"Richie is asking for a bedtime story."
Bruce Wayne looked up from the overstuffed chair to see Tim Drake leaning in the doorway, nearly invisible thanks to the deep blue longsleeved shirt and dark jeans. Off Bruce's confused look, Tim clarified, "Oh, he doesn't want me to read it. No, he'd much rather have Uncle Bruce."
A soft chuckle brought a glare from Bruce to the other occupant of the living room. Selina Kyle tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and pushed her reading glasses farther up her nose.
"Must be that brooding, Dark Knight voice," she purred. Grinning, she intoned, "I am vengeance. I am the night. I am-"
"A pushover, apparently." Bruce got up, leaving his novel on the side table. Selina slapped him gently on the behind as he walked past. "Promises, promises," he smirked.
Tim rolled his eyes. "Gross." He stepped out of the doorway so Bruce could get past him, and followed him up the stairs and out to the west wing of Wayne Manor.
Down the hall, the two of them could hear shrieking and a set of loud thumps. "Thought your job was bedtime tonight," Bruce told his protege.
Tim rolled his eyes. "You were the one who said Damian's kids could sleep over."
There was a thunk, followed by a short swear word. Bruce raised an eyebrow and looked at Tim pointedly. "Pretty sure that was one of yours."
"Yeah, and she learned it from Damian's kids," Tim argued. The two men stopped in the hall, each looking into the bedrooms that were set across from each other.
One bedroom was completely abandoned, and all of the Wayne grandkids and Drake children were piled into a mass onto the floor of the second. Pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals had been amassed in the center of the room, and the two men were just in time to see Sarah Wayne somersault off the top bunk on the left side of the room and into the fluffy target below.
"Ow!" Carter Drake complained. "Sarah, get off!"
She smirked. "Not my fault you didn't move fast enough!"
"You didn't give him much warning," Lucy Drake pointed out from her perch atop the bookshelf. She glanced at her little brother over the nail file in her hand. "Next time, don't even let him start getting out of the way," she added.
"You're a jerk!" Carter told her.
Lucy stuck her tongue out and began filing her middle fingernail, making it blatantly obvious to the others what she was really doing.
"I'm next!" Sarah's older brother Aiden was already climbing up the bunk ladder. "I'm gonna do a cannonball!"
"No, you're not."
The stern voice made all three of them, plus the final occupant of the room, Sarah and Aiden's youngest brother, Richie, freeze. Richie was watching the proceedings from the bottom bunk, but his eyes went wide at the sight of his grandfather.
"Everybody, down," Bruce commanded. Lucy hopped lightly off the ladder and Aiden crawled slowly back to the floor. The five of them moved to the middle of the floor, stumbling awkwardly over the giant pile of toys and bedding, until they were facing Bruce and Tim.
"This," Bruce gestured to the mess, "will be picked up in the next twenty seconds."
"Or what?" Lucy challenged.
Bruce exchanged a glance with Tim. "Are the Bat Tasers charged?"
"No way," Aiden said. "You wouldn't-"
"Nineteen," Bruce counted. "Eighteen-"
"Move!" Carter yelled, and the five kids scrambled to put the bedroom back in working order.
"You're terrible," Tim muttered under his breath.
The corner of Bruce's mouth ticked upward, before he hid it with a hand. By the time he got to "five and a half," the bedroom had returned to some semblance of normal, and all the kids were piled onto their respective beds.
Selina was waiting when Bruce came back downstairs. "No Tim?" she questioned, as Bruce stoked the fire before returning to his chair.
He picked his book back up, thumbed through to his page. "Sacrifices had to be made to the little hellions."
"Well, it was his turn," Selina shrugged. She flipped her tablet around so that Bruce could see the screen. "Did you see this?"
Bruce glanced at the headline of the Gotham City Gazette. NO LEADS IN MYSTERY THEFTS. "These are the same ones that keep stealing things and then returning them a few nights later?"
"Yeah. So who do we know that would steal fifteen baseball gloves and then return them?"
"What was it the other night?"
"Gotham Books-I forget what was stolen." Bruce glanced at Selina over the top of his book. "Not getting bored in your old age?" he teased.
"Don't even get me started with 'old,'" Selina shot back. "Don't think I didn't see that box of hair dye in the bathroom." She laughed when he narrowed his eyes. "Plus, you know me. Not really my style."
"Nobody's style that I can think of." Bruce flipped a page. "We'll let Tim and Damian keep an eye on it."
"Batman's not ready to come out of retirement?"
He shook his head. "Not for stuff like this."
"Because I'd hate to have to tell you you're too old for this."
He tossed his bookmark at her with a smile.
"You gotta be kidding me."
Damian Wayne rolled his eyes. "You can't take a joke-why would I bother?"
Tim sighed. "Y'know, I keep hoping that your kids are going to mellow you out and give you a sense of humor."
