Up At Dawn - fic
Characters: Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne
Summary: Though they lived in darkness, they always seemed to find each other with rising sun.
A/N: Dick and Damian through the years more or less. When they’re Bats&Rob, when they’re split up, pre-Agent 37, when Damian’s dead, and soon after Damian’s revived, are the respective parts. Based on ‘Fire Escape’ by Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. This might be their song, honestly. One day I’ll write a proper happy fic for these two with this song haha.
Dick heard the door as soon as the knob was turned.
His eyes flickered open, just barely. The sun was barely above the Gotham skyline. It was still more green than golden outside. He’d only been asleep for two hours. Maybe.
He sighed and closed his eyes again as he heard the door swing open. It was too early for this.
And he’d assumed it was Alfred. It normally was, anyway. With an emergency or just checking in. Sometimes Babs, after a bad night. Or others of the family.
He didn’t really want to deal with any of them right now, if he was honest.
But after the swish of the door quieted, there was nothing. No hum of satisfaction from Alfred, or a tiny squeak of a wheelchair. No sigh from Tim, or shuffling of feet from Stephanie.
And it took Dick longer than he wanted to admit to realize.
The door was already swinging shut by the time he rolled over and sat up.
The door stopped.
There was another second of silence, and Dick knew what his…his ward was doing. He was trying to think through his options. Could he just leave? Did he have to respond? Could he lie his way out of this?
He wasn’t meant to be seen after all. Dick knew that from his own experiences with Bruce.
In the end, though, the door was shoved back open, but Damian remained in the doorway. Eyes bleary, arms crossed. Bandages on his face and arms bright, even in the waning darkness.
Tonight had been tough, after all.
“You okay?” Dick asked carefully. “Nightmares?”
“No. Of course not.” Damian denied, looking away. “Why would I be here if I had nightmares?”
Dick shrugged. “Why are you here, then?”
“I…I was just…” Damian kept his eyes low, and the light of the rising sun suddenly slashed across his face. “I wanted to make sure you were…alright. Sleeping well, despite your injuries.”
Dick smiled instantly. Despite first impressions, Damian was continually surprising him with how sweet he could actually be, once he trusted someone. And even though he wouldn’t outwardly say it, Dick knew Damian trusted him. Was learning to respect him even.
It was…kind of an honor.
It was also cute as hell.
“I am.” Dick said honestly. “Are you?”
Dick tilted his head. “Really?”
“Yes.” Damian enunciated. But then he paused, reaching his hand up to rub absently at his bandaged bicep. “…It aches a little.”
“Yeah, arm injuries are the worst. Can never find a comfortable position to sleep in, even in these luxury beds.” Dick nodded knowingly. “Want to stay in here with me? There’s like seven pillows on this bed, I’m sure I can make you a little something to rest your arm on.”
“No, that’s ridiculous.” Damian scoffed. Dick didn’t believe him though. Chuckled instead, as he tossed the blankets back. Damian’s eyes glanced up, and watched the movement warily. “…Are you going to force me to cuddle?”
“No, I only do that to Tim. Promise.” Dick laughed, patting that mattress. “Come on, Damian. It probably hurts because you’re always on guard, especially when you’re alone, so your body is tense. Maybe you’ll relax in here, because you know I’ll protect you.”
“Protection.” Damian rolled his eyes, but walked forward anyway. “If anything, you need my protection, Grayson.”
“Right, right, of course.” Dick hummed, putting a pillow between them as Damian climbed up, fluffing it as the younger got comfortable. “What would I ever do without you, kiddo?”
Damian hummed sarcastically, flopping dramatically down against the pillows still stacked against the headboard. He watched critically, as Dick carefully molded a pillow to prop his arm against.
“…I didn’t have a nightmare.” Damian reiterated. Dick nodded. “But I did have a dream.”
“Yeah? What about?”
“…Father.” Dick’s hands slowed. “…Do you miss him, Grayson?”
