Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is full of Grace
Wednesday's child is full of woe
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
Her eyes settled when she was six months old, Crystal Brown tells her daughter.
Before, Crystal had hovered over the crib, where Stephanie Brown lay, each morning peering down, a half-whispered prayer on her lips as she waited. Waited for her daughter's eyes to open.
They had been blue, Crystal tells her. Dark, deep, blue.
And then, one day, Stephanie had opened her eyes, and one had been golden as the hair on her head, the other green as grass.
Arthur Brown, with one eye orange, the other eye amber, picked her up and laughed.
A Graced child lives a hard life in Gotham City; it is a city that is hard, and cold, and unwelcoming at the best of times.
Laws have been changed, over the years, so that Gracelings no longer belong to the government, until they have proved themselves useless to society and been sent home in shame.
But no one likes the Graced. Their eyes are uncanny, their behaviors strange and suspicious. They are admired, if their Grace is beautiful, they are respected if their Grace is powerful, but most of all, they are feared.
Stephanie Brown, at age five, goes to a school for children like her, where she and dozens of other children with two eye colors go through circle after circle of activities, trying to learn what their gifts were.
Stephanie Brown excels at nothing. She can't leap gracefully through the air or hit things when she threw them, she can't hold her breath for hours at a time or climb any surface set before her.
She, and those others like her, are sent home at the end of the year, a letter clutched in their fists telling their parents to try their luck at other schools, where other, less useful Graces are looked for.
There is no money for another school, for another chance, especially not when it is likely to turn out that her Grace was to recite poetry or bake or stand on one leg for hours at a time and never tire.
She goes to public school, after that, and makes her peace with the fact that few children would want to be friends with a girl with mismatched eyes and an unknown Grace.
On paper, her Grace is unknown—a lot of people never figure it out, it's not unusual.
She never tell anyone, because with certain Graces come expectations, and the expectations aren't what she wants; not as Spoiler, not as Stephanie Brown.
But every time she sits down at her piano, she knows.
Deep down, she knows.
Before things get too bad, Catherine Todd kisses her son's forehead and tells him that his eyes are nothing to be ashamed of.
One of Jason's eyes is a strange, sickly green, that one day he will know to call Lazarus Green. The other is blue like the morning sky, a blue almost unnoticeable enough to be normal, not Graceling.
Catherine Todd has no Grace, and neither does her husband, who is suspicious and grumbles about his son. Sheila Haywood, far away from Gotham City, has two eyes of the same color, ice-blue and just as warm.
Jason knows, from very early on, what his Grace is. No one else can throw a punch like he can; his strength is too much, for a boy of his age. Street brawls end brutally fast, when Jason wades into the thick of it, because squabbles turn from scraped knees and black eyes to broken bones a little faster than they should, because his aim with anything he throws is a little too accurate, because his eyes gleam brightly in the light of the alleys.
He's a fighter, and that's what he's ashamed of, not his eyes, two colors that could almost be normal, if only they were both the same.
Mom tells him he needs to stop being so angry, and there's a fear in her eyes, which, when he's young and scared, thinks means that she's scared of him.
It's not until years later, when he's wandering Europe, his rage so far past boiled over, looking at a crate full of children with mismatched eyes, all of whom with "useful" Graces like his, that he realizes that she was scared for him instead.
Mom dies, the drugs taking her for good this time, and Jason is left, alone and angry, and fighting again. Fighting to survive, to keep the roof above his head, to live long enough that he can prove them all wrong.
Bruce… Bruce changes that.
Duke Thomas is a mind reader, and honestly, he's kind of surprised he's lived this long.
When his eyes settled; one yellow, one blue, it was bad enough. His parents were great about him being Graced, but it's a tough life on the best days. He takes to wearing very thick glasses, but yellow eyes are kind of weird, even in Gotham.
