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Those Who Wait

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Before Jon meets Damian for the first time, his parents sit him down for a long involved talk. Jon zones out after ten minutes, but he picks up the gist:

  1. Batman has a kid with some crazy lady from the League of the Assassins.
  2. The kid is in desperate need of socialization.
  3. The kid might actually kill someone if left with normal people.

“And,” his dad finishes, a hand touching his glasses. “You’re a good deal more durable than normal people.”

“You want me to hang out with him.” Jon frowns. “Because I’m invulnerable?”

“You’re not invulnerable,” Dad cuts in. “Don’t ever let that get into your head, but from what Batman’s told me, the fact that you’re… harm-resistant is a plus.”

“You don’t have to meet him if you don’t want to,” Mom assures him. “But Dad and I thought it might be nice if you had someone you could be yourself with.”

Jon brightens. “I can tell him?”

“He’s Batman’s kid.” Dad ruffles his hair. “He already knows.”

Three hours into their first meeting, Damian Wayne has attacked him three different times, unsuccessfully stabbed him once, and fractured his wrist while trying to punch him. Jon’s father is watching the scene from the porch, chuckling to himself. Next to him, Batman—who Jon still can’t physically bring himself to think of as Bruce Wayne—studies them like they’re a particularly difficult puzzle.

Damian’s ten years old to Jon’s twelve. He’s dark haired, with blue eyes that seem particularly vivid against his tanned skin. Jon’s almost six inches taller than him, already an unfair advantage even without factoring in superpowers.

Jon doesn’t know what to do. The hairline fracture in Damian’s wrist will get worse if he tries another swing and he doesn’t always remember to dodge because, well, it doesn’t actually hurt. Dad won’t let him try walking into gunfire, but logic follows that even that won’t do much.

He’s spared the decision when Damian throws up his hand in frustration. “I don’t understand. Your training is clearly inferior, but your Kryptonian heritages, means it is impossible for me to defeat you without use of some outside agent.”

Jon’s brow furrows. “Your Dad didn’t bring you here to fight.”

“Why else bring me to this infernal slice of nowhere?”

“Kansas?” Jon stares for a long moment. “I like Kansas.”

Damian’s adorable when he frowns. His face pinches around his button nose, his hair askew. He doesn’t look a thing like the world’s deadliest adolescent, he looks a lot like a kid who has never made a friend.

So Jon does what he’s always wanted to do.

He asks, “Want to see something cool?”

Without waiting for permission, he seizes Damian by either armpit and shoots them up into the air.

Damian screams, “Unhand me, Kent!”

Jon shoots them higher. “You sure about that?”

A fall from this height might not be fatal, but it would for sure hurt. Damian quiets for a moment before asking, “Why are we doing this?”

“Stop being a jerk for a second and look, Damian.”

The farm is miles long, the green of the grass a contrast to the afternoon thunderstorm gathering on the horizon. Outside their parents, there’s no one else, not for miles. Jon loves it out here. He’s been practicing each new gift that develops. Flight’s so much better than just jumping and outside Dad, he’s never had the chance to share it with anyone.

Quietly, Damian says, “Can we go faster?”

Jon smiles and obliges.

“I’m proud of you, kid,” Mom says after the Waynes head back to Gotham. “Damian’s not the easiest kid to get along with.”

Jon shrugs, his mouth filled with apple pie. His favorite. Like the whole day had been some kind of favor.

Dad looks over. “There’s a chance that Bruce and Damian might come over some other weekend this summer. Would you be okay with that? I saw him try to stab you.”

“It’s not like it hurt.” Jon reaches for a second helping. “Damian’s cool.”

His parents exchange a look. Jon keeps eating.

For all that their hangouts become the highlight of Jon’s summers, the greeting through attack never changes. Damian ambushes him from the rooftop, lunges out from cabinets. Jon is rarely blindsided. He dodges most, but other times he lets Damian hit his target, using it as an excuse to wrap his friend in a hug.

Dad says he should watch it, warns that one day, Damian’s going to get his hands on some kryptonite.

Jon’s one hundred percent sure Damian already has kryptonite because they use it sometimes during training. Damian had started the regime after one of their early joint patrols, stating that Jon needed work on his form.

And that’s what people miss about Damian. What even Dad and Batman seem to miss. Damian is abrasive, rude, and violent, but the he cares. He doesn’t let a lot of people in, but when he does he’ll do just about anything he can to make sure they stay safe.

Even if the person happens to be Superman’s son.

Jon’s pretty sure neither of their parents expected this outcome, but Damian’s the best friend he has. Even if Damian refuses to acknowledge him as anything but a partner, he thinks it goes both ways. He runs to Jon’s house when he’s pissed at his Batman, texts him at night about the idiots at school, and saves all the cool tech he can to show Jon.

For his part, Jon’s been to both the Batcave and the manor. He knows the best way to unlock the window in Damian’s bedroom. He’s improved both his fighting and his video gaming as the two of them sit, shoulders pressed together and talk until the sun comes up. Jon has no idea if it’s the shared secret of a double life that made them this close, but even though he rarely sees Damian more than once a month he can’t think of a more constant presence in his life outside of family.

He hasn’t seen Damian in almost six months, a product of an unexpected off world trip and in the interim, Damian has hit a growth spurt. Jon’s pretty sure he’ll always be taller, but it’s only about two inches separating them now rather than an entire foot. His shoulders have widened enough for Jon to guess he’s going to have the same adult build as Batman.

The lights in the room seem to dim, though Jon wants desperately to chalk that up to his high school prom’s adventures in mood lighting, but he’s pretty sure it’s actually seeing Damian again, in a well-tailored suit cutting through his school’s dance floor.

“This is how you spend your time when I’m not around?” Damian glances around the room. It’s not disdain on his face—though there was a time when Jon would have mistaken the expression for it—but honest curiosity.

“What are you doing here?”

“I was about to ask the same of you.”

Jon’s here because it’s senior prom, a rite of passage before heading to college in the fall. The normal part of his life, the part that Damian has never seemed interested in. “It’s prom.”

Damian’s frown deepens.

“I’m on a date, actually.” Jon glances over his shoulder. “I’d have invited you if I thought you were halfway interested.”

And oh, heck, that’s too much on the table. Jon feels his cheeks darkening. He’s known it in the abstract for years, but some combination of the setting, the time and the formal wear, has everything rushing to the surface.

“Please,” Damian says. “You’re barely interested in this debacle. I’m here to rescue you from your dreary existence. There’s a situation that requires our attention.”

“Right now?” Jon asks. “There’s literally no one else who can handle it. Just us?”

Damian smiles at him. It’s small and crooked and so rare to genuinely see it that Jon has little defense against it. “Why let someone else take care of it? We’re the best.”

His Mom is still awake when he makes it back to the house, flipping absently through a romance novel as the television news runs silently in the background. “You missed prom.”

Jon tugs off his tie, wondering why he’d even bothered trying. His costume is stashed at one of Damian’s safe houses in Gotham City. Batman was off world with his Dad and there had been a situation. “Damian needed backup.”

“Neither you nor Damian is supposed to be out there when your fathers are off world.”

