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Peace Process

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"I will drive myself to school!"

Damian's chair falls to the ground behind him. He kicks it viciously out of his way and storms across the kitchen. He slams the kitchen door, and his footsteps can be heard stomping away towards the garage.

Bruce stared at the door, still vibrating in its frame.. He's not entirely clear what just happened.

"I should get a blood sample," he plans aloud. "It could be a new kind of Scarecrow toxin? Or something Ivy's cooked up."

Alfred raises an eyebrow.

"Something is wrong. There is no way eggs put Damian into such a rage. That kind of overreaction suggestions there's something wrong with his brain chemistry."

"If I might venture, Master Bruce, there may be another explanation." Alfred scrapes Damian's uneaten eggs into Titus's dish. The dog gobbles the leftovers down and slobbers over the bowl and surrounding floor.

"Body swapping? I have considered it. The rage suggests Jason, but he would never turn down your cooking. It's definitely not Dick or Tim. Unless you're suggesting it is a rogue? Not one of Ra's people, not with that temper, but it's possible it's some kind of accident."

"It is also possible, Master Bruce, that he's a teenager."

"One of the Titans? Why wouldn't they reveal themself immediately?"

Alfred sighs. It's a sigh Bruce knows intimately. It is one of the sighs he's on the receiving end of most often, which he feels is unfair. It's the "call yourself the world's greatest detective" sigh, which usually accompanies a failure to recognise an obscure piece of restoration theatre, or when a date is unreasonably angry about his overlooking the small matter of the start time of a date, or if one of his children...

Ah.

"You're suggesting that Damian is, in fact a teenager himself." Bruce pushes his own eggs around his plate. Titus places his drool covered jaw on Bruce's knee hopefully. Bruce is going to have to change pants, again, before he leaves for Wayne Enterprises. "You know, Alfred, it hasn't actually escaped my notice that Damian is a teenager, since it's a state he's existed in for several years now. He has never exhibited behaviour like this before."

"It is my opinion, Master Bruce, that this may be more due to circumstance more than luck. Master Damian's narrow focus on the mission has not left much space in his life for the usual adolescent trials, but their intrusion on his life was always, alas, inevitable."

"Trials like what? I know Tim said he was having trouble with a boy at school, but I thought that had been resolved. Damian is mature enough to ignore that kind of childish teasing."

"There are other things that intrude upon the mind of a maturing boy."

"Oh god." Bruce's appetite is well and truly gone. "Oh no. I'm not ready for that, Alfred." He puts his breakfast plate on the floor for Titus, who licks it clean in a single movement.

"Frankly, sir, you have been fortunate in not needing to confront it earlier."

"I was hoping I'd never have to confront it. Do you remember Dick? Dick and Barbara. Dick and Koriand'r. Dick and Barbara again." He puts his head in his hands.

"Perhaps, Master Bruce, one might be able to take advantage of the way history repeats itself, and our experiences first time around?"

"Make Jim Gordon deal with it?"

Alfred picks Bruce's plate up off the floor and rinses the saliva from it into the mop sink, before putting it in the dish sink to wash before he puts it into the dishwasher. Bruce knows Alfred's explained to him on more than one occasion why this is necessary for hygiene and the manor's ancient plumbing, but it still seems like overkill to him. Things usually work out.

He expressed an opinion in a similar vein once, back in his bachelor days when he'd forgotten about a gala that he'd been supposed to host. "Alfred," he'd said the day after. "I don't know what you were so stressed about. It all worked out, like magic."

And Alfred had levelled his gaze at him and said, "I am the wizard, Master Bruce. I made the magic."

Bruce has never belittled the work Alfred does again after that, even if he doesn't understand it.

"Maybe Master Dick might have some insight?"

Maybe... "Alfred, you're a genius. We can make Dick deal with it! Damian was always more comfortable with him when it comes to matters like... emotional matters." Normally that stings, but right now it is a blessed, blessed relief. "I'll call him from the office at lunch. He can find out what's wrong." He stands up, finishing the last of his coffee and placing the mug directly into the dishwasher, ignoring Alfred's disapproving frown. Bruce gestures at his dog drool covered legs. "I need to buy some more pants on the way, so I should set off now. Remind me, this is-"

"Gautier, Master Bruce. Charcoal, fall collection. And on the subject of your son-"

"Dick will fix it," Bruce says, smiling at the older man. "He has the rapport with Damian. They're due to patrol together tonight, so the timing is perfect. Thank you for pointing it out to me."

Maybe he'll take the Chevrolet today.

#

Alfred tuts at Bruce's retreating back, knowing his ward won't hear him. "Heaven forbid he spend some time with the boy outside of the suit," he tells Titus. "He likes to pretend he was different at that age, but the stories I could tell you, my friend. Your young master is a positive saint."