Who: Damian and Steph Where: The Manor because Damian is GROOUNDEDDD When: Backdated to last weekish What: inexplicably adorable kitten times and bat babies bonding Warnings: Fluff
After Damian closed off the comm, Stephanie stood on the rooftop for a few more minutes trying her best to fully process the conversation she just had. Damian, the little bird moron, challenged a legion of zombie assassins on some misguided justification like pride or honor. What the hell was wrong with him? If he told her in person, she might just have decked him in the face for being so stupid. It reminded her more than anything that despite the age jump, Damian Wayne was still Damian. He was brash, he didn’t look before he leaped, and he had this twisted sense of superiority. Of invulnerability. Steph wished on days like this that she could shake all of that out of him because she knew about being vulnerable. He didn’t really get it, did he? How easy it could be to be battered and beaten and broken? Especially, she supposed, when zombie killers were involved.
Talons were on her mind as she went back to her apartment to drop off her costume and equipment before going out to pick up supplies for the kitten. Undead assassins. Okay, this was bad. When she and Selina had run into them -- well, they watched them rummage through Wayne Manor from a safe distance -- the kitty cat hadn’t told her exactly what they were, only rattled off some nursery rhyme from her Gotham. But now, Stephanie knew now, and it was something that had to be taken care of. She wouldn’t let him do it alone again either, not over her dead body. No, Damian started it by challenging the Talons, but he wouldn’t go it alone now. She’d make sure of it.
She arrived at the Manor through one of the entrances of the cave, out of her cowl in favor of jeans and a t-shirt. (Yeah, it wouldn’t be particularly smart or awesome to have Batgirl roll up in your pet store for some kitty litter and other paraphernalia.) Large bag filled with stuff for the new addition in one hand, she walked up the path out of the entrance and towards the Batcomputer. The layout of this entire manor wasn’t vastly different, but there were enough differences that had her a little lost as she wandered around. “Damian?” she called out as the enormous Batcomputer rounded into view, hoping he’d realize that he probably would need to meet her and guide her to the actual house.
Damian had left the kitten upstairs in his room to go wait in the Batcave for Stephanie. It was something he had secretly wanted since he knew what a cat was and to have one attach itself to him so quickly after a near death experience was what he needed. Maybe it wasn’t just because he liked cats, but because it reminded him of a very specific cat that he had developed feelings for. Feelings he didn’t want to admit to, that the drinking in Vegas forced him to show. He didn’t like how much it hurt his little bird heart to care about someone that could never belong to him. He needed a kitten that purred and wanted to snuggle and wouldn’t let go of his sleeve.
“Right here.” Damian was over by the tumbler, a blueprint of some weird flying version of it spread out on the ground next to him. “I’ve been neglecting rebuilding the Batwing, but now that no one trusts me I might as well. Should be useful against the recent rise in crime.” Business first, just like his father. Unlike him, though, Damian could take some time off for people like Stephanie. Especially with Roger in his ear, hypocritically reminding him how important it was to spend time with family.
He got to his feet and took one of the heavy bags for her. Up close, Damian looked like he was just getting over a bad cold. His eyes were a little dazed with sleep and his body almost seemed like it was trying to turn inward. It was obvious to anyone that knew him, but Damian acted as though nothing was wrong. “Have you been up to the mansion, yet? It’s not that different from the one we remember. Less Wayne mementos, though.” He seemed a little sad about that. Damian didn’t care for his mother’s side of the family, but he embraced the Waynes. Turning towards the elevator lift, he waited for her to follow and then pushed a button to make it rise out of the Batcave.
Steph sneaked a peek at the blueprints, but before she could make heads or tails of it, he was moving away. “Looks impressive,” she said, a little surprised that this Bruce didn’t have something similar yet. He seemed very tech-savvy, this Bat, with his armor of military-style weapons, but Damian knew a different kind machinery. More of their Gotham-style. Flash mixed with practicality. “Do you even have a license, kid? I don’t think you should be allowed behind the wheel, let alone flying a tumbler with wings.”
She followed him to the elevator, allowing him to grab the bag. She wanted to say it was okay, that she didn’t need his help, but she would allow him to be a gentleman this once. Maybe he was finally learning some manners. “No, I haven’t,” she said of being in the mansion. “I’ve been sticking to patrols, mostly, and going to class when I can. I pop in here every now and then to check out or add some updates, if there are any, or grab something I might need.” Once the elevator started its ascent, she chanced a once-over. He looked like crap. Exhausted. Like he should be laying down for the rest of eternity. “You don’t look like you’ve been fighting zombies and their crazy challenges.”
