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Bat Out Of Hell

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These days, Nightwing is slowly becoming less “Batman’s old sidekick,” and more his own hero. Personally, Clark thinks he likes what Nightwing’s done with his reputation. The oldest Robin was always the brightest, most cheerful of his little family, and now he’s really emerging from the shadow of the Bat.

Bruce is Clark’s best friend, of course. But Clark isn’t blind, and he sees the paranoia that comes from wearing Batman’s insignia. He wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Officially, Nightwing’s not actually affiliated with a team anymore, ever since the Teen Titans dissolved, but the black-and-blue bat has been slowly being indoctrinated into Justice League missions, to a larger extent than most of the former Teen Titans. An assist here, some tactical backup there- all part of Batman’s plan to prep Dick Grayson for his eventual leadership.

(Once, at the Watchtower, Clark had caught Bruce in a rare moment of emotional sincerity, and the other man had confessed that he wanted Nightwing to be the next face of international- inter planetary justice, the next face of the Justice League. Clark agreed; Nightwing was the best choice by a long shot. He’s seen how Nightwing, even though not technically on the team, had been a guiding force to some of the newer Justice League members. After some discussion with Diana, a plan was set into motion.)

The point is, they’re finishing up one of these missions when The Incident occurs.

It’s standard stuff, rogue magic-users in Dallas. Batman had elected not to come, sending Nightwing in his stead. There’d been an… interesting diversion. 

“Sorry you had to…uh…” Clark trails off, waving a hand to where Nightwing is restraining the last of the unconscious magic-users. He flushes.

Nightwing smirks over at him, smile sharp from residual adrenaline. “Play the stripper? Yeah, I get that a lot.”

Diana walks over, nudges one of the fallen baddies with her boots. “You fought well, young warrior,” she praises. It’s a rare compliment. “You will make a fine leader one day.”

Clark sighs. Never let it be said that Diana is subtle .

Beneath the mask, Dick’s face turns slightly pink. “Thanks, Auntie D,” he says happily.

It’s true. Nightwing had fought admirably, and even in the. Uhm. Disadvantaged position he had begun the fight in, his elegant grace had shone through his fighting style in a way Clark was sure metas like himself and Diana could never grasp fully.

In fact, if Clark’s being totally honest, half the fighting had been done before he and Diana had even stepped in, Nightwing switching from cooing sweetly in the ear of one of the villains to delivering devastating blows so quick Clark doubts a speedster could’ve kept up.

“I think that’s all of them,” says Clark. “Good work, Nightwing.”

Dick opens his mouth, likely to offer more thanks, when the boy freezes and his gaze goes straight to the dark rafters above the warehouse.

Clark tries to get his attention, calls, “Nightwing?” and “D’you see something?” but all that garners is absentminded shush ing.

And, more suspicious glancing. Clark strains his senses, but can’t find anything that would indicate a person or a thing hiding up there. Nightwing doesn’t seem to like what he sees, though. “Someone’s here,” he finally says.

Diana frowns, says what Clark is thinking too. “I don’t hear anything.”

“You wouldn’t.” Dick eases his escrima sticks from their sheaths, sliding into a defensive position so natural it looks like breathing. “Come out, Deathstroke.” His voice is nothing like it was just moments ago. Now it’s hard and angry and nothing like the cheerful boy Clark was so sure he knew.

A pause in the silence, then a figure drops down from the rafters, still lounging in the shadows. Diana startles. 

The mystery man - Deathstroke- begins a slow clap that drips with sarcasm. “Well done , Robin. Here I was thinking you were losing your edge without me.”

“You know it’s Nightwing now. What do you want,” Nightwing growls. Clark moves to stand behind him, but a flash from the vigilante’s black-and-blue fingers is enough to stop him. Stay there

He catches a glimpse of the man’s mask, black and red. One blue eye, dripping in amusement. “Me? I never want anything but money, birdie, surely you know this by now.” 

“Well, there’s clearly none here , so try again,” Nightwing snaps.

“Or maybe I just want to watch you work yourself up trying to figure out why I’m here,” Deathstroke taunts, retreating further into the shadows. “Fun little game of tag, just like we used to-”

“Creepy bastard,” Nightwing grumbles.

Deathstroke ignores the insult. “- but , unfortunately, I’ve made all my plans in Gotham for tonight. Maybe we’ll run into each other?” He glances over at Clark and Diana, audibly sneers. “Maybe your new friends can come and play as well?”

“Leave them out of this. Your fight is with me,” Nightwing practically snarls , sounding more feral than Clark has ever heard him. 

Deathstroke sounded as pouty as a forty-five-ish man with a gravelly voice to rival Batman’s could. “Not much fun anymore, are you, birdie? You used to be so fun to poke around.”

“Lotta good that did me,” Dick says resentfully. 

“Quite,” says Deathstroke. He grins ferally. “Ever heard of cat and mouse?”

“I suppose you fancy yourself the cat?”

“Oh no, Robin. Just a very dangerous, very deadly mouse.”

And just like that, Deathstroke is gone.

Clark and Diana both jump to follow him, but Dick grunts unhappily, “Don’t bother. You won’t find him.” Turning back to look at him, Clark finds the younger man jabbing at his wrist computer. Clark can’t pretend to understand how those things work, but he knows FaceTime when he sees it, and Dick is definitely calling… Jason? 

“Hey, Hood, you guys have a delivery incoming. Deathstroke just showed up, says he’s got plans in Gotham. What’s the ETA on my extraction?” Divk sounds utterly unenthused. 

“Shit. Well, you’re in luck, demon brat should be there in a few. I think two minutes? Oracle said he snuck out with the Batplane again. I’ll call Double R, tell ‘im to prep that little genius brain of his.”

“You’re the best, Little Wing.”

“Yeah, yeah. Hurry up. Deathstroke’s insufferable when he doesn’t get to kick you around. Creep.”

Nightwing huffs. “Will do. Nightwing out.” The call collapses. 

“Will you be requiring assistance, Nightwing?” Diana asks kindly.

“Sorry, Auntie D, not today. Deathstroke’s just annoying, nothing I can’t handle. Lemme just alert the police that they’ve got some clean-up to do here.” Dick says, typing away at his wrist-computer with a tired smile. He opens his mouth like he’s about to say something else, but the conversation is interrupted at the sound of near-silent humming. Clark has to strain his super-hearing to sense the Batplane’s arrival, but Nightwing (ordinary, non-super Nightwing) seems to notice it anyway.

“Looks like my rides here,” he says wryly, then performs a series of dizzying cartwheels that look as natural to him as walking, flipping straight out the door.

Clark follows him outside. The Batplane’s basically silent motor switches off, and a little boy’s face covered with a green domino mask pops out from underneath the plane. Clark doesn’t know any other eleven-year-old that can wear an expression so disdainful as little Damian Wayne. 

“Hey, Little D,” calls Dick once he bounces out of his series of cartwheels. His posture is relaxed and loose, but Clark can tell, after countless years of observing Bruce, that the vigilante is antsy about something. “It’s funny, I heard you were grounded.”

Robin’s mask narrows. “Drake sent me to fetch you,” he grits. 

Nightwing’s face doesn’t move. “Really.”

Robin glares at him and doesn’t say anything. 

“My little brothers. Helping each other.”

“... Fine ,” Robin spits. “I snuck out. But I will not apologize.”

Nightwing just looks at him for a second. Then he slowly starts to smile. “Were you worried about me, Dami?” he asks delightedly, like he’s just been given the biggest cake in the world and then kittens popped out of it and started doing magic tricks. 

“I do not trust the alien,” Damian insists, which, okay, that hurts way more than any insult from a preteen should. Clark sighs. 

“Your older brother is fine, Robin,” he calls over Dick’s sing-song ‘ You loooooove me! ’ “Thanks for letting us borrow him.”

Tt . Come, Nightwing, your presence is required in Gotham.”

“Oh, boy,” Nightwing groans good-naturedly. He lifts his black and blue hands to wave goodbye. “Bye, Clark, bye, Diana! Tell Bruce I’m onto him when you see him next.”

“You sure you don’t want help?” Clark asks helplessly.

Nightwing and Robin exchange a Bat-patented silent communication look. Nothing on their faces gives them away, but Clark gets the distinct impression they’re thinking something condescending, like, poor guy. It’s a strange vibe to get from an eleven-year-old dressed like a traffic cone. “I think we’re good,” says Nightwing. His lips quirk into a wry smile. 

“Father maintains his meta rule in Gotham. Apologies, Alien,” says Robin. He doesn’t sound all that sorry. The boy turns to Diana, offers a solemn nod, which she returns. Seriously, Clark will never understand Diana’s unique ability to be on good terms with all of the Bat’s children.

Nightwing snorts, grabs Robin’s hand and bounds up the walkway of the Batplane. The motor begins to softly whir. Within ten seconds, the plane is rising and headed due northeast, leaving Clark and Diana staring after them.

“Our dark friend’s children are… unique,” the mythical princess says finally, smiling slightly. “I do not think I will ever get used to it.”

As for Clark, he just sighs. “Yeah, that about sums it up.”

Chapter Text

It’s a total accident. 