“I’m almost eighteen, Mom. Dad can’t hold my hand forever.”

Mom stands up. Jon remembers when she used to seem huge. In a lot of ways, she still does, but when his last growth spurt settled, she only stood as high as Jon’s chin. “You left that poor girl of yours alone at the dance.”

“I said goodbye.” And then he hadn’t thought of her another second. As soon as Damian had shown up, he’d known that he was going to leave. It’s been like that for years. His throat feels suddenly dry. “And I think I might be gay.”

“Oh sweetie, you know I’m proud of you no matter what.” Mom sweeps him up in a hug. “But I really wish you’d have told that date of yours before you left her alone at her prom.”

“Damian needed help.” Jon rests his chin against his mom’s head. “He could have gotten hurt without me. What else was I supposed to do?”

Jon goes to college.

Damian appears when he sees fit, disguising himself as one of the RAs, sitting next to him in lecture wearing a fake moustache, sneaking into chem lab when the grad student isn’t looking.

Jon loves it. It’s always been kind of a game to them. Damian, from moment one, had declared himself a master of deception and Jon, just as quickly had decided to take Damian down a peg.

Damian calls it training, but Jon’s always known it’s a game. One he delights in winning.

“Your friend’s a weirdo,” Lanie, one of the girls on his hall says as Jon casually yanks a wig off Damian’s head. Before Damian can round on her, she reaches up to ruffle his hair. “Hi Damian! Jon’s talked about you a lot.”

“That’s because his present company is vastly inferior,” Damian scoffs.

“Damian’s jealous I’m making new friends,” Jon says, looping arm over Damian’s shoulders.

Damian frowns in bemusement as Lanie grins back at them. “Aw, Dames, we can be your friend, too. You’re welcome back any time.”

And Damian does come back. Nearly every weekend. It doesn’t occur to Jon to think it might be because of problems back in Gotham. Not until one night when Jon stumbles back from a party, feigning the inebriation a normal person would have after a half dozen beers, to find Damian sitting on his bed.

“No costume?” he asks.

“It’s not always the time for disguises,” Damian says.

The bed dips as Jon settles down next to him. “What’s wrong?”

“My mother was in Gotham,” Damian says.

Jon tries to keep his face blank. Damian never talks about his mother. From the bits and pieces Jon’s picked up from eavesdropping on his own parents, he knows Talia al Ghul is a dangerous woman.  

“Grandfather sent her to kill a man there. Father and I stopped her.” Damian looks up. “Two days later, when the police raided the same man’s hideout, the man burned it down. There were seventeen children inside.”

“Damian, I’m so sorry.”

“If I had let Mother go, they would be alive.” Damian’s voice is measured. “I wish I had let Mother go. I wish I knew why she bothered to leave me with Batman when something like this can happen on his watch.”

“Batman can’t save everyone.”

“Batman can barely save his own city.” Damian’s fist clenches on the bedsheets. “Batman is not effective. The League of Assassins… Jon do you know how much good I could do there? It is my birthright to inherit.”

“Are you running off to be an assassin? Jon asks. “Because I don’t think I can condone that.”

“Not an assassin. A leader. The amount of information the League commands… Think of all the good I could do. The sort of change that Batman only dreams of.”

“Sounds like you think it’s the right thing to do,” Jon says carefully. “Why come to me?”

Damian chews on his lips. “I am aware that some people find me… difficult. And even more question my moral character.”

“Just because I tease you doesn’t mean you aren’t a good person.”

“My character is suspect. You are the best person I know. It would be foolish not to seek your council. I am considering joining my mother’s cause.”

“And you want me to stop you?” Jon says.

“No,” Damian says.

“Do you want me to tell you to go?”

“I don’t know,” Damian says.

Jon swallows. “Do you want me to tell you you’re a good person?”

Damian leans into his side. “Only if it’s true.”

“You’re the best, Dami.” Jon rests his head on Damian’s shoulder. “And if you need to do this, then it’s the right thing.”

Batman does not agree.

Three weeks after Jon last saw Damian, he finds Batman waiting for him in his empty dorm room. He’s not wearing his costume, but even years later, Jon still can’t separate the two of them in his mind. Bruce Wayne is Jon’s height, but built wider, his every muscle honed to perfection. He has faint scars slicing through his face, scars that are usually covered by make-up in public.

He swallows. Out of costume Batman is easier to explain to anyone who might have him on campus. Damian’s here often enough that they’ll probably make the connection on their own. But it doesn’t make this kind of confrontation less nerve-racking.

Jon slings his backpack onto his bed, his heart picking up tempo as he closes the door behind him. His muscles ache. “I can’ believe you brought kryptonite,” he says.

“My son visited you three weeks ago,” Batman says, his voice devoid of emotion. “Then he came back to Gotham, packed his bags, and ran away. I need to know what you said to him.”

“Does my dad know you’re here?”  Jon asks.                                                            

 “Answer the question Jon. What did you talk about when you were here?”

“He wanted to know if I thought he was a good person.”


“And I told him he was.”

“Dammit, Jon. He’s been gone for weeks!”

“And you’ve only just made it here? He’s sixteen! My mom would kill me if I was out of contact that long now. Besides, you’re Batman. I’m sure you already know where he is.”

Batman tenses. “He’s with the League.”

“I thought he might be,” Jon answers. “Do you know if he’s okay?”

“How can he be okay? He’s with the League of Assassins.”

“Why come here like this if you already knew?” Jon shrugs off his jacket and hangs it on the back of his desk chair. “He told me it was his birthright. He told me it was the right thing to do.”

“And you told him to go.”

“I didn’t tell him to do anything! He’d made his decision! He just wanted some support.”

“And you, the only son of Superman, sent him to the League of Assassins!”

“I told my best friend it was okay to want to see his mother!” Jon shouts. “He’ll come back!”

Batman’s face crumbles and for the first time since Jon’s known him, he thinks there might be someone human from behind the façade. “How do you know?”

It’s almost six months later when Jon hears a rumor about Robin’s reappearance. The semester has only just started, so he ditches his class, tugs on his costume and makes his way to Gotham by nightfall. Batman’s notoriously strict about allowing meta-humans in his city, but Jon figures he’ll understand given the circumstances.

Superboy isn’t exactly the most inconspicuous of superheroes, so Jon finds a perch on what he remembers as Damian’s patrol beat and waits. After an hour, he spots them. Batman and Robin.

Only there’s no way that’s Robin.

Aside from the obvious difference in age—and heartbeat. Jon really wishes he wasn’t this tuned in to Damian—the kid moves with none of the same grace. It’s obvious he’s had training, but a year with Batman is no substitute for the institutional training Damian got in his youth. The kid’s nervous the whole night, but there’s also a joy to him that Damian rarely wears, his smile wide as he slings himself off rooftops with only a grappling gun.

Damian never smiled on duty. Jon’s been able to coax it out of him, but even those occasions are rare.

He doesn’t think the pair spotted him, but he’s proven wrong when Batman appears behind him and intones, “No metas in Gotham.”

“Robin and I have been in Gotham on and off for years,” Jon shoots back, hovering just out of Batman’s reach. “And I’ve got a problem with this.”

