A/N: Just a little piece about Donald waffling in his decision to take the kiddos. Featuring Little Lab Rats. The title (and the fic itself, honestly) is based on the song "I Could Never Be Ready" from Steven Universe. Enjoy! Let me know what you think.
Donald tries to hit the gas, but his heart is hammering too loudly again and he can't force himself forward anymore. He pulls the car over and stops for the fourth time, knuckles white on the steering wheel, panting as he leans forward.
"Car's broken," the little girl pipes up from the backseat. She's buckled in beside her older brother, who's serving as a human car seat for the littlest one. "Car's not going. Car's broken."
Donald shakes his head, trying to clear out the cobwebs and the anxieties. "The car isn't broken," he assures her. It's me.
What the hell was Douglas thinking? Genetically engineer a few superhuman toddlers, sure, no big deal. It's like the plot to a bad movie. It's like the plot to a very specific bad movie, he thinks to himself as he starts the car again and gets back on the road. It's like Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2.
The oldest one sings something nonsensical in the backseat, maybe trying to entertain his younger siblings, maybe just 'cause. Donald doesn't know. He went to his brother's to apologize for the screaming match earlier that week, to tell him he was considering allowing Douglas to return to the company on a probationary period.
And then he spotted the kids.
Donald gets about a mile before he has to stop and pull over again. "I can't, I can't, I'm turning around, I can't do this," he babbles, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. He keeps stopping and thinking about turning around and going back."I can't, I can't, I can't." Something in the rearview mirror catches his eye and he looks behind him; the little one, nestled safely in his big brother's lap, is making little forcefield bubbles between his chubby toddler hands. He expands them out and then dissolves them, entertaining himself and his sister. "Hey," Donald snaps, craning his neck around. "You. Don't do that while I'm driving."
The little one blinks. "But you're not driving," he points out, voice eerily mature. No child that age should even be speaking in full sentences, let alone arguing with him.
"Well," Donald says. The little one's smart, though. That's not an argument he's going to win. "Well, I am now," he sighs, starting the car once again and getting back on the road. "No more forcefields, kid."
"His name's Chasey," the girl corrects him, kicking her little legs in the backseat. "And I'm Bree, and that's Adam. What's your name?"
"Uh, I'm Mr. Davenport," he says.
"That's Daddy's name, too," Bree says, the talkative one, the curious one. "Does that mean you're my Grandpa?"
Donald chokes. Grandpa? He's two years older than Douglas, for God's sake. "No, no I'm not," he says, plunging forward into the dark of the road. It's almost midnight, and there's no telling when Douglas might wander into his lab to find the kids gone. "No, I'm… I'm a friend of your dad's. And he has to go away for a while so… so I'm gonna take care of you. Does that sound okay?"
Bree frowns, the tip of her tongue sticking out. She looks deep in thought, her little face scrunched up in concentration. "Well, then can I have a pink scooter?" she says. "Daddy told me he was gonna get me a pink scooter so you should get me a pink scooter."
It's a lie. Donald knows it's a lie, Adam and Chasey must know it's a lie. She's a little negotiator. "Yes, I'll get you a pink scooter," he promises her. She settles into her seat, satisfied.
She steals his heart before the drive is over.
"Freddy," Donald instructs the AI system in his car. "Can you open the hidden garage?"
"Aye-aye, cap'n," Freddy says, following the command. He glitches out a lot, but at least he's nice. The garage door slides open and Donald parks before getting out and going around the side to help Bree down. She hops to the ground and starts exploring. Then he goes around the other side to unbuckle Adam and Chasey, but the older boy looks horrified and steadfast.
"You're going to trap us," he says to Donald. "But I protect Bree and Chasey. I'm not gonna let you put us in a trap."
Donald sighs, trying to figure out how he's supposed to explain benevolent abduction to these kids. Or to the police, should the occasion arrive. "I won't trap you," he says to Adam, which is sort of true and sort of a lie. "I'd never put anyone in a trap."
Adam shakes his head furiously. "You trapped the man in your car."
Donald blinks. "What?"
"The little man in your car," Adam says, pointing to the dashboard up front. "Freddy."
"Oh, no, Adam," Donald says, trying not to laugh. "That's a computer. Freddy, say hi."
"Help, the mean man trapped me in the car!" Freddy says. Donald aims a glare at the dashboard. "Just kidding! Hello, tiny freeloaders. I'm Freddy. Never bother me."
Donald rolls his eyes and switches off the engine- and Freddy. The program's getting more and more annoying. He's going to have to go in and debug him one of these days, maybe even tear him down and start from scratch.
"Come on, Chasey," Donald says, picking up the little one and grabbing Adam by the hand. "Let's go check out your new home, huh?"
"Just until Daddy comes back," Bree says.
Donald chews the inside of his cheek, taking his time to shut and lock the car doors and close the garage before he looks at Bree again. "Yeah," he says. "Just until Daddy comes back."
Donald doesn't have much ready for these kids (given that earlier today he didn't know they existed.) The basement is finished but unfurnished. He'd been getting ready to install a bowling alley and a home theater. But now…
"You guys can sleep down here," he says, pulling some air mattresses out of the closet. "And tomorrow I'll start building you some capsules just like the ones your dad had. Has. And then maybe we can all go online shopping and buy whatever you want. A pink scooter, a teddy bear, a new shirt…"
"Daddy would let me have a hippopotamus," Adam humphs, crossing his arms.
