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What It Takes To Save A Family

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Stephanie had ended up as part of the Wayne family through her own vigilantism. She’d gone out dressed as ‘Spoiler’ to take down her criminal father and ended up friends with Robin, Jason. They quickly became close friends and, due to their similar age, liked to refer to themselves as twins. She loved working as a vigilante in Gotham and when Barbara decided she wanted to move on from Batgirl to Oracle to focus more on the technical side of detective work she happily accepted the mantle and all it meant. Barbara became her mentor and she flourished in the role of Batgirl.

 When Stephanie’s mother needed to go into rehab as a last ditch attempt to overcome her alcoholism Bruce Wayne stepped up and helped her out. Through Jason she’d become like a daughter to him and it made sense to him to help pay for her mum’s treatment. When they turned fifteen their lives changed drastically. Stephanie was out of town visiting the rehab her mum was in when the Joker escaped Arkham. She’d been desperate to get back to Gotham but was stuck in California as it had the best rehab facility Bruce could get her into at short notice.

Robin was out on patrol with Batman, Bruce, when gas filled the warehouse they were in. They’d managed to find a lead on the Joker and had followed it. Unfortunately it was a massive set up and the gas was used to separate the partners. Robin was clocked over the head, the skin near his hairline splitting open, and his vision blacked out. He was hauled away before Batman had even realised, especially as Joker had blocked all their communications.

It was four hours before Batman finally managed to track down where Jason was being held. He’d gotten J’onn to search the city while Superman flew Stephanie back. He was terrified what state they’d find Jason in and wanted Stephanie there for Jason, for all of them. From the quick call Alfred had received and patched through to him, he knew he’d done the right thing. Stephanie had been distraught knowing her brother was in danger. Batman ended up putting Joker into a full body cast due to the state he’d found Jason in. Superman had flown him straight back to the cave while Bruce tried to rein his anger back in despite still letting his fist connect with the Jokers body.

Jason had a fractured skull that was accompanied with a brain bleed, both eyes were swollen shut and he had multiple chipped teeth. There were extensive fractures over the rest of his body too; his hands, one wrist, multiple ribs, his upper arm opposite his wrist, one hip, and the opposite ankle. He had major internal bleeding and they had to rush him into surgery before Bruce had made it back to the cave. Alfred and Dr Leslie Tompkins were working on him for hours attempting to fix the Jokers damage.

It took six months for the full extent of the Jokers attack to present in Jason. Stephanie was the first to notice the change. She watched as he went from being talkative and confident, to a silent and panicky shell. PTSD caused him to thrash about during his night terrors and more than once he’d broken his wrist or a rib as they hurtled him out of his bed. He had daily panic attacks and Stephanie felt helpless to his downwards spiral. He became catatonic and suffered severe panic attacks when anyone male tried to touch him or move him. Stephanie and Barbara ended up moving into the manor full time, despite Stephanie’s mum being out of rehab and Barbara’s father living in Gotham, as they were the only people who were able to help care for Jason. He needed almost 24 hour care so Bruce asked for help from the women of the Justice League and Titans. He was unsurprised when Diana, Dinah and Koriand’r stepped up to help care for Jason. They’d all fallen in love with the boy during his four years as Robin and wanted to help as much as they could. The people that surprised Bruce the most were Selina Kyle and Pamela Isley. Selina had recently split from Bruce and hadn’t been around the manor since, and Pamela hated all of the damage Joker did so she’d sworn to help Jason as she couldn’t help Harley.

It took another nine months for the catatonic phase to pass and for Jason to return to being selectively mute instead of fully mute. Steph helped him communicate with his family and he stopped flinching when they tried to touch him. It was around this time that a 13 year old by called Tim Drake, who lived next to the Wayne family, lost his parents. He’d become friends with Stephanie and Jason over the months Jason was recovering and so when he lost his parents Bruce, knowing he had no other family, stepped in to help. It was only after the young boy had moved in that he revealed he knew Bruce was Batman and that Jason was the Robin who’d been kidnapped. When told that Tim knew who he was by Bruce, Jason suggested Tim become Robin as he knew he couldn’t go into the field again. He felt too unstable and was too scared of leaving the manor grounds.

~~~Ten Years Later.~~~

The Wayne family was now larger with three more children and teens joining the house. Cassandra, Damian and Duke all worked in the family business alongside the Bat and had fit into the family surprisingly well. The family worked well as a large unit and now, with more people able to protect Gotham they were suffering less injuries and able to take more time off. Selina and Bruce had managed to build a stable relationship and she’d moved into the manor, along with choosing for the kids to become her kittens. She loved them all fiercely, but none more so than the man who’d been the second Robin. They’d met when he’d first come to the manor and bonded over their similar pasts. Now she was the second best at caring for him when he entered catatonic states, only surpassed by Stephanie, and both women were the only two people who could read all of his tells. They’d been so close when he’d been Robin that they’d developed a mother/son relationship quicker than she’d ever done with Dick.

That night’s patrol was shaping up to be hectic and it was only four pm. There had been a mass breakout at Arkham and three of those who’d escaped were Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Scarecrow. As soon as Selina heard her two girl friends were out she’d phoned them to check they’d be safe from her fiancé. The call had caused an argument between her and Bruce but she was determined to keep Harley away from her abusive ex; no matter how much Bruce wanted to cart every escapee back to the institution.

