Bruce can feel a colossal headache coming on. When he ambled down to the Cave that night, he was expecting to work on a shady tax evasion case that may have been linked to Roman Sionis. Clearly, it will have to be put off indefinitely. "Dick," he says, not entirely sure how to react, "who is that?"
Dick blinks at him from his place on the workout mat. There's a broken plate with mac and cheese strewn all over next to him, as well as what seems to be Bruce's old G.I. Joe action figure from the attic. It looks like a child's imagining of a murder scene. "My owlet," Dick states, like he's describing the weather.
"Your what?" Oh, Bruce does not need to deal with a traumatised former Talon thinking he needs to start a family of mini owls who go around stabbing people with butter knives for fun. Dick's penchant for sticking sharp objects into humans has only just been curbed, and he's been with them for over two years, ever since Bruce and Jason rescued him from the Court.
Perhaps he could have done a better job of explaining the process of taking in wayward children to Dick.
"Mrr!" the captive boy in Dick's lap communes through his gag.
"Dick," Bruce says, trying very hard to keep his voice level, "you need to put him back where you st – got him." He wonders if the boy's parents have noticed he's missing yet. Knowing their luck, they've already filed a police report. How the are they supposed to return the kid when he knows their secret identities? Their location?
Dick gives Bruce an incredibly offended glare, and pulls the squirming boy closer. "No! He's mine!" He looks like he's going to greet anyone who comes near them with a dagger through the eye.
Bruce despairs. Even he wouldn't try to cross Dick in one of his moods. A broken leg, three cracked ribs, a laceration, and a concussion (at the same time) taught him that. "Dick – "
"Okay," Bruce decides, raising his palms, "first thing, we are taking that gag off him."
Dick looks at the boy fondly – the abrupt switch in expressions gives Bruce emotional whiplash – and scratches his unruly dark hair with a finger, much to the boy's disgruntlement. "He bites."
"Because you kidnapped him," Bruce grits out, on the verge of hysterics and trying very hard not to show it.
"He's teething." One of the words Dick picked up while watching Animal Planet. TV was one of the first things he learned to like, outside of stabbing, and he took to quoting his favourite shows at every perceived opportunity, much to Alfred's amusement and Jason's frustration.
"Oh my God," moans Bruce quietly, putting his face in his hands.
The door to the Cave slams open. "Wow, Bruce, another one? Isn't a weapon of mass destruction with PTSD enough for you?" says Jason, gleefully, bounding down the stairs. He's in his tattered red hoodie, which means he'd been planning to come down to annoy Bruce and not assist him as Robin. "How old is this one? Seven?"
The boy emits an outraged cry.
"He's ten," says Dick with a proud smile.
"Pretty small for his age," puts in Jason.
"Gag off," Bruce growls, jabbing a finger in Dick's direction.
Dick looks peeved, but does as told, untying the gag and allowing the boy to gulp in air and glower at everyone. His cheeks are blotchy-red with anger, or humiliation, or both. "You heathens will pay for this!" he cries, in a thick, distinct accent.
Bruce almost has an aneurysm. "You flicked him from Nanda Parbat?"
"No," Dick says, "the sewers."
"Damn, the kid's League?" says Jason, crouching down so he is at eye level with the boy. "Looks like a little kitten."
"He's my owlet."
The boy spits a series of choice curses in Arabic, Urdu, and French, for good measure. Dick nuzzles his cheek, smiling contentedly, and the boy jerks away.
"Okay," says Bruce, taking a deep breath and ignoring the vein throbbing at his temple. "We're going to...figure this out." He has no idea how, but they are. Dick cannot keep a potentially high-ranking member of the LoA as his adopted child. The bright side is that this couldn't possibly get worse.
"Release me this instant!" the boy screeches. Dick shushes him, lovingly. He picks up the action figure and waves it in front of the boy, which is pointless, because the boy's hands are bound behind his back. Bruce gets the feeling somehow that the kid doesn't play with action figures.
Jason grimaces. "Can we put the gag back on? He sounds like Talia." He pauses, squints. "He looks like Talia, too. Hey, brat, you her nephew or something?"
The boy stops squirming and looks at him incredulously. "I'm her son, you imbecile, and my grandfather will hear of this!"
I was wrong, Bruce thinks numbly, as all hell breaks loose in the Cave.
This just got so much worse.