What happens is: someone sees Timothy Drake-Wayne and Duke Thomas in a Waffle House at night, clutching at coffees like their lives depended on it, and that person took a picture, didn’t bother to crop out the other person they were eating with before posting it. 

The other, older boy- a man , really, maybe nineteen/twenty years old, is sitting across from them like it’s just totally normal to just “hang out” with the Wayne kids. Black hair, green eyes, white streak towards the front of his hair: handsome. In the picture, he’s grinning roguishly, like, a classic bad boy type of smile. He seems to be laughing at something Duke is saying. 

The picture goes viral, as most candids of the Waynes do. They’re definitely the most eccentric, interesting elites in Gotham, constantly breaking the social norms with their crazy behavior. In a city like Gotham, it can be a necessary escape to read about Dick Grayson’s latest escapades on his Twitter, or watch Tim Drake-Wayne’s wild Snapchats. Any candids of the Waynes are a fast pass to Viral City.

But this picture is particularly special, because:

Replies :

Bruce Wayne’s 462nd Child @carlosss8

UHM????? DOES ANYONE ELSE THINK THAT KINDA LOOKS LIKE JASON TODD???????? OR AM I CRAZY?? #JasonTodd

34k Retweets  112k Likes  

sunflowers suck @pizsboy

@carlosss8 wait,,,,,,,,wait,,,,, he actually kinda does doe,,,,,

 

The butts definitely match @sofia_the_first

HOLY SHIT WTFFFF IS THAT JASON FUCKIMG TODD????? 

 

AOC for president @bigjoey49

you guys are fucking stupid. Jason Todd is dead, idiots

 

Gotham Gazette @GothamGazette ✓

Jason Todd, back from the dead? Live Updates here!

 

ace pride @mygenderisthemoon

there’s literally no way this is real

 

Trending:

  1. #JasonTodd
  2. #WayneFamily
  3. #BruceWayne
  4. #SupermanSightings
  5. #Waynekids

See more…

 

Timmy Wayne @RealTDW ✓

uh... surprise? 

5.6m Retweets  19.8m Likes

 

Jaybird @jasontoddsghost

Oh, for fuck’s sake

82k Retweets   104k Likes • Retweeted by Dick Grayson , Cass Wayne , + 3 others you follow

 

Bruce Wayne @BruceWayneOfficial ✓

My son Jason, who we believed to be dead, returned to us about a year ago. Unfortunately, he suffered major psychological trauma, and was unable to publicize his return. No further questions at this time. We politely ask that you respect our privacy.

3.2m Retweets  23.7m Likes

Jaybird @jasontoddsghost

@BruceWayneOfficial speak for yourself, old man. I’m totally mentally stable. 

Bruce Wayne @BruceWayneOfficial ✓

@jasontoddsghost Jason, please. 

Damian Wayne @thetruewayne ✓

@jasontoddsghost never before have I seen such a blatant lie, ever. 

Jaybird @jasontoddsghost

@thetruewayne you lied about sneaking out last week to see jon. it wasn’t even a good lie, either. and your username sucks ass

Bruce Wayne @BruceWayneOfficial ✓

@jasontoddsghost @thetruewayne is that true, Damian?

Damian Wayne @thetruewayne ✓

@jasontoddsghost You Will Suffer For This Humiliation, Cretin. 

 

[The video is posted on Twitter, with the caption ‘YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHO WAS AT WALGREENS TODAY’]

Jason Todd, wearing an obnoxious pair of sunglasses, is seen perusing the candy isle, humming ‘Candy Store’ from Heathers under his breath. About ten seconds in, Damian Wayne approaches, and yanks Jason down to his level. He whispers fiercely in the man’s ear, then releases Jason from his death grip. 

Jason takes a second to process whatever Damian said. Then he snorts. “LOL. Fuck the haters,” he declares, and walks up to the counter. He slaps down a twenty dollar bill, and struts out of the store, ignoring the alarms that sound. The cashier and Damian stare after him, one in shock, the other in comical levels of irritation.

[End video]

 

Cass! 😌 @casswayne ✓

Welcome back, little brother :) @jasontoddsghost

34k Retweets 78k Likes

 

Buzzfeed @BuzzfeedGotham ✓

Jason Todd is back, and better than ever! To celebrate, we’ve compiled the best Jason Todd moments- here’s to many more!

 

[A live video is posted on Duke Thomas’ Instagram story. It shows a young man, now known as Jason Todd, draped on a couch, reading. As with most videos taken in Wayne manor, loud voices can be heard in the distance. Duke is not visible, but his voice comes from behind the camera. Comments quickly start to flood the chat.]

“Anything you want to tell the world now that you’re back, Jason?”

“Sure.” Jason doesn’t look up. “Death is a social construct.”

“You heard it here first, folks. Death is a social construct.” Duke’s voice is barely holding back laughter as he reads from the stream. “Someone in the comments wants to know why you didn’t come back sooner.”

”Insurance fraud,” says Jason, without missing a beat. His voice is flat. Elsewhere, the yelling grows louder. “And,” Jason continues, raising his voice to be heard over the background noise, “I hate this fucking family.”

[End video]

 

stan_.twitter

now that jason todd is back my list of people i will spare during the socialist revolution looks like this:

1 through 7: the waynes 

8: Lupita Nyong'o

that’s it :) nobody else :)

17,638 notes

 

[The photo is a selfie, posted to Dick Grayson’s Instagram. It shows Dick and Jason. Jason is scowling at the camera, and Dick has a huge grin. His arm is wrapped around his younger brother’s shoulders, pulling him into an embrace.]

2,732,993 Likes • Liked by Bruce Wayne , Tim Drake-Wayne, and 13 others you follow. 

@flyinggrayson ✓ Welcome back, Jay!!!

Comments:

@jaybird wow this is sappy. gross, blocked

@flyinggrayson @jaybird you love me

@truewayne@jaybird you look constipated. 

@nightwingsass okay but is anyone else gonna mention how God Damn Fine they are? like, 👀👉👈😳, y’know?

 

Fuckuriddler @nora_._28

HOW in the WORLD is EVERYONE in the wayne family SO HOT. I DEMAND ANSWERS.

204 Retweets   3.7k Likes

 

[Tim Drake’s public snap story. The background is black, and a paragraph of text is the only thing in the shot.]

Alright, now that you’re all aware jason is alive or whatever it’s time for a callout post: @ jaybird666 WHY DO YOU KEEP SITTING ON ME??????? YOURE HEAVY AS FUCK STOP I KNOW YOU DO THIS ON PURPOSE YOU ASSHOLE

 

[Cassandra Cain-Wayne’s public Snapchat. She’s filming in the aftermath of the press conference Bruce Wayne threw to announce Jason’s return.]

The camera is aimed at a red carpet, with crowds of reporters surrounding it. A sleek, red motorcycle pulls up, and its driver pulls off his black helmet, revealing Jason Todd underneath. He’s wearing a suit. The crowd goes crazy, and lights flash from every direction. Jason dismounts, and walks straight toward the camera, ignoring the shouted questions of the press. When he gets close, he leans into the camera and says, “I did not fucking miss this.” His voice is full of mirth. Cassandra can be heard giggling before the video cuts off.

[End video.]

 

Jaybird @jasontoddsghost

i lived, bitch

63 following   182 followers

 

Jaybird @jasontoddsghost

i lived, bitch

63 following   15.7k followers

 

Jaybird @jasontoddsghost

i lived, bitch

63 following   86.3k followers 

 

Jaybird @jasontoddsghost ✓

i lived, bitch 

63 following   7.2m followers 

 

Jaybird @jasontoddsghost ✓

damn, i’m at 12 mil. take that, demon brat

 

[Jason Todd’s official public Snapchat. The photo is of Jason leaning up against a brick wall that is spray-painted with the words “Fuck Bruce Wayne” and wearing sunglasses. There is a caption placed low on the picture as to not obscure the words.]

is it vandalism if it’s my own house

 

athens tournament @paintsnstuff

@jasontoddsghost how did you survive?? Like really tho???

Jaybird @jasontoddsghost ✓

@paintsnstuff the secret to not dying is actually to just say no. it’s really simple idk why more people don’t do it

Bruce Wayne @BruceWayneOfficial ✓

@jasontoddsghost for God’s sake, Jay.

Chapter Text

Kon would like to first point out that Tim is very hot, and very scary, okay? 

In fact, all of the Bats are, except Damian who is way too young to be so. But no doubt, when he grows up he will break hearts just like the rest of his weird cult family. It’s just the Bat way. 

Kon knows Bruce Wayne met most of his sidekicks when they were kids, therefore it’s likely a total accident that every person that has ever lived in Wayne Manor is like, incredibly intimidating, and very hot. 

But still, suspicious. 

(Or maybe it's just the workout routine. Nothing says ”fitness” quite like beating the hell out of lunatics every day.) 

Point is, Kon is currently best friends and teammates with the son of basically the only good guy who can kill him. And he’s hot. And Kon has the biggest, most embarrassing crush on Tim ever. He feels like a third grader doodling Mrs. Conner Drake in crayon. (At least, he thinks he does, he never really knew what third graders felt like, so.) It’s so not a good look. 