The family were just glad that Joker hadn’t managed to escape. After he’d kidnapped Jason, Bruce had decided that only those over 21 were able to patrol while the Joker was free. He refused to have another child end up in the Joker’s hands when they were only out there to bring him in. It meant that for eight years Batman had been dragging Joker back to Arkham with only Nightwing (Dick) and Oracle’s help. Stephanie refused to patrol on nights Joker was free as Jason was always more scared, his PTSD being heightened by the escape usually resulting in him becoming mute, if not fully catatonic.

Despite now being close to 26 Jason still suffered with physical, mental, and emotional injuries from the Joker’s torture. He used a stick to get around as his ankle was weak and he wore jewellery on his fingers and wrists that were actually splints. He also had a scar that ran along his forehead that caused part of his dark red hair to grow through white; Stephanie helped him dye it so it wouldn’t stand out. His PTSD was so severe that he’d go from being able to work alongside Oracle manning the BatComputer and being his healthy self, to being catatonic and needing high levels of care. He’d been having psychiatric treatment for the PTSD for the past ten years but with how often he’d slip out of a responsive state treatment was difficult.

On the days and weeks where he was catatonic Stephanie and Selina would stay in from patrol and help care for him. Stephanie had managed to grow close to Tim, but had struggled with the idea of her best friend being replaced as Robin for a number of years, despite it being Jason’s idea. She’d wanted them to ‘graduate’ from Robin and Batgirl at the same time, moving on to their new lives as a pair but the Joker took that away from her. He’d not only changed Jason’s life but that of every member of the Wayne family. It made sense to him when he was stable that Batman couldn’t risk one of the family going unresponsive in the middle of a fight so had offered to train under Barbara and become her assistant. That didn’t make his loss in the field any easier on the family. Selina often found herself with her twins curled around her at night due to Jason’s nightmares and him needing both his sister and mum to help soothe him. She was also the main one who’d help him bathe and dress when unresponsive as she felt it was her duty as his mum to do so.

Jason was having a good night and so was already seated at the BatComputer and patched through to Oracle which meant that Stephanie was pulling on her Batgirl costume. The routes being handed out were fairly simple with Batgirl getting assigned Northern Gotham so she was close to the manor. Everyone but Bruce and Dick were assigned sections of Gotham while they searched for Scarecrow. Selina had already slipped out to see the other two members of the Sirens and promised to aid their fight if her family tried to bring them in. She hadn’t stayed around to hear that Bruce wasn’t planning on bringing them in but helping them live in the city so long as they didn’t hurt people.

Harley, Pamela and Selina were designated the Gotham City Sirens by the Gotham Gazette many years ago when the three had caused a bit of trouble for a couple of months. It had been a particularly warm summer and they’d taken it upon themselves to make the summer enjoyable for all the kids of Gotham. That led to the parks having huge trees to create shady patches and colourful flowers everywhere, toys and bikes were stolen from toy stores, and Haly’s circus were persuaded to perform for the children all summer long free of charge. Dick hated to admit it but having his old family so close made him not search as hard as he should have for the Sirens.

This time however, it was too close to Halloween and they couldn’t risk the Sirens getting mixed up in whatever Scarecrow was planning for that year. Bruce had decided to give the family a week to apprehend Scarecrow, and then they’d make plans to move Harley and Pamela into the wooded area of the Wayne estate. He knew being away from Joker helped Harley to heal but couldn’t actively be seen aiding a known criminal. This was however, the first time she’d broken out with Pam and not her ex, so Bruce wanted to help her remain free and safe from the clown. He felt it was the least he could do after all Pamela had done for his family over the years.

As the team rolled out Jason ensured all their comms were connected with a simple call of ‘Redwing’ his new codename. All their responses filtered through and so, while the software ran facial recognition across Gotham, Barbara (Oracle) and Jason set about playing a game of scrabble. The BatComputer for all its advanced technology and the tasks it could perform, especially when combined with Oracles Clock Tower, often ended up with the two of them playing games together. Stephanie was the last to call in and acknowledge that her comm was working. Jason tried not to worry but he always held a soft spot for his sister. She’d never changed how she acted around him and accepted all the changes his PTSD caused.

In the aftermath of Jason’s kidnapping Dick had moved back to the manor and quit the Blüdhaven Police Department. He’d started doting on Jason as if he’d always done so; ignoring any of the previous hostility. He started trying to mend his relationship with Bruce too but he could see how Dick’s change in behaviour was affecting his youngest. Once Tim joined the family Bruce got Dick to do most of his training as a way to get him away from Jason. The overly attentive older brother often ended up causing Jason to rock and moan in distress. At one point he’d gotten so upset that Stephanie had punched Dick in the face while Selina curled Jason into her arms.

Alfred had tried to remain the same but the whole family could see how he was more worried when any of them would patrol. He’d bench them for longer after injuries and more than once Bruce had heard his father-figure crying himself to sleep. He had spent years drilling it into his charges that they ate whatever he put in front of them. This all changed when Jason went catatonic for the first time. Along with being non-verbal and unable to physically care for himself, he seemed to become almost childlike. He’d refuse food and would only eat certain colours or textures. More than once Bruce watched Alfred make Jason up his own plate of pancakes when the rest of the family were having oatmeal. He’d even started buying frozen nuggets and chips as Jason preferred them over the homemade ones. The fridge suddenly had chocolate milk and a bunch of other sweet treats Alfred had never allowed in the house before. The freezer was no different; it always contained at least two pints of Neapolitan ice cream that no one but Jason was allowed to eat on pain of Alfred’s disappointed face and a verbal scolding.

The night was long and eventually the family started filtering back home. The comms had been filled with the usual quips and banter but they held an edge. Everyone was almost holding back, just waiting for Scarecrow’s plan to start. The security footage from Arkham had been studied by Barbara during the night, with her then alerting people to the locations of some of the escapees. She heard Jason’s laugh, distorted though it was, whenever Dick unsuccessfully attempted to flirt with her.

