There’s something to be said about family bonding.
Stephanie is standing on the arms of the batcomputer’s chair, staring Bruce down with something akin to a mischievous glint in her eye. She looks half crazed, hair a tangled mess of sweat and grease, smile sharp with exhaustion. “I,” she declares, “don’t think you should be leading this activity, Bruce.”
The man in question stares up at her. He, too, is exhausted, but not from lack of sleep. He is exhausted because he is very quickly realizing just how terrible family bonding time is going to turn out, especially when three minutes into training his children have already decided to start wrecking all of his hopes and dreams, as minimal as he has made them.
It’s like leaving toddlers with coloured sharpies and a blank white wall. They can’t help themselves.
“And why,” says Bruce, watching out of the corner of his eye as Harper poorly disguises her snicker into a cough, “should I not be leading this activity, Stephanie?”
The blonde grins all the wider upon hearing his deadpan voice, pointing dramatically at him.
“Because you’re paranoid! You never go into a room without half a dozen planned weapons in mind. You don’t improvise, you just mentally catalogue everything and anything even particularly useful. And thus- as the real master of improv weapons, I should be leading this training session!”
She spins and leaps off the wheelie chair, landing in front of him with all the energy of a nine year old with four cups of coffee in their gullet and a package of oreos demolished before them.
Bruce knows this, because Dick did this, back when the man wasn’t a fully grown human being (currently traitorously hiding his silent laughter at his expense), and instead an actual nine year old with far too much power over an inexperienced guardian.
They had had to replace the chandelier. The dining hall’s floors were never quite the same.
Alfred had given him the cold shoulder for days.
The problem of the fact, however, is that Stephanie is far more grown than Dick once was, and far more tempted to use her powers for evil. Also, far more sleep deprived.
Everything inside of Bruce is full of warning bells, sounding loud and clear inside the mass expanses of his mind. This is a terrible, terrible idea.
“Fine,” he says, because Bruce is, at his core, a dumbass.
Stephanie’s grin is unholy.
This is how it starts.
Predictably, it snowballs from here.
In a span of fifteen minutes, the cave is suddenly full of things. Stephanie is prancing around, rearranging random pillows, hanging up decorations (the red and green of the Christmas things clash terribly with the orange and blacks of Halloween), and scattering toys and books and whatever menagerie of objects his children managed to scavenge from the manor above their heads and amass in the cave.
Bruce, from where he is reading through some reports, decides he doesn’t want to know.
Duke is chatting with Cullen, heading back up the stairs to apparently grab more things, while Damian sits in a corner and pets Alfred the cat. Jason is cleaning out one of his... guns while Dick eats cereal, Cass balancing on her hands behind him, making faces.
Tim comes down into the cave. He’s carrying what disturbingly looks like a neon orange frying pan.
...He bets it’s Stephanie’s.
“Hey!” says Stephanie, “My frying pan!”
He bets right.
Tim hands it over with something like a smile, plopping the rest of the stuff he’s holding onto the floor.
“You left it the last time you tried to make waffles in my room.”
(Bruce doesn't want to know. He really, really doesn’t want to know.)
But Cullen, back with Duke in tow, frowns.
“You can’t make waffles in a frying pan.”
“Watch me,” hisses Stephanie, already turning to probably run and grab a bunsen burner from the lab.
But Duke- and Bruce always knew he loved Duke for a reason- intervenes before things can get out of hand.
“Steph, sorry, before you do that- why are we bringing all these things down anyways?”
She blinks at him. Blinks again. Then she smiles that smile that makes Bruce want to go over all his end of the world countermeasures… again.
“Right! I figured the best way to practice using improvised weapons is just using improvised weapons. No batgizmos or bat gadgets. No batwhoozits or batwhatsits.”
“Is that a Little Mermaid reference?” asks Harper.
“Yes, yes it is,” Stephanie replies. And then she shrieks, “FREE FOR ALL!”
And everything descends into chaos.
There are flying objects everywhere. Bruce sighs and ducks and makes his way for the abandoned frying pan, which is obviously the most decisive weapon in the area, only to be beaten to it by Tim, who swoops it up with a wink and then vanishes into the fray.
Somewhere, Harper shrieks when Dick uses the lingering milk left in his cereal bowl to blind her and escape from her rock hard throw pillow.
Alfred is going to make him clean this all up by himself. He just knows it.
Ducking around Jason’s ornament bombs, he spies Cass as she takes up a candle stick, taking what seems to be an almighty swing at Duke-
Except halfway through, she changes course and the “weapon” is flying across the room while her victim is caught up in a truly impressive headlock.
