It was early August when Oracle’s icon appeared in the corner of the Batscreen.
“Damian,” she said. “Can you tell me why the FBI is looking into an unknown party’s hack of their file on Ted Cruz?”
Damian continued to scroll down the party platform he was reading on the large display. “I’m trying to ensure that I’m an informed voter.”
Oracle’s icon was unimpressed. “You’re still two elections away from being old enough to vote.”
“Then I am trying to ensure I am an informed citizen,” Damian said sulkily.
“Are you even a citizen?” came a voice from behind him. The monitor reflected Todd, walking into the cave with an apple in hand. He took a bite from it as he came to a stop behind the computer chair.
“You’re one to talk,” Damian retorted. “You’re legally dead.”
“That’s never stopped voters before,” Oracle said dryly.
Jason barked a laugh and then did a double take at the site Damian was perusing. “You are not supporting Cruz. I’ll literally kill you.”
“Tt.” Damian leaned back, folding his arms. “I would sooner die. This Bernie Sanders is my candidate of choice.”
“Good. I thought I was going to have to disembowel you.” He paused, taking another bite of his apple. “I’m a Hilary man, myself.”
“Really?” Oracle’s voice held a note of interest. “I would’ve thought Bern was right up your alley, Jason.”
“Sure he is,” Jason said. “But—” He ticked off on his fingers, “CHIP, welfare reform, the Adoption and Safe Families Act, Foster Care Independence Act—my girl Hilary’s been looking out for street rats like me since before Batman was a twinkle in Bruce’s eye. I’m With Her.”
“Sanders has advocated for paid family leave, affordable child care—” Damian launched into a summary of Sanders’ contributions toward families and children.
“Oh God,” Oracle said, going unheard over Damian, “and it’s not even 2016 yet.”
As they did each presidential election season, reporters at various Wayne Enterprises and Foundation functions asked Bruce what he thought of the current nominee candidates. As he did each presidential election, Brucie disclaimed any understanding of politics and declared his intention of leaving that sort of thing to much smarter people. This enraged Damian, who opined that those in power had a duty to use it. Bruce replied that he could certainly hear Ra’s al Ghul’s influence in that, and Damian didn’t speak to him for the rest of the week. Cass joined his silent treatment out of solidarity as much as habit, while Jason gleefully took the opportunity to remind Bruce, many times a day, what an asshole he was.
No one ever quite forgave each other in the Batfamily, but the exchange had been tacitly agreed to be forgotten about by the end of August. They were all in the cave one night, except for Steph and Cass who were overseas with the Birds, when Robin asked Nightwing for whom he planned to vote in the primaries.
Nightwing said, “Oh, is it election time again already?”
Robin stared at him.
“Sorry,” Nightwing said sheepishly, “I don’t really get too involved in politics.”
“What he means to say,” Oracle said, “is that he’s done a write-in vote for Superman every year since he was old enough to vote.”
“Babs!” Nightwing exclaimed. “That’s supposed to be confidential!”
“Oops,” Oracle said, not sounding apologetic at all.
Batman side-eyed Nightwing.
“He is not even a human,” Robin said. “That surely cannot be legal. You are wasting legitimate votes, Grayson—”
“It’s only one vote,” Nightwing said, twirling into a handstand behind Batman’s chair. “It’s not like mine’s going to make a difference—”
Robin swelled larger with indignation. Red Hood watched with a smirk.
“I can see it now,” he said. “The demon’s going to knock Dick out on Election Day and steal his voter ID card to vote for him.”
“Could we focus on what’s actually relevant right now?” Red Robin said irritably from his spot on his motorcycle. His wrist computer display glowed, showing swiftly-moving coordinates.
“THIS is relevant!” Robin seethed.
“There’s a bank robbery happening literally right now,” Red Robin countered, and gunned his engine, roaring out of the cave.
“This isn’t over,” Robin warned Nightwing, and jumped onto his own bike, accelerating after Red Robin.
“Dick,” Batman rumbled when they were gone.
Nightwing jumped, then started to sidle out of the cave. “Yes?”
Hood howled in the corner.
Damian returned to school at the beginning of September and came home ranting about the idiocy of his classmates. Or, as he called them, privileged white imbeciles parroting the words of their parents, which had in turn been aped from Fox News.
“See?” Jason said. “Told you that you should have told B you didn’t want to go to private school.”
“They have no concept of how the world works,” Darien glowered. “Their ignorance of the Flint water crisis alone--”
“Are you really much different?” Steph put in from where she was swinging back and forth on the uneven bars. “You grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in your mouth, Dami.”