“Robin has proven himself.”

“That’s not Robin!” Jon hisses. “You replaced him! Your son!”

“I don’t have to explain myself to you,” Batman growls.

“No, you’ll have to explain it to Damian,” Jon says back.

“Code names.”

“You’re impossible!”

“I’m Batman.” He snaps himself to full height, his cape flaring out around him. And wow, that’s a way to win an argument if Jon’s ever seen it. “And without my permission, you are not welcome in this city.”

Jon leaves.

Some nights, Jon sits in his bed and tries to listen for Damian’s heartbeat, but his hearing’s never been as good as his dad’s and he can’t pick it out from the rest of the world around him. He tries to push the worry away. He keeps up with his studies, wins himself a summer internship as a researcher with the Bludhaven newspaper. He’s there for two weeks before he makes his first appearance as Superboy in the city.

The day after, he comes back to his dank apartment to find Damian Wayne sitting at his kitchen table.

Two years of non-contact and his first words are, “You live in a sewer, Kent.”

Jon punches him. Not full strength, because, well, that could kill a normal human, but at least patrol strength. Damian absorbs the blow without much problem, but when he straightens, his teeth have blood on them. “-tt- I see your form has deteriorated in my absence.”

Jon lunges forwards and hugs him. After a second Damian reaches up to hug him back.

“I didn’t miss you at all,” Jon mumbles into Damian’s hair.

Damian snorts. “I didn’t miss you either.”

Jon lets go. His eyes sting, but if he cries, Damian won’t let him hear the end of it. There’s already a bruise forming on Damian’s cheek, so Jon moves to the freezer to grab a bag of peas. He tosses them to Damian who looks bewildered.

“For the shiner,” Jon says. “I’d say sorry, but you deserved it.”

Damian brought the bag up to the eyes. “Why do you even have these? Aren’t you functionally invulnerable?”

Jon shrugs. “Mom made me promise to eat my vegetables.”

That gets a smile. And oh, Jon’s missed it. He’d forgotten that Damian had dimples. He grabs him by the elbow and steers him back to the living room and Jon’s sagging couch. Damian doesn’t protest the movement and Jon’s beyond grateful when they wind up sitting shoulder to shoulder.

“You going to tell me what happened?” Jon asks. “You were dark for almost two years.”

“The League of Assassins is not as malleable as I’d hoped.” Damian stares straight ahead. “Mother had told me that they were an instrument of change. That they could be a force of great good, even if their methods were morally gray. I believed her.”

“She’s your mother.”

“She’s not a good person,” Damian says. “And my grandfather… I believe the best word for him is evil. I don’t want to be like them.”

“You’re not,” Jon says. “You think I’d be friends with someone evil?”

“Your dad was friends with Lex Luther.”

Jon falters as something clicks into place. His parents whispering about Damian’s violent tendencies. The first couple years of what he now recognizes as glorified playdates with Batman hovering on the Kent family porch. Batman shouting at Jon after Damian left even though he must have already known that Damian had left for his mother and the League of Assassins. He feels his blood rush, his hands clenching into fists.

“Fuck ‘em,” he says. “We’re smarter than them.”

“College has changed you,” Damian deadpans.

Jon shoves him lightly. “Yeah, well, the League didn’t change you at all.”

“Father thinks it has. He’s given my title away. My place.”

“You’ve already gone back to Gotham.”

“I’m not welcome there.” Damian lets out a dry laugh. “Robin’s taken. You wouldn’t understand.”

Jon lets out a dry laugh and walks over to his jacket to fish the phone out of his pocket. He scrolls back a few photos and then hands it to Damian. “His name is Conner. He’s… well he’s a thirteen year old clone of my dad. And in about two weeks, he’s going to be the new Superboy.”

“But you’re Superboy.”

“I’m twenty-one in two weeks. I would have liked if Dad asked me first, but change doesn’t have to be bad.”

“You’re retiring?”

“Moving on,” Jon corrects. “I’ve been in Bludhaven all summer and you’re right about it being a sewer. Figure I can finish out the rest of my credits online, get a job at the paper. Do some good.”

“In Bludhaven.”

“Yeah,” Jon grins. “Newspaper’s hiring because no one wants to live here. I don’t think there’s a single institution that isn’t corrupt, which means there’s a whole lot of stuff that needs reporting. And the people who live here deserve someone to give them hope. I was thinking I’d call myself Flamebird.”

“After the Kryptonian legend,” Damian’s voice sounds thoughtful.

Jon looks him over for a moment. The bag of peas is still pressed to the side of his face. The face lined with faint scars, the semi-permanent scowl. It’s been years and instead of dissipating, Jon’s crush has lodged somewhere deep inside, until it has become almost intrinsic to who he is.

“If you don’t want to go back to Gotham, stay here with me,” Jon says. “Flamebird always had Nightwing.”

Stephanie Brown is…

Jon’s torn between declaring her his new favorite person and being mortified every time she opens her mouth. She’s two years younger than Damian, with blond hair, clear eyes, and a big grin. She pushes her way through the door when Jon answers, shoving a lopsided cake into his hands.

Damian tails her, looking exasperated. “Jon, this is Stephanie. She insisted she come along to help with the move.”

He has a bag in either hand and a backpack dangling from one shoulder.

Jon frowns. “You needed help? I could have come with you.”

“I don’t need help,” Damian grumbles and moves towards the spare bedroom. “And even if I did, I should have already had it.

“Look at him pretending he would have let me carry one of his sixteen bags of weapons,” Stephanie stage whispers.

“How exactly do you know Damian?”

Stephanie straightens and sticks out her hand. “Spoiler. Me and Damian are charter members of Gotham’s One of My Parents Is a Super Villain chapter.”

“She’s a nuisance,” Damian says, moving back to the door. “Robin let her in on the family secret and now we’ll never be rid of her.”

“You gave me my first grappling gun, you hypocrite!” Stephanie calls after him as Damian heads back out the door for another load. When the door swings shut behind him, her attention swings back to Jon. “And honestly, I’m probably the only vigilante in Gotham Damian is on speaking terms with right now.”

“Damian doesn’t have a lot of friends.”

“Far as I can tell, he’s got me, a couple kids from school and you… and you’re his partner, so I’m not sure you count. Congratulations by the way, apparently he talked about you all the time even before he left.”

“We’re not…” Jon stammers.

“Oh, you totally are. It’s fine, though. Dami won’t say it, but he loves you like crazy.”

“Thank you?”

“You’re welcome!” Stephanie chirps. “And the other reason I’m here is I totally want a sneak peak of your costume designs. I’ve seen the old school Superboy stuff and you’re not going to be striking fear into the hearts of Bludhaven criminals wearing a pair of ratty old jeans.”

When he graduates the next winter, a full semester early Damian’s in the crowd with Jon’s family. Damian’s making his way through classes of his own, commuting from Bludhaven to Gotham U to work on a chemistry degree.

Vet school after, Damian had confided during a rare quiet time on patrol.

