Oh, this was horrendous to write. Quite honestly, this chapter is where I show my true lack of knowledge about the Batman fandom. I decided to include Dick, Tim, and Damian in the same ficlet. After extensive research on personalities and illness and relationships between characters, this is the monster I have created. I hope I did it some justice.
I don't know the boys' ages for certain. As far as I can guess, Dick is in his early twenties, Tim is between fifteen and seventeen, and Damian is about ten. Please don't crucify me.
This is the final chapter of Swaddled! I am hoping to write more Batman fanfiction in the future, and I thank everyone who reviewed!
Disclaimer: I don't own Batman. Clearly.
Needed for Family
Batman pressed his foot down on the gas pedal, and the Batmobile roared down the street as if it were in pursuit of another villain. Contrarily, there was no villain to be chased at all, save for perhaps the Batman's sanity. It took one phone call – one call – to throw him into a full-fledged panic that had him breaking more than enough traffic laws to get a regular citizen thrown in jail.
"There is no need to speed, Master Bruce," came Alfred's ever-so-calm voice over the Batmobile's speaker, "I said the boy was running a fever, not reclining on his deathbed. All will be well if you spare Gotham a few speeding tickets for its most popular guardian. Take your time."
Batman frowned, but let up on the gas pedal enough that he was just breaking the speed limit. As much as he'd be hesitant to admit it, Batman – Bruce, in everyday vernacular – was extremely watchful of his boys, particularly Tim, considering that Damian was constantly attempting to goad him into a fight. The fact that Alfred's informational phone call concerned Tim made Bruce unsettled enough in the first place.
He didn't even stop by the Batcave to change out of costume before stalking down the mansion hallway. Alfred met him at the grand staircase, his demeanor nonchalant enough to calm Bruce down a whole smidgen. The butler gave him a pleasant smile.
"Good evening. I suppose you'll be taking your dinner in the Cave tonight?"
"I'll only be a few minutes," Bruce sighed, gracing the staircase quickly so that he didn't have to see the 'your-blatant-parental-instincts-are-flapping-in-the-wind again' look on Alfred's face. No sooner had he reached the final step did he nearly run over Damian.
The boy was sitting directly against the banister, his legs looped through the thin wooden columns and swinging lightly. He was playing Dick's old Gameboy, brows furrowed in concentration.
"Check if he's dead," Damian said flatly to Bruce without looking up. Bruce raised his eyebrows behind his cowl.
"That's not funny."
"No, it isn't," Damian said with even less emotion than before, which was a feat. "So did you win?"
Bruce was already entering Tim's bedroom, having not heard Damian's last question. He also didn't notice Damian following him, Gameboy forgotten next to the banister where it would surely fall off later.
Tim was curled up in bed, mouth formed into a defined pout and one arm escaping from the pile of blankets covering him. His face was flushed and a damp cloth was soaking his forehead; Alfred had even procured an I.V. drip which seemed to be administering some nameless fluid to Tim's system. Overall, the boy looked worse for wear, but nowhere near death, as Bruce's overreaction had thought otherwise.
Bruce supposed that there was really no need to rush after all, though. Tim seemed in good hands.
Dick was asleep next to Tim, flat on his stomach with a thermometer clenched in one hand and his free arm thrown across the younger boy's body. He looked as if he'd been attempting to stay awake until dawn – which Damian seemed to have no problem with, since he was observing the scene in fascination – but failed in the process. He also looked worried, if that was possible for a slumbering individual.
Bruce let out a long exhale of relief and heard Damian 'hmph' indignantly.
"He read Tim a bedtime story and tried to read me one, too," the youngest Wayne said, "You'd think he'd at least read me something that didn't have pop-up photos."
"It's freezing in here," Bruce murmured, silently treading over to the bed and pulling off his glove. He placed his hand on Tim's forehead, feeling the high temperature that still heated his skin. "Has he been given any fever reducers?"
"I don't know. I haven't been in here." Damian watched as his father reached across Tim's form to feeling Dick's forehead as well. "He's not sick."
"I'm only checking. Ask Alfred for some more blankets."
Damian rolled his eyes, but turned on his heel and marched from the room. Knowing that his youngest son would procrastinate fulfilling his order for at least several minutes, Bruce felt safe enough to check over Dick and Tim a second time. Other than the combined effects of exhaustion and dehydration, they were in relatively good health. Maybe it was just a flu-bug Tim caught.
"Bruce?" Dick murmured when his mentor's bare hand passed over his face. He gazed over at him blearily, eyes squinted against the light from the lamp on the nightstand. His eyes were rimmed with red.
"Hush. I was only checking on you two," Bruce said, finally pulling off his cowl and starting to unclip his cape. Dick eyed his cape, then sat up so suddenly that his eyes crossed for a moment.
"He was asking for it!" Dick blurted out in a hushed voice.
"Your cape! I think Tim was only dreaming 'cause of his fever, but he was crying and asking for your cape so I crawled into bed with him. Thank goodness you're back. Can I have it?" Dick said in one breath, holding out a hand. Bruce stood silently for a few seconds, his expression reading both embarrassment (at the thought of his sons still needing him at their ages) and surprise (because the boys still needed him). In all reality, Tim probably wanted comfort from Bruce and not just his cape, but Bruce was tired and Tim was asleep. Any comfort the kid needed from his surrogate father now, he could just get when he was awake again.
With a resigned look, Bruce shook his cape out and carefully spread it across Tim's form, making sure a portion of it also covered Dick. His eldest ward gave him a bewildered stare, but seemed to eventually get the hint and lay back down again. Bruce drew the cape further over Dick's shoulder.
"You used to ask for my cape when you were sick, too," Bruce informed Dick said a wry smile. Dick scoffed.
"I don't need it now. Not at this age. Tim and Damian need it more than I do."
Bruce smiled a little wider, and allowed himself a moment of tenderness as he brushed a stray lock of hair from Dick's face. "Well, it'll always be around, just in case," he reminded the boy, and turned his attention to Tim, who still slumbered on. In an uncharacteristic gesture of affection, Bruce leaned over to rest his forehead against Tim's momentarily, before he pulled away and turned off the lamp.
"Make sure to tell Alfred if his fever spikes," he told Dick, and received a murmured 'sure' in reply.
As Bruce turned to leave the room, he found Damian standing in the doorway with a duvet gathered on his shoulder and a cup of tea in his hands.
"Going to bed?" Bruce asked, but Damian blushed and didn't answer. Instead, the boy stalked past him, set the tea on the nightstand next to Tim's head louder than necessary, and clambered into the bed on Dick's other side. Once there, he gathered the duvet around his small self and proceeded to stare blankly at the wall.
Bruce snorted softly in amusement, then left the room and shut the door behind him. Alfred was passing by at the same moment.
"I prepared a beef stew for supper. I'll bring it to the Cave in a moment," the butler said.
"Thanks, Alfred. Did Damian give you any trouble?"
"Of course he did," Alfred said with a secretive smile, "But I offered him a tray of cookies in exchange for guarding Tim's bedroom until noon tomorrow. Now, if you'll excuse me." As the butler proceeded down the staircase, Bruce took one final peek into Tim's bedroom. Just as he expected, all three boys were asleep. At the very least, he wouldn't have to deal with any arguments until the morning.
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