It’s just, sometimes Tim solves something that was stumping him for a while, and he gets this big grin, and butterflies start churning in Kon’s stomach. Or when it’s late, and Tim already pulled an all-nighter the night before, and he can barely stand straight, he’s stumbling and mumbling and he lets Kon pull put him to bed for some much-needed sleep, and ugh. He’s so cute. 

Kon’s only saving grace is the fact that he possesses the unique ability to stay cool when confronted by his crush. How humiliating would it be to mess up a mission just because he was crushing on Batman’s kid?

To summarize: Tim and his siblings are all menacingly good-looking. Kon has a crush. He is coping as best he can. 

That doesn’t really explain why Tim is tapping at his window at three in the morning, though. 

Kon rubs his eyes, just in case he’s dreaming or something, but no, Red Robin is actually outside his window right now, and his expression is rapidly growing impatient. When he sees that Kon is awake, he looks down annoyedly at the lock like Well? Are you gonna let me in? Kon doesn’t know why he even bothers, Tim could definitely open that window his own damn self if he wanted.

Kon floats over and opens the window. “Um. Hey. What’re you… doing…” He trails off as Tim climbs inside, ignoring him entirely.

“Do you have an attic?” Tim asks, shutting the window behind him and locking the latch.

“Uh. No?”

Tim glares at him, like this is somehow his fault. “Fine,” he says shortly. “Get dressed.”

Even though Kon’s feet aren’t touching the ground, he still manages to trip over nothing. “What? Is there an emergency?” He hustles into the closet, pulling on a somewhat-clean shirt.

Tim’s already glaring at something on his wrist-computer. It shows a map of continental US, with a bunch of red dots scattered across it. Most of them are concentrated in Gotham, but one red dot is rapidly approaching. “Sort of. We need to get the rest of Young Justice.”

“Well, I don’t know where Bart is, but Cassie’s in the Titans Tower,” Kon offers as he shoves his legs in a pair of jeans. 

Tim grins. “Perfect. Let’s go.”

“Wait a minute,” Kon protests. “I don’t even know why I’m going there!”

“I’ll explain later!” Tim tells him, already out the window. 

Damn it , Robin,” Kon growls, and then he’s trying to catch up, even though he’s the one with superpowers here. 

Tim doesn’t explain, not even when they get to Titans Tower to find not only Cassie, but Bart as well. Red Robin’s reluctance to actually tell them what they’re here for doesn’t seem to disturb anybody but Kon. Tim flits around the room, checking that all the security systems are in place. 

“Secret mission? That’s so crash, dude,” is all Bart has to say on the topic, zipping around behind Tim, “helping.”

Kon glances incredulously at Cassie, but she just quirks her lips and shrugs. “He’s a Bat,” she says, as if that explains everything. The worst part is, it kinda does.

And then Kon comes to the abrupt realization that if nobody else is gonna give a shit in this situation, he’s certainly not gonna be the outlier. He pulls out his shades, slotting them over his eyes. “Fine. What’s the plan?” Tim glances at him, exasperated. I’m sorry, Kon tries to project into Tim’s mind, I don’t have fucking telepathy and can’t tell what the fuck you’re doing. Mind telling us mortals? By the way Tim’s mouth twists downward, Kon guesses he gets the idea.

“You three,” Tim finally explains, “will be my bodyguards tonight.” 

“Are you being attacked?” Cassie asks, concerned.

Tim purses his lips. “There’s a high-profile vigilante after me. I would really like your help.” His foot starts tapping.

“Sounds fun!” Bart declares.

“Red,” Kon says doubtfully, “I dunno if we’ll be much help. You’re kinda the most dangerous person in the room right now.”

Tim smiles grimly. He adopts a pretty damn good imperial voice. “Some of you may die, but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.”

Cassie snorts. Bart furrows his eyebrows. “What does that mean? Is that a ‘past thing’ reference? I don’t get it.”

Tim rolls his eyes. “Remind me to make you watch Shrek later.”

“Make me watch Shrek later,” Bart dutifully repeats.

“Cheeky,” Tim hisses, turning back to the computers. 

“So what do we know about this mercenary?” Cassie asks, bringing them back on-topic. 

“Not a mercenary,” Tim corrects immediately, weirdly defensive. “He’s highly trained, has access to valuable resources,” he glances at Kon, “such as kryptonite. He’s incredibly dangerous, and will likely beat you in single combat. But I’m hoping all four of us will slow him down enough.”

They all speak simultaneously. “Inspiring,” Cassie says dryly. 

“Whoa, what’d you do to piss him off?” Bart says, excited. 

“Slow him down enough for what?” Kon wonders. 

But Tim never gets to answer any of their questions. 

“Oh, Little Re-ed ,” A voice croons from the shadows, and suddenly Tim is shoving Cassie and Bart at the figure crouched there. 

Tim ,” Cassie rages, but she can’t properly retaliate as she uses her gauntlets to deflect a sudden bullet the man unleashes. 

“Sorry!” Tim calls, but he’s already pulling Kon away.

Kon glances back just in time to watch a young-ish man wearing a bright red helmet clock Bart over the head with a pistol, and the speedster goes down hard

“You can run, but you can’t hide, Timmy!” jeers Jason Todd, The Actual Red Hood . “I’ve disabled the security protocols. You might as well give yourself over now!” He slams a fist into Cassie’s stomach, and she doubles over, wheezing. 

Kon shoots a stunned look at Red Robin. “The vigilante. It’s Jason ?!”

“I did say he was high profile,” Tim says defensively.

“I can’t fight the Red Hood ! He’ll kill me!”

“But you’ll buy me time,” Tim smiles sweetly as they zip down the halls. “I will never forget your sacrifice.”

“Fuck you, Timothy. Fuck. You. Shit!! ” A glowing green bullet imbeds itself in the wall next to Kon’s head, like, inches away. He’s not afraid to admit that he shrieks. 

“Gun! Tim, Tim, Tim , gun!

“Working on it!”

“And then there were two,” Jason sing-songs from just around the corner. A horrible screeching sound fills the corridor, and Kon realizes with a burst of dread that Jason is dragging a knife along the wall like a horror movie serial killer. 

“Why is he trying to kill you?!” Kon gasps. 

“Not important!” Tim is typing something rapidly on his wrist computer. Not important??  “Got it!”

“Too late,” Jason is suddenly behind them, two guns drawn and a victorious smile on his face, quickly catching up. He looks feral. He looks terrifying. 

And he looks hot, which is even worse. Kon’s gonna die, and his last thought will be about the striking blue-green of Jason Goddamn Todd’s eyes

And then- “Shoot him!” Tim demands.

“What?”

“Just do it!”

Kon spins and fires his laser vision at Jason’s form, trying not to hit anything vital, and prays he hasn’t just become an accomplice to fratricide.

“You little freak!” he hears Jason bellow behind them, not dead but sounding very pissed off. Tim keeps sprinting, and Kon has no choice but to follow. 

Racing down the hallway, Tim grabs his arm. “On my count, fly,” he says in no uncertain terms. 

“You got it, boss.” Kon nods like a bobblehead, adrenaline erasing his ability to utilize common sense, apparently. 

They rapidly approach the glass wall. “One,” says Tim. “Two.”

And then he slams his bo staff against the glass and breaks the fucking window.

“TIM?!”

“Three!”

And they’re off, with Jason’s shouted “I’ll get you, Replacement!! And your little friend, too! ” following them on the breeze.

TRY ME, BASTARD, ” Tim yells with relish. “Go, go, go!” he urges Kon, cackling maniacally as Kon increases altitude. 

“Wasn’t that window bulletproof?!”

“Nevermind that, just fly!” Tim rubs his hands together like an evil genius. “I can’t wait to see the look on his stupid-“

Then there’s a BANG! and a sharp pain erupting in his thigh, and Kon’s mouth opens in a scream but no sound comes out, and then he’s falling, falling, falling… 

Except… no, he’s not falling, just… rapidly losing altitude. Nowhere near as fast as if gravity was working its thing, but enough that when Kon tries to strain upward or forward, it’s like moving through heavy cream. He and Tim drift downward toward the street. 

His hearing had frazzled out, but now it’s returning, and he can hear Tim’s frantic “No, no, no, no, no!” , and a close-getting-closer motorcycle, and he can feel Tim’s fists pounding against Kon’s chest like he’s an old computer you have to hit to make work rather than a living, breathing, clone-Kryptonian-human thing. 

“I’m sorry, Tim”, Kon whispers as they brush the ground. 

“Please,” Tim breathes, and then Red Hood is on them. 

He appears to have ditched the helmet, only leaving his face covered with a red domino. He ignores Kon, tackles Red Robin in a hold that looks tough to break out from, even for a Bat. Tim’s face looks devastated under his domino mask. He doesn’t fight the hold. Kon actually starts to fear for Tim’s life, but he can’t move. He braces for the inevitable-

“Tag! Eat shit, Replacement!” Jason crows. 

Red Robin looks like someone just killed his dog and set it alight on top of his mother. His face crumples. “Noooooooooo,” he mumbles piteously, going boneless in Jason’s grasp until he slides to the asphalt. 

