This was written for Charlene. Blame her for this in its entirety. Standard
I'm pretty sure you're all getting sick of these by now. Sorry. But
hopefully you'll at least find this amusing.
Naptime and Other Childhood Misfortunes
When Dick got home from work, Barbara looked shell-shocked. He was used to
her looking disheveled and tired after their little girl was born, but
lately she'd been. well, kind of traumatized by the end of the day. The
house always looked worse for the wear. Yesterday, they realized their
three year old was strong enough to open the refrigerator door. They'd
discovered that when Babs came out of the bathroom to see their toddler
dropping eggs one by one onto the kitchen floor and watching them crack
open. Barbara had called Dick at work and cried on the phone.
Today she wasn't teary-eyed, however. She was shaking. "Dick, you have to
take her," Barbara said quietly. "I gotta. you know. Time away." Barbara
Dick scooped up his little rug rat, who was playing with a cover plate for
an electrical outlet. He searched the area around her for a the screws and
the butter knife she'd no doubt used to dismantle the thing, but he
couldn't find it. "I got her for now," he said tiredly. "Do what you have
to." He never ever fought her about needing 'me' time after a day spent
with their child. Tim called her 'the Devil Baby,' and with good reason.
She wasn't happy unless she was making trouble.
"Hey, daddy," she said, reaching for the cover plate. "Give back."
He shook his head no. "We don't play with this. How's about your bear?"
"Bear's stupid. Gimme that. It's good."
He sighed, then sat on the couch with her. "What other bad things did you
"Said HI to pappy on the phone."
That sounded harmless. "Well, that's nice. I'm sure he was glad to hear
She tried to climb off of his lap. He grabbed her by her bulky diaper. The
girl walked at nine months, started talking shortly there-after, and just
refused to be potty trained. No amount of reasoning, positive
reinforcement, encouragement, NOTHING would get his little girl to sit on a
cold potty seat and do her business.
"You're not going anywhere, munchkin."
"Meeve me awone!" she said defiantly.
He sighed. "Let mommy alone for a few minutes. If you're good, we'll go see
Amy down at the station later. She says she misses you."
"Don't wanna." Of course, Dick thought, she was three. Her wants and
desires changed from moment to moment.
"We can go see Grandpa Jim?"
"We can go see Grandpa Bruce and Alfred."
She paused, thinking about it, then didn't say anything at all. She was
very quiet around Bruce. He wondered if she was scared of him.
"Alright," he said, glad they were in agreement. "We'll get you dressed,
then leave mommy to battle the forces of darkness all by herself, because
sometimes mommies need to do that when they've been trapped with you all
day," Dick informed her. He then tucked her under his arm and took her
Tossing her on the bed, he began rummaging through her clothes. He had to
confess, he liked dressing her up. He wouldn't say it out loud though,
because only girls played with dolls. She was kind of. a teddy bear who
came with clothes. Of course, she fought him and screamed and cried while
he was putting the clothes on, but that was ok. He was bigger, and he was
stronger, and he usually won.
"We can wear the little blue pants. How's that sound, Munchk--"
Turning back to her bed, she was gone. The door was still closed but that
didn't mean she was still in her room.
"Arugg!" Dick cried out, throwing the clothes on to the bed. Inspecting the
room, he knew that she couldn't be under the bed, the bed cover was not
disturbed. She wasn't inside her walk-in closet, he determined with a
check. Nor was she hiding behind the drapes. She'd gone out the door.
"Babs!" he said, coming out into the hall. "Have you seen our little
There wasn't any answer.
He sighed and began going into Nightwing mode. It was really sad when you
had to do that to find a toddler. There were further patterns on the carpet
on the steps since he had brought her up here. Avoiding the urge to slide
down the railing, he sped down the stairs. As he hit the second to last
step, he heard a crash and his daughter's cry from the kitchen.
He was off in an instant. His daughter was laying on her side on the
kitchen floor, moaning and clutching her stomach. Next to her on the floor
lay a cookie.
