Bruce could feel his stress levels spike when Dick burst into his office, grinning excessively.
“What?” Bruce demanded, already exasperated.
He would have just preempted whatever Dick was planning to say with a “no”, but he’d come to realize that that method didn’t actually work.
With any of his children, come to think of it.
Dick sidled up to his desk, plopping down in the chair. “So.”
Bruce braced himself.
“Did you get my email?”
There had been 12 exclamation marks in the subject bar. Bruce had deleted it immediately.
“No,” he lied.
Dick looked skeptical, but didn’t comment. “Well then, that just means this will be an all new conversation for you! Something wonderful is happening, Bruce.”
Bruce’s expression was blank. “What?”
Dick’s mega-watt grin was back. “Family Day.”
Bruce raised an eyebrow. “…’Family Day’?”
“Family Day,” Dick affirmed. “Next week. At Damian’s school.”
“No,” Bruce said firmly.
At least he had waited to hear him out before saying “no”. Bruce felt like he was really growing as a father.
“Bruce! It’ll be great! We can support Damian and there’ll be activities and food and it’ll be really fun. Damian needs this! It’s a crucial childhood experience!”
Dick was flat out pleading with him; he was almost pouting. It was upsetting to witness.
But not enough to make Bruce give in.
“Damian would hate that.”
“Damian doesn’t realize how much he wants this, Bruce; this’ll be good for him! For all of us. It’ll help us bond as a family!”
Bruce suppressed a groan. Dick’s unrelenting obsession with “family bonding” was going to end in someone’s death.
Probably an innocent bystander, knowing his children.
“No one is going to go for this,” Bruce stated.
“But, if you encourage them, they definitely will!”
Bruce cocked an eyebrow at his eldest. “You’ve met your brothers, haven’t you?”
Dick wave his hand dismissively and leaned forward, expression painfully earnest. “Bruce. Bruce. Bruce. Please.”
Bruce grimaced. “Dick. I can’t begin to explain to you how bad an idea this is. It would end in disaster. Which is why I’m saying no.”
Dick was looking at him like Bruce had just betrayed him, but Bruce had become mildly successful at riding out his eldest’s more histrionic tendencies, so he just waited for it to pass.
“How could you not want to do this for Damian?”
Oh. He was guilt tripping now.
Bruce sighed. “Dick, no.”
Dick stood with a determined frown. “Fine, but just because you don’t want to support this crucial stage in Damian’s development-“
“It’s Family Day. At his school.”
“Doesn’t mean that the others won’t.”
Bruce stared at Dick dubiously, but didn’t bother saying anything. If Dick wanted to try and convince his siblings to go to Family Day, he was welcome to.
It wouldn’t work, so Bruce wasn’t worried.
“Good luck,” he offered dryly.
“Shame on you,” Dick replied, turning on his heel and stomping out of the room.
Bruce just snorted and shook his head.
He really needed Alfred to convince Dick to let go of this whole family bonding thing.
Cass looked up at the knock on her door, smiling when Dick popped his head into the room.
Her smile dropped almost immediately, an assessing frown taking over her face.
Dick was up to something.
“Hey, ladies. Mind if I join you?”
Steph grinned. “Only if you don’t mind having your nails painted. It’s the admissions price.”
Dick skipped into the room, grinning. “I’ll take blue, please.”
“That’s so Nightwing, you narcissist,” Steph teased, picking up a brilliant blue shade and shaking the bottle.
Dick was amused as he sat down, but he was mostly… anticipatory. Cass stared at him carefully, wondering how long it was going to take him to break and tell them what he was visiting them for.
Not long, probably.
Less than a minute.
Cass was right, of course. Steph had barely finished his thumbnail before he spoke up.
“So, what would you girls think of going to a crazy fun event next Friday?”
“Oh, sound exciting, but I’m busy Friday. What event?” Steph asked.
“Hmm… what do you think, Cass?”
