“Look at this.” The glee in Jason’s voice should have made Bruce twitch as his second son deposited the Gotham Gazette on his breakfast plate. It wasn’t that Jason wasn’t a good kid (Lazarus Pit effects aside), it was just that he took extreme joy in watching his siblings flail. Not necessarily to a point of injury or mental harm, but enough that he would push Damian off a building or put salt in Tim’s coffee. He did it to Dick’s too, but having spent his formative years in a circus where somehow no one knew how to cook, Dick didn’t really have taste buds anymore, and therefore never reacted the way Jason wanted him to.
Bruce was just happy that his kids weren’t trying to kill each other and were actually – for the most part – getting along. So while he was aware that whatever was making Jason happy most likely involved the embarrassment of one or more of his siblings, he was choosing to focus on the positive. Mainly, that Jason was alive and well and willing to be around him, let alone to talk to him.
The joy Bruce felt at son being home and not fratricidal left him unprepared for the front page of the Gazette.
Red Robin and Superboy in Love was printed in large bold, black letters and accompanied by a small article written by – who else – Vicki Vale. The majority of the front page though, was dedicated to a photo. A photo of his son in full Red Robin regalia being lifted in arms of Conner Kent and kissed. Passionately. The quality of the photo gave no doubt to Bruce (and the rest of the Gazette’s readership) that not only was there tongue involved, but that Red Robin had wrapped his legs around Superboy’s waist and was running his gloved hands through the Kryptonian’s black hair. Superboy, for his part, was resting his hands under his boyfriend’s backside, holding the smaller man to him. This extra form of support did not reassure Bruce.
The Batman could only stare in shock. Tim, his Tim, the kid who used to spike up his hair only for Dick to give him a noogie and mess it up, who convinced Alfred to drain the pool so he could use it as a skate park to teach Cass to skate. Tim, who was his son. Tim, who was his child. His child.
Bruce looked up frantically to meet Jason’s eyes. How could he not be worried about this? For all that he enjoyed torturing his siblings, he was fiercely protective of them. Jason took delight in torturing his brothers (Cass was usually left out, by reason that she was very scary and would not hesitate to kick her brother’s asses if they involved her on the wrong side of their schemes), but the second someone not in their family tried the same trick, he would make sure that they would never even think of stirring up trouble for the family, Wayne or Bat. This was usually by way of beating them senseless, but Bruce was willing to overlook that because look – his kids were getting along!
“But he’s thirteen!” Logically, Bruce knew that Tim was older – practically an adult. He had helped run Wayne Enterprises since he was in high school, not to mention was one of the only people Ra’s al Ghul truly respected after almost toppling his empire. Repeatedly. But Tim was still his kid, and as such would never be older. Certainly not old enough for a relationship. For a boyfriend.
Jason was stilling grinning unnaturally wide, and if it wasn’t for the knowledge that if his second son got anywhere near his murderer, the clown wouldn’t survive the encounter, Bruce would have thought that his son had been exposed to Joker gas.
“Did you know about this?” Bruce clutched the paper helplessly in his hands, staring up at his son, mentally running the pros and cons of retraining his entire family in the proper use of Kryptonite. Maybe Damian could put aside his animosity for Tim aside long enough to threaten Conner…His youngest son was small, yes, but still intimidating.
If anything, Jason looked more gleeful.
“Did you not? B, I thought you were the world’s greatest detective. It’s not like they’ve tried to hide it.”
Not tried to hide it…All Bruce could picture was Tim and an increasingly handsy Superboy. Oh dear god, he was a horrible father.
“How long has it been going on?”
“I dunno, you’d have to ask Tim. For at least as long as when the two of us worked that bird trafficking case in Old Gotham.”
“That was four months ago!”
Bruce had six children (seven including Stephanie and she was always bitter when he didn’t include her, despite him never formally adopting the fourth Robin), and had been a father since Dick had come into his life when he was twenty-five. As such, he had long ago accepted he had no true control over his life. He could guide his kids, yes, shepherd them along the right path, but when it came down to it, he was still subject to whatever craziness his children felt the need to involve themselves in.
Oh, who was he kidding. Any and all insanity his children were a part of, they had started, directly or indirectly.
“Tim…” Oh, god, where was his son?
Bruce stood up suddenly, almost knocking his chair over in his haste to get upstairs. He had only once before regretted the size of his home, when Dick had first come to live with him and had decided to treat the chandeliers as a stand in for his trapeze setup. This was no less terrifying.
He practically ran up the stairs, choosing to ignore his second oldest son videoing the entire thing. Maybe with the right bribe, Barbara would find and delete the footage. He ignored the part of his brain that reminded him that the first Batgirl was more likely to keep the footage as a form of blackmail than truly delete it. Why did he keep so many devious people in his life?
