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Manor-Dad lets me drive the Batmobile

Chapter Text

A tiny excited nine-year-old boy was jumping around the Batcave, dressed in dark Batman PJs with little yellow bats printed on them. They had been a gift from Clark and Bruce hadn’t had the heart to deny them Dick after the child had accepted them so cheerfully.

Much the same, Bruce now didn’t have the heart to use his short-term memory eraser on his young ward. Dick hadn’t cried much after his parents’ death and, unlike Bruce had been after the loss of his parents, he was a rather happy child given the circumstances. Nevertheless, Bruce wanted Dick to smile as many of those genuinely cheerful smiles as possible, and let him make a lot of good memories.

Discovering the Cave below the manor was most certainly a glorious memory for Dick, and Bruce didn’t want to take it away. Certainly, he could be convinced to keep it all a secret? Dick was smart, he knew when something was important.

Once he had made up his mind, Bruce stepped out of the shadows. The Batsuit was already back in its case, so he was sporting sweat pants and a comfortable hoodie. They didn’t heat the Cave and for all the hours Bruce spent sitting in front of the computer, a tank top didn’t suffice according to Alfred.

“Bruce!” Dick shouted when he finally spotted Bruce. “Look! This has to be the Batcave! Can you believe it? Did you know it was right here under the manor all this time? Have you met Batman…”

Dick trailed off and studied Bruce cautiously. His gaze lingered on Bruce’s neck, where this night’s fights had resulted in a small bruise and the coffee mug in Bruce’s hands.

“Look, Dick, I know this is a lot to take in-“ Bruce began to speak, but Dick interrupted him.

“You’re dating Batman!” he exclaimed.

Bruce blinked.

That wasn’t the conclusion he had expected Dick to reach. Before he could set the boy on the right path, Dick was already talking again.

“Of course! It makes so much sense! That’s why he immediately knew who I was and found me so fast when I was trying to find Zucco. You sent him after me, right? Can I meet him again? Please, please, please, I haven’t thanked him properly yet, and Alfred said it’s important to do that always.”

Dick jumped up and down, vibrating with energy. Behind him, Alfred stood with another tray of treats for Bruce and for once he looked about as caught off-guard as Bruce felt.

Bruce shared a look with Alfred, but he just shrugged in turn and indicated with a hand wave that Bruce should reply to his still rambling ward.

Right.

Looking back at Dick, Bruce could see him smiling brightly. He should correct Dick’s thoughts, but then again, it would be a good cover.

If anybody ever got too close to the truth and Dick accidentally talked – not that Bruce assumed he would, but he didn’t earn his title as ‘The World’s Greatest Detective and Most Paranoid Bastard’ by being unprepared – Batman’s identity would be safe still. Once Dick got older, Bruce could tell him the truth. For now, though...

“It’s a secret,” Bruce said seriously. “You can’t tell anyone.”

“I won’t!” Dick promised eagerly.

“You have to swear an oath.”

Bruce had loved swearing oaths as a kid. Nowadays, he knew that they had just been his parents’ convenient way of getting him to avoid telling Alfred about how many sweets he’d already eaten before dinner, but they had been fun regardless.

“Say, does that mean I can accompany Batman in the future?”

“No.”

X

“Bruce said I could join you on patrol.”

Bruce, dressed as Batman, nearly burned his tongue on his coffee. Dick’s expression was utterly innocent like he wasn’t lying directly to his face. Lately, he’s been spending a lot of time in the newly christened Batcave. Whenever Bruce was supposed to be sleeping or out in the city working for Wayne Enterprises, Dick went down to the Cave.

Sometimes Bruce thought that Dick had finally figured it out and was trying to prank him by feigning ignorance, but then he’d paraphrase something to Batman or Bruce that neither had said, and Bruce would know Dick was still in the dark.

“He did not.”

X

Bruce enjoyed Sunday mornings. They all slept in and ate breakfast together. He didn’t have to go to WE, Alfred allowed himself to relax for once, and Dick didn’t have school.

The manor had always been a quiet place after his parents’ passing, but it had never been calm. And even though Dick’s gleeful shrieks were echoing through the halls, Bruce felt at peace.

“Batman said I’d be safe in the city patrolling with-“

Bruce opened his eyes, staring directly into Dick’s blue ones. He had wondered about the sudden weight on his chest.

“No.”

“Awww, come on, B!”

X

Dick kept on asking, Bruce kept on protesting, and somehow it ended with Robin following Batman on the streets. Bruce still couldn’t believe he had let a child, practically a baby, talk him into taking him out to fight crime.

Not that Dick was doing any of that until he was at least thirteen. For now, Batman would make his rounds first, then take Dick out for an hour to accompany teenagers and women home in the dark, carry food to homeless people and track down lost pets.

Dick didn’t complain about it at all but poured all his energy into his task. He knew his job was serious and that the goal was to help people. If Dick dedicated about as much motivation to his homework, he could skip several grades. Honestly, it was like Dick simply enjoyed spending time with Batman, which was weird to say the least.

Bruce didn’t think he acted all that different around Dick as the Bat. He certainly got more careless about his posture as well, the more often they patrolled together.

And then, one night, after an actually fun patrol, he took off the cowl. It would be better if Dick knew the truth, even if he hadn’t deduced it himself. After all, his detection skills were something they were still working on.

“Bruce!” Dick gasped. “You were fighting with me tonight?”

“Of course. It’s always been-“

Dick rushed over to Bruce’s side, worry written all over his face.

“Is Batman alright?! Has he gotten hurt? He should have told me, I’d have been fine without going on patrol, and you shouldn’t endanger yourself. You’re already doing enough for Gotham during the day. Can I see him? Do you always jump in for him when he can’t fight? Has he gotten hurt often?”

Bruce took a deep breath and pinched his nose.

Maybe it was too early still.

“Sure,” he said, unknowing that this would be the beginning of a life-long commitment to self-love. “I stand in for Batman when he can’t patrol Gotham. What’s the purpose of funding all of this, if I don’t contribute?”

Dick nodded, though Bruce could tell he wasn’t satisfied with his answer. Maybe he would try again in another six months.

X

“Do you think Dad’s worried about us when we’re out on patrol?”

Batman very nearly crashed into the next building. Only his iron grip on his grappling hook and his years of training made his landing on the next roof look as professional as always.

Robin settled on the gargoyle next to him, still deep in thought.

“I mean, we don’t come back hurt often, but he always makes sure to check me for injuries again after you’ve done it. He is worrying, isn’t he?”

Batman was still stuck on Robin’s first sentence.

“… Dad?” He questioned.

Robin looked up at him in confusion before promptly blushing red.

“Don’t tell Bruce I call him that! I’m practicing it still ‘cause it sounds weird, and the first time I say it to his face needs to be perfect. I know I told him I don’t want a new father, and I don’t, I love my Papa. But he could be another dad, you know? Like, everyone has two sets of grandparents as well and I know that’s not the same, and I know he hasn’t adopted me, but I’m pretty sure he does love me like a son, he has called me that before. I know he didn’t do it consciously or whatever, and Grayson-Wayne would be like super duper long, and all teachers would hate it but-“

“Dick.”