He looked up to the top of the fridge, and the cookie jar laying on it's
side. They put it up there because she pulled chairs over to the counter to
get to the cookie jar.
Ever so slowly, he turned her onto her back. "Barbara! I think we need an
ambulance," he called out, when he realized she wasn't breathing. He also
noticed that her t-shirt was pulled up above her belly, and her little ribs
were bruised to say the least.
Great, he thought as he began trying to resuscitate her. They're going to
think I did it.
* * *
"Yeah, Tim." Dick grumbled into the pay phone outside the emergency room.
"Look, just cover me tonight. I don't care if you have a midterm tomorrow.
My little Terror bruised her ribs and just about gave us all a heart
attack. They're thinking of keeping her for observation."
"Hehe. Think it'll be a mental exam?" Tim could only hope.
"I wish. Look, bro. There's a nurse in there with her now. I gotta get back
in before she gets in trouble again. Tell Babs she's ok." Without making a
proper goodbye, he hung up. Hey, they'd only ended up here four times since
her last birthday in October.
There'd been the time the table collapsed on her head after she took all
the screws out-thus giving her a royal concussion. There'd been the time
she'd needed a tetanus shot after trying to rappel off the patio with her
father's belt, and ended up scraping herself royally on a garden shovel.
She needed sand and rocks sucked out of her ears and nose after three and a
half unsupervised minutes in the sandbox while Tim had rescued another
toddler from falling off of a swing. Then there'd been the time she'd taken
Dick's keys. With one in each hand, she shoved them into the electrical
outlet. The jolt had not only thrown her across the room, but had stopped
As he was walking back to the desk, he was stopped by a woman in scrubs and
asked to come to the nurses' station for a minute, to fill out a few
papers. She explained they were to release x-rays and other records to
their family physician. He wearily dragged himself over, knowing Dr. Leslie
was going to give him a nice long lecture for this one.
* * *
"Hi, sweety. I'm Doctor Groppar. I looked at you when you first came in. Do
"We're gonna send you home real soon. I'm just going to sit here a few
minutes with you till your daddy comes back."
He noticed her attention was fixated on his stethoscope. Most kids were
attracted to it. "Do you want to look at this?"
She nodded vigorously.
He handed it over, and watched her place it over her ears with quick hands.
She was very nimble for her age as well. "Do you like that? Let me tell you
what it's used for."
"Oh. I know. Put up against the door. Hear what mummy and daddy're sayin'."
He stared at her for a moment, then nodded quickly. "Um. right. Can we talk
for a minute?"
She nodded again.
The doctor was in his mid-forties. He had three kids of his own, and he
knew they got into trouble. It just seemed that Mara Grayson ended up in
their emergency room under such. unique circumstances.
It also alarmed him that she seemed to be such a bright girl, and yet she
wasn't potty trained. A child of her age should have given up diapers
already. Usually, it was a warning sign of neglect. Either these things
were inflicted up on her, or she was horribly unsupervised. The doctor was
not sure which it was.
"I want you to know we can talk about anything, do you understand that?"
"Can you tell me how your side got hurt?"
The little girl shook her head no.
"Why can't you tell me?"
"Daddy'll get mad."
He leaned a little closer to her. "What would your daddy be mad about?"
"That Cassie teached me climb the counter."
"Yeah. She says climb the counter. Then I get the flour thing. Not allowed
to touch it now cause when I did, mommy not happy. Then get on the flour
thing, and opened the peanut butter cupboard. And I climbed the shelf, then
got on 'igerator." Gently, she rubbed her nose. "Godda cookie. Cassie not
say how get down."
"Was Cassie there when you were doing this?"
"Where was daddy?"
"He plays wif clothes. Says to dress me, don't like pants. Go get a cookie
She had quite a large vocabulary for her age, and didn't appear to be lying
in the least.
* * *
"Well, I'm glad to hear that she wasn't too badly injured," Bruce said
cautiously, sipping at his coffee.
"TOO BADLY? She's got bruised ribs."
"That's a night out for us, you know," Bruce reminded his son.