He pretends, for as long as he can, that he doesn't know what his Grace is, and encourages rumors that he remembers everything he reads, that he's uncommonly flexible, that he's fast or strong and everything else he can think of. He convinces his parents to withdraw him from the prestigious school for Graced children, before anyone there figures it out, and keeps his head down.
Everyone's minds feel different. He deduces Batman's secret identity on his own, but his Grace confirms it, when he spots Bruce Wayne giving a speech one day. Disguises never work on him; no one can ever sneak up on him. People radiate to him, their minds a clamor that he can never silence, part of this wild and large and impossible world that he finds himself in.
He can sense people's thoughts, sometimes, on the surface, and that's how he knows he can never tell anyone.
People will tolerate the Gracelings; begrudgingly, bitterly, reluctantly, but they will tolerate them.
No one tolerates a mind reader.
When his parents disappear and Duke slips into foster care, he buys colored contacts. No one looks trice at another kid with brown eyes. No one bothers him.
He spends his nights wandering homeless shelters and back alleys, looking for his parents, feeling out for the sense of their minds, in the darkness.
He can't find them.
Tim Drake remembers.
For tricks, at parties, when he's younger, he impresses guests by recalling every item in a room, while blindfolded. It had been delightful to the audience of the wealthy friends of his parents, almost delightful enough for them to overlook the fact that one of Tim's eyes is ash grey, the other blood red.
He remembers the fuss, when his eyes settled—he was unusually old, almost three years when he woke up one morning and heard his nurse scream. His parents immediately called in dozens of favors, getting him tested for everything they could think of, hoping, desperately, that his Grace would be something socially acceptable, not something shameful, to be hidden.
It took them two more years to figure out Tim's gift, and he remembers how Dad sighed in relief, when they realized.
Tim was grateful too, because it meant that he wouldn't have to be sent away.
The party tricks are nice and harmless, and Tim makes sure that they stay that way. No need for any of them to know that he remembers more than just simple tricks, more than lists of presidents and the state flowers of every state.
He remembers the codes to safes that he saw opened in mirrors, passwords just by watching someone's hands as they type. His hearing is good, and he can recite entire conversations, can recreate a crime scene in exacting detail.
And, when he sees Robin perform a distinctive flip…
Tim remembers that, too.
Cassandra has one violet eye, and one brown.
Her father wears an eyepatch, and the eye that's exposed is a sparkling blue, but it's a ruse. Beneath the patch, she knows, the eye is shiny and copper, like a newly minted penny.
Her mother, who she will not meet until she's much older, and not know who she is for years after that, has one eye green like new leaves, and one eye black.
The men Father brings to fight her don't always have eyes like hers; many of them have eyes the same color, but just as many have eyes in a dazzling rainbow. Cassandra fights a man with one pink eye and one orange who never misses with a gun, a woman with silver and brown eyes who is stronger than anyone Cass will fight until she meets a metahuman for the first time, and dozens of others, with every possible eye combination and every possible Grace.
Not that Cass knows what Graces are, in those days. Some of the people with eyes like hers fight… well, not quite like her, but sort of like her, but others are good at different things.
But later, Cass learns those words.
And she knows, without needing to ask, or be tested, what her own Grace is.
A killing Grace.
"The blue eye is for the sky that we fly through, the black eye is to remember the cost of gravity," Dick's father told him when he was younger.
It's rare, for Graces to travel through families like this, but Dick's father, uncle, and cousin all have the same colored eyes, and similar Graces. Aunt Karla, Uncle Rick's wife, has a Grace too, but her eyes are red and gold instead.
Mom has no Grace, but she's just as deft in the air as the rest of them, and Dick loves her all the more for it.
Dad has a Grace for a grip that never fails, which helps on every death-defying act his family does. Whenever Dad's hand holds Dick as they fly through the air, Dick knows it's safe, because Dad will never let go until it's safe.
Uncle Rick has a Grace for gauging distances; he always knows when to make a jump, he always knows the exact right moment to let go.
