It was all he wanted.
His whole life, everything he’d ever done was for this. For only this.
His father was Batman. He’d known that ever since he could think. His father was Batman, and that was the standard. Anything less was unacceptable.
And…it was all he wanted.
To work with him, to be with him. His father and his mother. To be a family. To make his father proud. To be lov-
…It was all he wanted.
So he did everything. Everything his mother told him. Everything she taught him. He bled, he sweat, he murdered and stole. Under the guise – under her promise – that if he did, if he did it all, down to a T, then he’d win his father’s praises.
And when he met that holy father, when he met the Batman, it was all wrong. His father told him so. He was terrible and misled, so Damian took that everything – and changed it. Remade himself. Changed his language, his wardrobe, his attitude, his morals.
Because it was all he wanted.
And then his father died, and nothing mattered anyway.
So then he was lost. Worthless. Nothing he did made anyone happy. Tim hated him, his mother disowned him, Todd and Cain and everyone else in the superhero community avoided him. He was no good to anyone, so what was he supposed to do?
He didn’t notice, not really. Too caught up in his own grief and confusion – in emotions, in feelings his mother told him never to have, in feelings he didn’t know what to do with – to really pay attention. To see who was taking care of him now, to see who was staying with him. To see who was helping him, and how.
Suddenly – it all happened so fast. Suddenly, his father was back, suddenly he was his partner. Suddenly they were fighting side by side. Suddenly, though tentatively, and with more obstacles than he anticipated, he was getting everything he wanted.
Because it was the one thing he wanted.
And through team-ups and training and missions and breakfasts-
It was the one thing he never got.
Then the bounty went up. Then Talia swore to kill him. Then the family would just stare at him out of the corner of their eyes. With disgust or pity or annoyance. Then, everyone left him behind, claimed it was for his safety.
And then, Damian realized that it wasn’t just wanting it anymore, he needed it. He needed it soon, or he might break. Verbally, physically, whatever. That validation, that reassurance, that sign.
(That he wasn’t worthless. That everything he did, his whole life leading up to this one thing, it worked, that he earned it, he succeeded, he got it. That he was lo-)
But then they argued. Then they fought.
About stupid things. Nothing important in the long run. Nothing important in the short run either. Hell, he probably wouldn’t even remember what the fight was about by tomorrow.
But he’d remember this. He’d remember this moment, as bright as day, for as long as he lived. He’d remember Bruce shouting at him, and him shouting back. But most of all, he’d remember thinking, remember begging, just below the harsh words and loud voices:
Please love me. I’ll be good, I promise. Please love me. Please, Father, please. Please, please, just love me!
And he’d remember that moment forever, because then his father turned his back, and walked away. Left him in a dark cave. Alone. Without a word.
…It was all he wanted.
And it was then, he realized, that he was never going to get it. That his father, that Bruce, was never going to give it to him.
He was grateful to be alone, then. Because that way, no one saw him crumble. No one saw him fall to his knees, clutch desperately at the ground. No one saw him sob so hard he couldn’t breathe.
Or so he thought.
He doesn’t know how long he knelt there, gasping and wheezing, watching through swollen eyes as teardrops fell onto his hands. It could have been hours. Days, even. But without warning, there was a hand on his back. Gentle. Soft. Then one on his chin, tilting his face upwards.
A smile, as that hand on his chin moved upwards and ran through his hair. Damian felt his lip quiver as he felt that hand on his back run comfortingly up and down his spine.
“Come here, kiddo.” Dick whispered, moving his hands again, pulling Damian up and off the floor.
And Damian would have never done it, they both knew that. Would never have jumped into his – or anyone’s – arms on a normal day. But he was broken and alone and lost and didn’t know what to do – and they both knew that too.
So he fell into the implied embrace. Let himself be clutched to a chest, held like the child he always pretended he wasn’t. Let himself be rocked, like an infant. Clung to Dick’s neck himself, and continued to wail, continued to let those tears rack his frame.
And then – like it was nothing. Like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Like it was just that simple.
“It’s okay. Don’t cry.” Dick whispered into his temple, tenderly held the back of his head. “I love you, Damian. I’ve got you, you’ll be alright.”
And Damian sobbed harder. Because he didn’t deserve that. He didn’t earn that.
Then it dawned on him suddenly, like an epiphany.
Because he didn’t have to. He never had to.
Not with Dick Grayson.
(The one who stayed with him, when he was lost. Took care of him, when he was alone. Who helped him, even when he pushed him away. When he ignored him.)
“Let’s get you out of here.” Dick hummed, suddenly rising to his feet, Damian still tight in his arms. “We’re long overdue for a movie night, don’t you think?”
Damian could only gasp as Dick moved towards the cars – not towards the manor – and tried to compose himself as he leaned exhaustedly against Dick’s collarbone, all fight and turmoil and tension out of his system instantly.
…Because it was all he wanted.
And, as Dick gently carried him towards the hangar, as he closed his eyes and pressed his cheek against his brother’s chest, he realized –
He finally got it.