Disclaimer: I own nothing. DC owns all.
Over the course of his lifetime, he had to make many adjustments to fit into the changing course that was his life: actor to doctor, soldier to civilian, butler to parent. He navigated those choppy waters to the best of his abilities to hopefully pull himself and all his charges to the other side. Judging by the eclectic group of young men and women – all strangers once who were now bound to one another by blood and love – and their father – the lonely child he once feared would never get to experience the warmth of a family again – Alfred through that he must have done a somewhat decent job of it.
"That's disgusting, Brown."
"Delicious," Stephanie corrected as she flicked bits of barbecue sauce from her fingers at the brat. "The word you're looking for is delicious."
"Why did you set the clock for 10:48?" Robin asked with all the aplomb that a curious nine-year-old would possess.
Batman kept his face completely neutral as he contemplated the various answers he could give or refuse to give his ward. The truth, he decided, was best.
Sometimes Jason wondered if he was stuck in a stage of the grieving process from his own death. If maybe the denial and bargaining had burned away with the world before he was ready, and that he was letting the anger fester to keep an even worse darkness at bay. Because Jason knew if he ever gave in to the depression that nipped at him in the dark when his righteous fire was too low, he would never claw his way back out of it.
Bruce glared at the latest edition of some little more than a tabloid rag newspaper that someone had left in the waiting area just outside of his office, and wondered if it was one that he owned. He also thought of the drawbacks and merits of convincing Clark to come to Gotham to be the editor if he did. It would mean having to deal with Superman on an even more regular basis than he already had to put up with; however, it also meant being secure in the knowledge of never having to see a headline stating that his daughter was having an affair with one of his son and now the Waynes were trying to hide the fact that she was pregnant – it really was a toss up between the two.
"I would like to go on record," Red Robin said as the warehouse behind him burned brightly in the cold winter's night, "that this is completely Robin's fault."
Nightwing stared at his little brothers (one tired and done with the younger: the other defiant and moody as ever) as something exploded inside and sent every conscious minion scrabbling for some sort of shelter. Nightwing tried to pin his youngest sibling with his best Batglare, but for his troubles, only got a frown and flat, "What?"
"You totally can't do it," Stephanie said with a dismissive wave.
Jason grabbed his helmet as he walked to the building's rooftop's edge and said, "Just watch me, Blondie."
That was how Cass learned what her new word "goad" meant.
Unlike many of the girls that she had gone to school with at Gotham Academy, Barbra never really gave much thought to the idea of becoming a wife (the antiquated term "helpmate" had always stuck with her for some reason) because she was far too focused on training herself to become someone who could really make a difference in her city. Then Batgirl met Robin, and Barbra met Dick, and for a handful of time she not only gave the idea a place in her mind, but wore a physical promise to it on her hand. Deaths and bullets and distances allowed changed things, however, so she rarely thinks of it anymore except on occasion when she wonders about the 'might have beens.'
Selina grinned at Bruce in that Cheshire way of hers that promised she wasn't going to give up any bit of information she had before she was ready for him to have it.
"If you wanted someone to sing just because you asked, you should have found a canary," she said. "Although, I might tell you if you ask me really nicely."
Duke yelped as a powerful jolt of electricity traveled up his arm before the device he had just grabbed clattered back onto the workbench. Tim didn't bother to look up from where he was working on a 3D image of said device on the computer.
"I told you not to touch it."
Like every other kid who had called Gotham home in the past fifty years, Terry had grown up hearing about Batman. He was either an urban legend that was used to try and scare criminals and unruly kids to stay on the straight and narrow, or some kind of brooding hero that brought hope to a city that not even angels would dare to trod. Now that Terry wore the mask himself, he knew exactly what Batman really was – a dark knight protecting his realm.
Barbra laughed as she swung herself down the roadway and away from the group of subdued thugs and awed baby Robin, who had just watched her take them all on and win, and an amused Nightwing.
"She's awesome," she heard Robin say before she dove off the side of the building.
There was a fondness to Nightwing's voice as he said, "She's in a league all her own."
"How did he die?"
Jim stared down at the white face with the frozen smile who had inflicted so much pain on the world.
"Doc said it was an untreated heart murmur, so," he said to the gruff in the dark corner with a smile, "quietly and in a completely forgettable way."
Selina Wayne, nee Kyle. She tried on the name as she tried on some rich old woman's ring, and failed not to laugh at the silliness of them both. Names and rings like that don't belong to people like her, but they were fun to steal for time to time.
"Orderly? Haha! Oh, my dear Commissioner, no one is leaving here tonight, orderly or otherwise."
From a very young age, Tim's parents taught him to be polite: shake hands, be cordial, be quiet unless spoken to. There were rules of a game that Tim had learn to play because of his family name: part of a mask that allowed him to move unseen among a crowded room. He wore another mask now at night, and when it was on, Tim found himself rarely being polite to those who saw him in it.
When the hulking animal followed his command, Damian allowed the very tips of his lips to turn upward. While his father's logic for giving him such a beast is questionable at best, Damian would admit that it was rather pleasing to finally have someone do as he directed them too – if only Drake and Grayson were as well trained.
"Where did you get that? Batman growled.
Red Hood hefted what looked to be a modified rocket launcher a little higher up his shoulder before crouching to take aim.
"Arsenal gets creative when he's bored."
"Is it always like this?" Duke asked as he wrapped his hands around the steaming mug in front of him and resisted the urge to sigh as the head soaked into his aching and bruised fingers.
Alfred glanced towards the vague direction where the cave would be located: the area in which Bruce had yet to leave since returning the night before after rescuing his newest sidekick from his first kidnapping and torture after officially becoming a member of the family. The pressing of Alfred's lips and lack of immediate answer tells Duke more than he wanted to know, especially the fact that it didn't scare him as much as it really should.
Dick threw his hands into the air and smiled brightly as he told Duke about his latest adventure, while Tim subtly checked the phone he wasn't supposed to bring to dinner, Jason tried to keep Damian from stabbing him with a fork because Jason kept making 'mooing' sounds as he cut into his stake, and Cass silently ate her food as if all her brothers chaos simply wasn't happening. Alfred watched the whole thing with amused and rather content eyes, and Bruce felt his own lips tug upward into a wane smile. Perhaps he should let Alfred plan more Sunday family meals.
Nightwing smiled down at the young boy who was glaring back up at him and stubbornly refusing to tell him which way the Riddler and his men went. The kid didn't know it, but Dick had just spent the last two weeks with Jason. He'd gotten pretty good at dealing with unhelpful little brats.
"So you're telling me that in all the vast and varied universes that are out there, there's not one where Mr. 'I AM The Night' doesn't have a stick the size of an oat tree up his ass?"
Jason laughed at Stephanie and said, "Not one I've come across."
She snorted and crossed her arms before saying, "Figures."
"Thanks for the save," Terry says.
Bruce's gruff reply, "The other Jokerz members are getting away."
Translation: Don't worry because I've got your back.
Batman ran across the office, drawing the gunfire away from the employees who were escaping down the fire exit as Batman himself tried to get to the others that were trapped in a supervisor's office. Most were relieved when he reached them, except for one who was staring heartbrokenly at this destructive wake – particularly a bullet-ridden Xerox machine.
"We just bought that."
"Yo–amn piece –king sh–go f–yourself!"
Dick sighed at the static filled transmission. Over the comms he said, "Jason's found Tim."
Bruce glared at Dick, who shifted guiltily from one foot to another, while Tim and Jason tried not to laugh and Damian squared his shoulders for a fight. The zebra ignored all of them and sniffed around the cave in search of something to eat.