Bruises, Bonds and Brothers
Summary: Tim hadn't come out to his brother yet. This wasn't how he'd envisioned it happening.
Tim blinked. He screwed his eyes together, shook his head to shoo off his most recent haze of sleep deprivation. Looked back at the laptop screen. Still the same. 'Faggot, noun.'
Damian's internet activity had frankly been the last thing on Tim's mind. He'd meant to enter the media room, grab the notebook he strongly suspected had wedged itself between the sofa cushions and skip back into his room before he was forced into human interaction by any of his tragically extroverted family members.
Tim vastly preferred any of his brothers over this.
Nobody had ever really used the slur on him at school. Not like they'd meant it. It was one of those words that lost all its meaning from overuse. A string of letters forming an all-purpose insult for anyone doing anything remotely worthy of being insulted.
"Unhand my laptop."
Tim jumped. The little demon was almost as sneaky as his father.
Damian snatched up his laptop like Tim had done unspeakable things to it. "I do not tolerate anyone spying on my personal belongings."
"I wasn't spying." Tim rolled his eyes. "I didn't even touch it. It's not my fault if you leave it lying around."
"Tt." Damian sat cross-legged on the couch, his laptop nestled between his legs. He didn't dignify Tim with another glance.
Tim chewed on his lip. It would be easy to let it go, but... "What were you looking that up for?"
Damian glared over the rim of his laptop. It was the sort of glare that wished it was deadly instead of making one want to ruffle Damian's hair. "A fellow student used it in class. I was unaware of its meaning. Now I am." He clicked away the tab and the awful word disappeared from the screen.
"... Right," said Tim. Damian talked like the son of a literature professor. It was easy to forget that English wasn't his first language. "Anyway." Tim cringed. "Thoughts?"
Damian's glare intensified. His why-are-you-still-talking irritation was joined by his what-are-you-blabbing-about annoyance. "If that incoherent word is referring to the terminology, I find such slang distasteful. It is an offense to your already significantly flawed language. There are far more hurtful, less vulgar insults."
Tim grimaced at the mental image where Damian replaced the bully. He'd made grown criminals cry. He could do much worse to a vulnerable middle schooler.
He really needed to drop the issue. Sometimes Tim wondered whether he was a masochist by heart, or whether those tendencies had begun after he'd first put on his mask. "The other student. Is he alright?"
Damian closed his eyes. Heaved a sigh. Looked up as though Tim was the most irritating person Damian had had the displeasure of interacting with in his short life. "What?"
"Your classmate. Who was... being insulted. Is that all they did?"
"A member of the faculty was close-by. The disagreement did not escalate further."
"Right. That's... good." Tim settled on the opposite end of the couch. He opened and closed random apps on his phone to make himself look busy.
He couldn't tell whether Damian realized that this had the potential of being more than a 'disagreement' between students. He took down rapists and bigots and bullies as Robin every night. Did he recognize the lower end of the spectrum? Or did a 'harmless' row between middle schoolers not register to someone who'd spent his childhood among assassins?
"Either quit being an annoyance or leave," Damian demanded without looking up.
"I wasn't saying anything."
"You were thinking. Loudly."
"You're so pretentious," Tim muttered. They sat in silence. Tim closed his eyes. "Look, about that word–"
"As I've informed you repeatedly," Damian interrupted, "nothing of importance happened."
Tim avoided Damian's gaze. "I'm gay. I like boys." Something squirmed and wriggled in his throat like a nest of snakes. He'd had years of experience in coming out to people. He still hated doing it on the fly. "Which is why." He swallowed. "I'd appreciate it a lot, if... That word, I don't want you to... You know."
"Seeing as nothing of what you've just said was a complete sentence, I do not 'know'." Damian's scowl deepened. "Speak plainly or put this pointless conversation to an end."
"For once, can you just–" Tim snapped, and cut himself off. He took a deep breath. Forced out, through clenched teeth, "Just don't use words like that. Okay? You said you didn't know it before. Now that you do, I'd appreciate it if you didn't use it."
Damian's lips twisted unpleasantly. "If you believe me willing to use the same uncouth vocabulary as my simple-minded classmates–"
"Nevermind! God. Just, forget about it." Tim snatched up his phone and stomped out of the room. How did Dick not feel the violent urge to strangle the twerp whenever he opened his mouth? He'd feel sorry for him if Tim wasn't the one forced to live with the demon.
He'd forgotten about his notebook. He refused to go back and look for it.
Tim stumbled into the kitchen and made himself coffee on auto-pilot. It took him two minutes, half a cup and a close-call with a bag of flour that was placed precariously close to the coffee beans until he realized that he wasn't alone.
"G' m'ning," he grumbled. He carded one hand through his hair. It got stuck about halfway through.
Lovely. Lucky Tim, getting to interact with the demon brat first thing in the morning. "Wha–" Tim stifled a yawn. "What are you doing up?"
Damian stared at him. "It is past noon. I have returned from school."
"Oh." Tim drained his cup and poured himself another. He took his first proper look at Damian and paused. "What happened to your face?"
Damian sat up straight. He somehow managed to look down on him despite being almost a head shorter. "That is none of your business."
Tim rolled his eyes. "Of course it isn't." Other than his coffee, there was no force on Earth strong enough to keep Tim voluntarily sharing the kitchen with Damian. If it wasn't for Alfred and his no-coffee-pots-outside-the-kitchen policy, Tim would have spared himself the headache. "You look like someone punched you in the face."
