Later, he doesn't remember what they were even fighting about. She wanted to go to a party, or a movie, or a concert. Something like that. And he put his foot down, told her training came first, because it always does.
"That's not fair!" Bree exploded, stomping her foot for emphasis. "I don't even get a choice."
"Yep, you're right, you don't," he said back, terse and tired. "You never get a choice and everything just gets forced on you. That's what growing up is like, Bree, get used to it." It came out a little harsher and more bitter than he meant for it to, but he's tired of her always trying to wriggle out of her responsibilities.
Bree's eyes narrowed. "Believe me, I know," she said. "I know no one gets a choice. You didn't even choose to have me. Tasha didn't choose me. Heck, Douglas didn't even choose me, he just wanted to sell all of us at a freakin' supervillain craft fair."
Donald actually felt like his heart hurt. "Bree-" But she was already gone.
Now, Donald winces after getting yet another tiny electric shock from the gravitational calibrator he's been working on for the past hour. It's something to do to keep his mind off of his daughter yelling at him.
His mind is vast and unfair, though, and abruptly dredges up old memories. The first time Bree scampered up the rock wall, and how she grinned down at him from the top, triumphant.
It took her less than a week to learn to read. She may not be as smart as Chase, but her mind always worked fast. She used to do the cryptogram with him every Sunday.
Little Bree sits suspended in her high-tech high chair, banging her spoon on the tray. "No Cheerios, no Cheerios," she sings while Donald tries to focus on the computer monitor in front of him. "I don't want no Cheerios, no Cheerios." Bree flings soggy cereal across the lab where it splats on the wall.
"You're gonna wake up your brothers," Donald warns her, making no attempt to clean up the Cheerios mess. "Please be quiet."
"No quiet," Bree says adamantly. "No quiet, no Cheerios."
"No, Bree," Donald pleads, pretty sure his hair is turning gray as they speak. "Mr. Davenport is trying to work. Adam and Chasey are trying to sleep. Please, please just eat quietly."
"No quiet," she says again. "No Cheerios. No work. No sleep."
"NO QUIET NO CHEERIOS NO WORK NO SLEEP." She squeals and wields her spoon like a sword before knocking her bowl to the floor. Milk and Cheerios splatter everywhere. Adam jerks awake and so does Chase, who begins to cry.
"What are you doing to me?" Donald hisses at the little girl, rounding on her in her chair. "What do you think I'm trying to do here? I didn't ask for this! Okay? I didn't ask for any of this! It's not my fault! I'm trying my best but I can't do this! Okay? I just can't! It's too much!"
Donald jerks out of old memories, a sour taste on his tongue. So many years ago, he forgot how much of a mess he was back then… Back when Douglas had responded to his abduction of the kids by faking his own death, back when Donald was twenty-five and didn't know a damn thing.
No wonder Bree's pissed.
Donald sets the calibrator off to the side and grabs his keys, heading for the car.
From his spot on the couch in the corner of the lab, Leo notices. "Where're you headed?" he asks, glancing up from his comic book.
"Forgot you were there." Yeah, so Donald's not winning any father-of-the-year trophies any time soon. "Bree's mad at me so I'm going to go get her favorite kind of ice cream," he says. "Wanna come with?"
"Sure," Leo says. "What's she mad at you about?"
They talk as they weave through the aisles of the grocery store. "I just," Donald sighs, elbows leaning against the shopping cart, "I feel like I failed."
"You feel like that at least once a week," Leo points out. "And you're only right, like, half of the time." He offers his stepdad a cheeky grin. "Bree will get over it. She's always getting mad about something, and it never sticks."
"Yeah," Donald says, grabbing a bag of jelly beans from the candy aisle for Adam. "It's just… well, it's not really that she's mad at me. It's what she said. She thinks that no one… picked to have her around, I guess. I think she's feeling a little unwanted."
Leo nods, growing serious. "I mean, I guess I can't really… empathize," he says slowly. "It was just me and Mom for a really long time. And I knew she wanted me around because… I guess I felt needed. And, you know, obviously, she was my mom." He sighs. "But for Bree… she doesn't have a mom. She doesn't even really have a dad, she has two almost-dads. And you're always doing stuff with me and Chase and Adam, but when was the last time you actually did something with Bree?"
Donald frowns at him. "We tried to get Perry into the country club," he recalls.
Leo raises an eyebrow. "Okay, when was the last time you actually did something fun with Bree?"
Donald racks his brains, feeling guiltier by the second. "Alright, maybe you have a point," he says, pushing the cart toward the dairy aisle. "I gotta figure out how to reconnect with her."
That night, Donald crashes down on the couch beside Bree. She scowls at him and scoots further away, focusing more intently on the teenage vampire show she's watching. Donald grabs the remote and pauses it. "Bree," he says. She steadfastly looks away. "Bree, I'm really sorry."
She turns to look at him, crossing her arms. "Sorry for what?" She's not playing dumb; she's trying to see if he's making an actual apology instead of a B.S. attempt to patch things up.
Donald's serious. "Sorry for making you feel unwanted," he says, voice even. "I mean, I'm not really sorry for keeping you home to train, that's just the rules, and you know that. But I'm sorry for… everything else. I didn't know… that that was how you felt."
Bree bites her lip. "It's okay," she says quietly, but she's avoiding his eyes. "I didn't mean to say all that, it just kind of… came out."
"I know how that feels," he says, thinking about the Cheerios-flinging toddler he yelled at once upon a time. "I lose my cool sometimes, too."
"Believe me, I know," she says, laughing a little.
"There's birthday cake ice cream in the freezer for you," he says, and her face lights up. "And I wanted you to know-"
But she's gone, zipped over to the kitchen for a bowl of ice cream. She returns in a flash, crashing back down on the couch. "Mmm," she says, enjoying a spoonful of the frozen treat. "Sorry. You were saying?"
Donald smiles. "I wanted you to know that you're not unwanted," he says, clapping a hand on her shoulder. "I was so confused and scared when I took you kids from Douglas. And yeah, back then, the choice was made for me. I knew I couldn't let you stay with him." He sighs. "But every day after that? Every single day? I do choose you. And Adam, and Chase. And Leo, now. I get out of bed and I choose to be your dad." He blinks, realizing his eyes are damp with tears.
Bree smiles and keeps eating ice cream to cover the fact that she's also about to cry. "Thanks," she says quietly. "I mean, thanks for telling me… and thanks for getting us away from Douglas back then. And, you know, thanks for the ice cream."
"Of course," Donald says, giving her a loose side-hug. "And, uh, listen, because I made you stay home from that party or whatever it was… I got us these." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out two tickets to a Def Leppard concert. "Now, I know they're a little before your time…"
"Are you kidding?" Bree shrieks gleefully, grabbing a ticket out of her dad's hand. "This is awesome. Thanks, Mr. Davenport." She hugs him around the middle, ice cream bowl going askew. "Caitlin's gonna be so jealous. I gotta go tell her. Thank you, thank you, thank you!" She runs out the door, leaving her ice cream and Donald behind.
A second later, she dashes back in. "Oh, and… I choose you, too. Over Douglas, you know. All the time." Donald nods and gives her another hug, and then she vanishes out the door once again.
He sits back, taking her forgotten ice cream and discarded spoon. Maybe he's not the father-of-the-year, but he made Bree happy.
That's what matters.