I DO NOT OWN ANYTHING BUT THE PLOT
*This was written after I watched Clannad: Episode 18
Damian Wayne (Renegade): 23
Stephanie Brown (Oracle): 17
Timothy Drake (Red Robin): 17
Cassandra Cain (Black Bat): 16
Jason Todd (Red Hood): 14
Dick Grayson (Robin): 12
When Bruce Wayne returned to his family after "dying" while facing Darkseid, he had not been expecting the chaotic yet peaceful atmosphere his house was in.
As he entered the living room he saw Cass and Dick curled up on the couch watching "Rise of the Guardians" with subtitles, which was understandable when Bruce saw Tim and Damian playing a very intense and loud game of Spit. Steph had her computer on her lap as she sat next to Dick, wheelchair by the armrest. Jason was leaning on the couch behind Dick, watching the movie and taunting Tim whenever he lost a Spit, to which the latter replied snappily, though there was no real heat exchanged.
"Ahem," he cleared his throat, and suddenly all noise stopped, except for the soft voices of the movie which was soon paused. All eyes were on Bruce, who was smiling one of his rare, genuine smiles.
Two simple words, and that was all it took for chaos to erupt again. Dick had scrambled over the couch top and flung himself at him, and Bruce caught his youngest son easily, holding him close.
"You damn -" Jason was cut off when Bruce reached out and pulled him in for a hug too. The Red Hood grumbled but hugged him back anyway. Damian was standing by Tim, smirking at his little brother's slightly noticeable discomfort. Well he was, until Cass dragged both him and Tim into the hug as well.
Dick, a thought suddenly occurring to him, wriggled free and ran over to Steph, who allowed him to help manoeuvre her into her wheelchair before she was wheeled over at a fast pace. Bruce smiled and knelt down to hug her, which she returned happily.
Dick tugged lightly on Jason's shirt, and the older shook his head in slight disbelief before he picked up the acrobat and lifted him up onto his shoulders. Dick giggled and hugged Jason's head, watching as his other brothers reunited with their father in their own ways: Damian shook hands with him while Tim and Cass both hugged him.
"No offence meant Jason, but I'm honestly surprised you're here," Bruce said mildly.
"All the work of Baby Bird," Jason answered as a half-hearted smile came across his face, hands tightening their grip on his little brother's calves that were draped over his shoulders. Said baby bird was contently resting his chin on the dyed-black locks, humming softly to himself.
At dinner, they all had a thorough catching up, but Bruce had the nagging feeling that something was being kept from him. Maybe it was because of the way all of them, minus Dick who seemed to be in his own little dreamland at that moment, sobered at the mention of how why Jason was in the Manor, and a solemn air descended upon them.
Bruce mentally shook his head to clear it of the negative thoughts, watching instead with slight awe as Steph picked up a napkin and handed it to Jason who, without a word of complaint, took it and rested his hand on Dick's head as he wiped the twelve-year-old's cheek with a playful quip on how he ate a lot neater when he was twelve. Damian was actually having a decently civilised conversation with Tim, and both seemed genuinely interested in whatever they were discussing intently. Steph and Cass were talking about drug busts or human trafficking or something along those lines, but Bruce noticed how Cass sometimes picked up food on Dick's plate at least every five minutes and, without looking at the boy, held it in front of Dick's mouth. She would nudge his lips with it if he didn't eat it, the latter being too engrossed in his conversation with Jason to remember to eat.
He smiled softly at the way his family was taking care of their baby bird, who was bouncing in his seat as he excitedly told Jason all about his latest mission mishaps with his team, Young Justice. His other siblings would occasionally chip in with their opinion on a situation, showing that they all had an ear open for their youngest brother despite the three conversations that were going all at the same time.
After dinner they all headed to the fireplace, where they all sat down on the armchairs or on the floor, exchanging stories with bouts of laughter and playful jabs. Yet something seemed… off to Bruce. Maybe it was the way all the Batkids kept their guard just a fraction up, or maybe it was the delicate, loving way with which they treated Dick. Or maybe it was how each of them found any and all excuses to touch Dick, as if to reassure themselves that he was still there.
