"I think if you look at the derivatives, that answer is very clear," Bruce said, tapping his pen against the legal pad. He looked up at the webcam, making sure his disagreement was clear. "We've seen a fifteen percent increase in that sector in the past year. Respectfully, Chairman, I don't see another option."
The fifty-inch plasma displayed a high-resolution feed of the Wayne Enterprises conference room in New York. Two dozen international board members were nodding along with his statement, save for one. Bruce narrowed his eyes at the balding man, waiting for a response.
"Mr. Wayne," Hodges said, pursing a particularly wrinkled set of lips at him. "I don't mean to insult your data, by any means. But how can you suggest funding a section of the company that is hemorrhaging money annually? It just doesn't add up. In fact, the very suggestion that we should continue with this-"
Bruce resisted the urge to look around the room in exasperation, far too used to volatile board members to bother interrupting. His office was purposefully devoid of any throwable items for just this reason. A mahogany desk, dark cabinets and shelves, and the requisite wet bar spanned the wall behind him.
The Armani he'd thrown on a few minutes ago was spotless; his hair was slicked back, a Rolex glinting at his wrist. As much as he liked playing the part, today was an exception. It was 11 AM, and he was running on four hours of sleep. An annual committee meeting was the last thing he needed.
"Chairman Hodges," he said with a false smile when the man finished, leaning towards the camera. "With all due respect, I think the information bears review. If you re-examine the data in chart twenty-six on page fifty-"
The sound of his office door opening cut him off. A quick patter of feet and Damian was suddenly by his side, a furious expression on his face.
"Tell Drake to stop taking my cellular device!" his youngest demanded, stamping his foot. He seemed oblivious to the camera or the boardroom, pointing a finger at the doorway. "I wish to use it, and lo and behold, it has disappeared. I know he is the one doing it, Father!"
"For the last time, Damian-" As if on cue, Tim poked his head in the office, then his entire body. He, too, ignored the webcam. "I didn't take your phone! Maybe you lost it like literally every other human being!"
The boardroom was silent, staring past Bruce as Damian and Tim squared up on his Oriental carpeting. Hodges had a smarmy grin on his face, like this turn of events only confirmed his earlier point.
"Out," Bruce growled, low enough that the microphone wouldn't pick it up. "Now."
Damian ignored the warning, narrowing his eyes at Tim. He clenched his hands into fists.
"I am nothing like you normal human beings."
"Yeah, you got that right!" Tim said, pushing Damian back as he leaned too close. "Get away from me."
"Give me my phone back!"
"I don't have your phone!"
Bruce weighed his options as Damian shoved Tim back. Intervention? Throw them both out? Cut the feed and deal with it privately?
Push came to sparring fairly quickly. The two boys began trading hits, yelling at the top of their lungs. Bruce turned back to the webcam just as Damian leapt on top of Tim's back, a high-pitched battle cry torn from his lips.
"Mr. Hodges," he said cheerfully, unflinching as Tim threw Damian into the wet bar sink. The fight was completely visible on the webcam, which meant he could see the entire thing unfold in the bottom right corner of his screen. "Have you had a chance to examine the chart I pointed out?"
The other board members gaped at him in shock. A few were openly horrified, wincing as Damian shoved Tim into the bookshelves hard enough to send books flying. Hodges merely raised an eyebrow.
"Perhaps we should adjourn, Mr. Wayne, and reconsider this...later."
"No," Bruce said immediately, irritated. "I don't think we should. I want to resolve this immediately. Do you have a problem with that?"
Another crash sounded as Tim grabbed Damian around the waist, sending them both toppling to the floor. There was a sudden influx of grunting and groaning as both boys disappeared from the screen.
"The project proposals are due tomorrow afternoon, as are the required forms," Hodges said, the smirk from earlier returning. "Perhaps this can wait-"
"Project proposals are due tonight at midnight, CST," Bruce corrected. He folded his hands, watching out of the corner of his eye as Damian and Tim grappled on the floor. "I see no need to delay. Unless you disagree, Chairman?"
Hodges' face began to flush, the skin at his neck mottling a dark red. The other board members whispered to each other, eyes locked on the TV screen. "Mr. Wayne-"
"Oh, Jesus Christ-"
Dick came skidding into the office, panting. He looked down at Damian and Tim on the floor and smacked himself.
