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you know i like a little competition from time to time

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it starts with a trip to ikea.

well, no. it starts long before that but the trip to ikea is what kicks it into overdrive, as many a trip to ikea has done.

“you want to go where?” bruce asks and steph rolls her eyes.

“ikea.”

“what is that?”

“it’s a furniture store,” tim says from his place slouched against the sofa. he thinks for a minute and frowns. “i’m pretty sure you own the one in town.”

“of course he does,” steph mutters as bruce matches tim’s frown, leaning on his elbows on the desk.

“i do?”

“rich people,” she grumbles and collapses on the couch with tim, narrowly avoiding cass’ legs. “you own so many things you can’t keep it all straight.”

both tim and bruce ignore her.

“when did we branch out into furniture stores?” bruce asks and tim shrugs, rubbing at his face like he does when he’s thinking.

“i think it was right around the time jason started renovating those houses in downtown gotham. there wasn’t anywhere to buy cheap furniture.”

“so you built an ikea.”

“it was cheaper than bussing it in. we ran the costs.”

bruce sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose, squishing his eyes shut. cass giggles a little from next to stephanie, shifting to loop their arms together.

“you bought a furniture store because it was cheaper than getting furniture from somewhere else.”

“well… yeah. plus it’s making you money.”

“like you need any more of it,” steph grumbles again. cass pats her shoulder.

“it was a good investment,” tim says, defensive. he’s still slouched on the sofa but steph doesn’t need cass’ training to read the tenseness in his body. he’s ready to fight, if need be. “you signed off on the papers.”

bruce’s eyes snap open. “i did not.”

tim’s nodding before finishes talking, objecting as soon as bruce gets the words out. “you did. i wouldn’t have done it without your permission. i have the signature somewhere.”

“i think i would’ve remembered signing off on a furniture store.”

“i don’t think it was identified as a furniture store in the papers. just as ikea.” bruce glares at him for a second. “i assumed you would know what it was!”

bruce sighs again and collapses back into his specially-designed ergonomic desk chair, one of three he owns. steph had looked it up once and it was easily two thousand dollars. each. sometimes, she hates rich people.

“i knew it was a mistake to put you in charge of the company,” bruce complains good-naturedly, giving tim a tiny smile so they all know he doesn’t really mean it. he shuts the lid of his laptop with a click and gets to his feet, looking at steph. “well?”

“well what?” steph asks and he makes an impatient sound.

“you wanted to go to ikea? suppose it’s time i saw my own property.”

“is this how you end up adopting so many kids? you don’t realise they’re yours until they haven’t left the manor for three weeks and you’re confused?”

bruce’s mouth twitches. “exactly like that.”

“hm,” she says and stands up herself, pulling cass up with her. “yeah, i wanna go to ikea. but! if we’re going, then you’re going to go as a normal civilian. not bruce wayne, not batman, just a regular old joe with his two daughters.”

bruce’s mouth twitches again, this time bigger. “i could go as matches malone.”

“i’m not good enough at a new jersey accent.”

“daughters, plural?”

“cass is coming too. she needs to try their meatballs. and ice cream.”

cass nods, bouncing on her toes. “yummy food.”

“it seems like i have been commandeered,” bruce says. “tim, you coming?”

“nah, someone’s gotta run things when you’re ditching,” tim says with a smile. “plus, i spent too many hours there when we were renovating. the thought of going back makes me want to pull my hair out.”

“girls’ trip,” cass says happily. bruce shakes his head and pats his pockets, checking for keys.

“girls’ trip,” he says, resigned.

 

bruce keeps his word and they’re inconspicuous walking into the store. he’s got a slouch on and he left his coat in the car, unbuttoned his shirt a little so it’s a little less formal. he looks like any normal dad, albeit one in designer business casual clothes. steph doubts anyone in ikea is going to place him but the effort is nice.

cass and bruce have matching expressions when they get to the top floor, looking around at the endless amount of rooms on display. cass takes at least a minute at every one, examining everything with wide eyes and touching all the little decorative items everywhere. she stops at a room done up in neutrals, airy and bright even in the fluorescent lights of the store.

