was almost glad when Damian continued his rant, only so he didn't have to ponder that. He was already worried about the mental stability of his youngest son — he didn't have to question his daughter's mindset too.
"No one has apprehended the old man to this day — not Batman, not you useless people — " He gestured at the two police officers, who were staring at him, their eyes wide and incredulous, " — so I've been trying my best to keep him away from Grayson. But, for some reason I cannot fathom, you people can't seem to understand!"
There was a moment of silence, punctuated by Damian's heavy breathing.
"Dami, where did you get that idea from?" Dick asked quietly.
Damian shot a glance at Jason, who winced, and let out an awkward laugh. "It was a harmless prank?"
Willis squeezed her eyes shut, and let out a small, exasperated huff. "Alright — clearly this is a family issue, so we'll be off now. We've already taken statements from the other two witnesses."
Davis, meanwhile, stood still, staring at the scene with a mixture of horrified fascination.
"Come on!" Latching onto his arm, Willis gave him a forceful tug, and proceeded to drag him out of the room.
Davis let out a noise of protest. "Wait, can't we just — ?"
"I said come on!"
The two cops disappeared out the door, with Davis giving one last, desperate look towards the group. Bruce immediately relaxed, relieved that they were finally alone (well as alone as you could be in a public ward, full of prying eyes).
"Oh, thank God those imbeciles are gone." Damian shot a venomous glance at the ward's open doorway. "Now, will you please help me?! He will come after Grayson, and by tomorrow morning, we will never se him again! We need to do something — "
"Master Damian," Alfred interrupted, "what exactly did Master Jason tell you?"
Damian scowled, clearly not pleased about being interrupted. "He told me the old man was coming for Grayson."
Bruce's jaw clenched. "Jason…"
Jason stared at him for a moment, his expression solemn. Bruce stared back, because if he actually believed Jason was sorry about this, then he was a complete idiot and didn't deserve to be Batman.
A moment passed, and then — there it was. A slight twitch of the lips, and then Jason broke down laughing.
"Okay fine! I did it! But God do you know how good it was, just imagining your reactions to Demon Brat acting more crazy than usual?! I just wish I could have seen them!"
Jason's body shook, and tears of laughter ran down his cheeks. Bruce inhaled sharply, and closed his eyes, counting to ten.
"I'm going to kill him," Tim said. Bruce silently cheer him on.
"I can't believe you'd do that!" Dick glared at Jason. "He's a child!"
"Yes," Jason agreed, grinning, "and the perfect vessel to torment all of you."
"What are you talking about, Todd?" Damian demanded.
The look of anger on Dick's face faded as he turned towards his youngest brother. He sat at the foot of Damian's bed.
"Dami, Jason was being…unkind." He shot Jason another sharp look; Jason simply shrugged, appearing unconcerned. "Santa isn't going to do any of that stuff."
Damian let out a frustrated groan, and scooted away from Dick, so that his back was pressed against the wall behind him. "But he will! It's not just about what Todd said — there's so much evidence pointing towards it! Even Colin has seen it!"
"See?" Jason grinned triumphantly. "It wasn't all me."
"Dami — "
"Oh for gods — that's it!" Bruce slammed his fist against the wall, which, all in all, had absolutely no affect on his family, and a profound affect on everyone else in the ward, who hurriedly turned away, pulled at hospital curtains, and pretended they hadn't been eavesdropping.
Bruce ignored all of this. Instead, he focused solely on Damian, and found himself speaking the words he had never imagined he'd ever say to a child ever again (not unless he wanted Alfred to take away his cookie supply for the rest of the year).
"Santa Claus doesn't exist."
There was a moment of silence.
"Santa doesn't exist, Damian," Bruce repeated, his voice firm. "He's made up! We just tell kids that, because it's supposed to be special."
Damian continued to stare at him, his eyes wide, his mouth open. It was almost cute, although Bruce wasn't really in the mood to appreciate that right now.
"No." Bruce met Damian's eyes, his gaze unwavering. "Santa Claus isn't real. Think about it logically Damian — one man, with the ability to travel around the world in a single night, delivering presents to every child in the world? Or how he carries all those presents with him? Or those flying reindeer that can supposedly handle all that weight??"
Damian's fists clenched. "Animal abuse."
"No Damian. There are no flying reindeer. They don't exist, and neither does Santa Claus."
"Oh, this is not going to go well," Tim murmured, staring at the horrified faces of parents, as they tried to distract their children (some even going as far as to physically block their ears).
"He must exist," Damian argued stubbornly. "People have seen him — "
"No — they've seen people dressed up as Santa. Like that man you attacked at the mall."
"But — that man was simply a decoy! The old man knew I was coming, and he — "
"Damian." Bruce placed his hands on his son's shoulders, and ignored the "hey, why don't you just SHUT UP, huh?!" from one angry father. "Do you honestly think I would ever let some strange man sneak into our home every year? Me?"
"…It would be rather…out of character," Damian admitted reluctantly.
"Santa wouldn't be able to take two steps inside. I wouldn't allow it." Damian stared at him, his eyes wide, hopeful, and more childlike than Bruce had ever seen them. "He isn't real, son. I promise."
For a moment neither of them moved.
Then, the next thing he knew, Bruce found himself with an armful of tiny, ex-assassin ten year old.
"Oh Father!" Damian cried. "You have no idea how happy I am to hear you say that! And all this time, I thought that old fool would be taking Grayson to his dungeon in the North Pole — "
"His dungeon — ? JASON!"
Dick took a step towards Damian, and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder. Damian immediately let go of Bruce, as if suddenly remembering that this was not normal Damian-behaviour. It spoke volumes about how worried he'd actually be, and even with all the insanity and confusion, Bruce had to admit it was somewhat touching.