Speaking of devious, Conner Kent. Kon-El. Superboy. Clark was his best friend, who Bruce regularly trusted with his life – and more importantly, his children’s lives. Yes, Conner was half Clark, but he was also half Luthor. Bruce understood that children were not the sum of their parts (Cass and Damian and Steph were proof of that), but still! Talia had tried to take over the world, yes, but she never used politics to do so. She relied on good, old-fashioned murder.
Not that any murder was truly good, but compared to politicians, well…Bruce was willing to cede that his ex might be the better person in this scenario.
Finally, finally he reached the door of Tim’s room. His sweet, small Tim…he had had such terrible luck in relationships. Ariana was sweet, yes, but Stephanie had met his son for the first time with a brick to the face. Tam was normal, but that had never really been for more than the cameras. What could Conner have done to attract his sons attention?
Bruce slammed open the door, panting from the run up the stairs and half the house. Batman might be in good shape, but when faced with the possibility of his son’s love life, Bruce Wayne turned to nothing more than a panting, sweaty, panicking mess.
Bruce expected to see his son passed out under the sheets. Hopefully in pajamas and not his civvies from the night before, but he had learned to hope for the best and expect the worse with…well, all his sons. Cass never gave him this much trouble.
But instead of an exhausted, blinking, bleary-eyed son, he was faced with his exhausted, blinking, bleary-eyed son and his wide awake, panicking Kryptonian boyfriend. Both were fully dressed, luckily for Conner’s continued survival, but they were wrapped around each other.
Well, they were, until Conner, in his surprise, flailed off the bed and into the nightstand. Fortunately, he had removed his hands from his boyfriend. Bruce tried not to take too much pride in the fact that his mere presence scared one of the most powerful beings in the world into knocking his head on the furniture.
Oh hell, he loved it. Same reason he snuck up on Clark fairly regularly just to startle the man.
“Bruce…wha’s goin on?” Tim’s voice was hoarse from sleep and he was slurring his words. He raised his head from the pillow, some drool crusted at the corner of his mouth. “I’s early.”
It was ten in the morning. To anyone other than a group of nocturnal bat-themed vigilantes, it would definitely be late. But as the current occupants of the manor were a group of nocturnal bat-themed vigilantes – minus Conner – it was in fact early. The only reason Bruce was awake was because he had a meeting at Wayne Enterprises he couldn’t miss, on pain of Lucius murdering him. Bruce may be League of Assassins trained and Gotham born and bred, but Lucius Fox somehow managed to be far more terrifying than Ra’s al Ghul. Maybe Tam wasn’t so normal after all…Bruce shook the thought out of his head. This was more important than dissecting his son’s dating life.
Conner peeled himself off the floor, rubbing the back of his head. He was about to join Tim back in bed, but after a sharp glare from Bruce, decided to just sit near the footboard. Bruce continued to glare at the half-Kryptonian until he lifted himself off the coverlet and just hovered in the air.
“Bruce, what’s going on?” Tim looked a bit more coherent at the sight of his adopted father terrorizing his boyfriend. Pulling himself up from the nest of blankets, Red Robin, a feared vigilante, one of the best detectives in the world, the man who had repeatedly stared down Ra’s al Ghul, wiped the drool off his face.
“Yeah Bruce, tell them what’s going on.” Bruce had honestly forgotten his second son was also in the room. He turned the glare to Jason, but due to his son’s regular exposure to said glare, he was unperturbed. Jason grinned back at him, clearly taking too much joy from all of this..
Bruce turned back to Tim, who was now fairly irritated at having had his sleep interrupted.
“It has come to my attention…” Bruce paused to take a deep breath. He was really not prepared for this. Dick and Barbara had been a known quantity, practically a guarantee. He had been shocked when Dick had brought Kori home, not because she was an alien, but because she wasn’t Barbara. Jason had…been gone before he had really gone on a date, and Cass was never really interested in anything other than ballet and kicking ass.
Why couldn’t all his kids be like Cass?
“It has come to my attention Tim, that you and Conner are…dating. I only-”
“Wait, you just found out? How did you just find out?” Tim swiveled his head to Jason. “How did he not know? Subtlety is not one of Kon’s strong suits.”
“Sorry babe, but you know it’s true.” Bruce chose to ignore the way Tim smiled at his boyfriend’s pout.
“That’s what I said! It wasn’t until he saw the paper this morning that the World’s Greatest Detective figured it out.”
“Why would he have found out from the paper?”
Jason practically leered at his little brother.
“How could he not find out from the Gazette? With Superboy’s hands on your ass, you getting laid was front page news. I’m so proud, Replacement.” Jason wiped away an imaginary tear. Clearly, he had missed his calling in theatre.
“Front page? How the hell-”
The bickering between his sons faded into the background as Jason’s words registered with Bruce. His Tim was having sex? Sex? A boyfriend Bruce could (eventually) handle but sex. Batman decided then and there that Superboy defiling his son was a Kryptonite worthy offense.
“Uh, Tim. Is Batman gonna kill me?” Kon’s voice was low and soft, the Super clearly trying not to draw any more attention to himself.