His ward, his son, stopped talking, nervously looking down at his gloved hands.

“I’m sure Bruce will be absolutely happy to hear that and call you his son. You just have to tell him.”

Okay, so maybe this whole ‘Batman wasn’t Bruce’ thing did have some positive sides.

X

Dick grew with every month that passed. He got stronger and taller and Bruce trusted him with more and more responsibilities. He even took Dick to the Watchtower and it was a delight to see him collect clues about everyone’s identity, remembering even small details like Green Arrow’s preferred coffee brand, and inform Bruce of everyone’s identity within a week.

At thirteen, however, Dick still hadn’t figured out who Bruce was.

It was a little frustrating. Nothing seemed to shake Dick’s belief that they were two separate people.

“Robin,” Bruce growled in his Batman voice, before switching to his actually softer and more melodic tone. “I’m Batman.”

Dick stared at Bruce, cowl-less and serious, before being overtaken with laughter.

“Oh, jeez, B- you- Holy hell-“

“Language.”

“That was perfect. Exactly how Batman would say it!”

The direct approach really wasn’t working out for Bruce.

Even worse, Dick didn’t even seem interested in who Batman was. As long as he was kind to Dick, spend enough time with him and “treated Bruce right”, he didn’t care whatsoever about who was behind the mask.

“The Bat’s the Bat,” he had heard Dick tell Barbara once like that was a proper explanation for anything.

X

Barbara Gordon was a menace. An intelligent, blackmailing, smart, and confident menace hell-bent on putting herself in danger.

Bruce could go to her father, he really should, but Barbara hadn’t even been fazed by the threat.

“I know you’re just trying to look out for us, Mr. Wayne, but I promise you, we’ll be safe with Batman. I just need him to teach me some more kick-ass moves. Training with Dick is good, but he’s only learning himself still.”

Bruce didn’t even know where to start with that line of argumentation. He most certainly could keep track of two children at night, but he didn’t want to.

Yet, somehow, he found himself keeping watch over a little bird and a bat during nighttime, and playing Mario Kart with his son and his best friend during the day time.

Chapter Text

When Bruce got up, he picked out his clothes for the day, went down for breakfast and apologized to Alfred for his moodiness as a teenager.

Bruce had read parenting books. He had watched all the TV Shows, talked to Leslie, spoke to Jim and watched how the other Justice League members were handling their children, wards and side-kicks and vowed to do better.

As Bruce Wayne, he was doing a pretty good job. Dick had finished high school early so he could get out of that system as soon as possible and applied to the Police Academy, because a boring and safe day job wouldn’t cut it for Richard John Grayson-Wayne. He was currently switching between living at the manor, the Titans Tower and Roy to help him out with Lian. Every weekend though, without fail, he’d stay at the manor and spend the days with Alfred and Bruce being the best son Bruce could have ever asked for.

As Batman, he was one tiny argument away from chasing Robin – Sorry, it was Nightwing now – out of Gotham forever. Dick had gotten hurt one night, they had argued and Bruce had said a multitude of things he hadn’t meant, or at least not in the way Dick had interpreted them, and it had ended with Dick storming out of the Cave in the middle of the night.

Bruce had gotten a call thirty minutes later, from a furious and frustrated crying Dick that he doesn’t “have to worry. I’m sleeping over at Roy’s tonight. I’m sorry I just ran off, but I couldn’t deal with that bastard’s attitude.”

And ever since Nightwing had started working in Blüdhaven, Batman had been robin-less, and Bruce was regretting everything.

They didn’t talk about Batman when Dick was at the manor. They spoke about job possibilities, WE charities, and going apartment hunting in Blüdhaven.

Even if Bruce was convinced that seventeen was much too young to live on your own.

(“I remember another young man leaving the house at such an age.”

“It’s ‘do as I say’, Alfred, not ‘as I did’-“)

Worst of all, though, Bruce didn’t know how to fix things. Barbara was also no help as she had taken Dick’s side in their argument and only still helped Batman out because Gotham would suffer otherwise.

Bruce hadn’t noticed how lonely patrol was without his two partners by his side.

X

A kid was trying to steal his tires, though going by his progress, maybe he wasn’t just trying anymore. Batman stood at the edge of the roof of the building he’d parked the Batmobile next to. The boy working on the fourth tire was doing an excellent job of getting it loose. Crime Alley kids tended to try to make themselves seem older than they were while simultaneously looking much younger due to a distinct lack of a healthy home.

The boy in the red jacket seemed to be ten, so Batman guessed he must be around thirteen.

“What do you think you’re doing?” He asked the boy.

He squealed and promptly threw his tire iron at Batman.

“Don’t just appear outta thin-air!” The boy shouted.

He had a lot of spirit, Batman had to admit.

“Did you steal my tires?”

“Well, duh.” He crossed his arms in front of his chest. “You deserve it. Who the fuck parks this goldmine in Crime Alley?”

“Language,” Batman corrected absentmindedly as he picked the tire iron up again.

The boy was thin, and no child of his age should be out at this time. Chances were his parents were either dead or unable to care for him.

“What’s your name?”

“What’s it to you?”

“Do you always answer a question with another question?”

The boy grinned. “When I feel like it. I’m Jason, and if you kidnap me, I’ll scream so loud that every gang member in reach will wake up and come looking and everyone will think Batman is a pedophile.”

“Right.”

Batman couldn’t help but smile. He liked the kid, and he most definitely couldn’t send him his way without making sure he was safe.

“Do you want anything to eat?”

“Didn’t you just hear what I said?”

X

Jason, as it turned out, could eat a lot. Batman still had a patrol to finish – technically speaking. He didn’t really think he’d move from Jason’s side anytime soon – and therefore didn’t eat as much. Jason, on the other hand, was well on his way through his third hamburger. Given his small form, Bruce thought he should probably stop Jason before he had to throw up.

“You should slow down a little if you don’t want to get nauseous.”

Jason just glared at him and took a bite out of his hamburger, chewing obnoxiously loud on purpose. It would have looked quite threatening if Jason weren’t sitting on the roof of the batmobile, drowning in his too big sweater and Batman’s cape.

“Message received,” Batman snorted. “Do you have anywhere to go? I’ll drive you wherever you want.”

Jason’s eyes narrowed, but then he slowly shook his head. “Got no one waiting on me. And if you take me to the social fuckers, I’m outta here faster than you can say ‘Robin’.”

Batman had observed plenty of street kids calling ‘Batman’ or ‘Robin’ to get the bigger and meaner guys attacking them to hesitate for the split-second they needed to escape. Whether or not Gotham’s vigilantes were actually there didn’t seem to matter at that moment, their reputation was good enough.

“Do you usually call for Robin?”

Jason clicked his tongue. “Not often, I’m smart enough to get away on my own. But Robin hasn’t been listening to your call either lately, has he?”

