“Do you ever worry about him?”
“New kid. Robin. The little dude lives with Batman, Barry. Do you think he even knows what, like, ice cream is?”
“I don’t-- how-- why wouldn’t he know what ice cream is? What does that have to do with anything?”
“Batman hates anything even tangentially related to fun. Sweetened frozen dairy products are, by definition, fucking superb. Next question.”
“Alright, not even gonna get into that, but okay, sure. To answer your question, yeah Hal, I have some concerns about the crime-fighting baby.”
“Right? I’m not the only one!”
“Right, yeah. So are you going anywhere with this conversation, or…?”
“Listen, I’m asking ‘cause I’m trying to be responsible here. Do you think he, like… needs help? Is training a ninja baby considered ethical? Should we call CPS, or something?”
“While nothing about the phrase ‘ninja baby’ implies reasonable human ethics, you really want to call CPS on the goddamn Batman? You don’t know who he is! Nobody does!”
“So what do we do about it?”
“What do you mean ‘what do we do about it?’”
“I mean, how are we gonna deal with the unethically trained crazy infant in hotpants? Living with Batman cannot be healthy for child development. Like, at all.”
“I mean. He looks fine?” Barry scratched the back of his head, and looked over at Robin, who was currently swinging off Diana’s arm, grinning wide enough to put Clark to shame and generally looking like he was having the time of his life. He caught Barry and Hal staring, and waved. They smiled back in a way that looked and felt a lot like eating an old, senile woman’s home cooking and telling her it was delicious, and then promptly spitting it into a napkin.
“Oh, God, he’s gonna grow up to be a serial killer.”
Barry elbowed him in the side.
“He is not going to grow up to be a serial killer! Batman might be super, super fucked up, and weird, and kind of creepy, and goth, but he’s not a monster. He does human things sometimes. Sweet, human things, even. Clark and Diana are fine with Robin, and I trust their judgement.”
“I once watched Clark get mugged, stop the guy, and then ask him if he wanted to talk about it over brunch. You know what happened? He got mugged a second time. This went on for eight consecutive attempted muggings.”
“I trust Diana’s judgement.”
“Okay, fair. I’ll give you that one.”
They glanced over again, and again, Robin waved. This time, however, he also let go of Diana’s arm and, after receiving a fond pat on the head, skipped on over.
“Oh God, oh fuck, oh God, Barry he’s coming over here.”
“Shut up, shut up! Shut up, be cool.”
Robin stopped in front of them, rocking back on his heels and clasping his hands behind his back, still smiling. He barely came up to Barry’s hip, and this close, they could see the little gap in the corner of his mouth where one of his baby teeth had fallen out. There were Justice League bandaids peppering his knees. His hair looked like it could comfortably house a middle-sized family of raccoons, and still looked baby-soft-shiny.
“Oh Jesus Christ he’s fucking microbial,” Hal wheezed, and Barry elbowed him again, crouching down and putting on his best talking-to-reporters-and-small-children smile.
“Hey, buddy. What’s up?”
“What’re you guys talking about?”
“Nothing,” Hal blurted, at the same time Barry said “Grown-up stuff.”
Robin grinned, bowing forward at the waist with all the mischief of a real life pixie.
“Are you guys boyfriends?”
“What? No! No, not that kind of grown up stuff! Hal’s just my friend. I wouldn’t date him!”
“Wh-- Of course I would, man, come on. I didn’t mean it like that, don’t make that face. I just-- wait, why am I defending myself to a six year old? I’m the Flash!”
“Oh, dope, little dude.” Hal knocked his fist against Robin’s and pointedly gave Barry the cold shoulder.
“If you weren’t talking about being boyfriends,” Robin said, grabbing the edges of his cape and swaying from side to side like a little girl showing off her new dress. Barry sort of melted despite himself, and beside him, Hal managed a high-pitched, soft squeal. “What were you talkin’ about?”
“Just. You know, superhero things.”
“What kinds of superhero things?”
“Um, missions and Justice League things. Grown up stuff.”
“What kinds of missions?”
“Sorry, bud. Those are top secret.”
Barry was starting to feel a little like he was receiving the cutest interrogation of his life, which was both endearing and deeply unsettling. Hal was in the same boat, if the half step he took behind Barry was any indication.
