Jason fell asleep being alone with his cats, but he woke with a tiny bird on his couch that looked like someone had ruffled his feathers pretty bad. Damian kept staring at the ceiling when he ambled into the living room, still tired from the short few hours of sleep he’d had after patrol. “Todd.”
“Did you just get off the phone with mother?”
Shrugging, Jason let himself fall on the other end of the couch. “Nah, just email. You wanna talk to her?”
The child rolled himself up like a pill bug, hugging his legs close to his chest. “No,” he said.
“Wanna talk about it?”
Jason sighed. If Damian would only come to him because of his contact with Talia, Jason wouldn’t have hesitated to throw him out. But he wasn’t. Damian never came to use Jason as a proxy to get to his mother. Damian came to do his homework, to get away from the manor, to talk about school. “Those boy scouts again?”
Raising his head, the child shot him a glare. “They would not survive a night outdoors.”
“Just punch them in the teeth and be done with it.”
“I can’t,” Damian said, propping his chin on his knees.
Carefully, Jason laid an arm around him and pulled the child closer. “Daddy wouldn’t approve.”
Which got him a pout and an elbow to the ribs. “Shouldn’t you offer to deal with them? Show up at school or talk to their parents. Something constructive.”
“And what did your last slave die of?” Jason tousled his hair. “You’re perfectly capable of dealing with your own problems, kid.”
Crossing his arms, Damian huffed. “Says you.”
“Yeah, says me. Now come on, feed the cats while I whip up some breakfast.”
“Pancakes. The good ones.”
Jason rolled his eyes and got off the couch. “Sure, if you’ve left some buttermilk in the fridge.”
Damian knew his way around the kitchen, and he easily rounded the cats up on the table. It was nice to have company, even if the little brat complained about his taste in music. Singing along to the song on the radio, Jason prepared their breakfast, letting the child pet his cats all he wanted. Salt would nip at his fingers, but if Damian didn’t know that by now, he would never learn.
When they eventually sat down in the living room again, he said, “I think Pepper is pregnant.”
Damian’s eyes lit up. “Really?”
“Really really.” He leaned back and put his plate on his stomach. “She’s gotten fat.”
Next to him, Damian was almost vibrating with glee. Kittens. Of course, that would cheer him up.
“Eat up.” Jason pointed his fork at the child. “Then you can go cuddle her all you want.”
It took not more than a minute for Damian to finish his breakfast and run back to the kitchen. “She’s really heavy!”
“Just say it like it is,” Jason laughed. “She’s fat.”
“She’s chubby at most.” The kid cradled Pepper, returning with her and plopping down at the end of the couch.
Jason let him play, taking both their plates to the dishwasher before picking up Damian’s school bag. “You gonna do those here or back home?”
“I don’t have homework.”
“It’s stupid. I already know more physics than most adults.”
“Doesn’t excuse you from doing your job.” Jason let the bag dangle from his hand, holding it out for Damian to take.
Grumbling, the kid set Pepper down and took his bag to the table. “School’s stupid.”
“Only because you’re too smart.” Jason ran a hand through his hair, watching the boy take out his books and notepad. He had loved school. Had missed it that time when he’d had to drop out to take care of his mother. Even after everything, when he no longer had any interest in a high school diploma, he loved learning. Damian didn’t. As he had been expected to know or be able to do something just because of his parentage, Damian had never been taught to enjoy the process of learning.
Sighing, Jason sat down beside him, taking a glance at the assignment. “Alright, look, kid. If you’re done with that stuff, I’m gonna show you how to use it, okay?”
Damian blinked. “What?”
“Eloquent, hatchling.” Jason grinned and took one of the school books, skimming it.
Frowning, Damian slapped his pen down. “Do you think this is fun, Todd?”
“In fact, yes, I do. Look, I get it. Your education was way different than mine, but the day your mom got me the chance to get any teacher I wanted? That was one of the best days of my life.”
“I already know how to calculate where a shot came from or how much force–”
– “Did I say ‘let’s shoot a guy’? Because I’m pretty sure your dad would get an aneurism.” When Jason flipped another page, Pepper leaped on his lap, pawing at the book.
“Then what are you saying, Todd?”
“Loosen up.” Jason laid the book to the side, picked the cat up and raised her to his face. “We’re gonna have fun, that’s what I’m saying.”