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Parenthood

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Roy had never seriously considered becoming a parent. First of all, he was too young. It was never something that was on his mind; parenthood was something real adults did. Besides, not even Ollie or most of the grown men and women in the Justice League were parents. It was just way too early in his life to be thinking about that.

Second of all, Roy was just not parent material. He didn't even like kids very much; Roy lacked the sense of humor and the patience that were required for taking care of children. Plus, they were messy.

And lastly, and most importantly, Roy was just not cut out to be a parent. If the past couple years didn't prove that, he didn't know what would. Betraying the League, his failure to find the real Speedy, his decent from hero to vigilante to…hell, he didn't even know what he was anymore.

And there was the alcohol. And the drugs. And the clashes with both criminals and law enforcement that had become more violent and unpredictable with time.

He was barely taking care of himself, so how could he be expected to take care of another human being? Especially one so small, so wholly dependent?

As he sat on his moth-eaten couch in his filthy apartment, holding his daughter for the first time, Jade kneeling in front of him with steel in her eyes, he had thought of all the reasons he shouldn't be a parent. Why they shouldn't be parents. And yet here they were.

Looking back on this moment, he realized that becoming a father didn't change him. Because no matter what people liked to say, becoming a parent alone wasn't enough to really change a person; there were enough crappy parents in the world to show that.

No, seeing Lian that first time, holding her in his arms, hearing her sweet gurgle and feeling her small but firm grasp on his finger, none of it changed Roy.

But it gave him a reason to change.

And maybe that was enough.

Chapter Text

"Whadya mean Iris is going into labor? But it's too soon! Dad'sbirthdayisn'tforanothertwodaysshecan'tbegoingintolaboralready—"

"Whoa, Bart, slow down," said Barry, slightly amused. For the past couple days Barry had been a jumble of nerves as they approached Iris's due date, but now that Iris was going into labor, he found himself oddly calm. He guessed it was his speedster mentality; waiting for things made him antsy, but now that the day was finally here, he could rein in his nerves. In stark contrast, however, Bart had remained totally calm and unfazed by Iris's steadily growing belly, until now. Barry had chalked it up to the fact that the kid wasn't the one who was about to become a parent.

Then what Bart had said caught up to his brain. "What do you mean 'dad's birthday isn't for another two days?' Do you mean you've known when the twins would be born this whole time?"

"Uhhh, yeah, about that," said Bart, shifting his eyes to the side and rubbing a hand behind his head. "Spoilers?"

Barry pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger and took a deep breath, then exhaled.

"C'mon, Gramps," said Bart jovially, "you didn't really think I'd forget my own dad's birthday, did you? What kind of guy do you think I am?"

In all honesty, it hadn't actually occurred to Barry to ask Bart when the twins would be born. But it seemed it was irrelevant now.

They were at the Watchtower, having only just recently returned from a mission. After entering through the Zeta-Tubes, Flash had been met by Batman, of all people, who said in his dry tone, "your wife requests your presence at Keystone Memorial Hospital," and then (and Flash almost thought he imagined this part), Batman gave the smallest possible of smiles and said "Congratulations" before turning away and striding back to the monitors.

It was at this point that Bart had burst into speed-speech.

"Okay," said Barry, removing his face from his hand, annoyed to find he felt jittery again. "I'm going to the hospital. You can stay here for now."

"What?" said Bart, deflating slightly. "I don't get to come?"

Barry smiled despite himself at the forlorn look on Bart's face. "It's not that, kid," he said. "Labor can last over thirty hours. If the twins aren't going to be born until the day after tomorrow, it looks like we're going to be in this for the long haul. I'll call you when we get closer, okay?" said Barry, resting his hand on Bart's shoulder. "If you come now, the wait'll probably kill you," he said, quirking an eyebrow.

Bart smiled in relief. "Crash," he said. "But you better not forget to call me. I don't want to miss meeting my dad for the first time—I mean," he said, recovering, "the first time for him. Yeah. But what are you waiting around here for? Irisiswaiting!Go!"

Barry shot an exasperated look over his shoulder as Bart ushered him back toward the Zeta-Tubes. "Okay, okay, I'm going!" he said, holding up his hands in surrender. "And I won't forget. See you in a bit, Bart."