Kon, on the other hand, stops dead. “Wait. What?” Kon says, voice still raw. 

Jason starts to do a little victory dance. “I tagged Timmy, I tagged Timmy,” he taunts with glee. 

Tim draws his cape up over his face, lying prone on the ground and making no move to get up. A high-pitched noise that resembles a sob comes from under the fabric. 

“Wait.” Kon’s brain feels like it’s rebooting. “What do you mean ‘tag’?”

Jason levels a glare at him for interrupting. “Never played it before, have you, clone? Family bonding shit.” His tone is mean, but Kon can’t even process the insult.

“Family- wha- you shot me!”

Jason waves his hand, nonchalant. “The lady doth bullshit too much. T’was but a scratch.” Kon just looks at him, lost. Jason pouts. “Really? Nothing? Your generation,” he kicks Tim’s leg, “has no respect for the classics. I hate zillenials.”

You’re a part of my generation. And, he’s a clone,” comes Tim’s muffled, sorrow-filled voice. 

“A clone you shot ,” Kon reminds them, starting to feel very righteous and also very angry. 

Rubber bullets, stupid. It bounced right off you,” the Red Hood insists. He must see the disbelief on Kon’s face, because he rolls his eyes. “Trust me, kid, if I want to put a bullet in you, I’m not gonna waste one on your leg . It’s a rubber bullet with some small kryptonite chips in it. You’ll be paralyzed for a few minutes, then it’ll be like it never happened. Fuckin’ chill.”

Wow. Just - that’s… terrifying, but also extremely attractive. Wow, the Bats are hot. Maybe he should try Gotham for a few months...

Then Kon has another realization. He turns to Tim, who’s now sitting upright, looking disgruntled. “Wait… you mean you dragged me across the country, got me shot with a Kryptonite bullet and almost killed because you and your siblings are playing Tag ?!”

Tim and Jason glance at each other, as if they’re completely unaware this was some Strange Fucking Behavior. “Um. Yeah?” Tim says sheepishly. “Sorry about that.” He at least sounds a little sorry. 

“Just be glad it was rubber.” Jason doesn’t sound sorry at all. 

“Your family is batshit crazy,” Kon says, astonished.

Both Tim and Jason groan at the inadvertent pun. “I might have to shoot you again for that one,” Jason contemplates. Tim punches his arm half-heartedly, mutters No, Jason, which the Hood grins at, and the stupid butterflies in Kon’s stomach start acting up again. 

“Nice try though, Timmy. Using your friends as canon fodder? Ruthless. Genius,” Jason is complimenting Tim, who’s smiling. The sun is starting to rise behind them, and it douses the scene in pinkish gold. 

“I’ll- I’ll- I don’t know what I’ll do to you, Tim Drake, but you will regret this one day,” Kon swears from the ground. It’s a futile effort. The Bats are untouchable and everyone knows it. 

Jason wiggles his eyebrows over at his younger brother. Tim groans. “Yeah, yeah. I know.” His tone is unhappy. “Just- who’s my target?”

“Bruce.” Jason grins. 

Tim scoffs. “Oh, come on. That’s amature hour. I bet you guys didn’t even tell him we’re playing tag.”

Jason shrugs innocently. “Well, you could always go after Dick , but… are you sure you’re up for it?

“...I know what you’re doing.”

Jason grins.

“It’s not going to work,” Tim insists. 

“Sure thing, Red.” 

Tim glares at him. “Fine! I’ll tag Dick. But you’re paying any medical bills and you have to buy me coffee for the next month. And you have to cook me pancakes.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow your roll, dumbass, pancakes are only for winners,” Jason protests. 

Tim holds out his hand. “Deal.” The brothers shake on it. Tim bends over Kon’s body again, gets right in his face. “Catch you later, SB.” He’s grinning. Kon’s stomach swoops.

Then Tim is off again, likely looking for Nightwing. 

“Poor kid,” Jason says, still not sounding sorry. “He doesn’t know what he’s getting into.”

Some vengeful part in Kon’s body thinks that’s well deserved. He raised his eyes to the sky and sighs deeply. “I’m just glad it’s over.”

“Yeah, about that.” Jason crouches beside him, face suddenly dead serious, and Kon knows, he knows, he will see that face in his nightmares for a week. “This little thing you’ve got with my dearest little brother? We need to talk .”

Oh , Tim is so gonna pay for this.

Chapter Text

Wayne Enterprises @WayneEnterprises ✓

Tonight is the night you’ve all been waiting for: Our annual Spring Charity Gala! As always, 100% of the profits from tonight will go to developing our fair city! As Mr. Wayne said, “Our city needs us!”

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@acunit

Ah yes,,,, the Wayne Gala,,,,,, an Excellent way to observe the Craziest Family In Gotham TM in their Natural Habitat

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EXCLUSIVE: 2020 Summer Wayne Gala Lets Absolutely Nobody Down - Part One

By Mickey Forst

Every Gothamite worth their weight in salts knows the Wayne Charity Gala is basically the Christmas of Gotham, if Christmas happened four times a year. It’s the hottest ticket in town every time it occurs, and consistently sends millions of dollars in developmental assistance to Gotham City. Bidding on tickets can begin as early as a full year in advance. “Highly anticipated” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The Wayne Galas are also every reporter’s dream. All of Gotham’s elites, politicians, and debutantes turn out for two reasons; one, to give back to our dear city, and two, to watch the Wayne family and their inevitable scandal.

Last summer, Dick Grayson got a drink poured on his head by heiress Nancy Powells- then removed his shirt in front of the whole gala (proof that God does exist), and continued dancing until the intervention of Bruce Wayne. At this year’s New Years’ Eve Charity Gala, Timothy and Damian got into a screaming match over how to pronounce the word “syrup” - which Damian totally won, it’s “sear-up”, you heathens.

And with the return of Jason Todd just two months ago, whose relationship with the press can only be described as comically antagonistic, this was shaping up to be a truly scandalous Gala, indeed.

 I won’t bore you with asinine descriptions of the decór, or be extensive in clothing descriptions. It was an eventful night, especially for me. I won’t keep you waiting: This was the best Gala I’ve been to, and I was there when nine-year-old Dick Grayson began the tradition of requesting (and leading!) the Cupid Shuffle. I’ve seen calmer parties in frat houses. 

If I’m being perfectly honest, it was a bit surreal to be given an exclusive; like how mythical heroes must’ve felt when they finally got their chance at glory. Like the Waynes were gods, and ever so often us mortals were allowed to see into the El Dorado of entertainment. I was but a lowly journalist, and I have been given this wonderful gift.

I don’t even know what happened. One moment, I was taking notes of who was who, cataloging the chaos, the next, a small hand was tapping lightly at my back, and I turned around to face Cassandra Cain-Wayne’s dazzling smile. 

She was dressed in a sleek black dress that brushed the floor. Her hair was elegantly swept into a bun. I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures, she looked amazing.

“Hi,” she said. I’ve seen many people online call the Wayne daughter an angel, but I never believed it as much as I did at that moment. “Do you want… exclusive?”

I said yes, I very much did. Cassandra’s smile brightened. 

It’s something of a sporadic tradition for these Galas; sometimes a Wayne child will grab a journalist for a few hours, leading them around to see exactly what their siblings are up to. Those articles are always the most successful, publicized for weeks before fading. No journalist has ever received the honor twice; with the exception of Pulitzer Prize Winner Clark Kent. 

Cassandra grabbed my hand and tugged me toward the catering. While we were walking, despite my bewilderment, I actually managed to act like a journalist. I asked why she chose me. Cassandra stopped, turned back, tugged at her hair, then pointed to me.

“Yours is… nice.” This surprised me. My hair is shaved up to the middle of my head. Not exactly the most feminine style. I thanked her, blushing. Cassandra is twenty years younger than me, but she has a charming, sweet air about her that makes you want to like her.

At this point, I was getting jealous glares from other members of the press, and I am not ashamed to say I stuck my tongue out at quite a few of them, which made Cassandra giggle.

When we arrived at Cassandra’s first apparent location - a cluster of tables toward the back of the ballroom, specifically, two tables. One occupied by what appeared to be Timothy Drake-Wayne… sleeping, and at the other sat Duke Thomas, alone. 

Unconcerned, Cassandra led me to Duke’s table. Timothy let out a sleepy breath when we passed, but didn’t rouse. Duke smiled at us when we arrived, and said to Cassandra, “Your turn this time?”

Cassandra nodded and signed something. Unfortunately, I am not fluent in sign language, but Duke nodded and rose from his chair. He looked very dapper in his black three-piece. He turned to me and said, “Hey, what’s up?” I told him I was fine, shook his hand when he offered it to me. His eyes glimmered. “D’you want to see something cursed?”

I blinked. Those were not words I expected, but I doubted these kids were peddling ancient artifacts. I said sure.

Duke lifted the tablecloth and pointed for me to look underneath.

I don’t know what I thought I would see, but Damian Wayne playing Animal Crossing with a cat curled up on his thigh was most definitely not it. 

He glanced up at me and wordlessly snarled, then went back to his game. I could see cat hair on his suit. Duke dropped the tablecloth so the little boy was covered again.