Jon’s sure that their apartment would be filled with Damian’s various rescues if it wasn’t so small. Damian’s hinted about moving somewhere bigger, but Jon’s job offer is for entry level reporting, Damian’s still in school and neither of them like the idea of asking Batman for money.

The ceremony is long, the keynote speaker boring, and Jon would have skipped it if it wasn’t for the fact that Dad literally conscripted half the Justice League into covering his beat to make sure he could attend.

Jon thinks it might have been a more interesting graduation if there had been a supervillain attack. Instead, he gets a full ten seconds of walking across the stage to shake the Dean’s hands and his mother’s embarrassingly loud cheers.

After the names are read and the mortar board hats tossed jubilantly into the air, Jon snakes through the crowd to find his family. His mom sniffs back tears. His dad claps him on the back. Conner punches him awkwardly in the shoulder and Damian rolls his eyes at the bunch.

Almost a month later, Conner corners him at the Kent farm. “You need to tell your boyfriend to lay off Tim. He doesn’t deserve it.

Jon brushes off the boyfriend comment. But has to pause before he replies. He’s been apologizing for Damian’s social skills for a huge portion of his life. “You have to understand that Damian walked away from Robin for almost two years, and when he came back, here was this kid, hanging out in the Batcave, wearing his costume, eating lunch with his family.”

“You handled it well enough.”

Jon feels his eyes widen. “Are you kidding! I didn’t talk to Dad for months! We’re still not okay.”

Conner frowns. “You talk to me.”

“You were literally two days old when I met you. Not to mention you had superpowers. Damian trained as an assassin for ten years before Batman found him. Tim had a camera and by all accounts is just about as helpful. And if Tim can be Robin with six months of training and none of Damian’s baggage, do you really have to wonder why Damian hates him a little?”

“He’s still a jerk.” Conner crosses his arms over his chest.

Jon sighs. “I’ll work on him. Or at very least make sure he steers clear of Tim in public.”

“How can you hate someone like Tim?” Conner asks. “Tim’s great.”

Privately, Jon’s pretty sure Conner’s right. The few times he’s met Tim, his impression was that Tim was smart, capable and surprisingly upbeat given the circumstances.  But between his mother’s schemes and a father who’d replaced him when he ran away from home, there were very few people who were 100% on Damian’s side.

Jon’s one of them.

The next year is bad.

Conner dies in the summer in the midst of a universal cataclysm. Jon and Damian, holding the fort in Bludhaven aren’t even aware of the bigger fight until it’s over. They both spend almost a month after staying at home. Jon packs up Conner’s room so Mom doesn’t have to and winds up sobbing into a hand me down Superboy t-shirt.

He hadn’t known Conner. Not well. They’d had scattered conversations, none of them antagonistic, but none of them particularly warm. Conner was just a stranger who could have been his brother.

“I feel like I did something wrong,” he tells Damian when he finally drags himself back home. “I know how he died. I know he saved a lot of people and I wish… I wish I’d had more time with him.”

Damian frowns. “There’s nothing more you could have done.”

“Except be there.”

They don’t talk about Tim. They’d barely talked to him the one time he’d turned up on their doorstep. Whenever Damian drags Jon to a Wayne function, Jon has the express goal of keeping the two of them separate.

He swallows. “You ever think of spending more time in Gotham?”

“We’re only forty minutes away,” Damian says.

Missing the point.

It’s about two months after that that Stephanie is shot.

Not in the street but in her home. She’d been planning to retire, had herself a nursing school acceptances and Bruce Wayne’s promise that he would pay her way. And maybe it was the connection that drew Joker’s eyes, made him creep into her house and put a bullet through her spine. Or maybe it was just luck.

Jon sits by her bedside while Damian, Tim, and Batman comb through the city. Protection, Damian had hissed in his ear. In case the clown comes back.

Jon doesn’t think the clown’s coming back. He reads the chart when the doctor leaves the room. Stephanie won’t be walking anytime soon, probably ever again. Jon leans forward in his chair, putting an elbow on his knee and catching his chin in his hand. His opposite leg taps against the polished tile floors.

“Could you stop that?” a groggy voice says.

“Steph!” Jon almost shouts.

“Okay, quieter,” Stephanie mumbles. “Where am I?”

“Hospital,” Jon answers. “Should I go get the doctor?”

She manages a shake of her head. “Where’s my mom?”

“Sleeping, I think. There were a couple days of surgery. I can call her.”

“Dami?” she asks. “Tim?”

“Looking for the guy who did this to you.”

“Why leave you here?” Her eyes are barely open, blond hair a tangled mess against her pillow.

“We’re friends, Steph.”

“Bodyguard,” she says firmly, but the corners of her mouth twitch up. “Protecting me while I’m on the good drugs.”

A huff of laughter escapes Jon and for a second, he’s sure that everything will be okay.

“How bad is it?” Stephanie asks quietly.

“Pretty bad,” Jon admits. “But you’re still here.”

He leaves to get the doctor.

He has to work up his nerves. Jon’s only just realizing that their lives are dangerous. If Conner could die, so can Jon, and with Stephanie’s diagnosis he suddenly can’t stop noticing how fragile non-metas are.

Damian’s human. He’s been training since birth, but he’s not enhanced. He’s not bulletproof. He dives in to fights without considering all the variables and one of these days Jon’s not going to be covering his back and then…

There’s a plan. Jon’s been in love with Damian since they were kids, but Damian’s never really seemed to notice. If he’s dated anyone else, Jon’s completely missed it.

So Jon’s going to make his move. He’s going to make them dinner, he’s going to take them onto the roof and he’s going to tell him. He has to get it out, because if something happens before he gets the chance, Jon will regret it for the rest of his life.

He doesn’t wind up waiting. When Damian makes it back from a long week in Gotham, he pauses at the doorway, looking tired, but relieved. He smiles when he sees Jon. “I’ve got to get back to Gotham, but I need a night sleeping in my own bed.”

And Jon just blurts it out. “You know I love you, right?”

Damian nods. “I love you, too, Jon.”

Then he kicks open the door to his room and goes to sleep like nothing out of the ordinary has happened.

A week later, Tim Drake is dead.

Jon pieces it together after the fact. The Bats had been out hunting the Joker, same as they had every night since the attack on Stephanie. Tim followed a lead.

He was dead before the rest of them even knew he was missing.

Jon books it to Gotham as soon as he hears, abandoning a stakeout Nightwing and Flamebird had been planning for weeks. Between Damian’s network, and his superior senses, Jon finds the Joker within the hour and hauls him into GCPD before Batman or Damian have a chance to confront him.

Because if they confront him, Jon’s not sure the Joker will survive it.

Damian wouldn’t hesitate. He’d draw his sword and the clown would be gone. Jon doubts he’d go on a murder spree after. Damian’s style of justice has always been more… old testament than Batman’s. Damian would survive. Damian would have no regrets.

(If Jon’d had the chance to confront the one who killed Conner…)

It’s Batman that worries him. He’s heard enough of his parents discussing Batman’s trauma to guess some of its repercussions. Joker’s not worth the Wayne family’s complete dissolution.

In the cave after the arrest. Damian screams at him for interfering while Batman stares at the old Robin suit.

