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Fic: Damian's New Skill Chapter 9

Title: Damian's New Skill
Author: Brokaw22
Disclaimer: The norms
Rating: T
Story Synopsis: Thanks to another crazy night in Gotham, Damian has a new skill.
Thanks to Kathy for the beta work.

Previous Chapter: Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight

Dick knows he should probably go track down Damian soon. After all, he’s been gone for more than a handful of hours, but the truth is, Damian isn’t the only one who could use a little space right now. Dick’s well aware that his current state is taking its toll on Damian, but he just can’t get past everything that’s going on right now. He continually keeps going over and over the last few years, desperately trying to pinpoint the exact moment when his relationship with Tim deteriorated to the point where they now are, but nothing really stands out…well, at least, nothing that he believes should have led them here -- or rather led Tim to seeking refuge at Jason’s, while Dick wonders if they’ll ever regain what they’ve lost.

Dick realizes that, over the last couple of years, there have been many moments that he’s failed Tim. Still, he never anticipated that any of those instances would have left Tim believing that love was somehow conditional -- or worse, outright questioning if he was loved at all. Dick knows he could have handled turning over the Robin mantle better. He could have -- should have -- had a real honest discussion with Tim about it all, and explained to Tim in no uncertain terms that, while Damian being Robin would certainly change things, it wouldn’t change the fact that Tim was, and always would be, his little brother.

However, Dick recognizes that’s hardly the only moment that he’d faltered when it came to communicating with Tim. After all, he could have actually listened to Tim and tried to understand why his little brother believed so adamantly that Bruce was not dead, but merely trapped in time. Hell, he could have done many things, but Dick thinks that his biggest mistake to date might have been the fact that, once Tim brought Bruce back, the two never sat down and had a real discussion about everything that had transpired before and after Bruce’s disappearance.

Nevertheless, Dick knows that all of that was just the groundwork for everything that’s happened between him and Tim since Bruce’s return. The true tipping point -- at least from Dick’s perspective -- is the fact that Dick took for granted how mature Tim has always been. Even when things started to dissolve between them, Dick kind of figured everything would eventually be forgiven and forgotten, without any sort of real discussion about it -- just like everything else always has been -- because that’s who Tim is and that’s what he always does. Still, even Dick can see how utterly selfish and ridiculous such a notion is, because he evidently hurt Tim more than he estimated he ever could. Whether Tim is consciously aware of it or not, he clearly has held onto that pain and let it affect both of them -- shaping their relationship into something nearly unrecognizable.

Dick doesn’t blame Tim for any of it -- not really. Even though he still wishes that Tim understood his side of things -- especially how much grief and stress Dick was under at the time -- it doesn’t change the fact that Dick’s real mistake was the lack of a real conversation and making his intentions clear. He should have reassured Tim of his place in their family -- and ultimately, of his place as Dick’s little brother. Still, Dick thinks all of that pales in comparison to the fact that he never actually apologized to Tim for not believing him, not helping him, and, above all, not being there for him in Tim’s own time of need, no matter what Dick was going through at the time.

Dick sighs heavily as he realizes that, once again, he can’t be there for Tim. He fears that this time he won’t get a chance to apologize and tell Tim everything that he should have said long before Damian’s magical mishap led them all here. Dick’s sure that the only person he really has to blame for everything that’s currently going on is himself. True, Tim shut him out and has been acting as though nothing has changed between them; yet obviously nearly everything has changed, and it’s been that way for longer than Dick can identify.

However, Dick’s known Tim long enough that he should have seen the signs long before Damian’s outburst. Dick thinks his obliviousness and lack of action is probably his true sin in all of this. He’s not entirely sure how to even begin restoring his relationship with Tim, especially since it’s beyond obvious that, right now, any attempt would only be detrimental to the both of them.

Dick heaves a large breath as he forces himself to get up and get moving. Damian’s been gone for some time now, and Dick knows that if he waits much longer to go track him down, they’ll both suffer from Alfred’s wrath. He’s just relieved that enough time has passed that he can go out as Nightwing. After all, the rooftop express usually helps clear his head better than anything else. There’s no better destesser than feeling the wind in his hair as he flips through the air.