“Every day.” Dick sighed, finishing with the pillow. He then leaned forward, gently lifting Damian’s arm and settling it on its new stand. He glanced up at Damian, who nodded, trying to stifle a yawn. Dick smiled again, shuffling back down into his own pillows, before grabbing the blankets and throwing them over both Damian and himself.
Then he shifted closer, released his arm from underneath the comforter, and tossed it across Damian’s chest.
Damian sighed in exasperation, and Dick giggled. He let the sound die off, though, before he whispered, “…Did you really come in here just to check on me?”
Damian slowly rolled towards him, half-hiding his face in the pillow. He kept his eyes down as he responded. “Yes.”
Dick smiled, and chanced a kiss against Damian’s forehead.
He found him on the roof.
And that wasn’t weird. The roof of Wayne Tower became a safe place of sorts, for both of them. Separately, together, with others. It was a perk of having the highest building in the city – best view, no matter the time of day.
“Hey,” He called to the child, still in his Robin gear, as he shifted the contents in his hand. Damian turned and looked up from his perch sitting against one of the large letters of his last name. His mask was gone, and his eyes looked thoughtful. Though Dick didn’t miss how they lit up just a little upon seeing him.
“Grayson.” Damian greeted quietly. He glanced across Dick’s form. “You didn’t change out of your uniform.”
Dick glanced down at his garb. He didn’t need any modifications to his old Nightwing uniform, even after the years away from it. And he still looked as good as ever, if he did say so himself.
“Neither did you.” Dick hummed. Damian shrugged. “That seat taken?”
Damian shook his head, shoving the corners of his yellow cape behind him as Dick moved forward. He plopped down next to his now-former partner, immediately setting the thermos and mugs down in front of him.
“I guess I’d have failed if I was trying to hide.” Damian muttered, watching as Dick unscrewed the cap and pour hot liquid into the cups.
Dick laughed as he finished pouring, and handed a steaming mug to Damian. “How was tonight? Everything go okay?”
Damian shrugged as he took a sip, then sighed in content. “…He doesn’t trust me.”
And Dick knew that was coming. “Damian-”
“Not like you do, anyway.” Damian continued. “But more than Drake, so…so that’s something.”
Dick pursed his lips, taking a quick sip of his drink. “…Do you think it’ll work out?”
“I’ll work on it.” Damian promised. “This was only the first day of my partnership with Father. If I were to give up already after tonight, perhaps I’m not cut out for this hero business after all.”
“And I know you are.” Dick grinned.
“Still. It’ll be hard.” Damian hummed, staring into his mug. “…He isn’t you, after all.”
“No, he’s not.” Dick agreed. “He’s better.”
Damian made a noise of doubt. “…I won’t ever give up on him. He’s my father. But…Grayson, what if he gives up on me?”
“Then that’d be his loss. And I’d tell him that to his face when I came and took you out of his ungrateful hands.” Dick promised, and Damian looked up at him carefully. “I’m proud of you, Damian. You’ve come so far since I first met you.”
“Only with your help.” Damian admitted. “So, thank you.”
“My pleasure.” Dick smiled, looking across the city as the dying night sky began to bleed into red. “…What were you doing up here anyway?”
“Thinking.” Damian hummed. “Not waiting for you, if that’s what you’re thinking. I just…wanted a moment.”
“Yeah. I get that. I do it all the time.” Dick nodded. “From Robin to Nightwing, Nightwing to Batman, and even now, back again.”
“I can leave, if you wished a moment of your ow-”
“No, no. I brought two mugs up here for a reason. Keep your ass parked.” Dick laughed, grabbing Damian’s shoulder with a more desperate force than he’d originally intended. Damian didn’t mention it. “I mean, I was coming up here anyway, but when I saw you already were on the bunker monitors…well. Just humour me with your company one last time, okay?”
“Of course.” Damian murmured. “We should enjoy our penthouse home while it is still that.”
“Truth.” Dick raised his mug in toast. “What do we have, ‘til the end of the week?”
“Father said I may stay until you move out, and your new lease starts the end of next week.” Damian corrected. “He said Pennyworth will help me move my things, so you don’t have to.”