"This is where they went? Damian-what the fu-stop biting!" the taller man jumped over a leg sweep, balancing himself on one foot so he wouldn't stumble over them. "Oh my God-"
Bruce sighed, exhaling through his nose. Dick had the decency to look ashamed, waving briefly at the camera.
"I swear, I was watching them," the teen explained with a huff, grabbing an arm on each boy and yanking. Damian grabbed a fistful of Tim's hair in turn, causing the other boy to shout. "Damian, I swear to God, I don't know who took your cell phone, but if you don't stop in the next ten seconds, I'm going to hide it for the next decade-"
"Can you control your children, Bruce?" Hodges snapped over the feed, finally growing impatient at being relegated to the background. "I have never seen such rude, awful, poorly-behaved boys in my life-"
"Hey, now," Dick interrupted before Bruce could reply, pointing a finger at the webcam. "First of all, you don't get to call him Bruce, you don't even know him. And second, they're actually behaving really well this week-"
"Fuck you, Drake!" Damian cried, clawing at Tim from Dick's hold around his neck. "Give it back!"
"Language!" Dick exclaimed.
"I DON'T HAVE THE DAMN CELL PHONE!" Tim yelled, trapped in Dick's other arm. "You probably just left it somewhere and now you're blaming me for it!"
"Are you insulting my children, Chairman?' Bruce asked quietly, getting a snort from Dick (and from Lucius Fox, in the far back).
Hodges paled slightly.
"Or is it my parenting skills?" Bruce couldn't help the small smile. "One of those options is far more risky."
"Someone insulted Father?"
Damian's head swiveled towards the screen, faster than the Flash on pizza Thursdays. Green eyes locked in on Hodge's face, narrowing instantly in disdain, his current predicament forgotten.
"I hope you know, peasant," the eleven year-old said harshly, "My Father is one of the most powerful, feared, respected men in this entire world-"
Dick reached down and clapped a hand across his mouth. A half-second later he jumped, removing it.
"Did you just bite me?!"
"Bruce could replace you in a heartbeat," Tim warned the board members, expression grave. He squared his shoulders slightly, shifting in Dick's hold. "He's super smart, okay? You don't get to just insult him like that. He doesn't have to take it. Especially from some asshole in pinstripes."
Bruce gave up, pushing back from the desk. Hodges was now a bright shade of puce, which complemented his pinstripe suit well. The rest of the board was shocked into silence.
He ran a hand through his hair, unbuttoning the top of his shirt.
"I want a summary of the briefs on automation on my desk tomorrow morning," Bruce informed the board, removing his cufflinks. Behind him, Dick was pushing Damian towards the door, tugging Tim along behind him. "Funding will be approved for the aforementioned project as soon as possible." He fixed the board with a look, impassive. "Do I have a second?"
"I second," Lucius Fox raised a hand, a hint of laughter to his quiet voice. "All in favor?"
"Aye," the board voted, a chorus of agreement, save for Hodges. Bruce nodded, halfway through rolling his sleeves up.
"Thank you. Mr. Fox, if there's nothing else…?"
The other man stood, walking over to the webcam.
"Have a lovely morning, Mr. Wayne."
"You as well." Bruce clicked the webcam off, spinning around in his chair.
The office was completely empty. Even the books knocked to the ground had been replaced. The Manor was conspicuously silent.
Bruce picked up the phone, pinching the bridge of his nose, trying to stave off the inevitable headache.
"Yes sir?" the butler answered.
"Get me some coffee-" Bruce sighed, considering. "And feel no obligation to feed Damian or Tim for the next two hours."
Alfred, the blessing that he was, didn't question this.
CEO FAMILY DRAMA GOES VIRAL: WATCH AS GOTHAM'S FAVORITE PLAYBOY STRUGGLES LIKE ANY OTHER PARENT
BRUCE WAYNE, DAD OF THE YEAR? BILLIONAIRE IGNORES SQUABBLE IN BOARD MEETING: WATCH BELOW
Clark frowned as his phone started pinging, eyes widening as he speed-read through the headlines. Someone in the cubicle across from him started laughing. Phones began ringing.
"Uh oh," Lois said, peeking over the divider at him. Like usual, she had no concern for his personal space. "Is hubby in trouble? He's trending on Twitter again."
Clark looked up just in time to see one of the bullpen turn the TV to CNN. Suddenly, Bruce's face filled up the screen, seated in his office.