It was an innocent question, but Jason hadn’t been able to keep the slightest hint of anxiety out of his voice. It didn’t surprise Batman. Robin and Batgirl were known to be the ones who stayed behind with the victim until the police arrived, or they reached the next police station, while Batman was the heavy hitter who took care of the criminals. Robin’s lack of appearance had a distinct and possibly measurable effect on Gotham.

“He’s fine,” Batman reassured Jason. “We’ve just had a disagreement.”

“Will he come back?”

Batman’s throat tightened. For all that he wanted to believe that Dick and he could go back to being Batman-and-Robin, Dick was already creating a new name and persona for himself in Blüdhaven. He could understand why Dick was doing it, Alfred had reminded him of his teenage years multiple times over the last two months, but that didn’t mean that Bruce liked it. He wanted his son somewhere he could keep an eye on him and didn’t have to drive for thirty minutes. In Gotham, he could get a Dick, who had been shot, to medical care within ten minutes. If Dick was in Blüdhaven, he was already dead by the time Bruce arrived.

“Do you have a place for the night, Jason? I know someone who would be willing to take you in.”

“Is this the moment where you’re going to kill me?” Jason replied, though his wariness had been dialed down to a bare minimum. Instead, he sounded amused, like he had just told the best joke in the century.

“Get in the car, Jason.”

X

The drive to the manor was silent right up until the moment they’re actually standing in front of the gates of Wayne Manor. Jason had grown more anxious once they crossed the Robert Kane Memorial Bridge, which connected Gotham’s inner city to the mainland. Nevertheless, he had kept quiet right until the moment they came to a standstill in front of Wayne Manor.

“You’re shitting me.”

“Language. And no. I know Bruce Wayne. No harm will come to you there.”

Jason’s grip around the tire iron tightened as he drummed it on his leg. “Yeah, sure, because nothing ever happens to some poor black kid who wants a warm bed for a night in some rich white guy’s home. I’m not dumb.”

Fury hissed in anger at the back of his head.

“Who?” Batman demanded.

“What?”

“Which kids have been hurt by whom?”

Jason’s expression was blank, but then he began listing the names of a few friend or acquaintances who came back to the streets with red eyes and warm clothes, as well as the people who picked them up.

“No harm will come to you here,” Batman promised again, though his mind was already halfway across the city, beating the hell out of some penthouse owners in the diamond district.

He took one of his batarangs out of his belt and gave it Jason, before offering his other hand. Jason reluctantly took it and followed Batman up to the path to Wayne Manor.

When Alfred opened the door, he took one look at Jason, the ushered him into the kitchen with the promise of hot chocolate.

As soon as he was out of sight, Batman rushed to the Cave to get changed. Time to make his entrance as Bruce Wayne.

X

Jason didn’t trust Bruce whatsoever. Whenever Bruce was in the room, Jason did his best to appear small and disappear into the wall until he could sneak out when he thought nobody was looking. He wasn’t skilled enough to trick Bruce yet, and he was nowhere near the level of skill needed for Robin, but Jason had talent.

Maybe, Bruce thought, maybe he should tell Jason sometime in the future. First, he had to make sure that Jason was happy and settled here and made the old building his home. Afterward, he could start thinking about whether Jason had what it took to be Robin. Jason already understood what Robin’s purpose was, and that was already half the battle.

Bruce was only glad that Dick had been undercover with the Titans in the past month. Jason would have probably already bolted if he had been confronted with three strangers at once.

X

“Jason.”

Jesus fuckin’ Christ!

So maybe sneaking into Jason’s room from the window as Batman wasn’t his brightest idea, but he didn’t know how else to reassure Jason that he was safe here besides dropping in as the Bat.

“Ring a bell the next time!” Jason hissed and lowered the pocket knife he had pulled from beneath his pillow.

The handle was a shiny white, and Bruce was fairly sure that it was from his grandmother’s knife collection.

“Your friends are safe and the men will be in prison come morning.”

Batman had left them beaten and with quite incriminating evidence in front of Gordon, while all the kids had been taken in by a Wayne Children’s Shelter.

“Uh, what?”

“I took care of the ‘rich white guys’. It should be on the news tomorrow morning.”

“Right…” Jason nodded, leaving them both standing in his room at one in the morning, staring awkwardly at each other.

“Take care, Jason. You’ll be safe here.”

Batman turned around, ready to leave and retire for the night when a small body crashed into him. And thin arms wrapped themselves around Batman’s waist.

“Thank you, Batman.”

“You’re welcome, Jason.”

X

After his little appearance as Batman, Jason calmed down even more and even started initiating conversations with Bruce. Things started looking up and Bruce was content. Sure, he still had to figure out his relationship with Dick, but at least his second child was beginning to feel at home.

X

Dick’s reaction to Jason was interesting.

“Let me get this straight: You stole the tires off the batmobile.”

“Uhu.”

“And Batman caught you and you hit him with your iron.”

“Yep.”

“And then he took you to buy fast food and brought you here.”

“You’re a really smart cookie, aren’t you?”

Bruce hadn’t expected Dick back for another week at least, so it was quite a surprise to catch him in the kitchen, drinking hot chocolate while Jason was eating ice cream straight from the bucket. Alfred hated it when they did that. It wasn’t ‘proper’.

Bruce had done it with his parents, then with Dick, and two nights ago he had continued the tradition with Jason. It had been their first true instance of bonding and Bruce had been so happy, he’d let the Riddler finish his riddle for once instead of just taking him back to Arkham without the trouble.

“Yeah, I’m…” Dick stopped talking when he spotted Bruce in the kitchen entrance. “Hey, B! I just met Jay-”

“It’s Jason.”

“-here and he told me the most interesting story.”

“I’ve tried to tell you-“

Dick shook his head. “Stop. No more of that, Bruce.”

Alright, it seemed like it was finally time for the truth.

“I can’t believe he just dropped a kid on you for fuck’s sake!”

Or not.

“Language, Dick.”

But Dick just kept on ranting, completely ignoring Bruce’s reprimand. Bruce was getting the feeling that his kids just overheard him when he remarked on their choice of words. How could he get on Alfred’s demanding authority level?

“This isn’t your fault, of course, Jason. I’m super happy you’re here, I’ve always wanted a little brother.”

Jason didn’t look like he believed Dick, but then again, Jason was still hoarding silverware beneath his bed. Suddenly being claimed as a little brother by someone he met at best an hour ago was overwhelming him. Not that the statement didn’t confuse Bruce. Since when had Dick wanted a little brother?

“But Batman!” Dick continued. “He never asks for permission. He just does whatever he feels is right and doesn’t give you a single chance to explain yourself. Did he even ask if you were alright with it?”

Bruce apparently wasn’t fast enough for Dick, as his eldest seemed to take the slight hesitance in replying as a “no” and went on another rant.

 “Next you know he’ll try to make him Robin,” Dick muttered towards the end of the rant.

Bruce frowned. “You’re not alright with that?”

“Of course not! Well-“ Dick shot Jason, who was steadily looking more confused, a look. “Not yet. Robin was my idea. My costume, my symbol, my name. If it turns into some kind of legacy, I should be the one to decide that.”