“wow,” she says. “pretty.”

bruce looks at her for a moment, then at the room, then back at cass. steph bets he’s only a second away from buying the room and having it transplanted into the manor.

“c’mon, daddy warbucks,” steph says as she hooks her arm through his, tugging him away. he jerks at the name.

“don’t… don’t call me that,” he tells her, resigned.

“which one? daddy or daddy warbucks?”

“either. both.”

“you’ve seen annie, haven’t you?

“i have. i’m not bald.”

“not yet.”

“stephanie.”

“you’re a gajillionaire that’s adopted a bunch of orphans. not calling you daddy warbucks would be a crime.”

bruce has got his face on that means he’s regretting every single one of his decisions that brought him here. steph grins.

“life is tough when you have a lot of money,” she tells him solemnly. “and you have to live with the consequences.”

 

it takes an hour for them to work through the top floor. steph and cass start a rating system, measuring how much they like each room on a scale of one to ten and it takes a minute to evaluate each set up. bruce is endlessly patient, sometimes chiming in with his recommendations and sometimes wandering off to look at something or another.

steph finds him testing out an armchair.

“i’m hungry,” she says and he perks up against the pink floral fabric.

“i thought you’d never be done,” he replies and she pulls on his hand to get him to stand up. “is there food here?”

“yeah. i want meatballs.”

“meatballs?”

“swedish ones,” she says, licking her lips. “with lots of gravy.”

he nods. “lead the way, then.”

they collect cass and make their way to the cafeteria, waiting in line behind a family of five with young children. the kids take a while. steph’s stomach growls.

“i could take you to sweden,” bruce says conversationally. “i didn’t know you liked swedish meatballs this much.”

“i like ikea meatballs,” steph corrects. “it’s not the same.”

“stockholm is beautiful this time of year.”

“b, you’re ruining it.”

“hn,” he says as they shuffle a step forward. he pays for all three of them, which steph was kind of counting on because she does not have a lot in her bank account right now. her paycheck comes in on friday, but until then, she’s happy to let bruce pick up the bill.

“are you going to be able to eat all that,” he asks when they sit down, eyeing her plate. “it’s a lot of food.”

“are you doubting my stomach,” she says, minorly offended. bruce cuts a meatball in half with his knife.

“no. just an observation.”

“that’s almost an attack on my dignity.”

“i know you can eat, stephanie,” bruce says with a long-suffering sigh. “you don’t have to prove it to me.”

“you’ll get sick,” cass says and now steph is determined.

“just you watch.”

she finishes all her food and eats the last meatball off cass’ plate too, just for good measure. it sits uncomfortably in her stomach but she doesn’t care. she’s proved her point and bruce doesn’t ever get to doubt her again.

“if you vomit all over my car, i’m making you clean it up,” is all bruce says. stephanie makes a face. she’s not going to throw up and she doubts bruce will make her clean it. it’s just a threat and an empty one at that.

“i’m not going to vomit. have some faith,” she tells them. no one tries to argue. “c’mon, i wanna go back to the living rooms.”

 

for all his rooftop navigation skills, bruce is no good at finding his way in stores. steph figures he just hasn’t been in them enough; there’s a skillset that can only be built by getting lost in walmart a decent amount of times. she’s not sure bruce has ever even stepped foot in a walmart, now that she’s thinking about it.

a little ways away, bruce stomps around the display chairs. she should probably help him find his way out before he explodes. but on the other hand, she rarely ever sees bruce have a normal emotion. much like finding his way through stores, it’s an underdeveloped skill.

“hey clark,” she says brightly, skulking in an empty section of the store. she was given clark’s phone numbers for emergencies only, theoretically, but sometimes she likes to call and give him updates on whatever dumb shit is happening. he then uses it as blackmail against batman. it’s an excellent system.

“hi, steph. what’s going on?”

