Author's Note: Here's the final part, guys. Yes, as most of you have been asking, you will get to meet Damian today. This may be the last chapter of Deluge, but I have a few more ideas planned for this verse. There are already two snippets on my Tumblr (username: silverspidertm2) that I plan to someday move to and AO3 in a collection of one-shots. If I ever decide to do a full-fledged sequel, it'll take place 3 years from now around the "A Death in the Family" arc. My next project, however, will have me revisiting "The Changeling" verse, but of course expect to see a lot of familiar faces. Thank you so much for all your wonderful reviews and support through the longest fic I've ever completed!
6 months later,
So far the best part of the day was getting pulled out of school during second period, and for once it was not because he was in trouble. Jason had tried his best to be good and the number of trips to the principal's office had significantly decreased. He knew exactly what happened the moment Dick burst through the door. The teacher glowered at him and the other kids stared, but Jason was out of his seat and on his feet in an instant.
"Is it time?" His eyes were wide with excitement.
"Yup!" the teen declared triumphantly. "Get your stuff, kiddo."
That was around eight-thirty in the morning. By around six in the evening, Jason was starting to wish that he'd finished the school day. He didn't know if he'd expected to just show up at the hospital with Dick, meet up with Dad and Talia, and go home with her and the baby, but that didn't happen. Instead he found himself slumped in one of the hospital's waiting rooms, board, tired, and hungry, with any earlier excitement all but drained away.
"How much longer?" he whined. "It's already like... two weeks late."
Next to him, Dick sighed. "I don't know, Jay. Babies come when they feel like it."
"Well, it should hurry up." He crossed his arms. "Talia's been miserable forever. This kid's such a brat already."
"Maybe it's waiting to be born at exactly sunset or midnight or something like that for dramatic effect," Dick checked his watch for emphasis. "You know?"
"No," Jason glowered, though of course he did. Dick tried again.
"Hey, you never told me if you wanted a brother or sister. They decided to be surprised, huh?"
"Yeah." The boy wrinkled his nose. "Which is kinda weird, right? I mean, Dad's Mr. Always-be-prepared."
To his surprise, his brother threw back his head and laughed. "You know, I cracked that joke six months ago. It sounds funnier when you say it." Jason raised a brow in a perfect imitation of Talia. "Nevermind. Maybe when you're older..."
The boy gave him a look. "I know where babies come from, jerk."
"Whoa, okay," Dick rose. "How about food? Food generally makes you less cranky. I don't think we're going to miss anything sitting around here for another hour."
Food was always a good bribe, even hospital cafeteria food. They started down the hall, and once in the elevator, half way to the lower level, Jason spoke up.
"I think it should be a boy," he declared.
"You don't want a sister?" Dick tilted his head.
"No, it's not that. It'd be okay if it was a girl, too, so Talia's not the only one at home. But... well, can you imagine how overprotective Dad would be? He's... him, and we live in Gotham."
"That's a really good point."
They returned to the waiting room with handfuls of chips, sodas, Jello cups, and hot dogs that Alfred would have never in a million years let them eat, but it was a special occasion, and Dick had declared that he'd take responsibility if Alfred ever found out. Jason was fine with that arrangement. However he was barely half way into his first bag of chips when the large doors opened and his father strode out.
"Is it here?" Dick was up immediately, but Bruce shook his head.
"Not yet." Both wilted. "It'll be a couple more hours at least. But, Jason," he turned to the younger, "Talia wants to see you."
"In there?" It was Dick who looked pale and indignant.
"I'm not afraid," Jason raised his chin, but his eyes darted to Bruce. "Is... is everything okay?"
"Fine. It's just for a few minutes."
When the door closed behind the boy, Bruce exhaled a deep breath he hadn't realized he was holding. Talia had wanted to talk to Jason. Actually, she wanted both of them to talk to him, but he needed a few minutes alone with his eldest, before all their lives permanently altered. A conversation from half a year ago that he'd tried to forget was hounding him now, and someone other than himself had to know.