"They are an unavoidable irritation-but an irritation I actually tolerate," Damian said. He pointed to Tim. "Unlike you."
"Ha. We were both out all night, how did this happen without us knowing about it?" Tim tossed the newspaper on the table between them. GOTHAM E-GAMES ROBBED. "They got away with half the store inventory of the new Green Lantern game."
"Still can't believe that thing got a sequel," Damian propped his feet up on the table. "First one sucked."
"Morning Dad!" Aiden Wayne came skipping into the dining room, throwing his arms around his father. Damian ruffled his hair. Aiden yawned. "What's for breakfast?"
"The tears of our enemies."
"Froot Loops," Tim said, sliding the box down to Aiden. A few moments later, Sarah, Carter, and Lucy came in, all still clad in their pajamas. "Where's Rich?" he asked them.
"Upstairs," Aiden replied. "He was still sleeping, so we let 'im stay there."
The two adults exchanged a glance. "I'm on it," Tim said quickly. Waking Richie was the way safer option than staying at breakfast with three sugar-hyped Wayne and Drake kids. He jogged out of the room before Damian realized he'd been had.
A spoon embedded itself in the wall near Tim's head, and Tim laughed as he headed upstairs. As he headed down the hall, he could hear electronic voices coming from the guest bedroom.
In brightest day, in blackest night-
Tim paused. "Wait a second…" he whispered. Slowly, he made his way down the hall, and pressed himself against the wall just outside the door.
…Green Lantern's Light. Tim's eyes widened. "No freakin' way," he whispered. He stuck his head through the door.
Richie sat on the floor in front of the flatscreen. John Stewart's piercing gaze was illuminated by bright green light, and underneath that, the words PRESS START were flashing in green lettering.
"Hey, Rich?" Tim asked casually.
His youngest dropped the controller in his hands, and looked up at his father, wide-eyed. Tim nodded to the screen. "Busted," he said. "You wanna tell me how you got your hands on that?"
"Carter let me keep it," Rich tried to pin it on his unofficial cousin.
"Yeah? And Carter got it…?"
"Last night, during our game."
Tim sat down on the floor next to Richie. "What game?"
Richie's response was to stand and reach for something under his pillow. He pulled out a very familiar-looking yellow object and held it out to his father.
Tim's eyes widened. "Two questions," he said, holding up two fingers. "Thing one: what are you doing with Grandpa Wayne's utility belt, and thing two…where did you get it?"
Richie frowned. "Which one should I answer first?"
"The second one."
"Lucy," Richie said, seemingly happy to give her up. "She's really sneaky. She followed you down here once."
"And…what are you doing with it?" Tim pressed.
"Cops and robbers," Richie mumbled. "Carter an' Lucy are the robbers, and we're the cops who catch 'em. They get a head start 'an then me and Aiden and Sarah go chase them."
"In the middle of the night."
"Using Grandpa's old tools?"
Richie nodded. "Grandpa's not really using them, and they're a lot of fun. We can climb stuff and jump off stuff and it's really fun."
Wait 'til Damian gets a load of this. Tim was torn between impressed that they'd gotten away with this for weeks, and parental embarrassment.
"Are you mad?" Richie's voice was small, and he buried himself in his uncle's chest.
"I haven't decided, buddy," Tim said honestly. "But there's one thing I do know for sure," he said, holding Richie out at arm's length.
"What's that?" Richie asked.
"We are not telling your Grandpa Bruce."
I am vengeance, I am the night… "I am a glorified mechanic," Bruce muttered as he waited for the oil to drip from into the pan below the Batmobile. "Not even Clark has to fix his own printing presses," he said aloud.
"Hi Grandpa Bruce!"
Bruce started, banging his head on the hood of the car. Rubbing the back of it, he looked down to see Richie Wayne staring up at him. His youngest grandson was wearing all black, and had his face smeared with greasepaint so that only the whites of his eyes were visible.
"How did you-"
"We followed Uncle Tim once," Richie explained. "Watcha doing?"
"Oil change," Bruce said, mind still reeling from the revelation that his grandchildren had full knowledge of the Batcave.
"Oh." Richie bit his lip, and glanced backwards. The kids had not been expecting Grandpa Wayne to be working this late, and it was time to start their game again. Uncle Tim had told Damian, who of course, was fine with the game as long as nothing was getting irreparably damaged or broken.
He had made them pay cash for the video game they'd stolen, though.
"Hi Grandpa Wayne!" Lucy Drake said, hopping down the stairs a couple at a time. "Wow, the actual Batmobile. That's so cool!" She ran a hand over the trunk and up over the hood, shooting Carter a glare in the side mirror. Do something!
"Richie just told me you've all been down here," Bruce reminded her. "This is obviously nothing new to you."
"Well yeah, but like, we never touched it or anything," she said smoothly.
