Title: Night-Blooming Flowers
Author: J.T. of fyeahbatmanandrobin
Characters: Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne
Summary: Dick releases the grief he’s carried since the night Bruce was taken from him, and he finds an unexpected source of comfort.
A Victorian bench stood in the middle of the garden, white cast iron woven in a raised laurel pattern across the curved back. Dick had lounged on it during the lethargic summer afternoons of childhood, the sun-drenched metal warm through the thin cotton of his t-shirt. He stared up at the sky, watching clouds and birds, thinking about what Mr. Haley might be doing in the circus halfway across the country and about Bruce sleeping through the daylight in the manor a few yards away. Sometimes he’d fall asleep himself there on the bench, and the scent of honeyed vanilla would wake him in the early evening as the night phlox opened and lent their sugary perfume to the twilight. Alfred had planted a number of night-blooming flowers exclusively for the master’s pleasure. Like Bruce, they only seemed alive when the moon was high.
Dick trudged toward the familiar bench, his feet feeling heavy. Dusk gathered around him. He thought he’d lie upon it once more, feel the metal cooled by the condensation of evening and let the fragrance of moon blossoms envelop him like a numbing fog. It was the way Bruce must have experienced the garden on the rare occasions he visited it, perhaps still in cape and cowl and in need of something beautiful, something pure after a night of grisly horrors. Dick saw Bruce once from his bedroom window, a figure of inky darkness haunting the flowerbeds hours past the depths of midnight. He’d stood there by the Casablanca lilies, and he’d drawn his mask back around his shoulders when he leaned forward to smell them. Bruce touched one with the tips of his gloved fingers, and Dick could see the contrast of black leather against white petal-softness even from the distance.
Dick stopped by them now, and he knew these weren’t the same Casablanca lilies Bruce had touched, had breathed in that night years ago. The bulbs of those particular blooms had expended their lives by now, the petals fallen and absorbed into the soil that fed those blossoming anew. The thought of those old dead flowers and the young ones that replaced them sliced open a reservoir of pain that Dick had carried since Bruce was taken from him, and he sunk to his knees by the lilies. He sobbed there, never making it to the bench. He knotted his fingers in long threads of grass and buried his face in the flowers, letting their potent fragrance choke him, letting it sting his eyes and drain them of their tears. “Bruce, please,” he begged the empty garden, and he didn’t know what he was requesting. Please, give me a sign. Please, tell me what I should do. Please, don’t leave me here alone.
The grass nearby rustled under soft footsteps, and Dick didn’t look up to identify the source. Alfred always seemed to know when he was hurt, no matter how he might struggle to hide it. And Dick had struggled, had struggled immensely since Bruce died, because everything fell on him at once. He was Batman now. He was expected to be a leader, a mentor to the other heroes. He didn’t have the luxury of openly mourning the man he loved as a father. He had to be strong for Tim and Damian, both so young, both more vulnerable than they let on. But in the darkness of the garden, with Alfred approaching to comfort him, he allowed himself a moment to grieve. The butler would not begrudge this crack in his façade.
It wasn’t Alfred’s hand that fell upon his shoulder, however. The fingers were small and nimble, and Dick’s eyes followed the length of the arm up to Damian’s somber face. The shadows of night had fallen deeply now, and the child’s gray eyes burned intently in the darkness. Dick could see the stiff outline of his lips, the steady rise and fall of his shoulders as he contemplated the broken young man before him. He didn’t speak.
Dick suddenly felt selfish, felt childish himself for allowing Damian to see him weep over their shared loss. He cleared his throat, took a gulp of moist night air to stifle his sobs. He had to calm himself for the boy’s sake. He wasn’t even Bruce’s son, not the way Damian was. But as soon as he thought it, sorrow overwhelmed him once more. A lack of shared blood couldn’t lessen the bond he’d had with Bruce. He’d treated Dick as a son, and for the second time in his life, Dick had lost the man he’d known as his father. A fresh cry of agony was ripped from him, and he looked down in shame as he cried anew. Still Damian remained at his side, the wordless grip on his shoulder the only thing keeping Dick grounded.
When Dick’s sobs began to taper off, began to lose a bit of their depth and volume, Damian’s hand shifted to touch him under the chin. Small fingers insisted he raise his head, compelled him to meet the gaze of the boy standing guard over him. Dick expected to see consternation on Damian’s face, perhaps to be scolded for his loss of control. Damian never indulged emotional weakness. But the child moved his fingers to Dick’s cheek, and they swept the lingering tears away from the wet surface of his skin. The gray eyes studied him carefully as his hand moved to the opposite side of Dick’s face and dried it, too. Dick gazed up at him from where he knelt on the grass, lips parted but finding nothing to say.
“Don’t cry.” Damian finally broke the silence with his simple command, and he pulled Dick to his feet. Dick allowed himself to be led like a child to the garden bench that was his original destination. Damian sat beside him, studying him as Dick fought to regain his composure. One last tear escaped Dick’s eye, and Damian brushed it away as he had its predecessors.
“Don’t cry, Grayson,” Damian ordered again, his voice low but firm. “Your tears won’t bring him back.”
His words might have sounded cold to other ears, but Dick nodded because their logic was sound, because he knew Damian was comforting him in the only way that occurred to the rigid boy. It reminded him of Bruce, of how frustrated he often was with his guardian’s inability to open up or to appreciate Dick’s effusiveness. He reached out to touch Damian’s dark hair, to run his fingers lightly over the stern brow and hard cheekbone softened by rounded youthfulness. The child’s face would be sharper like Bruce’s when he was older. The thought of their similarities comforted Dick, and though he knew the boy didn’t appreciate the closeness, Damian mercifully tolerated his touch in stoic silence.
Dick allowed his hand to fall by his side, and he and Damian sat together in the still summer night. Long minutes passed, and neither spoke. The night phlox surrounded them, pale and sickly sweet. Damian ignored it in favor of the lone Casablanca lily that grew by the bench, a stray that had supplanted itself away from its companions bunched near the garden gate. He touched one of its delicate petals, and Dick drunk in the contrast of dusky fingers against soft white.
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