“While I recognize that my childhood was safer than that suffered by many others,” he said, “it was not in the way of those who trained me to lord above their people. Rather, we shared in the sufferings they endured and attempted to make them better. When the people with whom we lived went hungry, so did we. I have lived in refugee camps in Afghanistan and Syria. I’ve lived among families halved by raids for opium and weapons and scrounged alongside children who have lost eyes or hands or legs due to the violence and greed and sheer carelessness of those in power. I have known the terror of an airstrike and the delirium of starvation. To listen to the ignorance of preadolescents whose greatest hardship has been to wait ten minutes for their chauffeur to retrieve them from school is so repugnant to me as to cause physical illness and a rage that is difficult to contain.”
Jason and Steph were both quiet, stunned.
Eventually Steph slid down from the uneven bars, landing in a somersault and coming to her feet. She came silently to Damian and wrapped her arms around him.
“Do not pity me.” He was stiff in her hold. “I don’t want pity, I want change.”
“You,” Steph said, “are a force for good, Dami.”
Damian turned away and stalked upstairs.
Jason saw him later, in the backyard, wrapped around Titus and glaring into the grass.
“Bruce,” he said that night.
“This political stuff,” he said. “It’s—really important to Damian.”
“I’ve noticed,” Bruce said dryly.
“No, I mean—just. Take him seriously, okay?” Jason said. And left the cave.
At Thanksgiving, as had become their custom over the past several years, they piled into Brucie’s rarely-used Hummer (“I must request that you get rid of this fuel-inefficient monstrosity, Father,” Damian demanded) and headed to Smallville. Dick declared the vehicle a Politics-Free Zone and instead started an argument over the coolest Green Lantern. Alfred stated it would be impolite of him to declare a favorite; Jason and Steph staunchly defended Kyle; Cass, Tim, and Damian supported John; Bruce insisted Alan; and poor Hal had only Dick in his corner, which they all accused Dick of doing because Hal was the Flashes’ and Roy’s particular friend.
Guy, alas, had no champions in the Hummer.
Their arguments were brought to an end when they turned onto the bumpy dirt driveway leading from the road to the Kents’ farmhouse and Damian’s eyes alit on the sign staked into the yard next to their front steps.
“Here we go,” Tim said under his breath.
Damian paid him no attention; he was already pushing open his door and bounding out of the not-yet-fully-stopped Hummer. “Mrs. Kent!”
She looked up from the front steps where she was seated shucking ears of corn. “Yes, dear?”
He clasped his hands behind his back, standing straight. “I couldn’t help but notice the sign in your yard.”
“Oh, Bernie?” Her eyes twinkled. “Don’t tell me we’re going to disrupt our nice dinner with a violent clash of political opinions.”
His eyes almost widened in his haste to assure her otherwise. “No! I merely meant to say, we are in accord!”
“Oh! Don’t tell me you feel The Bern too, Damian?”
“Yes! What did you think of his response to the question about the greatest national security threat during the first debate?”
Clark, who had come out onto the porch with Kon, exchanged a look with Bruce as the rest of the Batfamily headed past Martha and Damian to the front door, laden with Alfred’s and Cass’s contributions to the feast. Bruce shrugged and followed them inside.
Kon stayed outside, listening to and watching Martha and Damian with the air of a tennis match spectator, eyes traveling back and forth.
“No,” Tim said, and tried to pull him inside.
“Wait,” Kon protested.
Tim groaned and abandoned him.
(The next blurry photo of Superboy in the newspaper showed him wearing a leather jacket with a red and blue donkey embroidered on the back.
Jason snickered and said it was appropriate in more ways than one.)
“Here’s the problem,” Steph was informing Damian when Bruce entered the cave a few weeks later. “If Hildog wins the nomination, what are all you Bern-hards going to do? Pout and boycott the vote because your candidate wasn’t chosen?”
“Of course not!” Damian looked insulted at the very idea. “The key is to ensure that none of the buffoons in the circus currently masquerading as the RNC make it to the highest office in the nation—”
“Excuse me, don’t insult the circus by comparing us to the Republicans,” Dick said from the pommel horse. “Haley’s would’ve kicked Donald Trump out before he could even finish introducing himself.”
“Says the dickhead planning to vote Superman for president,” Jason countered. “Hey—would that make Bats the first lady?”
Laughter and hoots erupted. Even Alfred hid a smile behind a gloved hand.
Bruce pointed at Jason. “Grounded.”
