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Life With the Kents

Chapter Text

Clark was livid.

That was really the only way to explain how he felt, upon hearing Kon relay what Tim had told him about Bruce’s recent behavior.

Bruce was supposed to be better than this. He was a superhero, for god’s sake. And superheroes did not hit their children.

But this had apparently been going on for years, according to Kon and Tim.

How had Clark been so blind?

Which is how Clark found himself landing in the grass in front of Wayne Manor, not even an hour after Kon had left. He’d cleared his plan with Lois, of course, but he hadn’t really expected her to object.

She loved Damian, too, after all. And it was only Damian still living at home.

It only took a second for someone to open the door for him, his landing, of course, set off the proximity alarm inside. But they all knew what his landings looked like on their security system by now.

Damian, surprisingly, was the one who opened the door. He looked tired. Like the past few days had been more exhausting to him than anything else.

As far as Clark was aware, Damian had witnessed the event that set all this off, after all. He probably was exhausted. Bruce was a hero in Damian’s eyes, even if he was constantly rebelling against him. For all the shortcomings he thought his father had, abusive was likely not one of them.

Not until this week, that is.

And his eyes lacked that spark of mischief Clark usually saw.

The poor kid was truly lost with all this, wasn’t he?

After exchanging pleasantries and being welcomed into the house, Clark said as gently as he could, “Damian, son, why don’t you go pack a bag.”

“Mr. Kent?” Damian asked, raising an eyebrow at him, “Why?”

“You’ll be staying with us for a little while, okay?” Clark said, just as Bruce exited his office and strode down the hall, already showing signs that Clark had just ruffled some feathers.

“Excuse me?,” he said, toying with the button on his sleeve, a nervous tick, Clark knew. One Bruce thought he didn’t have. “I’m fine with sleep overs, Clark, but you can’t just show up here and take my kid without calling ahead first.”

“Damian,” Clark pushed, motioning to the stairs with his head, not wanting to have this conversation in front of the child. He did not need to hear what Clark had to say.

With a frown, Damian nodded. Whatever expression Clark had on his face must have been enough to tell Damian he didn’t want to be present for this conversation, either.

Bruce twitched at how easily Damian obeyed Clark, and snapped, “Damian Wayne, you-”

But Clark cut him off, grabbing onto his arm to prevent him from following Damian or escaping this conversation.

Damian, bless his heart, continued on down the hall, as if nothing had just happened.

“Let go, Kent.”

Clark didn’t, of course. Not until Damian had made it around the corner and up the stairs, where Clark was confident he could not hear them.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Bruce demanded, looking pointedly at Clark’s hand.

“What do you think you’re doing,” Clark snapped back, loosening his grip so Bruce could escape.

Bruce yanked his arm away dramatically and glowered. “You can’t just take my kid.”

“I see two options here,” Clark said cooly, “One, you allow this to happen. Or two, I publish a story detailing exactly how you’ve been treating the older boys, and then social services does the work for me. Pick one.”

That, Clark had known ahead of time, was going to strike a chord. And it did. He could practically hear a blood vessel burst as Bruce took a step forward and growled, “You dare-”

“We’re friends, Bruce,” Clark said calmly, refusing to allow Bruce to make any sort of threat, “but you can’t honestly expect me to stand by while you beat on your children.”

“I do not-”

“You hit Tim so hard he fell to the ground. You beat Jason to the point where he couldn’t walk. And I don’t even know how many times you’ve punched and beat on Dick.”

“They’re all adults,” Bruce bit back, “and they often start-”

“Don’t give me that bullshit. First, Tim is 16. In case you forgot, because he went and got himself emancipated. He’s a child, in both my eyes and the law’s. What kind of excuse is that, anyway? They’re your sons. You’re supposed to love them, not hit them.”

Bruce had no retort to that, and wasn’t that telling? All he did was clench his jaw and fist his hands. Likely itching to hit Clark, but knowing doing so wouldn’t gain him anything.

