Dick comes home and rings the doorbell. He's forgotten to make a copy. Again.
Jason opens the door.
"Shush. I finally put him to sleep. I've got baby vomit all over me and I haven't taken in a shower in, like, sixty hours, so please, if you wake him I will..."
"Jason." Dick makes soothing motions with his hand over Jason's chest. The warmth feels good, seeping into his shirt. "It's all good. Everything's gonna be okay. Daddy's home."
Jason relaxes, even as he frowns. Dick smirks.
"Go. Make it a hot bath. Take as long as you need."
Dick goes inside. Bruce is asleep in the crib, clutching the soft blue blanket. A cherub. We'll do right by you, Bruce. This time. We'll do it right.
When your father gets de-aged, your first thought is oh shit oh shit oh shit please tell me its reversible.
But when your father is Batman, a severely depressed and self-destructive vigilante whose crusade is slowly consuming his life and relationships, and whose only wish is to get his parents back, your second thought (if you're Dick Grayson) is I hope it isn't.
So maybe it was morally questionable. But Alfred approved. And in the Family, having Alfred's stamp of approval was the same thing as God himself giving you the go ahead.
"I can't raise my son again."
Alfred had left summarily. Dick and Jason had moved into the Manor. Life went on as normal.
And baby Bruce? He babbled, happily unaware that second chances so precious are rarely given, and always at a cost.
Damian Grayson-Wayne stares down at his father.
His father stares up defiantly.
“Father, I will not have you playing with Hello Kitty. Not in place of the excellent toys I bought you last week. I insist you give me that abominable chew-toy.”
Father does no such thing. Damian decides extreme force is necessary.
Dick is coming up the stairs with the laundry basket when he hears Damian’s wails. He drops it and rushes in to room, prepared for anything.
“He bit me!” Damian points accusingly at Bruce. Bruce is all innocence.
“Damian?” Dick puts his hands on his waist. “Did you try to take something from him?”
“Ih,” says Bruce. Damian looks flustered.
“That bastard is accusing me of something false!”
“Damian. Out. Now.”
Dick scoops up Bruce in one arm, and his laudry basket in the other. He goes downstairs singing. Damian stares after with eyes of resentment.
“You always take his side!”
Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne always have coffee on Thursdays and discuss League strategy.
Clark sees no reason to interrupt their tradition. Although the coffee may have to be swapped for something…else.
The League has been preparing for another Thanagarian invasion. Since they barely survived last time, and that was when they had their strategy leader, Clark isn’t feeling so good about their odds now. Hence the visit.
“So if you could just give us your opinion…”
“Beh!” Bruce opines.
“Everything he says has a double meaning,” says Clark, impressed.
“You know, if you’ve just come here to mock our baby, then you can show yourself the door.” Jason says brusquely.
“No mocking intended.”Clark looks thoughtful. “Do you think some small part of him is still in there?”
Jason looks at Bruce trying to fit a square through a very circular hole in the shape-sorter bucket thingy.
“There are times I doubt it.”
Tim misses Bruce. The old Bruce. Not the Bruce currently sitting on his lap with a more-than-regular-amount of stink emanating from his diapered underside.
While changing and powdering his mentor, Tim sighs. A teardrop rolls down from the corner of his eye. He quickly wipes it away. Dick insists no one show any other face of life around the baby except happiness.
But he always had told me I could become the World’s Greatest Detective. And maybe training your mentor in return isn’t so bad. I could be all gruff and grim, and scare the shit out of him.
Tim smiles at this reflection.
It's Bruce's birthday. The old Bruce's. The entire family gathers and watches old home movies.
Bruce teaching Jason to ride a bike. Alfred and Bruce arguing about Damian's 'gardening'. The one Steph had made, where she dangled spiders into Bruce's partially open drooling mouth when he had collapsed one night after patrol.
There are not a few wet eyes after that. Jason pretends there's 'onion air' in the house. He misses Bruce, although he'd cut off his right arm before he ever...
During his last days, Bruce had been woefully tired and sleep deprived. He and Jason had patched things up. Somewhat. Bruce had gone to the extent of breaking into Eminem: "when I'm gone just carry on, don't mourn, rejoice every time you hear the sound of my voice..."
That was when Jason knew Bruce was losing it. But maybe in hindsight, he wasn't, so much.
Of all the things Jason Todd had seen himself as growing up, being a stay-at-home dad was not one of them.
If he'd found Bruce exasperating before, then now, sitting in his high chair, with his lordship refusing his cranberry apple oatmeal porridge (which Jason had toiled at for a full twenty minutes) and regurgitating what looked like last week's breakfast, Jason could take his own eyes out.
Jason had gone to this fancy-shit parenting store in a mall and bought some fancy-shit recipe books with fancy-shit ingredients in them. Then he'd come home and drawn up a full grocery list, and summoning his chauffeur (hell yes, Jason had a chauffeur) instructed him to get everything on the list, from No. 1 all the way down to no. 217.
And now, Bruce seemed more interested in eating his own hair.
Jason takes Bruce to see Leslie.
"He's not normal. He can't keep down his breakfast, and seems to find non-edibles interesting, including his own shit."
Leslie laughs. Martha Wayne had walked through this same office thirty-five years ago, and complained of the same problem.
"It's common. Children are curious by nature, and knowing your father, you can expect a greater than average amount of curiosity. He is at the oral stage of psycho-sexual development. Just feed him things with an interesting texture, and let him explore with his own hands first. Don't worry about making a mess."
"Easy for you to say," Jason grumbles.
"You know, Jason, nobody would have thought you had it in you." Leslie looks at him.
Jason stands up. "Why, 'cause I'm a tough guy and carry a gun? Trust me, sometimes shitty parenting can produce--"
"A desire to give back something different?"
Jason has said too much. But with Leslie, things don't leave the office. He knows. He nods and swallows.
"Thank you, Leslie."
"It was my pleasure. Oh, and..." Jason turns, Bruce in his arms. Leslie gets up and walks up to him. She kisses Bruce.
"Second time's the charm," she smiles.