Misdirection at its finest.
Duke, for his part, simply looks resigned.
Stephanie, from where she’s been hanging out in the rafters, cackling and throwing water balloons at whomever is failing to keep in bounds with the rules- whatever those may be, for they were never truly specified- blows a whistle.
Bruce isn’t sure if he should be annoyed or not, because he’s certain they never would have pulled to such immediate attention if he had been the one calling for it outside of the field.
….maybe he should start lugging around water balloons.
But then they might get on the hardwood floors while they’re upstairs. Alfred would kill him.
“Cass!” his estranged daughter-like figure calls, jumping to the floor below to help release poor Duke from his headlock. “That’s not using an improvised weapon!”
There are crows of support from the rest of the horde.
“Improvised. It counts.”
And perhaps if it was anyone else there would be argument, but it is not anyone else. It is Cassandra, who looks at you with eyes so intense that it’s quite impossible to disagree with her, even when she's outnumbered ten to one in a vote, and thus they let it slide.
Besides, everyone gets distracted when Jason starts claiming some five minutes later that a gun can indeed be an improv weapon if it’s not loaded.
Damian, rather upset by the spouting bruise on his shoulder, hotly denies this.
Jason, because he is a bit of an asshole, gets into an argument with an eleven year old.
"It was sitting on the table, it wasn't loaded, I was in the middle of cleaning it- YES HITTING SOMEONE WITH A GUN IS IMRPOV! Have you ever been in a theater before-"
It deteriorates. It always does. Bruce can’t even bring himself to be surprised anymore.
And suddenly there are teams.
This is never a good thing.
He’s crouching with Duke, Damian, Dick, and Cassandra. They’ve formed barricades out of couch cushions and random items from the memorabilia of previous battles, and he can hear the echoing whispers of Tim, Jason, Harper and Cullen. Stephanie, above, keeps throwing water balloons at all of them, reminding them all this is improvised weapons training.
Objects are flying in all directions. Damian’s animals have assembled nearby, peering curiously at the mayhem. A few have wandered into no man’s land. Bruce picks up a particularly heavy weighted duvet and stands in order to chuck it across the borders.
And perhaps things could have turned out differently, in another life. Perhaps there could have been peace.
But Jason is still a bit miffed at the whole gun thing, and there is a perfect projectile with self built knives in its toe beans right besides him.
Alfred the cat goes flying.
Bruce watches. He watches, an incredibly tired man with far too many children, as Damian’s cat soars through the air like desolation on high. The creature is hissing and spitting and his youngest son is already roaring in anger.
Bruce just watches. The cat reaches the peak of its arc and comes flying down.
And then he notices that Dick is distracted by Cassandra and that neither of them are prepared to catch an incredibly furious cat. That things are happening too fast for him to properly catch it too.
But there is one thing he can do.
So Bruce sighs, because he loves his kids, and sacrifices his face to the cause. If life was at all fair, there’d be dramatic music playing in the background, and some artistically applied slow motion.
But life is not fair.
“ALFRED IS NOT AN IMRPOV WEAPON, TODD!” Bruce hears over the din, currently trying to wrestle a very angry cat off his face in order to make sure the feline is okay, amidst the laughter and checking in’s. He’s going to have scratches on his face for the next week. With any luck, he can pass it off as a shaving accident to his coworkers. For the third time this month.
...He’ll stop using it as an excuse when it stops working.
An argument picks up once more on whether or not this is fair in accordance to the rules. Bruce decidedly decides once more to not stick his head in it, mostly because this whole scenario will likely inevitably get back to Selina…. and he genuinely has no idea what her opinion would be, so he can't risk saying the wrong thing.
It escalates. It. Always. Always. Escalates.
Damian says, after Jason has successfully argued his case, so very thoughtfully, “So....animals count as improvised weapons?"
Jason laughs. Jason doesn’t understand.
“Yeah, Demon Spawn! The council ruled in my favour!”
And Damian smiles.
Bruce is already diving for cover as his youngest presses his fingers to his mouth and whistles, watching as everyone goes pale and does much the same. What have I created? he thinks.
“Damia-” Stephanie starts, voice catching, but it is too little too late, and hordes of animals descend.
And the conflict of it all is that they are all highly trained individuals who could probably get out of this mess quite easily, but not without hurting the animals somewhat, which would in turn undoubtedly send Damian swinging with his katana. It is also hard to fight creatures who you consider lovely contributions to the manor and truly adore spending time with.
Even if said creature is quite literally a demon.
