Favoritism

Disclaimer: Batman and all of it's crazy alternative universes don't belong to me. I don't think I could come up with half of the crazy stuff the writers think of it.

A/N: I don't even know what universe, parallel or not, this is from, but I stick to it because I'm a sucker for batfamily fluff.

...

Terry always had a natural affinity for animals.

When he was a toddler, tottering around with a bright red blanket in his arm (and mouth) and a bag of animal crackers in his other hand, he would always, always somehow find his way into the Bat Cave.

Alfred and Bruce would lock it to the teeth but still Terry would find a crack or cranny and slip inside. He would meticulously climb each and every step downward until his feet touched the floor of the cave.

The screech of bats in the cave would be frightening to other children, even some adults (Wally), but Terry would crack a toothless smile and rummage into his little bag of cookies. Grasping a cookie into his small fist, he would throw the morsels into the air and the bats would shriek louder and glide downward, nabbing the little cookies in their eager mouths.

Terry would giggle and squeal with laughter, his small fingers grasping the air as they flew by. He would stretch his arms outward as if to fly with the bats until a pair of hands grasped him from behind and he would suddenly be cradled in a set of very familiar arms.

Alfred or one of the older Wayne's would eventually find him, their faces broken out in a cold sweat at having misplaced the youngest of the brood.

While they carried him out, scolding him for doing a Houdini on them, Terry would wrap his small arms around his captive's neck and peer back at the dark cave with wide blue eyes. He saw the flutter of wings in the air and would wave a tiny arm back to his bat-friends, promising to visit again (as soon as he could escape the next time).

And he kept his promises.

As he got older, Terry persisted. Much to the exasperation of the family, he would often feed the bats in the Bat Cave by throwing bits of stale, leftover bread into the air for them to swoop down and grab in their hungry mouths. Sometimes, he would sit on one of the cave outcrops with a few berries in his hands. Not a few seconds later, a curious bat would swoop down and land on his shirtsleeve and make its way to his outstretched fingers.

Tim tried that once.

It was fortunate that their father made sure they were inoculated for any and everything.

Getting shots for rabies stung.

As a teenager, his attraction for animals did not wane.

Ace, the family dog, always slept in Terry's bedroom. Terry was the one who found him as an abused pup near the site of their grandparents' death.

(It would be ironic that Terry would take after their father in that perspective by taking in strays and the leftovers that society had forgotten.)

But still – it seemed a little unfair, especially to Dick who objected the most often, that Ace was willing to be with Terry more than the others.

This was obvious favoritism!

Once, he bodily carried the slumbering puppy into his own room for the evening. It took only a few minutes for the puppy to realize that he was no longer sleeping in Terry's room before he started howling like a devil-hound.

After spending a night cleaning out the pee from his carpet and bedspread, Dick stopped bothering to get between Ace and Terry.

Man's best friend was friend to one single man.

And then there was the newest addition to the family –

"Come here Fred!"

Dick yelped as a pair of claw-clad paws jumped onto his head and used it as a backboard to bound onto the ground.

"Terry! Tell that cat I'm not a springboard!"

"Fred is so smart, aren't you, boy?" Terry cooed, crouching downward as a little white and black cat scampered toward him, curling around his leg and purring like an engine.

"Mreow."

"You're so cute, how could anyone be mad at you?" He picked up the cat and brought him closer to his face, "Dick is just being a dick."

Fred licked the tip of his nose.

"Haven't heard that before," Dick muttered, glaring at the cat further.

"Be nice, he might like you more!"

Dick blinked, suddenly face to face with aforementioned cat. Fred's whiskers twitched, his purring coming to an abrupt stop. He narrowed his gaze and hissed, swiping a paw at him – just barely missing Dick's face if not for a reflexive, quick jerk backward.

Dick pressed against his face, horrified. "Hey!"

"He didn't mean it," defended Terry, holding Fred in a way that made it seem Dick was the one who threatened the cat. "You scared him. You two just need some alone-time to bond."

"Don't even bother, Terry," Tim slid onto the couch next to Dick. Ace was following him, but the moment he noticed Terry was in the room as well, he bounded over, woofing his pleasure. "Bats and cats don't generally get along."

"Yes, we do," Terry persisted, waving a hand at Fred. He blinked sleepily in Tim and Dick's direction before turning his attention back to Terry.

"Only because of mommy-dearest," Helena stated, rounding the corner to peer over Terry's arm. She gently tickled Fred's ears, "It's because of our Kyle-blood, little brother. Embrace it."

She peered up at Terry, her green eyes looking at him speculatively. "You take after her more than dad after all."

"I take offense to that," stated Terry.

"Cat magnetism," Helena sing-songed as she prodded his shoulder.

"Animals, in general, love me." He was obviously failing at his attempt to gather whatever leftover dignity he had available to him, "Not just cats."

"Now, if only you could make a superpower out of it," Helena chuckled, ruffling his hair as if he was eight and not on the verge of adulthood. "You would have Aquaman beat."

"I feel oddly outnumbered," said the youngest Wayne.

"It's not weird that I befriend animals, right? Fred? Ace?"

Cat and dog looked at one another before respectively meowing and barking their agreement.

"Since you're talking to our pets as if you're expecting them to answer you back, point is proven, Runt."

"They're family, talking to them is allowed," Terry looked upward, a small smile on his face as his brother appeared behind him. "Damian."

"Runt." Damian bent down to pet Fred, "And his name is Alfred, don't shorten it. It's demeaning."

"We already have an Alfred!" Terry motioned his hands toward the manor, "Besides, Fred likes the name Fred."

Fred meowed in agreement.

"Alfred," Damian warned.

Fred climbed onto Terry's lap, purring.

Terry grinned, ignoring the fact that Damian was bristling at his cat's behavior. "How was the hunt?"

Damian scoffed, taking a seat beside Terry. "The pests slipped into the slums. I decided to let them wallow there. They're going to need to leave sometime soon, so I might as well not waste my time looking for them until then."

"Sounds productive."

The older Wayne remained silent, watching his brother tame his cat into submission. He watched in disgust as Alfred turned over onto his back, baring his stomach for a rub down.

"Don't spoil my cat, Runt."

"He likes me."

Damian eyed Ace speculatively, "If anything happens to Alfred, I will harm you."

Ace growled.

"You wouldn't," Terry replied as he reached a hand over to rub Ace's's muzzle.

Fred yowled.

Terry stared disconcertingly at the blade suddenly millimeters away from his neck.

Ace growled lowly, his ears pressed against the back of his skull. Fred looked on, glowering at his owner.

"Don't test me Runt," Damien stated lowly. "You know I'm always ready for a challenge."

"Me too," Terry leaned forward toward the sharp edge of the blade –

Damian pulled his sword away, sheathing it into his scabbard as he yanked Terry by the collar to eye-level, growling "What the hell are you thinking, Runt?"

"You care," teased Terry.

"Begrudgingly," Damian muttered.

Terry smiled softly as he moved away, standing up whistling for Ace to follow. He shot Damian a glance backward, "And that's enough."

Damian remained sitting, watching Terry disappear back into the mansion out of the corner of his eye.

Fred nudged him in the thigh, meowing.

"Yeah, Alfred, I know." Damian whispered to his cat, "He's tamed me too."


A/N: Well, that was fun. I'm gonna go back to writing my paper while you all praise me. Or criticize me. Or something in-between; either way, review!