Dick, Jason, and Tim’s extracurricular activities in school had been gymnastics, kendo, and mathlete-computer club-yearbook, respectively (yes, Tim had three). Damian’s was standing on a street corner outside the Gotham Republican chapter’s headquarters on 18th, holding signs in support of Bernie Sanders. Colin, ever supportive, held a sign beside him, both of them tiny in their puffy winter jackets and fortified by thermoses of hot tea and chocolate respectively, provided by Alfred.
Once they got wind of this, Jason and Steph brought their own signs and camped out on the opposite corner, cheering and waving their signs for Hilary, encouraging people to honk in support. Jason even deigned to wink at passing frat guys and sorority girls, while Steph blew kisses.
“Stop!” Damian ordered from across the street. “Don’t bring your sexuality into this race!”
“What, Dami?” Jason blew him a kiss. “Feeling an urge to cross to the dark side?”
“We’re lucky it’s winter,” Colin commented. “Tim said Jason looks really good in crop tops.”
Damian gagged into his tea.
Bruce had just fallen asleep at three a.m. that morning after a return from a distant star system that had been planning to obliterate the Earth to make rare basalt mulch for one of its more extravagant dictators when a small hand planted itself on his shoulder.
“Father,” was hissed.
He forced his heavy eyelids open. Only one responded; the other stayed stubbornly shut. “What, Damian?” he mumbled.
“I need you to endorse Senator Sanders in the Bat suit,” Damian said.
Bruce’s other eye finally obeyed. He squinted up at Damian.
Damian raised his eyebrows expectantly.
Bruce brought his hand up to his face. Dragged it down his jaw. Then he slid backward and reached for Damian, hauling him under the blankets and trapping him under his arm as Damian squirmed and protested and insisted, “He is the superior representative for the people, Father, look at this speech he gave about marriage equality—”
Bruce fell asleep to Senator Sander’s tinny but strident tones from the speaker of Damian’s cell phone.
In June, President Obama publicly endorsed Secretary Clinton. In July, Senator Sanders followed suit. Damian wasted no time in transferring his support to the party’s candidate: That afternoon found the official Hilary Clinton campaign site’s entire stock of Woman Cards depleted, purchased with overnight shipping by Damian and Jason, who along with Colin, Steph, and Cass, spent the next two days sticking them under the windshield wipers of every parked car in Gotham they can find. (Which coincidentally included every vehicle in the tri-state area registered to Donald Trump and any of his campaign employees.)
A drug bust two night later put Jason in possession of about three hundred thousand dollars.
“On a scale of one to fifteen, how bad an idea would it be to buy a few plates at that Clinton dinner in Manhattan next week with this?” he asked Oracle as he and Red Robin stood on the rooftop above the carnage, watching the police clean up.
“Could I make sure the money wasn’t traced back to Roman’s gang?” Oracle said. “Yes. Would it be better served going directly to the women’s shelter and Leslie’s clinic? Also yes.”
Hood hummed an only slightly disappointed acknowledgement and swung by her place to make the drop.
The next night, Tim handed Jason, Steph, Cass, and Damian each embossed tickets.
“Are. You. Serious,” Jason said.
“I thought you were all, Obama 2016, tbh,” Steph mimed, flipping her hand next to her head in what was most likely an approximation of Tim’s Garnier Fructisse hair.
Tim made a face at the impression but shrugged. “What can I say. You guys are persuasive.”
“I’m not sitting next to you,” Damian informed him.
Tim grinned, a sneaky sly thing.
“No,” he said, “you’re sitting next to Bill.”
Dick caught wind of the fact that they were all going to the Senator Clinton dinner and demanded to know why he hadn’t invited. “You’re literally wearing an Oracle for Oval Office 2016 shirt,” Tim informed him. “Like, right now. As you talk to me.”
“I had thirty made,” Dick said. “Purple, green, blue and pink. I haven’t caught Bruce wearing his yet, but I know he’s going to.”
“This election is not a game, Grayson,” Damian gritted out.
“I know it’s not!” Dick insisted. “But you can’t tell me you think anyone would be a better president than Babs.”
“True,” Cass opined.
“You get a raise on your allowance,” Oracle said from Tim’s dark cell phone on the table, startling all of them.
“Oh my God,” Jason said. “Big Brother much?!”
Tim pulled out another ticket. “I have one for you, too, Babs.”
“Okay,” she said, “but I’m only coming if you guys get Jason to wear an actual dress shirt under his tux instead of his I’m With Her t-shirt.”
