"So how many kids do you really have?"
"Give or take."
"How do you end up with ten kids?"
"It wasn't intentional."
They weren't sure what to make of this charismatic newcomer that Batman was pointedly ignoring. He wore mostly black armor save for stripes of blue across his chest and down his arms and the green splotches of acid still covering him from saving their lives. The Justice League's lives.
"Wow! It's amazing to meet you all! B tells me so much about you guys, you have no idea- Really, it's an honor to meet you!"
"Yes and you...?" Diana trailed off gesturing with her hand to fill in his name.
"Nightingale. At your service!"
"You have our utmost gratitude, Nightingale."
He blushed visibly under the mask, "Of course. Just doing what anyone would."
"I doubt just anyone would cross several dimensions and take on dozens of parasitic acid demons."
"Yeah, well... ya know how it is."
She did not know how it is. And, glancing around, neither did the rest of the League.
"Well," Superman coughed, "Thank you again. But how did you find us?"
"Well B didn't show up to dinner and considering how important today was and how he would absolutely never ditch us on such important days again I knew that it must couldn't have been on purpose" He beamed, angling the emphasized words with force towards the looming figure in the corner who was adjusting a monitor on his gauntlet.
Batman didn't respond.
"So I decided to check up on him but his transmission wasn't working so that meant either he turned it off or was in deep doo doo and either way I needed him home ASAP so I followed him."
"You followed him?" Green Arrow asked flatly.
"Through several dimensions."
Green Lantern slid up to Batman, "He's about as good with answers as you are, Bats."
"I learned from the best," Nightingale called over cheerfully.
Obviously deciding the newcomer was the less reticent of the two, Hal tried questioning him, "So who are you?"
"Like are you another superhero? I've never heard of you."
"Well you never heard of B until a few years ago." He shrugged. "Any ways, I'm his-"
"And so he speaks! I'm his lovechild with justice, by the way."
"I was not aware Batman had a child," Martian Manhunter commented, his tone and face placid enough that nobody was sure if he was remarking on a stray thought or attempting to make a joke. Several people looked at Batman who glared back at them through the white lenses of his cowl.
"Nightingale. Come." Batman curtly interrupted and turned around, cape swirling dramatically, to the dark plane that had evidentially come at some point in the near past.
"Wait, wait- he never told you about us?" The self proclaimed lovechild's face gleamed with unabashed mirth and no little indignation. "B, you've known these people how long and they don't even know about us?!"
"We go through all the trouble of getting together and not even killing each other for Father's Day and this is the type of respect-"
The young man was cut off as the dark knight snatched him by the arm and threw him into the open door of the plane before jumping in himself. A second later they were gone.
The young woman screamed even as she slugged a surprised Hawkwoman across the jaw before dodging under the instinctive mace slamming reflex.
"That's Hawkwoman!" Another voice yelled from behind her, "She's a good guy! Girl! Woman!"
"Yeah, I kinda figured!" She skipped backwards while throwing up her hands in a sign of surrender to the still swinging Shayera, exposing the very familiar insignia across her chest. "Honest mistake! I'm sorry!"
"Hold, Shayera," Diana called before turning to the two unknowns. The one dressed in red and black hit the girl before she punched him back. She was wearing black and purple; both had golden symbols on them though the boy's was unrecognizable. Both stilled under her gaze.
"What are you doing here?" The boy interrogated them warily, arms slightly raised, "You're not supposed to be in Gotham."
"Why should we answer to you?" Green Lantern retorted, crossing his arms.
"You're not supposed to be here," he restated, clenching his fists.
The girl let out a nervous giggle, "Hey RR, maybe we shouldn't piss off the Justice League?"
"Your skills are quite commendable, few are capable of ambushing a Leaguer. Are you affiliated with Batman?" Wonder Woman questioned diplomatically, nodding at the golden bat symbol on the woman's chest. The man himself was on the other side of the world with Superman and the others attending to different matters.
"Yes!" The girl nodded rapidly, "I'm Batwoman, he's Red Raptor-"
"It's just Raptor."
"We work for him! With him, under him, under the same logo anyway. He tells us a lot about you guys! I'm really sorry, again, Hawkwoman. You guys are so cool!"
