Bruce got in late—the kind of late that was technically early. Even criminals had better things to be doing at four-thirty in the morning.
Vigilante had a lousy gig.
Bruce softened his footsteps upon catching sight of the figure slouched unconsciously in his chair. Dick was mostly in uniform with a worn college sweatshirt thrown over his suit, but barefoot. His hand still clutched the computer mouse in sleep.
Bruce shook his head fondly. Once Dick finally let himself crash, the kid could sleep through just about anything. Bruce crouched and worked the mouse free of his ward's fingers bemusedly, resting Dick's hand on the armrest as he replaced the device on the console.
It was only in glancing at the screen that Bruce realized what exactly Dick had been monitoring.
The younger vigilante made a grumbling noise, turning away from Bruce and nearly falling out of the chair in the process. Bruce swiftly moved to grab his ward's shoulder, steadying the younger man as Dick rapidly shook off his sleepy confusion.
"That was rude, Bruce," Dick grumbled, still half-suspended in mid-air from the Batman's grip on his sweatshirt. "You could have pulled up another chair."
"Interrogating the furniture doesn't get the usual results," Bruce issued in crisp bemusement, before letting his voice sink back into the Batman-register. "Now why are you spying on our guests?"
Dick's eyes popped open again, and yes, his surveillance was still running across every monitor in the Cave. Onscreen, Tim and Damian were both sleeping—Tim curled up to accommodate the lack of covers on his side of the bed and Damian wrapped up like a burrito on the other.
Alfred had mentioned that Damian's bed was rarely ever slept in.
"They always do that," Dick muttered, straightening himself out in the seat properly and not quite meeting Bruce's eyes, "same room and opposite sides of the bed. Damian steals the covers and Tim lets him. They do it every night, B. It's suspicious."
"Suspicious that an eleven year old in a strange place would sneak into his older brother's room at night?" Bruce asked dryly. "Fire up the signal, Chum."
"It's suspicious, because they're total strangers," Dick argued, tense and frustrated.
Bruce quieted. His former-partner was completely serious, pushing himself out of the chair to pace tightly in front of the computer.
"They say they're from the future, but they won't talk about it. They say that they're your sons, but we can't prove it." Dick withdrew, wrapping his arms around his chest, shivering. "They make allusions to bad things that haven't happened yet, Bruce … stuff about you and Jason that scares the heck out of me."
Bruce frowned, but didn't get a word in before Dick exploded into motion again.
"Then they horn in on our patrols! And Damian watches me, Bruce. It's creepy. He watches me, and Tim watches him, and they whisper for hours every night." Dick suddenly sank back into the chair like his strings had been cut. "Don't you want to know what they say when no one is listening?"
Bruce sighed. Now, his input was apparently desired. "And what do they talk about, Dick?" he asked, humoring the younger man.
Dick threw his arms up again in utter exasperation. "Damian's schoolwork. A flying Batmobile, existential philosophy, and someone named Harry Potter. I don't know—Tim's adopted, Damian's ambidextrous, and they don't like Alfred's waffles."
"You don't like Alfred's waffles, Dick," Bruce remonstrated gently.
"We don't talk about the waffles," Dick fired back.
Point to Nightwing.
Bruce slowly brought his hands up to his throat, unfastened the cape and with a flick of his wrist, wrapped the heavy garment around Dick's shoulders.
Dick sighed heavily, but nestled back into the dark fabric, already visibly calmer. Bruce conditioned his Robins well. "Talia al Ghul, Bruce? Really?"
Bruce shook his head. "It's complicated."
Dick let that one go. "They make me nervous, Bruce. The real Timothy Drake is only a couple years younger than Jay. Why would you make him Robin? What happens to Jason?"
"I'm not going to let anything happen to Jason," Bruce said firmly, reaching out to squeeze Dick's shoulder. "I won't let anything happen to any of you."
Dick snorted. "They're cracked, Bruce. You have to see it. Obviously a lot of things are going to happen. You're not God."
"I'm Batman," Bruce returned sharply.
Dick stared at the floor. Bruce crouched in front of the chair to make eye contact.
"I will keep Jason safe. I will protect and train Tim better when he enters our lives. And I will find Damian." Bruce paused for emphasis: "Will you help me?"
Dick let out a burst of accidental laughter—almost the giggle of long ago and a small child excitedly swinging at his side—and hastily scrubbed the heel of his hand over his reddened face. "Well, when you ask me like that …"
And on the video screens, Tim and Damian slept on undisturbed.
"How long do you think it will take them to realize that you looped last week's footage?" Damian asked dryly as he leaned back against the neatly made bed and let his head rest—only for a brief moment—against the mattress.
"If Bruce hasn't figured it out by now, I'd be surprised," Drake remarked softly, sorting through the records that he had taken the liberty of relocating. This villain wasn't even on Batman's radar yet, despite his lengthy history with Gotham PD.
Once a crook, always a crook in Damian's opinion.
Damian blinked in confusion as Drake turned his gaze upward. The teen was studying Damian for some reason and frowning.
"You can go to bed, Damian. You need your rest."
Damian jerked upright again. "I am not tired," he argued automatically, reaching for a stack of eye witness accounts.
"Of course not," his older brother agreed. "Can you tell me how many people actually laid eyes on the Cluemaster?"
"It would likely be faster to account for the precious few in Gotham who haven't," Damian sneered. "He is truly a pathetic criminal indeed." Ignoring his heavy head, Damian obediently began to count the reports anyway …
… and woke up some time later with his head in Drake's lap as the teenager dozed. The research was either complete or disregarded, but the covers had been seized from the bed above and draped haphazardly over Damian.