Clark wasn’t even sure if he’d roll with the punch to prevent a broken hand, himself.

“This is none of your concern,” Bruce eventually said, still glaring daggers at Clark.

Clark could hear Damian zipping up his bag upstairs, so he knew they only had another minute or two before the boy reappeared.

“Damian will be staying with me,” Clark said, smoothing out the expression on his face, “Until you do something about whatever’s going on with you. You need help, Bruce. I’m here for you, I am. But I can’t let these boys get hurt any more.”

Somehow, Bruce managed to clench his jaw tighter, just as Damian started down the stairs.

“I’ll make sure he keeps up with school. And if you want, I’ll let him call and text you. But I want to see you making an actual effort here. You have some great kids, Bruce. You need to start treating them better.”

Damian turned the corner of the hall at that moment, and quietly made his way down it. He paused at his father’s side and looked up, but Bruce refused to look at him. Instead, he turned around and disappeared back into his office.

“Come on, kiddo,” Clark said, holding his arm out so Damian would join him at his side, allowing Clark to wrap an arm around his shoulders, “It’ll be alright, you know?”

“Yeah,” Damian whispered, eyes downcast as he walked along side Clark as the exited the manor.

“He does love you,” Clark said, just before he picked Damian up for them to fly to Metropolis, “he’ll come around.”

Damian hoisted his bag into his lap, allowing Clark to carry him bridal style as they flew, then said, “He loves Tim, too. And Richard and Jason. And yet he still…”

“That’s what I’m saying he’ll come around about. We’ll make sure he gets the help he needs, okay?”

After a minute, Damian just nodded, then asked, “Is Jon home?”

“He sure is. He’ll be thrilled to know you’re staying with us. You two will have to share his room, but I didn’t think he’d mind.”

“No,” Damian said, allowing a faint smile to grace his lips, “I don’t think he will.”

Chapter Text

For the first few weeks, Damian felt very temporary. He went back and forth between sleeping on the couch in the living room and sleeping on the floor of Jon’s room. But after Jon nearly tripped over him for at least the 32nd time one night, Lois decided it was time they rearranged Jon’s room.

By the time the boys got home from school that next day, there was a second bed and chest of drawers in the bedroom, and a shopping trip scheduled so Damian could pick out his own bedding.

Alfred sent over more of Damian’s things. His art supplies. His clothes. And Alfred the cat. Titus was too large for the Kents’ apartment, which was hard on Damian, but at least he had Alfred. And once he had his own bed, Alfred slept with him each night, curled up right next to his face. It was almost like being at home.

It was a month into Damian’s stay when Clark finally said, “Enough with the ‘Mr. Kent’ stuff, son. You live here, just call me ‘Clark.’”

Damian hadn’t realized that he... lived... there. He lived in Metropolis. With the Kents.

And living with the Kents was weird.

For one, they always ate dinner together. Every. Single. Night. After, they’d wash the dishes together and then either watch a movie or play a board game. All four of them. Every night.

It was just... weird.

Kind of nice, though. He found himself laughing a lot, now. Board games were usually pretty funny.

And each night before bed, Lois would tuck Jon into bed and kiss him goodnight. Then a little while later, Clark would stick his head into the room and tell Jon he loved him. The first night Clark said “Goodnight, boys. I love you,” Damian nearly choked. It was a week after that when Lois gave Damian a peck on the cheek right after she’d done them same for Clark and Jon, on her way to work.

Father... Father was Father. He answered his phone sometimes, and had called Damian himself twice. Twice in two months. He was busy with cases, Damian knew. That is what Father did when he was upset. He buried himself in work and let time pass him by, without noticing.

Damian just kind of wanted to hear ‘Goodnight, I love you,” from Father, was all.

But it was fine.

Lois and Clark said it every night. And Damian was starting to believe they actually meant it when they said it to him. And they weren’t just saying it because it felt awkward to kiss Jon goodnight but not say anything to him.

