I usually don’t post fanfiction here, considering it is not taken seriously by DC or Marvel. However, this story was one of my highest rated on ff.net, getting more than ten reviews and twenty favorites. So, after the DC Talent Search panel at NYCC, I decided to take this story for a test drive with the comic book script format. (I have posted the short story version below.)
“Joint Custody”—When even Bruce can’t tame Damian, he turns to the one person who can. Set after Bruce Wayne: The Road Home
1—Establishing shot—Night. Gotham City. An ice cream sign marquee blinks reading “Frosty Princess Ice Cream.” Some of the letters aren’t lit, and it’s dingy as if it was hung forty years ago.
NARR: Nights off are like scoops of ice cream.
2—Shot from the street. A man with black hair in a leather jacket and jeans walks past the closed ice cream parlor. It’s Dick, and he’s rocking shades. A guitar case is on his back.
NARR: You get them few and far between, and when you do, you savor them.
3—In front of the bar are riffraff hanging out, drunk, with a bouncer keeping them out.
NARR: Of course, unless you’re a costumed superhero and burn thousands of calories a day, then you can eat ice cream for breakfast.
4—Dick drops down his shades to the bridge of his nose and smiles at the bouncer. The bouncer’s giving him a thumbs-inside.
NARR: Nights off? They still come few and far between.
5—Shot of the bar with Dick’s back directly in front of us. We’re following him in. It’s not so much a hole in the wall as previously thought. A long, wooden bar is to our left, and tables liter the area in front of us and to the right. Directly beyond the tables in a small stage where a beatnik with spiky brown hair is sitting before a piano. An African American woman with long, curly hair and a revealing blue dress is getting ready to sing.
NARR: Tonight’s an exception.
1—Flashback—Remants of an explosion through a wall at Blackgate reveals a destroyed cell. A few security guards stand in the blown-out wall, befuddled.
NARR: Last night, there was a Blackgate Prison escape, and the original Batman was preoccupied.
2—Batman—Bruce—fights with the Riddler’s henchmen.
NARR: With what, he was really tight lipped about, so I didn’t push.
3—Bruce is now rushing toward a small being who’s tied up with his head down. The Riddler stands behind him, holding his question mark cane under the battered boy’s chin. (For reference, the boy is Damian).
NARR: Ever since he’s come back from the “grave,” he’s actually been more open, so when he shut up, I figured things were just getting back to normal.
4—Return to Dick—Batman. He’s fighting men and women in prisoner jumpsuits, next to the new Hawk and Dove.
NARR: SOOOOO, after working until daybreak with the Birds of Prey—
1—Dick’s asleep on one of the manor’s couch. There’s a post-it on his forehead.
NARR: Bruce left me a message on my forehead while I was passed out on the Manor’s couch.
2—Close up on the note. It says, “Take the night off.”
NARR: Not even a “good job.”
NARR: It’s good to have him home.
3—Now in the bar, Dick steps onto the stage. The previous beatnik and singer are finishing up getting ready.
NARR: On nights like these, I usually pair with James Branson and Lace Grace.
4—Lace kisses Dick on the cheek.
NARR: Lace is a beauty with a voice that rivals Ella Fitzgerald with the look of Beyonce.
LACCE: Oh, you’re here, Dick. I thought you were going to bail on us again.
5—James shakes Dick’s hand.
NARR: James plays like Harry Connick, Jr., but looks like Rob Thomas.
JAMES: Maybe we can actually play this time.
1—Dick pulls his guitar out of his case.
NARR: I went to college with both of them, and we dropped out almost at the same time.
NARR: Them, to go professional; me because, well…you’ve heard the stories, real and gossip.
2—Lace takes the microphone as James sits at the piano. Dick’s set up to the right of the piano, though his phone vibrates.
LACE: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Hope you’re ready for some smooth sounds of— NARR: Last time we tried this, the JLA had to wrangle all the metas because of the Starheart’s influence.
NARR: Before that, the Joker had set up an elaborate scheme with dominos.
NARR: Prior to that, Damian had stolen a bike and went undercover to expose a child fighting ring.
3—We’re looking down at Dick’s cellphone, reading a text. “Boss: Satellite. Now.”