Diana smiled uncertainly at the still blathering Batwoman who now was giving a double thumbs up, peering at the rest of the team from the corner of her eyes. They seemed just as confused barring-
"Are you other 'love children' of Batman?" Martian Manhunter asked.
There was a pause beforeBatwoman doubled over laughing earnestly this time as Raptor coughed, straight faced but distinctly uncomfortable.
"Did Nightingale tell you that?" He asked tautly.
"I believe he referred to himself as Batman's 'lovechild with Justice.'"
He put his familiar looking cowl covered face in his hands. "Oh my god."
"Yes," Batwoman wheezed between laughs, "Yes, we totally are. We're his love children with truth, justice, and the bat and bird way."
"Bird?" J'onn asked mildly.
"Yeah, he's a bird," She gestured towards Raptor. "I was a bird. We got a few more birds back at home."
"Wait, back up, you're his kids?" Green Lantern asked incredulously.
"Ye-es?" The girl drew out word while glancing at Raptor whose face was still in his hands, "I mean, no? Well. Like- We live with him? Use his money? Give him ugly ties for Father's Day? Love children?"
"I'm going to kill Nightingale," Raptor groaned. He then extracted one hand to fish in one of his belt pockets before pulling out a package and offering it to Hawkwoman, who looked at it warily. He still didn't look up, "It's a cold pack. For the. You know. Her."
"Thank you," She responded, gingerly taking the packet.
"Shayera, are you alright?" J'onn questioned as he noticed the bruise forming across her face. She nodded, grimacing slightly.
"She hits hard."
"They did seem quite skilled," Diana remarked, turning back towards them, "How long have you two been-"
They were gone.
She looked at Hal. Hal looked at her.
"So we met-"
"Stay out of Gotham."
"Your other kids."
"How many more do you- hey, come back!"
"Honestly, Father, you lower your intelligence by surrounding yourself with these fools."
"Listen, kid," Oliver tried to interrupt.
"Quiet, Queen. Of the two of us, I am not the child."
"Tt." The boy sneered at him before returning his attention to Batman, "We can do this alone. They will only slow us down."
He was dressed in red, green, and yellow along with the usual black and was far more stealthy than such a bright color combination should allow seeing as he appeared directly behind them with no warning. A golden R was prominent on his chest.
"Hm." Batman grunted as he continued to analyze the floor plans.
"Your time would be better spent with the family, not these imbeciles."
"Are you another of his children?" Aquaman seemed angered at the insults but curious enough to ask.
The boy turned and straightened, drawing himself up to his, admittedly impressive, height. "I am his blood son. Robin." He ran his eyes over Aquaman before nodding, "Ah, yes, King Orin. I have heard of many of your deeds. You are a great warrior, indeed."
"Robin," Aquaman acknowledged back, somewhat mollified. "Your father has been telling tales of us again?"
"At times," Robin tilted his head in a very bird like manner, "But I've been studying Atlantean culture for a very long time, you in particular. It's not often that one finds a half human living in Atlantis. It was a bit of a surprise when our probes found you, Arthur Curry."
"No names on the field, Robin."
"You've been watching me?" Arthur's head snapped to Batman as anger again colored his tone.
Robin cut in before Aquaman could respond, "I was still living with the League of Shadows when you were discovered."
This set off outrage again for an entirely different reason.
"League of Shadows?" Oliver exclaimed.
"Do you ever say anything original, you little man?"
Oliver ignored the insult with some difficulty, "Why were you with the League?"
"I was training to take my birthright as heir of Ra's Al Ghul and Son of the Batman and Talia Al Ghul." He shrugged, "I've since left the League to continue my father's legacy. When he retires the mantle I will rightfully become the next Batman."
"You fucked Talia Al Ghul?"
"Watch your mouth, Queen, my mother is a respectable woman!"
"What the actual fuck, Bats?"
"Shut your mouth!"
Robin drew his sword from the scabbard and looked as if he was about to attack the green clad hero. Finally Batman looked up from the plans.
"Arrow and Aquaman, go and secure the second floor, I suspect they have hidden in the back labs. Zatara and Red Tornado, I want you on air support. Robin and I will deal with the bomb."
"Talia Al Ghul?"
Batman looked remarkably similar to his son for a moment.
"Yes. She still sends childcare checks in the form of assassination attempts and the occasional bombing. Do you need that repeated as well or can we move onto matters of importance?"
