FIC: Clementia

The real reason why Damian was featured so heavily in Batgirl #24. 1500~ words, gen.

He was one of the last to know, which made him angry. It wasn’t the kind of anger that saw sense, the kind of anger that could be reasoned with—-it was childish anger, half born of fear. It tangled up in his guts and made his insides compact into a hateful vice.

He was angry enough to cry, if he cried. But Damian did not cry. He did not cry for himself, he did not cry for his mother and father, and he certainly didn’t cry for Batgirl.

But if he did, he might have.

He’d had to demand that Grayson tell him why he was on and off the phone, who she was, what was going on, what they had missed. And Grayson had told him about the raid on Blackgate that they hadn’t been able to bust, about the Cluemaster, about Ater Clemtia, about what it did to a human’s brain when inhaled.

About how much Black Mercy Batgirl had breathed in.

About how long she’d been in a coma.

Grayson had measured out her chances, and Damian had heard more than enough. He’d told Grayson that he wasn’t tired yet, and that he was going to patrol.

And that’d been a lie, of course, through and through. Batman and Robin hadn’t been able to come to Batgirl’s aid because they’d been tied up with a hostage situation of their own—-and she had called them, she had requested backup—-and the rigors of that made Damian’s muscles seize and shake. Normally, the end of a hard mission was toasted with hot showers and sleep, so his body was overtired. That childish fear-anger made him stay awake, casing the hospital.

Once he found the room that Batgirl was in, he chose a vantage point and planted himself there. Visitors came and went through the late afternoon and night. Parents with children waited in the nearby lobby, pacing the length of the window-lined hallway. He recognized one of the children as Nell—-Damian did not forget faces or names. He couldn’t.

Nell was wearing a purple shirt with the bat symbol on it. He read her lips as she talked excitedly with her mother, listening to her mute, impassioned speeches on Gotham and hope and Batgirl and always being there. It made his chest hurt in a weird way, so he was glad when visiting hours ended and only a mousy-haired nurse remained in Batgirl’s room.

The night wore on. Still, Damian watched.

At a quarter after three, his mask beeped, a green flash at his peripheral heralding a line from the cave. He ignored it. It continued to beep, maddening, until he finally accepted it and snarled, "What?"

"Robin, curfew was four hours ago. Where are you?"

"Engaged in reconnaissance. I will be continuing my radio silence until such a time as I can speak freely."

"Robin," Grayson said again, this time with an edge. "Where are—-"

"Leave me alone!" Damian snapped, utterly at his end. His gloved hands bunched into fists against his thighs. "If you trust me as much as you claim to, give me my head and let me be!”

Dick’s silence made his skin crawl with guilt. It was a grit, a discomfort so acute it could have been physical.

"Understood. Batman out."

Grayson shouldn’t have been so touchy, Damian decided as he resumed his watch. It hadn’t been personal, and hurting his ‘feelings’ hadn’t been his goal.

He just didn’t want to go just yet. An irrational fear had worked under his skin, and he couldn’t shake it: he felt that if he left, something would happen. She would take a turn for the worse, she would die, and he would spend years afterward wondering if he would have been able to do something had he kept his vigil.

He knew it was stupid, but he still couldn’t make himself move.

Damian’s legs were starting to cramp and tingle from crouching in one position for too long when the nurse finally—-finally—-left the room. He’d timed eight other people make the trip from the room to get coffee, so he knew he’d have roughly four and a half minutes before she returned.

He went in through the window, already having taken stock of security cameras. Batgirl had her own room, and the nurse who had admitted her had refused to let anyone unmask her. She’d been stripped down to her undersuit. It matched her bruises.

He listened to the machines for a full minute. Watched the even, predictable pattern of her EKG readout. Wondered if the machines would stop if he didn’t keep listening, or if she would wake up if he kept watching.

After much internal debate, he leaned over her bedside, cupping his hand around her ear.

"Listen. I know that you won’t die," Damian whispered into her ear, just loud enough to be heard over the beeps from the monitors around her. The protective curve of his fingers made his words just for her. "Because you are too stupid to know when to quit. I know that you will beat this coma, because when faced with a problem, your only recourse lies in your mannish fists." He swallowed hard, straightening. In his most commanding stage whisper, he added: "Don’t prove me wrong, Fatgirl.”

And then he was up and out the window again, slipping back out just before the nurse returned.

But Batman was sitting at his vantage point. With a sick, sinking surety, Damian knew that he’d seen everything.

"What happened to trusting me?” Damian demanded with a scowl as he sat down next to him. Maybe preying on Grayson’s pseudo-fatherly insecurities would save him from either an uncomfortable talk or an unwanted tease.

"I trust you," Dick said, handing him a paper cup. "Alfred just wanted you to have some coffee. He thought you might need it. I told him you shouldn’t drink as much caffeine as you do, but here I am. With coffee. Aiding and abetting the stunting of your growth."

Pennyworth. The old man was crafty.

"I was patrolling earlier," he said defensively, taking the cup. He was approaching hour sixty-three since the last time he’d taken a two-hour rest. His tiredness was becoming an ache he swore he could feel in his teeth. "I merely stopped back here to see if she’s dead yet."

"Okay," said Dick, drinking straight from the thermos.

"You don’t believe me?"

"I didn’t say that. I said ‘okay’. Mission report accepted." Batman took another sip of coffee, unfazed. "How is Batgirl doing?"

Sometimes, he believed that Dick existed solely to try his patience.

"Unchanged," he said dryly, finishing his coffee and wordlessly holding out the cup for a refill. "At this point, I commend her dramatic timing. It seems as though she’ll never wake up."

As soon as he said it, he felt terrible. Something that might have been despair made his throat dry, his pulse quicken. The idea of her not recovering had been laughable until he’d said it aloud. Now it was a real thing, something that might actually come to pass.

Damian stared into his cup. If he were someone who cried, he might have cried, then. He was just so tired, and she wasn’t getting better.

A drop plinked into his coffee. He flicked up his white-out lenses and retreated into his hood.

Dick reached out and touched his shoulder, squeezed.

"I’ve been here, Robin. The first time you watch your Batgirl fighting for her life, it’s hard."

"She isn’t my Batgirl,” Damian spluttered indignantly. “Don’t be daft.”

"No, she is. Close your eyes and think of Batgirl.”

He did so begrudgingly. Stephanie’s hideous purple and black suit sprung up automatically, and in his head she was grinning that stupid grin of hers.

"What color is Batgirl’s hair?"

Damian opened his eyes again, but Dick wasn’t looking at him. He was drinking from the thermos, absently watching where dawn would come from, when it broke.

"It’s blond," he murmured quietly. Lying would be pointless.

"And when I close my eyes, my Batgirl has red hair," Dick said patiently, knowingly. "So, I’ll say it again. She’s your Batgirl. Even if there are others, yours will always have blond hair. Believe me.”

He absorbed that, fingers woven around his cup. He wanted to scoff, but there were old memories in Dick’s voice. He was sharing something, something he did not share often. So Damian held his tongue, nodding.

"She’s a fighter," he said, squeezing his shoulder again. "She’ll make it."

"I know," Damian said, because now that Dick had said she would be fine, it seemed pointless to entertain any alternatives.

"I’m heading in. Are you coming?"

Damian thought about it for a moment, then shook his head.

"I have yet to finish my patrol," he said, though he didn’t move. "I’ll find my own way home."

"Okay," Batman said, with a hint of a smile.

"Tt," Robin said, and poured himself more coffee.

He would keep watch until she got up again. And she would get up again, he knew. That was simply what she did.