Bruce hadn’t even considered that. To him, Robin the role of his partner, the protégé he was teaching, and Dick simply wasn’t that child anymore, no matter how much Bruce wanted him to return to that role.

“And as much Batman sucks right now, I can’t just let anybody watch his back, right?”

Bruce smiled. “Of course you’re right, chum.”

Dick beamed under the praise, grinning triumphantly. On the inside, Bruce was already growing weary of the next time Batman and Nightwing would meet each other. There would be hell to pay about this.

“What are you talking about?”

Bruce and Dick both turned to Jason, who was still sitting on the kitchen counter. The ice cream sat beside him, abandoned, and melting away in the summer heat.

“…He doesn’t know, does he?”

If Bruce were a lesser man, he’d ask Dick which secret the young man was referring to. At least Dick had enough sense to be embarrassed about causally revealing his secret identity.

“Right, Little Wing-“

“My name is Jason.”

“You see, if an emotionally stunted bat vigilante and a billionaire love each other very much, the latter adopts a child and the former has some seriously cool gadgets…”

X

“Couldn’t you have just told me that you were banging Bruce?”

Batman wanted to smack his head against his desk. Like Dick, Jason had taken to spending a lot of time in the Cave. He loved the tech, and Bruce knew that Jason got along better with Batman than he got with Bruce.

It probably had something to do with the fact that one persona was just a boring rich guy and the other Gotham’s vigilante, but Bruce couldn’t help but be slightly jealous of himself. Was it too much to ask for some father-son bonding out of the costume?

“Like, seriously, I would have trusted Bruce way earlier if had known this. You should consider telling this your future Robins first.”

“You’re not becoming Robin, Jason.”

Yet, B-man. I’m not becoming Robin yet.”

X

Jason Todd became the second Robin. On the streets, he was famous for his quick thinking, heavy hitting and dirty fighting style.

And, on top of that, it was well known that he’d take every opportunity to call Batman “Bat-dad”.

Chapter Text

Jason was lying in the armchair, his legs thrown over the armrest while Dick was sitting on the backrest of the sofa. Bruce himself was leaning against the table because he couldn’t block out the previous thirty-two years of his life and the Alfred shaped good-manners that told him that sitting on a table was rude.

Each of his sons had a ring binder in their hands, eyeing the title of the volume skeptically.

“Is this really necessary?” Dick asked.

“Taking your previous actions into consideration? Yes,” Bruce replied and started flipping over the first page of the ring binder.

X

List of Punishable Offenses in Wayne Manor (and Below)

1) Rearranging anyone’s appointments for a “date night” is neither acceptable nor necessary.

“Now that’s just mean,” Dick protested. “We put so much effort into clearing your WE work and solving B-man’s case before him so you could have a romantic evening and this is the thanks we get?”

“Yeah!” Jason added. “Solved it all on our own too. I should get a promotion.”

“From what? Robin to Robin?” Bruce asked drily.

“Weeeeell, I think Robin-who-can-fly-solo-further-than-two-blocks would also be a pretty neat idea.”

Jason had been begging for weeks for Batman to loosen the grip he had on him. He used every well-exercised move, every successful detection, and every praise to encourage Batman to give him more autonomy, but Bruce was far from ready to let Jason move from his side. He had no doubts that Jason was prepared for it – he wouldn’t be on the streets otherwise – but that didn’t mean that he should be forced to fight on his own yet. That was a burden Bruce hoped to spare his youngest for a while.

“We talked about this, and the answer is still ‘no’.”

Dick, who had spent years begging Bruce for the same thing and shouldn’t look so smug now, grinned, which caused Jason to lash out and kick his older brother. He missed, but like everything else in this family, the thought counted, and so Dick pretended to fall off the sofa.

“I’m wounded!”

It would take hours to get through this list, Bruce figured. He was glad he had decided to do this when Alfred was on his yearly trip to England. Otherwise, the man would be laughing at his attempt at establishing a bit more order from behind a cup of tea and polite sarcasm.

“Moving on,” Bruce said, hoping to stop Dick and Jason from upgrading to play-fighting.

2) Calling in an emergency at a sleepover to get B. to pick you up and go on patrol will not be tolerated.

The ‘B’, previously just a regular comic sans size 22 capital ‘B’ was now decorated with little bat wings. Bruce had deduced that Dick had drawn them, even though he had tried to subtly put the blame on Jason by sticking the black marker in his pocket.

“I never did that!” Jason immediately rose to defend himself, only to remember that Dick might be legally an adult by now, but he had also been a child once upon a time.

“No way.”

“It was only once, okay?”

“Three times.”

Dick rolled his eyes. “Plus/minus once or twice. Listen, all these rich kids’ sleepover birthday parties were super annoying. Rolex this, expensive car you can’t even drive that, and if I had to hear one more thing about Edmund’s silk PJs, I would have thrown a batarang at him.”

“You have silk shirts.”

Which Jason knew because he had a habit of stealing clothes and claiming them as his own. The softer, the better.

“Well, yes, but I’m not obnoxious about them. And if not for Bruce’s soft clothes fetish, I wouldn’t even have them.”

Because Dick, too, was a big fan of stealing clothes. It must run in the family, be something inheritable like the Bat-glareTM since Bruce remembered quite clearly running around in his father’s sweaters, his mother’s skirts and Alfred’s jackets when he had been younger.

“Makes you wonder about B and his ar-“

“Rule #3, Dick. Pay attention.”

3) If there’s a problem, we sit down and talk about it calmly, instead of running away in the middle of the night.

“This is victim blaming,” Dick said. “B was being a total ass. And I called you afterward.”

Bruce massaged his temples. He was well aware that this rule wouldn’t exactly be the easiest to follow. He avoided talking about his problems as Bruce and as Batman, and he knew he hadn’t taught Dick how to be open about his emotions unless it was necessary. Dick tended to bottle everything up until he let go of his anger all at once in a fiery explosion. They really had to get better at this.

Jason would benefit from a brother at his side within the mask as well, not just out of the uniform. And frankly speaking, Bruce was sick of the animosity between Nightwing and Batman and above even that he was worried. Nightwing didn’t have the resources he needed to be safe on his patrols. The Titans undoubtedly contributed, and Dick’s trust fund was full, but using different tech after growing up around Batman standards was a safety hazard.

So making amends, it was.

X

Dick and Nightwing stayed in Blüdhaven during his school days. He patrolled his streets, studied law and how to handle everything from drunks to serial killers (and was quite distraught about how much police training sucked. Batman had taught him better methods when he was ten) and went on missions with the Titans.

Weekends he spent in Gotham, at home. He teased his little brother about his crushes, made fun of his Dad and made Alfred show him for the hundredth time how exactly he made these fantastic ten-minute snacks.

And once the sun was beginning to set, he’d leave the living room together with Jason after Bruce told them to be careful.

The Cave looked just like always, except not really, because a new row of glass cases stood next to the Robin, Batman and Batgirl ones. Different variations of the same baseline uniform dutifully waited for their wearer.