"So Talia Al Ghul's the bat-mom?"
"Arrow can shut his face and learn that the Watchtower isn't the place to spread gossip."
"So she is the mother of your kids?"
"Only of one."
"Two, technically. But the second doesn't count."
"He's dead, thankfully."
His cape flared as Batman swept out of the room.
"Fucking drama queen." The newly dubbed "Red Hood" rolled his eyes under his mask, his namesake held between one hand and a heavily armored hip. He looked at Green Lantern and Green Arrow. " Don't count on him changing. He's been like that since before I came around."
This man didn't look as young as the others mystery people the Justice League had recently met. He was almost as tall as Batman, easily meeting Superman's height, and just as broad. His black hair had a shock of white in the front and his voice was deep and rough.
"Let me guess," Hal started, "He's your dad too?"
Red Hood looked at him for a long moment before smirking. "It depends on what fatherhood means to you. He literally kidnapped me off the streets and trained me to be one of his child soldiers if that's what you mean."
"I think he was suffering from empty nest syndrome since Dickingale left and he had no one to order around. So he picked up the next kid he saw and took me."
"Eh, it wasn't that bad. He didn't hit me that often and he had all the coolest toys. I mean, he did get me killed that one time. But I came back and tried to kill the little birdies so we're even. I got him a poop emoji tie for Father's Day."
They stared blankly at him.
"So, yeah. Peace." He walked out.
"Do you really kidnap children?"
"No, I offer them candy and they get in my car willingly."
"So you guys do this back at home, too?"
"Yeah, the other guys helped us figure it out. Apparently it's a long running tradition."
Captain Marvel was sitting between a yellow clad Lark and a black and yellow Batgirl. It was unclear exactly who was babysitting who. All three held various remotes for the Watchtower computer that had been repurposed for their current use. The giant monitor screen was divided into four sections, three of which had colorful animated racing Mario karts.
"Is it cooler doing it here or in the Batcave?" Billy asked, swerving around a banana.
"Well here, duh," Batgirl grinned as she maintained first, "We're in space!"
"True. But you really can't beat B coming in and seeing us all playing on the Batcomputer again. Apparently he learned that he couldn't stop the older guys so now he completely refuses to acknowledge it." Lark smirked, "Incoming."
A blue turtle shell was sent out.
"Lark you traitor!" Batgirl ran her hand through her short red hair while her cart spun out of control. Lark's Princess Daisy "wohoo-ed" as she passed Batgirl's Bowser.
"Honestly, though, it's amazing to play Mario Kart or Mario Party while B uses the one screen we didn't use and pretends we don't exist. Really adds to the atmosphere"
"Do you guys play anything else?" Billy wondered.
"As a family? Every now and then we play Smash Bros but somebody usually ends up in the med bay and then Agent A bans it again." Batgirl was back with a vengeance as she tore through the ranks.
"Oh, and B joined that one time!" Lark recalled.
Batgirl laughed, "I can't believe I forgot about that!"
"Tell me, tell me!" Billy chanted.
"B came down and saw us playing and said whoever can beat him gets to drive the Batmobile," Lark explained, "Then he whooped our asses. With Wii Fit Trainer. Fricking Wii Fit Trainer."
"Oh my god," Batgirl was catching up impressively despite her evident side stitch from laughing, "Then he turns to us and he's in the full suit, cowl and everything, and he says-”
"Work hard to tone that tummy!” They both chorused.
Batgirl continued, “In her exact voice before getting into the Batmobile and leaving for gods know where.”
“That’s way too good,” Captain Marvel choked.
Lark chimed in, “You’re forgetting the best part! We asked him how he knew how to play and he said ‘because I’m a hip, cool dad.’”
“I don’t believe- hey!” Batgirl’s Bowser came out of nowhere (actually a secret path) before stealing first place with Lark’s Daisy in second and Billy’s Luigi in third.
Batgirl cheered and made a victory pose, “That’s how you do it, boys!”
“Well played,” Lark congratulated in a faux cool tone while Billy threw his remote down in disgust.
“Ugh,” Billy moaned, “So how long have you guys been with Bats?”
Batgirl shrugged, “It’s been about five years now for the two of us. Why?”
“There’s just been so many of you guys popping up lately and he couldn’t possibly have had you guys for that long.”
