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Cheerios On Wednesday Morning

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The first thing Hal notices when he wakes up is the dull, throbbing pain behind his eyes. He groans, but keeps his eyes closed. His whole head feels heavy, like someone had wrapped a rubber band around his skull one too many times. Slowly, he blinks his eyes open and is immediately hit with a wave of confusion.

He’s in a cave. Like an actual cave with heavy stone walls and dripping stalagmites. Although, he’s also laying in what feels like a cot, with a light blanket draped over him, which seems rather atypical of a cave. 

Okay, where the hell is he.

He pushes himself up into a sitting position. As he scans his surroundings, he slowly begins to remember the events of the previous night. 

He’s in the Batcave. He had come to Gotham the previous night in search of Scarecrow, who, rumor had it, had been trying to find an in with the Sinestro Corps. One way or another, Scarecrow had learned that the Sinestro Corps fed off of fear, and he supposedly wanted to offer his services. Though Hal was unsure whether or not Sinestro would even be interested in working with Scarecrow, he figured he may as well be proactive and stop the team up before it even happened. 

As luck would have it, he’d never even had the chance to find Scarecrow. Not too long after he arrived in Gotham, he spotted an explosion in the warehouse district on the East side of town. (Seriously. What kind of city had warehouse explosions on a Tuesday night?)

It turned out the explosion had been set by the Dark Knight himself. Bane had been using the warehouse to hoard stocks of Venom, and Batman apparently thought the best way to discourage the use of dangerous drugs was to blow up a whole damn building. 

When Hal arrived at the site of the explosion he found the Dynamic Duo working in tandem to take down Bane and his goons. Hal touched down in front of the warehouse and was, as expected, immediately told to go home by Batman. Hal ignored him and joined the fight. 

As it turned out, that had been a rather bad idea. Within minutes, Hal received a blow to the back of the head, courtesy of Bane, that had knocked him down and out. 

Hal vaguely recalls being shepherded into the Batcave’s medical wing. Batman had checked his vitals while Robin stood at the side of his cot, quietly chattering, despite the fact that Hal’s responses were limited to moans and groans. 

“Usually Alfred would look after you, but he’s in England right now. He’s gonna be gone for the whole week. B said on Friday, we can order a pizza for dinner since Alfie never lets us order pizza. I get to pick the toppings!”

Robin rambled until Batman gently nudged him away, hushing the boy as he brought a bottle of aspirin and bottled water to Hal’s bedside. Hal, however, had slipped back into unconsciousness before he’d had a single sip of the water. 

Hal looks to the bedside table, which is more so a cupboard of medical supplies near the edge of his cot than it is an actual nightstand, and graciously realizes that both the aspirin and water are still perched at its edge. He pops a couple aspirin, gulps down the water, and promptly realizes he has no idea what to do. 

Neither Batman nor Robin are in the Cave. In fact, aside from Hal and the bats (Good Lord, there are really actual living bats in here), the Cave is empty. He searches for a clock before realizing his Green Lantern uniform is gone, leaving him in his civies, watch included. 

His watch, which is set for Coast City time, reads 4:13 AM. That means it’s 7:13 AM here in Gotham. Would Batsy be awake at 7:13 AM? Probably, right? It’s not like he’s actually nocturnal. The Big Bad Bat has to get his kid to school and head to his nine to five day job like everybody else, right? Hal genuinely has no idea.

His eyes scan the Cave and he notices a staircase that he’s pretty sure leads up to the ground floor. 

Hal knows that Batman is really Bruce Wayne, and, according to the Wikipedia article Hal had searched up as soon as he learned the dude’s real name, he’s really fucking rich, but Hal had never before been in the guy’s house or hideout or whatever this place is. He was only familiar with the Batcave due to the handful of times Batman had contacted the League via video feed when he couldn't make it to the Watchtower for briefings. 

Wikipedia also had a good bit of information on Bruce Wayne’s foster kid, and Batsy had missed those League meetings right around the time Richard Grayson came into Bruce Wayne’s life. Robin started showing up on the streets a few months later. He may not be the World’s Greatest Detective, but even Hal could figure out that Richard is Robin pretty easily.

But regardless, was Hal allowed to go up that staircase? Was it an invasion of privacy if he did? Batman liked his privacy, and Hal did not want to overstep the morning after he broke Batman’s No Metas in Gotham Rule. (Technically, he isn’t even a meta, but Batman seems to count him as one for all intents and purposes.)

Hal waits a few more minutes in the Cave, silently willing someone to come downstairs and tell him what to do. When no one comes, Hal decides to throw caution to the wind and see where that staircase leads. The Bat is no doubt already mad at him for last night, what’s a few extra Bat Glares?