 

"I am not naming our children Dawn and Don," said Iris through a scowl. "You can pick one, and the other gets a different name. I don't care which, but we are not giving them names that are homophones."

"Come on, Iris," said Barry. "Just imagine it. We'll never get another opportunity like this."

"I hope to God we don't," said Iris, squeezing her eyes shut and screwing up her face in pain as another contraction started. "I never want to do this again."

"What about if we—"

"Shut up!" gritted Iris. "Shutupshutupshutup!" Barry snapped his jaw shut and waited until the contraction passed. After a minute, Iris exhaled and opened her eyes. "I still think naming our children Don and Dawn is one of the more ridiculous ideas you've had in recent memory." Barry shifted his eyes over and rubbed his hand on the back of his head. Iris narrowed her eyes. The motion reminded her of someone—Bart. "Wait. Don't tell me you got this from Bart," she said.

"Well, about that," he started. "If I'm being perfectly honest, I get where you're coming from, honey, I really do. But according to Bart, we already did name our kids that. Hell if I know how I convinced you in that timeline though," he muttered. "But the point is, we have to name them Don and Dawn, or we risk messing up the timestream."

Iris stared at him, feeling utterly exasperated. "You've got to be kidding me," she moaned and then clenched her jaw as another contraction rippled through her.

"Hey, hey, hey," said Barry, taking her hand in his. "You're doing great, hon. You're magnificent."

As the contraction eased, Barry brushed his thumb over her knuckles and kissed her hand. "You're too sweet to me," she said, smiling slightly. "Fine. Dawn and Don it is. But you get to explain why when they're older."

"Deal," he said, smiling. They fell into a comfortable silence, broken only every five minutes or so by another contraction, and Barry's mind began to wander. Truth be told, he hadn't really thought about becoming a parent before all this. The pregnancy hadn't exactly been planned, but they were at the right time in their lives to have kids, and somewhere in the back of his mind, he guessed he always thought he'd be a dad. But really, what was most shocking of all was Bart's sudden and assertive presence in their lives. Barry figured that part of the nature of pregnancy was giving parents-to-be the time to adjust and re-order their lives, as well as mentally prepare themselves for having children. The advent of Bart kind of circumnavigated that whole process.

They weren't just becoming parents. No, they already were. Hell, they were already grandparents. And to top it all off, they now had a hyperactive 13-year old speedster to care for.

Barry bit his lip, going over his conversation with Bart from earlier. He'd said he wanted to meet his dad for the first time—while it wasn't exactly farfetched language when talking about newborns, it was an odd choice of words coming from a time-traveler. Barry frowned. In fact, he'd noticed on several occasions that Bart tended toward the over-excited when meeting people in the present. Barry could chalk it up to the boy's usual enthusiasm, but as the instances kept adding up, he had a sneaking suspicion that that wasn't the full story.

"Iris?" he asked softly, after she finished another contraction.

"What is it, Barry?" she said.

"Do you ever get the feeling that Bart's…hiding something?"

Iris eyed him skeptically and sighed. "Honey, what isn't that boy hiding? Sure, he's genuine enough when he shows emotion or reacts to the present, but have you ever once heard him talk about his past? I mean, really talk about it?"

"He says he can't risk messing with the timestream—"

"That's bull and you know it," said Iris sternly. "The timestream is already messed with. If it wasn't, we'd all be slaves of the Reach by now." She sighed and shifted into a slightly more comfortable position on the bed. "If the Reach had been in power for forty years before he came to us, what kind of a world do you think he grew up in?"

"I think…" said Barry hesitating. He sighed and ran a hand through his blond hair. "You know, on the day Bart first arrived, he pretty much saved my life. He acted like it was a mistake, just happenstance, but I can't help but think…I think maybe that's why he came back on that day. I think, in his timeline, I may have…died that day." Iris's eyes widened slightly at his words. Silently, she gripped his hand a little more tightly. "Have you ever noticed," Barry asked, meeting her eyes, "how excited he is whenever he meets somebody? The way he acts—it's not like you act when you haven't seen somebody in a while. It's how you act when you're meeting…I don't know, a celebrity or something. Someone you know about, but haven't ever met yourself."

