Story: The Family Business: Mothers
Rating: PG at most
Warning / Themes: Assassins, games, nonverbal communication, Damian being an adorable precious baby, Janet being a good mother, but not much else.
Word Count: Approx 2470 words
Summary: In the aftermath of The Family Business, Damian watches Timothy with his mother and wonders how many things he had been wrong about, as well as if there's a way to make things better.
Feedback: Comments (even if it’s just that you read) are much loved and concrit is much appreciated!
Damian watched as Timothy escorted his mother to the control panel. He had, of course, heard of Janet Drake. His mother had mentioned her many times, usually with a high level of respect. There had been some level of derision when Talia spoke of Timothy due to his lack of participation in the family business. Now that he saw Janet with Timothy he had to wonder whether his mother's disapproval had more to do with the obvious affection between them or with Tim's apparent refusal to follow in his mother's footsteps. Though, now that Damian thought about it, Timothy hadn't refused to follow his mother's path. He had simply modified it.
The question 'Did you know?' hovered on Damian's lips. He wanted desperately to ask but would not be so disrespectful to Janet as to actually do so. 'How could you not follow a mother like that?' pressed behind it. 'I would have followed her anywhere' lingered at the back of his throat, tangled in with the complicated emotions that mothers (Talia) always inspired in Damian.
"So uh, when did you learn about this, Timmy?" Jason asked, the uncouth boor that he was.
"Not until the assassins started commenting on it," Timothy said entirely calmly. Janet looked calm but also somewhat curious, as if she was unsure exactly when Timothy had acquired knowledge of her chosen profession. "Shiva mentioned my 'destiny' a few times when I trained with her. Ra's commented several times. I didn't confirm it until I had access to his computers. He didn't know exactly where you were at the time."
"Good," Janet declared with enough ferocity that Jason shifted away from the two of them. "I do apologize, Damian, but I never was terribly fond of the League. Your grandfather isn't too bad but your mother is… irritating."
"Why?" Damian asked before he could censor himself. He flushed, refusing to acknowledge his misstep or his embarrassment.
Janet sighed and looked at him so gently that the flush intensified into a blush that swept over his entire body. His skin felt prickly, as though he had suddenly been bathed in the heat of the desert back home. She shook her head sadly.
"This isn't a life that you impose on a child," Janet explained. "I am pleased that Timothy has chosen to use his native abilities. I am even more pleased that he's chosen his own moral code. Parents should not impose their wills on their children any more than is necessary to ensure that they become healthy, productive members of society. We quite deliberately kept my work from Timothy. I had enough enemies that I did not wish him to become a target."
The concept of choosing his own path, his own moral code, took Damian's breath away. He listened to the following conversation without actually registering most of it. Timothy's words came through clearly, calm and accepting of his parent's decision to protect him by functionally abandoning him. Janet's words came through as well, full of respect for her son and his choices, along with some measure of anger at those who dared to threaten him.
Damian hovered in the background, wondering what it would have been like to have her as a mother rather than Talia.
She did not directly show her love and respect for Timothy. There was no one statement to make it clear. Instead their relationship seemed to exist entirely in the things that they did not say. It was the touches, gentle, kind. Little looks shared between them as they detailed the plot behind the attacks on Timothy carried volumes of information. A raised eyebrow held a lengthy question that was answered with a tiny smirk that could not have conveyed as much information if they spent days conversing.
He had always thought that Timothy was inarticulate. Certainly, he could communicate when he chose to use his words however most times Damian had observed that Timothy did not choose to interact with others. In fact, he seemed to pull away rather than engaging with those around him.
Seeing Timothy with his mother made one thing very clear to Damian: he had dramatically misjudged the previous Robin.
Timothy communicated more in his silence than anyone Damian knew other than Cassandra and Alfred. There was a whole language to his silences that Damian had been unaware of. Only seeing it used to communicate with another who knew the methodology educated Damian to what he had missed. He was only brought back to full awareness of the conversation when Janet looked over at Damian with an amused twinkle in her eyes.
"Oh!" Tim's delight made Damian stare at him, hopefully with not obvious confusion. "We haven't done that in ages."