"Damian," Dick said quietly, while Damian avoided his gaze, scowling uncomfortably at the floor, "are you telling me you did all of this…because you thought I was in trouble?"
Damian flushed, and shrugged. "I didn't — I just thought — look, knowing how naive you are, the old fool would have eventually coerced you into…marriage or something similar. And that's the last thing I need! Santa Claus will not become a member of this family. I have enough to deal with with Drake and Fatgirl hanging around!"
Bruce rubbed his forehead furiously.
"Right." Alfred took a step forward. "Master Damian, how are you feeling?"
"And Master Jason — " Alfred turned to Jason, his eyes narrowing. "I think, after everything you've done for us, the very least you could do was spend Christmas with us."
A small part of Bruce let out a scream of horror, because for God's sake, he couldn't deal with much more of this. On the other hand, he really wasn't in the mood to argue, and was Jason really any worse than the rest of this insane family?
(Of course he loved them all the same, but he wasn't really in the mood to admit that at the moment).
"What?" Jason's triumphant grin faded. "Wait, hold on — "
"That's completely ridiculous," Damian spat. Apparently whatever truce he and Jason had formed was well and truly over.
Tim nodded. "Yeah Alfred, I really don't think — "
"No, you're coming," Bruce said, and noted afterward that his voice had neared a Batman-like growl. "And as soon as this is all over, we are talking about what you've been doing."
Jason snorted. "Oh yeah sure, just go around pretending that you're dad of the year — "
"…Fine. Whatever." Jason scowled. "But don't think I'm happy about this!"
"Well I think it's a great idea," Dick interjected. "This is Christmas, and we should all be together — especially since Santa has already been ruined for another child, thank you Jason."
"…Yeah, I think you have a few issues with letting go, Dickhead."
Dick glared. "I do not have issues — I was nine and Santa was magical."
"That's it!" A man stood up, shooting a furious glare at the Wayne family. "I'm going to go talk about having my kid transferred to a different ward. Thanks so much, you grinches!"
The family watched him leave, expressions ranging from awkwardly apologetic to bored.
Tim shuffled uncomfortably. "Ah, maybe we should go check when Damian can leave this place."
"…Yeah, good idea."
"…Okay seriously, who's smart idea was it to watch these crappy movies?"
"Oh my god, do you people have no Christmas spirit? Just watch the damn movies!"
"I'm just saying Dickhead — "
"Both of you be quiet, I'm trying to watch the movie!"
"Aww, Dami — "
"Not because I'm enjoying it Grayson! It means I don't have to listen to your incessant chatter!"
Bruce leaned back and gazed at his family. Dick, Jason and Damian continued to bicker amongst themselves. Tim and Cass sat nearby, sharing a bowl of popcorn. Alfred stared next to him, gazing at the kids (most of which weren't kids, but a part of Bruce would always think of them that way. He supposed that was part of being a father — not that he'd ever admit it out loud) with a fond expression on his face.
"Okay, can I leave yet?" Jason asked, and then coughed and looked away when Alfred's eyes narrowed.
None of them were perfect. And since these were his kids, Bruce had no doubt that something like this would most likely happen again. And again. And again.
But they were still his kids. His family. And Bruce supposed that there was nothing wrong with spending a bit of quality time with his family on Christmas eve.
"…Hey did you hear that? I think it came from inside the chimney."
"Shut up Todd!"
They were all idiots. Every single one of them. Well, perhaps not Father; after all, the man had ended this silly charade. It had taken him awhile, but Damian supposed it was better than nothing.
Still, Todd would have to be dealt with. There was no way Damian would allow this to go unpunished. Lying to him…making him out to be a fool…making everyone think he cared about Grayson (despite how many times he tried to tell those idiots that he was only trying to preserve the honour of this family!). Oh yes, Todd would suffer.
…But that would wait until after Christmas. Only because Pennyworth would be mad at him, and Grayson mope and whine, and that was the last thing Damian wanted. Also, now that the horror of Christmas movies and 'family bonding time' had passed, and morning had arrived, Pennyworth had brought out all the Christmas treats he'd prepared. There was Christmas cake, and cookies, and minced pies, and after last night's fiasco, Damian was starving.
He sat down next to Grayson, and didn't argue too much when the older male draped an arm across his shoulders. Only because if he heard the words "but Dami, it's Christmas!" one more time, he'd probably end up maiming someone. And besides, at least this way he could keep an eye on Grayson. Lord knows, the fool needed it.
They sat together, and Damian observed the varying expressions in the room. Todd scowled and shoved cookies into his mouth, Drake shot suspicious glances around the room, Cassandra smiled approvingly, Grayson acted like his usual obnoxious self, and Father…well, he looked strangely content.
Damian sighed, and relaxed. He'd get his revenge, and re-establish his reputation in this family. However…he supposed it could wait until after Christmas.
So…this is finally over. Sorry about how long it took me to finish this chapter. I initially intended to finish this around Christmas but…obviously that didn't happen.
Better late than never though, right?
I can't believe this story is actually over…I honestly can't remember if this was the first Batman fanfic I wrote or not, but it was definitely the first idea I ever had for a Batman fic. And god, it's changed so much from it's initial design. When I first came up with this idea, I wanted this to be a oneshot. Jason wasn't even going to be in the story, I'd only really planned to include the moments at Damian's school, Dami trying to marry Bruce off to Steph, and him attacking Santa at the mall.
And then…this happened. And it turned into a full on chaptered story.
I have enjoyed writing this so much. Thank you for supporting this story, for all your lovely comments, and to everyone who has taken the time to read this :)