The bat and bird looked at each other for a long moment before the former responded, “Dude B’s old. Like old. And I think Nightingale and O have been at this for longer than some of the League has been alive.”
“Yeah, they age well. Really well,” Lark said as he tilted his head slightly, “It’s almost like the powers that be forgot they aged or something.”
“Oh, and B had that time travel accident some years ago.”
Captain Marvel nodded, obviously not understanding any of it, “So are you his kids or does he just pick you guys up off the streets?”
Batgirl shrugged, “More like the other way around. I bought a knock off Robin suit from the Halloween store and found him and when he asked who I was I was like, Robin. So he said ‘Hi, Robin’ and brought me back to the Batcave and I haven’t left since. Though I had to give up the name because the real Robin is so prissy”
“Same for me,” Lark said, “I was in a Robin suit and leading a gang of other Robins about that time. I found him and he was in a kinda bad place so I told him to suit up or get out and he took me home. I think this is actually the standard way of getting into the family now.”
Billy squinted at them, “So… He’ll basically just take in anyone who asks?”
“Dude, he’ll adopt you so fast you won’t even know that your name changed to Captain Bat-son.”
“There’s rumors that you’re going to adopt Captain Marvel. Isn’t he kind of too old for you to adopt?”
Clark groaned and stretched his neck to the side as he opened the door to his apartment. He knew Luthor was behind the latest attacks but had no way to prove it given his solid alibi and the confusing mess of government bureaucracy coupled with corrupt officers and many bribes. Even Clark Kent’s investigations through the Daily Planet have been long and tiresome and ultimately fruitless.
He was already in the apartment and taking off his jacket when he senses the intruder.
He immediately swung around looking through the shadows to see the dark figure on the other side and his first thoughts were rapid (why target Clark Kent do they know my identity I can kill them if I’m too forceful) before he saw the mask and symbol. Too small and too female to be Batman but not anyone he’s met but-
“Black Bat?” He asks.
She nods once.
He had never met her and Clark Kent had never heard of her. Even less known than the rest of the bat family although she’s been operating for over a decade, Black Bat is a myth among the obscure. Superman has heard of her solely through other members of the bat clan. Silent, observant, and more efficient than any human has a right to be, Black Bat’s one of the possible successors for the cowl.
(If Batman ever retires.)
“Is there any reason you’re here?” Clark asked carefully because while he knows about her, he doesn't know her.
She nods once.
He finishes taking off the jacket as they both watch one another. Considering she’s an heir of Batman he trusts that she wouldn’t hurt him (if she even could) but he can’t afford to take much more to faith. After putting the jacket away and unbuttoning his top few buttons he moves to the kitchen area and begins making tea.
“Do you want any?” He asks.
She waits a few moments before answering, “No.”
She’s his child, he thinks, she’s definitely his child.
“Well if you want any, just tell me,” He says anyway, “There’s more than enough for the both of us.”
Clark settles down on a chair next to the counter and drinks. Then catches the small object she throws at him.
“Luthor,” She says in explanation.
“Er… thank you?”
She tilts her head, curiously, he thinks, “He trusts you. He does.”
He knows who she’s talking about, “Batman.”
Black Bat waits, as stoic as her mentor.
“Batman trusts me?”
“Then why does he still keep so many secrets? We wouldn’t even have known all of you existed if it weren’t for Nightingale!” When she says nothing Clark continues, feeling the years of his frustration and betrayal crashing out of him, “He knows everything about us and I never even knew he had an entire child army waiting to take us down if he wanted!”
He’s breathing hard and feels sick. He wants her to leave and to just lay down and turn off the world for just a little while.
“No,” She finally breaks the silence.
“We are not here to hurt you,” the young woman explains, “We were here… long before you.”
“You are young, he is old,” the words don’t seem to come to her naturally as if a distant second or third language, “He was alone for so long. He’s scared.”
Clark’s shocked, “He’s scared?”
“Yes,” she nods, “He hasn’t had friends in a long time. Just us.”
“Your family,” Clark asks carefully.
“Yes. He’s my father and we are no longer young, like you.”
“You’re older than me?”
“No. Close. My siblings are older than you. He doesn’t know how to,” she stops, searching for the word, “Talk to you. He’s scared. He likes you a lot.”
Clark snorts, “Does he?”