As Selina still wasn’t home once even Bruce had conceded defeat for the night a slight ripple of unrest filtered through the family. An Arkham breakout always led to the family having more vivid nightmares. This meant Selina would end up with her twins curled up with her while the other children curled up with Bruce or Dick. When Damian had first joined the family he’d struggled with normal child responses but the family watched as he blossomed during his first year with the family. During that time they saw him go from being angry and hostile to Jason whenever he was unresponsive, to being compassionate and helpful. The situation also helped him admit that it wasn’t a weakness to show your fears and Bruce had been overflowing with pride the first time Damian had crawled into his bed due to nightmares. He was proud of how far his youngest had come and all he’d achieved, the breaking of his mother/grandfather’s violent conditioning.

Bruce was worried what Selina’s absence would mean for the family that night until he saw Cass and Steph just walking straight to Jason’s room. There was no pretence of going to their own rooms first, just a direct show of how the trio would support each other that night. Barbara had come from the Clock Tower once everyone was back home and was already curled up with Dick. Bruce, after checking on all his other children, wasn’t surprised to find Damian fast asleep in his bed and not the boys own one. He’d clearly anticipated the nightmares and chose to seek out his father’s safety early on.

The whole week was hell. Bruce was snappy, Selina was absent and the children all suffered for it. Alfred tried to hold them altogether but with Scarecrow still loose and Selina refusing to come home there was little he could do. As he watched his family suiting up for another patrol, this time with more of them being assigned to the search for the former doctor, he noticed that Jason’s gaze was firmly on Robinsons Park. Bruce was planning on getting the Sirens tonight and bringing them back to the manor to ensure their safety. Alfred walked over to his grandson and rested his hand against his shoulder. He always worried about his grandson’s weight and his hand just emphasized how much the Arkham breakout was taking out of the younger man. He usually had a build that was slimmer than Dick’s as he didn’t do as much training as everyone else. His weight was the same as his older brother but he was much taller; add in that he struggled to maintain his weight during his catatonic phases due to refusing most food, and Alfred worried more than for the rest of the family. He could already feel the tell-tale signs of weight loss under his hand and made a note to bring down an extra-large bowl of ice cream once everyone had left. Jason leaned into Alfred’s touch and ended up resting his head on the man’s hand. The remainder of the family shot the pair one last glance as disappeared into the night.

Stephanie felt free when she was dressed as Batgirl, the wind flowing through her hair as her bike tore through the streets. Bruce had given her the task of convincing the Sirens to move to the Wayne grounds and she was feeling the stress of it. The night was still young so she allowed herself to stop a few minor crimes on the way to the historic park. As she pulled up out front she wasn’t at all surprised to find the place was now looking like a garden off of the cover of one of Alfred’s gardening magazines. Healthy plants were spilling through the fence and the trees were large and imposing. She slipped off the bike, checked in with Oracle and Redwing and then started making her way into the park.

Stephanie took extra care to leave all the plants unharmed as she wove towards the centre. Once there the sight of the former bandstand took her breath away. Vines wove around the pillars and blocked out any light getting inside except in places where Pamela had created windows. She could hear the three women laughing and chatting as she got closer to where she assumed the door was.

Stephanie had just reached up to ‘knock’ when the vines moved away and she found herself stood in front of Poison Ivy herself. The cold calculating gaze of the redhead made her shift from foot to foot. It wasn’t their first time meeting, nowhere near close. The villain hadn’t made her feel fear since she stepped up to help Jason so willingly but she still felt awkward about being at her door. Stephanie reached into her belt and pulled out the letter Bruce had written. It was addressed to all three women and outlined his plan for Harley and Pam to live safely in the manor grounds.

The three women exchanged shocked looks as they re-read the letter for the fourth time. Selina knew that Bruce knew how much the women meant to her, just not to the extent of his understanding of how important they were to her. Once they had finally interrogated Batgirl to gain the validity of the letter the bandstand flew into a flurry of activity. The three women packed up quickly while Batgirl called in the Batmobile. Dick and Bruce had taken out two that night in order to transport the women safely without the car being off the streets during the night.

The Sirens quickly got settled in the grounds. Batgirl and Redwing watched the trees contort as Pamela moved them in such a way to provide a home for herself and Harley. Stephanie was resting against Jason, his arm loosely around her waist. He loved his aunts and she had seen his relief across the cave when the car had pulled in and the four of them stepped out. She’d carefully led Pamela and Harley over to Alfred and escorted them out to the wooded area Bruce had given them. Selina had run over to Jason and pulled him into a hug, her hand carding through his hair, both thankful that Stephanie was helping them have the space they needed.

Once Pam was finished manipulating the plants and trees her new home was exquisite. Harley was just as speechless as the other three people who were stood watching. Alfred was holding a silver tray with tea and sandwiches for everyone while Selina chatted with him quietly. She was getting an update on what had happened over the past week. She had hated leaving her family but wanted to keep the other two women safe. She was glad she’d gone to them when she’d seen the state Harley was in. The former psychiatrist had gotten the strength to leave Joker and run with Pamela but she was still very shaken up by his ‘leaving present’. She was littered with bruises and a split lip, the psychological damage was worse. The former jester had been suffering panic attacks and jumped at certain noises. Selina watched from beside Alfred as Jason walked over to the red and black haired women, pulling her into a hug and starting up a quiet conversation. She’d been expecting her son to ignore Harley due to her former association with Joker but he was showing her, once again, how strong and caring he still was.