“The Batwing isn’t for me.” Damian narrowed his eyes at her. “And, even if it was I’m sure I could fly it a lot better than a clumsy Batgirl like you.” Typical sibling teasing would probably never get old. Damian could see them in their eighties finding new reasons to make fun of each other. He waited for the elevator to stop before pushing another button and opening the secret passage he had hacked back when Passages first opened up. Living here might have felt foreign at first, but it was scary how second nature moving around it now was.
“Oh, really? What do I look like I’ve been doing?” He snapped a look at her, part of him thinking that she was hinting that he never needed any kind of rest after this week. That was something the al Ghul in him was saying, but Damian knew it was better to cool his jets for a couple days and eventually let Roger have his life back.
“I’m not clumsy, little bird,” Steph snapped back, knowing that feeding into him wouldn’t help much but not really caring either way. It was their shtick, bouncing insults back and forth like a big sister and little brother. Nick informed her of people on the Vegas side of the door who thought something romantic could happen between the two of them, and blargh, gross. She took note of the new passageway into the mansion, just in case she needed access later on down the road and followed him through. It was a similar space with splashes of change, much like the rest of Gotham was. Like everyone else was.
She shot him a look, all big sister-like. “Christ, Damian, it was a joke.” She tried her best to hide it, but her concern flickered through as she looked him over again, a slight frown tugging down at her lips. He looked more worn out than she had ever seen him. “Do you want me to tell you that you look like crap then? I thought I’d save the old Wayne ego. You do, by the way, look like crap.”
The Wayne Mansion seemed somewhat emptier than the one they knew, if that was even possible. But, it was familiar and still had a kind of musty, oak smell and dark corners to remind them of who owned it. Damian knew there was never a happy Mansion, even when his grandparents were alive. There just wasn’t enough people in their family to make it feel like a home. But, to Damian, it was better than his mother’s version of homemaking. This place felt comfortable, unassuming. He needed it to recover. “I look fine.” Damian said sorely. He didn’t like it when she joked or told the truth. There wasn’t anything amusing to him about his appearance.
Moving up the stairs, Damian opened up his door carefully as to not slam a wandering kitten in the nose. Instead, it was sleeping on his bed. A delicate, tiny ball of black fur and while feet and mismatched spots. For the first time since Stephanie arrived, a little color rose in his face. He loved this stupid little cat more than he should. “Hey, kitty.” Damian whispered, opening the door so Stephanie can step inside. The kitten slowly opens its green eyes, purrs at them and meows sleepily. It’s easily the cutest thing that has ever been brought into the mansion.
It wasn’t malicious, her teasing, even if it sounded like the usual banter between the two. Steph was really concerned for Damian since their conversation over the communicators; seeing him...well, that didn’t help matters much at all. But she didn’t think he’d react well to blatant concern, not when she was still Steph and he was still Damian. “You look alive,” she said, grateful with the slightest jab at him. As annoying as he could be at times, she didn’t even want to imagine if Todd wasn’t successful.
She spotted the rosiness in his cheeks, and she smirked at him, eyebrow raising a little. Oh, this had a good story to it, didn’t it? She was sorely tempted to ask him about it, but the mewling effectively distracted her thought-process for the time being. “Look at her,” she whispered with a wide grin. Placing the other bags on the floor, she tiptoed to the bed and kneeled on the floor so she wouldn’t startle her. A tentative hand reached out to lightly brush fingers against the soft, soft fur, and Steph couldn’t control the ‘oh god so cute’ and cooing sounds at the sight of the little ball of fur. “Hi, pretty baby,” she said, a little more loudly but still quiet enough to be soothing for the tiny animal.
Damian stood at the doorway, bag in hand as he watched Stephanie. He was quietly thankful she had her back turned to him and all her attention on the new cat because it was hard to hide the tiny smile on his face. This is what they had become. The fearless Batgirl and Robin team who liked to punch and slice were mere puddles of goop for a tiny, fuzzy thing. He quietly put his bag down and took a seat on the floor next to them, looking up at the kitten.
It wasn’t afraid of Stephanie and instead curiously sniffed her hand after waking up properly. It mewed again a couple times in a conversational string. “I woke up with her on my face.” Damian explained, hands in lap as he watched the two of them. The kitten looked at him for a moment and then returned all attention to Steph, rubbing against her fingers for more pets and love.