Tim looked up slowly. He broke out into a grin. "Did you get into a fight at school?"
"Mind your own business, Drake."
"You. Mister 'all the plebeians are beneath me.' Got into a common schoolyard fight."
"I do not sound like that," Damian snapped. He crossed his arms. "Besides, he deserved it."
"I should say so." Alfred entered the kitchen and set down a bowl of ice cream in front of Damian.
Tim looked at the bowl. He looked at Alfred. "Are you rewarding him?" Had he fallen into the twilight zone? Was this another dimension where Alfred encouraged delinquent behavior?
Alfred gave him one of his looks that made Tim suspect he could secretly read minds. "Perhaps you would like to inquire as to the reason for Master Damian's act of rebellion?"
Something impossible happened then. Something unbelievably out-of-the-ordinary that made Tim curse his oversight of not having brought his camera to the kitchen table.
Damian's cheeks colored bright pink.
Tim looked at his brother gleefully. "Damian?"
Damian crossed his arms and looked the other direction. "As I've said before, it does not concern you."
"I am not."
"So blushing. Your head is bright red. I'd be worried you were sick if demons weren't immune to mortal illnesses."
"Remember who you're talking to," Damian hissed. Tim was frankly impressed that he was still sitting at the kitchen table instead of challenging Tim to combat. "Your nosiness will get you nowhere."
Tim let out a huff. "You can't just leave me hanging."
"You have no authority to tell me what I cannot do."
Tim gave Alfred a look. It bordered on desperate. "Alfred."
"Please refrain from calling Master Damian a 'demon'." Alfred set a plate with an omelette in front of Tim. "He simply meant to look out for his brother."
Damian bristled. He now looked close to challenging Alfred. "That is not what I was doing!"
"What." Tim knew Alfred was getting up there, but he'd hoped they'd have a couple more years before he was going senile. "What's 'looking out' for me about a school fight?"
"Absolutely nothing." Damian's eyes narrowed. "Besides, we are not related."
"Of course, Master Damian." Alfred set a glass with orange juice beside the omelette. "How silly of me."
Tim felt the caffeine working its magic. His mind was awfully slow after waking up. So far nobody in his family had acknowledged the brilliance of his plan of simply never going to sleep again.
"Is this about yesterday?" He picked up his fork and began working on his breakfast. Lunch? Was it still breakfast if you were having breakfast-food at lunchtime?
"Tt. I don't know what you're talking about."
"When I told you about," his eyes flickered to Alfred, "me being gay."
Tim had never officially come out to Alfred. He'd been the first of the Wayne family to know after walking in on a mortifying Skype conversation with a friend back when Tim had still been figuring himself out and felt absolutely miserable about it.
Alfred hadn't breathed a word about what he'd learned, neither to Tim nor any of the others. He loved Alfred for it. It had been years since then, and still it felt awkward to bring up in front of him. Like it was some sort of sin to reference one's non-heterosexuality in front of his quasi-grandfather.
"Did you punch a ten-year-old for using a bad word?"
"Twelve." Damian sniffed. "I'll have you know that he was at least a head taller than me."
Tim snorted. "I'm sure that evened the odds."
"I am more than capable of pulling my punches." A pause. "Mildly."
"I'm sure that your level of lenience was perfectly appropriate for said gentleman," Alfred poured more juice after Damian had finished his. Tim might have just learned how to say 'he had it coming' in butler-speak.
Tim leaned over to steal some of Damian's ice cream. Damian glowered, but didn't make use of the throwing knife he kept stored in the fabric of his sweatpants.
"Have you any plans for the day?" Alfred asked as he picked up Damian's empty bowl.
"Not really. I got a new lens for my camera, so I'll probably try it out." Tim paused. Damian made no move to leave the kitchen.
He felt weird not commenting on Damian's escapade at school. He felt even weirder telling him 'thanks for punching a middle schooler for me'.
Tim did the mental equivalent of heaving a sigh and made a terrible decision. "Do you want to help?"
Damian might as well have leveled a glare at the dirt underneath his shoe. "I have no interest in photography."
The way he said 'photography' made Tim almost change his mind then and there. "True." He shrugged. "I just thought maybe Titus and Alfred did."
Damian's brows knit together, then lifted in realization. He paused. And hummed. "If there's someone worthy of their own photoshoot, it would be Titus and Alfred," he said slowly.
"We can take them out into the gardens." Tim cast a look outside. "Though it might be too bright outside."
"The east wing ought to offer sufficient lighting."
"Good idea." Tim grinned. "We can take some of Dick's scarves and dress them up." A picture of Alfred-the-cat wrapped up in his brother's Superman scarf would make a perfect Christmas card.
Damian looked horrified. "Have you gone mad? I will not have them suffer through such indignities."
"We can put them in little capes."
Damian considered this. "That is acceptable only because it is a family tradition."
Alfred returned with a cleaning rag that smelled of citrus. Tim leaned back so he could wipe off the table. "I would like to request framed copies of your best shots."
"Don't be ridiculous, Pennyworth." Damian stood and put up his nose. "All of them will be. Titus and Alfred are professionals."
A/N: Then Bruce disowned both of them for sticking the pets in little Superman capes, the end.
I love writing these two so much. They're so much fun. Thanks to To Mockingbird, Igornerd and flyingcat for beta-reading!
I hope you enjoyed it, let me know what you think!