Eventually the four members of the Wayne family left the two ex-inmates to settle in and returned to the cave. Stephanie quickly kissed the cheeks of the other three and went back out on patrol while Selina settled into one of the plush seats in front of the BatComputer. Jason checked back in with Barbara and they returned to their game of poker online. Alfred was busying himself with checking over their medical supplies when an alarm sounded from one of the monitors.

The alarm was from their continued monitoring of Arkham Island. A fearful silence descended on the three occupants of the cave and Barbara’s sharp breath in was heard over the comms. The computer flashed up three words the whole family, the whole of Gotham, hated to see Joker has escaped. Selina looked over at her second eldest and saw that he’d frozen, eyes locked on the words. His breathing was raised and his foot was tapping incessantly on the floor. She caught Alfred disappearing upstairs out the corner of her eye as she reached out to take Jason’s hand. They stayed like that for a few moments until Jason reached out his other hand and pressed down on the comms.

“Redwing to all; Joker had escaped.” His voice was shaky and it hitched up at the end of his sentence. The clown still terrified him and no matter how many treatment options they’d gone through he was still as scared as he’d been at 15. A quick chorus of replies and confirmations filtered through the silence as Barbara set to work, the poker long since forgotten.

The clown should have been easy to track; there was only one way on and off the island. However, he’d seemingly disappeared. The family split up, half still searching for Scarecrow, so they could fan out from Jokers last sighting. Batgirl, fuelled by years of rage and hatred, was the first to reach the former Amusement Mile of Gotham. It had been home to the Joker for nearly every one of his previous breakouts and she was determined to catch the bastard.

A laugh pierced the air and a crowd of goons surrounded the purple clad vigilante. The clown was about to swing down an iron bar onto her prone form when the windows shattered and the lights went out. Every member of the family out on patrol dropped into the room and started taking out the goons with Batman and Nightwing dealing exclusively with the Joker. At least that had been the plan, no sooner had Dick landed a punch to the delusional clown was he shoved away and Bruce went to town. It was clear the Joker would need a near full body cast again with the ferocity of the punches and kicks being dealt to him. Dick swore he heard Bruce saying ‘leave my family alone’ but the noise in the warehouse was too loud. He span on his heel to help Stephanie up but where he’d last seen her purple body looking so fragile was empty.

Stephanie knew she didn’t have time. She wanted to get out and away from the Joker as soon as she could. She’d pretended that the knock to the back of her head had rendered her unconscious and waited. There were two ways she could guarantee she’d get out: one, she’d grab whatever Joker tried to hit her with while throwing down smoke pellets; or two, the family would turn up and in the chaos she could make a stealthy escape. Shame was coursing through her system when the windows shattered and remained long after she’d made it across the rooftops. Stephanie had thought she could take the Joker alone but seeing his face, his men, just fetched up too many memories of her brother lying too still.

The manor came into view quickly and Stephanie swerved away and towards the caves’ secret entrance. No sooner had the bike stopped that she found her arms full of her shaking brother. He was sobbing into her chest while she balanced on the bike. Words were muffled but she didn’t need to hear them, she’d already heard them a thousand times before. He was glad she was home safe and had been terrified of losing her. He moved just enough to allow her off the bike before falling back into her arms once again. Scooping him up, she decided to tuck him into bed then change out of her Batgirl get up. She’d been Batgirl longer than her mentor, the original, as she couldn’t bring herself to give up the mantle that she’d started with her best friend. He may have had to change how he helped with the family mission but she refused to ‘graduate’ from Batgirl. It helped her feel like a small part of Jason was still out on the streets with her.

The water from the shower felt glorious against her skin, as did the super soft vest and joggers she pulled on after. Selina was waiting in Stephanie’s room when she finally exited the bathroom. She took one look at her daughter, passed her a coat and ushered her out of the room. Selina steered her down and out into the gardens, then over to the new addition. The door opened up to the homely and earthy feeling living room where Harley was sat colouring in while Pamela brewed tea. As soon as Selina pushed Stephanie through the door their activities stopped and the two women rushed the young woman.

Within minutes Stephanie found herself curled up under a blanket, feet tucked under Harley’s legs and a cup of camomile tea warming her hands. The four women started off just catching up and talking nonsense but as the time passed they eventually came to Joker. Harley felt Stephanie shudder against her side where the young vigilante had moved to curl under her aunt’s arm. She felt a surge of anger towards her abusive ex. He’d done too much damage to too many positive people. Too much damage to her family. She still remembered the bleeding, shaking body of the second Robin after Joker had been hauled off him. She’d tried to protect him but Joker had swung at her and his goons held her back. She’d tried to leave the clown so many times over the years but he pulled her back in. Now he was out of her life for good. Pam’s family, her family, needed her too much for her to ever go back.

As the hours ticked by and the blonde curled into her side eventually fell asleep Harley started plotting. She knew what she had to do, or rather who she had to recruit. There was only one person; with his two distinct personalities; who could help her family now, and she knew just where to find him. Once Selina had slinked back to the house to check on her other children, Harley loved that she included Bruce in that statement when he’d done something stupid on patrol, she started talking to Pam about what could be done.

The two women got to work, taking care as to not disturb the woman sleeping on Harley. Pamela used Harley’s four neurological PhD’s to create a serum that would help Jonathan take back control from Scarecrow. They could have done with testing it first but the only person they would be able to inject easily would have been Eddie Nigma but he was still locked in Arkham. He’d found it too childish to break out so close to Halloween. Pamela and Harley had been determined to break out then as it was one of the best holidays in the Wayne family. The women continued plotting and then had to wait. They didn’t want to disturb Stephanie as it’d bring focus onto what they were doing and knew it’d be best to slip away during the day while everyone was fast asleep. Stephanie would have disappeared back to the house before then as she always ended up in with Jason after getting a maximum of four hours sleep, her nightmares too vivid to survive without him.