When the kitten perked up, Steph brightened even more, biting down on her lip in a failed attempt to suppress the gleeful grin. To an outsider it was probably a strange sight, seeing two kids so skilled and soaked in violence to be fawning over a kitten. Hell, it was kind of funny to her, now that she thought about it, but she didn’t quite care because god was the thing adorable. She gently rubbed her fingers on the top of its head and down its tiny back.
“She was probably just trying to save the world from seeing your mug,” Steph teased, glancing briefly at the former boy wonder to flash him a smile before returning her attention to the kitten. “She likes you obviously. I don’t know why you would,” she said, talking to the cat this time, smile still in place. “He’s craaazy, don’t you know?” Fingers still running up and down the tiny thing, she turned to Damian again. “She’s beautiful, seriously.”
Damian finally smiled back at Steph and looked up at the kitten who was marching around her fingers and rolling over for appropriate belly rubbing. It was demanding of attention and love, liked to playfully bite and always knew how to flash those big green eyes to knock people over. “Yeah, I know.” Damian said, but there was something in his voice that didn’t seem intended for this particular cat. He didn’t even catch himself think about Selina. She had this way of just rolling into his head when he wasn’t out knocking heads together or building a bat-plane. He liked this cat, he would have liked it if he had never met Selina in the first place, but the fact that it had once belonged to her meant something to him. Something that was getting difficult to hide.
Stephanie caught the tone in his voice, the lilt that was more than just adoration for the little fuzzball, and like the appropriate big sister, she grinned mischievously. Oh, yeah, this was definitely good. “Sooo, you took her from Selina? And she didn’t kill you?” She nudged his side with her elbow, eyes narrowed and smile all-knowing. She knew about the whole head-over-heels crush thing with Gotham’s most complicated, and she was also amused that Damian wasn’t such a baby anymore, at least about girls. “What’s been going on with you two?” she asked, fully aware that the Cat wasn’t apathetic towards the little bird either. Her chat with the kitty a few weeks before told her that. “Spill it, Wayne.”
Damian snapped his head back like he was caught doing something he shouldn’t be. “What.” He scowled, giving her a defiant look that implied she was out of her mind. That he even spent that much time with Selina in the first place. “Nothing’s been going on I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He predictably clamed up, arms crossed defensively. Any other man would want to brag. Damian didn’t want to believe that he had a weakness for anything. Not even a cat. He sat there pouting for a little, the rhythm purr of the cat now loud in his ear.
“Selina flirts with anything and anyone.” Damian said finally, trying to play it off. He wasn’t attached because she didn’t care about him. He had to convince himself that she treated him exactly like every other man in her life. That wasn’t easy, though. Not when he remembered clearly that look she gave at the edge of a Vegas rooftop. “It’s impossible to get information out of her without acting like it’s working.”
Steph turned her head away from Damian as he spoke and scratched underneath the kitty’s little chin. Yeah, right. Smirking, she continued to watch the cat, making little faces and noises, lulling Damian into a false sense of security. As if all of her attention was on the animal prancing in front of them. But oh no, it wasn’t. She took his words in, not for what they were at face value, but for a boy who couldn’t face having a crush. It was cute. Eventually, she rolled her neck, canting her head to the side, and gave him a smug look.
“She’s a flirt, yeah, but that doesn’t actually mean anything,” Steph said, moving to sit down and make herself more comfortable. Reaching a free arm around him, she fished through one of the bags of pet goods and pulled out a toy. “I’m not stupid, you know.” She dangled and wiggled in front of the kitten, but she was looking at him instead. “How were you even in her place long enough to grab this little girl anyway, hmm?”
Damian watched the cat’s stubby little paws make attempts at the toy dangling around her. He leaned his head against the bed, almost wishing he could just curl up in some dark corner and stop thinking about this. “After my run in with the Talons she let me rest there. Jason couldn’t drag me all the way back here and I doubt he’d want to even if he could.” He knew how this whole thing sounded, but by mentioning Jason maybe Steph wouldn’t think something fishy happened.
She’s going to get it out of you eventually. Roger suddenly mentioned off-handedly like he always did. Roger didn’t know the first fucking thing about romantic notions, but he did know that girls would poke and prod until they got what they wanted. Damian sighed, reaching up to scratch the cat’s back. “I kissed her. In Vegas. That’s all it was, though.”
Stephanie Brown was a lot of things, but she wasn’t an idiot. When Steph mentioned ‘the birds’ to Selina during their chat a few weeks ago, the Cat seemed to have an affection for them -- or at least one of them -- far past casual or apathy. And clearly, Damian wasn’t immune to it either. She wasn’t shocked, then, when he said that Selina offered a place to stay, even if his explanation as to why wasn’t that believable.