"Someone you admire," added Iris. "Someone you've heard a lot about."

"Exactly." Barry lapsed into silence. Another contraction hit Iris and she gritted her teeth and squeezed his hand through it, relaxing after a minute.

"I don't want this to upset you," he started hesitatingly. "But earlier today, he said—" Barry swallowed. There was suddenly a lump in his throat. "He said he couldn't wait to meet his dad for the first time. I think he meant—I think he meant he never has—" Barry found he couldn't finish. It was so wrong, so utterly wrong that on the day of the birth of his children, that he should be thinking about their deaths, that he should be confronted with the knowledge that in an alternate timeline, not only did he die before he knew he would become a father, but that his son would also die before he got a chance to raise his son. That somewhere in an alternate future, his grandson would grow up without a father, in a world so barren and desperate that he risked everything to come to the past and change history itself.

"Oh, shhh, shhh, Barry," said Iris, slightly teary-eyed herself. "It's okay! None of that's gonna happen now!"

"We don't know what will happen now," said Barry. "We already lost Wally—"

"Hey, don't do that!" said Iris. "You and I both know for a fact that Wally wouldn't want us crying over him, not today! Not when we're about to meet our son and daughter!" Despite her words, Iris brushed aside a couple stray tears that rushed down her cheeks. "Hey, look at me! None of that is gonna happen," she said firmly. "We're not going to let it happen. And as for Bart, we're his family now, okay? He's not going to be alone again, ever." She smiled a watery smile at him.

"Okay," he said, and smiled at her. "You know I love you, right?"

"Stop being so mushy," she said, but sniffled a little despite herself. "And I do know. I love you too," she said softly. She grimaced as another contraction started. After a couple minutes, she exhaled shakily. "Is it just me, or are these getting closer together?"


 

Three hours later, and after an excruciatingly long labor, Iris gave birth to the twins. True to his word, Barry had called up Bart when Iris's contractions were just two minutes apart, giving Bart plenty of time to reach the hospital. In retrospect, Barry found himself wishing he'd waited until the contractions were even closer together; Bart nearly wore a trench into the waiting room floor pacing, his impatience was so great. (Iris flatly refused to have him in the delivery room; in addition to the fact that he was just thirteen and had yet to be introduced to the finer points of the miracle of life, she really didn't think she'd be able to stand his chatter.)

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to Bart, a weary Iris was wheeled out of the delivery room and into recovery, two small bundles held snugly against her chest. Barry walked along beside the bed, a smile plastered on his face. The Garricks and the Wests, who had also come to meet the babies, gathered around Iris, cooing and snapping photos. Bart hesitated in the threshold. Nine months after appearing in the present, he sometimes still felt awkward and out of place among the Allen family. Right now was one of those times.

Plus, he was nervous.

He jumped as Barry placed a hand on his shoulder, smiling down at the young speedster. "Come say hello, Bart," he said softly, and guided the boy to where Iris waited with the twins.

"Hey, Aunt Dawn," said Bart quietly, gaze falling on the pink bundle currently being held by Joan Garrick.

"Bart?" asked Iris. Bart turned hesitatingly away from Dawn to see Iris, holding the second baby, wrapped in a light blue blanket. "Would you like to hold him?"

Bart hesitated, then nodded, carefully taking the infant from Iris's arms into his own.

"Hey, dad," whispered Bart. "So I'm Bart…It's probably a little confusing, but I'm actually your son," he said, chuckling. "But don't worry. It's gonna be so totally crash seeing you grow up, if a little backwards," He rocked the baby slightly, who worked an arm out of his wrappings, flailing it and blinking up at the face above him. "You'll see. We'll get to spend so much time together, we'll make up for—" he stopped. He tried to cut himself off, to change the subject, but he found himself overwhelmed. There was so much he'd lost, but so much he'd gained too—it might be a bit backwards, but his dad would be here, and Aunt Dawn and Barry too.

"I missed you," he finally said, his voice wavering. He blinked in surprise when he felt hot tears seeping down his face. "I really, really, missed you." Bart reached a finger toward the baby's flailing fist, the infant latching onto it in a surprisingly strong grip. Bart smiled.