“Goliath, no!” Jason shouts, just as the massive being sits on him. His protests end in a shocked sputter and a mouthful of fur. The young man is 90% sure his ribs are never going to recover from the crushing weight. Everyone is shouting and panicking, animals crowing and calling and chittering. Damian stands in the middle of it all, cackling just a little too much like his pet.
Bruce sighs. This…. went about as well as expected. Maybe even better.
And from above, Alfred the butler watches, shaking his head in fond despair for the entire lot of them.
Flash forward two weeks. The manor is being held hostage.
The robbers are well trained. It’s obvious that this has been in planning for a while, and that also that Bruce has become too complacent with security measures surrounding his actual home, although the BatCave remains a stronghold.
Still. As is, Bruce is being lined up against the wall with Jason and Damian, and all of Damian’s less… conspicuous animals. The robber’s are barking orders, hissing at each other, running round the various rooms and grabbing everything valuable.
He’s just glad that Alfred has kidnapped most of his other children for a large grocery store run. Sometimes, fate is on his side.
Like now, for example, now he only has to deal with his two most murderous children, instead of the usual nine hoodlums he most often puts up with.
If Bruce could go back in time some fifteen years-
Well. He wouldn’t stop his younger self from adopting so many kids. But he would definitely have him start up on reading parenting books early.
The robbers are going on and on with their “robbing the Wayne Family blind” heist. Damian’s animals are all sitting quite neatly by his side, perfectly trained-
Looks at his youngest son.
Raises an eyebrow.
Why aren’t they attacking?
Damian’s face scrunches up in a small frown, tilting his head ever so slightly to the side.
You said no improv animals!
Which is… true. Which is very, very true. Improv animals had been banned henceforth ever since that disastrous training session, especially considering how in the chaos they had somehow managed to topple the dinosaur.
This is Bruce’s life. This is what he has to put up with.
Jason, on the other side of Damian, gives Bruce a look. It is a look that says if you do not come up with a way of getting out of this in the next fifteen seconds, I am getting myself out. There will be mass destruction.
Bruce sighs. Very long sufferingly. Because he is long suffering.
He nods at Damian.
Just this once.
And Damian whistles, sharp and loud, and everything explodes into pure chaos for the second time this month.
The robbers are all panicking, trying to aim their guns, but the animals are far too well trained for that, grabbing weapons out of hands with teeth and batting away knives with sharp claws. Damian looks highly pleased by their mastery, and Jason is cackling from where he is sitting cross legged on the floor.
But sitting calmly while things go down has never been his second eldest’s strong suit, and thus, when poor Alfred The Cat crosses Jason’s path…
“YEET!” Jason yells, quite happily. And poor Alfred The Cat goes flying. Again.
Luckily not onto Bruce’s face this time, but rather an unarmed robber guy getting back off the floor. Damian is furious, yelling up a storm at Jason, face curling into itself in the manner of children everywhere, when their anger is just too much and as such makes them look constipated. Bruce should probably get between them, but he’s rescuing the cat and making sure all the robbers get appropriately knocked out for when the police arrive.
“TODD! YOU CANNOT JUST THROW MY CAT!”
Bruce dials Commissioner Gordon. Hopefully this can be dealt with quietly and they’d avoid the evening news.
“BUT THE CAT’S ALREADY BEEN YEETED!”
As he talks with the man on the other end of the line, he thinks about the inevitable arrival of the manor’s other inhabitants. Maybe Bruce can soften the blow for Alfred by making him some tea before he gets home?
“THAT DOES NOT MAKE THE ACTION OF CONSEQUENCE MORALLY JUST!”
No. Bad idea. If anything it would just make Alfred more depressed, because he’d probably scald the drink and burn the kettle in one go.
“IT’S HILARIOUS! Besides, the cat didn’t get hurt!”
He could give Alfred a vacation? Send him off to Britain? Let him half a week or so to himself.
“While I admit that Alfred is more than capable of defending himself if thrown, and it is vaguely amusing when people fall to his wrath, THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT RIGHT-”
No. They’d all die if he sent Alfred away. The last time Alfred had left them for more than a weekend, they had had to close off the East Wing for a month and a half: Bruce can sometimes still smell the excess pomegranate.
And that was when he had significantly less children.
“Uh- Mr. Wayne? Is everything going okay over there? I can hear fighting in the background.”
Indeed, Damian and Jason have degraded into an incredibly…. friendly fist fight, with the added bonus of more than one murder threats. Said with love. Of course.
Something shatters behind his back. The fighting doesn’t stop, so he assumes it wasn’t something too incredibly important. And that nobody got hurt.