He felt... it made him feel warm. Every time it happened. Almost like he belonged, or was at least wanted.

It was eleven weeks and three days into Damian’s stay that he realized he really liked living with the Kents.

Because it was his 14th birthday.

Honestly, Damian was used to people forgetting. And considering no one had mentioned anything leading up to it, he figured the Kents didn’t even know about it.

Which was fine.

His family had forgotten last year, save Alfred. And he’d been fine with that. He was fine with getting no recognition this year, too. It’s not like his birthday had ever been anything pleasant for him.

But that morning, he was startled awake by three overly enthusiastic voices shouting “Happy Birthday” at him as he trudged into the kitchen, having intended on eating his breakfast half asleep as he did every morning.

And he just stood there, staring at the pancakes sitting out on the table. Strawberry. His favorite. With candles stuck into the stack sitting at his spot. A ‘1′ and a ‘4,’ he was pretty sure. But he couldn’t exactly focus, because the flickering flames were starting to blur in his vision, their color taking over as his eyes betrayed him.

Oh, honey,” Lois said, quickly rushing across the room and wrapping him up into a hug, “it’s okay. We knew today would be a hard day. If you don’t want to celebrate, we don’t have to. I’m sorry if the candles were too much.”

“No,” Damian got out, scrubbing at his face with the arm not trapped in Lois’s hug, “it’s not that. I- I like it.”

Lois pulled him back and put her hands on either side of his face, using her thumbs to wipe away the tears still falling. “Then what is it, sweetheart?”

Damian scrubbed at his eyes again, trying his best to get himself back under control.

Three months with the Kents and he had most certainly gone soft.

“Is it because there is fruit in the pancakes?” Jon asked, clearly trying to cheer Damian up with a stupid joke. It kind of maybe worked, a little. “Because I told Mom that birthday pancakes needed sprinkles, not fruit.”

“Jon,” Clark hissed.

And Damian smiled, just a little, and whispered to Lois, “You remembered.”

“That you liked strawberries?” she asked.

Damian just shook his head, and Lois seemed to understand what he meant, because she wrapped her arms around him again, and said, “Of course we did.”

“Last year, only-” Damian started, just to get stuck trying to get the words out. He had to take a couple breaths before he could finally rush out, “Only Alfred rem-remem-”

“Shhhh,” Lois said, as Damian felt strong arms wrap both him and Lois up into a hug.

“It’s okay, son,” Clark murmured, just holding on while Damian lost control of himself and slowly reigned his emotions back in.

After several minutes, he finally felt stable enough to free himself from Lois and Clark, and didn’t even feel the slightest bit embarrassed about crying his eyes out in front of his best friend.

He’d seen Jon throw a couple fits, after all.

“You’re family, Damian,” Jon said, relighting the candles on the pancakes they must have extinguished at some point, “We’ll never forget something as important as your birthday.”

It was after Damian had ‘made a wish’ and blown out the candles when Jon added, “but you’ll probably wish we’d forgotten tonight, when the waiters sing to you at the restaurant,” that he finally, fully, smiled.

He could get used to this normal family thing.

Chapter Text

Damian’s reaction to his birthday breakfast was troubling, to say the least.

Clark had known, it had been rather obvious from his few months living with them that his childhood had been less than stellar. Hell, he and Bruce had discussed at length Damian’s history with the League of Assassins, back when he was determining whether he wanted Jon associating with Damian.

God he’d been such an asshole back then, hadn’t he?

Damian was such a great kid.

But Damian had lived with Bruce for about three years. Two and some change, when subtracting the time they all thought Bruce was dead. And Bruce had seemed like he really cared, from all the playdates they’d arranged for the boys. All the talks they’d had about parenting.

Bruce loved Damian.

Three birthdays with Bruce, though, and apparently none of them had been happy.

It was making it… hard. To be friends with Bruce. The more he learned about Damian.

Not that Bruce talked to him much anymore, anyway.