“One picture from last night’s dinner has gone viral this morning—ten-year-old Damian Wayne, the only biological son of billionaire Bruce Wayne, shaking Secretary Clinton’s hand.” The camera cut from the morning news anchors to a clip of Damian, short and solemn in his black and white tuxedo, hair gelled back, clasping Secretary Clinton’s hand as she smiles down at him, saying something that isn’t picked up by the microphone.
“Looks like a miniature world leader, doesn’t he, Vicki?” the male anchor said as the screen returned to them.
“He certainly appears to be more interested in world events than his father,” Vicki Vale agreed.
“In fact,” her counterpart continued, “we’ve found that young Damian is very vocal in his political views.” The camera cuts away again to a crowded street corner. “This is where he is said to have spent most of his afternoons for the past several months, picketing first for former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and then, following her nomination, Senator Clinton. We’ve also managed to obtain some of Damian’s tweets from his personal Twitter account.”
Screenshots appear of Damian’s Twitter page. His icon was, of course, Titus, dark ears erect and alert as he stared into the distance, and below them were some of his more recent tweets, which featured links to Huffington and Washington posts on Aleppo, Flint, and the DAPL, with commentary on each:
We should be discussing THIS, not Secretary Clinton’s emails for the 70th time
A detailed commentary on what we’re doing WRONG
If Trump doesn’t keep promises to his investors why would he keep his promises to voters
“One particularly fiery exchange led to the development of a hashtag which has now gone viral.” A tweet from @johnstewartcansukmycok appeared on the screen: stfu bby billionaire if ur dddy wsnt a lil bitch hed admt hes rich 4 same rsns as trump
Damian’s Tweeted response appeared below it: I’m not sorry my father pays his workers, even the immigrant ones
A whole slew of Tweets with the same phrase appeared below it:
I’m not sorry I don’t support candidates who have been endorsed by the KKK
#notsorry I don’t condone sexual harassment or those who perpetrate it
#notsorry to be aware this nation was built by immigrants
“Other non-GOP supporters have taken up the hashtag,” Vicki said as the screen filled with new Twitter usernames and screenshots:
#notsorry I want to go to college without spending the rest of my life in debt
#notsorry I should have control over what I do with my own vagina
#notsorry that unemployment is lower than it ever was during the last republican presidency
The screen filled and filled and filled and Jason clicked the mute button, whistling as he looked across the breakfast bar at Damian. His hair was still unruly with the gel from the night before. “We’ve got a celebrity in the house!”
Tim was scrolling down his social media feeds on his tablet. “Oh my God, he’s a meme.”
“What?” Dick pushed his cereal bowl aside and lunged across the bar to grab Tim’s tablet. He let out a sound like a dying animal. “I can’t believe Damian became a meme before I did!”
“Let us see,” Jason demanded.
Tim turned his tablet around. An auction site showed a t-shirt screen-printed with Damian’s face in black and white, with the Che Guevara hat photoshopped onto his head. #NOTSORRY, it said underneath.
“Che Guevara does not represent my views,” Damian declared. “He participated in executions of his own men without fair trials—”
The buzz of a cell phone interrupted him. They all looked up to see Bruce entering the kitchen, fastening his cufflinks into place.
“Your phone is ringing,” Dick pointed out.
“Thank you,” Bruce said dryly. He made no move to answer it, just straightened his sleeves and sat down at the table. Alfred placed a plate in front of him.
After perhaps ten seconds, his phone, which had gone silent, started to buzz again on the tabletop next to his coffee mug.
“Do you want me to get it?” Dick asked helpfully.
The vibrations stopped. And Tim’s phone, next to his tablet, started to vibrate.
Unlike Bruce, he picked it up. “This is Drake.”
Jason and Damian smirked at each other.
“Ah—” Tim hesitated a moment, his eyes sweeping over Damian. “Tell them yes.”
Bruce’s brow rose.
Tim swiped the call off and placed his phone back on the table. “You’re going on The Tonight Show, Damian.”
“What? You have no right, Drake—”
“You’ll reach a lot more people on a TV show than you will on a street corner,” Tim said, with a raised brow not unlike Bruce’s. He shrugged. “I’ll take it back if you want me to.”
Damian pursed his lips together. But he didn’t tell Tim to take it back.
Jason started to laugh.
“Dami—can I call you Dami?”
“I prefer Damian,” Damian said seriously. “Dami infantilizes me, and my opinions should not be dismissed merely because of my age.”
“I see,” Jimmy Fallon said. He glanced out at the audience, sharing a grin with them as laughter rippled through the rows of seats. “We were all pretty impressed by that picture of you with Secretary Clinton.”
“I thanked her for stepping forward to offer four years of her life to this nation. It is a great personal sacrifice on her part, and I wished to recognize that.”