Barry watched Bart from across the room. The others were congregated around Iris and Dawn, and he would join them soon, but for the time being he was struck by the sight of Bart holding his infant father. Barry shook his head, slightly awed. It sure was unusual, and maybe even a bit bizarre, but there it was.

Who would have thought? He chuckled to himself slightly. How could he have predicted, that cold day in late February when Impulse first burst through the door, that the kid would worm his way so completely into their family? Into their hearts? And he guessed he should have realized, after Bart had let slip that Iris was carrying two instead of one, that they weren't about to welcome just two new children into their lives, but three. Family was funny, that way, he thought.

But he wouldn't have it any other way.

Chapter Text

 

He never wanted his daughter to join the Justice League.

In fact, Giovanni Zatara could probably write a book of all the things he hoped his daughter would never do. Of all the things he hoped she would never have to face.

Couldn't all fathers?

No, Zatara wanted nothing more than to keep Zatanna out of harm's way. But Zatanna never made things easy on him. Always a strongminded girl, she never failed to speak her mind or to take matters into her own hands. She would object to his so-called "over-protectiveness," use magic to sneak out of the house, and Zatara had a strong suspicion that she had played a part in her own "kidnapping" by the Team.

He had hoped, perhaps foolishly, that he could carry all the burdens of the world for her, shield her from any harm, and that she would remain content to let him shield her. He should have known better.

Was there a rule somewhere that said the more you worried about your children, the less they worried about themselves? That the more protective you were, the more headstrong they would be?

Nothing was more important to Zatara than his daughter. So when he saw her that cold night in November, her face hidden behind the helmet of fate, the blistering voice of Nabu emanating from her, fear gripped his heart like it never had before.

His daughter. His Zatanna. To be thrown bodily into the never-ending conflict between chaos and order? To become a slave to the helmet and lose out on any chance of her own life before she'd even had a proper chance to live it? She was only fourteen.

Was there a rule somewhere that said the more you loved your children, the more it hurt when you thought you might lose them? That the more you loved them, the more you would sacrifice for them?

He didn't even hesitate.

Becoming Doctor Fate didn't stop Zatara from worrying. He watched from behind the helmet as Zatanna joined the Team of young heroes he hadn't wanted her to join, heard stories of her taking down villains he had never wanted her to face, and watched her grow into the hero he hadn't wanted her to have to become. He watched, silent and enslaved, as she grew into a powerful sorcerer, capable hero, and mature young woman.

So despite it all, when Doctor Fate joined the other members of the League that cold day at the end of November to welcome the newest inductees to the Justice League, as Zatara watched from beneath the cold and featureless helmet as Zatanna accepted her League membership, at the crowd cheering, at the news cameras broadcasting her achievements to the world, he didn't feel fear.

No, he had never wanted Zatanna to join the Justice League. But watching his little girl on that stage, seeing everything she had accomplished?

He had never felt more proud. 

Chapter Text

“I think I might be pregnant.”

Artemis looked up from the set of arrows she was fletching and stared at Raquel. The other girl was standing at the end of the table, arms wrapped around her middle and biting her lip uncertainly. Artemis blinked once, then set down the arrow she was holding. “Okay,” she began, “You said ‘you think.’ Have you taken a test yet?”

Raquel sighed and collapsed into the chair across from Artemis. “Okay, I lied. I am pregnant.” She rested her chin on her hand, staring down at the pile of forgotten arrows. “I took the test yesterday.”

“Okay,” said Artemis, floundering a little with her friend’s confession. “Okay, this is…wow. Does Icon know?”

“Yeah,” said Raquel. “He’s actually the one who told me I might be.”

“Seriously? That’s…a bit weird.”

“Nah, alien awareness powers and everything,” said Raquel dismissively, waving a hand. “Icon is not the issue here. Artemis, what am I going to do?”

Artemis paused for a moment before answering. “Well…what do you want to do?”

“I don’t know!” cried Raquel, throwing her hands in the air. “None of this is supposed to be happening to me! I can’t have a baby! I can’t afford a baby! I’d have to drop out of school, I wouldn’t be able to get a job—”

“Whoa, whoa, slow down!” said Artemis. “You’re not going to have to drop out of school. And you won’t have to do it all by yourself! You’ve got your mom, Icon, you have the whole Team, we’d all help out—”

“My mom is going to kill me. And the baby’s father won’t even admit that it’s his! And…” said Raquel, faltering, “how am I supposed to be a superhero if I’m pregnant? I wouldn’t be on the Team any more, Artemis. I couldn’t be Rocket anymore.”