Cass furrowed her brow. “What event?” Cass repeated.
He hesitated. His posture was a little unsure, and he was clearly hedging. “You know, it’ll kind of be like a carnival. There’s games and food and fun! It’ll be great. What do you think, Cass?”
He was all but begging her, posture imploring – with a pout to match.
It was kind of funny, but mostly confusing. Because he obviously wanted this badly, but he was nervous that she wouldn’t agree if she actually knew what the event was.
“Wait – there’s a carnival in Gotham and I don’t know about it? How did I not know about this? It’s next Friday? Where? Man, I can’t believe I can’t go!” Steph cried, looking horrified by this turn of events.
“I don’t think it’s a carnival,” Cass refuted, turning back to Dick.
He laughed awkwardly. “Well, not, you know, a literal carnival. Just… like a carnival.”
Cass stared at him.
He avoided looking at her.
Steph looked between the two of them. “Okay… If it’s not actually a carnival, what is it? And why does Dick look terrified to actually tell us? Are you actually trying to lead her to her death or something?”
“No, of course not! I just…”
“Want her to agree to go before she knows what it is so that she can’t refuse because if she knows, she won’t want to go?” Steph finished.
Dick’s shoulders hunched slightly. “Maybe do red for the other hand?” he proposed weakly.
Steph snorted. “Red Hood Red or Red Robin Red?”
Dick was genuinely torn “Red Robin really pops, but Red Hood is more saturated, so I’m not really sure… Hmm… You know what? Let’s stick with blue.”
Steph rolled her eyes. “You’re hopeless. So, the not-carnival?”
More awkward laughter – he was curling in on himself just a little, away from the two of them. “Oh, well, you know.”
“Dick. Tell us,” Cass prompted.
He sighed heavily, but nodded. “Okay. Just – hear me out? Seriously consider this, okay?”
“I will,” Cass agreed.
“Now, tell us! The suspense is killing me. And don’t fidget; I’ll mess up your nails.”
“Right, sorry. Well, umm… Next Friday is Family Day. At Dami’s school.”
Well. That certainly explained his hesitance.
Steph was laughing like a madwoman, but that wasn’t particularly unusual. Cass almost wanted to laugh with her, except the very idea of the entire family going to Damian’s school – and being surrounded by other people – just sounded…
“Oh my gosh. Oh. My. Gosh! Why am I busy Friday?” Steph moaned, wiping a tear from her eye. “Oh. I wish I could be there to see all of you insane people around a bunch of normal families doing random activities. It sounds wonderful. Someone’s probably going to die.”
Cass looked at Dick incredulously. Now that he wasn’t hiding the situation from her, he was desperately hopeful.
“Is everyone going?” she asked.
“Ah… I haven’t talked to all of them yet. I talked to Bruce, but he’s just being a spoilsport, you know? So, what do you say? Please, Cass? Damian’s counting on you.”
He said it like he believed it.
He actually believed it.
Cass wanted to say yes. She did. But, really, this could only end badly. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said quietly, shrugging. “Sorry, Dick.”
He looked heartbroken. “Oh. That’s- that’s okay. I understand.”
She felt so guilty! But she couldn’t bring herself to say yes. Only bad things would come of it.
“I’d go with you if I could, Dick,” Steph offered, putting the cap back on the nail polish and smiling slightly.
“I know, Steph. Thanks. For the nails, too.”
Dick got up and walked out of the room, shoulders slumped, head bowed, walk heavy.
“I feel like we just killed his puppy. And made him watch.”
Cass nodded. “It’s for the best.”
“Killing puppies is never for the best,” Steph countered.
She had a point.
“Yellow or pink?”
“Both,” Cass decided, turning to her best friend and holding her hands out.
Cass nodded, looking back over her shoulder at the door.
(I hope the others agree to go with him.)