I asked, a bit exclamatory, why he was under the table. Inside, I was aww ing. Damian has a reputation for being contrary and a bit rude, but the little boy under the table looked like any other bored twelve-year-old at a boring adult party.

Cassandra answered fondly, “Little brother. Bedtime.”

Duke snorted. This seemed to be an inside joke. “He discovered Animal Crossing a week ago and hasn’t put it down since,” the sixteen-year-old explained. “I’m just glad it’s not, like, Call of Duty or something.”

I asked if he played Animal Crossing. Duke’s expression turned sheepish. “We all have Animal Crossing,” he admitted. “Most of our islands are named after cuss words. Don’t tell Bruce.”

Cassandra snickered. “Cute.”

Duke steadfastly ignored her. We walked toward Timothy’s table. Once we were within ten feet, Cassandra gestured for me to stop. I asked what was going on.

“Wait.” Cassandra nodded at an approaching woman.

The woman, who I would later recognize as Cathrine Hanks, walked up to Tim. Before she even arrived, his head snapped up, and he greeted her, wide awake.

I gaped. I could’ve sworn he was in deep sleep. Duke was snickering, and Cassandra laughed out loud. 

Timothy and the woman talked about business: unfortunately, the exact subject matter is legally sensitive, so I can’t print it. I can still accurately say Tim is still the most impressive business-person I’ve ever seen, even as a sleep-deprived teen.

When the woman left, Tim slumped back over the table. Cassandra took this opportunity to tug me over.

Without looking up, Timothy said, “Hey.”

“Hey, T,” Duke said to his older brother. “Tired?”

He just groaned. Cassandra’s fluttery voice whispered in my ear, “Coffee addict.”

“Heard that.”

I said hi, and Tim lifted his head to smile tiredly at me. I asked him why he was sitting away from his other brother. 

“I would rather look like a depressed loner then sit with the demon brat any day, and you can quote me on that,” Timothy glared at the other table. All four of us watched one of Damian Wayne’s hands slither out from under the tablecloth, one finger extended.

Tim made a face. Turning back to us, he advised, “If you’re gonna look for Jason, he’s by the bar, but be careful. He’s feeling edgy today.” 

I asked why. “I hit him with a blue shell in Mario Kart twenty minutes before the Gala started, and he’s been fuming ever since,” Timothy informed me smugly.

Cassandra’s face drew into a frown. She made a motion like tossing back a shot, then said, “Not old enough.”

“You tell him that,” said Tim, exasperated. 

Duke added jokingly, “The GCPD should really crack down on that.” This time, I joined in their laughter.

Cassandra, Duke, and I then said our goodbyes. “Peace,” Tim mumbled, going back to sleep (?). Cassandra dropped a kiss on her younger brother’s forehead, and we were off toward the bar, Duke bringing up the rear.

The first words I heard from Jason Todd that night was a resounding “Fuck you!” that the young man crowed with vitriolic glee. Half the dance floor could hear the shout, and most made serious attempts at ignoring it. Probably a wise choice. 

Immediately, it was easy to spot the prodigal son. Jason Todd was in the middle of a group of maybe twelve 15-to-25-year-olds, tossing back a glass of champagne. “Shot, shot, shot!” The crowd around him was chanting. Someone was holding up an iPhone and playing Tik Tok by Ke$ha on its puny speakers. 

I can safely say that I have never before seen a rave in the middle of a ballroom, and that’s a crying damn shame. It looked fun.

Beside me, Cassandra pursed her lips and stomped through the crowd, who parted for her like a hot knife through butter. She snatched the glass from Jason’s hands, and told him very firmly, “Too young.”

Jason scowled. “C’mon, Cass. For all we know, I’m older than you.” It’s technically possible. Cassandra’s exact age is unknown, but the Wayne family chooses to celebrate Cassandra’s birthday on January 26th, half a year before Jason’s birthday, making her legally twenty-one while Jason still has a few months left of being twenty. 

Cassandra tapped his nose, making Jason’s eyes cross. “Little brother. Small,” she insisted. Watching Jason, who was by no means small, wither beneath Cassandra’s glare instilled a sense of avid respect in me for the Wayne daughter. 

“I died once, y’know,” Jason wheedled. I felt my eyebrows raise. The crowd ooh ed and watched eagerly. Tik Tok faded and Apple Bottom Jeans replaced it.

“Jason,” Duke said exasperatedly, “you can’t just say that whenever somebody annoys you.”

“I cannot believe you’re intruding on my personal freedoms like this. I thought we were pals, Thomas,” Jason dramatically lamented. He didn't seem to notice, or care about, his rapt audience. “Will the surveillance state brainwash everyone I love?”

“Love you too, man,” Duke said dryly. His head started bobbing to the beat of Apple Bottom Jeans . I guess good music is good music, even if it clashed horribly with the 18th-century ballad that was also playing in the room. 

 Cassandra reminded Jason again, “No drinking,” and then her surprisingly strong grip was pulling me away from Jason’s circle of rich young deviants. 

“I do what I want!” Jason called to us, but when I turned back to look at him he was laughingly pushing away a flute of rosé and flipping off a photographer. 

Cassandra seemed to know what she was doing, so I let her steer me while I asked Duke some questions. What did he think of his older brother?

Duke smiled fondly, like he was remembering something amusing. “Jason’s great. He’s a total asshole, but he’s also really sweet. All that bad boy shit he talks? Total softie, deep, deep down. Unfortunately, he stole the last slice of pizza yesterday, so I legally have to kill him, but I’ll definitely feel bad about it.”

I’m still not sure if he is joking. When I asked him, he just smiled mystically. 

Cassandra pulled me along, out of the room.

“Watch,” she told me, staring down an empty hallway eagerly.

Duke’s face alighted with recognition and delight. “No way. Again?” At Cassandra’s nod, he started laughing hard. 

 I was about to ask what we were waiting for, when sounds of lots of running feet came from further down the corridor. Richard “Dick” Grayson came wheeling around the corner. His eyes locked onto his siblings in recognition. 

“Cass!” He exclaimed, panting with relief. “You gotta hide me!”

He performed an impressive running leap, ricocheting off the wall opposite our little group, and flipping over Duke’s head to crouch behind us. Neither sibling flinched, seemingly used to the acrobat’s antics. 

Not a moment too late- at that moment, a veritable mob of clearly drunk mid-twenties men and women came running straight for us.

I wish I could make this up, but God as my witness, I am not that creative. 

“Where is he?” hotly demanded a fit twentysomething man. “Dick Grayson, where is he?” I would later know him as Caleb Bastet, the Chief of Commerce’s son. 

I admit I froze up, but Cassandra shrugged innocently and Duke pointed down the hall. “I think I saw him run that way,” he lied.

The man glared at us, and so did his friends, (was one of them the mayor’s daughter??? ) but they sprinted on in that direction, one woman calling, “You can run, but you can’t hide, Grayson!” Their shoes, I noted in my dumbfounded state, sounded like Stormtroopers clomping down the hall.

Once they were gone, Dick slid out from behind us. He grasped Duke’s shoulders. “ Thank you, ohmigod, Cass, Middle D, thank you for the assist,” Dick said fervently. He noticed me, then looked at Cassandra. A smile dawned on his face. “Oh, is it your turn?” She nodded. Dick grinned and held out his hand for me to shake.

I am a fourty-year-old lesbian. Dick Grayson was twenty-three, sweaty, his clothes were askew, and had a lot of… um. Charming features. What I’m trying to say is, I froze like a schoolgirl.

This didn’t seem to faze him. I suppose with a guy like that, and rich to boot, freezing might’ve been a common reaction. I swear, dear reader, I am not a simp, but. Damn. He grabbed my hand, shook it decisively. 

“Dick Grayson, nice to meet you.” His smile turned sheepish. “I wish the, uh, circumstances were better.” Duke snickered, and the eldest Wayne valiantly ignored him. 

Dazedly, I introduced myself. I asked why he was being followed.

Cassandra scowled. “Admirers.” She didn’t seem too happy about it.

Duke explained further, “Every once in a while, Dick gets mobbed by a bunch of people who wanna sleep with him. It’s really funny.”

Dick glared at him, shoved his shoulder playfully. “It’s not funny!” he insisted.

“Oh, yes it is,” countered Timothy Wayne, appearing in the doorway. I startled, his siblings didn’t. He seemed a bit less chronically exhausted. “It’s hilarious every time. I’m sorry I missed it. Hey, at least this time it wasn’t ex-lovers.”

“Or angry boyfriends,” Duke agreed, shuddering. 

Dick sighed loudly. “Yes, yes, I think we get it.” He glanced wryly at me. “Now the whole world’s gonna know my sexual prowess backfired against me.” 

Tim gagged. “I told you to never, ever , use the S-E-X word to refer to yourself in front of me!”

“Poor baby,” Duke said dryly. Timothy glared at him. 

Cassandra’s expression darkened further. “ My big brother,” she asserted crossly, grabbing Dick’s arm. He made a cooing sound. 

“Of course, Cassie.” Touched, Dick pulled her into a warm hug, which she snuggled into. He glanced at Tim. “Any reason for coming over, Timmy? Other than to laugh at my pain, and all.”