"She's THREE. Three year olds are supposed to be watching dinosaurs on TV,
not bruising their ribs."
Bruce shrugged. He HATED these 'family' get-togethers. Usually they
resulted in Dick going off on some tangent about how they were corrupting
his child simply by existing. Shouldn't Tim be getting home from his last
class soon? That ought to distract Dick for a little bit. "She doesn't have
the attention span for those insipid programs."
"Maybe she needs Ritalin ." Dick hadn't been willing to accept it before,
but he needed SOMETHING to contain that little fire ball.
"Your child doesn't need drugs."
"I don't know WHAT she needs. But she needs something. She's going to get
herself killed. Curiosity killed the cat, and she used up her eighth life
"Satisfaction brought it back."
"Damn it, Bruce! She almost got herself killed today! Don't go getting
smart with me."
"What I'm saying," Bruce began patiently, "is that you need to keep her
"What, like YOU keep her engaged? Here, Mara. Here's a chain and a bunch of
padlocks! Here, Mara. See if you can get out of these handcuffs. Think
TOYS. Think BARBIE."
"She isn't in trouble if she's working on those."
Dick shook his head, draining the rest of his cup. "She'll be in trouble no
matter WHAT she does. The child is possessed or something."
"Richard, you're blowing this out of proportion."
"Don't Richard me! You're not here with her all day! You come, show up, and
amuse her for fifteen minutes then leave."
The front door opened as Tim let himself in.
"You're understandably upset and shaken. But I don't think you're thinking
about this with your head. Speaking of which, where is she?"
"She's with Babs in the computer room. Babs has her on a sort leash right
"Not literally, I hope."
"Literally. It'll only work until she figures out how to get out of the
child harness. It's a way to keep her within a certain radius."
"Hey, you guys talking about the Devil Baby?"
Dick nodded. "See, Tim knows she's out of control."
Tim looked at both of them casually, then tossed his bag in a corner. "You
know she took all the cards out of my wallet and was sliding them between
the bricks on the patio? Personally, I think she needs a good exorcism."
"She doesn't need an exorcism."
"She needs something!" Tim said, pouring himself coffee. It was good to
sit down and relax with everyone. He just hated the subject matter. He
loved the little goober, but Dick got way too worked up sometimes. Not that
the kid wasn't a frustration and a handful.
"Here, here!" Dick said in agreement, lifting his mug.
"She doesn't feel challenged."
Tim sat down at the dining room table. "Says who?"
"Since when did you start reading baby books," Dick asked skeptically.
"It's merely the acquisition of information, Richard. If I can better
understand the psychology of a toddler, then I can anticipate and thus
thwart her moves."
"Fine. You think you can do better with her, you're welcome to her."
"Dick, you shouldn't have had her, if you weren't ready for kids."
"We were ready for kids. For NORMAL kids. ROY got a normal kid! Why can't I
have one too? And I'm not giving her up. Just, you think this is so easy-
you can have her on our anniversary. Twenty-four hours, Bruce. And if
you're not a nervous twitching mess, you win a Cupie doll."
Tim investigated the bottom of his mug, trying to avoid eye contact with
both of them. This could get ugly.
"Fine," Bruce said quietly. "Twenty-four hours."
* * *
Two weeks later, Dick pulled up to the manor with his daughter in tow. He
turned off the car and prepared to take her out of the back seat. "Bruce
thinks you're easy to deal with. He thinks we just have to 'challenge' you
more, and you'll behave. Bruce is going to find out."
Opening the back door, he discovered his daughter wasn't in her car seat.
They'd even added extra straps to that thing. Dammit. He'd just checked on
her in the rear-view mirror when they'd turned off the highway. "WHY?" He
cried out to the heavens. "Why is my kid an escape artist!?"
He saw one chubby little leg sticking out from under the front passenger
seat. Reaching under, he grabbed her and pulled her out. "Great. Now you're
dirty. Give me the penny. Take it out of your mouth."
And true to form, she kept her mouth clenched shut.