 As the cool autumnal breeze swept its way around the grounds the two women crept towards the manor’s extensive garage. They grabbed a set of keys for the black Tesla Bruce owned and disappeared down the drive and into the heart of Gotham. It took them two hours of searching and trying to remember all the hints Scarecrow had let slip but they managed to find where he was hiding.

The two women were quickly let in and, ignoring the fear creeping up their spines, followed one of Scarecrow’s minions to the lab. Harley bounced over to the former doctor and started up her trademark babble. It easily pulled Scarecrow’s attention away from Pamela. She slipped up behind him and injected the serum all without him registering it had happened until he’d felt the burn of the liquid. A few heartbeats later and the mask was pulled from his face and Jonathan stood before them. Harley let out an almost deafening squeal as she threw her arms around one of her oldest friends. The pair had met during their shared psychiatry rotations at medical school and bonded over their love of the subject. Unfortunately for both formidable doctors, their downfall had been Arkham Asylum and its particular brand of crazy.

Once they were absolutely sure they had Jonathan in front of them and not Scarecrow they outlined the plan. It was simple enough, he’d get his minions to get Joker with enough fear toxin to kill a herd of elephants and then he’d return home with them. They wanted his help to provide therapy to their family as the Joker, and countless other villains, had caused enough damage to their mental health. Realising exactly what the serum Pamela had given him had done, Jonathan was quick to agree. He finally had control of himself again, something he’d not had in a long time. Sure flashes of Jonathan were allowed every now and then; Scarecrow had just been too strong. He’d made Jonathan too weak to fight back.

The two women were safely back at their new home when the breaking news came from Gotham. The news broadcast was interrupting all channels throughout the city. Joker had been seen breaking into a kindergarten in Drescher, his help already rounding up the children and workers. The most surprising and newsworthy event was the sudden change that had come over the clown-faced goons. As soon as the children and workers were rounded up they all ripped off the masks and turned on Joker. He was injected multiple times across his body and the footage showed him writhing on the floor. In a matter of minutes his body stilled and his face was contorted in agony as his heart finally stopped beating. The henchmen had all been wearing masks to protect their identity under the clown ones but they were bland, showing no signs of allegiance.

The den in the manor had fallen into near silence, save for the sobbing of a rocking Jason. Selina was trying to soothe her broken bird while the rest just watched the news in varying degrees of shock. Once the article ended and the channel returned to the cartoon they’d all been watching, some ridiculous parody of the Justice League that the younger Waynes found great joy in watching, the occupants of the room exploded into action. Everyone seemed to be talking over each other, some with disgusted shock, others with glee, all agreed that Bruce would be hacking GCPD to check the DNA of the Joker. None of them were willing to celebrate just yet. They may all agree in justice not vengeance, in turning the criminals over to the justice system and not granting their own rulings, but they all agreed the world was safer without Joker in it.

Just as the doorbell rang out Harley and Pamela arrived in the den. They looked around the scene and could see the release of tension that’d been held in Selina’s shoulders. She knew if her friends were so close as to arrive that soon after the broadcast finished that they couldn’t have killed the Joker. She knew her friends had killed, Bruce knew it too, but he’d forgiven those crimes in order to help them recover and bring them closer to the family because of how much he loved his fiancée. Alfred appeared in the doorway soon after followed by the thin, tiny frame of Jonathan Crane. Everyone, except the Sirens and Jason, froze upon seeing the psychiatrist. Harley jumped from where she’d been stroking Titus (one of the family’s many dogs) and pulled her ex-colleague into a bone-crushing hug. She turned back to the room and quickly explained about the serum her and Pamela created and how Jonathan was now back in control. Quietly he offered his services to the family as thanks for the help the two women had given him.

The Wayne family could easily count the number of times they’d been shocked as a whole on one hand. It was such a small number of times that it usually threw the room into chaos. This time was no different. They’d all expected Jonathan’s offer to be politely declined, or at the very least ignored completely. Instead they all watched as Bruce rose to his feet, walked over to the smaller man, shook his hand and agreed to take him up on his offer. Alfred alone thought he’d slipped into an alternate dimension after number of times he’d witnessed Bruce’s refusal to seek treatment. The kids were no different, except Stephanie. The usually bubbly, happy-go-lucky woman had been subdued since the night before, her meeting with Joker and Jason’s subsequent reaction shaking her more than she’d realised. She was the next on her feet to take up Jonathans’ offer with a handshake and shy smile.

The family quickly managed to settle down and welcomed Jonathan in with a round of tea and Alfred’s homemade cookies. They were all enjoying hearing stories from Harley and his time at medical school. All except Cassandra who’d moved next to her brother. She’d seen his body language changing while he’d been sobbing into Selina and had anticipated what was to come. There had been no reaction when she’d sat down, only a small flinch when she’d placed a hand on his arm. She knew the family should have turned the news off or taken Jason from the room but they’d all been too fixated with the images of Jokers last moments. She could see the void that filled his usually colourfully bright eyes and hear the murmurs of self-soothing nonsense that were all precursors for him slipping into a deep and lengthy catatonic state. Her heart broke for her older brother, the one member of the family who deserved to be celebrating the Jokers death was locked away. His shell of a body, his childlike refusal of foods, and almost violent night terrors were all that awaited him until the state broke once again.