“Did she pay attention to you? I mean, you can’t exactly vote for her yet.”
“You may have heard the adage about paying attention to how an individual treats their social inferiors, not their equals or betters,” Damian said. “One of the reasons I support Secretary Clinton is because throughout her career she has recognized and represented the members of this country who do not have a say.”
Jimmy grinned. “You’d probably be happy if we reduced the voting age to ten, right?”
“You’re putting words in my mouth, Mr. Fallon,” Damian said. “I believe that is the job of actual journalists, not talk show hosts like yourself.”
An ooooh went through the audience.
“If you would like to know what I feel,” he continued, “allow me to tell you that I find your toothless portrayal of Candidate Trump harmful and irresponsible. The public should not be encouraged to laugh at a man who advocates the use of nuclear weapons, the objectification and harassment of women, the assassination of public figures, and forced registration of certain religious groups.”
Jimmy attempted to say something. Damian bowled on over him. “As a child, I can tell you that in our school we are encouraged not to laugh or stand by when another child is bullying, or being bullied. But that is what is happening. There is a bully who is threatening certain groups of Americans, not to mention non-Americans, and we should not be standing by laughing at it, or at him. We should be saying, this is not all right. We should be standing up for the groups he threatens and stopping his behavior. That is what this Election Day should be about. When you turn him into a comedic figure, you are obscuring the actual threat he would pose as our president. That is unacceptable.”
“Look at that! Schooled by a kid, ladies and gentlemen!” Jimmy grinned widely, looking around and encouraging the audience to laugh with him. After a beat, they did, the house band breaking into a riff in concert with them.
Damian did not smile in return. The further jokes that Jimmy attempted to bait him into fell flat, and they finally broke for commercial: “And next, musical guest Ariana Grande!”
Reddit, Instagram, and tumblr exploded, with Facebook only a little behind. Fallon was roasted for getting lectured by a ten-year-old; sales of #notsorry merchandise climbed; interfamilial feuds erupted on Facebook; and the background of Damian’s birth and upbringing made it into the internet discussion. He was born in the Middle East; he was even raised there; he might even be—gasp!—a practicing Muslim. No wonder he was so pro-immigration and anti-nationalism—the raghead wanted America weak, certain factions of reddit and Facebook insisted, while others wanted to know why he was even allowed into America in the first place, even if his father was a billionaire.
“If you don’t know the answer to that question, you clearly weren’t paying attention in government,” Damian responded coolly when a classmate shouted this question at him in one of the Gotham Academy classrooms before class commenced. A spitball hit him in the ear, and he gritted his teeth, wiped it away, and stared straight ahead as class began.
“I hope I don’t get the cold shoulder Jimmy did.”
“It wasn’t a cold shoulder,” Damian said calmly. “It was a statement of my opinions. If you don’t wish to hear my opinions, what is the purpose of inviting me onto your show?”
“Quite right,” Trevor Noah said. “Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to The Daily Show. So, Damian, there’s been a lot of talk about your background and the role that plays in those very opinions. On the one hand, you were raised in the Middle East by your mother; on the other, you’ve been living for the past several years here in America with a very rich daddy. How can we be sure this apparent vendetta against Donald Trump isn’t just one billionaire not wanting to be overshadowed by another?”
“I’m offended that anyone would compare my father to Donald Trump,” Damian retorted, “considering that my father’s Wayne Foundation donates more than two billion dollars every year to both domestic and international causes, including building of infrastructure in third-world countries, HIV/AIDS research, refugee relief, malaria prevention, education, veterans’ assistance and foster care, while Mr. Trump’s foundation boasts a budget of less than one million dollars and has, furthermore, been found to be in violation of IRS regulations. And considering, furthermore, that my father pays his employees for the work they do, has never filed for bankruptcy, and has never cheated the American people out of tens of millions of dollars in university fraud. And that is not even taking into consideration the Wayne Foundation’s emphatic work toward gun control. If anyone is afraid of being overshadowed by someone, it is certainly not my father.”
The audience began to cheer about halfway through this enumeration, and as Damian finished, the shouts, victorious shrieks, and whistling were nearly deafening. Damian remained serenely in his seat, feet dangling half a foot above the floor in his polished loafers, and inclined his head toward them in regal acknowledgment.
Trevor was grinning. “Now, Damian,” he said, “how does the son of a billionaire come to feel so strongly in favor of democratic socialism as opposed to the capitalist system that brought the Wayne family to its current position?”