Clark was helping frost Damian’s cake, in anticipation of the party they’d planned for him— secretly, of course. The boy thought they were going to have cake and ice cream that afternoon, just the four of them, then go out for dinner later in the evening. But that wasn’t the case. Not at all.

Tim had been the first to call. Several weeks back, to ask whether they were planning anything. He’d requested he be invited to whatever Bruce wasn’t invited to, and said he’d bring Steph, Cass, and Kon with him. And maybe Jason, if he could swing it. That had led to the invite being extended to other bats, and soon enough Duke and Alfred were among the invitees.

They had really wanted Dick to come, but alas, miracle workers they were not.

But it was still promising to be a well attended party. One that would crowd Clark’s apartment, in the happiest way possible.

And it was while Clark was frosting the cake that he finally got a call from the one person who should have been the first to call.

Clark frowned as he looked down at his screen, then waved to get Lois’s attention, gesturing to his phone. He didn’t want to take it within earshot of Damian, who was just across the open-concept apartment, playing a video game with Jon.

Lois nodded at him and took the spatula from his hand.

In a blink, he was on the roof, and he hit accept. “What’s up, Bruce?”

Kent,” he replied, his voice as monotone as ever, “Alfred suggested I call ahead and see when a good time to visit Damian today would be.

“Uh, well,” Clark said, grimacing as he turned the day’s schedule over in his head, “Actually, today isn’t a good day.”

It’s his birthday,” Bruce said flatly.

“Right, and we have plans already.”

Plans that won’t allow me to see my son on his birthday? Are you doing cake? I could attend that.”

“Bruce,” Clark said slowly, “It’s just, I promised someone who is coming that you wouldn’t be there.”

Tim,” Bruce said, and Clark could just hear the scowl on his face.

He already knew all about the drama between Tim and Bruce. Tim had pretty much disowned himself from the Wayne family, and refused to have anything to do with Batman or Bruce.

And Bruce was reacting exactly as maturely as expected.

“Yeah, and since he asked first…”

Tim doesn’t even like Damian. I am Damian’s father.

The evidence pointed to the contrary, actually. He and Lois had just planned a private, small little celebration. Maybe a trip to the zoo or something, an art gallery. It had been Tim who got most of Damian’s family to attend the party.

Which just made Damian’s confession that morning all the more painful. Because none of these people, save Alfred, had remembered Damian’s birthday last year. And the only difference this year was Tim wasn’t missing. Which just led Clark to believe that it was possible only Tim and Alfred remembered.

“This entire party was Tim’s plan, actually, so I wouldn’t say that.”

Oh, so he planned the party just so I couldn’t-”

“Not everything is about you,” Clark snapped, already pretty much done with this conversation, “Tim planned the party because he was the only one out of all of you to call me. Weeks ago. To ask if there were plans. You only called me today. Did it take Alfred reminding you to even remember?”

That is not-” Bruce growled, just for Clark to cut him off again.

“He cried, Bruce.”

Silence.

For several long seconds, before Bruce finally asked, quietly, “What?

“This morning. He cried, over you forgetting last year.”

I didn’t forget,” Bruce said lamely, “I was just busy.

“He was shocked,” Clark said, and he had to pause to take a breath. He could feel the hand tighten around his heart. The one that had been there that morning, threatening to make him cry right along with Damian.

It was a miracle Clark could get the words out now without sounding too affected. “He was so shocked we remembered that he cried.”

Over the phone, Clark heard Bruce swallow. Sniff. Clear his throat. But he didn’t say anything.

“Bruce, you don’t-”

I don’t deserve him, I know,” Bruce whispered. And that was not what Clark was going to say, at all. But he also couldn’t dispute the words. He’d thought them too many times since bringing Damian home.

I just- I don’t know how to fix it, Clark. How do I fix it?”

“Call him,” Clark said, “either right now or after dinner tonight. Not during his party. Ask him if you can visit tomorrow. Just… make sure he knows you love him and you didn’t forget.”