Chapter Text

It had been four months since Jokers death, four months since Jason had last said a single word to his family, four months since Stephanie or Selina had patrolled, and four months since Pamela had moved onto the Manor’s grounds with Harley. It had been one of the longest times Jason had been catatonic in a long time. Everyone in the family was worried. They thought the Joker dying would not have had such an effect on Jason, they’d all secretly prayed that he would come out of his catatonic state after a few days and they’d see their Jason being more himself. Instead the nights had been filled with anguished screaming and the days a constant rotation of the family ensuring Jason did what was needed to live.

Unfortunately Pamela had been contacted by an eco-terrorist she knew and the Sirens had a job to do. Pamela needed Selina’s help with breaking into a secure facility that had started to create a new chemical for pest control that was even more detrimental to surrounding wildlife than anything seen before. She could have just blown the doors in with some of her vines but it ran the risk of releasing the toxin, something no one in the small villages nearby needed. They were relying on Pamela, via her friend, to save their village from the contamination happening to their water supply. Although Pamela often hated humanity as a whole for their destruction to the environment, this village were completely self-sustainable and caused minimal environmental damage. They were also trying to protect the local wildlife, a small thing that she always got behind as it led to better soil nutrition for the greenery.

The Sirens took off with Selina giving Jason a five minute cuddle; Koriand’r got strict instructions to be the other person to help Jason through his nightmares; and Steph was told in no uncertain terms to call her if Jason needed her for anything. Pamela felt clouded with guilt for taking a Mama away from her kitten when they needed her but Selina insisted that, with her help, the mission wouldn’t be longer than a week. Harley made sure that Jason had a new soft toy of Catwoman, and the other two Sirens, before they left so he’d always have her nearby. She’d even put wheat bags inside them so that they were infused with their perfumes so it smelt more like them.

For three days Jason didn’t seem to overly notice Selina’s absence. Koriand’r managed to calm him quickly at night due to her body temperature running higher than humans, and Roy gave his family a reprieve from caring for him during the day. He’d always had a soft spot for the second Robin. When Jason started working as Redwing they’d managed to build a level of camaraderie that Roy had never managed to have with Dick. They spent their days playing with Lian and watching films. The little six year old, who looked like a miniature of her mother, seemed to bring a light to Jason’s usually blank eyes that his family always missed seeing when he was in this state.

On the fourth day however, the Manor fell into pandemonium. Roy, Jason, Lian, and Titus the dog had been in the garden due to the abnormally hot spring day. Roy had nipped inside to grab drinks for the three of them when Lian and Titus got distracted by a stray cat running through the back of the garden. Without a distraction Jason had wandered into the house to look for Selina. Unable to find her, and with the rest of the family out of the house, he’d become frantic.

Jason had managed to find Pamela and Harley’s house. Upon finding it empty he’d become so dissolved in panic, his mind pulling up scenarios of Joker getting the three women, that he’d left the grounds. He walked for such a long time that his feet ended up hurting and his damaged knee became too stiff to have any range of movement. His whole body was in agony but he carried on, the panic fuelling him to keep moving, to keep going.

Roy had heard Lian shouting Jason’s name and Titus whimpering in worry from inside the Manor. Running back outside he froze when he realised he couldn’t see Jason anywhere. He felt panic and guilt burn a hole in his stomach at letting his friend down. He tried to push it down but couldn’t deny his hands were shaking worse than any withdrawal had managed to make them. He pulled out his phone after briefly searching the Manor and hit Dick’s work number.

“Hello, Officer Grayson speaking,” Dick said after it rang three times and Roy felt like he was going to vomit with each second he had to wait. “Oh God Dick, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” Roy stammered. His nerves were shot to pieces and he had managed to convince himself that Bruce was going to break his no kill rule for the man who’d lost his son.

“Roy? What is it? What’s happened?” Dick’s voice changed from his usual happy work voice to one of barely contained worry. “It’s Jay. I can’t find him. I’ve checked around the Manor and Pam’s place but I can’t find him. I’m so sorry. I’ve lost your Little Wing.”

“Roy, shut up for a second.” Dick cut in. Roy was starting to spiral and that wouldn’t help anyone right now, least of all Jason. Dick told him as much as he stood from his desk and started walking to his Captains office. He’d transferred to the GCPD from Blüdhaven PD after Jason had returned home as he was determined to mend the relationship he’d broken with his little brother. He saw it as one of the best decisions he’d ever made. “Look, let me talk to the Captain and then I’ll call Bruce. You call Alfred, if anyone is the best person to handle this situation it’s him.” Dick had switched into his Nightwing persona despite being out of the mask as it was the easiest way for him to manage the strong surge of emotions he was currently feeling. He knew it was the safest way for him to help find his brother as he’d also need to support his family. Roy murmured an agreement to the plan and ended the call.

 Bruce was sat in the quarterly meeting with the financial department, cursing out Tim for taking a step back from the company to get a degree in photography, when his phone rang. There was only three people whose calls would come through while his phone was set to ‘priority only’; none of them would be calling with good news during a meeting. As he pulled out his phone, and apologised to the room, he saw Dick’s work number flashing and felt ice settle through his veins.

“What is it Dick?” His gruff tone leaving no room for small talk. “Roy just phoned. It’s Jason. I think he’s discovered Selina is on a girl’s holiday and he’s gone missing.” Bruce swore, stunning the other people in the room as he was so far removed from the cool-headed businessman they knew. “Where are you...Okay I’m on my way, tell the Captain I’ll see you both there.” He ended the call before Dick could respond and turned to Lucius who’d been sat beside him for the meeting.