As soon as Dick hits the rooftops, he takes a deep calming breath. The air is thick with Gotham’s special brand of pollution and the dense cloud cover blocks out nearly all of the night sky. The wind is strong, coming up over the buildings, and he’s so damned relieved not to have a cape weighing him down. There’s nothing like Gotham air, and Dick loves every second of it. He hasn’t felt this relaxed in so long -- he’s honestly reluctant to turn on Damian’s tracker. He desperately wants just a few more hours away from everything that he doesn’t know how to fix, but Dick knows that the longer he puts off tracking down Damian, the more likely it becomes that the kid will get himself into some kind of trouble.

He pauses on a rooftop long enough to activate the tracker, and immediately his stomach sinks. Damian is in Jason’s territory, fairly close to Jason’s apartment, which leaves Dick feeling despondent and weary. He can’t imagine why Damian fled to Jason, other than to demand that Tim come back for Dick’s sake, and he knows that it couldn’t have possibly gone well. Still, Dick knows that if it had ended that badly, Damian wouldn’t still be in the area, so it’s possible that Damian didn’t go to Jason to demand that Tim return. Perhaps, he just went to Jason for emotional big brother support, and that thought actually hurts worse than the thought of Damian demanding Tim return for him.

Dick doesn’t know when or how Jason became the better big brother, but he would certainly like to find out. He always thought it would be nice to have help when it came to dealing with his gaggle of little brothers, but Dick’s fairly certain that it doesn’t work that way. He’s never felt this lost or this resentful before in his entire life. He doesn’t like feeling like this, but Dick honestly doesn’t know what to do about it. At this point, he would just like to know why his two youngest brothers think Jason is the better option -- but he knows better than to ask.

Dick doesn’t know if he should just finish his patrol in his own part of the city or if he should go after Damian. After all, Damian has two former Robins nearby that he could call if he gets in over his head, and it’s not as though Damian would be happy to see him right now, anyway. Still, he knows that it’s not a good idea to let this particular Robin wander around on his own, especially since Damian’s so reluctant to call someone when he actually needs help. It occurs to Dick that he could just call Jason to go after Damian, but that might bother Tim, and Dick has definitely done enough damage there.

Dick sighs, knowing that there really is only one option. He braces himself for Damian’s particular brand of ire, now that he’s empathetic, and takes off in the direction of Jason’s territory. When he gets closer, Dick pauses on another rooftop and just stares at the tracker’s location information for a moment. He’s still more than a few blocks away from where Damian is seemingly repeatedly driving around Jason’s block. Dick really doesn’t know what Damian is doing, but before he can decide whether it would be best to follow Damian and find out or just make the kid go back to the manor, he notices strange movement in the alley below him.

There’s a rather tall, bulky individual tucked underneath a large dirty and tattered tan colored canvas tarp meandering down the alley, stumbling and knocking into walls and trash cans along his way, grumbling loudly about how he’s not stupid with slurring words. The voice sounds familiar, though Dick can’t really place it at first. He decides to just let the obviously inebriated man make his way back to whatever hovel he came from on his own, until the man passes underneath the yellow light of a street lamp and Dick catches a glimpse of pale green scaly skin through holes in the tarp.

Suddenly, Dick knows why that particular voice is so familiar, and he blames not recognizing it sooner on the fact that he is, quite frankly, used to the aforementioned voice issuing death threats and growling at him rather than slurring complaints about his intelligence. Not to mention, Dick hadn’t even been aware that Killer Croc was apparently out on the streets. He decides to stick to the shadows and follow Croc. However, when Dick hears the distinctive sound of a group of teenagers heading their way, followed by a growl from Croc as he grabs a large trashcan -- presumably to throw at said teenagers --Dick knows he needs to intervene.

He makes his way to the alley below and quickly intercepts the flying trashcan before it can collide with the crowd of teenagers. The noise and movement startle them, and all of the kids immediately scatter like rats. Dick breathes a sigh of relief. At least, he won’t have to deal with having to protect them from an enraged Killer Croc. He smirks as he blocks Croc’s exit by dropping down in front of him. “I didn’t know crocodiles could get drunk. Eh, you learn something new every day.” He dances away as Croc attempts to swipe at him with his claws. “You know, I’ve gotta give you points, though. Your aim is pretty good for a guy who looks like he’s seeing double right about now.”