When he’s done yelling Jon says, “If you need to stay, I understand. But I’m heading back home.”

Their butler stops him on the way out, looking less unflappable than usual. He places a gentle hand on Jon’s shoulder. “Thank you, Master Jon, for your quick action. If not for you, I fear I may have lost more than just Master Timothy.”

“It’s fine,” Jon says, uncomfortable. “Damian’ll be mad at me for a while, but Damian’s mad at just about everyone all the time.”

“You are the best partner I could have asked for Master Damian.  I know you have his interests at heart.”

Jon nods and then, because it’s unlikely that either Damian or Batman will do it, he wraps the older man in a careful hug.

“I’m sorry about Tim,” he says. “I’ll see you at the funeral.”

Damian’s back before the end of the week. He doesn’t talk, so Jon fills the silence about his regrets with Conner and his fights with his dad. About the death threats that come into the Bludhaven newspaper addressed to him and how that means his work is getting noticed. He talks about the blind dates that his coworkers set him up on and how they span from horrifically awkward, to warm but not enough. He talks about their namesakes of legend, about Stephanie’s rehab, about their cases.

It’s almost a week before Damian says anything back, the two of them standing on a rooftop in Bludhaven looking out at the docks.

“I still hate him for replacing me,” Damian says, “and I think that might make me a terrible person.”

Jon settles down next to him, slinging an arm over his shoulder. “I don’t think you’re a terrible person.”

“You have to acknowledge some level of bias.”

“I don’t even think Tim thought you were awful. I mean, Conner definitely did, but I’m pretty sure Stephanie is on your side. She knows you way better than he ever did.”

It’s a quiet night by Bludhaven standards. Word must have got out that Nightwing’s been rougher than usual. Damian kicks his legs out over the ledge, watching the cars drift by. There’s a scowl on his face, but it’s a Damian scowl rather than one of Nightwing’s. “I’m never going to get a chance to fix how I treated him, am I?”

“No,” Jon says.

“Okay,” Damian replies. He pushes himself back to his feet. “Guess all that’s left is doing better.”

They remodel their apartment to be wheelchair accessible and Stephanie takes it as the invitation that it is and starts crashing their place for study dates with Damian. Between the nursing program and Damian trying to cram as many vet school prerequisites as possible, they have a fair amount of overlap in their classes. Apparently, according to Damian, she’s already on par with Alfred in treating minor injuries.

Jon walks in on Stephanie taking Damian’s vitals. “Are you sure you’re not a meta?” she asks him as she finishes taking a pulse. “Because either I’m terrible at this or your resting heartbeat is just stupid low.”

“You’re not terrible at this,” Damian says. “And I don’t know why you insist on nursing school when you should clearly aim for medical school. I mean, I’ve worked in the field with you. You’re terrible at taking orders. And that’s a nurse’s job.”

“Med school’s too much money right now,” Stephanie says, grabbing Damian’s arm and fitting him with a blood pressure cuff. “I only ever disobeyed orders when they were stupid, but it’s sweet that you think I should be giving them.”

Damian sputters. When Jon laughs, Stephanie turns to look over her shoulder. “I’m doing your vitals next. I’m super curious about if you can even get blood pressure off a half-Kryptonian. In the meantime, I brought you guys a cake. Left it in the kitchen.”

“Why bake us a cake?” Jon asks.

“One—” Stephanie pulls her stethoscope up towards her ears. “Stress baking. Two, I’m pretty sure you had your two year anniversary like last week and while Bruce totally thinks you’re living in sin I support you guys.”

She turns her attention back to gauge. “One hundred over sixty, because of course you’re in the stupidly healthy category. Jon you’re up.”

Damian stands up with a smirk as Jon takes his place. Stephanie goes through the same routine, pumping up the blood pressure gauge and then waiting as it deflates. When she finishes, she looks up, “Okay, this is way higher than I was expecting. Normal for Kryptonians or are you freaking out over something?”

“Freaking out,” Jon says. “You know me and Damian aren’t actually together, don’t you?”

“Sure,” Stephanie says skeptically.

Jon starts going on dates because he’s sick of pining. He fills out profiles on half a dozen dating apps. Hits up tinder, and starts swiping his way through potential dates. The ones he winds up texting are a mixed bag. He makes it three dates with a brown eyed brunette who likes hanging out at sports bars and shouting at hockey games.  Jon doesn’t quite understand hockey, but he’s gone to enough baseball games with his dad that he understands sports culture. Appreciates it, even. And it’s fun to go to the bars. To have someone leaning against his shoulder, smiling at him, kissing him.

And when Jon goes home with him he calls him Damian and they end the relationship screaming at each other.

Then next one dumps him after he leaves during two straight dates for Flamebird-related emergencies. The one after that is too much like Damian. The one after him is not Damian enough. The one after that spends date number two ranting about how vigilantes are the worst things that ever happened to this city.

He tries the blind date function and walks into one of the closest bars to his apartment and finds Damian sitting at the end of the bar.

“Since when do you hang out here?” Jon asks.

Damian doesn’t really drink. He despises the kind of thing that will alter his perception in any way. Jon’s only ever seen it for undercover work, but he’s playing with a tumbler of whiskey as he glances at his phone. “You spent so long on those infernal dating apps, I figured I’d give it a try.”

Jon forces down his disappointment. “Got a picture of the girl?”

“I didn’t specify gender,” Damian says. “The app had a blind date function and the only way to test the personality compatibility algorithms was to keep the most inclusive pool of options.”

Jon sits down next to him. “Damian, you realize by saying that you’ve actually narrowed your pool. A lot of people aren’t interested in going out with bisexuals.”

Damian frowns. “Why?”

“Don’t ask me. I’ve never understood it.” He orders a beer from the barkeeper. “I’m here on a blind date, too. It’s about the highest match I’ve ever gotten.”

“Is it unusual to get high matches?”

“Anything over ninety is awesome,” Jon says. “Most of the ones I wind up seeing are high seventies.”

They spend two hours in the bar, catching up on the real life stuff they never talk about. Damian’s schoolwork. A month long research stint proceeding a features story on one of Bludhaven’s gangs. Damian’s newest gaming obsession and the best books Jon’s read over the past year.

By the time they walk home together, it’s almost time to patrol and neither of their dates have shown up.

It takes until the middle of a street fight for Jon to realize that’s because his 98% compatibility match was probably with Damian.

Jon gets back from work one day to find Damian home from a weekend in Gotham and an unfamiliar black haired, blue eyed kid sitting on the couch. He’s small for his size, wearing a bright red hoodie that might be days old at most. Jon does a double take. “Damian?”

The kid gives him an unamused look. “I’m sitting right here.”

Damian kicked open his door carrying a handful of video games. “Jon! You’re home. Great. This is Jason.”

“Who is Jason?”

“Father’s adopting him,” Damian says. “I think he has empty nest syndrome. I’ve decided I will allow it.”

“Really it’s more B’s call than yours,” Jason says.

Damian tosses the video games into Jason’s lap. “Here, pick one.”

“Is he also one of B’s kids?” Jason asks with a nod towards Jon. “I mean dark hair, blue eyes, he looks the part.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Jon’s my partner.”