“Jason has gone missing; I’ve got to go to the police.” Bruce didn’t wait for a reply as he practically sprinted from the room. As he made his way down to his car, Bruce called the Commissioner. As a close friend to the family, and his daughter being their Oracle, Bruce knew he’d be invaluable in the search for Jason. Jim Gordon had found out what his daughter did during the night a couple of years ago. Everyone had expected him to be upset or angry; instead he’d been proud for her finding a way to overcome the life changing injury Joker had given her. Since then he’d even contracted her to help the GCPD a couple of times, off the books of course.

By late afternoon the family were beside themselves with worry. The decision had been made to hold off on calling Selina until they either had more news or Jason back. They knew she’d drop everything to get back home and find her kitten but also knew how important her mission currently was. As with everything in their alternate lives, they had to make a painful decision to withhold the truth for just a little while.

Cass, having read all the emotions her family were trying to hide, was the first to break down sobbing. As soon as the dam had been broken the family seemed to become even more unsettled. Stephanie became more frantic while searching the city, refusing to cry until she had her twin back. Bruce seemed determined to pace through the carpet in the Police Captain’s office. He hadn’t felt this scared since Jason had first ended up with Joker except this time his son wasn’t completely with them. He was a fractured version of the boy who’d been so utterly broken by Joker while at his highest level of fitness that Bruce felt like he was coming apart at the seams.

Dick was working with his friends in the force to search the city, ignoring their protests to return home and be with his family. He always harboured guilt over failing his Little Wing and wasn’t about to fail him a second time. Tim had locked himself in the cave, working closely with Barbara while they checked every CCTV camera they could find. He was even contemplating finding a way to hack every phone camera in Gotham to give them better coverage. It was a well-known fact how shoddy the camera coverage was for Crime Alley and The Bowery which was unfortunately one of the first areas Jason would come to in Gotham proper if he’d crossed the Kane Memorial Bridge. If he was found there Tim had no doubt in his mind that Bruce would start throwing even more money at projects to improve that coverage.

Damian had returned to the Manor with Alfred. He’d wanted to help in the search but felt unable to control his emotions enough to be effective. He loved his brother, when he’d first met the family it had been Jason who’d welcomed him quickly. It was Jason who, despite lapsing into a catatonic state a few months after his arrival, had accepted the boy without question and sought him out when he needed a brother. Jason had picked him time and time again over Dick and Tim (and now also over Duke) when he was locked in his mind, terrified of most men but needing the comfort of a brother.

As soon as he’d arrived back to the Manor Damian found Lian sobbing in Jason’s room. He could see how much she was blaming herself. Roy had explained how the small girl had gotten distracted by a stray cat with Titus. He hadn’t given it much thought until he saw how distressed she was. He slipped into the room and curled an arm around her shoulders, a pang of sadness stabbing through his heart at the realisation it was his second oldest brother and not the cuddle monster of the oldest that had gotten him so used to casual physical affection.

“Lian,” he said keeping his voice soft, “I know for a fact none of us blame you.” She tried to slow her crying giving a few hiccupping breaths. “Y-you should.” She stammered. “I got distracted with Titus. Daddy had already explained that we were looking after Jay today.” She gave a few more hiccupped breaths and curled further into Damian’s arms. “That’s where you’re wrong Lian.” He pressed his cheek to her black hair, suddenly being reminded of watching her mum training with the League as a toddler. “Roy was the one caring for Jay, not you. You are expected to care for him as much as I am which is to say, not at all. We are children and Jason wouldn’t want you caring for him.” He rubbed her back in soothing circles just like Jason had done to him countless times before when his own nightmares had come and his brother was lucid.

“Lian I do not blame Titus for getting distracted, so why would we blame you?” He let out a sad chuckle. “Besides if we were to blame either of you it’d be the dog as he’s more protective over Jason than he is of me, and he’s my damn dog.” Lian gave a weak chuckle over that. She’d seen the large Great Dane climb into Damian and Jason’s laps then growl at anyone who came near them, she’d seen the dog camped outside Jason’s door and ignore Damian’s calls to get him away from it. She’d even seen the dog chase away a particularly aggressive member of the paparazzi because they’d gotten too close to his charges.

Damian managed to get Lian to agree to some of Alfred’s hot chocolate, something only the truly insane would ever turn down, and walked with her back to the kitchen. Roy and Koriand’r were there already, Koriand’r pouring away a cheap looking bottle of scotch that Roy had snuck out to buy as his guilt forced his ever-present cravings to the surface. Lian curled up with her father as Damian located Alfred in the large pantry. The grandfather was frantically tidying the highest shelves, clearly lost in his thoughts and trying to keep himself busy. When Jason had been missing the first time, and then in hospital for months, Alfred had deep cleaned every room in the Manor including those that hadn’t been in service since before he joined the family. The butler took one look at his youngest charge and herded him back to the small table in the kitchen and started preparing the hot chocolate.

It was close to ten at night by the time a call came in from a payphone in the city. Jason’s picture had been splashed across every news source with the family willing to pay a kings ransom to anyone that helped find their boy. When the family and police arrived at the location they discovered it was a small, mostly rusted children’s play area. There were a few seats here or there but there was mainly just the swing set, a slide and a climbing frame. The caller, a twelve year old girl, was waiting at the entrance. She was wringing her hands and clearly uncomfortable with the attention she was now getting. Bruce didn’t miss the way her eyes flashed in fearful recognition at a handful of the coppers and quickly got Dick to note down who they were.