"Tag?" Richard asked with enough confusion for himself and Damian.
"It's fun," Tim insisted. "You wear flags on various parts of your body representing how seriously you'd be injured if someone struck you there. The goal is to take as many flags as possible from your opponents without losing your own."
"It uses both the brain and the body," Janet agreed. "You don't get to play."
She pointed at Bruce who made a noise of complaint. He subsided when Janet glared at him as if she intended to slowly remove his esophagus and upper digestive tract using a dull spoon. Only once he'd nodded that he would absent himself from the game did Janet return to eyeing Damian. He flushed once more, fidgeting under her gaze.
"With teams," Janet said. "It would help if we had one more person to participate though."
"Cass showed up earlier," Dick said. "She'd probably be happy to play. Why can't Bruce play?"
"He gets to keep score," Janet said. "Timothy, you get one of the others. I'll take Damian."
Damian refused to feel any shame at the squeak that came from his mouth. No one heard it over Richard's whoop of delight as he descended to hug Timothy so forcefully that he all but knocked Timothy from his feet. It did not look as though Jason objected to the pairing. If anything he smirked about it. Given that it meant that Cassandra would be his partner Damian could understand his response. Together they were likely to win the game handily.
"Down here or in the garden?" Janet asked while very casually except not casually at all laying her hand on Damian's shoulder.
"Here," Bruce said. His expression promised mayhem if Janet did anything to harm any of them. "It is night outside."
"And that's a problem?" Janet responded with enough amusement that Bruce conceded her point with an almost gracious nod of his head.
By the time they had a location (the display area, locker room and extended portions of the cave that were not directly around the computers, but not the 'wild' portions that lead off under the countryside or the path to the hidden dock) as well as sufficient color coded flags for each team, Damian found himself quite excited. Part of it was the opportunity to master a new skill in a less than harmful environment but a major portion of it was the chance to observe and interact with Janet Drake.
He found that he wanted to learn her secret language of silences and glances; that he wished to study not only her martial arts techniques but also the mind behind them. It was rare for Damian to encounter a female assassin. They were exceedingly rare overall. To encounter one that appeared to be fond of Damian, or perhaps simply curious about him, was… he decided that he would call it an opportunity to treasure.
The voice in the back of his head that had been trained to warn of betrayal by one too many losses in his childhood was quite loud. Damian did not want to listen to that voice so he didn't. Mother would have been quite irate with him about it but Damian did not care. For once, he wished to enjoy the time he spent training for this was most definitely training despite the casual nature of it.
"Stay close at first," Janet murmured to Damian as they all took their places in the center of the Cave.
"Tt, of course," Damian said. "Be wary of Cassandra. She is very good at reading body language."
"I know," Janet said with a smirk that looked as though it should belong on Damian's face.
The little lurch of helpless want for something, someone, he could never have went uncommented upon by Janet but Damian saw the way Cassandra's eyes narrowed. He suspected that Timothy saw it as well though he showed no signs of it. Bruce raised one hand and then lowered it sharply to signal the start of the game.
Cassandra and Jason immediately split up, Cassandra darting towards Timothy and Dick while Jason dove at Janet and Damian. To Damian's surprise, Janet barely sidestepped Jason. The move allowed her to grab two of his flags at the same time that Damian was able to claim another two. Jason's cursing at finding himself down to one remaining flag within the first seconds of the game made Damian grin viciously. When he glanced at Cassandra, Timothy and Dick, he found that Dick was missing one flag while Cassandra and Timothy both had all of theirs.
His moment of distraction nearly cost him a flag as Jason charged at him but Janet was there to take Jason's last flag with a deft flick of the wrist. This time Jason's cursing was mixed with chagrined laughter.
The game progressed with Dick being removed from play quickly. That left Cassandra and Timothy on their own with Janet and Damian preying on them. They chased each other through the recesses of the Cave, Damian losing one flag to two of Cassandra's before Janet and Timothy tangled in a battle that was so vicious that everyone stopped to watch. Had he not seen the grins stretching Janet and Timothy's faces he would have thought them bitter enemies out to destroy each other.
