“Okay, you’re going to have to walk me through this one more time,” Clark says, pinching the bridge of his nose. Bruce has already explained the full story to him four times in the past hour, but Kryptonians are notorious for their thick skulls. Clark and Bruce are having tea in the sitting room, not a cape or mask in sight. Bruce waits patiently for Clark to get his thoughts in order. “So, they’re all vampires?”
“Yes,” Bruce replies, inclining his head.
“That is what ‘all of them’ typically means, yes.”
Clark shakes his head like he’s trying to knock something vital loose. “But you’re still human, right? You weren’t…bitten?”
“I’m still human,” Bruce assures him. “You would become obsolete if I had superpowers.” Jason offered, of course, citing Bruce’s graying hair and crow’s feet. Bruce declined. He doesn’t trust himself not to use his immortality to burrow under a large rock and stay there for eons, away from humanity and its stressors.
Clark blows out a long exhale. “Wow. This is…Wait, what about Alfred? Did they turn him too?”
Bruce’s mouth turns slightly upward. “Alfred is comfortable with his mortality for now.”
Clark looks like someone opened his skull, stirred his brain matter around with a spoon, and closed it back up. “You realize how ridiculous this is, right? Even for you.”
“It’s been an adjustment,” Bruce has to agree.
Understatement, really. They only just got Duke to stop snacking on the soiled bandages in the medical trash. And Alfred was devastated to have to replace all of the silver-backed mirrors in the manor with aluminum ones so that the kids can see their reflections.
Clark is far more concerned about this situation than Bruce anticipated he’d be. It’s hypocritical, really; the man could knock the earth out of orbit with a flick of his pinky, but heaven forbid some teenagers are turned into blood-sucking undead creatures. “Are they…dangerous?”
Bruce frowns. “Of course they are. Do you think I would let them out on the streets to fight criminals if I didn’t think they could hold their own?”
“No, I mean…” Clark clears his throat. “You’re harboring a bunch of bloodthirsty vampires in your house. Shouldn’t you…you know?” He makes a stabbing gesture with his fist—clearly miming staking someone in the chest.
Bruce is appalled. “They are my children. How would you like it if I stabbed your boy with a Kryptonite fork?”
Clark raises his hands placatingly. “Okay, okay. I’m just saying. I assumed that was why you called me over? To…fix the problem?”
“No. What’s the matter with you?”
“Thank goodness.” Clark presses a hand to his heart. “I don’t think I’d have it in me to put down Jon’s best friend. Or Dick. He still calls me Uncle Clark, you know.” He thinks for a moment. “Jason I could do.”
“I’m offended you don’t think I’d be fully capable of killing them all myself,” Bruce says, only half-joking. “And Alfred complains about blood on the carpets enough as it is.”
Even more now, what with the majority of the household being on a blood-drinking diet. It brings Bruce back to years ago when an eight-year-old Dick Grayson couldn’t get through a single meal without spilling his apple juice everywhere. The difference now is that there are six menaces instead of one, and that blood stains far worse than apple juice ever did.
Navigating the new restrictions has not been a walk in the park, either. Tim was stranded in the yard for two hours last week when Jason stole the welcome mat as a prank and no one was around to invite Tim inside. And Alfred is going through the five stages of grief from not being able to employ garlic in his recipes anymore.
Despite the many, many obstacles, having his kids turn into vampires isn’t as tragic as Bruce anticipated it would be. Whenever one of them is grounded, all Bruce has to do is hang a cross on their door and they’re sufficiently contained. And the energy boost has been incredibly helpful on patrols.
“I called because I need some information from you, Clark.” Bruce sits forward. “I need to know what your parents used when you started teething. I assume your super strength would have torn through any normal teething rings or pacifiers.”
Clark’s brow knits. “I suppose so. Why?”
“Damian has been having difficulty since his fangs started growing in. They keep digging into his lip. I’m told it’s very uncomfortable.” The poor kid has been nursing nicks and punctures in his bottom lip all week. The Kardashian jokes are taking their toll.
Clark rubs his chin. “I guess I can get in touch with Ma, see what she knows. But you might want to consider taking him to the dentist. Maybe they can file them down or something.”
Bruce sends him a withering look. “I think it would be best if we keep human fingers out of their mouths until they learn how to control their thirst.”