"Well, I'm not going to let you swallow it, Imp." He pinched her nose shut
until she had to open her mouth to breathe, then he dug the penny out of
her mouth. "That'd be too easy. No. I want you to grow up to an age where I
can spank the crap out of you."
Taking the diaper bag out of the car, he threw it over his shoulder, then
tucked his daughter under his arm like a football. It was the only way he
could get hold of her without her squirming away.
The door opened before he reached it, and Alfred graciously took the overly
full bag. There were changes of clothes, blankets, food, toys and the
obligatory diapers. He wished his daughter didn't need the diapers, and
wished like hell that she'd take an interest in everything else in the bag.
"Thank Bruce for me," Dick said quietly. "We really, really, REALLY need
this." He put the Munchkin down on the ground, and she instantly took off
running. "And. do me a favor. Make him do it all by himself. No help."
"You're hoping to bring him around to your point of view?"
"Something like that."
Without even bothering to make sure she was settled in, Dick took off.
Twenty-four hours. He and his wife had a lot of anniversary-ing to do. Tim
was on break from college and was watching his city, the Titans knew not to
call him unless the world came to an end, the Justice League knew not to
call Oracle unless the world came to an end, and they were temporarily
relieved of duty in regards to their insane three year old. This would be
the longest and best vacation they'd had in years.
* * *
Bruce looked down at the three year old. He didn't even want to ponder how
she'd gotten all the way down into the cave by herself.
"I stay down here," she informed him, then plopped down on the floor next
to his chair. He'd been doing some research in anticipation of spending the
night 'inside', and he'd lost track of time. It was like Dick to drop the
kid and run without even saying hello.
"I don't care," he told her. "Just be good."
She nodded, then began touching the bolts on the bottom of his chair.
Before the wheels in her little mind could start working, he handed her an
old telephone he kept around to check the lines. She immediately flipped it
over, inspecting the screws. Dick just didn't give her enough credit, was
all. She was hardly evil. She just had. certain ideas about the way things
should be. True they were childish ideas, but Dick needed to learn to work
with them, instead of against them.
He gave her a screwdriver, and she looked at it oddly for a moment. Perhaps
she'd feel more comfortable with a butter knife, Bruce mused. Finally, she
figured out its purpose and quietly sat taking the phone apart. He found
her dexterity. interesting.
When she got the bell out of the phone, he quickly snatched it up and put
it on the desk beside him. He didn't need her making noise with that. Then
he went back to his research.
Intermittently, he'd look down to make sure she was still occupied, then
would go back to his business. Bruce really didn't see what the fuss was
* * *
The next day, the girl sat on the floor in the cave, watching a TV Bruce
had dug up from somewhere. While the cartoons played, she worked on getting
out of the shackles that were on her hands and feet. Occasionally she'd
stop struggling when the cartoons became particularly engaging.
"Hey," she said, when the commercials began.
Bruce looked up from where he was working on the car. He was upgrading a
few of the on-board displays. Unfortunately, as with most dash-repairs, it
meant taking the whole front of the car apart. "Can I help you?"
She was lying on her side, wiggling a little. "You make Timmy's 'form
purple an' green."
"I'm not making Tim's costume purple and green. Yellow, red and green are
acceptable." He waited until she was struggling again, and then went back
"What about Cassandra?"
"Pink. Hot pink. An' Plum. I hate black."
"What?" he put the LCD display he was trying to install on the seat.
"All done. What I do with these?" She could barely lift the metal
restraints, but she'd gotten them off.
"Put them on my chair."
"Can I sit there?"
"I sit in the car?" She dragged the shackles to his chair and hauled them
onto the seat.
"I stay here wif you."
"I like mashed 'tatoes."
She sat back down in front of the TV as the commercials ended and the
cartoons resumed. He'd have to find something else for her momentarily. Two
more minutes couldn't hurt anything, though. He picked up the display and
began connecting it to the car's computer.
Behind him, he heard the sudden hum of electricity, then the sound of glass
Apparently he'd miscalculated.