“oh, i don’t know,” she says, smoothing her hand down the very nice comforter in the kids’ room she’s in. “i was just wondering, has the planet had a good piece on bruce recently?”

there’s some shuffling down the line. “no, not recently.” clark’s voice is suspiciously amused and she bites down on a grin. “why?”

“do you have anything...else going on?” she asks, pitching her tone low.

“not anything at the moment. what are you planning, stephanie?”

somewhere behind her she hears bruce growl. she better talk fast.

“it’s just that bruce is currently lost and i have a feeling superman is gonna show up and save him. thought you might like the tip.”

“oh, superman.”

“mmhm.”

“where is bruce?”

“the new ikea in gotham,” she says and can’t stop herself from grinning this time. clark pauses.

“...in ikea?”

“yeah.”

“you want superman to come save bruce who is lost in a swedish furniture store?”

“imagine the headlines, clark.”

she can hear him sighing. “that’s not what superman’s powers are for.”

“you said yourself that you don’t have anything else going on. it’ll only take a couple of minutes, c’mon.”

there’s another growl, angrier this time.

“was that bruce?”

“yeah. he’s about to lose it.”

“ugh. fine. i’ll be there in a second.”

clark hangs up unceremoniously and steph pockets her phone, still grinning widely. cass gives her a suspicious look when she rejoins her.

“what did you do?”

“you’ll see,” steph answers, giggling when bruce goes through the fake door of a display and comes out right where he started. “the world’s greatest detective, my ass. he can’t even solve how to get out of ikea.”

where is the goddamn exit,” bruce bites out, getting turned around yet again. steph almost feels sorry for him.

a grating sound above their heads is all the warning they get before the roof’s lifted up like it’s nothing, sunshine pouring in through the suddenly open ceiling. everyone gapes. steph grins, snapping a picture on her phone.

“it’s superman,” someone whispers behind her. cass sniggers, and steph looks to bruce. his face is blank but there’s a muscle in his jaw twitching.

“bruce wayne,” superman calls out, barely stopping himself from laughing, and bruce sends a glare steph’s way before tipping his chin up.

“superman,” he answers in an even tone.

“i heard you were lost.”

the muscle in his jaw ticks again. “just a little.”

“need help?”

no,” bruce says but superman’s not listening, letting the roof down with a slight thump as he floats down to the floor. “god, this is so embarrassing.”

“you shouldn’t have gotten lost.”

bruce looks around until he spots cass and steph, narrowing his eyes at them both.

“how nice of superman to show up,” steph says sweetly and bruce looks torn between frustration and amusement.

“i’ll make you run extra drills,” he warns. she waves a hand.

“you were going to make me do that anyway.”

“did you need anything, or can i show you the way out?” superman says politely, one hand resting on the small of bruce’s back. steph has to work to stop herself from squealing.

bruce grinds his teeth for a minute. “you can show me the way out.”

steph snaps another picture. she gets lectured all the way home on the proper use of superhero powers and only calling superman in real emergencies but all of it is worth it.

 

“i can’t believe you,” tim says, swivelling around in the desk chair. stephanie yelps; she had thought she was alone in the cave. “you went there.”

“i don’t know what you’re talking about.”

there’s some frantic typing and there’s an article pulled up on the computer screens.

gas prices in metropolis fall to a record low?

“shit, wrong section,” tim says, still frantic. a different article comes up.

superman saves gotham billionaire bruce wayne from getting lost in ikea maze,” steph reads out, noting lois on the byline. clark must’ve given her the article. “that’s cute.”

hashtag superlame is trending on twitter.”

“i think it’s quite clever that we commandeered your dumb hashtag, so double points for us.”

“that’s not how it works!” tim nearly screeches and she absently wonders how long it’s been since he’d slept. “i can’t believe you called in superman when bruce got lost in fucking ikea.”

“people keep saying that. who else was i supposed to call?”

“it’s a low blow, stephanie brown.”

steph scowls at him. “this is coming from the guy who tampered with batman’s equipment so he’d fall and superman would have to catch him.”

tim goes a little pink. “that’s-- that’s different.”