Clark looks queasy. “Ah. Right.” He sets aside his teacup. “Isn’t there some…cure for vampirism you could try? I’m sure the Justice League has contact information for the vampires we’ve run into over the years. See what they know.”
Bruce shrugs. “It’s been an adjustment, I won’t deny that, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. I won’t force a cure on them if they don’t want it. And the amount of bat droppings in the cave has been down by fifty percent since the kids started snacking on them.” He pauses. “On the bats, obviously. Not the droppings.”
“Sometimes I question your parenting style, Bruce.”
Bruce really wasn’t lying; having a clan of vampires living under one roof isn’t as different from their typical lifestyle as one would think. The lot of the Bat-family are nocturnal anyway, so it doesn’t affect their nightlife in the least. And Duke’s light abilities allow him to divert UV rays away from himself (and his siblings, in small doses) so he can go out in the daytime without being harmed.
Bruce has never been big on keeping the curtains open in the manor, so there are no worries there. And Alfred was more than willing to scrounge up some blood-infused recipes for their newly picky eaters. He’s always been a fan of blood sausage.
Trial and error has revealed that the kids can indeed still eat human food, and they need it just as much as they would have when they were human. That part fo their diet has not changed. The main issue is that they each require a daily supply of blood to keep them going, otherwise they get cranky—much like when Tim hasn’t had his coffee in the morning.
Bruce tries to cajole them into drinking animal blood more often than not, giving them free access to the bats downstairs and making frequent trips to the butcher shop. But, as it would happen, human blood is the vampire equivalent of eating ice cream for dinner. They can’t get enough of it.
Each kid even has a favorite “flavor” of blood type, which is exactly as creepy as it sounds. Dick is partial to AB+, while Tim is a big fan of B-. He says it tastes like brown sugar and pennies.
“Cassie,” Bruce chastises across the breakfast table. “Manners.”
Cass is tearing into a waffle with her teeth, her fangs sharp and sticky with maple syrup. She drops the mangled waffle onto her plate. “Easier than knife.”
“Being undead is not an excuse to forgo table etiquette,” Bruce insists. “Use your fork.” Like a pack of wolves, the lot of them.
“Jeez, Bruce,” Tim says, sipping his strawberry milk—eighty percent milk, twenty percent O-neg from the fridge. “Since when are you such a vampire-phobe?” His teeth clank on the metal straw; Alfred made the switch after one too many complaints of fangs popping through the plastic ones.
Dick tsks his disapproval. “That’s pretty backwards of you, B. I thought you were a twenty-first-century man. Bigotry is beneath you.”
Bruce eats his turkey bacon and tries to remember what it was like being twenty-three and childless. “Maybe I’ll send you all to a farm,” he muses, just to be petty. “Big open fields, lots of animals to drink from. I could finally enjoy my morning with some peace and quiet.”
He says “morning” even though it’s a quarter to one, but who’s counting? It’s morning for them, at least, bats and vampires both. The more time Bruce spends with his vampire children, the more all those Dracula jokes from Hal make sense.
“Jason, for the love of God,” Bruce snaps, “do you have to eat that at the table?”
Since being turned, Jason has picked up the nauseating habit of eating raw steak for nearly every meal, simply because he can. More likely than not, his primary motivation is because it disgusts Bruce. At least it’s a better form of rebellion than killing government officials or blowing up cities like he’s prone to, but that doesn’t make it any less repulsive to watch.
Jason wipes the juice from his chin with his sleeve despite there being a perfectly good cloth napkin right there. “Who pissed in your oatmeal this morning? I don’t go around judging you when you dip your pretzels in mayonnaise.”
“We have plenty of real food for you to eat, Jay. Just because you can eat raw meat now doesn’t mean you should.”
“I think,” Duke says, raising a finger, “that only vampires should get a say in what is and isn’t acceptable for a vampire to do. I’m done letting non-vampires control what I do with my body.” He picks at a piece of grapefruit that’s been lodged alongside one of his sharp canines with his pinkie nail.
It’s too early in the afternoon for Bruce to deal with this. “Is your name on the deed to the house? No? Then if I say no raw meat at the table, there’s no raw meat at the table. We should at least pretend to be civilized people.”
“Bigot,” Cass chirps around a mouthful of waffle.
A head of black curls appears over the top of Bruce’s newspaper. “Father, I have a proposal for you.”
“Oh, do tell,” Bruce says, devoid of any genuine emotion or interest.