“Just releasing some stress, Commissioner,” Bruce says, quite calmly, and in the background Jason lets out a strangled screech as Damian apparently gets him in the nads. “It was a very stressful situation. You understand, of course.”
“IF YOU THROW MY CAT AT ME TODD SO HELP ME I WILL EVISCERATE YOU-”
A yelp. A heavy thump. Jason, wheezing out something like pained laughter.
Bruce closes his eyes.
“Just some classic, fun, family bonding.”
“I’M TELLING SELINA!”
“Actually, I take it all back- I’ve seen the error of my ways- Damian, don’t tell Selina- I’m sorry, please don’t tell Selina- you can even throw Alfred at me and we’ll call it even-”
“This is fine,” Bruce says into his phone, and winces as his youngest gives another enraged hiss and the fist fight starts up again.
He needs a nap.
“Damian. I’ve seen you’ve stopped by for some more animal loving.”
He hesitates, trying to resist for a few nanoseconds before giving in.
“I- Yes.” He leans down to gently pick up one of Selina’s many cats, cradling it gently to his chest. Isis purrs happily in response. “However, I have also come to you in hopes of righting a wrong.”
The woman raises an eyebrow.
Damian smiles the smile of younger siblings everywhere, when they know that they’ve just gotten their older siblings in deep, justified, shit.
“Let me tell you…” he begins.
And really, Jason never stood a chance. Especially when, two nights later, he awakens to a small army of cats using him as a scratching post, Selina watching from the sidelines with an unimpressed look on her face and veritable thesis on proper feline care.
This should have been the end of it.
This really, really should have been the end of it.
Sure, Jason swears off cats for the rest of his life, and also holds a mild grudge against his youngest sibling and Catwoman for a while. But then Selina saves his ass a few months later with her cats in tow, and the resentment turns into more of a grudging respect.
Occasionally, he’ll come across them in the alleys as he patrols. Before, he’d ignore them, but now, well-
He doesn’t particularly fancy inciting Selina’s wrath again, so if they insist … Well, he can’t begrudge a few stray cats coming up to beg for attention. He pets one old scarred tomcat on the head, very gently and very carefully, well aware of the consequences if he accidentally hurts it.
“You’re actually kind of cute, you little butt nugget.”
The cat mews. Unbeknownst to the both of them, Selina watches from a distant rooftop, a niggling of an idea forming in her head.
Which is why , two weeks later, Jason comes home to the sight of a kitten snoozing on his bed, along with all the necessary supplies stacked neatly to the side. The carrier is a shade of bright pink with bats printed on it. There are no less than four offensively-colored blankets, all in shades of neon, all with intricate bat or ghost prints.
Because Selina is evil.
There’s a little note on top of three books on kitten rearing, written with hardly legible cursive scrambled across.
I’ve decided the best way to get you to fully appreciate cats is for you to have one of your own!
Jason…. does not approve.
He points at the kitten. It is, of course, a black cat, with one tiny white splash on its forehead. Because Selina is nothing if she is not a big supporter of matchey matchey dynamics.
“You’re not staying here, you little homewrecker.”
The kitten sleeps on, utterly oblivious to the incredibly dangerous half-zombie man standing behind her.
“I’m an incredibly dangerous half-zombie man,” he hisses at the tiny ball of fluff.
Again. No response.
“I’m taking you back to Selina first thing in the morning.”
But Selina isn’t home. Selina and her cats are off on vacation somewhere. Apparently. What convenient timing.
Jason scowls. The kitten curled up in the palm of his hand mews, sticks her little nose out between his fingers to look at the world around them. Her fluff brushes against his callouses, and she tips her head back to stare up at him with big bright eyes.
He looks down at her.
“I’m taking you back to Selina first thing in the morning two days from now.”
And Jason’s not a monster, no matter what anyone says. He takes care of the kitten. Make sure it’s fed and clean and provided for.
And the kitten, in the way all small, adorable animals tend to do, grows on him.
Two days later comes and goes, and at first Jason makes excuses to himself. He’s busy. There are books to be read. Drug dealers to be shot. Laundromats to visit. The kitten is low priority.
But approximately a week later, the kitten is still in his apartment. Sleeping on his couch. Tearing up his pillows. Batting at Jason with her little toe beans.
He looks at her.
She looks back.
“I guess you’re here to stay, then.”
The kitten mews.
“And that means you need a name.”
He considers the kitten. Looks into its big eyes until it gets distracted by something in the corner.
“Hamlet?” Jason asks, because gender is a construct, but gets no response. “Aliena? Mercutio?”
But then an idea comes to him. An idea that makes him smirk. A glorious, glorious idea.
“Crowbar,” he says.
The kitten looks up.