The last theory was proving more and more true, as he watched Steph lean over to pull Dick into her lap, laughing as the boy energetically recounted how he had "kicked Kid Flash's butt" in the training session earlier that day.
"Yes Father?" the eldest Wayne child turned to Bruce, who tilted his head to his study.
Damian nodded slightly and stood up, reaching over to quickly ruffle Dick's hair before leaving the room. Bruce's eyebrows twitched together slightly at the action before following.
When they entered his study Damian shut the door. "Is something the matter, Father?" he asked.
"I just…" Bruce hesitated. "I feel like you're keeping something from me." Before Damian could open his mouth and object, Bruce hurried on. "Before I… left… things were different. You and Tim were constantly at each other's throats, Jason was never at the Manor, and Cass didn't talk as much as she does now. And you all treat Dick like he's going to disappear at any moment. None of these changes are a bad thing, not at all, but I can't help but wonder…" Bruce hesitated again, "what happened?"
Damian was quiet. When he did speak, it settled a feeling of dread in Bruce's stomach. "I think you should sit down for this, Father."
Bruce slowly sank down into his study chair, and nodded once at Damian to begin. The twenty-three-year-old was leaning against the wall, and exhaled quietly before starting.
"Ever since the incident, Grayson is the most precious thing to us, and we all swore to protect him with our lives," he began. "When you "died", this family just… fell apart. Drake and I were at each other's throats, worse than before. Todd came to yell at us and he only quietened when he saw Grayson's tears. He's always had a soft spot for him. No one could find Cain, but she was still somewhere in the Manor. Brown was steadily working herself to death."
Damian stopped and took a deep, shaky breath. "As you correctly assumed, we were all fighting. Until one day, the person who opened our eyes… was our little brother. When I now think back on it, we never once saw him smile like he does now. He was still young and didn't know how to deal with it, but with all of us being terrible siblings, none of us noticed," he said bitterly. "In the middle of our third week of our continuous fighting, he finally put his foot down. It was the first time he had ever spoken up about the whole ordeal. And then…"
Hot angry tears were sliding down Damian's face, his dark green eyes shadowed by his hair as he spoke, and Bruce's eyes widened in horror.
"Yeah," Damian forced out as his grip on his forearms tightened. "Grayson said if we were going to keep fighting he was going to jump off a bridge. And he did… to this day I can't really say why he did it. It's not that he wanted to die or anything. The truth is, I don't think even he understood why he jumped. But regardless of the reason, because of what Grayson did, we were able to be a real family for the first time. All the tension and distance we had put between each other suddenly seemed to disappear. Fortunately as you can see, Grayson survived and was released from Gotham General the following spring."
Bruce let all the information slowly sink in. Dick had been so lost and so done with the fighting that he had jumped. And had he not, this family wouldn't even exist. Because of him risking his life, he had made them a family. He brought them together in a time of despair and worry for the delicate balance of the life that belonged their little brother.
"I… see," Bruce murmured. He stood up and slowly made his way to Damian, who was still silently crying. He reached out and pulled his eldest son against his chest, and was pleasantly surprised when he didn't reject him.
"You did a good job with the family, Damian," Bruce murmured in a low tone, rubbing soothing circles on the first Robin's back.
"No," Damian whispered, "it wasn't me. It was Grayson."
There was a tentative knock on the study door, and the two Waynes broke apart. Damian harshly scrubbed at his face as the door cracked open and Dick peeked in.
"Yes Dick?" Bruce smiled, as if his most detached and unemotional son hadn't just been crying into his shoulder not two minutes ago.
Dick brightened and he came fully into the room. "Jay sent me to tell you that there's dessert ready!" he chirped.
Damian's mouth quirked up as he knelt down to pick Dick up, settling him on his shoulders. "Let's go then, before Todd and Brown eat it all."
Dick gasped dramatically. "To the living room!" he declared. Damian chuckled in response and ran out of the study, his quick footsteps accompanying Dick's hollering and mock-threats directed to his brother and sister, who were well-known for hogging Alfred's delicious desserts.
Bruce chuckled quietly to himself. He would never forget what Damian told him, and he would never forgive himself for leaving them. But he would, however, forgive Dick for jumping. Because if he hadn't, Bruce might not have such a wonderful family to return home to.