“I propose that we renegotiate the terms of my allowance.”
“Instead of fifty dollars per week,” Damian says, “I think that I should be awarded twenty-five dollars and a cadaver from the morgue. It’s more than fair.”
Bruce hums, turning the page. “And what would this ‘award’ be for? Doing your homework?”
“General good behavior, of course.” Damian grins sweetly, fangs on full display.
“How about every time you do the dishes, I will let you have one severed toe. Maybe a finger if you’re really good.”
Damian crosses his arms. “Pennyworth does the dishes. I would hate to take that beloved hobby away from him.”
“Sounds to me like someone doesn’t want to do his chores.”
“Why should I? Alfred loves doing chores. That’s what he’s for.” Damian toddles closer to Bruce, pushing down the newspaper so Bruce is forced to look at his grimacing face. “Look at me, Father. I’m withering away. I need blood or I’ll die.”
Bruce nudges Damian’s little fingers off his paper. “You can’t steal dead bodies for your own gain, Damian. It’s disrespectful.”
“But Father,” Damian whines.
“If you’re thirsty, there are some ice cube trays of donor blood in the freezer downstairs to tide you over until dinner.” Damian wrinkles his nose in distaste. Bruce sets aside his paper and stands, guiding Damian out of the study and towards the stairs. “Come on, it’s just like a popsicle. You’ll love it.”
Stephanie is visiting today to work on blueprints for the Super-Secret-Project-That-Bruce-Isn’t-Allowed-To-Know-About-Or-Else-He’ll-Stop-Our-Fun-Like-The-Big-Meanie-He-Is. (Bruce already knows that it’s a motorized skateboard for rooftop skateboarding, obviously. He’s Batman. He knows everything.)
“Just a nibble,” Stephanie pleads. “You won’t even have to do any of the work. I’ll put my wrist in your mouth—all you have to do is bite down.” She shoves her bare wrist against Tim’s face.
Tim pushes her away, wrinkling his nose. “I’m not turning you into a vampire, Steph. Your mom would kill me.”
“She wouldn’t be able to kill either of us if we were vampires.” Stephanie looks to Cass on her other side, her eyes wide and pathetic. “C’mon, Cass, what do you say? Want to be hot vampires together? We’re already halfway there; you just gotta do a little nibbling and we’re set.”
Cass shakes her head, smiling thinly. “Exclusive club.” She does a secret handshake with Tim, involving lots of pinkie-linking and knuckle-bumping. It’s exactly as annoying as it sounds.
Stephanie scowls. “The only reason you’re part of it is because Dick got infected and went on a biting spree!”
“How many times do I have to say I’m sorry for that?” Dick shouts from another room. “I got overzealous! It happens!”
Tim ignores him, refocusing his attention on Steph. “Why would you even want to be a vampire? I’m not allowed to have garlic knots or else my tongue swells up like a balloon. And do you know how hard it is being a vampire and a vigilante? I licked Jason’s helmet the other day because there was leftover mobster blood on it.”
“But humanity is boring,” Steph moans, flopping back against the sofa and nearly knocking Tim’s computer onto the floor in the process. “I want to be a sexy immortal.”
“You should count yourself lucky,” Tim says. “Do you know how crappy it feels knowing you’re stuck being five-foot-four forever? It sucks, I’ll tell you that.”
“For the last time, Tim,” Bruce says, “you can still age if you take the vitamins John Constantine gave us. Your genetics are what’s making you short.” Cass snickers. Tim kicks her.
Stephanie crosses her arms. “Oh, I see how it is. I can’t join your vampire club because I’m not a Wayne then, right? Is that it? I’m too poor to be undead? ‘Cause that’s just discriminatory. You’re the reason we should bring back the guillotine.”
“I’m still alive,” Bruce offers. “It isn’t so bad.”
That has the opposite of the intended effect. He might as well have just compared her to a sea slug. “Oh my god,” Stephanie wails. “I’m being lumped in with Bruce now?” She puts her head in her hands. “This is the worst day of my life.”
This is fine. Bruce is not hurt by that at all. Alfred is simply chopping onions somewhere, that’s why his eyes are misty.
“Come on, Timmy,” Steph coaxes. “Just one little bite and I’ll stop bothering you.” She gets in his space, sticking her neck out and flipping her hair to one side. “Right here. Right on my yummy little artery. It’ll be like eating a grape.”