“They’ve been here for weeks,” Jason told him, already wearing his shoes, leg guards and pants, while still being in Dick’s police academy sweater.

“Standard issues. Summer and winter suits, ballerina slippers to heavy combat boots and all the newest toys.”

Jason sounded a bit bitter and eyed the various belts the same way he had looked at the jewelry when he had first come to the manor. Intrigued, Dick reached for the belt and slowly went through the pockets.

“He’s trying to buy back my love with cool gadgets, isn’t he?” Dick muttered.

He had sat down on the floor to do inventory and he was pretty sure he looked like he always did around Christmas with his gifts spread around him. Jason was leaning over his shoulder and got pretty close to touching one of the toxins Robin wasn’t allowed to handle.

Batman standard uniforms with Batman level gadgets.

“Oh, man. Do you think I’ll get the same things if I throw a tantrum?”

X

Dick had missed flying with Batman. It was almost too easy to fall back into the old rhythm and then account for Robin’s presence. His younger brother was adorable, really. He missed the elegance of the first Robin, but he didn’t lack in skill.

The city was almost eerily quiet tonight, much like it had been when Dick had started out as Robin.

“You already did your rounds, old man, didn’t you?” Nightwing asked while he and Batman were watching Jason cuff a robber to a lamppost.

“Hngh.”

Nightwing smiled, impish and mischievously like a Boy Wonder ought to. “Alright then, keep your secrets.”

The sound of a cape behind his back made Nightwing jump up.

“The family’s all back together again it seems,” Batgirl mused.

Her uniform looked worn, far too used to be anything Batman allowed on the streets. Then again, hadn’t the Batgirl suits in the cave also looked very shiny and new? And while he and Barbara had avoided talking about their nightlife, she had let it drop that she was showing solidarity.

“And all dressed up too. I want a new suit, B. Your benefactor-“ Huh, had they downgraded Bruce’s codename to PG again since Jason joined? “-already got me a pretty cool gift for my birthday. New suit and a belt like the Boy Blunder’s here and I’ll consider us even.”

“Hngh.”

Batman was, of course, as taciturn as always, but Nightwing was sure that the corner of his mouth resembled a smile.

“I’m no Boy Blunder, BG. 100% grace and beauty.”

“Of course-“

“HEY!” Robin shouted from below. “When you’re done flirting, can we get on with patrol?”

Batman stood up from the roof and rose to his usual towering stance, before handing out orders. That was another thing Dick had missed. As much as he enjoyed his freedom and making his own decisions, it was nice to be pointed in a direction without having to be the one accounting for everything.

“Reconnaissance tonight only. No going after the big guns. Refamiliarize yourself with Gotham, ... Nightwing. Batgirl, inform him of the new safe houses and territories.”

Batman angled his grapple gun at the next building and took off, Robin following him eagerly. Nightwing watched the two head towards the Diamond district, the standard patrol route.

“Wow. That must have hurt,” Batgirl snorted. “Well, then, Beauty and Grace, ready to show the baby Boy Blunder the ropes?”

Nightwing grinned. “No need to ask.”

And then they followed the rest of the family.

X

Dick used to think that he was a bit of a nerd. He hadn’t liked school, but otherwise, he had loved learning. Jason, however, took that to a whole new level. He even stayed back from patrol, after hesitantly asking Batman if that were alright, to work on extra credit for his classes.

Watching Jason move from one grade to the next, participating in the theatre club’s performances and all but running the book club was the absolute best. Being a big brother was amazing. Honestly, it almost made Dick wish Batman would drop another kid on Bruce.

But then again, maybe one kid brother was enough.

“What happened to you!?” Dick shouted when he saw Jason enter the kitchen.

The fifteen-year-old was sporting a blue eye and missing his jacket.

Sssh!” Jason said and immediately jumped to cover Dick’s mouth with his right hand. In his left hand, he was holding an old looking carton.

“You’re going to make Alfred come looking!”

Dick frowned and licked Jason’s hand to make him pull it away.

“What the hell!? You’re so gross!”

Dick rolled his eyes. “Don’t be a baby. Alfred should take a look at the bruise. What did you do?”

“Nothing,” Jason replied. “I just- I took a stroll through my old neighborhood. They don’t like posh folk there.”

“Right.”

Jason put his box on the table and walked over to the freezer. He opened it and pulled out a package of frozen peas for his eye.

Jason was hiding something, of that Dick was sure. He was a good liar, but Dick was the best performer of the house with Bruce being a close second. His Batman impressions were terrific, but then again, old couples were supposed to be able to copy each other’s manners fairly well, weren’t they?

“What’s in the box?” Dick opted to ask.

“Nothing,” Jason repeated.

What was it with this family not being willing to talk? Urgh, alright. Dick was the older brother, time to put effort into this.

“Rule #3, Little Wing. ‘If there’s a problem, we sit down and talk about it calmly- ‘

“I know, Dickhead!” Jason shot back and sat down on the kitchen table.

“Sooooo?”

Jason sighed and mustered Dick. Then he wordlessly pushed the box over to Dick.

X

Barbara Gordon had always known that she was a part of the Wayne family from the night on she stepped into the streets wearing Batman’s symbol and was driven home by Bruce. Growing up, she had spent as much time on the manor grounds as she had at home since her Dad was always working and his then new girlfriend, now new wife, wasn’t exactly who Barbara would have picked for her father. But she made him happy, so Barbara passed her time studying in the manor library or in the Cave with Alfred’s treats at her side and one of her mentors/uncle figures lingering in the background.

Neither Bruce nor Batman was the kind of person who approached others openly and continuously. It had made her wonder how these two had even met. Barbara was fairly sure Bruce had picked Batman up on his training trip around the world. Maybe stole him from Ra’s al Ghul? That would explain the mad man’s obsession with both.

She didn’t particularly care about who was hiding behind Batman’s mask, but unlike Dick and Jason, she wanted to know at least the basics. It was in her nature. Barbara Gordon was curious. She wanted to learn, to study, to investigate and account for every little thing.

And curious things scar in a city like Gotham.

X

The Joker was not quite a dead man when Batman handed him over to the police, but for once, he wasn’t laughing when put back behind bars. Nobody said a word. Gotham’s police were corrupt, but even the dirtiest of the cops had no lost love for the Joker or didn’t feel at least somewhat angry at themselves. Barbara Gordon was the Commissioner’s daughter, they should have been able to prevent this, or help out later.

Instead, Batman had caught the clown, and Bruce Wayne had filled Barbara’s hospital room with all her favorite sweets and flowers.

The whole family tried to support their healing member, be it during the day or the night. Neither Nightwing nor Robin minded staying behind to guard a room or read to her during the day.

X

“Why did you really stop being Robin?” Jason asked.

At fifteen, he was taller than Dick already and nearly Bruce’s height. If he kept growing at the same speed, he might even surpass Batman. Dick had taken a look at Jason’s parents. Willis Todd had been a quite tall man and neither of the candidates for his mother could be called small.