Jason blinks. “Right. Okay, I guess that’s cool.”

“We’re not,” Jon sputters. “Damian…”

“Jon’s Flamebird,” Damian answers.

“Wait, he knows?”

“Bruce caught me stealing the tires off the Batmobile.” Jason flips over one of the games to read the back. “I guess he thought it was funny or something.”

“Wow,” Jon says. “You might actually be my hero.”

Jason shrugs. “He parked it in the bad part of town. And it’s way safer to try and rip off Batman than some of the other people in that neighborhood. Worst Batman’s going to do is put you in jail.”

Damian scoffs. “Clearly father’s attention to security has deteriorated in my absence.”

It’s deteriorated since Tim died, Jon knows, but he doesn’t say it. Not with this kid and Damian flipping through video games together, looking like they might eventually make it to family. He sits down on the couch on the opposite side of Jason. “You mind picking a multiplayer?”

Jason shrugs. “I’ve never played any of these before.”

Damian throws on Super Smash Brothers and the three of them play until Jason falls asleep.

When Jon stands to turn off the television, he looks back at the scene, Jason slumped against Damian’s side. “Feel like I have to ask. Is he going to be Robin?”

“Over my dead body,” Damian answers.

A couple months later, Batman mentions Jason’s started self-defense training and Sunday Brunch at Wayne Manor devolves into a screaming match between Damian and his father. Jason’s eyes go wide listening to it and when Batman pushes to his feet, Jason slips off his chair and darts into the hallway. Batman and Damian don’t seem to notice so Jon follows him out only to find him grabbing a backpack from behind a couch.

“Wow, you just have a go bag ready.”

Jason looks surprised to see anyone there, but sets his face. “I’m causing problems with Damian and his Dad. They’ll kick me out.”

“One, Damian’s an adult. Two, literally everyone’s had problems with Batman before. Three, I thought you were supposed to be officially adopted in like a week. Why would you think they’d kick you out?”

“Because it’s happened with foster families before,” Jason says. “I piss off the bio kids, I don’t get to stay.”

Jon blinks at him. “That’s definitely not how it works.”

“Yeah, well, what do you know?”

Jon takes a deep breath. It’s not his job to play peacekeeper, but… “Did anyone in this house talk to you Tim Drake?”

Jason hitches his backpack up on his shoulders. “Bruce’s ward before me. I looked him up. He committed suicide.”

That was the cover story at least. Something that matched the autopsy report at least on the superficial level. Something that let them keep their cover. Better than explaining why the Joker might have killed Tim Drake.

But even for someone who didn’t know Tim well, it hurts to hear. “Come on kid, think about what goes on in this house. You know better.”

“Robin,” Jason realizes after a moment. “Tim was Robin and now he’s dead. That’s why no one’s seen him in months.” A look of horror crosses his face. “Wait, is Spoiler okay? She’s my favorite.”

“Career ending injury,” Jon says. “She’s okay, but she won’t be back on the street. As for Tim, Damian hated him. He felt like he’d been replaced. As a son, as Batman’s partner. He feels like if he’d been around more, Tim might not have would up under Joker’s knife. And when he hears you’re starting self-defense training, he’s afraid the same thing is going to happen to you.”

“That’s the whole point of it though! I could already take care of myself, but Bruce is making me even better.”

“Damian’s afraid you’ll want to be Robin.”

“Well, yeah,” Jason admits. “Every kid wants to be Robin.”

“Tim had the same sort of defense training as you and Tim didn’t make it. Damian doesn’t want the same thing to happen to you. They’re arguing over you because they want you to be safe.”

Jason’s lip quivers. “Really? They’re not going to send me away?”

“Look if Bruce kicks you out, Damian and I will adopt you. Deal?”

He sticks out a hand and grins when Jason takes it.

“I can’t believe you guys were hiding him from me!” Stephanie says, pushing her wheelchair into the apartment.

“He’s been living in Gotham,” Jon says.  “You’ve been living in Gotham. This one’s not on us.”

“Spoiler,” Jason sputters, finally finding his voice. “Oh man, you were always my favorite.”

Stephanie grins. “Not Robin or Nightwing?”

“I saw you cuss out Batman one night,” Jason says reverently.

“Jon, Dami,” Stephanie announces solemnly. “I have a new favorite. I’m kidnapping him for the afternoon. We’re getting waffles.”

“In Bludhaven,” Damian says, “alone?”

“Okay, I don’t like that tone and you’re definitely not invited. Besides, you guys have been cleaning up the place, right? Me and the new kid are definitely going out. If someone tries something, I can take them.”

Jon’s seen it before. Stephanie’s got a taser on her at all times and Damian helped her stash a collapsible baton in the frame of her wheelchair. And Jason essentially joined the family because Damian’s dad thought a twelve year old attacking Batman with a tire iron was funny.   

“I could eat,” Jason says. Fake casual. Jon’s heard stories from Damian and Alfred. Jason had spent time living on the streets. Jason, given the option, is always happy to eat.

“Cool,” Stephanie says. “See you guys in an hour or two.”

Damian watches them leave.

“You’re following them aren’t you?” Jon asks.

“Father entrusted Jason’s care to me this weekend,” Damian replies. He heads for his room and presumably the Nightwing suit.

Jon scrubs a hand over his face. “It’s still daylight.”

“I’ll be subtle. Are you coming?”

“Of course not.”

Damian huffs in annoyance but is out the window five minutes later.

Fifteen minutes after that, Jon’s phone buzzes with a text from Stephanie.

J picked up the tail. N’s losing his touch.

Jon laughs as his phone chimes again.

Or maybe J’s a natural.

He pokes his tongue through his teeth as he pecks out a response. Want me to call him off.

Nah makes N feel better. Another buzz. J thinks it’s funny.

It’s not until later when Damian insists on personally putting Jason on the train back to Gotham that it occurs to Jon to be alarmed. Stephanie hangs back, citing a study session with Damian, but she corners Jon the minute she gets a chance.

“He’s me, you know,” Stephanie says.


“Come on. Lower Gotham, criminal father, mother who tried her best. Too smart for his own good. Wants to fix everything. And then Bruce Wayne picks him up. Honestly if he doesn't end up as Robin, I’d peg him as the next Spoiler.”

“Damian won’t let that happen.”

“Is Damian really going to tell a kid who had to steal to survive that he’s not allowed to become a hero?” Stephanie shakes her head. “Jason won’t take that well. And when Jason puts on a costume, you better make damn sure that Damian’s there. Because I still hate him for how he handled Tim.”

“Tim’s death wasn’t his fault.”

“Damian thinks his crazy assassin training should be the only path to Robin. But if he’d helped train Tim instead of being a shit, maybe he’d have recognized the Joker’s trap. And if Tim didn’t know Damian would give him shit for asking, maybe he’d have asked for backup.”

Jon blinks hard. Damian doesn’t talk about Tim, but Jon’s in better place than anyone to see how it affected him. How much he’s trying with Jason. How he’s made sure to keep Stephanie close.

Stephanie reaches up to pat him on the knee. “Food for thought. Tell your lesser half to keep up the not being a dick.”