Dick was looking at him. Dick was opening his mouth to speak. Dick was about to say something that Jason really didn’t want to hear, so Jason was going to do what needed to be done.
“No,” Jason said.
Dick’s face fell, but he should honestly be used to rejection by now.
Just look at his face.
(Nice one, Jason.)
“I haven’t even said anything yet!” Dick exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air with a huff.
Jason cleared his throat and shifted his weight slightly. “No, no, see? Problem is, I know that face. That’s the face you use when you’re about to ask me to do something that I don’t want to do. In fact, that’s the face you used when you tricked me into taking the brat on that field trip. I’m not doing it again, Dick. I’m not going to jail for you!”
Dick gaped at him. “You were a crime lord!”
“And I never got caught, did I?” Jason pointed out nonchalantly.
“You were in Arkham!”
“But I never when to jail, Dick. I know what happens in jail; I’m too pretty,” Jason gestured to his face, “to go to jail.”
Dick stared at him in disbelief. “Who told you that?”
Jason put a hand on his chest, frowning in mock hurt, before his expression melted into a smirk. “Are you implying that you don’t think someone would try to make me their-“
“Yes!” Dick shouted, looking vaguely queasy. “That is exactly what I’m implying. If it came down to it, you would probably be the one – nope. You know what? Not going there. I’m not doing it. If you want to have this conversation, take it to Tim; I’m not doing it. And I’m not going to let you distract me.”
Jason snickered slightly. “Man, it almost worked too.”
Dick looked completely unamused. “Why do you do this to me?”
“Because it’s fun,” Jason said matter-of-factly. “Now, I’m gonna’ go. Bye.”
“Ah!” Dick jumped in front of him, that ridiculous look back on his face, now with an added undercurrent of determination.
(Great. Just great.)
“One of us isn’t getting out of here alive, and I’ve already died once, so…”
“Little Wing, please? Just hear me out!”
“Why can’t you talk to someone who actually cares about what you have to say? Is it because no one like that exists? I understand that’s hard for you, but you shouldn’t punish other people for your own inadequacies.”
“Seriously?” he asked, tone devoid of any emotion.
“Seriously,” Jason affirmed, smirking.
Dick sighed heavily. “There’s going to be a Family Day at Damian’s school on Friday next week. Will you come?”
“Ha ha ha, no. Absolutely not.”
“I told you I’m not going to jail for you! I’m not going to jail for you, or for him, or for anyone in this family! You all can rot for all I care!”
“No one’s going to jail! And if we did get arrested, Tim would bail us out!”
“No, he wouldn’t,” Jason refuted swiftly.
“No, he wouldn’t,” Dick said, nodding. “He would probably suggest remand and then steal all of our stuff and then take our cases and make sure he lost so we would all go to jail for life.”
“Eh, not all of us. He’d help Cass and Steph.”
“They’re not going.”
“See!” Jason said loudly. “Even they aren’t going! Why would I go?”
“Steph would go, but she’s busy!”
“But Cass isn’t going because she has common sense, right?”
“Since when have you had common sense?”
“Since now! I’m allowed to grow as a person, Dick! You can’t keep me stagnant!”
“I want you to grow! Growing would be supporting your youngest brother on a very important day in his life!”
“Damian doesn’t even care about this!”
“How do you know?”
“Because it’s Damian and he hates people and any activities that kids his age think are fun!”
“He only thinks he does! This’ll be good for him!”
“Why are you such a mom?”
“Why don’t you want to support Damian?”
Jason couldn’t keep going. Dick was really serious about this, but he just couldn’t stop himself from laughing. Dick was looking at him forlornly, but Jason figured that was his own fault.
“Look, Dick, I’m not going. Period. The brat wouldn’t even want to do it, and it sounds horrible. Really. Genuinely traumatic. And I know trauma. Go bother someone else.”
“You’ll regret not going when Damian and me and Tim come back with great stories about how much fun Family Day was,” he wheedled.