Aunt Karla has a Grace for landing on her feet, but that doesn't save her, when Zucco comes. The fall was too far, for that.
Cousin John's Grace is to leap far, impossible jumps that carry him across the rigging, to the delighted gasps of the audience.
Dick is the luckiest of them all, with his Grace for acrobatics. Flying through the air on the trapeze is as easy to him as breathing, as right as rain, and a million other comforting platitudes. It's home, to him, and he loves it.
It's strange, being the only one with blue and black eyes, in his new family.
But he makes do.
Damian's known his Grace is for swords from the cradle.
There are ways, to tell what Graces are, in every culture of the world. Some are more effective than others.
Nowadays, science searches for explanations of Graces, and governments demand tests and training and examinations, but Talia al Ghul has no time for that.
Talia has no Grace; her eyes are brown. Her mother had a Grace for predicting the weather, and Ra's al Ghul's Grace is a mystery to all but a chosen few.
His Grace is to find water, a Grace that many would find useless, but for a man whose power comes from the Lazarus Pit, Talia knows that it is powerful indeed.
Talia's brown eyes are yet another reason why she cannot succeed her father, despite the blood that flows in her veins.
When Damian opens his eyes at only two months, revealing an eye so deep of a blue that it's almost black, and one eye the color of blood, she is so happy she cries.
She considers her options, before she goes to her father to announce that he has his heir, but then she makes up her mind.
Her half-sister, Nyssa, with her yellow and ruby eyes, was also passed over, because Father deemed her Grace for herbs and plants, was useless, even after Nyssa's potions and poisons proved their worth many times over.
Dusan, with his white hair, and one eye maroon and the other eye silver, was rejected, despite his powerful Grace for hand to hand combat, because of his genetic defect.
Talia takes Damian, instead, to David Cain.
David Cain is a powerful Graceling, with a precious gift, of being able to identify a Grace. In America, he would have been able to amass a fortune, telling rich families what their children would become, but instead, he's one of the most valuable assets in the League, and his fighting is all the deadlier for being able to spot a Graced fighter, even when they're wearing a mask.
"Swords," Cain tells her, and Talia presses her lips to her son's forehead in gratitude.
Her father will have to accept her son. He drove Dusan away, spurned Nyssa, and only tolerates Talia out of his hopes that she will provide him with an heir, and perhaps some fondness for her mother.
But Damian? Her beautiful, perfect son, with a Grace for swords?
Her father will never do anything to drive him away.
The magazines speculate about Bruce Wayne's Grace.
It's a shame, the women of Gotham laugh and gossip, that the city's most eligible bachelor be a Graceling. Few women are brave enough to marry one, especially one who doesn't even know what his Grace is.
No wonder, it's agreed by the men of Gotham, that he's adopted so many children, all of them with Graces of their own.
Bruce Wayne's eyes are striking, proclaim the tabloids, one eye blue and one eye brown.
Batman's Graced, whisper the criminals of Gotham, Graced with fighting and fear, with truth detection and vanishing into the night, with camouflage and aim.
Bruce, with his Grace of good eyesight, looks at his children, and says nothing.
It's not that Bruce intends to adopt an unseemly part of Gotham's Graceling population, it just… happens.
Bruce's Grace is barely even a deal—if it weren't already on the record that he's a Graceling, if all of the photos of The Night don't focus in on his eyes, he might have just had one of those very expensive, slightly risky surgeries that the wealthy often get for their Graced children.
But everyone already knows that Bruce Wayne is Graced, so he doesn't bother.
He just makes sure that no one knows it's anything even remotely useful.
His sight is nice—he's got good night vision, good peripherals, and he can see further than pretty much anyone whose name isn't Clark Kent—but honestly, being a Graceling doesn't do much to affect his life as Batman.
It doesn't stop the rumor mill from insisting that he's a Graceling, despite officially, on the record, Batman being unGraced.