“I had a fight with Batman-“

Jason shook his head. “Yeah, no. You could have taken Robin with you to Blüdhaven, but you didn’t. Why?”

Once more, Dick wished Jason would have taken more after Bruce instead of Batman. He was such a blunt and harsh kid, always asking the questions Dick didn’t want to answer out loud.

“I had been toying with the idea of a new uniform before leaving Gotham. Robin is, in the end, Batman’s partner. Sure, it’s partially because teeny tiny kids can’t fly solo, but the whole gig is shaped to that particular role. Just look at the colors! Robin’s a walking traffic light. Dark enough to be able to hide in the shadows, but bright enough to draw attention when necessary and distract from the big bad Bat coming from above. I was getting sick of people asking after the Bat like I was an annoying accessory at best. When I left Gotham, it was finally possible to make a new identity.”

Jason nodded along, silent, and lost in thought. The only thing missing was a cowl and he could pass as Batman from the shadows.

Dick had always known that on some level Batman was training them not just to be partners but the next generation, the first of a legacy of heroes. Dick didn’t want to be Batman, he wasn’t cut out for it, but Jason had potential. Though he was sure that neither Batman nor Bruce (especially not Bruce), wanted them to become Batman.

“What’s this really about, Jay?”

At first, he said nothing, but then the first word escaped him, followed by a second and soon enough, Jason was talking a mile-a-minute.

X

“You need to talk to Robin.”

Nightwing was flying next to Batman. They were making their way across the city to Batg- Robin’s patrol points.

“Do you hear me, B?”

“Yes.”

Then act like it, Nightwing wanted to shout, but years of dealing with his mentor/Bat-step-father had taught him how to keep his voice even.

“I mean it, Batman. Robin’s ready to step out of the bright colors, and for his sake, I hope you’ll handle it better than you did Nightwing. And there’s something else you need to talk to him about with. Well, maybe less you and more S-”

Dick was getting ready to say a few more words on the topic when the comms stirred.

“This is Robin. Arkham breakout, I’ve got my eyes on the Joker. Moving in.”

For a split second, all Dick could see in front of him was Barbara lying in the hospital bed, crying into their arms.

Next to him, Batman barked orders he could hardly make sense off. Don’t! He wanted to scream, but instead, he picked up the pace, rushing to Robin’s location with the speed of the Flash.

X

“You’re grounded.”

“What!?”

For the record, Bruce thought that grounding was a stupid punishment, much like detention. It encouraged children to break the rules further instead of teaching them to be aware of why certain rules existed and why they shouldn’t break them.

Right now, though, Jason physically could not get out of the manor. Both his legs were broken, his right ankle twisted and his left arm covered in second-degree burns.

Jason was alive, but it had been too close. Bruce could still hear the crying, smell the blood, and see that damned clown hurting yet another one of his children. Robin’s critical condition had been the only reason Batman hadn’t repaid the Joker in kind.

But Jason didn’t know all of this. All he could see was Bruce punishing him. It made Bruce want to scream. He had all but given up on his children ever picking up on the fact that he was Batman, but moments like this drove him crazy.

“You nearly died, Jason.”

If he could, Jason would have jumped up from his bed. Since he couldn’t do that, he had to be satisfied with shouting back.

“That’s the risk that comes with the job! You know that!”

Bruce did and he had let his children get pulled into this world anyway.

“Yes, and I shouldn’t have allowed you to go out on your own in the first place. “

He hadn’t let Dick and Barbara leave his side at that age, had he? He was supposed to protect them, keep them away from all of this, yet he let them fight his war. That had to stop, right now, before his mission became their life like it had become his.

“Batman was there! You’ve never protested before and the risks haven’t changed.”

No, they hadn’t, but Bruce wasn’t willing to tolerate it any longer.

“You’re grounded until you’re healed, and whether you’ll be Robin afterward, remains to be seen.”

And Bruce was very keen to keep Jason away from it all starting today. Dick was too old to be told how to live his life, but Jason was only sixteen still. Just a child with his whole life in front of him.

 “You can’t do that!” Jason protested. “What did Batman say about this? Does he agree with you?”

Bruce knew he had never hated this lie of a double-life more before this day.

“I don’t care what Batman says!” Bruce shouted back. “I’m your father and I’m done watching you get hurt!”

Jason’s face was red

“You’re my father? Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t believe I forgot that! Wait. Actually, I can! With how often you’re out on company business, I was under the assumption that Batman was doing the parenting while you’re just paying child support! You only took me in because Batman couldn’t do it legally anyway!”

Bruce froze on the spot. Was that really what Jason thought? Before he could reply, Jason reached for the sandwich Alfred had made for him and tossed it at Bruce’s face.

“Get out! Get out and go fuck yourself, Dad!

X

Bruce didn’t know how, but Jason had managed to run out of his room and sneak into the Cave. Since he was officially recovering from a kidnapping, he didn’t have to attend school and could spend the whole time in the Cave. He outright refused to talk to Bruce and only interacted with Batman to get him to rethink Jason’s grounding.

His interactions with Jason as Batman forced Bruce to rethink how much time he had spent with Jason as Batman. It couldn’t have been more than he had as Bruce.

He hadn’t made his son think for four years that he was only the vigilante’s child.

Right?

X

“Jason, do you know what I brought you here for?”

Jason stubbornly refused to look at Batman but kept his gaze focused on the tablet on his lap.

“I wanted you to have a home and a place you’d be safe in,” Batman continued. He knew Jason was paying attention, even if the boy tried to hide it. “When you went up against the Joker, you weren’t safe by any means.”

“But we’ve never been!” Jason shouted.

The tablet fell to the ground, the sound of the impact echoed around the Cave.

“This job is dangerous! It always has been! I could’ve gotten hurt plenty of times before, and it’s only ’cause you were always there before to take a bullet meant for Dick, Babs or me!”

“And now I wasn’t there. I know, Jason. I can’t even tell you how sorry I am. But that’s exactly why you need-“

“You need to teach me how to handle things on my own.”

“Stay at home.”

Jason glared up at Batman. If not for his broken legs, he would be standing, towering at the same height as his father. He hated it. Jason’s fighting style, his whole body language had adapted to using his height for his advantage in every situation, and now that he couldn’t use it, he was getting frustrated.

“I don’t want you to be sorry. I know you taught Dick how to work on his own, but you haven’t taught me.”

Jason had plenty of arguments why Batman hadn’t done that. He still remembered the first months in the Cave. Dick and Batman had been fighting pretty much the whole time, either verbally or through passive-aggressive Bat-glares. Batman probably wanted to avoid that by keeping a tighter leash on Jason.

Well, too bad that Bruce’s parenting style tended to favor guiding him towards independence. All those hours spent in Wayne Enterprise’s Charity Department stealing sweets hadn’t been for nothing.

“I want to be able to run a city by myself.”

“… And if I don’t teach you that?”

Jason crossed his arms and grinned. That was what he’d been waiting for. “Then I’ll tell Bruce you’re letting me help around the Cave when I’m supposed to be in bed and run away to Blüdhaven and do weekend patrols there in Dick’s stead.”