“Oh yeah, Bruce is about to do his dedication speech. He’s gonna thank us for being oh-so-helpful.”

Duke snorted. 

Tim smirked at him like they were both thinking of the same thing. “Right?” He glanced at me, eyes a cool blue-gray. “You’ll want to be up close for this. C’mon!”

And off we went.

Find Part Two Here: My Experiences with Bruce Wayne

Chapter Text

In Gotham Academy, there is a lunch lady.

She’s good enough at her job, not particularly outstanding, the kind of average that would usually mean people pass her on the street without a single passing glance. But they do glance back. Sometimes. The observant ones.

There's just something about her that is… different. More, maybe. Less.

She has no other name that she can remember, and anyone who might be able to tell her is long dead, she knows. She has not always been a lunch lady, not always the Lunch Lady, but she is now, and she cannot bring herself to care about what she used to be. The Lunch Lady knows she is... off . Maybe she’s crazy, maybe she’s saner than she should be. She does not know how to be otherwise. 

Her coworkers give her a wide berth.

Either way, the Lunch Lady is not good , she knows. She looks at that stupid, symbol of the Bat and sneers: no, this is not what good people do, so she cannot be good. Nor does she care. She has been around for far too long, longer than any human (or other being) should, and she is not fazed by the loss of life.

Actually, she is fascinated by it.

And in the years she has existed, (she forgot when she began) she has always been fascinated with children. 

She does not remember why. Only that she used to spend much of her time thinking about children, but not in the way most normal people or even most abnormal people think about children. When she thinks about delicate frames and wide, naïve eyes, she feels… hungry. Her mouth waters. Her stomach feels… empty, and try as she might, she cannot fill it. She has heard stories of witches and cults and sacrifices, and they intrigue her so much, because they are so familiar… 

So she tries it. Watched a child for a few days, a neglected, small child, then plucked them up one day after school let out, cooked them up and fed. 

And fed. 

And it felt…

It felt like completion . Like coming home.

Afterward, she cannot bring herself to stop. Of course, she is careful. She always goes after the lonely children, the solitary ones, the neglected. Watches, for a few days, then feeds. She misses some; she almost went after the Drake child when he arrived, but a few days into her stalking, he began to climb into Bruce Wayne’s car after school, and she let the child drift out of her interests.

Wayne.

What a nuisance.

So many delicious children in his house, and he does nothing with them. She envies him, because he is a daft man who knows not what to do with what he has been gifted, and she pities him, because he will likely never know in his short little lifespan the joys of crunching bone under teeth.

His newest progeny, Damian, is a snotty, snobbish, stubborn boy. He is not the type the Lunch Lady goes for, she prefers soft, doe-eyed shy children, but oh, for him, she would make an exception. Rarely ever does he spare her a second glance, but she watches as he sits with lonely child after lonely child after school, silent, scowling, but there. She cannot explain it, the only explanation she can possibly think of is that he knows. He never looks at her, but she can feel his eyes sweeping over the rooms he enters, watching, cataloging… 

And she cannot feed.

Nuisance.

The urge is… stronger, now. Perhaps she over-indulged after too long of forgetting. Perhaps it has been building in her since she first tasted young blood. She does not know. She only acts; and right now, Damian Wayne is getting in between a very dangerous predator and her lifeblood.

Further, the demon of Gotham and his ever-growing legion of sidekicks have begun to  sniff too close for the Lunch Lady’s comfort, passing by overhead, watching the school for minutes at a time before taking off again. She cannot have peace with their constant interference, and it has been so long since she fed.

She is growing hungry. 

It’s all compounding into a right mess, one of a magnitude she hasn’t in a long time. Soon, though, Gotham will see her power and wrath and hunger , and she will feast until she is full. She must only wait. She thinks she would like the taste of adult blood just as much.

She is growing hungry, yes, but with hunger comes strength. And she will need it, if she is to confront the demon of Gotham.

She waits. What for, she knows not, but she knows something is coming, and she will eat. That is, if the Bats don’t catch on.

The Wayne boy is a problem, but one she can’t really do anything about, because despite his poor manners and generally intolerable personality, he seems, even to his own apparent irritation, to be surrounded by people at almost all times.

His siblings pick him up tirelessly after school, accepting long waits while Damian glares balefully at the lonely child the Lunch Lady would normally have eaten by now until they leave. His father drives him to school in the morning, or makes his butler do it. He has more friends than he seems to know what to do with. The Mizoguchi girl, for one, and Colin Wilkes, as well, and Maya Ducard.

They’re all surrounding him, so even if the Lunch Lady wanted to, she could never get to Damian Wayne. Take right now, for instance.

“What are you doing?” Mia (“Maps” she is called. It makes no difference to the Lunch Lady; it is beneath the monster to name the prey) screeches. Children from other tables turn to look at her, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

Damian shoots an unimpressed glance at her, the utensil paused halfway to his mouth. “I am eating , Mizoguchi,” Damian intones slowly, in the voice he uses when he’s feeling particularly snotty. 

“With a fork ,” Colin points out. 

“I fail to see the problem,” Damian says, but his eye is twitching. The Lunch Lady keeps a passive eye on their group as she dishes out mashed potatoes to her future meals. They are far away, further than any average hearing range, but her hearing has never been an issue.

“You’re not supposed to eat burgers with a fork, stupid,” Maya is saying.

Damian stares at her, then scowls. “Not you too ,” he grumbles.

“Huh?” 

“My… brothers,” Damian says with distaste, “say the same. But Father eats American burgers with a fork, so why shouldn’t I?”

“Your brothers are right,” Maps tells him. Damian makes a judgemental noise. “And besides, adults are stupid, anyway.”

“I dunno,” Colin says, mouth full of food. “Mrs. Bellows says Bruce Wayne’s a genius ‘cause he adopted Dick Grayson. She talks about your brother a lot.”

“Mrs. Bellows is a harlot,” Damian says shortly. The Lunch Lady reluctantly agrees. Mrs. Bellows is unpleasant.

“Damian,” Maya scolds, but she cannot conceal the smile tugging at her lips. Maps nods wildly.

“For real, though! She gave me a lunch detention for bringing a candy bar to class and didn’t accept my paper even though I turned it in! And she-”

Damian scowls and interrupts her. “I will not give my siblings the satisfaction of winning me over. I have been trained to be loyal and infallible. I will not abandon my Father.” Maps takes the interruption in stride, laughing.

“You’re so serious, Dami! Live a little.”

Maya picks up her own burger. “It’s just weird.”

“Your face- ” Damian’s phone buzzes. When he glances at it, his face goes stony. “I need to use the facilities,” Damian says, then pushes his chair back and storms out of the cafeteria.

His friends continue like this is not at all suspicious. Colin starts a conversation about the Gotham Knights. The Lunch Lady watches Damian stride out of the cafeteria while she serves the last stragglers in the lunch line.

“Incoming!”

And then a gods-damned superhero goes crashing right through the window of the Lunch Lady’s fucking domain.

Glass flies everywhere, and screams erupt. The vigilante skids to a stop in the middle of the room, and just lays there. He’s wearing a red helmet and a leather jacket. The Lunch Lady feels her lips curl. It’s the Bat’s black sheep. Arrogant wastes of air, the lot of them.

“The Red Hood,” someone whispers in awe. “I have his action figure . He’s so awesome!” 

The Lunch Lady watches the Red Hood groan and curse, and has to disagree. He does not seem like too much of a formidable enemy, but she knows that far more powerful beings than her have fallen to the Bat. She does not have the luxury of underestimation. Still, it is difficult to reserve judgement when Red Hood woozily points a gloved finger to the nearest kid and says, ‘Don’t do drugs, kid. It’s not worth it.”

Hood !” Another hero leaps through the busted window, wearing nearly all black with a streak of blue. It’s Nightwing.

Nightwing runs up to the Red Hood, bends over to look at him. One of the teachers makes a little choking sound and goes flustered when the hero’s backside is emphasized. Pathetic , she thinks again, vicious. “Are you okay?”

“... frickin’ peachy, Goldie...”

“Alright, well, we gotta find Robin,” Nightwing says. “Then we can kick Clayface’s stupid a- er, butt.” The Lunch Lady can hear the villain’s angry shouting from here. When she is in his place, very soon, she won’t make this much of an ass of herself. She just has to wait.

“Last chance to reconsider involving the demon brat,” Hood pleads, still lying prone. 

Nightwing says, exasperated, “ Hood . Be nice.”

At the same time: “Too late,” a voice announces grimly from the entrance of the cafeteria. The Lunch Lady turns to look, ugh, it’s Robin. How much more pretentious can this day become? Whispers float through the air, and Robin ignores them, and so too does the Lunch Lady. She focuses on studying the vigilantes, trying to sort out any potential weaknesses. The ones she does find are too glaring, too obvious to be real, but it is impressively hard to glimpse past the façade. 

"Why are you here? I thought you were supposed to be the wayward child. That usually means you go away ," Robin complains, watching Nightwing help Red Hood off the floor.

Wow , okay, I am never helping you on a case again,” says Red Hood. 