“Is Batman training you to be a freaky ninja serial killer baby?” he blurted, and Barry full force decked him in the thigh.
“What is wrong with you?”
“What? You were thinking it, too!”
Robin let out a peal of laughter that would have been earth shatteringly adorable were it not in response to being asked if he was a serial killer, and with a speed that was damn near inhuman, the boy lunged forward, hands outstretched into little claws.
Hal screamed, leaping back and nearly choking Barry with the death grip he’d gotten on the back of his suit, and Barry was big enough to admit he might have vibrated a little bit into the floor for a split second. Robin dissolved into a fit of giggles, hands clapped over his mouth.
“Barry, Barry I don’t want to talk to the killer toddler anymore, Barry I want to go home now, Barry, Barry.”
“Ha, ha… yeah, you sure-- shut up, Hal, just!-- you sure did. Um. Good… good one.”
“Were you scared?”
“Yes,” Hal whimpered.
“Yeah, you… you sure got us good, there, buddy.”
Robin pumped his fist, hopping in place.
“Yes! I told Batman I could be scary, I told him! He’s gonna be so mad. He hates it when I’m right.” The last part was delivered with another mischievous giggle, but it made Barry feel a little like all his blood turned into slush. Hal tightened his grip on the hood of his cowl.
“You know you can, uh. You can talk to someone, if anything ever…. You know. We’re all superheroes, we’ll be on your side.”
The boy tipped his head up like a puppy, which also would have been cute if it wasn’t so bat-ish-ly unnerving.
‘What do you mean?”
“Just, you know, he’s a great guy, but Bats can be kinda scary sometimes. If he ever gets mad at you and you get scared, or if you need someone to come get you--”
“Are you being abused? Do you feel abused?”
“Hal! Do you know what ‘delicacy’ means?”
“It means to approach something with a degree of caution or care,” Robin parroted, then crossed his arms, cocking a hip like Dinah did when she was about to tell everyone else they were wrong. “And I know what abuse is, Mr. Lantern.” The devilish smirk came back, and both Barry and Hal leaned away. “You wanna know a secret?”
“Uh… I think so?”
Robin scooted conspiratorially into their space, and Hal sort of whimpered again, which Barry thought was unfair, given that he was the one still crouched on the ground and at eye level with the freaky bat sidekick while the former used him as a human shield.
“B’s a big. Old. Softie.”
“Yeah? What’s he do other than punch villains and stand on gargoyles?”
“He reads to me when I ask him to.”
“Reads what, criminal law?”
“I like Robin Hood.”
“No. No way.”
Barry shifted on his legs, a little genuinely intrigued by the idea of Batman blackmail. Mostly terrified of that kind of power, but a little intrigued.
“He makes me hot chocolate when I can’t sleep. He’s real bad at it.”
“Oh my God.”
“And he always apologizes when he makes me cry.”
“He makes you cry?”
“Sometimes. Agent A says it’s because he’s never taken care of kids like me before, and that I should be patient with him. My dad used to make me cry sometimes, too, and I know it’s just an accident. B’s brain works weird, so he messes up a lot, but I know he doesn’t mean to make me mad.” He smiled again. “I can get away with calling him a butthead for it, though.”
“You call Batman a butthead?” Hal asked, awed.
“All the time. Call him a feet-sniffer, too. And a bunch of bad words my dad used to say, but he doesn’t know what they mean.”
“I physically can’t express the amount of respect I have for you.”
“Guess we didn’t have anything to worry about, after all,” Barry said. “I don’t think I’d ever believe it, though. I can’t imagine Batman ever doing things like that.”
“I know I’ve seen him hug little kids and stuff, but every time I try to remember it my brain just kind of blacks out.” Hal frowned. “He hugs you, right? You aren’t completely starved for affection?”
“Uh, no. He’s not good at doing it himself, but he hugs me back when I do it and he carries me around all the time if I ask.”
“...Nope. Can’t see it.”
“Betcha I can make him do it in front of the whole League.”
“No. Nuh-uh. Can’t be done.”
Robin leaned back on his heels, blowing the hair out of his face to no real effect.
“Whatcha wanna bet?”
Hal scrambled for his wallet, and Barry snatched it away from him.