Dick… well, Dick, standing at the foot of that trapeze, would have stood out to Bruce under any circumstance. He didn't even know the boy was Graced until he got home with him, and finally saw him in good light.
When Dick decides to become Robin, Bruce has Dick sit down with a hundred activities, until they find one that Dick is good enough at that they can claim it's a Grace.
They choose card tricks, in the end, and Bruce drills Dick on them for a solid month before he takes him to a charity gala and allows the rumors to start on their own.
Jason is… harder.
Jason has a fighting Grace, and it's not a subtle one. It's one of raw power and strength, but it's also one of the mind, the kind of Grace that Ra's would kill to have in his League, the kind of Grace that Bruce dreamed of having as a child, the kind of Grace that action movie heroes have…
And it's one that's terrifying, in the body of a twelve-year old boy.
He could snap the neck of someone so easily, because he can't know his own strength. His mind moves fast, tactically, and smart, and Bruce tries to hone that, sharpen it to a point so that Jason will always be able to think of the consequences of his actions, of every punch.
He does call Clark to help with the strength thing, though. He helps, and Jason is thrilled to meet Superman, on top of that.
After, Bruce is reminded of the other reason that such a Grace is terrifying.
Steph tells Cass that she doesn't know what her Grace is.
Cass doesn't call her out on it.
How can Steph not know, when every time she picks up an instrument it begins to play beautifully, no matter how out of tune or old or broken it is?
Music flows from Stephanie Brown constantly; humming and singing on patrol, tapping rhythms against the table during meals. She can't be in the same room as any instrument without being able to pick it up, but the piano is the worst.
Bruce tells her to stop being a hero, because her hands are important to her Grace, because what happens if her fingers are broken or her wrist is fractured?
She's not like the rest of them. Steph needs music to be happy, they can all see it.
"Then I'll sing," Stephanie says, her mouth a thin line. It's the closest thing she's ever come to admitting it. "I'm not going to stop."
And she doesn't.
Dick hates it, sometimes, faking his Grace. Pretending to be something he's not.
It makes sense, and he knows it, but he also feels that it's… disrespectful. Like it's telling his family that he's not really one of them, that he's forgotten who he is.
It's not true, he reminds himself of this every time he goes out onto the streets, every time he does a flip or a somersault or leaps from one building to another.
Whenever he leaps across the rooftops—it's for Uncle Rick.
Whenever he lands on his feet—it's Aunt Karla, guiding him.
Whenever he makes an impossible jump—it's just like John taught him to.
Whenever he catches someone and doesn't let them fall—he knows he's living up to the example his father set.
And whenever he sees something that his Grace won't help him with, and does it anyway?
That's his mom, right there.
When he designs his Robin uniform, he uses the family colors, the colors of their leotards.
When he becomes Nightwing, it's the Grace colors.
Bruce doesn't approve, thinks it's too obvious, but Dick does it anyways.
It's not for Bruce.
It's for the Flying Graysons.
He knows, that Father disapproves of his Grace.
There is no place for a sword fighter, in this family, in the legacy of Batman and Robin.
And after Father's death…
There's even less of a place for him.
Grayson tells him he needs to have a "cover" Grace, one to tell the public, because they always wonder.
"I speak nine languages, can fight with a variety of weapons, and am an accomplished artist," Damian informs him, stiffly. "Will any of that suffice?"
"Art might work," Grayson says. "I do card tricks. Want to see?"
Damian does not want to see, but Grayson shows him anyways, and explains how his true Grace gives him the hand-eye coordination that helps make it believable.
"It should be something you like," Grayson tells him. "Do you have a favorite medium?"
Damian keeps his mouth shut, trying to think of what would be the acceptable Grace, of what would be good for Robin to have as a Grace.
He's still deciding, when Cain shows up in his room, with his violin in one hand, and Stephanie Brown's wrist in the other.
"Violin," she declares. "Steph will teach you."