Damian tears his way through his drawers. “Where is it?!”         

Jon trails after him as he moves from his dresser to his closet and then pries open on of the compartments he has in the floorboard. A different one from where he keeps his Nightwing gear, Jon notes. “I have no idea what you’re looking for.”

“You’ve no doubt noticed the ridiculous shrine Father keeps in the cave.”

The Robin costume. Tim’s Robin costume. The one he’d died in. Jon’s only been in the cave a handful of time, but it’s in such a place of prominence, it’s nearly impossible to miss. It turns Jon’s stomach to look at it.

Damian looks up expectantly and Jon nods.

“When I realized Jason’s fascination with Robin may lead to some reckless behaviors, I removed all of Robin’s weapons from the suit. I got a call from Pennyworth earlier. Father is on a mission and apparently Jason’s decided to run.”

“Hasn’t he done that before?”

“Not since the adoption went through.” Damian wrinkles his nose. “He’s started calling father Dad.”

Jon nods. That’s not something the kid would do if he was still planning to run.

“You let him in your room last weekend, didn’t you?” he says after a minute. “And he did wind up at the manor because he got caught stealing the tire from the Batmobile.”

Damian sighs and opens the panel next to the one he’d been searching. The one with his Nightwing gear. “We need to get to Gotham.”

“What? I have work tonight.”

“Call off,” Damian says, already shucking his street clothes. “Something’s wrong.”

Most of it’s over before they get there. Batman, fog clearing from his eyes in a cave full of brainwashed cultists and a kid in a dark red hoodie, a utility belt slung low on his hip. There’s an insignia hap-hazardly stuck to the hoodie, the R rotated a quarter turn too far. He wears a black domino mask. One of Damian’s old ones by the look of it.

He looks small in the sea of cultists, but he more than holds his own. When Damian and Jon crash into the fight, he wipes the blood from the side of his chin, tilts his head towards Batman and says, “He needs medical.”

“Robin,” Damian spits, “we can handle this. You need to get him out of here.”

“Flamebird’s faster.” Jason dodges a punch and throws one of his own. “He can fly.”

Jon looks at Batman and can’t find himself able to disagree.

So he grabs Batman and leaves Nightwing and Robin to finish off the Cult.

Damian comes back in a sour mood.

Jon looks at him. “Who are we giving the silent treatment? Jason or your dad?”

“Gotham,” Damian says collapsing next to him. He doesn’t flinch when Jon puts an arm over his shoulder. Instead he just moves himself closer. “Everyone.”

“Alfred?” Jon asks. “Stephanie?”

Everyone,” Damian confirms. “Family dinner at your parents this weekend.”

Jon doesn’t invite Damian to the weekly Kent family dinner often. It’s not that his parents dislike having him over, but more that Jon doesn’t like dealing with the rest of his family when Damian’s around. Both of his parents are reporters. His cousin, Kara, is a reporter. All of their friends are reporters. And yeah, maybe Jon works in a newsroom, too, but at least he knows when to turn it off.

Damian, for his part, is a better interview with his family than he’s ever been with the press that haunted Wayne family gatherings, even cracking a smile the few times he gets asked about Jason. They don’t talk much about the cape business, but Damian mentions his vet school acceptance and Jon confesses his desire to leave the newsroom in favor of working with the website since it has fewer late night deadlines.

After dinner, Damian demands a look at the animals, while Jon and Kara clear the table.

“He’s cute,” Kara says, as she starts on the dishes. “Not at all what I expected after some of the horror stories.”

“He hasn’t been a horror story since he was like twelve.”

Kara rolls her eyes. “You’re both a horror story. I read the one about Nightwing dropping someone off a building.”

“Planned interrogation,” Jon says. “I caught him.”

“Damian dropped a guy off a building.”

They both look out the window where his father is showing Damian how to milk a cow. Damian, of course, is well aware of the process, but as always, gives his full focus when dealing with animals.

“It’s cute how hard Clark’s trying, you know. I get he wasn’t crazy about the two of you living in sin.”


“Oh come on, you and Damian? It was scandalous. Especially knowing you guys are Nightwing and Flamebird. But you make it work, don’t you? You balance each other out.”

Jon allows himself a small smile. “Yeah… we do.”

Kara flicks some dishwater at him. “Clark’s probably out there asking why Damian hasn’t popped the question yet. It’s pretty clear you guys are in it for the long haul.”

Jon feels himself pale. “That’s why Dad is out there with Damian.”

He’s out the door at just short of super speed, with Kara laughing behind him.

It’s not a special night. Damian had been out of town for more than a week after hearing of an injury to his mother overseas. Instead of coming straight back to Bludhaven, he’d gone back to Gotham to help them deal with a crisis. They’d exchanged a few messages over text, but Jon’s been rattling around Bludhaven on his own for a couple weeks before Damian finally unlocks the door to their apartment.

Jon looks up from the couch, and feels his face drop when he catches look at Damian’s face. “Is your mother okay?”

Damian looks surprised by the question, but shakes himself free. “She’ll survive. She’s always been good at that.”

“Good,” Jon says. “That’s great.”

Damian throws his backpack down beside the door, his forehead creased.

Jon wrinkles his nose. “What’s wrong? Did something happen to Jason?”

He’d heard rumors about Robin’s injury at the hands of a new player in town, but Jon’s sure he’d have been notified if it was something serious.

“Red Hood took a piece out of him,” Damian says listlessly. “He’s fine. I got to him in time.”

“Did you take—”

“Do you think I’m a good person?” Damian interrupts.

“What?” Jon falters. “Is this because Jason got hurt? I know you were trying to keep him off the streets.”

“It’s not a hard question,” Damian cuts in.

There’s soot on his face. Jon strains to think if he’s missed any other news out of Gotham. “Of course you’re a good person.”

Damian walks over and hugs him. After a startled second, Jon returns it.

“You’ve heard about Red Hood, right?” Damian says.

“Yeah.” Jon gestures to the coffee table. “I’ve been doing some research on him, actually. Even if it doesn’t work out for the case, it’s probably some use for the paper. He’s got an interesting type for victim.”

Damian pulls back and takes a deep breath. “It’s Drake.”

“Drake?” Jon’s eyes widen. “Wait, Tim Drake? Your little brother who died a couple years ago.”

“No,” Damian snips. “The other Tim Drake I know.”

“Wait, you said he hurt Robin.” Jon’s eyes go to his research. “I’ve got Red Hood’s body count in the forties.”

“Batman only has thirty-four confirmed,” Damian says. “They were all guilty of something, in their own way. And so am I. Tim Drake came back from death only to find that his family has moved on. That another wears his colors. One I treat better than I ever did him.”

“The only reason you gave Jason a chance is because of how Drake died.”

“That doesn’t mean anything to Drake. All he can see is how we are.”

Jon bites his lip. “Not a lot of people get second chances like this.”

“I know,” Damian says as he moves towards his room. “I don’t intend to squander it.”

The next day, the Joker is dead.