If Clark couldn’t hear every breath Bruce took, he’d have checked his phone to see if the call had disconnected, Bruce was quiet so long. But eventually, Bruce said, “Okay. I will… Thanks, Clark.”

“He’s only 14, Bruce, you still have plenty of time.”

The click of the line was what Clark was expecting to hear, but he stood there on the roof, for a couple more minutes, just staring out at the city. Damian was only 14.

It was staggering, sometimes, to think about all that Damian had been through, in just 14 years. All the hells he’d experienced. Death. Second life. Betrayal after betrayal, move after move. New families and new normals. Over and over.

But even with all that, he was still such a great kid. One who cheated for Jon in monopoly, by ‘accidentally’ over paying rent or waiving hotel fees, when the 10-year-old was getting frustrated to tears over going nearly bankrupt so quickly. One who loved art and music and animals and smiled so widely whenever he made a joke and made others laugh.

The kid downstairs whose heart-rate spiked in excitement when his phone started ringing, and answered so cheerfully, “Hello, Father.”

That kid was amazing.

And Clark was thankful he was part of their family.

Chapter Text

The Kents were smothering him.

Damian was not used to so much ‘supervision.’ It was driving him insane.

Not only was the apartment tiny, but Lois and Clark seemed intent on always having Damian within their sight.

Like they didn’t trust him.

He couldn’t wait until he could just go back home and not deal with this. Father was never this stifling.

It was dumb, anyway. Staying with the Kents.

Drake just had to go and ruin everything, didn’t he?

“You boys about ready to go?” Clark asked, from where he sat at the table drinking his coffee and reading, waiting on Damian and Jon to finish dressing for school.

“I can’t get the tie,” Jon whined, scowling down at the Windsor knot he’d absolutely butchered. How he messed it up so bad, Damian wasn’t sure.

“You’ve been attending this school eight months, Kent,” Damian scoffed, “there is no way you are this dense.”

“Come here son,” Clark said, setting the newspaper down and turning so he could help Jon with his tie.

Jon stuck his tongue out at Damian and let Clark redo the knot.

“You’re giving it too much slack,” Clark said as he guided Jon’s hands through the motions, “There. Now,” he said, pushing Jon’s glasses up and tapping his nose, “you look presentable.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

Damian rolled his eyes dramatically and said, “Yes. Can we leave now?”

Clark smiled and grabbed his briefcase…

Then walked with them.

All the way to school.

And this was what Damian was talking about.

Clark Kent was insufferable.

Damian was perfectly capable of walking himself seven blocks to school.

Sure, Alfred used to always take him to school, but that’s because they lived in Gotham. And it was illegal for him to fly himself, so obviously Alfred had to fly him in. But Father gave Damian pretty much free rein of everything, just as long as he promised not to blow his secret ID.

Which, that was easy. Usually.

The Kents never let him do anything. Ever. Every second of every day he was being watched.

“Mr. Kent,” Damian said, trying to put as much ‘respect’ into his voice as he could muster, “You really don’t have to walk us to school.”

“Oh it’s no trouble, Damian,” Clark said, smiling ridiculously as he walked between Damian and Jon.

“We’re perfectly capable of arriving at school on our own,” Damian pressed.

“I know that, pal.”

Damian scowled at the nickname and glared ahead. Maybe he could call Father and ask to return home, then. If they didn’t leave him alone, soon, he was going to do just that.

It’s not like they could stop him. He had kryptonite.

“Then why do you insist?” Damian said, failing to keep the bite out of his voice, “Do you not trust me to attend without your supervision?”

“Of course not, I know you’ll do the responsible thing without me ensuring it,” Clark said instantly, then paused for a moment before adding conspiratorially, “This is for cover.”

Raising an eyebrow at that, Damian asked, “Cover?” Jon, too, looked up curiously as he skipped along.

“Yep.” Clark grinned and ruffled Jon’s hair, “It’s not normal for kids Jon’s age to walk to school alone. This is how we maintain our cover.”