Dick internally cringed at that. Because Bruce had already promised to help him move. And while he appreciated the assist…he’d have much rather it had gone to Damian. If, for nothing else, only to prove the love Bruce had for his son, the love Damian didn’t have to fight to earn, despite his obvious beliefs otherwise.
“I…don’t know why I was surprised, when Father said I was moving back to the manor.” Damian admitted quietly. “Honestly, I kind of thought I was going to stay here in the penthouse. With…with you.”
“I mean, it’s doable.” And then Damian’s voice dropped. “And I thought I’d be less in his way, in those circumstances.”
“I mean, it’s not a bad thing. The logistics of it make sense.” Damian continued, almost nonchalant. But Dick knew it was taking him a lot to admit this. Damian glanced up, though, when suddenly the sun broke the horizon, lighting up the skyline. “…I’ll just miss this place.”
“…Me too.” Dick decided on, watching golden outlines run up the sides of the skyscrapers. The big red ball slowly growing bigger in front of them. “But…it’s not going anywhere. We can always come back.”
“…How about this.” Dick tried, looking down at his brother – because that’s what he was. That’s what Damian was to him, and what a difference from the day they met. “How about when things get bad, or hard or…or you just need a break. You call me. You give me a buzz, and I’ll meet you here. And we’ll patrol together, or we’ll have a movie night or a sleepover, or whatever you want.”
Damian seemed to think about it.
“You and I made this place our home. Our special place. And while we won’t live here anymore, it can still be that. It can still be our safe haven.” Dick whispered. “How about that?”
“…Only if you agree to those terms too.” Damian demanded. “If things get bad for you, or your life gets too hard, you call me. And I’ll meet you here too.”
Dick blinked, then grinned. He looked down to the thermos, refilling first his cup and then Damian’s, and threw his arm around his (sadly, still now-former) Robin’s shoulders. Damian leaned slightly into his side, and silently, the two watched the sun rise over the city they both felt lucky enough to call home.
Dick near jumped out his of skin at the sound. He lived alone now, after all. There shouldn’t be other sounds in his flat. Other voices.
He tensed as he spun around on the fire escape, and looked back into the window. He was met with large eyes, looking exhausted and weary, and a bright Robin uniform.
“Damian, what are you doing here?!” Dick gasped, eyes darting down Damian’s body. He didn’t see any injuries, and Damian didn’t seem emotionally distressed. So what was he doing here in Chicago? “Are you alright?”
“Obviously.” Damian rolled his eyes. His mask was already off. Apparently, he’d already been in Dick’s apartment for a few minutes. “Father and I are here on a case. He’s wrapping it up. I looked up your address.”
“Bruce…Bruce didn’t tell me.” Dick whispered. “He didn’t tell me you guys were coming to town.”
“In his defense, he didn’t tell me either. Just told me to get in the jet.” Damian shrugged. “But he also didn’t want you to know. Didn’t want you to think he was encroaching on your territory, or didn’t trust you or something. This was a Gotham case that spilled over to here, nothing more.”
“…Oh.” Dick sighed. “…Okay.”
Damian waited, looking over Dick’s hunched, curled-up form. Then he huffed, spinning back around into the apartment with a flurry of his cape. “Wait here.”
“…What?” Dick called after him. “What are you doing?”
“Getting you a blanket.” Damian hummed as he returned, said blanket overflowing from his arms. He didn’t ask for any help, though, as he balanced awkwardly and clamored through the window. Before he even had both feet on the escape’s metal bottom, he was unfolding the blanket, and wrapping it carefully around Dick’s shoulders. “Your lips are blue, Grayson. You look like a damn kicked puppy.”
Dick took hold of the sides as Damian smoothed the fabric over his shoulders, and smiled when the younger backed up to the fire escape stairs leading to the upper level. “Thanks, Robin.”
Damian just shrugged it off, as he glanced above him. He didn’t sit down on the steps, though, but rather grabbed one of the steps above him, curling his legs up and swinging slowly.