“Bruuuuuce! Steph is making me uncomfortable!”
“Just bite me, you jerk!”
“You know, when you think about it,” Jason says, “there’s no real reason I can’t just go out, find a rapist, and drain him like a juice box. Everybody wins: I get to feed, and a rapist is dead.”
“Hood, please,” Bruce says. “We’re on stakeout.”
Batman and Red Hood are currently tailing a drug cartel from the comfort of a rooftop two buildings away from the site. Bruce has a good-enough view from his patented Bat-binoculars, but it’s easy to get distracted when your vampiric son keeps jabbering in your ear.
“I don’t know, B. He makes a compelling argument,” Duke chimes in on Bruce’s other side. Scratch that— two vampiric sons. “Sounds to me like we should let him kill the rapists so we can eat them. It’s like grocery shopping.”
“If grocery shopping included killing people,” Bruce reminds them both.
Even behind the helmet, Bruce knows instinctively that Jason is rolling his eyes. “Are they really people, though? They’re barely human.”
“Neither are we,” Duke reminds him.
Jason makes an exasperated noise. “Aren’t you supposed to be on the day shift? Why are you even here?”
“You got any idea how lonely it is being the only one fighting crime at seven in the morning? I wanted to socialize.” Duke turns back to Bruce. “Batman, what if we only ate three rapists a week? Thirty pints is more than enough to keep us all going. And then you don’t have to go through all the work of tracking down and arresting the guy.”
Jason snaps his fingers. “We should include pedophiles, too. That’s even less work; they’re listed on the sex offenders site. The grocery list writes itself.” He and Duke bump fists.
“I’m not letting you boys kill people just because you’re sick of animal blood,” Bruce says. “It’s immoral and messy.”
Duke huffs. “What’s so different about us eating bad people when you just ate an innocent baby chicken this morning?”
“And I’m hungry.” Duke clicks his tongue in disapproval. “You and your living-person privilege make me sick.”
“Yeah, check yourself, B,” Jason agrees. “It’s not easy being undead twice over.”
Bruce is about to retort, but that’s when he hears commotion down below. He looks into his binoculars again and sees the cartel dispersing. “Damn it, we missed it!”
“Serves you right. Remember this lesson the next time you decide to let your kids starve.”
“This lady clearly did no research before writing this garbage,” Jason says. He licks his thumb and turns the page of his copy of Twilight: Breaking Dawn. In terms of reading material, Bruce would put this at an all-time low for Jason. He finished Dracula last week, and Fifty Shades of Grey before that. Apparently that trilogy is not about vampires like he thought. Go figure.
“If her vampires can’t piss or eat human food, then how can she expect one to knock up a human? Where’d the sperm come from? And I still need an explanation for why he drank her fucking tear in book one.”
Dick snorts. It comes out strained—not because of the fact that it’s a conversation about Twilight, but because it’s understandably difficult to snort properly when one is doing push-ups whilst his 230-pound brother sits on his back. The vampirism hasn’t made them anywhere close to as strong as Superman, but they did all get a substantial boost in the raw power department. Cass once misjudged her own strength and punched Bane clean off his feet.
“Yeah,” Dick says, sweat dripping down his temples as he lifts himself and Jason again. “And the sparkle thing? That’s seriously the best she could come up with? If you’re going to appropriate our culture, at least do it properly.”
Jason lowers his book, his expression contemplative. “Have you gone out in the sun yet?”
“This is Gotham, Jay. Last time I saw a sunny day here, I still had the mullet.”
“Maybe we do sparkle, but we just don’t know it because we’ve never tested it out.”
“Um,” Bruce interjects from the treadmill he’s jogging on, “that sounds like a very bad idea.”
“Stay out of this, bloodsack,” says Jason. “This conversation is for undead brethren only.”
The next sunny day, Dick and Jason put their hypothesis into action. They strike out in speedos and a generous coating of tanning lotion, out into the backyard.
Ten minutes later they come running back inside, their skin red as lobsters.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow,” Dick whines, holding his arms out and away from his skin. Every inch of him is a painful shade of scarlet. The last time Bruce saw a sunburn this bad, Tim fell asleep at the beach during a family outing, and Damian thought it would be funny to move the umbrella. There are two pale circles around Dick’s eyes where his sunglasses used to be.
Bruce arches an eyebrow, sipping his lemonade. “How did it go?”