Jon was ten, Damian supposed. And ‘normal’ American ten-year-olds were rather ridiculous. And obviously no one could know Jon was half-alien and perfectly capable of not getting hit by a car or something stupid.

“But I am walking with him now,” Damian pointed out. He was thirteen. It was normal for the other seventh graders in his class to walk themselves to school, after all.

“Yes,” Clark agreed, “but you’re also still rather young. Maybe some people let kids your age walk alone, but it’s still not a universal thing. And with Lois and I being a little more known, it’s less likely we’d be the kind of parents to allow it. And with you definitely being known, people would probably ask questions”

“Ah. I suppose that makes sense.”

People asking questions would not go over well. In fact, since no one knew Damian was living with the Kents, bringing any sort of attention to themselves was likely to set off an entire media storm. What would the public say if they found out Damian wasn’t allowed to live with Father right now?

They’d probably turn on Drake, too. Or Kyle. Since all this was their faults. Damian grinned to himself, briefly, until he decided that wasn’t a good thing. Scrutiny was a bad thing, regardless of which one in the family got the brunt of it.

Clark smiled and set a hand on Damian’s shoulder, pulling him in a little closer as he did the same with Jon. “Besides, I enjoy walking with you boys.”

“You enjoy….” Damian started, just to trail off. What was there to enjoy about just walking seven blocks? Twice a day? They rarely even talked on the walk. “Why?”

Clark ruffled Damian’s hair and said, “I enjoy spending time with you.”

That… Damian didn’t have a good retort to that. But it didn’t matter, anyway, because they arrived at the gates to their school, and Clark knelt down to fix Jon’s collar before hugging him goodbye.

“Have a great day, boys,” he said, standing and straightening Damian’s collar, too. The one on his blazer that his messenger bag had ruffled during the walk.

“Bye, Dad,” Jon said, “see you this afternoon!”

Damian just looked down at his blazer, then back at Clark. And the way Clark smiled at him, all warm and soft, made his stomach do something weird.

Shaking himself of it, he said, “You as well, Mr. Kent,” and turned to walk through the gate with Jon.

But he did look back, just briefly, to see Clark still standing there, just watching to make sure they made it into the main building.

And for the first time, Damian didn’t feel quite so smothered, but rather….

Protected. Maybe.

Even if he didn’t need it.

Chapter Text

Bewildered was the only word Damian could use to describe how he felt.

Because just that morning, he hadn’t expected anyone to acknowledge what the day even was. But now, after he’d spent the morning playing video games with Jon, chatting with his Father on the phone, and then having a rather lovely lunch, people were showing up at the apartment.

Lots of people.

People Damian knew.

That he’d call family, if pressed.

...Plus Drake’s insufferable friends.

Which was just weird. Kon and Stephanie were there among the attendees, right along side Jason, Cass, Duke, and Alfred.

So yes, Damian was bewildered. Or befuddled. Or just plain old confused.

Alfred he understood, of course. Even if the two of them had barely spoken since Damian got whisked away to the Kent’s, Alfred had always been one to remember things. And despite their relationship’s rocky start, Alfred had always been someone stable and supportive in his life. So, actually, he thought himself stupid for not realizing Alfred would actually remember.

It was the rest of these people that startled him.

He’d felt off kilter ever since he’d answered the door, an hour before, at Jon’s insistence that “it’s for you, D.”

Which, that was just annoying. The x-ray vision. The flagrant use of powers within the privacy of the apartment. Damian wasn’t used to it. Clark and Jon just…. casually floated around, sometimes. Used heat vision to heat things up. Speed to get chores done in a blink. And x-ray vision to look at and find things.

Damian was becoming progressively more amused by the exasperated glances Lois shot him, though, whenever one of them forgot that the rest of them couldn’t just look through the fridge door to see how many eggs were left.

It usually made him grin, actually. And he’d caught himself giving her the same look, a few times.

When Damian opened the door, however, he kind of wished he did have x-ray vision. Just so he could have had those precious few seconds to prepare himself.