Damian leaned forward. “Like you, Trevor, I grew up in another part of the world—”
Dick pressed the pause button on his phone, stopping the video of the interview. He scrolled down the YouTube channel to the comments section before looking up at Damian. “They’re going CRAZY over you.”
“Trevor was very sharp-witted. I liked him.”
“Watch out, Dick,” Steph said. “Damian has a new bestie—”
“Grayson is not my bestie,” Damian said, as Dick whined and slithered onto the floor from his armchair, clutching his heart.
“Dude, Jon Stewart wrote an op-ed that mentions you,” Jason said from his corner of the study, and it’s the closest to awed any of them have ever heard his voice. Dick, Tim, and Steph scrambled to read over his shoulder, while Damian tapped a pen against his chin at his father’s desk and looked at Cass.
“Fox News interview,” he said. “Yea or nay?”
Cass pointed her thumb upside down.
“I agree,” Damian said.
“Mr. Trump, one of your most outspoken opponents is a ten-year-old boy. What considerations have you made toward being a candidate for younger people, who are concerned about college loan debt, unemployment, and Social Security collapse?”
“I’ll tell you what, I know a lot of kids,” Trump replied. “Great kids—fantastic kids. I’ve met so many kids on this campaign—kids that want to make America great again! To them, I say, there’s a place for you in our America. The only thing I have to say about the kid you’re talking about is—,” he looked away from the reporter, into the camera, “Bruce. Don’t outsource for the next one.”
Damian entered the garage the next morning to find the Bentley’s rear bumper plastered with I’M WITH HER stickers.
Alfred made no mention of it as he started the ignition.
Damian didn’t, either.
But he held his head high as he exited the car at school that morning.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can—”
Bruce muted the TV. The skin around his mouth was white.
“I’m gonna do it,” Jason said. “Fuck it.” He stood from the couch.
Tim glanced around at all of them. “I could fuck up his finances?” he offered.
“Don’t bother, Todd,” Damian said from his spot in the corner. He was holding a tablet in his lap, had been working on preparing answers for an interview on Sesame Street the next morning. Now, his eyes were on the muted TV. “It’s over after this. No one would vote him into office now.”
“You so sure?” Jason muttered, but allowed himself to be pulled back onto the couch by Dick.
“KY jelly,” Steph mused.
“And squash,” Cass said. She tilted her head. “Or cucumbers.”
“Whichever’s bigger,” Steph said.
“Small packets,” Cass said, and Steph nodded vigorously.
“Numerous Republican officials have taken to social media and press conferences to announce their disapproval of Trump’s so-called locker room talk, although few have gone so far as to reject him as a candidate. We go now to Vicki Vale, who is covering the press conference announced yesterday by City Hall. We expect to hear Mayor Giordano’s reaction to the—”
“Collin!” came Vicki’s excited voice, and she appeared briefly on the screen, her hair blowing in the blustery Gotham autumn wind that gusted across City Hall’s wide front steps. “Emerging with the mayor is Bruce Wayne—”
Silence fell among the hundred-off reporters and camera people gathered at the foot of the steps as Bruce stepped up to the podium which had been positioned at the top of them. Dark-coated police officials flanked him on either side, as did Commissioner Gordon and, in his darkest suit and darkest crimson tie, Tim.
“As a figure of some influence in Gotham,” Bruce began without preamble, “I have refrained from broadcasting my political opinions. Recent events, however, have forced my hand. A man who is running for the highest office in our nation has uttered words that, in any context, denote sexual assault. It is unacceptable. It is reprehensible. And it is criminal.”
He looked around. His face was as tense, his eyes as black, as any night that he pulled the cowl over his face.
“In addition to my own feelings,” he said, “it is incumbent upon me, as one of the main financial backers of Batman Incorporated, to be very clear that despite Donald Trump’s claims to the contrary, Batman does not support his candidacy. In fact, he has asked me to be very clear that he would like to join President Obama, First Lady Obama, and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and countless responsible others in decrying this disgusting behavior. No individual capable of uttering these things, or who continues to defend this talk, or sweep it under the rug, should represent our country.” His eyes swept across the crowd, burning into camera lens after camera lens. “If Batman came across this sort of behavior in the street, that person would be in custody—not behind a podium.”
He let that sink in for a moment. The crowd, and street behind them, were completely silent.
Then he stepped back from the podium. “Thank you,” he said, and slipped into the waiting, sticker-emblazoned Bentley, which cruised away.
“Father,” Damian said. “Father.”
Bruce raised a brow at him expectantly.
Damian launched himself at him.
Bruce caught him almost an instant too late, shock betrayed only by the delay of his movement.