NARR: And I just know I’m never playing with Lace and James again.
4—Dick is “beamed up” to the JLA satellite.
NARR: Like I said, I’m part of the JLA now.
5—From behind Dick, we see Batman standing before a window into the infirmary. His arms are crossed, and his cowl is on. In the window, Damian’s throwing tongue depressors.
NARR: Going to the watchtower is just another day at the office, but getting a call from Batman, who isn’t part of it now, from the watchtower? It’s a little UNNERVING.
DICK: I thought I had the night off, or did I read the Post-It stuck to my forehead wrong?
1— Bruce pulls off his cowl.
BRUCE: We need to talk.
NARR: Bruce Wayne to Dick Grayson, not Batman to um…Batman. That only happens if something bad happens, y’know like he’s had his back broken and wants me to take over for him—after he’s given the cowl to a psychopath.
NARR: Don’t go there, Grayson.
DICK: What’s wrong?
3—Bruce motions into the infirmary.
4—Dick tries to hide his smirk.
DICK: Is there a reason why Damian’s throwing a bedpan at Donna?
5—Damian throws a bedpan at Donna Troy, who looks frustrated dealing with him, and coming from the woman who lost her child, that says something. Damian’s a little battered, though, with his left hand taped from his knuckles to his elbow and Batman Band-Aids splattered across his ripped cheeks. Dick’s all serious now, even though we’re looking into the room from his and Bruce’s POV.
DICK (off): What happened?
BRUCE (off): Riddler. He’s more dangerous now than he was in the past.
1—Dick’s not fazed. Bruce’s still firm, his arms still crossed. He’s not showing his emotion, which means he’s feeling something.
DICK: You getting Alzheimer’s, old man? I remember him teaming with Hush not too long ago to manipulate everyone for and against you, including but not limited to Ra’s al Ghul.
BRUCE: He had Damian for five hours before I could get to him.
2—This gets Dick really worried, and Bruce motions into the room.
NARR: Oh, God.
DICK: Is he okay?
BRUCE: He’ll be, but…deal with this.
DICK: What? ME? Why do I have to?
4—Bruce is lost at what to do, and it shows. Dick doesn’t believe it.
BRUCE: You raised him for the last year. He listens to you.
DICK: Are you serious? He PATRONIZES me, thinks I’m nothing more than your charity case. You’re his father. He worships the ground you walk on.
BRUCE: Humor me.
5—Dick rolls his eyes and heads into the room.
NARR: I do what he asks. Why? I wonder that sometimes, too.
1—As Dick enters the room, antiseptic rains down upon him. He’s furious he has to do this.
DAMIAN (off): Harlot! You don’t even deserve to be his—
DICK (shouting): SHUT UP!
2—Damian freezes in mid-throw, an IV holder in his hand like a javelin. Donna smiles.
3—Dick puts out his finger like any dad.
DICK: Put that down NOW, or you’re looking at washing the Batmobile for a year.
4—Damian drops the IV holder.
NARR: Like a good little soldier.
5—Dick smiles at Donna as she goes to leave. She’s disheveled. Maybe she puts a hand on his shoulder.
DICK: Thanks, Donna.
DONNA: Oh, honey, you have no idea how much you owe me.
DICK: I lived with him for a year. You’ve been with him fifteen minutes max. Who wins in this equation?
DONNA: Neither way do you.
NARR: She’s right.
1—As she leaves, Dick turns to Damian, who is sitting cross-legged on the gurney-bed.
DICK: What gives you the right?
DAMIAN: She’s nothing more than a—
DICK: No! No excuses, no whining, no threats or jabs. I want the truth, kiddo. What the hell gives you the right to throw stuff at Donna, disobey your father, and get me called up to the watchtower on my night off?
2—Damian mumbles something, his head ducked.
NARR: Is he actually ashamed?
3—Dick leans over.
DICK: Sorry. Didn’t quite catch that. Mind speaking up for the class?
4—Damian shouts, outraged.
DAMIAN (shouts): You didn’t come!
NARR: Slapped across the face a second time in five minutes.
DICK: Wait. What?
\6—Damian starts to spill, something he doesn’t like to do—just like Bruce doesn’t.