Because on the other side of the door was Tim Drake. Just standing there. Holding a neatly wrapped gift with a card on top, and surrounded by all those people.

“Uhh,” Damian had stammered, a horrid habit he’d acquired from Jon, no doubt.

“Hey,” Tim had said, offering a lopsided grin as he pushed the gift at Damian, “Happy Birthday, gremlin. Gonna let us in?”

So Damian did, and it’d been a literal party ever since.

Which was what was so bewildering.

He’d never had a birthday party before.

Not like this.

They had cake and ice cream, as a group, and suddenly it made sense why Lois and Clark had made such a large cake. Before Damian was allowed to blow out his candles, he had to listen to the group sing him a ridiculous song, and it made him nostalgic for that first birthday he'd had away from the League.

Back when it was just him and Grayson and Alfred.

Grayson had sung this same song, all off key and squeaky, entirely on purpose, just to annoy Damian. But it’d been that gentle teasing, The kind Damian had come to associate with Dick Grayson. The kind that made him ache for his older brother, wishing beyond hope that the man would just hit his head and suddenly remember everything. Even though he knew that was not how brain injuries worked.

But just as the song had done on his 11th birthday, it made Damian feel warm inside on his 14th. It filled, just a little, that empty spot in his chest. The one that so often burned, with a soft almost…. happiness he had a difficult time describing. But damn was he going to cry again today. Especially not in front of all these people.

It was one thing to cry in front of the Kents, but like hell would he make such a mistake in front of the Bats.

“Clark,” Damian asked, once everyone had finished their cake and Clark and Lois were gathering the plates to wash, so they could ‘open presents,’ as Jon had shouted so enthusiastically. Brat probably knew whatever Damian got would be stored in their room, and therefore was basically his, too.

At least, that had been his reasoning, a few weeks back, when Damian caught Jon using his nice markers to draw the most horrific drawing of his dad he’d ever laid eyes on. ‘A school project,’ he had said, ‘we have to draw our favorite superhero.’ Damian had just scoffed and criticized both his misuse of the expensive Copics, as well as his predictable selection of his own father as his favorite superhero.

‘Isn’t Batman your favorite,’ Jon had said, to which Damian scoffed, ‘Yes, but Bruce Wayne is not.’ It had effectively shut Jon up. And relaying the price of each marker had also caused Jon to hand them back over, not wanting to replace any by ruining them.

“Yeah, bud?” Clark asked, smiling as he rinsed off each plate at lightning speed, even while he spoke to Damian. They were alone in the kitchen, and even though it was an open concept apartment, the group was being loud enough that Damian was confident in their privacy.

“Did you invite everyone?” he asked, resisting the urge to look away or pull his hood up. He hated his tells, and he tried his best not to show them.

“No,” Clark said easily, now drying the dishes off and putting them away in the cabinets. Why have a dishwasher when you have a Clark, Lois always said. “Tim did, actually. This entire party was his idea.”

“Tim Drake,” Damian asked incredulously. Because that made no sense. Damian had just been curious whether he should thank the Kents or Alfred for the party. It had never even crossed his mind that Tim might be the culprit.

Because what the hell??

“Is there more than one Tim?” Clark asked, clearly amused, now just leaning back against the sink to chat.

Well, yes, there was more than one Tim, Damian thought, but it was true that he didn’t personally know another Tim. It’s just, never in a million years would he have expected Tim Drake to be the one to do something so…. thoughtful. To be the reason Damian felt at peace for once, in a world without Dick Grayson, that is. And without Father around.

“But… Tim hates me?” Damian whispered, failing to prevent his shock from showing on his face, “Why would he….”

When Damian trailed off, Clark just frowned. “I don’t know what all has gone down between you two,” Clark said slowly but softly. In that same tone he always used when comforting Damian. He kind of hated that he liked it so much. “But I can tell you this: He does not hate you. I’d venture to say he actually loves you.”