Their strikes were without mercy. Except that they never connected. Every move was smooth perfection. Damian had seen people fight with that level of skill before, back when he trained with the League and also every time he simply stopped to watch his father train. However he had not seen such joy in the middle of combat before.
He was abruptly removed from his rambling thoughts by the realization that Cassandra's hand was snaking out to take one of his flags. Damian whirled and snatched her last two flags, darting back to grin at her triumphantly. Cassandra snorted and nodded, going to sit with Jason, Bruce and Dick with a little bounce in her step. Damian turned back to Janet and Timothy's battle in time to see Janet snatch Timothy's remaining flag at the same moment that he took Janet's two remaining flags.
"Perfect!" Janet laughed in delight.
"Not perfect," Timothy countered. "We both died."
"But my partner survived and completed the mission so it's okay," Janet said. She looked over at Damian, who was still holding Cassandra's two flags in his hands, and smiled that proud, complicated smile he could not read.
"You were an excellent distraction," Damian said without acknowledging the blush staining his cheeks crimson.
Janet and Timothy came over, both grinning and breathing hard from their battle. As they walked back to the computers where the others were now consuming popcorn and soda, Janet draped one arm around both of their shoulders. Damian stiffened for a moment, looking up at her. Timothy's eyes were soft, full of something that he would have called weakness until he saw the exact same look on Janet's face.
"It must be like having a little brother," Janet murmured so quietly that only Damian and Timothy could hear her.
"Very much so," Timothy said, smiling wryly at Damian. "Especially Damian. But also the others. It's… the family I always wanted."
"Good," Janet declared.
She slipped away from them to claim a cup of tea from Alfred. Damian paused, looking up at Timothy with a frown that he knew had to look confused rather than annoyed. The raised eyebrow he got in return was clearly a question rather than a threat as Damian had previously believed. It was very likely 'yes? What?' He swallowed, cautiously taking Timothy's wrist in one hand.
"You meant that," Damian stated even though he knew his expression and tone of voice turned the words into a question.
"Yes," Timothy said. His posture said 'all along' while the lift of both eyebrows said 'even though you didn't see it' and his look towards Janet said 'because of her'.
Damian nodded slowly, allowing himself only one nod before sliding his fingers down into Timothy's hand. The way Timothy's breath caught made Damian's heart simultaneously lurch and leap. That soft-fierce look returned to his eyes. For the first time Damian felt as though he could accurately read Timothy's non-spoken language.
He said 'you're my brother' and 'you're such a fond annoyance' and 'I'm proud of you' and 'I worry about what you may become'. There was 'I wish I could trust you' at the same time Timothy was saying 'I do trust you'.
Damian had to wonder if he was screaming 'I was jealous and frightened because you were the Robin I had to live up to' and 'I never thought you were worthy'. He hoped that his body said 'I was wrong, so wrong, utterly wrong.'
"Come on," Timothy said, tugging at Damian's hand. "If we want to get any of the food we'd better hurry."
"You had best not be eating everything!" Damian snapped at the others. "I am the victor and thus I should have the lion's share of the food."
Timothy's fingers squeezed his hand as Damian marched towards the others. He knew that Cassandra had seen their non-verbal conversation and obviously Janet must have as well. Rather than worry about it Damian allowed himself to be snappish when he discovered that Jason had taken the biggest piece of pizza. He sat next to Bruce with is plate of food, grumbling so that he would not have to acknowledge how flustered he still was. Only once everyone else had turned to comparing notes on the game and then to discussing favorite battles did Damian tug on Bruce's arm.
"Will she stay?" Damian asked so quietly that only Bruce should hear it.
His father frowned at Damian for a moment before looking at Janet and Timothy who were laughing together so freely that one would never have known what they truly were. Bruce snorted and then sighed, lifting one shoulder in a shrug.
"Perhaps," Bruce said. "Do you want her to?"
"Yes," Damian admitted, still in a very quiet voice. "I do."
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Awww, this is kind of sweet! Despite Damian being Damian. ;)
*snort* Trust Janet to have a game that's basically assassin training.
XD Cool to see them all having fun together for once!
Ticky giggles and steals the second biggest piece of pizza.