Artemis took a breath in the brief silence following that statement. “I think…” she started. “I think we should think about this rationally. Who says you couldn’t be Rocket anymore? Plenty of Justice Leaguers have had kids…Zatara, Aquaman, Batman—”

“Yeah, well, none of them are women and none of them are poor!” said Raquel, pressing her palms flat against the tabletop. “They…they would have no idea about the kind of decision I’m trying to make. Zatanna grew up in an upscale apartment in Manhattan, Aquaman is the freaking king of Atlantis, and don’t even try to tell me that Batman isn’t rolling in it with all those gadgets he has. And I don’t think he’s actually Robin’s dad. He didn’t ever have to fight crime while taking care of a baby! And when have you ever heard of a pregnant superhero? Or a superhero that’s also a mother? Right, never! Because there aren’t any.” Raquel collapsed a little, dropping her head into her hands. “I…I can’t talk to Batman or Aquaman about this because they wouldn’t understand. Icon’s great but he…he’s never really gotten it. What it’s like.”

Raquel picked at the tabletop with her fingernail, and the fact that she had come to Artemis instead—Artemis, who wasn’t rich, wasn’t a man, wasn’t older, and who had grown up in a lower class neighborhood of Gotham not unlike Raquel’s neighborhood in Dakota City—hung unspoken between them.

“Raquel…” started Artemis. “You don’t have to have the baby. I’ll help you find a clinic. And I won’t tell anybody if you don’t want me to…I won’t judge you either. It’s your choice.”

There was a long pause, quiet and still.

“What if…” Raquel began, so softly that Artemis almost didn’t hear her. “What if I want to keep it?” There was a thick moment of silence, and then Raquel continued. “I…I have so many reasons not to have this baby. It would be a hell of a lot smarter to get an abortion, but…I don’t want to.”

“Then you should keep it,” said Artemis, reaching across the table and squeezing Raquel’s hand.

“Yeah,” said Raquel sadly. “But I want to keep Rocket too.”

“Raquel, the only person who can take Rocket away is you,” said Artemis, her gaze unwavering. “You created Rocket, just like I created Artemis. We never looked for permission to be who we are, and I don’t think you should start looking now. When you convinced Icon to become a hero, you told him it was because he could inspire people, that they’d look up to him and see themselves in him. I think you’re forgetting that plenty of people look up to you too.”

“Cause the ‘sixteen and pregnant’ sidekick is such a great role-model,” said Raquel, rolling her eyes and frowning.

“Superhero, not sidekick,” corrected Artemis. “And you’re missing the point. You were just saying there aren’t any moms in the Justice League. I’m saying, maybe there should be.”

“Girl, I think you’re forgetting I’m not in the Justice League,” said Raquel, both eyebrows up.

“Whatever!” said Artemis, throwing her hands up. “So what if you’re young, so what if you’re not in the Justice League? We’re all young, and look at all the stuff we’ve done! This Team saved the world from an evil league of supervillains last year! If anyone can have a baby and be a superhero at the same time, it’s you. I don’t think you should have to choose between having a baby and having a life! And if anybody says you do, then they can fuck off!”

Raquel let out a surprised laugh, complete with in inelegant snort.

“This is why I told you. You give the best advice.”

“I try my best,” said Artemis, leaning back in her chair and smiling. “And also? Even if you have to leave the Team for a while, that doesn’t mean we’re all just going to abandon you. You’re definitely getting free babysitting hours from me, and everyone else on the Team if I have anything to say about it.”

Raquel snorted again, grinning in earnest. “I just got a mental picture of Superboy changing a diaper.”

“I bet we could get Superboy to change all the diapers if we play our cards right.”

Raquel laughed again, he smile softening. “Thanks Artemis. I feel..I feel like I can maybe do this.”

“Any time,” said Artemis, returning the smile and picking up her forgotten arrow. “So, have you thought about names?”