Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
Author's Note: If you're confused about the plot of this fanfiction, you can read the author's note here in the previous chapter!
He tracked down that room just as quickly as he had discovered Ra's room, and he quickly dressed himself in a thick winter coat and a pair of sturdy winter boots. He had no idea how long the trek to more civilization was going to be, but this was definitely a good start.
He headed for the door.
And that was when he realized he was being watched.
He turned to see a pair of green eyes peeking into the room, their owner's little hands clenching the wall. Damian and Jason stared at each other. Neither one moved. Jason hadn't expected to get caught again, and Damian apparently hadn't expected to find someone in this part of the mansion. Part of him wondered why someone so little would be so content with just wandering the mansion, but he didn't really ask. He didn't have the focus to.
“Who are you?” Damian asked, innocence in his voice.
Well, he couldn't answer that. Damian was just going to blab to his mom. But Jason really wasn't good with coming up with aliases on the spot, so he froze up even more and just stared helplessly at Damian. Damian must have been told to call for help in the case of something like this – it was a threat to both him and his mother's side of his family.
“I'm...” He looked around for some sort of inspiration. Clothes weren't really that much help, but there was a spider in a corner of the room. It wasn't that big, but it gave him an idea for a name. “...Peter.”
“Peter?” Damian repeated, sounding a little wary.
“Peter,” Jason confirmed. “Peter...Parker.”
Damian just stared.
And then he proudly informed him, “I'm Damian!”
There was an uncomfortable pause.
“You should go back to bed, little guy,” Jason finally said, his voice getting a little strained at the 'guy'. He was usually pretty good about keeping calm under pressure, but that was because he had a script to follow. This was all improvisation. The comics, the wiki and the movie had never prepared him for something like this. “It's late out, and I'm sure your mommy doesn't want you up this late.”
“Mommy's out there,” Damian replied, raising a little finger and gesturing at the door. “With all of the big men.”
...Jason didn't like where this conversation was going.
“I was actually heading out to help her,” he lied. Damian hesitantly left his hiding spot by the doorway. He was still several feet away from him, but Jason crouched down so they were closer in height. He didn't want to seem like a threat to Bruce's son. Not yet, anyways. That wouldn't happen until Damian became the new Robin. Then he would threaten him left and right, because canon Jason was definitely jealous of him – or, at least, that was the vibe he had gotten when doing some digging into Jason's story. “We're looking for a mummy.”
Damian stared up at him.
“But you're the mummy,” Damian said.
Damian pointed up at his face.
“You have the same funny green eyes,” he said, “and you have really silly hair.”
Jason glanced up.
He couldn't see much of it, but he could just barely make out a little bit of white dangling in front of his face – that hadn't been in the movie, but the white streak was something Jason said he got from the Pit in the comics. He would have been elated to have a cool look like comics!Jason, but Damian recognizing him ruined the moment.
“I might be the mummy,” he admitted, his voice jumping an octave at the last syllable. Damian gave him a look that said he knew that he was right, and that was when Jason saw more of the Wayne side of Damian's heritage. “But if I was the mummy, why wouldn't I be wearing my bandages?”
Damian just raised a finger again and pointed right at the bandages peeking out of his pocket. “Your bandages are right there,” he said. Damian mulled over the question as Jason wished he could be anywhere but here right now. There was a pause, and then, “Maybe you're cold!”
Jason didn't say anything in response.
Damian crossed his arms. “But mummies are old and wrinkly, and you're just old. So maybe you're not the mummy.”
An offended noise slipped out.
“I'm not old,” Jason protested.
“You and Mommy look like you're the same age.”
“So you're not one of the big men?”
“Did you just-” He paused, looked a little closer at Damian, and sat down on the ground with his legs and arms crossed. “...That was a good one. I'll give you that much.”
Then he mirrored Jason's position – the only difference was that his hands were resting on his knees. “Were you in the pool?” he asked. “I know Mommy goes in there all the time, but she never lets me into it.”
He meant the pit.
Jason shifted uncomfortably. “I haven't-”
“Your eyes are the same color,” Damian interrupted, with the smugness of a little kid who had outsmarted someone much older than him. “And Mommy's glow like yours do, too, sometimes.”
Jason raised an eyebrow.
“I thought you weren't allowed in there,” he commented. “How do you know what color the pool is?”
A sly smile danced across Damian's lips, and the glint to his green eyes was downright mischievous. “I never listen to what Mommy says.”
...That was a very good point. He had never done that with Bruce, either, although that was a combination of wanting to stay in character and being an adult treated like a child. Damian's only excuse was that he was an actual child, but that seemed like a very in-character response for Damian Wayne. Jason didn't actually know too much about Damian, but he did know a lot about Bruce. He could definitely see the family resemblance with that.
“You got me,” he relented. “I was in the pool. But you shouldn't ever do what I did, because it feels absolutely disgusting.”
Damian nodded sagely.
“I won't ever go in there,” he promised.
He hesitated, looking Jason over with an uncharacteristically nervous expression. “...Where are you going now?” he asked. Jason felt a twinge of something he couldn't quite describe when he heard the question, but he pushed aside his growing doubt as he looked Damian right in the eye.
“I'm going to go outside,” he said. “I live very, very far away, and I need to go back to my home.”
“Can I...Can I come with you?” he asked, looking up at him. “I don't want to stay here.”
Jason didn't know much about children. He thought he had, but that was because he had been a few months into adulthood when he died the first time around – childhood was something he knew a lot about back then. But it had been several years since he had truly been a kid, and he had never known little kids like Damian as well as he had known kids his age.
What he did know was that it was bad if a kid was asking to leave their home. That meant there was some kind of problem. And given that Damian was the kid of a bad guy, it wasn't that hard to draw the line. Abuse might not have been an issue, but who knew what he must have seen when sneaking around?
“You barely know me,” Jason pointed out. “You should stay with your mommy-”
“I don't want to,” Damian whined. He scooted closer to Jason and pouted. Jason got the feeling he was seriously being manipulated here, but it was hard to argue with a face like that. “It's scary here! And Mommy's scary, too, even when she tries being nice!”
Jason knew regret.
This wasn't the existential regret he faced after ending up as Jason Todd. It also wasn't the existential regret he faced right when Joker snagged him. This kind of regret was more like when Alfred or Bruce had caught him doing something he shouldn't have done, or when he knew he had done the wrong thing but they had never caught him for.
At the very core of his being, Jason knew that it was his responsibility to preserve the story. He had been telling himself for years that he needed to do it to make sure that all future Robins got their promised home in the Batfam. But he had never really thought about where the Robins originally came from, and it was hard justifying leaving Damian when he realized just how bad it would be for a kid to grow up in a place like this.
This was going to be a regret.
A very, very big regret.
But Jason knew he'd regret it more if he backed out right now.
“Okay,” Jason finally said. “I'll let you come with me. But you have to do everything I say, okay? And if anyone asks, your last name is Parker and you're my little brother.”
Damian grinned and gave him a big nod.
Jason gave him a look, sighed, and then held out a hand as he got back to his feet. “Come on, Damian,” he said, “it's time to get you all bundled up – then we can head back to my home.”