"I'll what?" Brown says.
"She'll what?" Damian demands.
"Your Grace. She'll help you play."
"I don't need her help to play!" Damian screeches, unable to help himself.
Brown glances at him. "So you're better than me, is that right?"
Brown smiles and takes his violin from Cain.
After she's done playing, Damian reluctantly agrees to a few lessons.
It can't hurt, at least.
The problem, with remembering…
Is that he can't forget.
Tim wishes, sometimes, that he could forget. Forget the smell of his mom's favorite perfume—Chanel, always Chanel—or the way that Conner smiled, the last time that Tim saw him before he went off to die—just a little too fragile, a little too large, as if he somehow knew what was going to happen—forget the sound of Steph's laughter—muffled as she buried her face in his pillow, because his dad can't know that she's in his room.
He'd love to forget.
Instead, he's left with the ghosts of everything he's ever done.
Every room in the Manor, after Bruce's disappearance is dotted with memories, and it's sour. Every look at Steph's face is superimposed by the image of her grave, and it means he doesn't want to, even though he should be delighted that she's alive.
He can recite every conversation he's ever had with anyone, since his Grace emerged, but he still can't figure out where he messed up, to let them all down.
To let them all die.
It's Barbara, with her eyes—one green-grey, one lavender—in the end, that pulls him out of it.
"I remember too," she tells him.
"It's different," Tim protests. "You remember everything you read—"
"I know," she tells him. "But I know how overwhelming it is. And I can help."
"How?" Tim says, half-desperate. Babs's Tower isn't as bad as some places in Gotham, but as it is, it's overlaid with memories.
"We need to organize your mind."
"Tim, I'm a librarian," she says, and her glasses glint with the light of her screens. "Trust me. I can organize just about anything."
It takes three weeks, five self-help books, a visit to Zatanna, and an appointment with an Oracle approved therapist, but it turns out?
After… the killing, Cass leaves.
As it turns out, she's very good at that.
Not the leaving part, but the being on her own part.
She scrounges for food, and sleeps when she can. The cold is unpleasant, but she survives.
She always survives.
She makes her way across the ocean, and then across an entire country, picking her way through fields and along roads, learning whatever she can.
She soaks up the languages, and learns to wear baseball caps and to keep her hair in front of her eyes whenever she can, because people stare at her eyes, and their body language turns hostile, even if their eyes are also colors like this.
Not always, though. A woman with an eye the color of rose petals and the other the color of the stems gives her a cup of tea, in the middle of a small town surrounded by corn. A man with one eye silver and the other gold allows her to ride in the back of his truck for three days.
She takes these kindnesses, and holds them close, but usually, she just tries to keep alive.
Gotham happens, eventually, and words come with it.
She has a Grace for killing. Batman says it's fighting, and tells her about a boy named Jason, but she doesn't correct him. She holds back every punch, every blow, fighting against her own nature.
Eventually, she meets a man who reads minds. One of his eyes is tan, the other is aqua, and both are kind.
Mind readers… no one likes them, but Cass doesn't quite see why, and the man is grateful, for that, as she helps him.
"I hate my Grace," he tells her, as they walk through the sewers. "I wish I had a Grace like yours."
She recoils, revolted at the thought.
"What?" He asks, frowning at her. "Survival is a great Grace."
She stares at him.
"Killing," she corrects him. Words are still hard, are still heavy in her mouth and awkward in her throat, but she's getting better.
"No," he says. "I've felt killers fight. And I can feel it, when you use your Grace." He looks at her. "Do you just… think everyone can do what you can?"
"Yes," he says. "Because you're Graced."
"Oh," Cass says, trying to fit all of her joy into that single syllable, but she doesn't have to, because he understands her, and pats her on the shoulder.
"I hope I helped," he tells her.
She smiles at him, and then runs home to tell Barbara.