He ducks under a swipe from Killer Croc’s other hand and then leaps to the side as Croc charges. The alcohol doesn’t seem to be slowing Croc down at all, despite how sluggish and unbalanced he seemed before. It’s possible that the adrenaline coursing through him right now is to blame, but that hardly matters. Croc turns on him, picking up and throwing a dumpster at him. Clearly, the big guy has only gotten stronger since their last encounter. Dick dodges, but isn’t quick enough to avoid the second trash can that Killer Croc kicks at him. The collision throws him backwards against a brick wall, but before Dick can do more than groan at the pain lancing through his back, Croc is in front of him, fist flying towards his face.

Dick ducks and dives out of the way of the falling debris from the wall, but he doesn’t have a lot of room to maneuver in the alley with Croc’s bulk taking up most of the space. He considers the merits of luring Killer Croc out towards the street, but that would most likely only give Croc more objects to use as projectiles. Dick pulls out his escrima sticks as he moves in to attack Croc’s knee, but he’s immediately kicked away. He back flips away from the follow-up punch and dives in between Croc’s legs to avoid another charge.

Dick grips his escrima sticks tighter as he moves in to attack once again. He gets a few hits in on Croc’s unprotected sides, which cause Killer Croc to growl in both rage and pain as he starts attacking with his claws again. Dick tries to dance away, but before he can get clear, Croc’s claws catch his left shoulder, shredding his suit, and tearing into his arm, leaving four large gashes running all the way from his shoulder down to his elbow. Dick grits his teeth as he assesses the damage. He’s definitely going to need stitches when this is done, speaking of which, he should probably hurry this along.

“So, what kind of shots do you think I’m gonna need after this? Crocodiles can’t get rabies, but then you’re not exactly all croc, are you? I’m sure there’s risk of infection. I mean, you do live in the sewers, after all. You are still living in the sewers, right?” Dick laughs, despite the pain, when Killer Croc roars in rage, and then he uses the previously throw dumpster to get a bit of the high ground back.

He waits for Croc’s attack before attempting to flip over him, assuming that between the alcohol and cramped space Killer Croc won’t be able to snatch him out of the air. However, Dick feels one of Croc’s large scaly hands wrap around his ankle, nearly crushing it. As he’s thrown onto the dumpster, he admits it was an ill-conceived plan. He rolls away from Croc’s follow-up fist and slides off of the dumpster, only to be kicked full force in the chest and thrown into the adjacent wall. Dick slumps down to the ground, dazed and in pain and knowing that he needs to get to his feet and get moving.

He struggles to his feet, but Croc is already there with a hand around his throat. There’s a sudden burst of agony resonating through his head, neck, and back as Croc slams him into the wall repeatedly. Dick’s vision swims and he’s sure that he’s going to black out any second now. He almost can’t wait, because it’ll be a blissful reprieve from the pain resonating through his entire body. However, before Croc manages to smash his skull in, something hits Killer Croc in the back of the head. Croc still has a firm hold on Dick, but they both turn to see someone standing at the mouth of the alley holding what looks to Dick like a bag of takeout food.  “Let the idiot go.” The man waits a beat before kicking another old can at Croc’s head. “Now!”

Croc drops Dick, who instantly tries to stand; only to fall back down, feeling both dizzy and nauseous. Killer Croc immediately rushes the newcomer, but he doesn’t take more than three steps before there’s the sound of a small explosion, and Croc is screaming in pain while clutching his face. The next thing Dick knows he’s being lifted into a fireman’s carry and rushed out of the alley. “How many Robins and former Robins are going to show up in my neighborhood this week? ‘Cause I gotta tell ya, it’s getting’ a little ridiculous, Goldie.”

Dick’s eyes widen as he realizes that Jason just came to his rescue. “Maybe you’re just the better brother.” Dick honestly doesn’t know why he said it. It seems like words are just tumbling out of his mouth without his permission right now.

Jason scoffs as he picks up the pace. “Does Alfred approve of your stupid jokes while you’re bleeding all over the place? ‘Cause I sure as shit don’t.”

Dick intends to respond -- really he does -- but his head feels fuzzy and Jason’s starting to sound far away, and even Jason purposefully jostling him around doesn’t seem to be enough to keep the darkness at bay. Dick’s sure that he manages to mumble something like an apology before passing out.

The End (for now)