Red Hood goes quiet. Batman makes the rounds of interrogation, eventually cornering Jon to demand Damian’s whereabouts and Jon tells him. He never talks about it with Damian, but he remembers the question, do you think I’m a good person, Kara calling him a horror story, and his parents, sitting him down with the kindest words possible to ask if he was willing to have a playdate with a homicidal ten year old. Damian’s always had a different set of contacts that Jon does, contacts that include family in the League of Assassins.

Things settle back to normal. Damian and Batman go through cycles of speaking and not speaking. Stephanie comes over to demand they make her waffles because it’s their fault she decided to go from nursing school into med school. Jason swings by whenever Batman gets to be too much.

Jon’s not even sure if Damian’s grand gesture worked until looking at a pair of fake IDs for an undercover ops they’re running. “Did you change our usual guy? These are better than normal.”

Damian’s always had a better eye for fake IDs than he does, but he gives a grunt that means Jon’s right, but doesn’t particularly want to talk about it.

Jon looks closer at the IDs. “Are we married? Why are we married?”

“Focus, Flamebird,” Damian says.

“I am focused. Why are we married?”

“Because, I suspect, Drake finds it funny.”

Jon looks up. “You got these from Tim?”

“Yes,” Damian says. “He’s always had a flair for it. And you were the one who told me I had second chance.”

“He kills people,” Jon says.

“Fewer when he’s got me and Jason looking over his shoulder.”

“Not Batman?”

“Father is counterproductive to this venture.” Damian takes the ID cards from Jon. “And I suspect Tim teasing me is a good sign.”

Stephanie cackles about it when Jon tells her later, but Jason just shrugs and says, “Maybe he made you married because you basically are.”

Batman grabs kid number four from the circus.

“Sometimes,” Damian says, “I feel like I wasn’t enough.”

“I think you were just good advertisement,” Jon replies. They’re all huddled around the stairs in Wayne manor’s entrance hall waiting the new kid and Batman’s arrival.

“You know he looks just like us,” Jason says shrewdly. “I think Dad has a type.”

“You guys are going to corrupt him in about twenty seconds,” Stephanie cuts in. “Less if you let Tim near him.”

“I don’t know.” Jon smiles. “I think the circus might be about the only background that qualifies you to join the Waynes.”

“You’re one to talk,” Jason says. “You married in. You know, on purpose. The rest of us were forcibly adopted.”

“Hey!” Stephanie protests.

Jason scoffs. “Like you haven’t been adopted.”

“Married in?” Jon says a beat later when his brain catches up.

“Fine.” Jason brings up his fingers to air quote. “I guess you and Damian prefer ‘Permanent Roommates’.”

The banter is interrupted when the door opens and Batman steps inside, ushering a small dark haired boy with blue eyes and a wary expression. Batman pushes him forward. “Richard, I’d like you to meet my sons, Damian and Jason.”

Jason gives a little wave while Damian, who always stands on tradition, reaches out solemnly to shake the kid’s hand.

“Steph,” Stephanie says, before Batman can get to her introduction, wheeling herself closer. “Family friend and absolutely 100% not yet Bat-adopted.”

At the word ‘bat’ the kid’s mouth dips into a frown.

They all stare at Batman for half a second.

“Oh my God,” Jason says. “Dad, did you not tell him?”

“It didn’t seem pertinent,” Batman stammers.

Damian opens his mouth, presumably to point out the kid’s safer not knowing.

“No one say another word!” Stephanie roars. “If you guys ruin this for me, I will leave you bleeding next time you come to me for medical help.”

“Medical help?” the kid says.

Behind him, Batman buries his face in his hands.

“Oh man, Richie,” Jason says. “Damian here is the biggest klutz in the world. Add that to the fact that he juggles swords for fun.”

“Dick,” the kid says.

“Rude,” Stephanie puts in.

The kid shakes his head. “I go by Dick, not Richie.”

“I’m so sorry,” Jason says, but at the same time he’s pulling out his phone.

Stephanie whacks him in the knee. “What are you doing?”

“Texting Tim,” Jason replies. “This is the best thing that’s happened in weeks and if I don’t tell him soon, he will literally shoot me.”

“Who’s Tim?” Dick asks.

A vein pulses in Batman’s temple.

“He’s our resident sort-of zombie,” Jason says. “Don’t worry about him, yet. He’s like Wayne family level twenty.”

“Tim is another one of my sons,” Batman says. “We’re… estranged.”

Dick looks puzzled for a moment before Stephanie chimes in with the definition. “Bruce and Tim aren’t on speaking terms at the moment. It’s more than a little complicated.”

Dick nods and turns slowly until his eyes land on Jon. “Are you another one?”

“Nah,” Jason says. “That’s just your Uncle Jon. He’s cool.”

“Uncle!” Jon says, affronted. “I’m only two years older than Damian!”

“Brother-in-Law would be the technical term,” Damian says.

“Jon literally offered to adopt me if Dad decided to kick me out,” Jason says. “Uncle fits more in spirit.”

“Yeah, but Uncle means he’s married Bruce, not Damian.”

Jon’s face turns red, his gut twisting. It’s been… years. He’s tried dating, tried forgetting, but times like this, the hurt is still fresh. He pastes on a smile and leans close to the new kid. “It’s very nice to meet you, Dick.”

Then he slips out of the manor.

Damian catches up to him right as he’s about to fly home.

“Did something upset you?” he asks. “Grayson seems… inoffensive at least.”

“His name is literally Dick.”

“He’s nine.” Damian crosses his arm. “And you weren’t bothered until Stephanie and Jason started talking about our relationship. I don’t understand what’s got you so upset.”

Jon turns. “Damian, I’m grateful we’re still friends. And as far as I’m concerned, we’re always going to be friends, but I you have to know that stuff gets to me.”

“What stuff?”

“Your family thinks we’re married. My dad thinks we’ve been living in sin for the past decade. And…” He waves an arm helplessly. “Damian you have to know how I feel about you. I’ve been in love with you since we were kids. I get that you don’t feel the same way, but you have to know that all this talk about us being married gets to me.”

“I don’t understand.” Damian frowns. “We’ve been cohabiting for a decade. I’ve filed our taxes together the past five years. We have a joint checking account.”

“For vigilante stuff.”

“And apartment stuff,” Damian counters. “And groceries. By almost all definitions, we have been common law married for the last three years. Besides.” He shuffles side to side. “I thought my devotion to you was obvious.”

Jon gapes.

“You asked me to be Nightwing to your Flamebird and I accepted, knowing the implications. You’ve told me you love me and I responded in kind. I seek more comfort in you that I do from anyone else. Even your infernal dating aps placed us together.”

“You could have said something.”

“Why state something that obvious?” Damian looks up to meet Jon's eyes. “I’ve never been particularly interested in physical intimacy and everything else… we already had it.”

Jon rolls through the last five minutes before finally finding his voice. “You’re asexual?”

Damian scowls. “If you must put a name to it, asexual is not inaccurate.”

The knot that’s been sitting in his stomach since high school starts to unravel. He feels lightheaded. “And you love me?”

“God only knows why.”

Jon steps forward. “Can I kiss you?”

“If you like,” Damian replies.

Jon leans forward and does just that.