Its 6 AM when I make it to the breakfast table, body painted with the usual bruises and worries of last night’s promises, most of which I don’t even remember. Damian, Cassandra and Stephanie are already eating silently when I approach. “Good Morning everyone.” I say plainly as I lower myself into my chair at the head of the table. Before any of them can respond I’m assaulted by bouncy flamboyant energy as Dick pops into my field of vision. “Good morning Bruce! Are you excited for our trip today?” I try to keep my face as stoic as possible but I’m so confused I can’t help myself. I raise a questioning eyebrow in response and his smile droops. “You didn’t forget did you?” And here come the puppy dog eyes. Where is Alfred when I need him? Then I have to remind myself that Dick is a grown man and can handle the truth. “I have no recollection of planning any sort of trip for today.” This is when Damian pipes up from his nearly empty plate of waffles. “It’s true father, last night you promised us a trip to New York today.” New York? When? My head swims with last night’s adventures “The Young Master is right Sir,” Alfred chimes in as he enters from the kitchen, setting plates in the remaining spots around the table. “Last night you promised all of the children a trip to New York today without the slightest tone of sarcasm in your voice.” All of the children?
I stand and follow Alfred into the kitchen while the table bursts into excited conversation. “When you said all of the children, who do you mean?” Alfred turns to me, an amused smirk meeting me like a slap in the face. “I mean all of them, Sir. Even Master Jason relented after much coaxing from Master Dick. In fact he should be down any minute for breakfast.” Down any minute? Something somewhere in my brain the words seem out of place. “Did Jason stay here last night?” I ask cautiously. Alfred, always knowing the deeper meaning to my words simply says. “Master Dick is very persuasive.”
Sure enough, not five minutes after I return to the table, which has grown with the addition of a beaming Barbara and a very subdued Tim, who is working on his first cup of coffee of many, Jason bursts into the room. Jason is a wildcard, always has been and I assume he always will be. He either is excited about something or is against it, so really it’s a tossup of whether Jason is going to be very helpful, or very violent. I glance up from my coffee to meet him and for a long few seconds he just stands there. It seems as though he’s waiting to receive everyone’s attention. He crosses his arms and waits, even though we all know patience isn’t his strongest virtue. Second by second the talking dies down, and pairs of tired eyes rise to meet his bulky frame. Just as the last pair is cast in his direction he throws his arms in the air revealing his “I <3 NYC” t-shirt and shouts “WHO’S READY?!”
The table erupts into cheers and applause, with the obvious exception of Damian and myself. Dick leaps from his chair and wraps his arms around Jason in what looks like a very strong, and extremely uncomfortable hug. Jason pushes him off with little bitterness, which I can appreciate and for just a split second, what could almost appear as a blink of an eye, all 7 of them are at peace with each other; that’s before Tim’s coffee gets knocked off the table and into Damian’s lap. A nuke of violence breaks out among them, Damian leaping onto Tim’s back with fury, whilst hurling the mug at Jason, which hits him in the head and shatters on contact. Jason crashes to the ground, bewildered, his head gushing blood. Tim’s flailing, struggling to wrestle Damian from his back as Jason gets frustrated with both the amount of affection he’s receiving and the amount of pain he’s in. He jumps back to his feet, swaying slightly before lunging himself at Damian, ripping him from Tim’s back and slamming him to the ground. Dick and Barbara are trying to pull Jason, who seems to be radiating hatred, off of Damian and Steph and Tim are fighting, for as far as I can tell, no reason.
I sit still in my chair, drinking my coffee with Cass, who has taken the vacated seat beside me. Why can’t I just take her to New York with me? I sigh heavily and rise from my seat, speaking only one word “Stop.” Everyone freezes. I glance at each of them. Dick with a fistful of Jason’s, now ruined, bloody T-shirt, Barbara holding one of Jason’s arms, Jason himself who is covered in way too much blood to be conscious pinning an amused Damian to the floor. Tim and Steph have a handful of each other’s shirt collars and have stopped screaming but still refuse to break eye contact. “Stand up and look at me. All of you.” They release each other and stand to face me, Barbara catching Jason when he starts to waiver. “All of you go upstairs and get dressed, be back down here in 10 minutes.”
They all begin to make their way upstairs, Damian rushing in front of them. Then Jason stops, makes a hissing noise, much like one you make when you accidentally prick yourself with a sewing needle, sways slightly, and collapses to the ground. We all just stare at him for a second, noticing the small dart protruding from the base of his neck. I bring my hand to the bridge of my nose, trying to fight the headache which is already beginning to germinate. “Cassandra go get Alfred please and take Jason down stairs to get stitched up.” She silently flows to the kitchen, and I turn my head up to where Damian perches at the top of the staircase. The others follow my gaze. “Damian, give it to me. Now.” He sulks down the stairs, and places the small dart gun in my hands with a scowl. “Give me the rest too.” He looks up at me in a state of shock, before reaching into his robe and pulling out 7 throwing stars. “Where were you even keeping those?” Dick yells. I keep my hand outstretched and we spend the next two minutes picking all of the weapons off of the small boy. “You’re grounded from Robin duties and all weapons for a week, and you have to apologize to your brothers.” He starts to object, but realizes it’s futile. “Yes Father.” He growls, and stomps his way up the stairs. As the rest of us make our way upstairs I can only think about how miserable and hour and a half drive with all of them is going to be.
Sure enough, 6 minutes later when I descend the recently polished oak steps I’m met with all 7 of them waiting by the front door, Dick holding up a drowsy Jason between him and Cass. I walk past them into the kitchen where I find Alfred making snacks for the road. “How’s Jason’s head?” He doesn’t even look up to answer me. “He will be fine Master Bruce, just some superficial cuts and a concussion. As long as he doesn’t fall asleep in the next few hours he will be right as rain.” He seals the last zip lock bag with one swift and precise motion. He places all of the goodies in a tote bag before turning to me “I have already prepared the van for the children. Please have an enjoyable time Sir, and I expect all of you back here tonight in one piece.” I take the tote bag he holds out to me, swinging it onto my shoulder and taking the keys in my other hand. I wish he was coming with us, I don’t think I handle them all for this extended period of time. I try for a weak smile and walk out of the kitchen.
When I get outside, Dick has Damian in a headlock, Tim and Barbara are arguing about who gets to sit with Cass, Steph is reassuring Cass that the argument is a good thing, and Jason looks as if he is going to either hurl or spontaneously combust. I sigh deeply and squeeze the back of my neck. I look back to Alfred, who followed me outside. He strides past me and quiets them with one flick of his wrist. “Damian you sit in the front.” The others growl at the young boy’s devilish grin as he slips into the passenger seat. “Stephanie, Cassandra and Timothy you will be in the back. That leaves you three in the middle row.” He points to Dick, Barbara and Jason. They all file in without question, muttering varying degrees of insults and groans of protest. I make my way to the driver’s side door and climb into the lush leather seat. I roll down the window to wave to Alfred as we pull away. He waves back and calls “Please have fun Sir!” He must have seen my pained expression because as he disappeared back into the house, I swear I could hear him laughing.