NARR: Damian’s face scrunches, kind of like Bruce’s does when he’s angry at me.
DAMIAN: You said if I were ever in trouble, you’d come!
DICK: I didn’t know!
8—Damian doesn’t take that. This is Dick, Batman.
DAMIAN: Then what good are you!
9—Dick puts a hand to his forehead.
DICK: Hold on a sec.
1—Dick spreads his arms out. He’s at a loss here.
DICK: You’re throwing stuff at Donna and jumping around like a monkey because I didn’t save you?
2—Damian averts his eyes.
DAMIAN: When my grandfather threw Drake off a building, you caught him. When the JLA call, you go running, but when I’m tied up and forced to listen to a lunatic with a question mark make horrid jokes for hours, you lollygag.
NARR: Eleven year olds should never say “lollygag.”
3—Dick falls for the bed next to Damian, blowing out a breath. He puts his guitar between his legs.
NARR: For a moment, I’m reminded once more that Damian might be a little demon, but he’s still just a kid.
DICK: You like being Robin.
DAMIAN: I AM Robin.
DICK: Actually, Robin was MY name, but we won’t go there.
4—Same picture, Dick now looking at Damian.
NARR: Jason. Tim. Stephanie. Back to Tim. Now Damian. Yeah, let’s not go there today, at least.
DICK: Your dad found you.
DAMIAN: He’s my father, not my partner.
DICK: But kid—
5—Close-up on Damian. He’s deadly serious about this, and he needs Dick to understand.
DAMIAN: He’s my father, NOT my partner.
6—Dick looks down at Damian, stunned.
1—Dick reaches over and ruffles Damian’s hair.
NARR: . I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere between Bruce’s “death” and now, I won the little demon.
2—Dick lets his arm drop to Damian’s shoulders and leans over to kiss the boy on top of his hair.
NARR: Scratch that. Between Bruce’s “death” and Talia’s attempt to kill me, I won this kid, and somewhere between Bruce’s “death” and now, he’s won me.
3—Damian points to Dick’s guitar case.
DAMIAN: What’s that?
4—Dick unzips the case to reveal a shiny new bass guitar.
DICK: Oh, this old thing? It’s a bass guitar. You play?
5—Damian shakes his head and rubs the tears from his eyes.
6—Dick scooches back on the bed and pats the mattress.
1—Damian sits before Dick, and Dick places his guitar on the boy’s lap. Damian squirms.
DICK: Hey, hey, hey…come on, now. You want to learn, don’t you?
2—Damian glances over his shoulder.
DAMIAN: Did my father teach you?
DICK: No. I actually learned to pay the guitar when I was traveling with my parents in the circus. Luckily, I had a knack for acrobatics, but if I would have fallen into the net too many times, then I might have been a musician.
DAMIAN: Or you could have been a buffoon.
3— Dick slaps the kid playfully on the back of the head.
DICK: Hey, watch that.
4—Dick places his fingers on Damian’s.
NARR: I try to think of a song Damian would like, and it comes easily.
DICK (singing): So sick of the hobos, always looking for change…
5—Dick continues to work Damian’s hands on the guitar.
NARR: Halfway through “Hate My Life” by Theory of a Deadman (sorry, Boston), I know what I have to do. Not for me. Not for Bruce. For Damian.
DICK: I’ll speak to your dad, but…what do you think about coming to live with me at Wayne Tower again? Perhaps just for weekends? We’ll see how things go from there.
DAMIAN: All right.
7—Damian follows Dick’s fingers.
DAMIAN: Perhaps I was wrong.
DICK: Oh, yeah?
DAMIAN: You ARE a buffoon.
DICK: Don’t make me tie you to the toilet AGAIN.
1—Watching from the two-way mirror, Bruce narrows his eyes. Superman places a hand on Bruce’s shoulder.
SUPERMAN: You must have done something right.
2—Bruce’s face is hard. He’s not happy he’s letting his youngest son go, but he knows he has to.
3—In the infirmary, we get a close-up of Dick and Damian as Dick hits Damian playfully in the back of the head.
4—Close up on same picture—Damian’s smile.
5—Bruce smiles the same small smile.
BRUCE: No, Clark. Alfred did.