The staircase, it turns out, leads to a large den, with plush leather couches, an ornate fireplace, and an old grandfather clock that slides back into place to cover the passage Hal has just stepped through. The den, like the Cave, is empty, so Hal wanders from the room, into a long hallway. 

“Bruce! I can’t find my tie!” he hears. That was most definitely Robin, or Richard he supposes. He follows the voice to the end of the hallway, which opens up to reveal a large foyer, complete with expensive looking rugs and large canvas paintings and an honest to God crystal chandelier. 

“Good morning, Mr. Jordan!” chirps Dick, who is perched atop the handrail of a rather grandiose staircase. The nine-year-old is dressed in a white button-up, messily tucked into a pair of grey slacks. Hal wonders absently if this is the boy’s idea of high fashion, before realizing that money in Gotham usually means private school, which usually means school uniform.

“Um, good morning,” Hal replies, unsure of whether he should address the boy as Robin or Richard or Dick. (Batman seriously let his kid walk around with the nickname Dick.)

Just then, Bruce Wayne rounds the corner and enters the foyer, dressed in a suit that’s probably more expensive than Hal’s rent. “Did you check your closet?” he’s asking in reply to Dick’s earlier call. 

He then spots Hal and stiffens. Hal stiffens as well. He’s pretty sure he’s about to get yelled at by Batman, though whether the beratement will be for his current actions or last night’s, Hal is unsure.

Dick, who is either unaware of the tension between the two older men or simply does not care, says, “Of course I checked my closet, B. That’s where my tie is s’posed to be, but it’s not.” When Bruce doesn’t reply, Dick continues talking. “This is what happens when Alfred isn’t here. Ties get lost. Warehouses get ‘sploded. It’s anarchy, really.”

Bruce finally peels his eyes away from Hal to look at his ward. “Exploded,” he corrects, emphasizing the first syllable. 

Dick scrunches his nose. “I like ‘sploded better,” he says. “It sounds cooler.”

Bruce huffs out a breath that falls somewhere between a sigh and a laugh. Then, turning back to Hal, he says, “There’s coffee in the kitchen, if you’d like. It’s just down this way and to the left.” 

Hal opens his mouth to reply, but no sound comes out and he’s left looking like a goldfish gasping for air. Did Batman just offer him coffee? Hal broke Batman’s No Metas in Gotham Rule, got himself knocked unconscious in a fight, then all but broke into Batman’s house, and Batman offered him coffee. Maybe Hal is still unconscious. Maybe this is just an elaborate fever dream.

Bruce,” Dick whines. 

Bruce nods once at Hal. “We’re having a, uh, school uniform dilemma,” he says, and Hal, realizing his mouth is still hanging open, shuts it abruptly. “We’ll meet you in the kitchen shortly.” 

Hal nods, but remains in the foyer as Bruce picks Dick up off of the handrails. The younger boy laughs and twists in Bruce’s arms to hang on his back like a monkey.

Yeah, Hal is definitely having a fever dream. 

Fever dream or not, though, coffee does sound appealing. Hal follows Bruce’s directions to the kitchen, and sure enough, there’s a freshly brewed pot of coffee sitting on the counter. He pokes around in the cupboards, looking for a mug. He’s still reeling from the simple fact that he didn’t just get told off, and the fact that he's rifling through the Batman’s kitchen cupboards only adds to the feeling of disbelief. 

He finds a small collection of mugs in the cupboard above the coffee maker. Most of them are emblemed with the Wayne Enterprises logo, and Hal is reminded, once again, of just how rich this guy is. He has a whole damn enterprise with his name on it. 

Hal pours himself a cup of joe, and as he’s taking his first sip, Bruce and Dick make their way into the kitchen. 

“I found my tie!” Dick declares triumphantly, pointing at a red, striped tie that was now fastened around his neck. There was a small insignia at the tie’s end, the letters GA curling around each other intricately. Gotham something, probably, Hal thinks. Academy, maybe? Gotham Academy?

“You mean I found your tie,” Bruce says. He’s pouring his own cup of coffee while Dick clambers onto one of the stools at the breakfast bar. 

“Bruce, please, we both know I did all of the work. You were just there for moral support,” Dick says. 

“Mhm, sure,” Bruce replies absently, now heading for the pantry. “Cereal or toast?” he asks.

“Cereal. You always burn the toast,” Dick answers, nose scrunching in distaste. He looks to Hal. “He can’t cook at all,” he explains, very seriously. “I’m pretty sure I’m a better cook than him and I’m nine.”