Robin ,” Nightwing hisses simultaneously, scandalized. If any of them take notice of the rapt attention they’re receiving, they don’t show it.

“Hoes mad,” says Robin, voice utterly flat, holding up an unenthusiastic peace sign for emphasis. 

Nobody gets the chance to process this, because yet another vigilante comes flying through the hole in the window, screeching. This one is wearing a cape, like Robin, but his costume is more red-and-black themed. He’s known as the most Bat-like sidekick, but everyone recognizes Red Robin from some… explosive… fights. 

More Bats, a veritable infestation. The Lunch Lady scowls.

Red Robin crashes straight into Nightwing’s chest, who catches him with an “ oof .”

“Hey, Red,” Red Hood greets.

The teen in Nightwing’s arms groans. “Crap.”

“It’s you. Tt. I fail to see what Red Robin contributes to the situation.” Robin pushes past his fellow vigilantes with no small amount of scorn.

“Canon fodder,” mutters Red Hood to Robin. 

From Nightwing’s arms, Red Robin scowls beneath the domino. “Remember this for when your computer gets a virus and you want me to get it out.”

Red Hood pouts. “No, wait-”

Tt . Let’s go, you idiots,” Robin snarls, already at the window. 

“Pushy, pushy,” Red Hood mocks, pulling out one of those blasted grapple guns and slinging over to the playground, where Clayface is making a mess of the swings. Robin follows suit. 

The Lunch Lady continues to watch.

Red Robin sticks a finger in Nightwing’s chest. “‘M gonna remember that you decided this was a good idea,” he says, still woozy. 

“You do that,” Nightwing says fondly. Then he shoves Red Robin out the window. 

Spinning around, Nightwing shoots a wink at another brainless teacher, who blushes solid red. Idiots, the lot of them. Then Nightwing jumps out to help the other Bats. 

Everyone, even the teachers, rushes over to the busted window to watch the fight. It is pathetic . Clayface makes an absolute fool of himself at every given opportunity. Even so, the Lunch Lady can tell the Bats will be a problem when she makes her move. They’re too good, especially as a team, and she’s only one… whatever she is.

Whenever the Bats get a hit in, cheers go up from airheaded students and teachers alike. The Bats get a lot of hits in. In no time at all, Clayface is on the ground and the Lunch Lady’s head is ringing with all the whoop s. 

When it’s over, the police come by to pick up the unconscious villain. The Bats stand off to the side, talking, and the Lunch Lady strains her ears to hear them. 

“-suck at names,” Red Hood is saying. “Me? I’m cool. I’m deep. I’m fuckin’ original .”

Red Robin snorts. “Yeah, right. Know any other famous vigilante R. Hoods?”

Nightwing’s face lights up. “Wait, Robin Hood!” He glances back at Red Hood. “Aww, really, Hood? That’s adorable .”

“It was on-brand,” the Hood insists. 

“So is your mother,” Robin mutters. Red Robin snorts, then they both turn surprised glances at each other. 

“I ain’t afraid to beat you black and blue, brat,” Red Hood threatens.

Nightwing comes to the rescue. “Nobody is making fun of your name, Hood.” He places a calming hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling. 

“I was,” Red Robin grumbles, and Nightwing shoots him a chilling look. Robin backs down.

“Don’t you have places to be?” he says sulkily. 

“At your mom’s house ,” Red Robin says, lifting a hand for Red Hood to smack, which he does gleefully. Robin snarls, moves to leap at him, but Nightwing grabs him around the waist, allowing Red Hood and Red Robin to successfully grapple away, cackling.

“Let me go, Nightwing! I will not have my mother’s honor slighted so!” Robin seethes, but Nightwing holds on with the determination you would normally see on bull riders, smiling the whole time.

“Just let them go,” the elder soothes. “I love you so much. Be great for me and make friends,” Nightwing says, snuggling into the little boy’s hair. The schoolchildren watch with rapt attention.

“Get off of me, imbecile!”

“Have a great day at school!”

Tt ,” Robin scoffs, and then he takes off with his grapple. Nightwing jogs over to call something to the police, then pulls out his own grapple and slings away, flipping into the horizon.

Two minutes later, Damian Wayne is sliding back into his chair. He doesn’t comment on the broken glass or the still-awed expressions of his fellow Gotham Academy attendees. His friends make a fuss about how he missed the fight, but it’s not enough of a fuss to be perfectly believable.

Of course, the Lunch Lady doesn’t pick up on this.  She’s too busy mulling over what she has just seen, reviewing the fight of her future opponents, to be concerned about one little boy, annoying as he may be.

She is sure, absolutely sure, that the Bats will try everything they can to defeat her, once the time comes. So she needs to be stronger. And she will be. 

She allows herself a small, private smile. That demon, Batman, won’t know what hit him, and by the time he does, it’ll be too late.

Chapter Text

Duke maintains that this whole thing is definitely Clark’s fault. 

And look, he likes Clark. How could he not? The dude is Superman, whose stories Duke and every other kid on the freakin’ planet grew up on. Plus, when Duke actually got to meet the man he was super nice and down-to-earth; ironic considering the man in question can literally fly . As far as Clark is concerned, Duke’s got no beef with him. 

Up until about two weeks ago. 

What happened two weeks ago? Oh, man. What didn’t happen? 

For starters, Duke’s family was focussed on checking out a new threat in Gotham; new money by the names Jared and Megan Hyde. A secret benefactor had poured cash into their pharmaceutical enterprise, and now they were making serious bank. 

Not overly suspicious, except human trafficking rates in the city rose at about the same time. You didn’t need to be the world’s greatest detective to put two and two together. 

But overall, not the most nefarious scheme this city’s ever seen, not top ten or even top fifty. Day in the life, right? A simple mission: scope ‘em out, catch ‘em doing some Shady ShitTM, lock ‘em up. 

Yeah, not exactly.

As the daytime Bat, Duke found much of his patrol time spent checking out the Hyde Labs building, but he never managed to catch even a glimpse of human trafficking or experimentation. Nobody did. The place was spotless, and it irritated the hell out of everyone. 

(“What the fuck,” Jason seethed. “How the fuck are these… these bastards hiding these people?!”

“They’ve got to be somewhere. They can’t have just dropped off the face of the Earth!” Tim said hysterically.

Famous last words, they would soon find out.)

On top of that, the Justice League had been uneasy for a good few weeks over a group of alien ships gathering at the edge of the solar system. Despite multiple attempts to contact them, whoever it was didn’t feel much like talking. 

After that particular meeting, Bruce had locked himself in the Cave for hours doing some classic BroodingTM. The house was on a distinct edge the whole week. 

(“He’s just upset,” Dick said, not looking too happy either. “B wanted to take a ship up there, ask ‘em what’s up, and if they didn’t respond he wanted to take defensive measures.”

“That’s a perfectly reasonable response,” Damian noted.

Dick sounded tired. “Yeah, well, Big Blue didn’t seem to think so. Talked about the importance of diplomacy and giving everyone a fair chance.”

Jason snorted. “That’s bullshit.” Dick shrugged helplessly, like whaddaya gonna do?

“I don’t think he really likes it any better than B does, to be honest.”

“But he’s Superman ,” Duke pointed out. 

Dick just shrugged again.) 

Frustrating, yes, borderline Pretty Fucking Bad, of course, but hey; day in the life. 

Then, the next day, Tim appears from his seclusion looking like an unholy trash demon taken the form of a raccoon, pale as Greek yogurt, half-screams something about needing to go to the Clock Tower and runs manically out of the manor. 

(Oh yeah, this whole thing is probably also Tim’s fault too. And Cass’s… and Dick’s, and definitely Jason’s. Fuck it; this is everybody’s fault. Even Duke’s; he’s not proud of it, but that was !00% some enabling he did. Rule number one: never enable.)

Anyway , Duke gets back after another day of frustratingly fruitless observation at Hyde Labs with only a little bit of excitement all day in the form of Poison Ivy’s escape from Arkham, and he’s just about to settle down for a nice well-earned sleep, when Jason , the bastard, appears in his doorway. 

“Family meeting!” he sing-songs cheekily, and Duke groans into his pillow. 

You people have a family meeting. Some of us have normal sleep schedules and that means right now, dude.” 

“Sorry, but Dickiebird says you gotta be there,” Jason says. Duke sighs hard enough to move mountains. “Tim’s got a theory, says he wants you to help him check it out.”

“Me?”

“Well, you and Cass,” Jason amends. 

Makes sense. Duke sighs again. “Alright, alright,” he rolls over and slips out of bed. “What could be so important that you need me at,” he glances at his alarm clock, “10:00 PM?”

“No idea,” Jason shrugs. “We’ll find out together.”

When they get down to the Batcave, Tim is crowded into the chair in front of the Batcomputer, and surrounded by siblings and sibling-adjacent people swarming excitedly, like bees in a hive. When he spots Duke, he exclaims, “Finally!”

He checks to see if Tim’s maybe talking to Jason, but no, Jason’s wandered over to glare at the display case, which means Tim wants him, and that’s never good . “What’s going on?” Duke says warily.