“…So?” He asked boredly.
Dick blinked. “So what?”
“So, what’s wrong?”
Dick blinked again, and chuckled. It hurt. “Nothing’s wrong, kiddo. Why do you think something’s wrong?”
“Because you stopped calling for our weekly chats. Your texts are reduced to three words or less, and even Drake says that’s weird.” Damian listed off as he lifted one leg, bracing himself on a higher step. “Because you’re currently sitting on a damn fire escape in a tshirt and boxers, and have been all night.”
A third blink. “…You said you and Bruce were here strictly for a case.”
Damian sighed dramatically, twisting his leg and lifting his other one until, suddenly, he was hanging upside down, facing Dick. “You really think I, of all people, would come to your city and not check up on you? Even if I was busy?”
Dick grinned. “You’re a good kid, Damian.”
“Irrelevant.” Damian crossed his arm, ignoring the cape flopped against his head. “Answer the question.”
Dick paused, and sighed, curling tighter into the blanket and looking at the sky. Damian was right when he said he’d been out here all night. The sky was already lightening for dawn.
“I don’t know.” He answered honestly. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I feel stuck. I feel like I don’t have a purpose, or if I do have one – I’ve failed miserably at it.”
Damian pursed his lips and whispered. “…What happened to Haly’s wasn’t your fault.”
“Even if that were true, it doesn’t make it suck any less.” Dick returned. “I just…don’t know what to do anymore. I almost…I almost don’t even know who I am.”
“Simple. You’re Dick Grayson. The best of all of us.” Damian countered. Dick smirked bitterly. “…When was the last time you felt like yourself?”
“Honestly?” Dick laughed nervously. “When I was Batman, and had you simultaneously taking care of me and nagging my ear off.”
Damian didn’t laugh like Dick hoped he might’ve. Instead, Damian looked away, into the alley, where the bricks were starting to light up with the morning glow.
“…You didn’t have to leave.”
Dick looked over at him. “Would you believe me right now if I said I didn’t want to?”
Damian remained silent. Dick did too. At one point, Dick heard the faint ringing of a comm. signal from Damian’s person. One that, if he was hearing it right, meant to reconvene immediately. Damian merely lifted a finger to his ear and shut the signal off.
“I wish I could help you, Grayson.” Damian murmured finally. “I wish I knew what to tell you to make you feel better.”
“Me too, kiddo.” Dick countered. “But really, I mean it.” Damian looked over at him. “Thank you for trying.”
That signal went off in Damian’s ear. And once again, he shut it off.
“…Come sit with me? Watch the sunrise?” Dick whispered. Damian’s eyes scrunched in distaste as Dick opened the closer side of blanket. “It’ll make me feel better.”
Damian waited a moment, before letting out a long-suffering sigh, and carefully dropping himself back onto the fire escape with a clang. He stomped across the distance, falling dramatically into a sit, and dangling his legs off the fire escape’s edge.
The signal went off in his ear for a third time, and this time he answered it.
“With Nightwing.” He said shortly, as Dick wrapped the blanket around Damian’s tiny, strong shoulders. “Go back to Gotham without me. I have a feeling I will be staying for a few days, but I will contact you at noon with more concrete plans.”
He didn’t wait for Bruce to respond before shutting down the communicator completely, and ripping it from his ear.
“A few days?” Dick asked. “Think you can fit that into your busy schedule?”
Damian snorted. “Even if I couldn’t, someone needs to do proper grocery shopping for you, and I will not force poor Pennyworth to drive all the way out here for that.” Damian glanced judgmentally, yet tiredly, upwards. “I looked in your fridge when I arrived, Grayson. You cannot live on almost-expired milk and cereal your whole life.”
Dick just laughed, looked to the orange sky, and huddled his baby brother closer.
Dick laid on the too-big bed, staring at the ceiling.
He could hear Bruce roaming the manor, and he didn’t blame him. Hell, he didn’t expect Bruce to sleep for a few days, let alone ever again.