With all the confidence of a fellow businessman the girl walked up to Bruce and took his hand, slowly pulling him into the playground and over to the climbing frame. Bruce’s heart broke as he looked over the curled up form of his adult son. Jason was clearly exhausted, the noise of their arrival not having pulled him from the sleep he was in, and yet his body was still shaking. Bruce managed to rouse Jason, those blue eyes finally appearing from under his tan lids and black eye lashes.

“There’s my boy,” Bruce’s voice rumbled through the tense night and he saw a spark of recognition in his son’s eyes. “Jay-lad you able to get down from there?” He helped his son sit more upright and had a brief moment where he thanked the stars for Jason’s growth having always been hindered by malnutrition. If his son needed help then he wasn’t too heavy for Bruce to scoop up. It was quickly followed by guilt over his son’s past but he pushed it aside when trembling arms threw themselves around his neck.

“Dad?” The barest whisper, the first word he’d spoken outside of a nightmare in four months, was all it took for Bruce to dissolved and pull his son firmly against his chest while tears flowed down his cheeks. He carefully extracted Jason from the climbing frame and sat on the cold concrete with him in his lap. He hadn’t said another word, just curled into his father’s warmth and drifted back off to sleep. Bruce looked up then, to the girl who’d found his world, and smiled one of the small smiles only ever reserved for his family.

“Thank you for finding him. I’m Bruce, what’s your name?” He managed to pry one hand away from his son to hold out to the girl through sheer force of Alfred’s disapproval at improper manners. She shook his hand and smiled at him. “Names Kelly and nothin’ to it Mister, jus’ glad you got your boy back not enough people cares about they kids.” Her Crime Alley accent was almost as thick as Jason’s had been when Bruce first caught him stealing the Batmobile’s tyres.  It pulled at his already overwrought heart strings and made him want to just scoop her up and adopt her. “Well it’s lovely to meet you Kelly and thank you again. Let me put my son in the car and I’ll sort out that reward I promised.”

As Bruce made his way back to the car typing on his phone as he went. He knew Tim was on a rooftop nearby in full Red Robin garb along with Roy and Koriand’r. It was a simple thing really. He knew Kelly wouldn’t stick around once the attention was off her but he wanted to make her life better. From her appearance Bruce knew she was a street kid, had been taught the signs pretty quickly by Jason when he’d been Robin. His son’s soft spot for children had always been there and as Robin he’d witnessed first-hand just how caring his boy was.

Robin, Starfire, and Arsenal catch up to Kelly three streets over where she’s already back to plying her trade. The poor kid jumps when the three heroes land near her but she doesn’t book it. Robin carefully explains how Bruce is a dear friend of the Batman and how, if Kelly wanted, he could offer her a chance. It’s Arsenal that cuts in and explains about how Green Arrow found him on the street and how Jason had once been a street kid in Crime Alley too. They see the change in Kelly as she considers their proposition.

“I ain’t ever seen anyone care for they kid the way he did tonight.” She said. The three heroes gave her a moment to get her thoughts in order. “You know little one, we wouldn’t be here with Bruce’s offer if we thought he was a bad person. You will have a home, a family, you could be safe.” Koriand’r explains. She also quietly explains to the girl how it was Batman and his sidekicks that gave her a family in an alien world and helped her settle in. She gives the girl a card with her number on it with a promise that she’ll be there if Kelly ever feels unsafe.

They fly her across the city and back to the Batcave. It’s only once they’re there that they let her in on the worst kept secret in Gotham, Bruce Wayne and Batman is one in the same. They expected resistance, they expected fear or anger. Instead the three heroes who’d led the girl to her new life watched as she walked up to Jason who was curled up in the main chair before the Batcomputer and gently touched his hand. When he looked at the girl she must have sensed his consent because she hugged him tightly.

“Thanks for keeping those bastards off me earlier,” she whispers. No one missed her words and all felt a warm pride as they realised just why the girl had been so trusting of them. Jason had clearly used muscle memory to defend this girl. Bruce knew his son had always been a hero, now he knew he still was one, even locked into his head. They watched as a smile broke out across Jason’s face, something they’d all missed seeing over the past four months. It didn’t last long however, as he looked around the cave and realised who was missing. “Mamá?” He sounded so broken at realising she was away and Bruce felt lost. He knew Jason was closer to Selina than him but it made him ache to not be able to fix the hurt that was so easily read on his face.

Bruce crouched next to Kelly and tried to explain where Selina was as gently as possible but he saw his son close up. He watched as all the flickers of life they’d gotten since finding him disappeared as swiftly as a crowbar to the head. Steph walked over to the trio and span the computer chair so her twin was facing her. Everyone could see the tension in her body but her face only held a soft love for her brother. She took his hand and pulled him to his feet, slipping an arm around his waist while guiding him to the lift back up to the Manor. As she walked off they heard her telling Jason that they’d video call Selina and tell her about his adventurous day. Just as the lift doors were shutting Steph looked like a light bulb had ignited in her head and she looked back across the large, eclectic family.

“Hey Kelly, I’m Steph, Jay’s twin. Want to help me video call his Mamá? She’ll want to thank you for finding him.” As with Jason, Steph’s Bowery accent had lessened over the years as she lived with such a variety of accents. The same as Bruce’s second eldest though, as soon as she was around someone who still held that accent that spoke of hard days and harder nights her accent came back so thick it was as if it hadn’t left. Kelly looked up at her, seeing everything she’d ever wanted to become in Steph; a beautifully strong woman who clearly took shit from no one; and ran off to join her in the lift. Her past few months on the streets may have been screaming at her about trust and safety but she figured if you couldn’t trust the Batman and his family then who could you trust in the city.