“Ha, yeah, no.”
Dick huffed and turned on his heel, stomping out of the room. “I hope you get arrested!”
“I hope Tim says no!”
“Why do you hate me?”
Jason snorted and shook his head.
(Tim’s definitely going to say no.)
Tim grunted and waved vaguely, not looking up from his computer.
Then the situation registered.
All he wanted at that moment was to go back in time by about 10 seconds so he could tell Dick to go away instead of grunting his consent for Dick to have a conversation with him.
Because that tone.
He knew that tone. He hated that tone. That tone was the tone that Dick used whenever he needed something from Tim and was worried Tim would say no. And, usually, that something had to do with Damian.
Tim took a breath, saved his work, and turned from his computer.
“What do you want?” he asked bluntly.
That sheepish grin was a lie. “Look, I need a favor.”
Tim sighed. “What, Dick?”
“Okay, so, there’s going to be this thing… Family Day. At Damian’s school.”
“Right,” Tim said dryly, wondering if he could redirect the conversation. “And, which social media platform did you get this from? The Gotham Academy Mom’s Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook?”
“Facebook,” Dick answered, looking confused. “But that’s not the point. The point is, it’s next Friday and I need you to go. Please?”
Redirection didn’t work. Time for a new tactic.
“I’m busy Friday.”
That was a lie.
“No, you’re not!”
“I can be,” Tim retorted with a shrug.
“Why don’t you want to go? It’ll be fun! Games and food and activities-“
“That sounds horrible.”
“Tim! Please? This is important for Damian!”
Tim arched an eyebrow slowly. “Ah.”
“‘Ah’?” Dick repeated bemusedly.
“Mm. I see what this is about.”
Dick looked wary and slightly exasperated.
Good. That was how Tim felt whenever Dick started a conversation using that stupid tone.
“What is this about, exactly?”
“This is about you. Living vicariously through Damian.”
Dick sputtered. “Wha- No!”
“Yes. You don’t have to deny it, Dick. There’s nothing shameful in wanting to participate in things you never got a chance to experience as a child. You only went to a normal school after Bruce took you in, and then it was just the two of you and Alfred. But, here’s Damian, with a large family, going to normal school. You have the chance to live out your childhood fantasies of attending Family Day with plenty of siblings, and you’re jumping at the chance. That’s understandable.”
Dick was staring at him like Tim was spouting nonsense.
He was. But, for nonsense, Tim thought it sounded pretty reasonable. He wondered if he’d ever thanked Bruce for teaching him the valuable skill of improvisation.
He had to make sure he did that.
“Tim,” Dick began. “No.”
“No?” Tim echoed, blinking in false confusion. “Well, I guess everyone has to be wrong about something at least once in their life. If this conversation’s over, I really have to get back to-“
“It’s not over!”
Tim rolled his eyes and slumped into his chair. “Seriously, Dick? Why do you even want me to come? There’s like, an 86% chance that something is going to happen to cause me and Damian to fight and civilians will probably get caught up and, honestly, I don’t feel like having to pay anyone off next week.”
“You don’t have to fight!”
“You say that, but we do. It’s how we communicate.”
“Our mutual dislike and reluctant respect. Obviously. Where have you been?”
Dick didn’t look amused, but Tim wasn’t trying to amuse him. Tim just wanted Dick to leave. Maybe out of frustration.
Because he was not doing this.
The idea was giving him a stress headache.
“Please, Tim? Just… think about it for a minute. Really think-“
“I thought. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s an even worse idea than I first believed, which I didn’t know was possible, but here we are.”
“Tim!” Dick pleaded.
He looked like he was about to drop to his knees and beg. It was honestly sad. Why did things like this have to mean so much to him?
Everyone else got by on a few hours of contact via comms every night.
That wasn’t good enough for Dick.
He wanted them to spend time together.
During the day.
It wasn’t natural.
“What about the others? Can’t you ask them?” Tim questioned, frowning.