But then, Damian was always good for a curveball. The kitten commanded her attention, but his admission snapped her focus right back. The toy stopped wriggling about as her hand stilled, and Steph spluttered for a moment before laughing. “Oh, boy, Damian. You sure know how to pick ‘em right.” She grinned, even if she gave him a side glance of concern. She knew how relationships in the cowl turned out, and it wasn’t ever good. “Puberty hit you hard, kid. At least you chose the hottest kitty on the market.” But even as she joked, it was with a tone that told him she was worried about his little bird heart.
Damian made a sound like Steph was trying to kill him. A soft groan as if she had found a way to pull out his very life force and dangle it in front of the cat. He didn’t want to talk about Selina, didn’t even want to think about her for very much longer. “Bruce should just send me to the Teen Titans and be done with it.” Wasn’t that where ex-Robins went to learn the rules of puberty? Stephanie never got so lucky, but Damian couldn’t imagine her and Starfire in the same room anyway.
He looked up at the kitten, who looked back down at him and swatted his face playfully. Damian winced, but let the cat hit him over and over. “Selina will get bored of me once she realized that my father isn’t all the different from the one she knows. It’s not me she’s after. It never will be.” Damian had a way of accepting hard truths because that’s what he was trained to do. He knew better than anyone that Selina was eternally searching for that hint of her Batman, something she found in both Damian and Bruce.
“Like he’d actually torture them by putting you on the team, kid,” Steph teased with a smile. Though she had worked with Damian (and Grayson, too), she couldn’t imagine him on a team of super powered teenagers as much as she couldn’t imagine herself working with them permanently. No, she didn’t think Bruce would be that cruel, or insane. Damian was stuck learning his lessons here, where the sting was most potent.
Steph shot him a worried look. She knew, probably better than a lot of the Batfamily, about trials of love, even at her young age, and as much as she knew Damian needed to learn all these lessons himself, she wished he didn’t have to. “Kitties like her don’t like to be caged in. No matter who it is.” Reaching over, she patted him on his shoulder, and her eyes were sympathetic as she looked at him for a moment. Didn’t he know it was dangerous for birds to play with cats? “She seemed kinda fond of you when we spoke when she was at the Batcave. But you didn’t hear that from me, of course.” She shrugged, knowing she probably shouldn’t have said anything at all, but whatever. Damian needed that glimmer of hope.
Damian smiled with a nod, glancing down at her hand, actually appreciating this weird bonding session. It was unnatural and he could just imagine his younger self balking at it all, but he didn’t care. Things were supposed to change when he got older and Damian was just happy he liked being an adult rather than growing to hate it. “You should name her.” He said with a smile, the kitten pressing her paws down his forehead before tumbling into his waiting hands. It mewed and squirmed until he let it go to jump into Steph’s lap.
Steph eagerly took on the responsibility of the kitten, taking her up in one hand and scratching her fur with the other. She appreciated the little bonding session, too, and maybe this would teach Damian to come to her next time instead of running after insane assassins by himself. “Oh, yeah? Hmmm.” She made a thoughtful sound and fell quiet for a moment. “How about a little birdie name? Swan or Bluejay or Canary? What do you think, girl?” she asked the kitten before looking up at Damian with a playful grin. “Named like your daddy. He loves bird names..”
Damian made scoffing noises at most of her suggestions while rolling his eyes at the others. “She’s a cat. Cats eat birds.” He said, pretending to not notice the wrong way that could be taken. He reached his arm up and pulled down some of the stuff Steph brought the kitten. Each toy, treat and necessity were regarded with mild curiosity. “And, for the record, the Talon thing was just coincidence. Gotham is obsessed with birds, not me.” He mumbled to himself.
“Uh, so not a coincidence, Damian,” Steph replied with a pointed, yet teasing look. “Cats in Gotham seem to love birds.” She looked down at the kitten thoughtfully, rubbing the top of her head. The fluffy little thing mewled and swatted at Steph’s hand, pulling a soft smile out of the Batgirl. “What about Bandit?” she asked offhand and quietly as if it weren’t a real suggestion at all. But it was cute and such a pet name. The kitty’s momma was a thief, after all, and it would fit so perfectly, but she didn’t expect Damian to consider something so inane and common.
Damian flicked the top of a feather toy. He took a moment to think it over and nodded. “I like it.” And, he did. It was simple, fit the cat’s history and made for a good thing to call when he lost track of the kitten. He gave a hint of a smile and waved the toy in front of the kitten’s face, making it wiggle around in Steph’s hand. “Come on. Let’s figure out where to put its stuff.”