He looked over Damian at Jason, and Dick. Dick smiled back. Jason rolled his eyes.
Bruce looked back down at the dark soft hair of the child whose face was still in his shirt.
For the first time in a long time—he felt a little bit like a superhero.
Cass and Dick’s newest dance move became the Secretary Shimmy. They used it each time they scored a burn on Jason. Tim did, too, but only in private, after he had ensured there were no cameras to catch him at it.
(He failed to detect one of Oracle’s in the Cave. She emailed the video to Dick.)
The post-debate Saturday Night Live came and went. The third debate came and went. Jason and Steph screenprinted shirts that said BAD HOMBRE and NASTY WOMAN and wore them continuously. Alfred had to have new ones made before they relinquished the originals long enough to be washed, and that was only after Tim deliberately smeared kimchee onto Jason’s to force him out of it. Dick had bought two dozen #notsorry shirts off the internet and was changing as often as three times a day so that he would be able to wear all of them before November 7.
The day Alfred appeared at the breakfast table with coffee while wearing a literal bright red Hillary pantsuit, Dick screamed and there was a mad scramble for their phones to photograph it and post it to the internet.
Why are your kids inviting me to a pantsuit flash mob, Clark texted Bruce.
Your mother is coming, was all Bruce texted back.
November 7 came.
“How do we tell him,” Dick said.
“We don’t,” Jason said. “We kill him in his sleep and put him out of his misery before he can find out.” His voice was black and enraged.
“How,” Steph said. “How?”
“Must be…false,” Cass said. “There is…mistake.” She looked at Bruce. “There will be recount?”
Bruce said nothing. He had stayed out until nearly three a.m. on patrol, hours after they had neutralized Scarecrow and the fear toxin he had brought to the polls, hoping to incite conservatives or radicals or both into a riot. Nightwing had brought Robin home and Red Robin had administered the serum as Robin shivered and thrashed in Nightwing’s arms. The others had covered Batman until Batwoman arrived to relieve them, vivid red lips set in a grim line.
“He’s going to think it’s the fear toxin, you know,” Tim said suddenly. “He got hit, he wakes up, and Donald Trump is president—”
“Maybe we all got hit,” Dick quipped weakly. They all glanced at him as if in acknowledgment of this admittedly pathetic attempt at lightening the atmosphere, but no one smiled.
“Jesus fuck,” Jason swore. His eyes were on the captions at the bottom of the muted TV. “That asshole’s already talking about that fucking wall!”
“And a Muslim registry,” Tim murmured, scrolling down the news on his tablet.
“Bruce,” Dick said quietly, but Bruce was already rising and striding upstairs.
A holler tore through the manor the next morning. “WHICH OF YOU PLEBIANS TAMPERED WITH MY PHONE?”
Dick was at the foot of the stairs immediately. Damian was still in the black pajamas Alfred had changed him into the night before, eyes wide with the same barely-hidden fear that tinted his voice. The red CNN app’s banner was visible on his phone screen between his white-knuckled fingers.
Dick caught him up. “Hey,” he said. Pressed his nose to Damian’s sleep-spiked hair. “It’s going to be okay.”
“What are you—no.” Damian fought to push back; Dick held him tighter. “No—you’re tricking me! Stop playing, Grayson!”
His voice cracked at the end. Dick heard the aftereffects of the fear toxin in his voice, knew what it felt like himself, the vulnerability, the uncertainty even after it had been neutralized in his system because even when the toxin was gone, the images it had created in his mind weren’t.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry, little D.”
“How?” Damian said. He pushed, and this time Dick let him. “How could people—”
Dick shook his head. He had no answer.
Damian tensed. Then he slid out of Dick’s hold and went back upstairs, and shut his door.
Pennyworth informed him through the door that he need not go to school today if he wished. But Damian appeared in the kitchen at ten past seven, dressed in his uniform, face impassive. They went out to the car. Pennyworth hesitated in front of the Bentley, turning as if to take the Rolls instead, but Damian opened the back door of the Bentley and slid inside, shutting it after him.
His phone buzzed throughout the morning with DMs. Damian ignored them, sitting silently in class. He took no notes. He paid little attention. Most of his thoughts, as he sat in that room surrounded by people who had supported the man who was now president-elect, was that the parents of the children around him agreed with a man who would rather let children starve or be raped or killed in Aleppo and the refugee camps of Syria than come into their country. They agreed with a man who advocated the use of nuclear weapons for intimidation. They agreed with a man who had chosen a homophobe as his vice president. They agreed with a man who thought that people like Damian should be deported from this country.