He didn’t feel even a little bad at the idea of foisting Dick off on his siblings. As long as he didn’t have to deal with it, he didn’t even care.
“Seriously?” Tim gaped. “They all said no? Doesn’t that make you want to stop and rethink this?”
“No! Because none of them understand the spirit of this?”
“The spirit of family! You know what I mean, Tim! Ohana!”
Tim dropped his face into his hands. “Don’t quote Lilo and Stitch at me.”
“Why not?” Dick demanded passionately. “It was a great movie!”
“Jason started singing Elvis! On patrol! We were sharing a route that week, Dick! He can’t sing! He. Can’t. Sing.”
“I was there; I heard him over the comms, Tim. It was hard for me, too.”
“Obviously not, because you keep bringing that movie up.”
“It was a great movie!
“Fine! Go watch it and leave me alone!”
“Tim! This is important! Family Day! Family.”
Tim exhaled sharply and rubbed at his forehead. Okay, time to try something else to get Dick to leave him alone. “Have you considered the ramifications of this?”
Dick blinked. “What ramifications?”
“Lawsuits,” Tim stated plainly.
“Do you and Jason have some sort of mind link, or something?”
“Don’t ever suggest that; I don’t want to know what goes on in his head. More importantly, Jason is finally saying something that makes sense. We’re bound to get sued.”
Dick stared at him sadly. “But, Damian’s been in school for months and we haven’t gotten sued yet!”
“And that’s a miracle,” Tim conceded. “But putting us all in one place – or even just you, me, and Damian – is just asking for trouble. This event is at least 16 lawsuits waiting to happen. And then we’re going to have to settle out of court and people will ask questions. Imagine the scandal. W.E. stock will fall; we’ll have to declare bankruptcy. We’ll be poor and destitute and our standard of living will fall and we won’t be able to protect the city with same efficiency as we did before. The fate of Gotham rests on us not going to Family Day, Dick. Think about that. Just… take a minute and think about that.”
Was Tim exaggerating?
But hyperbole was a recognized form of rhetoric and he really needed Dick to give up on this idea.
Tim didn’t have any other options.
Tim grimaced and patted Dick’s shoulder. “Quality of life, Dick. Quality of life.”
Dick nodded absently and trudged out of Tim’s room. Tim stared after him, feeling a little bad.
And then he got over it.
(Crisis averted. Time to get back to work.)
Dick walked aimlessly through the halls of the Manor. He sighed heavily.
He couldn’t believe that not even one of them had agreed to go.
Not even Cass!
He just didn’t understand it. What was wrong with wanting to go to Family Day? It would be fun to just play a bunch of games and eat nice food and be outside as a family together. And maybe being surrounded by a bunch of civilians would actually stop the others from fighting.
Well, there was no way that was true, but all of the other stuff could have been if they had just been willing to try!
“Is something wrong, Master Dick?”
Dick looked up slowly, giving Alfred a strained smile. “No, Alfred, I just-“
(Wait a minute.)
Dick blinked and stared at Alfred like he held the answers to everything in the world. Honestly, he probably did, but that was another matter entirely.
“Alfred. Alfred. Alfred! I need your help!”
Alfred raised an eyebrow. It was only vaguely judgmental, so Dick felt safe to proceed.
“Next Friday, at Damian’s school, they’re having Family Day. And nobody will come! I’ve talked to Bruce and Cass and Jason and Tim and none of them want to go. Will you convince them, please? Or at least Bruce? And he’ll make them go! And then we can have a nice day out! Please, Alfred!”
Dick tensed in anticipation, waiting for his answer.
Alfred hummed. “Well, I suppose I could use a day off.”
Dick grinned, stunned. He’d wasted all that effort trying to convince them individually, and he could have just gone to Alfred from the start!
“Thank you, Alfred! Thank you!”
“Of course – though… Have you spoken to Master Damian about this?”
