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Superman's fingers were laced together, his index fingers pressed to his mouth as he assessed the situation. There was a metaphorical fire in his eyes, as opposed to the literal fire that was sometimes in his eyes.

"I'm going to have to fight you," he said finally.

Batman rubbed at the bridge of his nose. Between the gloves and the mask, it was not a very effective stress reliever. "No," he said, "you're not."

"You're leaving me no other choice."

"Out of all the reasons that you could possibly want to throw me into the sun—"

"What?" Superman was aghast. "I said fight, why are you going straight to starmurder?"

"I'm sorry, did you have something else in mind? Were you just going to knock me over until it accepts you as its alpha."

Superman made a face. "Ducks don't have alphas." He knelt down closer to Batman's boots. "Do they?"

The duckling peeped. It seemed content enough to be at least close to Batman, after having spent five minutes frantically chasing after him, little feet slapping against the pavement.

"I hate you," Superman said seriously. "Not you," he clarified to the duckling, in case it was confused. It tried to hide behind Batman's foot. "You don't even like ducks."

"No one likes ducks."

"I like ducks."

"Why are you complaining like I did this on purpose. In all the time that you've known me, what have I ever done to lead you to believe that I would want this."

"Your noted tendency to collect birds?" Superman suggested. Batman said nothing, but Superman could tell that behind his mask, he was giving him A Look. Superman stood, and the duckling circled Batman's feet to peep up at him. "It wants you to pick it up."

"You pick it up. You like ducks."

"It doesn't want me."

"Pick it up anyway. You have super speed."

Superman shook his head. "Super speed is very traumatic for most animals."

Batman narrowed his eyes just slightly. "Most?" he asked, intrigued despite himself.

"Turtles don't seem to notice," Superman explained. "Peepers there would definitely notice, though."

"Don't name the duck," Batman said, shaking his head. He knelt down, and the duckling leapt all too eagerly into his hand. "Or at least come up with something better than Peepers. How do I make this thing follow you instead."

"If I knew the answer to that I'd have stolen it already. If you were to hypothetically name a duck, what would you call it?" Superman got his phone out of his back pocket.

Batman was standing stiffly with the duckling in one hand against his chest. It seemed much happier with the configuration, and had settled in comfortably. "Penelope."

"God, you're pretentious." Superman opened their secure messaging app. "What if it's a boy?" He pressed the button to make a voice call.

"Then it will be a boy named Penelope. Who are you calling."

"Wonder Woman!" Superman said into his phone, an answer and a greeting. "Batman found a baby bird. No, a literal baby bird this time. Yeah. It's a baby mallard. I swear. It's a sleepy baby duckling."

"Don't tell her that."

"Would I lie about something like this? I'm looking at it right now. He wants to get rid of it. I know! Right? He named it Penelope. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. That's what I said! I'll send you the address. See you in a minute."

"I don't see why it was necessary to involve her."

"She has animal powers. Maybe she can talk to Penelope."

"That name was purely hypothetical. She's going to tell Aquaman about this."

Superman gently stroked the duckling's head with one finger. "They're old friends! They're allowed to talk about your new sidekick."

"It's not a sidekick. I'm not keeping it. I don't need him asking me about ducks."

"I think you two would get along if you spent more time together," Superman said, presumably referring to Aquaman and not the duckling.

"The places I spend my time aren't clothing-optional."

Superman grinned. "He's not that bad."

"I've been to Atlantis," Batman reminded him. "They wear shirts there. This isn't a cultural thing."

"Maybe he wants to show off his abs."

"We all have abs," Batman pointed out. "It's not that impressive."

"They're kind of impressive."

"Have you told him that."

"That he has very impressive abs? No." Superman scratched his chin. "Do you think I should?"

"Yes."

Wonder Woman landed with a crack of pavement, too excited to slow down. "Where is Penelope?"

"It doesn't have a name," Batman said, in the process drawing attention to the yellow ball of fluff in his hand.

She gasped with delight. "Tiny baby!"

"Yes. It is. How do I make it go away."

"Oh, don't lie, it's sweet and precious and you love it," she said, coming closer to pet Penelope's head.

"You're projecting," Batman accused.

"On you, or the duck?" Superman asked, and Batman narrowed his eyes at him.

"She was left behind," Wonder Woman said. "She took too long to hatch, and her mother and siblings went on without her." She continued to pet the duckling, which continued to sleep in Batman's hand. "She was so lonely, she almost died."

"Ducks can't die of loneliness," Bruce said.

Superman snapped his fingers. "They can, actually! I forgot all about that, it's been years."

While Batman was disinclined to believe this, Clark had been raised in a farm. And Wonder Woman was nodding seriously.

"If this duckling gets too lonely it will die," Batman said. "You're serious."

"It's very sad," Wonder Woman said.

"Why would you tell me this. I didn't need to know this."

"I thought you liked to know everything," Superman said.

"Everything useful. This is not useful information."

"What if you find a duckling isolated from its family?"

"Until now I could have gone on with my day. You've taken that from me."

"Do you have somewhere that you can take Penelope?" Wonder Woman asked. "A duck pond?"

"Can I leave it with the other ducks."

"No! No no no, they'll kill her, if she doesn't drown first," she said.

"Drown."

"Yes."

"It's a duck."

"A duckling. They are very delicate little babies. They drown, or they get too cold because they cannot make their own warmth."

"Or they get too lonely."

"Yes, exactly!" Wonder Woman said. Batman looked as impassive as he ever did, but it was not a happy impassivity. "But after you've raised her, you can bring her to the duck pond."

"I'm not raising it."

"Someone has to," Superman said.

"And she loves you now!"

"We just met."

"You're very lovable," Wonder Woman teased. Batman remained pointedly blank. "Don't pretend she isn't cute."

Batman raised Penelope to eye level. She had opened her eyes to look around. "I don't like you," he informed her. She peeped happily. "You're extremely inconvenient. I'm not keeping you." She peeped loudly as she stood, teetering in the palm of his glove. "I would only keep you to eat you later." She tried to walk closer to his face, and so he moved her back to his chest so she wouldn't fall.

"Would you like me to translate?" Wonder Woman asked.

"Would you feel better if we put a cape on her?" Superman asked.

"I'm not keeping it."


Alfred helped Tim carry his bags into the house, having bought entirely too many souvenirs during a school trip to Monaco. Dick was waiting in the door when they opened it, which was unusual enough. More unusual was that he shushed them both, then waved at them to follow him.

It didn't seem like an emergency. Dick had a shit-eating grin, which usually meant something dangerous was happening, but he was 'sneaking' by taking large steps on his tiptoes. He usually reserved that for... well, whenever Bruce wasn't looking, really. Together, all three of them crept toward the parlor.

Where Bruce was sleeping on the couch. With a duckling on his stomach. Which was also sleeping.

Tim dropped his bag in the process of putting both hands on his head. Dick only barely caught it before it could hit the floor and wake Bruce.

"I was only gone for three days."