"Hippos are an endangered species, Adam," Chasey said from Donald's arms, and seriously, it's starting to weird him out to hear this kid who can barely walk speaking like a ninth-grader. "No one can own hippos. They're not pets."
And then Bree starts loudly singing, "I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas" and twirling around the lab and Donald needs to take a breather. He sets Chase down on one of the air mattresses and hands Adam a bundle of rubber bands to play with and then he goes to hide in the elevator.
"What's wrong?" Freddy says after Donald slides into a corner of the elevator and just breathes. "Fatherhood not all it's cracked up to be?"
Donald shakes his head and tries to stall his mini panic attack. "Freddy, what am I doing?" he mumbles. "They're children. And there's three of them. What the hell am I doing? No, no, what the hell was Douglas doing?"
"Hm, I don't care," Freddy says, causing the elevator doors to slide open. "Hey, kids! Hop on Pop!" Donald protests as Bree zips forward, the little speedster, to clamber on top of him.
Later, after Donald throws some blankets and pillows into the basement to make it a tiny bit presentable, he hauls Adam off to the bathroom to get him cleaned up. "What was he doing?" he mumbles mostly to himself as he massages shampoo into Adam's hair. "What was he doing? What am I doing?"
"Giving me a bath," Adam reminds him, blowing soap bubbles and giggling. "I want a rubber duck."
"Uh," Donald says. "All I had was this Marie Curie bobblehead. Here." He grabs the desk decor he brought from his desk upstairs and hands it to Adam, who immediately starts making motorboat noises and pushing Marie Curie through the soapy water. "Alright," Donald says, making sure to keep the shampoo out of the kid's eyes. "Go ahead and rinse."
Adam leans back and dunks his head underwater, submerging his whole body a second later. Donald jumps, startled, but Adam doesn't look concerned, just amused as he settles against the bottom of the bathtub.
Donald watches him closely for a whole minute, but Adam doesn't come up for air. He seems fine though, blowing bubbles and playing with the bobblehead.
"Freddy?" Donald asks the panel in the wall. "How long is it okay for small children to be underwater?"
"None," Freddy says drily. "Children should spend none minutes underwater."
"Okay, no more of this," Donald says, reaching in the tub and hauling Adam upward.
"Aw," Adam whines, rivulets of water dripping off his hair. "I was havin' fun, Mr. Davenport."
"Well, you know that it's dangerous to do that if I'm not here," Donald says. He needs to figure out how he's going to raise these kids, and he needs to figure out how he's going to just plain keep them alive. "Right?"
"Why?" Adam says. "I can breathe underwater."
Donald blinks. "You can breathe underwater and you're super strong?"
"Yeah," Adam says, nodding excitedly. "And guess what else I can do?"
Two laser eyes, one broken mirror, three scorch marks and a narrowly avoided heart attack later, Donald emerges from the bathroom with Adam wrapped in a towel.
These kids can't be villains; that's all he knew. When he found them in Douglas's lab and decided to steal them away, that's all he knew, what they can't be. They can't be villains, and they can't be weapons or tools. They're just kids.
Except they can't just be kids. He has no idea how to turn off their bionics, if it's even possible. And trying to raise them like regular children is just going to end in disaster, possibly with them burning the house down. They need an outlet. So what's he supposed to do?
"Alright," he says, setting Adam down. "I have an idea, but I think it's kind of a terrible idea. Chasey, maybe you can tell me."
"I have lots of good ideas," Chasey says smugly. "Like for instance I think your shareholders should get out before the DAV goes down."
"Alright, can it, pal," Donald says, sitting down on one of the air mattresses… and sinking as his knees pop. It's very low for him to go, and while he's not quite old enough to be these kids' grandpa, he's no spring chicken. "The thing is, you three aren't like all the other kids. You have bionic abilities. Bree, you're so, so fast, and Chasey, you're a genius-"
"And Adam," he continues, "you are the most destructive little six-year-old I've ever met."
"Thank you," Adam says.
"So I've been thinking," Donald says, cracking his knuckles. "What if I could train you to be superheroes?"
"Yes!" Adam says, pumping his fist. "I wanna be Spiderman."
"I wanna be Wonder Woman."
"I want to be a firefighter," Chasey says. "Not all heroes wear capes."
"Okay, listen," Donald says. "I can train you guys. I can teach you about the world and science and help you practice using your bionics. And then one day, when you're ready, you can go out into the world and fight fires, stop bad guys and spread peace and justice. Sound fun?"
"Sounds hard," Adam says. "Can we just watch cartoons?"
Donald laughs, he can't help it. "You can do that, too," he says. "You can be superheroes and you can be, you know, kids."
Bree and Chasey nod. Adam looks at them and then starts nodding too.
"We'll do it," Bree says, sounding very serious. "We'll be superheroes."
"Alright, well remember if you want to be a superhero you need to eat all your vegetables and get lots of sleep," Donald says, wrapping a blanket around her shoulders. "And someday you and Adam and Chasey are gonna save the world. I just know you will."
"Okay," Bree says. "Will Daddy be a superhero too?"
Donald swallows. "If your dad wants to be a superhero, he could be a superhero," he says vaguely. "But I don't know if he wants to be."
"Well, I want to be," Chasey says.
God, they're adorable. He knows he's already hopelessly attached. "Okay, superheroes," he says quietly, tucking in Adam and Chasey. "Try and get some sleep." He flicks off the light and goes upstairs, trying to make a mental list of everything he needs to do tomorrow.
What did he get himself into?