Sheila Haywood, as it turns out, is Jason Todd's biological mother. She's a doctor who's doing charity work in Africa, and it never occurs to Jason to look into it, and Bruce doesn't check until it's too late.
Sheila Haywood, as it turns out, went to Africa after she was threatened with losing her license after medical malpractice lawsuits closed down her clinic.
A clinic which had a side business, providing discreet operations for desperate parents with Graceling children.
Optic surgery did not actually stop a Grace from manifesting, but it was popularly held that it did. Any doctor should know otherwise.
It doesn't stop many doctors from performing surgeries anyways, despite the risk to the children.
The lawsuits came after a child died from complications, which Sheila Haywood had argued in court shouldn't cause her to lose her license, because it was a Graceling child.
If there had been a time when Sheila Haywood might have cared about her son, Bruce realizes, after everything, any chance of that ended when Jason lowered his sunglasses to reveal his eyes.
But that comes later.
In the moment, Sheila Haywood acts delighted to meet her long-lost son. She tells stories of Willis Todd, seems willing to reconnect with Jason, and it isn't until that the Joker shows up that there's even a hint of something being wrong.
Jason Todd dies that night, and Sheila Haywood with him.
Sheila Haywood doesn't come back.
And when he comes back, he looks at his fists, designed for fighting, for killing, and he decides, from there on out, he's done holding himself back.
All of Duke's new siblings, as it turns out, are Graced.
"Really?" He asks Bruce, disbelieving.
"It just… happened," Bruce says. "You're the first mind reader, if that makes you feel better."
"It doesn't, but thanks," Duke tells him, looking down at the adoption paperwork that Bruce has laid out in front of him.
"It will be up to you how much you want to incorporate your Grace into your persona as the Signal," Bruce tells him. "Stephanie doesn't; Dick, Cassandra, Jason, and Tim do., to various extents."
"What about Damian?" Duke asks, frowning.
"Damian is… working on it." At Duke's raised eyebrow, Bruce reluctantly elaborates. Honestly, getting this guy to communicate is harder than pulling teeth. "His Grace is sword fighting. Which, as you might imagine…"
"Doesn't really fit into the family aesthetic?"
There's the faintest hint of a smile, which Duke is perfectly willing to take as a victory. "He's finding a lot of his skills there translate well to staff fighting and staves. His progress is being… slowed, because of disagreements with his teacher."
Oh, are you—
"Didn't Damian try to kill Tim that one time?"
Bruce looks pained. "They're working on it."
"Wait, am I the only member of this family that Damian hasn't tried to kill?"
"He hasn't tried to kill Cassandra, either."
"That's because everyone loves Cass. Did he try to kill Steph?"
"If you say multi-verse, I'm leaving, and I'm taking the adoption papers with me."
"More like semantics."
Duke can't help it.
He laughs, and as he does so, he lets his mind stretch out, across the bounds of Wayne Manor.
Stephanie is in Cassandra's room; a reading lesson, he can tell by the way that Cass is frustrated, frustrated in the way that she gets whenever she's not immediately good at something.
Tim and Jason are in the Cave, arguing about a case, but in the most good-natured way the two of them know how. Their minds hold no malice, and if there's a twinge of hurt or rage, it was unintentional.
Dick and Damian are in the kitchen, keeping Alfred company. Damian is working on his homework for Gotham Academy—he's irritated by how easy it is, irritated even more by the few questions he doesn't know the answer to. Dick is chattering away at Alfred, his mind filled with a kind of bone-deep contentment that's rare in Gotham, let alone in the Manor. Duke probes at it, absently, and finds an anticipation there too—Damian has agreed to patrol with him tonight.
They're all here, and they're all okay.
Duke pulls his mind back to himself, and smiles at Bruce.
"Everything looks okay here," he tells Bruce, and pushes the adoption papers back across the table.
Bruce grins at him, the kind of rare, wide, real smile that Duke has already learned to savor, and signs them with a flourish.