By the time he made it to her, she was crying and trembling just a little
bit. Her black cherry hair was floating upwards and the screw driver she'd
been playing with earlier was sticking out of the side of the set. The
glass was cracked and steam was rising out of it.
"You stuck that in there, didn't you?"
Her red, tearful face bobbed up and down.
"You're not going to do that again, are you?"
Her head changed direction, shaking back and forth vigorously.
"You LET her stick a piece of metal inside the TV?" Dick practically leapt
down the last five steps to the cave.
"Well, I didn't exactly let her. She just did it." Bruce took a rag out of
his pocket and wiped his hands. "It was an oversight on my part, though. It
won't happen again."
Dick covered the distance to where his daughter was. He picked her up off
the floor and rubbed her back. "Damned straight, because you're not coming
near her any-BRUCE. WHY isn't she wearing a diaper?" he felt her bottom.
Yes, it was devoid of a diaper under her corduroy pants. How'd he get her
to keep THOSE on?
"She decided now would be a good time to stop."
"She didn't even wet the bed last night."
Dick was instantly incensed when his daughter wrapped her arms around his
neck and buried her eyes against his shoulder while she cried.
"You scared her into it!"
"I did no such thing!"
"See, I knew it. You scare her."
"Dick, she was perfectly fine except for that small incident and her
recommendation that we change the Robin costume from red and yellow to
purple and green. Maybe YOU are the problem."
Dick scowled at his father. Bruce had done a lot of things to piss him off
over the years, but he was REALLY outdoing himself this time. "ME? She's MY
kid. You wanna know what the doctor in the ER told me? He told me Cassandra
told her how to climb on top of the fridge. Tim taught her how to crack a
plastic case. I can't even FIND all the pieces of my remote now. You're
turning her into a mini-Houdini who I can't keep in a car-seat no matter
WHAT I do. its YOU people."
"I don't have a problem with her. Neither does Cassandra or Tim, if we keep
her occupied. Except for the blowing up of the television and shocking
herself. But she won't be doing it again, any time soon, I bet."
"Oh, ok, I get it. Let's just let her hurt herself repeatedly until she
gets it through her thick skull 'that's dangerous' or she kills herself."
"Dick, calm down."
"Calm down? How can YOU be all calm when she's practically getting herself
killed every moment of the-she's peeing on me! BRUCE!"
"WHAT? She was FINE until you showed up."
Dick just shook his head and moaned in anguish. Finally, he took a few deep
breaths and looked at her. "Honey, you gotta stop crying," he said calmly.
"We'll get you cleaned up and changed."
She nodded. "Ukkay." She rubbed her nose and dried her eyes. He stood her
on the floor.
"Alright. Daddy will be right back." He asked Bruce where the diaper bag
was, then was off.
Bruce folded his arms over his chest and stared down at her. "Was that
She looked up at him with sad, round eyes.
"You are able to use the bathroom, so that is what you should do."
The little girl bit both of her lips together, then nodded.
"GOOD. We won't have any more with the diapers, and no more wetting."
"No wetting," she confirmed. Her fist rubbed her nose vigorously.
He handed her his rag and told her to blow. She took it from him and held
it to her nose and tried her best to comply. "And no more crying," he
informed her as he took the rag back. "You did something stupid, and it was
your own fault."
"I'll be good," she promised hopefully.
"I'm glad to hear that."
"What about more c'toons?"
"You broke the television."
Dick reappeared with the bag and a clean towel in tow. "See, you scare
her," he said with conviction.
"Why do you say that?"
"She just does whatever you say." He began stripping the wet clothes off of
Bruce shrugged. "I told you, I don't have a problem."
He began pulling out a score of baby wipes. "So what you're saying is that
Babs and me're bad parents."
"I didn't say that. I said I don't have a problem with her."
Dick shook his head but didn't say anything. He cleaned her up, dried her
off, then pulled out a diaper.
"No!" she cried out.
"What? You just wet yourself. We'll just put this on till we get home, then
you can try again." Was he trying to reason with her again? He should know
by now how fruitless that was.