He watched people on the streets through the window of the Bentley as Alfred drove him home from school. Had that man voted for Trump? Had that woman? Damian had saved the owner of that bodega from being killed in a stick-up. But there was the Trump sign in the front of his shop, under the OPEN 24 HOURS sign.
His mother had ways to contact him that not even Batman or Oracle had yet found to prevent.
“They don’t appreciate you,” her voice murmured into his ear. He had let the message go to voicemail, but a deep sense of longing, of wishing to hear someone who wanted him, had kept his finger from deleting it. “Habibi. Return here, where you can make a difference. Where people deserve the change.”
He deleted the Twitter app from his phone.
The mosque in Gotham was located in downtown, where there was little parking and less security. Its walls were scrawled with violent messages and gum-spattered obscenities. Damian took the subway there, his abaya folded neatly in his backpack. He unfolded it when he entered the mosque’s cool, dim interior, following the murmur of voices, and tucked his backpack into a corner as he entered the main room, both defiant of and embarrassed by the unfamiliar gazes that turned to watch him. Although he had fasted for Ramadan each year since leaving his mother, he hadn’t done the daily prayers as he used to with his teachers and peers, nor had he ever come here to pray with the imams.
The muezzin’s murmur drew them to the center of the room. Damian turned toward Mecca, eyes on the worn weave of the abaya of the gray-haired man in front of him, and knelt. Touched his palms to the ground, his forehead. The movements, the chants, moved through his numb self with an automaticity like the comfort of a familiarly engrained kata. He did not need to exist anymore because he was only the container for something older than himself.
He pressed his forehead to the ground.
“Damian!” Tim pounded on his door. “PHONE FOR YOU!”
The door, after a good forty seconds of Tim kicking it repeatedly, was wrenched open.
“This behavior is immature even for you,” Damian spat. “What.”
Tim held out his phone. “Phone for you.”
Damian eyed it with distaste. “That’s yours.”
“But the call is for you,” Tim said, and put it on speaker. “Mrs. Kent, here he is.”
He shoved the phone at Damian and half-strode, half-darted, down the hallway, out of Damian’s reach.
Damian stared at the phone in his hand with a mixture of disbelief, confusion, chagrin, and reluctance. “Mrs. Kent.”
“Oh,” she sighed. “It’s so good to hear your voice. I was worried about you.”
He said nothing. Shifted his feet in the empty hallway.
“I haven’t seen anything on your Twitter page lately,” she said after a moment.
“No,” he said, also after a moment.
She didn’t try to fill the silence that seeped into the space between them.
Eventually, Damian licked his lips. “I—” He had to swallow, moisten his dry mouth. “I haven’t had anything to say.”
She was quiet again, for a brief time. Finally she said, gently, “It hurts, to put so much of yourself into something, and have it rejected.”
“Sometimes,” she said, as if she had been able to see him, “we need others to take the burden for us while we recover. To protect that space where what we took out of ourselves to give it our all was.”
He said nothing.
“The part of you that was in that space is going to grow back,” she said. “And it’s going to grow big, and strong, and be enough to nourish you and to nourish other people, too.”
“…I’m not a corn stalk,” Damian said. His voice was small, and cracked a little, but Martha laughed softly anyways.
“What can I say,” she said. “I’m a farm girl. All my metaphors come back to agriculture somehow.”
“Tt,” he said. Then: “Thank you, Martha.”
“You’re welcome,” she said, “Damian.”
Jason looked up as Damian appeared in the doorway to the study.
“Hey,” he said.
“Tt,” Damian acknowledged. He eyed the clipboard in Jason’s lap, and the ones in Steph, Cass, Tim, and Dick’s laps where they were seated or sprawled in front of the fireplace. “What are those for?”
“Lists of Congress representatives.” Steph crossed one off her list with a flourish and snapped her old Motorola flip phone shut. “We’re calling to give them hell about the plans for the Muslim registry.”
“And plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”
“And his proposed Cabinet members.”
“And his face,” Cass added.
Jason screwed his face up in his best Alec Baldwin imitation. “GHINA!”
Dick scooted over on the loveseat, patting the cushion next to him. “Want to join in?”
Damian hesitated for a minute, thumb digging into the side of his phone. Then he thumbed open the camera application and held a hand out for Steph’s list. She cocked her head but handed it over.
He took a picture of the long list, with its sloppily-written names and numbers still legible despite the fact that half of them were crossed out. Then he opened his Twitter.
Damian’s next post, three hours later, showed his own completely crossed-out list.
#notdonefighting, said the hashtag that accompanied it.
@BernieSanders was the first to retweet it.