He should probably go find Tim, but…how was he supposed to comfort his brother when he was barely holding himself together?
The rising sun burst through the barely-open curtains, and Dick closed his eyes against the light.
“…This sucks, Damian.” Dick hummed to the weight leaning against his stomach. “This absolutely sucks.”
Damian didn’t answer, and of course he didn’t. Because Damian wasn’t there. Because Damian was fucking dead. Because Damian died protecting his sorry ass.
The weight of Damian’s head on his stomach was a phantom weight, from when times were better. When it was just him and Damian against the world, when the family was alive and whole. When they needed a talk, a break, a nap. They’d come into Bruce’s room, where the bed was the biggest. Dick would lay one way, and Damian would lay perpendicular, using Dick’s stomach as his own personal pillow.
They’d stare at the ceiling, they’d read a book. They’d listen to music or a podcast. They’d, for once, actually sleep.
But now Damian was dead, and Dick didn’t really know why he was in here. He didn’t really know how he ended up in here either.
The last thing he truly remembered was Damian’s funeral, the evening before.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do.” Dick told the ghost who wasn’t there, still feeling that weight, still pretending his brother was still there. He kept his eyes closed, and he could picture him, imagine that this was a nightmare, and the real world was where Damian was still alive and leaning against Dick’s stomach, mocking him for how many times it growled against his ear. “I don’t know how any of us are going to survive without you.”
He heard Titus in the hallway. Heard him scratch at the door down the hall. Damian’s room.
“They don’t know.” Dick whispered tightly. He felt the phantom weight shift, could imagine Damian glancing up at him with curiosity. “Damian, your pets don’t know, and I don’t know how we’re going to tell them.”
And suddenly seeing Damian in his mind was too much. He didn’t want it anymore. But he couldn’t open his eyes. Because seeing that Damian wasn’t there might’ve been worse.
He threw his arm across his eyes and pressed down. Let his vision darken and fade.
“I don’t know.” His voice hitched. “I don’t know anything anymore.”
His phone buzzed on the pillow nearby. He rolled towards it out of habit, and felt that phantom weight disappear.
He blinked his bleary eyes open as he lifted the device. It was a text from Barbara, but he didn’t read it. Couldn’t. Was too focused on his background. A picture of him, Tim and Damian, from a day where he forced the two to hang out in public. Had lied at the restaurant, said it was Tim’s birthday, just so he could force the two to get a picture both together and with him, Tim squished in the middle, Damian leaning against his arm like they were actually cordial.
But with the text blocking the way, he couldn’t see himself, or see Tim. Only Damian.
Damian and his chubby cheeks. Damian and his half-exasperated, half-genuine smile. Damian and his too-genius, too-haunted, too-sad eyes.
And he was gone.
Dick dropped the phone, unable to see through his blurring vision. Even if he wanted to answer the text – no doubt asking how he was doing – he couldn’t now. Didn’t want to either. Instead he just curled in on himself, buried his face in the pillow.
And sobbed himself into a troubled sleep.
He travelled all night. Planes, trains and automobiles. Anything that would get him back to Gotham.
Because Bruce succeeded. Bruce got his baby brother back, and Dick would be damned if he waited for permission from their father to see him.
The sun was just beginning to peak over the rolling hills as he pulled his motorcycle into the manor’s driveway. He barely shut the engine off before he was dismounting and running as fast as he could up the front porch, throwing the grand double doors open.
He didn’t pause there. Oh, no, he didn’t even bother to close the doors behind him. Just kept running. Took the stairs two at a time, and was halfway up before he heard a voice behind him.
“Don’t.” Dick clung to the railing as he spun around. Bruce was standing in the foyer, looking exhausted, but protective. “Bruce, don’t you dare tell me to wait.”
Bruce was probably going to do just that, and his mouth clumped shut immediately. But after a moment, he scowled. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“And you shouldn’t force me to lie to my family all the damn time, yet here we are.” Dick shot back. “I’m not staying away. Not this time, Bruce. Now, what room?”