“Okay,” Tim says, only a little manic, “Work with me and Cass on this mission.” Cass also stares pleadingly at him, eyes wide. 

“Um,” Duke says. 

Don’t get him wrong; Duke likes Tim, in that vague, I’m pretty sure you’re clinically insane way that he loves all his siblings. None of them are bad people, not at all, it’s just that Duke thinks maybe therapy is a good option and these shadow bitches think it’s a fate worse than death. 

Worst of all, Duke can feel himself turning into One Of Them: he’s lived in the manor for about six months and he can sense the slow creep of the Waynes’ paranoid ass habits creeping in on him when he’s not paying attention. Like, he’ll be peacefully just doing homework or looking over a case, and then Dick will squeal from across the room about how he “did the tilt, you did the Head Tilt!” or Steph will comment off-handedly, “Wow, all you Batboys do the same squinty thing with your eyes,” and an impending sense of doom would dawn on Duke like a bat-shaped sunrise. Take now, for example. 

“-Please!” Tim is begging. “Everyone else is gonna deal with the Justice League, and we really need your powers for the infiltration.” He gestures toward Dick, Babs, Jason, and Damian, who are all watching them eagerly, but silently. 

“Wait, why are we ‘ dealing’ with the Justice League,” Duke asks, and there’s that impending doom sunrise. “We work with the Justice League. And what exactly are we ‘infiltrating’?”

Tim exchanges a glance with Cass. Then he smiles unconvincingly. “Of course we work with the Justice League,” he says. Duke’s gotten better at spotting lies, so he can tell Tim is skirting delicately around the whole truth. 

Duke should say no. He should tell Tim to take his medicine, and he should definitely call Bruce. But. 

But. Defeated, he sighs and relents, because crazy as his family is, they’ve never led him too far astray. “Alright,” he says. “What’re we doing.”

Cass grins at him, and that? That’s exactly how he knows he’s in too deep. 

—-

Needless to say, Duke is an idiot and his family is full of lunatics who are, in fact, the worst. 

“What the fuck !!” Signal whispers, “Are we doing ?!”

It’s a trick question, Duke knows exactly what’s happening, and that he’s totally gonna go along with it. He just thinks it needs to be said. 

Black Bat smooths a gloved hand over his cheek, but it’s less effective since they’re in masks. “Little brother. Be brave,” she says, playfulness infecting the hardened determination in her voice. 

On Duke's other side, Red Robin is practically vibrating with anticipation. “Two minutes,” Tim murmurs excitedly. 

Duke’s manipulating the shadows so they’re hidden above some sort of loading dock, which is holding a bunch of cages full of the missing people, in an alien spaceship. Tim had “borrowed” a spaceship from the hangar in the Watchtower while Cass delivered some first-class nerve strikes to the poor chum on watch duty. Then Duke, Cass, and Tim shot toward and snuck into the alien ship while the rest of the family (excluding Bruce) stayed in the Watchtower to buy them as much time as possible.

(“Again, why are we stalling the Justice League?”

“I, uh. Well, we don’t exactly have… solid proof of the, uh, abductions.”

Whoooa , who’s we? And if what d’you mean we don’t have proof ? Why are we even going?”

“Call it a hunch. And buddy, hate to break it to you, but you’re just as much in this as everyone else.”)

The hunch in question is annoyingly obvious once you see the picture big enough. That’s why Tim’s the detective, Duke supposes. He really hates it when bad guys team up. 

So turns out the “mystery benefactor” the Hydes had gotten their money from was actually extraterrestrial in nature, as in, honest-to-god aliens, and the Hydes were the only ones stupid and/or suicidal enough to sell out the human race for money. 

They’d been carting up victims for weeks to be experimented on by some genocidal planet’s society. That’s why nobody could find the human trafficking victims in Gotham, they were literally not on the face of the planet.

No, instead, they’re stuck in cages being experimented on. 

Just the thought makes Duke’s blood boil

The only silver lining is that the aliens in question look pretty weak sauce, which is probably why they needed the Hydes' help in the first place, so. Small mercies. 

Pretty ugly, too. Duke suppresses a shudder. He definitely won’t feel bad about punching these guys. They resemble naked mole rats, just… upright, and wearing the most trash ass jumpsuits Duke has ever laid eyes on. 

In one of the cages, a woman cries out when she brushes against the electrified bars.

God, he can’t wait to punch these bastards.

“One minute,” Red Robin whispers. “Remember the plan?”

Black Bat and Signal nod simultaneously, but Duke doesn’t take his eyes off the people in the cages. His muscles tense in anticipation.

“Ten seconds. Five.” Red closes his wrist computer, a hard grin visible under his domino. A pause.

“...Now.”

Signal, Black Bat, and Red Robin spring from their positions, Red Robin sprinting immediately for the cages, leaving Double-B and Signal to fend off the extraterrestrials. Just how he likes it.

Duke feels a feral smile spread across his mouth as his fist connects with an alien’s face with a meaty, satisfying smack.

Oh, he’s definitely being influenced by this family, but he can’t quite bring himself to feel any regrets.

——

So you see? Everything is Clark’s fault. No, Duke will not be accepting corrections. 

The thought is actually pretty comforting as he stares into the Superman insignia on the man’s chest as they’re getting chewed out.

There’s a special form of guilt when you’re getting lectured by Superman. Adults always say they’re “not mad, just disappointed,” but from Supes you really feel it. Doesn’t help that practically the whole Justice League is behind him in a disapproving wall of solidarity. 

The room is essentially split in half; the Leaguers on one side, the Bats on the other. Duke’s pretty proud of the united front they’re putting up, even if Damian has a sprained wrist, Cass is favoring her left leg, and Duke definitely has a concussion. 

“-can’t just maverick it. You have to trust us enough to let us in on your plans, especially when it concerns the whole world,” Clark is saying when he tunes back in. Duke’s still kinda high on adrenaline, so the lecture isn’t really sinking in as much as it probably could. 

“Oh, c’mon.” Dick finally decides to step forward as the unofficial representative of the Bat clan. “You can’t be mad at us if we were right. Did we save those people or what?”

“We’re not mad about you saving people, Nightwing,” Clark backtracks reflexively. “We just take issue with your methodology . You shouldn’t just do whatever you’re inclined to; you have to work with us, do things our way.”

Your way,” Tim argues indignantly, “was to wait, and let more people get abducted until those guys came down and handed you a ransom note.”

No ,” Clark says, “we were using our resources to establish a solid link. That’s how justice works. You can’t just attack whenever you have any suspicions.” He sounds annoyed, now. 

Jason scoffs. “Maybe you can’t. Seemed pretty easy to me.”

Duke elbows him. “Not helping,” he murmurs. Jason makes a face at him.

Diana frowns. “Listen and take this to heart, young warriors. The whole purpose of a team is-“

Before she can finish, the door hisses open, effectively silencing everyone. Batman stalks in, cape drawn up around him, and all at once, every Bat kid tenses up in a way they hadn’t when the Leaguers were speaking.

Batman just gazes at them, one by one, expression blank and unreadable for a few seconds. 

“Let’s go,” he finally growls, and his voice is low. He sweeps back out of the room. 

“We’re not done-“ Oliver tries to protest, but Bruce shoots him a chilling glare from the doorway. Duke and every other Batkid just pivots to follow their father. Duke has to hold in a grin at how startled the Leaguers look when all the Batkids turn in unison. He’s really starting to get in sync with his siblings and it’s so worth it for moments like this. 

Of course, this comes with the major caveat that Duke’s about to get chewed out by the Dark Knight, so. 

In the elevator (which is starting to get really cramped), Bruce just glares broodingly ahead at the lead/steel wall as they descend. Everyone else squirms for a solid minute.

Finally, Tim decides to break the silence. “...B,” he starts, possibly to take responsibility, possibly to launch into one of those rambling explanations he’s known for.

But then Bruce’s shoulders start shaking. His head drops, and the elevator goes silent.

For a horrifying second, Duke thinks he’s crying or something, but no, the caped crusader of Gotham is laughing. 

“...Father?” Damian says with uncertainty, but Bruce just chuckles harder, and even Dick looks out of his element now. 

Bruce’s laughter lasts for all of a minute, in which Jason tries to discreetly check for Joker gas poisoning and Bruce waves him off. When it peters out, Bruce sighs contentedly. 

“... Bruce? You okay?” Dick says. His tone is hesitant. 

Bruce says nothing for several seconds. 

Then, quietly,  “The looks on their faces .”

Jason, Tim, and Duke all startle. Dick stutters, “Wait, what?”

Bruce breaks out into clear, coiling laughter that settles warmly in Duke’s stomach. Say what you will about Batman, but Bruce Wayne has one of the best laughs Duke’s ever heard, even if he only employs it occasionally. Each Wayne, even Jason-With-The-Stick-Up-His-Ass, relaxes at the sound. “God,” Bruce says, turning to meet their eyes, “ thank you. That’s the best thing I’ve seen in forever. Good job.”

“So…” Tim hesitates. “You’re not mad?”

“Mad? No.” Cass grins her megawatt grin, and Damian slumps in badly-concealed relief.

Then, “Oh, but you’re all still grounded.”

The elevator erupts in groans.