Batman never stood a chance. And in turn, so didn’t Bruce.

X

“Trackers.”

“Only in the suit and in the mask. I don’t want to get chipped.”

“Fine.”

“I get to fly solo.”

“Only once Batman agrees. You’ll listen to every order.”

“The smart ones.”

“You’re not going up against the Joker on your own.”

“Do I look like I want to-“

“Promise me, Jaylad.”

“… Okay. No advances against the Joker. I get to pick my cases and don’t have to give you a weekly update on them.”

“Briefings with Batman about what you’re up to. And none of this happens before you’re the same age as Dick was when he started working on his own.”

“Acceptable.”

X

They shook hands and wrote a contract which both of them had to sign. It was all very formal, and it didn’t miraculously fix everything, but it was a start. But before Jason could sign, Bruce stopped him.

“I have something for you,” Bruce said and pulled a nondescript folder out of his desk. He hadn’t meant to disturb Jason’s privacy, but once he’d seen his recent searches on the computer in the Cave, he couldn’t just turn a blind eye to it.

Thus, Bruce had done his research, called in some old favors, and stopped a crime on another continent from his office chair.

The first document of the stack was Sheila Haywood’s birth record, the last one was a petition for the last name change of an adopted child.

X

“Oracle,” Barbara told Jason.

Jason stopped playing with uniform designs on the tablet Bruce had handed him earlier and turned to Barbara.

She was staring at the Bat-computer, moving around in the archives and reorganizing things. Batman would hate it, but grudgingly accept it after a talk with Bruce. Even though Bruce stayed away from the nightlife of the family, letting Batman take the lead, it was quite evident that he had opinions, even though he rarely voiced them (and when he did, it ended with Jason being grounded for ages. Go figure why they all preferred him away from this).

“What?”

“My new call-sign will be Oracle. I was already doing most of the research besides Batman. I can do this full-time now. Get us more organized and a better overview of the city, predict the rogues’ moves more accurately than by doing just some calculations in my head on the fly.”

Barbara’s voice didn’t waver. It never did once she had made a decision.

“So the almighty Oracle will guide us now?” Jason joked. “Dad will be glad somebody’s gonna be-“

Staying Here. Back. In the Cave. Home. Safe.

Fuck, those were all the wrong words, weren’t they?

“Keeping an eye on us idiots.”

Barbara nodded seriously. “Somebody has to, and Alfred’s too busy keeping check of all the injuries.”

Jason winced, recalling how busy Alfred usually was once they headed out for patrol. He always made sure that everything from Fear Gas antidotes to X-ray was available the moment they returned to the Cave and despite the splendid organization in the Cave, having everything for everyone on hand wasn’t necessarily easy.

“That’s true,” Jason agreed. Somebody running support besides Alfred would help them out immensely. However, that was under the assumption that the big Bat had nothing to say against it. “Who’s gonna break it to B-man?”

“…”

“Dick?”

Barbara raised a brow. “Jason Peter Wayne, did you seriously suggest forcing your older brother to put up with Batman’s stubbornness?”

“Yes.”

Barbara smiled, happy and bright like she ought to.

“I knew there was a reason I liked you.”

X

Oracle in. Systems up and running. Roll call time, gentlemen. Agent A?”

Penny-One is bringing refreshments to the Cave, Miss Oracle.”

“N?”

“Nightwing here. Heading towards the Bowery.”

“Swing by East End. Catwoman asked us to take a look.”

“Okidoki!”

Sugar-“

“Working. You know that, Oracle. Stay on task.”

“Of course, B-man. Where are you?”

Batman is heading towards the Diamond district with-“

“Super lame. I already did that as Robin on my own.”

“Heading towards the Diamond district with-“

“My turn!”

“Alright, bird of the hour. Roll call?”

Magpie reporting for duty, O.”

Chapter Text

For the record, Bruce didn’t make a habit out of getting kidnapped. Of course, he had his quota to fill to assure the people he was not secretly a mob boss. Fortunately, ever since he had adopted Dick, people expected him to get less kidnapped because he had upgraded his security measurements to increase his sons’ safety.

Bruce was quite thankful that Dick and Jason had weaseled their way out of tonight’s gala to go on patrol instead. This way it was only him whom the attackers took for ransom.

“Anybody call the police and the kid dies!”

Or not.

X

They threw him in the back of a nondescript van without a license plate. Two men with guns sat in front him, while the child they had taken hostage was now clinging to Bruce.

“One wrong move and you’re done for,” the man on the left said and pointedly aimed his gun at the kid.

The man’s voice was harsh, but his hand was shaking. His companion didn’t look much better. They must be first-time kidnappers, which made them even more dangerous. Their plan had gone off without a hitch so far, so they probably had a more experienced leader. If the kid wasn’t here, Bruce could have taken them on his own. Now he had to wait for Dick and Jason to pick up on his distress signal and save him.

The van kept driving for a while. Since there were no windows, Bruce tried to pay attention to the noises surrounding him. By the time they came to a stop, an hour had passed. The two men sitting with him and the child, who had kept silent the whole time, had talked rather openly about what they’d do with the money and Bruce wasn’t impressed. All of this trouble for a sports car? Disappointing.

After securing the zip ties holding the still nameless child – Bruce had to ask his name as soon as possible, he couldn’t keep calling him ‘kid’ in his head – the kidnappers opened the doors of the van and pushed the two of them outside and into a warehouse.

By Bruce’s calculations, Jason and Dick should be here in thirty minutes if they threw Bruce’s warnings about safe driving out of the window again. The warehouse was set up as their basement. Another two men were waiting for them.

“Who’s the brat?” A tall man with pale blue eyes and dirty blonde hair asked.

“Uuh, just another insurance, Boss.”

“Idiots, you were supposed to grab only Wayne!” His eyes darted to Bruce. “At least you managed that. Throw them in the back room.”

And then they were dragged off.

X

“Are you okay?” Bruce asked the boy as soon as the door as closed behind them.

Another windowless room with just one way in and out. The door also didn’t look very durable, so Bruce decided against barricading it, it wouldn’t hold against an assault of the whole kidnapping team.

Nevertheless, Bruce got himself out of the zip ties. There was no use in keeping them on when the kidnappers weren’t in the room. As soon as his hands were free, he carefully took off the kid’s ties.

The child rubbed his wrist and pocketed the ties. Smart. Bruce hadn’t even needed to say anything.

“Yeah, I’m good. I’m sorry for causing you trouble, Mr. Wayne.”

Unrest crawled up Bruce’s spine and settled in his tensed shoulders. Children, when faced with terrible situations, either went into shock or freaked out. Only in a few cases, most of them vigilante related, they would compartmentalize and move on. Either way, they shouldn’t be apologizing.

“You didn’t cause me any trouble, kiddo. May I ask you what your name is?”

“I’m Timothy Drake.”