“we let you have those points, so i don’t see why there’s a problem.”

“#superlame is trending on twitter,” damian announces from the top of the cave stairs. both of them swivel to look at him.

“we know,” tim says, defeated, but damian doesn’t lose his smug expression.

“that means we’re winning.”

“we know. stephanie’s evil.”

“an evil genius,” damian says and then frowns. “no, i did not mean that. her iq is nowhere near genius level.”

“thanks for that, dami,” she says. “love you too.”

“it doesn’t matter,” tim says and he’s typing at the computer again, squinting at some files. “the justice league have another meeting this week. clark’s bound to save batman somehow.”

“but will it get enough media awareness to beat us,” steph asks serenely. tim huffs.

“the ikea thing was inspired.”

“not on purpose, though. i still can’t believe you bought an ikea for bruce and he had no idea.”

tim shrugs. “it happens. can you get me more coffee?”

steph peers at the mug suspiciously. “how many cups have you had today?”

“uh… five?”

“then no.”

“if you drink too much caffeine it can make your heart stop,” says damian and then brightens. “i’ll get you another!”

“damian, no,” steph says, snagging the mug. “tim, you need to rest.”

“i’ll rest when i’m dead and we’re winning. whichever comes first.”

“i’ll unplug your computer if you don’t go take a nap right now.”

“that won’t stop me and you know it.”

“hey, damian, will you knock tim out if i give you a dollar?”

damian evaluates her with his eyebrows raised. “how hard can i hit him?”

“as hard as you like without permanently damaging him,” steph offers and tim holds his hands up.

“okay, okay. i am going, i promise. just let me send this last thing to babs--”

“two minutes or i’m letting damian loose.”

 

the whole competition was dumb. it had started with a dumb tabloid, one that most people would avoid like the devil. but tim was tim, and he had to know everything, and that included trashy stories about anyone in the justice league.

“listen to what was just published in the metropolis monocle,” he said to the room at large. jason had snorted.

“what a fucking awful name for a paper. i know they’re garbage, but god. that’s fuckin’ terrible.”

“shut up jason. listen: superheroes or super boyfriends? superman and batman caught in compromising position after latest battle fighting back alien invasion. is love in the air for the two masked men?

“what’s the compromising position?” jason asked.

“there are children in the room,” dick replied, faux scandal in his voice as he flung his arm out towards damian, cass, and steph. all three had protested but tim ignored it all.

“no, it’s just b in a fireman’s carry.”

“that’s not romantic,” dismissed damian. “that happens all the time.”

“it’s romantic to the metropolis monocle,” said tim and turned his phone around so they could see the picture. “honestly, i can see it. they’d make a cute couple.”

duke and dick both choked at the same time. dick recovered first. “excuse me?”

“one’s a vigilante, one’s the all-american superhero. i can see the appeal.”

“this is ridiculous,” muttered duke.

“of course you can,” protested dick. “that’s literally you and kon.”

“so i’m right,” tim said with a shrug, sitting back down next to conner. “and don’t call kon all-american. it hurts his feelings.

duke looked at conner, an eyebrow raised. “because you’re half kryptonian?” duke asked and tim intervened before conner could answer.

“no, because he thinks he’s edgy.”

“hey,” conner complained, shoving tim’s shoulder. “i am edgy.”

“sure, babe.”

“seconded,” barbara said. “not about kon, about batman and superman. it’s a good story.”

dick twisted around to stare at her. “you too?”

“look, there’s one in the gotham mail about superman and bruce wayne! i like that one better,” steph said, looking at her phone. “more like a damsel in distress situation. hot.”

“father is not a damsel in distress,” objected damian, indignant. steph flapped a hand at him.

“no, i know. but think of the media narrative.”

dick closed his eyes and mouthed media narrative. no one paid attention to him.

“nah, i’m with the replacement on this one. the enemy to lovers thing is better than damsels in distress,” said jason and gave tim a fist bump.

“what’s your opinion, kon, as a superman representative?” tim asked and conner had hummed, slinging his arm around tim’s shoulders.