Jason reappears from the kitchen. He is now rubbing a stick of butter on his arm, wincing in pain. “My skin is melting.”
Alfred sighs. “I’ll get the aloe.”
One would think that the vigilante part of their lives would be the easiest to manage after the kids were turned, but of course it cannot be that easy. Not for Bruce. Not in Gotham.
“No.” Bruce sprays Cassandra with the bottle of water he’s taken to carrying in his utility belt specifically for this purpose. “You can’t eat him.”
Even by human standards, Bruce can’t understand what is so delicious about a dead drug dealer in an alley. No doubt his blood tastes like whatever product he was peddling. And the facial tattoos are less than appetizing. It strikes him as the vampire equivalent of eating a month-old meatball that rolled under the fridge.
Cassandra hisses in protest. “Already dead! Roadkill!”
“If you drink this man, your saliva will be on his neck, which means your DNA will be on file. The puncture marks will make it obvious that a vampire got to him. The police will find you and cart you off to STAR Labs to be experimented on by the end of the week. Is that what you want?”
“Billionaire,” Cass replies smoothly. “Bail me out. Problem solved.”
“Or you could simply employ some self-control and not eat people during patrol. It’s unprofessional.”
Suddenly Dick appears seemingly from nowhere, his eyes bright even behind the Nightwing domino. “We’re eating someone? I want some!”
Bruce sprays him too. “No.”
Bruce deserves this. He’s earned some relaxation after the unimaginable stress of parenting six unruly vampires. He lounges outside in the shade of the patio, cucumbers on his eyes and an iced tea in his hand. The world is calm. Bruce is at peace.
Almost at peace.
“I know you’re staring at me. I may not be a vampire, but my senses are still better than most people’s.” He is met with silence. Bruce sighs. He takes one of the cucumbers off his eye. “What do you want, Di—”
Bruce is slapped in the face. He blinks, bewildered, the other cucumber sliding off his eye and onto the ground. Bruce stares at his eldest, his cheek stinging. “Why?”
Dick is grinning, looking at his palm. He turns it around so Bruce can see the squashed bug splattered there. “Mosquito,” he says brightly.
Bruce doesn’t miss the way Dick eyes the blood pooled among the tiny innards and insect legs. “Please don’t eat it.”
“Mosquitos are like Gushers for vampires, Bruce.”
“So is frolicking in sewers, but where are you every time Croc tips over a school bus?” Dick licks the mess off his palm with relish, then makes a disgusted face. He coughs. “Christ, Bruce. Your blood tastes like toilet water.”
“Thank you?” There are worse compliments, he supposes. At least now Bruce won’t have to worry about his kids ever draining him in his sleep.
“Promise you won’t get mad.”
“Goddammit.” Bruce closes his laptop and turns around in his office chair to look at Tim. “What did you do this time?”
Tim wrings his hands. “You see, I was drinking one of the bats in cave, ‘cause you said we’re allowed to. So, I did. Juice-box style. Like a Capri Sun. And I got a little…distracted? Because then Dick comes in all, ‘We should put holy water in Jason’s root beer so he gets diarrhea,’ and of course I couldn’t say no to that, and—”
“Get to the point, Tim.”
“Right. Yeah. So, we do the holy water thing and it’s hilarious, and then I go back to my room to, you know, finish the bat Capri Sun. Except it was gone.”
Bruce waits. “...Gone?”
“Yeah. The bat. It was gone.”
“And this is a problem to me how?”
“See, I was drinking from it, but I didn’t finish. And…I guess it wasn’t as dead as I thought it was?”
It doesn’t take long for Bruce’s mind to make the connection. “Tim.”
“Did you vampirize a bat?”
Tim scratches his ear sheepishly. “Kind of? And now I can’t find it.”
Bruce massages his temples. “Are you telling me there is a vampire bat flying around my house?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s in the east wing. It’ll probably be fine so long as it doesn’t, like, bite Batcow or something. A vampire cow would be too weird for me.”
That’s when, right on cue, a small black shape comes flying in through the open door of Bruce’s study, chittering menacingly. Bruce definitely does not scream like a little girl.
“Jesus fuck—” Bruce climbs under his desk, away from the threat. “Alfred! Alfred!”
“Bruce, I’m thirsty.”
Without looking up, Bruce replies, “Hi, Thirsty. I’m Batman.”
“Oh my god, Bruce.”