Timothy Drake – if the hour in the stuffy van hadn’t messed with Bruce’s memories, the Drakes had already left the gala hours ago. They had basically just shown up to announce they’d be traveling for the next six months and that was it. So how come tiny Timothy Drake had been at the party still?

Bruce sat down next to Timothy and rechecked his watch. Fifteen minutes left, Dick and Jason would be here soon. Bruce couldn’t wait to use this kidnapping as an excuse to stay clear of any parties for the next two months.

“Don’t worry, Timothy. Somebody will save us soon.”

Timothy nodded and smiled. It was a frail and shy little thing, but still a happy smile.

“I know, Mr. Wayne,” Timothy replied and subtly moved a little closer to Bruce’s side.

He opened his mouth to speak, then promptly shut it close again to shoot the door a glance. Bruce followed his look, but couldn’t see anything besides its ugly beige color.

“Timothy, I’m serious. Is everything-“

“Whenexactlywillyourboyfriendcome?”

Bruce blinked, two awkward seconds passing in-between them in which Bruce tries to comprehend what he had just heard, and Timothy blushed like he wanted to be anywhere but here.

“My what.”

A hundred things were running through Bruce’ brain, and none of them could connect Timothy’s rushed question.

“Batman,” Timothy finally whispered. “He’s your SO, right? Or will Nightwing and Robin- I mean Magpie, come? That’s Jason’s new name, right? I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”

That was so not the problem right now.

X

Batarang-blazing Nightwing and Magpie entered the warehouse. The moment the screams had started, Bruce allowed himself to relax. And as sudden as Gotham’s vigilantes had descendent on the kidnappers, as soon did the fighting stop. Not a single gun had gotten fired in those few seconds.

Bruce stood up, and Timothy followed suit quickly, stumbling over his own feet in his haste.

“Hello, Mr. Wayne,” Jason greeted them cheekily as he opened the door.

Behind him, Dick was tying up the kidnappers. Most of them were knocked out while those still conscious were groaning. Dick looked up from his handiwork to give them a thumbs up, before lightly touching his ear three times.

That was it. Bruce was officially never going anywhere again without having his communicator with him. Being separated from Oracle was a major hindrance.

“Don’t worry, we’ve taken care of all the kidnappers!” Jason continued good-naturedly. “We’ll escort you two home now. We already talked to the police as well.”

Bruce offered Timothy his hand, and the boy took it almost absentmindedly, obviously distracted by Jason, who led the way to the Batmobile.

X

“Magpie, I need to borrow your phone,” Bruce told his oldest as soon as they sat in the car.

His request had caught Jason off-guard, he struggled to find a proper reply.

“I- uhm- I’m sorry, Mr. Wayne, but I can’t.”

“Jay.” Bruce was tired. He had been to the most boring gala in ages, been kidnapped and met a teenager who knew their civilian identities. He just wanted to do a background check on Timothy Drake as fast as he could and be done with it. “Timothy here-“

“Tim is alright,” Tim mumbled, still starry-eyed.

“Tim here knows who we are.”

The car did a sharp turn left but caught itself in the last second before they would have ruined another lamppost. How come that ever since Jason had gotten his driver’s license, he’d actually become a worse driver?

X

Tim Drake, as it turned out, was a relatively normal teenage boy. The thirteen-year-old liked video games and skateboarding, but his main hobby was photography. Like most boys his age, he’d dressed up as Robin at least once for Halloween, though with Tim it seemed to be more of a yearly theme Bruce learned. And every year the Robin costume was slightly different and strikingly similar to what Dick or Jason had been wearing on patrol.

On the other hand, Tim Drake was absolutely nothing like a typical teenager. He genuinely seemed to be unable to handle adults praising him, and he was far more self-sufficient than a teenager his age should be. Not that any of Bruce’s kids had been less autonomous at Tim’s age, but that was partly because of their odd childhoods and Bruce’s training.

Tim Drake should be an exception, yet he wasn’t.

X

“So what’s his deal?” Dick asked.

Halfway across the room, Jason was showing off to Tim, keeping him entertained and distracted. Right now they were going over Jason’s Magpie uniform.

“His parents are gone most of the time, and a housekeeper keeps watch from what I can tell.”

“So we’re keeping him?”

Bruce turned to look Dick in the face and was immediately rewarded with a bright smile.

“He has parents.”

“Absent parents from what you just told me. Besides, he fits right in, doesn’t he?”

Jason had detached the hood and cape of his uniform and put it around Tim. It looked absolutely ridiculous since Jason was about three head taller than Tim and the cape was supposed to reach his ankle. Tim, on the other hand, was drowning in it. It reminded Bruce of tiny little Robins dressed in Batman’s cape.

Bruce sighed. “Feel free to befriend him.”

Dick didn’t have to be told twice and immediately made his way over to the two.

X

Tim was a very polite guest it turned out. Since his parents were already on their plane to China, Bruce had insisted that Tim stayed the night after the whole ordeal. Time didn’t seem to be the kind of boy to have a delayed shock reaction, but Bruce hadn’t wanted to risk it and send a thirteen-year-old back to a lonely house in the middle of the night.

“I have a housekeeper though,” Tim said when they all made their way up to the manor. “She comes by thrice a week.”

Growing up around Alfred, being raised by Alfred meant that Bruce had learned that you should not demand or expect more from a person than precisely the job they had been hired for.

Alfred had been his father’s valet. Thomas Wayne might have been a doctor above all, but he’d been expected to look the part of the elite.

After multiple incidents, one of them being Alfred becoming Bruce’s favorite person in the house through the art of fencing and the other one being Alfred getting fired but still living in the manor, Alfred had become the butler on paper.

A butler made sure the household ran smoothly, but it wasn’t his job to look after the kids. That was what you hired nannies for.

Nevertheless, Bruce hadn’t had a nanny. He’d been looked after by his parents and Alfred.

And finally, a housekeeper’s duty was to look after the house, not the child living in it. Furthermore, Bruce really doubted that this was an Alfred sort of situation.

“So, really, I’m not alone,” Tim continued.

He smiled and shrugged in a What-can-you-do way like he was trying to reassure Bruce that he didn’t need anyone to look after him. Dick had had a phase like that as well when he was thirteen. He had tried to do everything on his own and told Bruce he didn’t need him to check in every night. The whole thing had lasted about a month until Dick decided that more independence didn’t mean loneliness.

Tim Drake was a very independent child.

And an even lonelier boy.

“You can come over whenever you want to,” Bruce told him in the morning when Tim was getting ready to return home. “In case you ever get bored in that house.”

“Thank you, Mr. Wayne.”

X

Bruce stood on the porch of the manor until he couldn’t see Tim anymore. He had asked if Tim wanted to be brought home, but he had denied.

Hadn’t wanted to cause any trouble, as if Tim was a burden.

From what Bruce knew, Jack and Janet Drake were good parents, when they were there.

If they were there at all. Their plane had landed hours ago, and he still hadn’t managed to get into contact with them to inform them about the fact that their son had been kidnapped.

But that wasn’t really a job for Batman, no matter how many unsubtle hints Jason and Dick had dropped over breakfast.