“masked heroes all the way. it’s hotter.”

“objection,” dick had shouted as barbara and jason cheered, high fiving. “you’re unable to be a fair judge because you’re dating tim! also neither you nor superman wear a mask!”

“so you’re team bruce?” steph said, smiling widely. “that makes three against four.”

“i’m not team-- wait, three?”

“me, you, n’cass.”

“cass hasn’t voiced her opinion on any of this!”

“she told me she’s on our team.”

“this isn’t a competition--” dick protested weakly, already sensing a lost cause. he counted to three and gave in. “okay, yes. i’m team bruce.”

“as am i,” said damian, puffing out his chest. “first because team bruce is obviously the superior choice, but also i refuse to be on a team with drake.”

“hey!” tim had said without any real heat. “that’s an even fight, then. four on four.”

“duke?” asked dick and duke had shaken his head, a mildly terrified expression on his face.

“hell no. i’m not getting into the middle of this madness.”

“you can be referee, then,” decided tim and duke had spluttered.

“that’s the exact opposite of ‘not getting into the middle’. that’s putting me directly into the center.”

“too late,” said barbara. “we’ve already decided. you’re referee.”

duke threw his hands up in the air.

“you can always join us if you want. we’re obviously the better team,” jason said with a grin. “we’ve got the brains and the brawn and the beauty. and tim.”

hey.”

“which one do you think you are?” damian asked. jason flipped him off.

“we’ve got two ex-assassins and three robins,” steph countered.

ex-robins.”

“once a robin, always a robin,” dick corrected jason, twining his fingers with barbara’s. “i guess this means war.”

“waynes against kents. bats against supers,” mused conner. “hey, someone should make that into a movie.”

 

“jon wants in,” conner says, looking at his phone as he leans against the computer desk. “he’s on our side.”

“excellent,” says tim. “i’ll tell the others.”

“that makes the teams uneven!” steph calls out from the mats. she ducks under duke’s arm and rolls away. “that’s not fair!”

“you’ll just have to deal with it,” tim yells back.

“or find another player,” adds conner and steph turns back to duke with a pleading expression.

“duke? please?”

“no,” he grunts, swinging a fist at her. she blocks it with her arm and jabs towards his ribs. “it’s stupid.”

“it’s fun.”

“i don’t see the point in doing this,” he says and she hooks an ankle around his, shoving back so he lands with a thud. steph’s on top of him in a second, pinning him to the mat, her hair hanging down in her face.

“good practice,” she tells him. “watch your legs next time.”

“that was a cheap trick.”

“villains play dirty,” answers steph, jumping up and hauling him up with her. “you gotta be ready.”

“i’m not joining your team because you beat me,” duke grumbles and she kicks the back of his knee so it buckles. “leave me alone. i’m going to shower.”

“we should get an advantage, then,” steph says, crossing over to the desk and hanging over the back of tim’s chair.

“ew, you’re sweaty.”

“i’ll stop hugging you if you give us an advantage.”

“i could get my boyfriend to make you stop,” tim says dryly and steph tips her head to where conner’s typing away at his phone. she’d never stand a chance against him, but she also doesn’t think he’d do it.

“i’ll take that chance.”

“why is steph begging for an advantage?” dick asks as he comes into the cave, wally trailing behind him. they’re both still half in costume and they’ve both got sandwiches in their hands. steph’s stomach growls.

“jon’s joined up with team buttman here,” she grumbles, letting tim go so she can perch on the desk and swing her legs. “now we’re uneven.”

“nah, we’re fine. wally’s on our team.”

wally?” everyone says at the same time and wally gives a wave, stopping in his effort to fit an entire half of a sandwich in his mouth.

“hey guys.”

“since when have we had wally on our team?” steph demands and dick shrugs.

“since i told him about it. he thought it was hilarious.”

“no, this doesn’t-- you can’t be on a team,” tim argues. “you’re not part of this family.”

“actually, i am already a part of this family.”

tim freezes. “did… did bruce adopt another kid and forget to tell us?”

