The throwing knife in his hand sits like a gun, his fore finger on the hilt as the trigger.
It is a wonderful night. The moon wanes at a half above them. Clouds trace the sky, and the commercial planes stand in for stars- green and white sparks glide across the dark blue.
He will do what he is about to with befitting ease. After all, this is a celebration. This is how the world works, even if his father’s counterparts have not realized it just yet. They will, though. They’ll see what needs to be done when he is the victor.
And even if this is not needed, or if there’s another way, he doesn’t want to take it. The weight between his fingers is a promise. It whispers to him, ‘take the shot’, like he is a mere child playing late night ball with a brother, and not taking down his opponent in all things in life.
He raises his hand, twists the weapon for the optimum angle, and releases.
Metal meets metal. A sharp twang fills the evening air. The release of tension, Damian realizes in the back of his mind. Tension from a rope breaking. So many things happen in the span of an instant-
Drake knows what is going on. He reaches for a backup line. It doesn’t deploy.
(Damian knew this- he saw it back in the cave as the older boy snatched up a grapple gun he himself had just wordlessly returned to the table after deeming it out of commission)
Drake scrambles in the air and tries to break the fall. But he’s too high and there’s nothing to grab on to. No fire escape to crash on or break an arm holding onto. No hero to catch him. He’s just in air that will never hold him up from the ground below.
So the boy falls, and he screams. Because there’s nothing to do, and acceptance never comes in split seconds. Then, the thud of bones hits the pavement.
And someone is howling like he’s been gutted and it’s not the warm body in the alley way.
Damian knows many things cognitively. He is meant to be the next Great Alexander, conqueror of the world. He is the son of the Bat and will one day do true justice to his father’s mantle. He knows that his father’s parents were killed in an alley. He also knows that there was once a little acrobat on a ledge that watched his mother and father descend to death with nothing catching them.
But that night, for the first time, he sees.
Richard is beside him and he is keening and sobbing and it’s almost easier to think that he is the one dying, not a dead Drake on Gotham’s ground.
Damian is still jealous.
Because Timothy Drake has become another part of the city’s legacy- of the Batman’s. He shares the same resting ground as Martha and Thomas Wayne as well as the fate of the Graysons.
He can’t feel anything else. He won’t allow himself to.
But Richard turns to him with ice and fire. The man looms like the predecessor he devoted himself to. But he isn’t Batman. He is something so much darker and twisted, wrapped in black leather skin.
A force behind him grabs him in restraints he should break out of. But he won’t. He isn’t brave enough, he understands, to face the wrath of the creature in front of him.
“Get him,” is the strange voice saying, so gentle and strangled while crushing Damian in his grip. “Get him, Dick. You can’t- don’t leave him there,”
Richard moves, ghost-quiet, and somehow, he will make it down to the pavement where the third Robin lies dead.
The second stares at him now and curses, with nothing but cold fury.
There’s other awful sounds in the air too. Evidently, Richard has made his way to the corpse
“He’ll be cremated,” were Richard’s next words, hours upon hours later.
“Okay, okay. That’s good, Dick,”
“As soon as we can, Clark. If I could, I’d have you do it now,”
“No,” The alien bites back. “God, no,”
“What Dick means to say,” Todd has become quite the diplomat tonight. If he weren’t so tired, cold, hungry and something , Damian would have sneered at just the thought. “Is that we have to not have him be vulnerable right now. Not in death, where his body is free reign for the usual forces,”
“For all we know,” Richard says, sounding so unlike himself. “This was the plot. Kill Tim, have us mourn, bring him back, manipulate him, make him the perfect heir, asset, whatever they need, destroy his soul. Oh God,” he cuts off. “Oh Timmy,”
Does Todd flinch at those words?
“I don’t care what you have to do,” The Batman’s voice carries throughout a silent cave, orders echoing like divine decrees. “Spread his ashes across a galaxy, throw them into the sun, put them in a sewer. I will not allow him to suffer more-“ He breaks.
Though Damian can’t see, he imagines the man’s knuckles shining white as he grips his own face so tight it bruises.
He sits, impossibly bound, in a confinement cell with no noise filter - maybe they forgot, or perhaps they wanted him to hear. The aftermath of a dead sixteen year old is brutal.
No one knows what to do with him. They haven’t fed him yet. Maybe they won’t. Maybe he’ll be the next haunted case in this cave, like the monument to a dead and valiant Robin. Except this time, it’d be a starved skeleton in a corner with the inscription ‘the traitor.
Todd was the one who had shoved him in here, and locked the door behind. Pennyworth cannot look at him. The elderly servant has once said that he had the same eyes as Martha. What will he see now?
He doesn’t notice his racing heartbeat until Richard John Grayson is staring down at him.
He wants to curl up like a child. He wants his father so selfishly.
“You killed him,” the man chokes. “There is nothing in this world that will wash your hands from this. Nothing. I thought I could teach you, help you. But nothing could’ve ever been good enough,”
A fist smashes into the wall next to the confinement cell, and something shatters. Richard pulls his hand back and it’s dripping blood as he smears it against the hard unbreakable glass between them. It’s more of a threat than sign of vulnerability as he hisses-
“You failed me, and your father. You murdered him tonight for yourself- for no reason other than that he was better than you in every possible way. You are the worst humanity has to give ,”
Foolishly, a tear falls down his face.
“Damian Al Ghul, you are young. You have a life to live that will be up to you to define. But I promise you. Stray out of line once, once is all it takes, and I will come down on you with fire. Understand?”
He pounds his bloody hand against the glass.
He nods. Once is all it takes.
“You have no right to call me a brother, or claim any relation to us,” is the last sneer entangled in a sob. “If this is what you are, we never were family, were we?”