“I’m not letting you gamble with an eight year old! And besides,” he said, turning to Robin. “I don’t want to get you in trouble, bud.”
“I won’t get in trouble. B never gets mad at me for hugging him.”
“I have five dollars and, uh, thirty-six cents. Bar, give me your wallet.”
“What? No! I’m not gonna….”
Hal grabbed his hands between his own and shook him.
“Come on, tell me you don’t wanna see this.”
“I have a ten.”
“Yes! Yes, fuck yes!”
“Dude, there’s an eight year old right there!”
"Like he hasn't heard it before."
“I can swear in eleven different languages!”
“See? It’s fine. He can swear in eleven different languages. Wait, eleven different languages? Can you teach me?”
“Sure! In Russian--”
“Woah, look at that, perfect timing! There’s Batman!”
Speak of the devil. Gotham’s hero walked through the doorway to the mess like a thundercloud given form and more pent-up aggression, Arthur on one side and Clark on the other, caught up in what looked like a detailed discussion of something important, like tactics or planetary security, while Dinah and Oliver trailed behind them. Dinah split off to speak with Diana, and Oliver looked bored out of his mind, but Robin was wiggling around like he’d stumbled upon the singular best opportunity of his life. He snatched his bills and change from Hal’s hand and stuffed them in one of his little fanny packs before bounding into the center of the room, bouncing off his toes like a gymnast.
“Hey B! Watch this!” he hollered, and every head in the room swivelled to the sound. Barry bit his lip, and Hal gripped his sleeve, making maniacal hee-hee-hee noises as he watched the scene unfold.
Robin leapt up onto one of the lunch tables with all the ease of breathing, running along the length of it before coiling at the end and shouting “Catch me!” and proceeding to execute a near-professional front flip into the air, making all the breath in Barry’s lungs turn to ice.
Barry might have been the Flash, but he had never seen another human man move that fast in his fucking life. Before any other hero had managed more than a step forward, himself included, Batman had already lurched through more than half the distance between him and Robin, still hanging weightless and heart-stoppingly high above the hard stone floor, coming out of his roll and starfishing his arms outward, beaming as if he wasn’t in imminent danger of cracking his head open on the marble. Batman caught him with a grunt, one arm wrapped in a death grip around the little boy’s waist and the other buried into his hair, as Robin clung to the actual, real life Dark Knight of Gotham like a baby koala. The relieved sigh that left the room was palpable, heroes around the room slumping against nearby objects and grabbing their chests. Barry was pretty sure he would have fallen over if Hal weren’t still hanging on him, jaw slack and eyes wide.
“What was that?” growled Batman, low and furious like he was on the battlefield, and all the tension that had just left the room returned tenfold, damn near suffocating.
Robin either didn’t notice or didn’t care, leaning back in his mentor’s grasp with his hands still wrapped around his shoulders and knobby little knees locked around the barrel of his chest, beaming.
“It’s my new secret move called I love you.”
To put in in Hal’s words: you could have heard an incorporeal fucking ghost pin drop in that room.
Rather than rolling into a vicious, disapproving lecture, or straight-up
dropping-slash-decking the kid like he would to any other member of the League, Batman just shifted Robin in his arms, settling him against his hip as if it were the most natural thing in the world, and, judging by how completely and entirely unconcerned Robin was with being manhandled like a kitten, it really might have been.
“...As I was saying,” Batman began, turning back to Arthur and Clark, who were watching in slack-jawed confusion and tooth-rotting adoration respectively, “Earth’s defensive perimeter as it stands is prone to suffer from satellite interference--”
Robin hooked his chin over Batman’s shoulder, baby cheeks squished up against the armor and tiny body completely eclipsed behind his arm, and proceeded to shoot Hal and Barry the most self-satisfied, devious little grin either had ever encountered in their lives.
“He’s gonna take over the world,” Hal said, horrified, and Barry absently patted his hand.
“Uh, yeah. You think?”
“He’s gonna take over the world, and no one’s gonna stop him, because his dad is the fucking Batman.”
“I think I’d let him.”
“Are you kidding? I’d kill for him.”
“Forget the world, this kid’s gonna take over the entire universe.”
“I think I’m looking forward to it.”