“…His own.” Bruce kept the scowl. “He’s sleeping. Don’t wake him.”
Dick didn’t acknowledge him. Just spun back around and continued up the stairs, racing down the hallway as if his life depended on it.
And probably, in a way, it did.
Damian’s bedroom door was cracked, and even as he slowed there, he could see a lump inside on the bed. The dawning sun’s rays bursting through the curtains, lighting up the mattress like a spotlight, or a holy beam. Titus was curled up on the floor close by, and the cat was keeping a watchful eye from the windowsill.
Dick paused now, and sucked in a breath. He wouldn’t wake him, he wouldn’t bother him. He just wanted to see him.
He held that breath as he silently pushed the door open.
Or he thought it was silently.
There was a tense second, where Dick just stared into the room in awe, shouting silent prayers and thanks in his head, before suddenly Damian sat up, twisting to look towards the door.
Alive. Breathing. Heart beating. Real.
Tears running down his face.
Damian gasped at the sight of him. Dick felt his own breath hitch, too.
“G-Gray…” Damian sniffed. Didn’t even try to hide his tears, not when he’d so clearly been found out. “Grayson?”
Dick felt his own happy tears coming too, but forced them back, at least for now. “…Hey, kiddo.” He croaked. “Nightmares?”
And counter to all the hundreds of times Dick had asked Damian that before, Damian nodded.
Dick cooed, and walked forward. Damian watched him with every step. Didn’t ask or hesitate, just lifted his blankets when Dick was close enough, and scooted over.
Dick smiled, almost overcome with the feeling of déjà vu, and nostalgia for a similar moment years past.
And so. Much. Love.
Carefully, Dick slipped out of his shoes and laid down. And when he wrapped his arms around Damian’s shoulders, Damian didn’t fight him. In fact, he almost launched himself into Dick’s arms first, buried his face in Dick’s chest, and held his elder brother just as tightly.
“You were dead.” Damian whispered. “In my nightmare – you were dead.”
“The nightmare isn’t real. I’m right here, Damian.” Dick returned, kissing at his hair. “I’m right here, and so are you.”
Now it was Damian holding his breath.
“I missed you.” Dick’s voice shook. “I missed you so much, Damian. Because that was my nightmare too. You being dead was my nightmare too, and it was real for so long.”
Damian glanced up, and the light from the sun lit up his eyes and tears alike.
“But now you’re back.” Dick grinned, and pushed their foreheads together. “Now you’re here and everything is okay again.”
“…I missed you too.” Damian whispered, and Dick closed his eyes at the sound of his voice. “…Oh, Grayson, please don’t cry.”
Dick barked a laugh, shifting to hide his face in Damian’s hair. “Sorry, sorry. I just. I’m so happy to see you.”
Damian didn’t respond to that, and Dick knew why. All those deep-seeded insecurities the child had. Jason had proven years ago that just because you die and come back – those things don’t go away.
Dick would work on that. He didn’t before, just ignored Damian’s emotional distress. But with this second chance – he wouldn’t repeat his past mistakes.
“Father told me you were dead. I didn’t believe him, and eventually he said you were just away. But…still. I was…scared.” Damian murmured. Suddenly, he shifted, to look back up at Dick once more. “…Did you really come back just to check on me?”
Dick grinned, and chanced a kiss against Damian’s forehead. “Yes.”
And without warning, Damian flashed a smile, before ducking his head under Dick’s chin, and settled in to go back to sleep, despite the coming morning. “Thank you, Grayson.”
“Don’t mention it, kiddo.” Dick whispered, giving Damian a tender squeeze. Damian silently returned the gesture almost instantly. “…I’ll do better this time, Damian. We’ll all do better for you. I promise.”
“Hm.” Damian grunted exhaustedly. “Go to sleep, Grayson. You get overly emotional when you’re tired.”
Dick laughed and closed his eyes as he held the back of Damian’s head, listening to Damian’s breathing like it was the only thing keeping the world spinning.