Dick gave him a quizzical look. "Sorry if this sounds really really terrible, but you don't look like the guy who's excited about becoming a dad. Actually, you kinda look like you're waiting for a bomb to drop. What's up?"
Bruce blew out another breath and took him aside, as far away from the delivery room doors as possible without actually going out into the hallway where there would be other people.
"I was going to wait until the baby was born," he said quietly, "because there's a chance this won't be an issue, but now I think I should tell you regardless. Just in case."
"That doesn't sound good," Dick frowned.
"No. Do you remember when I returned with Jason and Talia from Dubai? You wanted to know what Ra's said to me."
"Oh, yeah." The teen looked like he'd completely forgotten about it, but almost immediately his face took on a look of worry. "Does it have something to do with the baby?"
Bruce nodded. "You and Jason think we didn't find out the gender because we wanted it to be a surprise. That's partially true, but I was the one who convinced Talia to do that. The real reason I didn't want to know is because I didn't want it to leak to the public... in case it's a boy."
"Why does it matter..." Dick started to say, then realization dawned on him. "Because if it's a boy, Ra's will be interested in him. It would be..."
"The heir he always wanted." Bruce finished for him. "That's what he said to me. He let Talia go, but if the child was male, he threatened to come for him some day."
"That's not going to happen!" the teen declared vehemently. "We'll protect this kid no matter what it turns out to be." He paused. "Does Talia know about this?"
"No," Bruce shook his head. "I didn't want to scare her unless absolutely necessary, but I do want someone else to know. Just in case."
The lights were slightly dimmed inside the delivery room, and Jason was secretly a little happy about that. Logically he knew there was no reason to be afraid of hospitals per se. Not everyone who went there died. Sometimes you could be in a hospital for a good reason. Sometimes, like today, there would someone new entering the world.
Talia looked better than he'd expected. She didn't look like she was in pain and seemed as calm and composed as ever. The only thing that gave her away was a very thin sheen of sweat on her forehead. When she smiled, Jason trotted over to her bedside. Tentatively he placed a hand against the impressive swell of her abdomen. He'd felt the baby kick before, but now after waiting for several moments, Jason frowned.
"It's not moving." He looked to the mother-to-be for an explanation.
"Oh, there is plenty of movement going on." Talia replied wryly. "But babies themselves often still after they settle to be born. It is perfectly normal."
"If you say so." The boy shrugged. "So... what'd you want to see me about?"
"I wished to speak to you before the baby came." With some effort she pushed herself up to a slightly more sitting position, took his hand and held his gaze. "Your father and I grew up in a very different culture. In his world – your world – truths must be printed on paper in order to be truths, even the simplest kind. That never made sense to me."
Her smile was enigmatic as she reached over to something on the bedside table to her left, and Jason craned his neck to see her pull forward a flat tan folder. A crisp sheet of paper with an elaborate border, some typing, and a few blank lines came out.
"This," she said, "is the baby's certificate of birth. When he or she is born, I will sign here," she pointed to a blank line, "and your father will sign here. It will be stamped, and the baby will be ours."
"I thought it was yours because you're doing all the hard work," Jason put in.
She laughed. "I am doing a lot of hard work, but more than that, more than sharing our blood, the child will be ours because we want him. If this paper burned away, this baby will still be our child and your little brother or sister."
Jason nodded. It made sense.
"That being said," Talia replaced the birth certificate back in the folder and pulled out a much less ornate stapled set of papers with very small, very legal-looking print, "as ridiculous as I might find all this, it is the world I chose. Your world, Jason, and it demands that these papers are important. It is likely you feel the same, which is why I asked you here."
She tilted them toward him, and now that he could see more clearly Jason saw what they were. He wasn't too far off; there really was a lot of legal scribble, but he recognized enough words to quickly understand what he was looking at. He touched the paper reverently.
"This... these are my adoption papers." His voice was hushed.
Talia nodded. "Your father finalized them earlier today. We both felt that as you are older, your... certificate should be completed first. Though I want you to know that none of these papers mean a fraction as much to me as what you believe, what you wish for."