All Damian could do was shake his head. Because no. No no no no no. That wasn’t right.

That couldn’t be right.

Tim Drake did not love Damian. Tim was the one who always rolled his eyes whenever Damian started speaking at family meetings. He was the one who groaned whenever Damian crashed one of his cases. When he had to team up with the Teen Titans, and Damian was there. When Father assigned them to patrol together. When he just remembered Damian existed, in general.

And it’s not like Damian didn’t deserve it. He realized, now, how wrongly he had treated his ‘brother’ from the beginning. Pushing him off the dinosaur had been unforgivable, he now knew. The fact Tim even tolerated him enough to simply groan and roll his eyes at his presence was more than Damian deserved, after breaking so many of his bones for no good reason.

So, no, Tim Drake did not love Damian. It was impossible. If their roles were reversed, Damian would never forgive Tim. Ever. Would be glad to be rid of him after this whole thing went down between Father and the rest of them, pulling Damian out of Gotham and Tim away from Father.

“Damian,” Clark said, wrapping his arm around Damian’s shoulders and pulling him in a little, “whatever is going around in that head of yours is wrong, okay? Tim cares about you, pal. Otherwise he wouldn’t have reached out weeks ago to make these plans. All those people over there care about you. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t, okay?”

Resting the side of his head against Clark for a second, the only acceptance of the half hug he’d show, Damian looked at the group of people sitting in the living room, carrying on and laughing about whatever dumb thing Jason had just said.

Steph noticed he was staring, and she smiled brightly and called, “Come on, birthday boy. Come open your presents, and be prepared to be amazed by my awesome gift. Everything else on this table pales in comparison, I promise.”

“Shut up,” Jason said, tossing a chip at her for the comment, “I’ll have you know my gift is very thoughtful and incredible. The demon will cry I tell you. Cry.”

“Pfft,” Tim said loudly, “Mine’s the best. Kon already confirmed it.”

“That’s cheating,” Steph screeched, “You can’t use powers like that!”

It just devolved into chaos from there, as the lot of them continued arguing. Clark squeezed Damian’s shoulder and said, “Go on. I don’t think they’ll stop until you open them all and declare a winner.”

“Tt,” Damian huffed, even though he was smiling a little, “it is not proper to play favorites with gifts. It is the thought that counts, I have been told.”

“There’s the Alfred in you,” Clark said fondly, pushing Damian toward the living room.

The gifts were all incredible. Well, some more-so than others. Jason got him a gift card to one of the local art supply chains, as well as a copy of one of his favorite books. Alfred got him a set of teas, all of his favorites from when he was living in the manor. Steph got him a cartoon-style Robin figure, which was just insulting and kind of hilarious.

But when Damian opened Tim’s gift, he make sure to pay attention to his brother’s face, without making it obvious he was doing so. Tim’s expressions were carefully blank, but Damian could tell he was doing that to cover up for anxiety and excitement for whatever he had gotten Damian. And once the item was fully unwrapped, all Damian could do was gawk.

Because in Damian’s hands was a set of extremely rare natural pigments. He actually hadn’t even heard of half of the pigment sources, that was how obscure they were. But they were some of the most vibrant colors he’d ever seen. Bright purple, rich orange, dark blue, deep red, just to name a few of the colors he saw.

They were…. incredible.

He actually could not wait to mix some of them up and try them out.

“I got them in the gem world,” Tim explained, “a lot of those are made from materials not found on earth.”

When Damian realized what that confession meant, he almost did cry. Because at some point, months ago, before this entire fiasco had even begun, Tim Drake had seen a set of pigments while stranded in another dimension and thought ‘hey, Damian would like those,’ and then got them. Stored them away and waited for his birthday, and then planned an entire party when he realized the Bats were not doing one.

Just that realization threatened to set him over the edge again, but instead he just smiled.

He smiled and started to think that, yeah. Maybe Tim didn’t hate him.

Damian definitely didn’t hate Tim.