Dick coughed nervously, shifting from foot to foot. “Uh… no. But, you know, it’ll be a fun surprise!”
“Of course, Master Dick. I’ll speak to Master Bruce; I’m sure Master Damian will enjoy his surprise.”
Dick laughed, scratching the back of his neck. Well, that was full on judgmental. “Right. Well. I’m just gonna’… Thanks, Alfred! See you later! Bye!”
That was a close one.
On the bright side, Alfred was going to make sure they all went to Family Day!
(This is going to be great!)
Damian slipped on his backpack, grimmer than usual.
He didn’t like school. He hated it on a good day – though, there had never actually been a good day.
But today was going to be worse than any other day.
Damian had been dreading it since it had been announced, but, now it was here and there was nothing he could do about it. Andrews had told the class that they weren’t required to come unless they were participating in the event and bringing their families, so Damian would have loved to stay home, but…
Staying home would have tipped Grayson off, and the last thing he wanted was for Grayson to find out about this ridiculous day. Because, if he did find out, then he would insist on the family going to school with him.
And that was not something Damian would allow to happen.
So, he was making a sacrifice for the sake of his sanity: he would go to school and sit in a corner somewhere until the day was over, and no one would ever be the wiser.
All of Damian’s dreams were shattered when he walked into the kitchen to find Pennyworth, only to come face to face with his brothers and sister instead.
Though Todd, Drake, and Cain looked appropriately calm, Grayson was grinning like an insane person.
“Happy Family Day, Dami!”
“See! Look at that face! He doesn’t want this,” Todd shouted, pointing at Damian.
“Nobody wants this,” Drake drawled.
“Dick wants this,” Cass commented.
“He doesn’t count,” Drake dismissed.
“I count!” Grayson refuted.
“Shut up, Dick,” Todd growled. “This is your fault.”
“What is going on here?” Damian interrupted.
“What do you think?” Drake snarked.
“How?” Damian demanded, barely refraining from stomping his foot.
He had been so close to getting to school without their interference!
“Dick follows school moms on social media,” Cain explained, shrugging in what seemed to be sympathy.
Damian stared at Grayson in pained exasperation. Of course.
“Come on, Dami, it’ll be fun! I mean, great food and fun dames and activities-“
“That argument didn’t work when you used it on any of us; it won’t work on him,” Todd grumbled.
Damian stared. Todd had a point, but that wasn’t really what Damian was focused on.
They were coming with him.
This was going to be the worst day of his life.
He heaved a sigh and straightened his back. “Fine. Let’s go.”
“We’re waiting for Bruce,” Grayson said, still smiling.
“Father’s coming?” Damian asked, shocked.
“Yeah! Isn’t it great?”
It was horrible actually. He didn’t want his father anywhere near that awful place.
“I hate you all,” he declared.
Grayson’s face fell.
“The feeling’s mutual,” Drake said casually, leaning against the counter and adjusting his lapel.
Damian sneered, but his response was cut off when his father walked into the room.
“Damian,” he greeted steadily, before turning to Grayson exasperatedly. “Are we ready to go?”
“No,” Todd interjected. “I feel like we need to address the most important aspect of what’s happening here. Not the fact that you, Bruce, are forcing us to go to this stupid event, but the fact that you, Bruce, are wearing jeans. It’s disturbing and I need to bleach my eyeballs.”
“Really, Jason?” Father asked, grimacing.
“Yes, really. Also, Tim is wearing a three-piece suit like a little jerkwad, and I’m embarrassed to be associated with him – all of you really.”
Drake just shot Todd a disdainful look. “Is this the only way you know how to cope?”
“Yes,” Todd acknowledge unashamedly. “This and violence.”
Drake snorted, arching an eyebrow first at Grayson and then at Father. His sarcasm was palpable. “Well. Today should be fun.”
Damian stared at all of them and grimaced.
(My thoughts exactly.)