“i told you!” steph shouts, startling everyone. “i told you that’s how he has so many children!”

wally rolls his eyes, swallowing the bite in his mouth with a little difficulty, and shakes his head. “no, i’m not a wayne. don’t worry.”

“then how are you part of this family? or are you adopted into the kents?” tim whirls around to look at conner, who shakes his own head.

“nah, clark doesn’t adopt kids.” he pauses. “i’m not technically his child, genetically, so i don’t count.”

“dick and i did a blood brothers pact when we were in the titans,” wally says. “so, legally, i am a part of the family, actually.”

tim closes his eyes. “that’s not… that’s not how it works.”

“you don’t know that,” dick tells him. “we’re brothers and so he can be a part of this and he’s on my team.”

“hell yeah,” steph cheers, reaching over to slap hands with wally. “welcome to the best team! better than superbutt over there.”

wally cocks his head to the side. “superbutt?”

“it’s their team name.”

“ours is superlame,” dick supplies and then frowns. “not that it’s super lame, but that’s the couple name.”

“what the hell is going on?” wally asks as duke walks out, freshly clean and already rolling his eyes.

“don’t let them pull you into this, wally,” he says as he crosses over to the stairs.

“it’s too late,” tim says back. “we’re explaining the team names and everything.”

“oh god. i’m leaving.”

“duke doesn’t see the point in a little friendly competition,” dick says serenely. “but on the inside, we know he’s team superlame.”

“stop bringing me into this,” duke yells and shuts the door with a decisive click.

“he loves us, really,” steph says. conner snorts, knocking his shoulder into hers.

“keep telling yourself that.”

“so why the weird names?” wally prompts, bringing them back to the matter at hand.

“bruce monitors the web for any mentions of his name. technically, me and babs are the ones to wade through it, but just to make sure…”

“you misspell the names on purpose so he doesn’t know,” wally says, nodding. “smart.”

“superbutt was my idea,” steph grumbles. “it works on a lot of levels.”

“how many levels?” dick teases and steph waggles her eyebrows.

“spandex is a wonderful thing.”

conner shuts his eyes briefly, a horrified look on his face. “please don’t reference clark’s butt in front of me.”

“with great booty comes great responsibili--” she’s shut up by what feels like a hand on her face. it’s gone after a moment but she glares anyway at an innocent-looking conner. “using your ttk is cheating! how am i supposed to bite you if you’re not actually touching me?”

“no biting my boyfriend,” tim says.

“tim’s the only one who’s allowed to do that,” says dick and he gives wally a high five as both tim and conner go pink.

“that was one time,” complains tim and dick laughs.

“whatever, dracula.”

“wait, clark’s a reporter, right? how does he not know about any of this?” asks wally and all eyes turn to conner.

“he doesn’t read the tabloids on principle and we just managed to get him to use a touchscreen last year. he doesn’t know.”

“unless he’s spying on us with his super freaky hearing,” says steph.

“he doesn’t listen all the time.”

“do you think he’ll listen if i say he’s got a cute butt?”

she nearly breaks her teeth trying to bite conner’s hand but it’s worth it for the expression on his face. it’ll keep her laughing for months.

 

they set up a whole system, a complex series of points based on what the event is and how much media attention it gets. steph can’t keep it straight in her head but tim and babs can, and dick can enough to make sure no one’s cheating. it works.

it’s not like things happen every day. weeks go by, sometimes, in between incidents. they’re professionals. they know when to stop joking and they know not to orchestrate dangerous situations.

which is why steph can’t quite believe her eyes when jason not-so-subtly shoves batman off the side of a building.

“foul,” she screeches when there’s a rush of air from a red cape instead of a loud batman-sounding thump. “you’re tampering!”

“i don’t know what you’re talking about,” says jason blankly, kicking an alien so he, too, falls off the roof.

“you pushed batman over!”

“i did no such thing!”

steph growls at him as superman deposits batman back on top of the building, both of them standing back to back as they fight off the wave of aliens coming towards them. steph races over closer to the hood, partially so he can cover and partially so she can hiss at him without anyone hearing.