"Chairman Hodges, I think if you re-examine the data in chart twenty-six on page fifty-"
Clark swallowed down a chuckle as Damian burst in, watching as the smaller boy completely ignored the meeting in favor of whining to his father. He couldn't help himself when Tim's head appeared in the doorway, and lost it, laughing into his hand.
His laughter only grew as Dick scrambled into the room, obviously panicked. Bruce was wearing a completely blank expression, trying in vain to continue his meeting as his children tore the office apart behind him.
"Oh my God," Lois breathed, staring at the screen. "He didn't just tell Alder Hodges to fuck off. He let his kids do it. That's genius."
If Clark could have stopped laughing at that point, he would have agreed. Watching the small tells in Bruce's poker face-the vein throbbing at his temple, the way his knuckles were white against the desk-was the most entertaining thing he'd seen all week.
"Article idea," Perry White said next to Lois, pointing at the screen. "'Kids: Just as Annoying When Rich: Daily Planet confirms."
"Did you just bite me?" Dick exclaimed on the screen, sending a wave of chuckles through the bullpen. Clark bit down on his tongue, struggling to regain his composure. "Damian-"
He couldn't keep it together any longer, stumbling out towards one the of supply closets and slipping in. Bruce picked up his phone immediately, sounding less than pleased.
"You didn't even ask what I was going to-"
"If Lois Lane wants a quote, she can join the thousand different new agencies calling my house phone," Clark snorted as Bruce's voice rose, filled with exasperation. "Who even has a landline anymore, Clark? Why do we have a landline?"
"I thought you were used to being famous," Clark replied good-naturedly, struggling to keep the laughter out of his voice. "You're trending on Twitter, by the way."
Bruce hung up on him. Clark felt his mouth stretch into a smile in the darkness of the supply closet. He opened his messaging app, fingers tapping at the keyboard.
Does this mean no family dinner tonight? he texted to Bruce.
The reply came instantly:
Damian grounded until bite marks heal. Tim has a large bald spot and refuses to leave his room. Dick went to Barbara's.
Clark had to bite his hand to keep from laughing, his chest heaving silently in the dark.
Oh, is that all?
His phone buzzed angrily.
If another reporter knocks on my door, I'm going to hit him with a batarang.
Clark chuckled, quickly tapping out a reply.
Guess I'll have to fly then :/
That would be acceptable.
Alfred's making chicken.
Clark felt his smile stretch even wider, if that was possible.
For the record, I thought you looked like a very serious businessman.
Bruce's reply was quick.
If there wasn't a camera, I would've thrown them out the door myself.
In most circles, that's called child abuse, Bruce.
He could almost sense Bruce's glare.
Buzzfeed's arguing with Alfred. I have to go.
Clark raised an eyebrow.
Don't hurt them.
Why do you care?
I like their quizzes.
You know what, I changed my mind. No more dinner. I've had enough of everyone.
No, you're just mad that Alder Hodges is more terrified of your eleven year-old than he is of you.
Bruce's silence was telling. The reply came a minute later.
Clark chuckled to himself, shutting off his phone. He grabbed the doorknob and stepped out of the closet, still laughing to himself.
Stephanie McNeal pushed the microphone closer to the man's face, stepping into his path.
"Are you a resident here? Do you have any comment on Mr. Wayne's viral video?"
The man shifted his helmet under his arm, frowning. He wore dark red gloves, a jacket thrown across his shoulders. His hair, close to black, had an artful white streak in the front.
"Who the hell are you guys?"
"Buzzfeed news," she smiled hesitantly at him. "Do you have any-"
The man raised an eyebrow at the name, stepping around her as quickly as possible. His lips were twitching as he made his way up towards the manor, close to a full-fledged smile. "What, we're not good enough for CNN anymore?"
"Any comment?" She tried desperately.
"On Bruce?" he man snorted, still walking. "Tons."
Stephanie watched as the man knocked on the door, wiping his boots on the welcome mat. A moment later, the door was flung open, allowing him in.
A shout echoed down the hallway, paired with the sound of running.
"Jesus," Stephanie heard the man say distantly, "Is that a bitemark on your face? Damian-"
The door slammed shut, cutting off the conversation. Stephanie turned to her cameraman, dumbfounded.
"Who the hell was that?"
The cameraman shrugged, looking just as clueless as she felt. "No clue."