“Dick,” Bruce chides, though his tone was far less severe than that which Hal was used to. It fell somewhere between amused and exasperated. Parental, Hal thinks. The Batman being parental… This is really fucking weird.

“Really, Batsy?” Hal says. “You can disarm a bomb and fly a jet and help build the goddamn Watchtower, but you can’t make toast ?”

Bruce’s eyes narrow and for a moment Hal thinks he may have just stepped in it, making fun of Batman in his own home, but Bruce just says, “Language,” his head jerking in Dick’s direction. 

Hal nearly chokes on his coffee. The Batman just told him to watch his language. 

“Dick, Honey Nut Cheerios or Mini Wheats?” Bruce asks.

“Coco Puffs,” is the reply he gets.

“Nice try. Cheerios or Mini Wheats?”

Dick sighs and shakes his head dramatically. “Cheerios,” he says, drawing out the syllables.

Bruce pulls a box of Honey Nut Cheerios from the pantry. “Jordan,” he says. “Did you want a bowl? Without Alfred here, this is apparently the closest I can offer to fine dining.” He looks pointedly at Dick, who grins. 

“Um, sure. Thanks,” Hal replies. He is kind of hungry.

As Bruce pulls a carton of milk from the fridge, Dick grabs his backpack from where it had sat, unnoticed on the floor, and pulls it onto his lap. Hal notices with a smug sort of satisfaction that it’s a Superman themed backpack. Oh, that probably kills Batsy.

Dick pulls a folder out of the bag, then from the folder pulls a packet of papers held together with a single staple in the corner. Bruce slides a bowl of cereal in front of his foster son, and Dick spoons Cheerios into his mouth, milk dribbling from his chin, as he flips through what Hal assumes is some sort of homework packet. It’s weird seeing this kid act so much like a kid when Hal is so used to seeing him swinging from rooftops or disarming gunmen twice his size before nailing them in the solar plexus. 

Hal is given his own bowl of cereal and he can’t help but think, What the fuck is happening? He’s really standing in the kitchen of a giant mansion eating Cheerios with Batman and Robin. Seriously, what the fuck?

“Bruce, I need you to sign my reading log,” Dick says, and it’s just all too much for Hal. A laugh escapes him, and though he tries to cover it up with a cough, he’s pretty sure neither Bruce nor Dick buy it.

Dick apparently takes his amusement as an invitation to explain. “My teacher makes us read at least fifteen minutes everyday. Your paren- uh, your guardian has to sign it so the teacher knows you actually did it, but-” He leans forward and grins conspiratorially at Hal, then stage whispers, “Sometimes B lets me fib and say I did my reading when I really didn’t.”

Bruce sighs. “You make me sound like a bad guardian,” he says, taking the reading log. He pulls a pen from his suit jacket and signs a quick BW next to where Dick’s messy scrawl had notated the date and the title of one of the Percy Jackson books.

Dick says, tone dry, “I am genuinely surprised you have held on to me this long. They really just give a foster license to anyone these days, huh?”

Bruce sputters and Hal laughs, uninhibited this time.

“I’m just sayin’. Can’t even make toast, but they let you be in charge of a whole person,” Dick says with a shrug. He then slurps the milk from his cereal bowl, leaving a milk mustache that he promptly wipes away with his sleeve.

“Brat,” Bruce retorts, though there’s no bite to it. Hal is still laughing. 

“Kid’s got a point,” Hal says. “You do let him dress up like a bird every night and run around fighting crime.”

“I do not dress up like a bird!” Dick squawks indignantly. “He dresses up like a bat,” he continues, pointing an accusatory finger at Bruce. “But I’m just named after a bird,” he finishes decisively. 

Bruce just shakes his head and hands Dick back his reading log. “Pack your backpack, brush your teeth, and get your blazer. We have to leave soon,” he tells Dick.

Dick shoves his folder back into his backpack, which Hal realizes is not only Superman themed, but also has a Superman keychain hanging from the zipper. He wonders idly if Clark has seen the young hero’s knapsack. Knowing Bats, probably not. Hal wouldn't put it past him to do everything he can to keep Clark from learning his son is a Superman fan. 

As soon as Dick scurries out of the kitchen to finish getting ready for school, Bruce rounds on Hal. “What were you doing in Gotham last night?” he asks. His voice isn’t quite the gravelly baritone he uses behind the cowl, but the jovial lilt that had been present throughout breakfast is gone. 

Hal just sighs and decides he likes the Batman who gives him coffee and Honey Nut Cheerios far better than the Batman who yells at him.