“Yes. Just wait,” Black Bat’s close now and she puts a hand on his shoulder, “Please.”
He closes his eyes and when he opens them she’s gone. Between his super vision and hearing he could probably track her but he doesn’t.
The small object she gave him still rests in his hand. He turns it over and sees that it’s a flashdrive with a small bat engraved in the side; probably the missing link between Luthor and his crimes, he knows.
He’ll wait for Batman, he thinks, but not for much longer.
“Do you keep track of where we live?”
“Are you one of his kids?” Hal asked the green glowing screen.
“Nah,” it responded with a distorted voice, “He’s more like that creepy uncle that gets uncomfortably close during family get togethers and knows a lot more about me than he should.”
Batman walked out of the room.
“So you have… two daughters?”
“Three and a half.”
“She’s in shared custody. I’m working on it.”
Bats screeched overhead, echoing down the enormous cavern. Giant metal platforms branched off the stone floors and over the river running far below. Fluorescent beam down harshly on the occupants. The damaged and worn outfits of decades past are lined across one wall in protective glass.
The Batcave was intimidating, but surprisingly lived in. While certain areas were hospital like in cleanliness and order, such as the medical bay and several tables filled with chemistry sets and experiments, there were obvious signs of use and love. Various blankets and sweatshirts were draped over chairs and the design area was a mess of half finished projects and various knick knacks. A single stuffed bat plush was sitting on the enormous computer at the center of the cave.
Batman or Bruce Wayne was leading them over to the computer, mask off and followed by both the League and Dick.
Nightingale, Dick Grayson-Wayne, was giving them commentary on everything they passed, “...and that’s the giant dinosaur I convinced B to let us bring home. It’s next to the giant penny from that weirdo and the giant Joker card… yeah we have a lot of giant stuff… That’s my old costume, nobody asked you for your comment, Jay, thank you very much-”
“Damn, Bats, how long have you been at this?” Hal asked in awe looking around the cavern.
“Hm,” Bruce grunted, sitting on the chair and moving the stuffed bat out of the way, “I believe it’s been twenty nine years since I first donned the costume.”
“Really?” Clark asked in wonder, Batman had been operating since before he’s crash landed on earth.
Dick rolled his eyes, “Yeah, he has. Most of us have been operating long before you were, big blue.”
“Truly amazing,” Diana said, “How long have you been a vigilante?”
“Eh, I started being Robin when I was nine then I moved onto Nightingale when someone kicked me out at eighteen.”
“I was actually Batman a while back but then B came back so now I’m Nightingale again.”
“Bats let you out when you were nine?” Barry asked incredulously.
Dick shrugged, “He didn’t have much of a choice.”
“He let you out in that?” Hal was looking at the tiny first Robin costume, sparkling scaly short shorts and all.
“Well, I just came from the circus and I wanted something like my old uniform.”
“B took me from the circus.”
They looked at Batman. He didn’t look back.
“Master Bruce, I can see you’ve finally found friends to bring to this humble abode,” a voice comes from above. An elderly and thin but no less distinguished suited man was walking down the stone stairs holding a tray with sandwiches in one hand and in the other… a baby.
“Oh my god,” Barry jerks his hand up in a half aborted attempt to cover his mouth.
“No,” Oliver says flatly.
“Daddy!” The baby cries as he reaches for Bruce, leaning so far over he almost seems to be in danger of falling.
The old man adjusted the boy in his arms, “Master Terrence has been waiting for you quite loudly, Master Bruce.”
“Bruce?” Clark asks softly, “Is… is he…?”
“He’s my youngest, Terry,” Bruce sighs as he picks up both Terry and a sandwich, “Terry say hello.”
Clark carefully puts a hand on Bruce’s still armored shoulder, “You know you have my fullest respect and admiration. But, you have a problem.”
Terry had stolen and was munching on Bruce’s sandwich at this point and was comfortably snuggled in his arms. He squealed as Bruce adjusted him.
“Aww, did Jay abandon you?” Dick cooed at the child.
Alfred, who was distributing refreshments among the other Leaguers, answered, “I believe I should warn you that the rest of your children have set up a ‘congratulations on finally coming out of the cave’ party for you, Master Bruce.”
“C’mon, B,” Dick took Bruce by his arm, “Let’s finally introduce everyone.”