It wasn’t working.
Bruce had a strict no-killing rule. The only time he had ever been tempted to break it was when the Joker had killed his son and laughed about it. This was a close second.
Though at least now his PowerPoint on alien STD’s wouldn’t be wasted.
“Bruce.” Tim sounded mad enough that Bruce took his eyes off Kon for a moment.
Both Bruce and Tim chose to ignore him.
“Is your issue that I’m dating a guy, or that I’m dating a meta? Because one of those options is far worse than the other.”
The room got quiet fast. Bruce looked at his son. He saw the hands clenched on the sheets, the tightness around Tim’s eyes. The Batman would have an issue with this. Romance was a distraction from the Mission. Red Robin being in a relationship would only most likely end in pain, trauma, and an aversion to all birds (for Kon, not Tim).
But in this moment, Bruce Wayne wasn’t Batman. He was just Bruce Wayne, single father doing the best he could. God, he needed to find a parenting book on dating, and soon.
Conner broke the awkwardness and clapped his hands together, with a clearly fake smile stretched across his face.
“Not that this hasn’t been suitably terrifying, but this seems like the kind of discussion you two need to have in private.” He turned to Tim and planted a brief kiss on his lips. “I have chores, but I’ll be back to take you to Titans Tower before three. Sound good?”
“You’re asking for approval?”
“Hey, I gotta run my plans by my team leader. He’s a real uptight guy, maybe you know him? Five foot seven, perpetually tired-”
“Love you too, babe.”
Conner started floating out the window, before turning back and gave a mocking salute to Tim and an awkward wave to Bruce and Jason. Then there was a sonic boom and he was gone.
“Well, that’s my cue. Replacement, if you wind up killing B, I’ll help you hide the body, B, you’re on your own.”
“Thanks Jay, you’ve been a huge help today.”
Jason ignored his brother’s sarcasm.
“I aim to please, Timmers.”
“I hate you.”
“Love you too.”
He grinned at his family before walking down the hall. About a minute later, they heard the front door open, then close with a muffled “Bye, Alfie!”
Bruce closed his eyes for a moment, taking a moment to gather the strength necessary for a conversation involving emotions. Stephanie had once referred to him as an emotionally constipated walnut. At times like this, he was forced to admit she may have been partially correct.
“Can you let me talk? And don’t interrupt me or do the Forehead Wrinkle of Disapproval. Please.”
Bruce nodded before taking a seat on the edge of the bed. Tim relaxed back onto the headboard, wrapping the blankets more securely around himself. He picked up the pillow Conner had been using, bringing it up to fit behind his head. Bruce chose to ignore his son’s besotted smile at the scent no doubt wafting out from his boyfriend’s pillow.
“Look B, I really like Conner. We’ve been dating for six months, and been friends for way longer. He makes me happy. He supports me, he makes me go to sleep when I’ve been obsessing over a case for too long – hell, he even came over at four in the morning just to pull me away from the Bat-computer once. Okay, more like three times, but the point remains.
“I love him, Bruce. And the reason I didn’t tell you is because I thought that you knew and were choosing to ignore it. You’ve never been okay with Meta’s and I just…I knew you would have an issue with it and so I was trying to avoid this for as long as possible.”
“I’m assuming by ‘this’ you mean me bursting through the door to find you and Conner asleep in bed together.”
Tim looked pained at his adopted father’s failure of a joke.
“No, B. I thought you would forbid me from seeing him or lock him out of Gotham or-”
“Do you really think so little of me?”
Tim did a double take at that. He had figured out the identities of Batman and Robin at age nine, had blackmailed Bruce into making him Robin at age thirteen. He regularly foiled Ra’s plans to the point where Bruce honestly thought that the Demon’s Head preferred Tim over him.
“Tim, you’re my son. I don’t care that you’re dating a meta, let alone a man. I love you no matter what. I was just surprised to find out from Vicki Vale that you were in a relationship. You’re so smart Tim, and I’m so damn proud of you. I just assumed that if you were going to date someone, that you would have told me.”
“You’re proud of me?” The hesitation in Tim’s voice hurt Bruce in a way that the Arkham rogues could only dream of.
“Tim, there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I’ve not been proud of you. When you barged in through the manor door, demanding that I make you Robin, I never could’ve imagined how essential you’d become, not to the Mission, but to my family. Our family. I love you, son, and I’m sorry if I’ve ever made you feel otherwise.”
It was a testament to how rarely Bruce had any sort of even remotely emotional conversations with his children that when Tim lunged at him, his first reaction was to brace for a punch.
Except for Dick. Bruce assumed that any interaction with his eldest, be it a spar or a screaming match, would involve at least one hug. And possibly a punch.
His family would never be perfect. There would be fights to come, fratricides to stop, wars to wage, and paperwork to do. But Bruce pushed all that out of his mind and just enjoyed hugging and being hugged by his son.
He could threaten Kon another day.