Jason stared at the papers, then looked at her. His eyes stung a little, and he looked down.
"I'm still not like the baby." It came out sadder than he'd intended. He'd meant to say it casually, matter-of-factly, but... it hurt. As happy as he was for them, today still hurt a little.
"You are in all ways that matter," Talia reached out and gently tilted his chin so he would look at her again. "As far as I am concerned, it has always been the truth, and anyone who dares say that you are not ours will have quite the fight on their hands. However, this world's bureaucracy demands documents and other nonsense, and you do have a choice."
"What do you mean?"
"You are our child, Jason, but you are also a child of this world. I accept that. Therefore if for some reason you do not feel comfortable with one or both of us signing these papers at this time, we will respect your wishes."
Jason rubbed his nose in a tell-tale attempt of trying to cover up embarrassment, then shrugged with what he knew was most likely utterly unconvincing nonchalance.
"Like you said, it's just a piece of paper." He bit his lip. "But... if you guys wanna make some suits happy and make it legit... I wouldn't mind."
Her smile was so bright, Jason imagined it lighting up the dim hospital room. She hugged him as best as she could and pressed her lips on top of his head. When he pulled back, Talia smiled again, took a deep breath, and placed her free hand back on her abdomen.
"I love you," she said then slowly took in another lung-full of air. "Now please ask your father to come back in."
Damian Thomas Wayne entered the world about two hours later, and it was another few minutes until Jason and Dick were allowed to come and see him. The eldest still didn't look thrilled with the idea, but once his eyes landed on their new brother, clean and swaddled, Jason could see him practically melt. All dread about being in the delivery room was forgotten. They both peered over the crib, and the baby momentarily opened his eyes and squinted back at each of them. Dick grinned.
"He has your eyes." He told Bruce.
The father nodded. "And Talia's mouth."
Jason regarded his new brother with a mixture of apprehension and curiosity, then carefully reached out and stroked his olive cheek with one finger. Immediately the baby turned his head in search of food and having found nothing, wrinkled his brow in an unmistakable scowl. Jason grinned.
"Pretty sure he got his grandpa's eyebrows." He put in. "Well, once they grow in. I thought babies are supposed to be cute?"
The parents laughed softly, and Dick leaned over to him to whisper. "Just think about where he was a half hour ago and be grateful they cleaned him up for us first. He'll be a lot cuter once he inflates."
"I'm fairly certain neither of you were any better," Bruce said pointedly.
"Yeah," Dick agreed. "But you don't know for sure." He winked at Jason. "See? There are benefits to being adopted."
Jason grinned and looked at their father. "So where'd you come up with that name? And more importantly, can I make 'Omen' jokes when he's older?"
Dick elbowed him in the shoulder, but from the glint in his eyes, Jason could tell he was thinking the same thing. He suspected the rib was more for admitting he'd been allowed to watch the horror movie in one of their now-regular outings. Dick thought they were bonding. Jason just liked the time away from the manor where he could eat all the junk food he wanted. And... okay, maybe they were bonding a little but he never had to admit to that.
"The name is Greek." Talia was the one to explain, "which means "to conquer" or "master". St. Damian was also the patron saint of physicians, so your father and I felt it was appropriate, given both of his grandfathers." Jason thought he heard a note of sadness in her voice.
"I thought you wanted to go with 'Thomas'," Dick asked. "As a first name, I mean."
"We agreed that it was best for him to have a new name," Bruce replied, not taking his eyes off his newborn son. "Something that would be his alone. No one will make his fate but him."
Talia gestured for someone to give her the baby, and as his father moved to do so, Jason thought about his words. His own fate had certainly turned out much different than he'd expected. He never told anyone but two years ago, he hadn't seriously expected live long enough to reach his eighteenth birthday. Crime Alley was like that. Now? Now he had parents – real parents – and brothers, and looking at the newborn in his mother's arms, he knew that Dick had been right.
Life was a good thing.