"No. Pappy said no wet the pants."
"I don't think you're going to have to worry about it. I think I made
Dick clenched his eyes shut. "Made yourself clear. Bruce, you were talking
to a three year old." But he had to admit, his daughter did seem awfully
resolved to not wet herself. "Alright. Fine. Mara, no diaper. But you're
sitting on a towel on the way home."
Of course, she still had the attention span of a flea, and wasn't paying
any attention to him by the time he'd finished the sentence. "I sit in the
"I stay here."
"You make the Bat blue. Like the sky."
"I sit in the Car."
"If you go up stairs, Alfred may have some mashed potatoes for you," Bruce
She covered her mouth with her hands and giggled.
"See? She's not too scared of me to challenge me."
"Challenge you? Bruce, she's three. Don't flatter yourself."
He looked at his watch. "Well, your twenty-four hours are up. Get her out
of here before she breaks something else." He turned back to the car.
"Goodbye, Richard. Mara."
Dick knew when he was being dismissed.
* * *
"I mean. the nerve. And then, he's just like. goodbye." Dick used the putty
knife to scrape the sludge off the inside of the grill.
Tim sat on the picnic table, drinking his can of Zesti. "Well, that's
"And what's HER problem. Taking his side?"
Soda shot out of Tim's nose. "Do you KNOW how dumb that just sounded," he
said as he wiped his face with his shirt.
"Yeah, I know. She's three. I'm telling you, man. This is just crazy. She
just. listens to him or something. Think I need to start being all 'tall
dark and scary' on her?" The sludge smelled a little like soy and barbeque
sauce. He needed to clean this thing out more often. It was all gross and
The sliding glass door to the patio opened and Jim Gordon stepped out. "I
KNEW you'd never have that thing cleaned by the time I got here."
Dick slouched lower. "I know, I know. I gotta clean it more often. Lunch'll
be on-time. I'll turn up the heat or something."
Tim shook his head. "I'm a person, not a vampire. I don't like my steak
black on the outside, bloody on the inside."
"Don't you have homework to do or something?" Was there a reason everyone
in the world was on Dick's case lately?
"Maybe I do, and maybe I don't. ."
"Get a start on next semester. Please." Or get a job and get out of my
house, Dick said.
"Testy," Gordon warned, sitting on the bench next to the current Robin. "I
hear I have your father to thank for my newly potty-trained granddaughter?"
Dick spun around and swung the putty knife. Black crusted black slime
dripped off and on to the pink bricks below. "Augg! Everyone thinks Bruce
is so damned perfect!"
"What! We didn't say anything!" Tim pointed out. A minute ago, he'd even
agreed with Dick about Bruce. "Chill pill."
"Barbara doesn't seem to mind," Jim pointed out. "If he's going to get her
to behave, then we should be thankful, at least."
"It isn't fair," Dick grumbled like. well, a toddler.
"I thought the time away was supposed to do you guys good. Barbara is all
relaxed, and you're still all. 'gerrr'," Tim said.
Dick threw down the putty knife and sat down next to Jim Gordon, defeated.
"I'm going bonkers," he admitted. "I can't keep track of THAT one. And Barb
told me." He gulped. "We're having ANOTHER one."
"Yeeps!" Tim started hiccupping violently.
"Alright. I can understand being stressed out about that," Jim said
Dick frowned. "I'm glad I have permission to be stressed."
"Dicky. needs a nap," Tim got out between hiccups. "He's grumpy."
Dick scowled at his younger friend. "You keep that up, and you're gonna be
running my route for a week."
"Dude, I work in Gotham."
"TRUST me. Stephanie will have NO qualm about filling in for you." He ran a
hand through his hair. "Never mind. I'm sorry. Maybe I DO need a nap."
"Now's a good of a time as any, Slugger," Barbara said, wheeling herself
onto the patio. "I just put The Evil One down for her nap. I'm sure she'd
appreciate the company."
"Hardy-har-har," Dick said sarcastically. He picked up his putty knife and
went back to work.