Duke had realised early on how unlikely it was for more than, say, four of the bats to be in the same room at the same time – unless either the world was ending, Alfred had guilted them into it, or Dick had declared family bonding nights and started pulling out blackmail.
That was why he was so shocked when he walked into the game room in the Manor only to see almost all of his… siblings? there and yelling at a TV screen, controllers in their hands.
He stared for a few seconds in what felt strangely like fear.
Almost all of them had somehow fit onto the one couch that was in the middle of the room, squashed up against each other.
Jason was in the middle, with Tim squashed up to him on one side and Dick on the other. Curling up against Dick was Damian, and Cass had somehow perched herself on the back of the couch.
Stephanie had curled up in an armchair off to the side, with Harper sitting at her feet and Carrie sprawled over her legs. Barbara was in her wheelchair, sitting in between the armchair and the couch. Even Claire was awkwardly sitting cross legged on the floor, though she wasn’t playing and seemed content to just watch quietly.
Duke briefly wondered whether he’d somehow stepped into another dimension, because like this, if he hadn’t already known how they felt about each other, he could have sworn that they almost looked like – well, they looked like an actual happy family.
Part of him was hurt at the realisation – he was still just the new kid who was confused about everything that was happening, the one who hadn’t yet found his place among them.
He continued to stare in shock as they all got along almost well – at least, until he discovered that they were playing Mario Kart as Damian had almost climbed over his other brothers to get to Tim and kill him – until Dick noticed him staring from the doorway, and beckoned him over.
“Guys, new game! Hey, Carrie, could you get another controller for Duke?”
Stephanie groaned. “But I’d just started to win! This game is rigged. I hate you all.”
“Steph, you were in eleventh place,” Tim said, his voice amused.
“But I’d gotten one of the bullet things!”
Duke continued to stare, before sitting on the ground next to Harper and leaning over to whisper to her.
“Are you guys all… actually getting along without trying to kill each other?”
Harper blinked at him. “Yeah? This is like, a thing. We all try to get together every few weeks to kick each other’s asses at video games. Babs always wins.”
Duke raised an eyebrow. “Huh. And here I thought you all hated each other.”
Tim seemed to overhear and stopped his bickering with Stephanie long enough to add, “Well – it really depends on when you catch us, honestly. Sometimes we’ll all hate each other and other times we’re all best friends and getting along perfectly and pranking Bruce.”
Jason snorted before adding, “Except for the demon brat. He pretty much just hates us all on principle.”
Damian clicked his tongue but said nothing in reply.
Duke was still regarding them with something like suspicion, and Jason laughed.
“Relax, new kid. This isn’t even as bad as it could get. Like, Helena, or Terry, or Jean-Paul, or Luke could be here, or Selina could have come over and invited Harley and Ivy along with her.”
Duke just frowned, “Helena and Terry and Jean-Paul and Luke?”
Jason then turned to Dick, “Seriously? Did anyone tell him anything?” Then he turned back to Duke. “Helena Wayne is Bruce’s kid with Selina from another dimension. She sometimes comes over… somehow? She has this really cool crossbow.”
Here Carrie butted in, “Don’t ever let her talk to you about TV shows. She’ll get you so excited about shows that don’t even exist here, it’s sad.”
Everyone nodded along wisely, and something told Duke that they’d all fallen for it at one time or another.
Then Barbara took over. “Terry McGinnis is Bruce’s son from the future. He’s Batman there. Don’t let him talk to you about TV shows either, he’ll get you hooked on things that don’t even exist yet. But, sometimes he brings these really great cookies, so.”
Stephanie rolled her eyes as she fiddled with her controller, “Jean-Paul is Azrael? I think you might have met him. He’s a cool guy, has some issues, but honestly which of us don’t?”
Finally, Tim sighed. “Luke is Luke Fox, son of Lucius Fox? Again, cool guy. We don’t really get to see that much of him, since he’s kinda busy, but whenever he comes over he brings us food, which is great.”
Duke raised his eyebrow as Dick started another race, this time with him as a part of it. “Any other siblings I need to know about?”
Dick hummed before saying, “Well, he’s also basically adopted Wally and Kon by now? And I swear, every time I turn my back he gets closer to adopting Billy Batson, seriously. Also Roy basically lives here by now as well, if only to be as close to Jason as he can get – well, that is, when Jason’s here.”
Duke shook his head. “Bruce has… a problem. That’s like, twenty kids altogether.”
The rest of them just nodded in agreement, with some hums along.
All was peaceful for a few seconds.
Then Damian let out a growl and threw his controller down. “Drake! Fight me with honour instead of just throwing blue shells in my direction!”
As he said that, Damian began to climb over Dick before coming to a stop with his knees on Jason’s chest, where he could easily reach Tim from. Jason just sighed and everyone else ignored them.
This must happen a lot.
Stephanie, with her eyes still locked on the screen, started speaking again.
“So, Duke, what else did they not think important enough to tell you when you moved in?”
Duke just shrugged. How would he be able to know what he didn’t know?
Harper stretched her legs before looking at him. “How about, whenever one of them,” she nodded her head towards the boys and Cass on the couch, before also pointing at Stephanie, “Talk about ‘that time they died’? They aren’t being metaphorical or anything like that. They’ve almost all died.”
Duke couched, “What? I thought they were all just being really dramatic! Like, Jason with his ‘And that’s how Robin died’? Did he actually die? I thought he just meant when he started to hate Bruce. Wow. Okay.” Then he stopped for a second. “Wait, am I going to die?”
As he said that, all the attention from the people sitting on the couch was turned on him.
“Well, you have to be properly traumatised somehow, and it’s either death or serious injury. Given this family’s track record, I’ve bet two hundred bucks on death.”
“No, no one else is dying, ever.”
“We will not let anything happen, little brother.”
Somehow, none of those answers reassured Duke. At all.
In the end Harper and Carrie turned to him. “Hey, as long as you actually have a sense of self-preservation, unlike these idiots, you should be fine. Neither of us have died yet.”
Then Jason huffed. “Anyway, Dick and Tim didn’t even actually die. Neither has Bruce. They all just faked their deaths like the fake-ass bitches they really are.”
Then Steph shrugged. “If you die, we could make you an honorary member of the Dead Robins Club, as well. You know, honorary because you weren’t Robin? You’d be in there with Cass, as well.”
Then she and Jason somehow manoeuvred their bodies so that they could reach each other to high-five. Damian clicked his tongue.
Duke shuddered at the very real possibility that he might die, and turned his attention away from it. Instead he decided to ignore his new siblings and focus on the race.
It paid off when, as they were all bickering amongst each other, Duke managed to get in front, just before crossing the finishing line.
He regretted it as soon as he heard the sound that meant he had won, and all of the others simultaneously turned to glare at him with the force of twenty Batglares.
He gulped, before fleeing to behind Stephanie’s armchair.
“This is so not gonna end well.”