She saw Carter stifle a laugh as he made his way around the other side of them. Sarah and Aiden were hunched low behind a display case with their father's suit hanging inside it.
"Right." Bruce said.
"It's way too quiet up here," Damian noted as he came into the library with a cup of coffee. "Where are our children?"
Tim shrugged. "Outside?" he replied hopefully.
Damian eyed him. "Doubtful. I just checked their rooms and they're empty. Maybe another night of cops and robbers is underway."
"Either of you seen Bruce?" Selina asked, coming into the room. She yawned. "It's past the old man's bedtime, and we had a movie date."
"He was down tinkering with the Batmobile," Tim said. He looked at Damian. "Maybe we oughta go check on the old man. You know, just to be on the safe side."
"It is a lot of steps," Damian agreed. "And he's not as spry as he used to be."
"You can get away with saying that," Selina said. "You're his son."
"Still," Damian said, as he and Tim headed back downstairs, "best not to mention that."
"You're all grounded."
"You're not our dad!"
Bruce crossed his arms over his chest as he swayed gently back and forth, glaring disapprovingly at his grandchildren.
Although looking at them upside down isn't exactly menacing. He wondered how it had worked so often with the Joker, with the Riddler, and all the others. It is not intimidating at all when you're hanging upside down.
"Come on, Grandpa Bruce, we'll let you down in a sec," Sarah promised. "We just gotta finish getting ready!"
"You are not using my Bat gear to play your games."
"We bring it back!" Aiden argued. "And it's not broken or anything!"
"We're careful," Richie added.
"You're breaking and entering," Bruce countered.
"We haven't broken anything," Lucy clarified.
"Well, there was that one Batarang that lost a point," Aiden said. His sister shot him a Look.
"Do your fathers know about this?"
"Yep! Dad's cool with it."
"Dad is only cool with it as long as you're not hurting anybody," Damian countered, coming down the stairs. His accented voice bounced off the Batcave walls. He glanced at his father hanging from the ceiling from a grappling hook. "Hello Father. Hanging with the grandkids?"
"You're hilarious," Bruce told his son dryly.
"Carter, please let your grandfather down," Tim said sternly. "Gently," he added, at the look in Carter's eye.
"Aw." Carter and Sarah moved to where the Batarang had chewed into the rock. It took a couple of tugs, but between the two of them, and help from Lucy, Aiden, and Richie, the kids managed to lower Bruce back to the ground. Tim unraveled the wire from around his ankles.
"You good, Bruce?" he asked.
Bruce rolled his shoulders, waiting for the blood to rush back into his body from his head. He looked at Tim and Damian. "You knew about this?" he asked them.
Tim had the sense to look a little ashamed. Damian, however, met his gaze and nodded. "Yes."
"And you allowed it."
"It runs in the family," Damian pointed out.
Well. Bruce didn't know how to respond to that one. He looked at the kids. "You are no longer allowed in the Batcave-"
"-unless one of us is with you," Bruce finished. "Some of the things in here are extremely unsafe, and I'd rather an adult who knows how to handle them is here with you." He snapped his fingers and pointed up the stairs. "No games tonight. Go to bed. We'll be up shortly. Go ask your grandmother for a treat from the kitchen."
"I bet we can get two," Aiden whispered to Richie as the kids trudged their way upstairs.
Bruce shook his head. So much like his father. "Hold it," he said aloud, looking at the retreating backs of Tim and Damian. "Where do you think you're going?"
Both men froze, and turned slowly back. "The kids told me I can't ground them because I'm not their father," Bruce said. "I can, however, punish the two of you."
"I'm not technically-"
"Shut up, Tim," Damian said. He looked at Bruce. "Name your punishment."
Bruce smirked as he retrieved his cell phone from the work table next to the Batmobile. He typed something quickly, and then stuck it in his pocket. "The treats in the kitchen are double chocolate chip cookies. I just told Selina the kids can have the entire batch. In their bedroom."
He pointed at the two of them. "You're in charge of cleanup. Tonight. Before the kids go to bed."
"But they're gonna be up until-" Tim's jaw dropped. Then, he shook his head with a smile. "Well played, Bruce."
"And every store they've 'borrowed' from in the past few weeks is going to be hosting a meet-and-greet children's session with Gotham's greatest hero."
Tim frowned. "Wait. But-"
"I draw the line at other people's children," Damian objected.
"Plus, Gotham's greatest 'hero' is you," Tim added.
"Oh no, not me," Bruce shrugged. "As I've heard several times lately, I'm too old for this shit." He nodded to the two of them, closing the lid on the Batmobile and wiping his hands on a rag. He tossed it at Tim. "I leave that in your capable hands. You're both great with kids." With that he nodded to the two of them before heading for the express elevator. "Have a good evening, gentlemen," Bruce called back to them as the doors slid shut.