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"If you can't stop them in time, you can say goodbye to about a quarter of the world's population. Any questions?"

The Flash raised his hand.

"Flash, I've told you before, you don't have to raise your hand," Batman said.

"Right, sorry," the Flash said, lowering his arm. "I was just wondering why you have a baby?"

"I don't."

Batman was clearly holding a very small child in one arm. She had plastic barrettes in her braids, and was wearing a pink tutu. Her shoes were bedazzled.

"You… don't?" the Flash asked. He looked around himself to see if he was somehow imagining that Batman was holding a tiny fairy princess.

"Miss Roberts is a toddler. Does anyone have any questions relevant to the fact that half of North America is about to explode?"

"Why do you have a toddler?" Superman asked, ignoring his request.

"I would also like some clarification," Aquaman added.

"There was an incident," Batman said. "It's being handled." Miss Roberts was trying to fit her entire fist into her mouth. Without looking down he reached into his belt and produced a small plastic tangle toy, offering it to her. "Again: relevant questions?" Miss Roberts stopped what she was doing in favor of twisting the toy around and chewing on it.

"Is Miss Roberts why you're sending drones instead of joining us?" Wonder Woman asked. She did nothing to disguise her amusement.

"No," Batman said, "it just worked out that way."

"Fair enough," she said. It wasn't as if there was much else he could do to stop a rocket. Or fifty.

"You now have thirty-eight minutes." He caught the toy just as Miss Roberts dropped it in favor of trying to pull on his cape. "I recommend that you hurry." He looked down at the little girl he was holding. "Maria," he said seriously, "we have discussed this."

She tried to put his cape over her head.




Green Arrow slowed as he entered the room. "... Batman, why is there a baby in here?"

"She's a toddler," Batman corrected. He was piloting six different drones with six different displays. Maria was sitting on the desk, hitting a big red button which was attached to nothing, but which made a loud clacking noise. She was surrounded by crayons and crumpled paper.

"Then why is there a toddler in here?" Green Arrow asked.

"Are you suggesting that I should have left her in the Batmobile?" Batman asked. One of the cameras shorted out in a burst of flame, quickly replaced by another. "That would be dangerous and constitute criminal negligence."

"That's not — why do you even have a toddler?"

Batman was still absorbed in his task. "Where did you think Robins came from?"

Green Arrow froze. He narrowed his eyes. "You — no. You don't actually mean..." He looked at Maria, still busily absorbed with her big red button. "No, you're definitely messing with me. Wonder Woman would never... Superman would never let you do that." Batman did not respond, continuing to pilot his fleet of drones.

Green Arrow leaned down to put himself more on her level. "Hey there, sweetheart," he said. "You're a cutie, aren't you?"

She slammed the button again. "No!"

He blinked. "No?"

"No!" she said again.

"Don't patronize her," Batman said. He looked away from his displays for the first time, looking at Maria. "He means well," he assured her, before going back to what he'd been doing. She slammed the button again.

Green Arrow stood straighter with a frown. "Really?" he asked her. "You realize I'm the handsome, fun urban vigilante, right?"

"No."

"Don't tell lies to impressionable children," Batman said. "It reflects poorly on the League's values."

"Are you even officially a League member?"

"I'm an independent contractor." Maria threw her button to the floor with a clatter. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave, you're upsetting Miss Roberts."

"I'm what?" Green Arrow asked.

"She's very particular about the company she keeps," Batman explained. She had started tearing paper apart. Another drone exploded. "I don't make the rules, I just enforce them."

Green Arrow threw up his hands as he turned to leave. As he walked through the doorway, he turned around to get the last word in. "Kids love me," he informed them both, before disappearing down the hall.

"Keep telling yourself that," Batman said. A crayon hit him in the shoulder. "Maria, I appreciate your candor, but now is not the time."




"Sooo," the Flash said, "did anyone ever figure out what was up with the baby?"

"Do you mean the toddler?" Wonder Woman teased.

"She's gone, whoever she was," Superman said. "I assume that means everything worked out okay."

"You guys know his secret identity," Green Arrow said to Superman and Wonder Woman. "Could she have been a relative? Like a niece?"

"No," they both said at once.

"Perhaps he had a child with some secret lover?" Aquaman suggested. Superman snorted at the same time as Wonder Woman barked a laugh. "... I will take that as a no," Aquaman said.

"This is going to bother me," the Flash complained.

"The idea of Batman having a secret lover?" Green Arrow asked.

"Yeah," the Flash said, "but what I meant was the kid. Do you think if I asked J'onn he'd read Batman's mind to find out where it came from?"

"I would not," J'onn said, from where he was now standing directly behind the Flash.

"Bwu— why not?"

"Ethical issues aside," J'onn said, in a way that made it clear that he was not setting them aside at all, "exploring Batman's mind is extremely unpleasant. I would prefer to be able to enjoy the rest of my day."

"Aww, man."

Aquaman set a hand on his shoulder. "Learn to accept that there are some things in this life that we were not meant to know."




"Maria, honey, what are you doing with Mr. Wayne? You were supposed to be at daycare."

Bruce set the girl down on the hospital bed beside Paul as he tried to rub sleep from his eyes. "She was determined to intern with me today and wouldn't take no for an answer."

Paul pulled her close, still struggling a little for coherence through the lingering anesthesia, his voice hoarse from intubation. "She didn't bother you, did she? I know I shouldn't have had her in the office, I swear I don't usually—"

"It's fine," Bruce said. "Miss Roberts was extremely professional, and is clearly an asset to the revenues department. I look forward to seeing her when you come back to work in a few months."

"Thank you, Mr. Wayne."

"It was my pleasure. You keep an eye on him, okay?"

"Kay," Maria said.

Bruce gave Paul a nod as he headed for the door. Maria held her arm out straight, opened and closed her fingers in Bruce's direction. "Bye-bye."