“i saw you push him off.”

“i ran into him trying to avoid a hit from an alien,” he tells her and she can’t see his face under the mask, but she knows he’s grinning. “that’s my story and i’m sticking to it.”

“gah,” says steph.

“duck,” jason orders and she does so he can unload a clip into the group of green bodies coming towards them. “these guys are creepy.”

“not my favourite type of alien, that’s for sure.”

“who is your favourite alien?”

“hood, we’re literally in the middle of an invasion.”

“no, it’s a valid question. martian or krypton, who do you like more?”

“superman is right there,” she says exasperatedly, even though she’s pretty certain clark isn’t listening. “i can’t just pick--”

“so martians.”

“i didn’t say that.”

“batgirl wants everyone to know that she hates aliens, kyrptonians included,” jason interrupts, the voice crackling over the comms.

“i do not!”

“she told me herself.”

“red hood is an ass,” she grumbles over the sudden rush of voices in her ear. “who’s on this line, anyway?”

“what do you have against kryptonians, batty?” conner whines. she can hear him punch on the other end.

“don’t call me batty,” she says. “hood gave me a bad question.”

“all of hood’s questions are bad,” damian says. “he lacks the intelligence to form coherent thoughts.”

“unlike yourself, i’m sure,” tim says dryly. steph snorts in chorus with at least three others, jason included.

“less arguing, more fighting,” shouts duke.

“i’m good at multitasking,” steph answers but shuts up anyway, flinging a couple of batarangs that all land on target.

“it’s an essential skill,” says dick and his voice is amused even through the static. “you need to be able to make puns as you’re punching bad guys. otherwise, what’s the point of robin?”

“saving people?” oracle offers as damian says, “assisting batman, of course.”

“nah, it’s puns.”

“hey oracle, when you get a minute we’ve got another rescue to add to the spreadsheet,” jason says with a grunt, holstering his guns and shaking out his hand. “super saved the bat when he went over the edge of the roof.”

“because hood pushed him,” argues steph. “that shouldn’t be a legal move.”

“still counts,” barbara says gleefully through the sound of computer keys clacking. “we’re in the lead, just barely!”

“tt.”

“foul,” steph shouts again. “god, i’m going to punt b out the window next time i see him.”

“how is potentially shoving batman off the side of the building a foul but calling superman to rescue b from getting lost in ikea not?” complains tim.

jason shrugs. “she’s got a point.”

“that was a stroke of genius,” steph snaps and then catches sight of something in the air. “aw, fuck. here are more stupid aliens.”

“hey,” conner complains as he touches down, letting tim clamber off his shoulders. “that’s rude.”

the movement catches batman’s attention and he spins around, superman following a half-beat later.

“what are you two doing here?” bruce growls and conner gives a tiny wave, looking just a tiny bit terrified. clark’s got the shadow of a smile on his face.

“we’ve secured our quarter of the city. no more aliens,” tim says. “figured we could lend our help here.”

“if that’s alright with you, sir,” says conner. it’s a little squeaky and clark presses his lips together. jason’s shaking with laughter.

“just call him mr. batman while you’re at it,” teases steph. conner doesn’t flush, to her disappointment, but tim sends her a nasty look.

“at least they came here instead of finding a shadowy alley to make out in, a la nightwing,” jason says, still laughing. batman eyes the couple.

“there is that.”

superman tips his head up to the sky and scans for a minute, red flashing over the clouds. “i think they’re gone. the invaders, i mean.” he tilts his head like he’s listening and conner with him. “flash says they’ve neutralized all the ships and sent them packing.”

“job well done,” says bruce and he looks back at them all. “finish cleaning up and then report back to the cave. did everyone get that?” there’s a chorus of agreement both in person and over the earpieces and batman nods. “see you all there.”

batman leaves with superman in tow and steph looks at her shoes with disgust.

“ugh. there’s weird goo everywhere.”

“it’s probably poisonous,” tim says solemnly. conner bends down and sticks his finger into a puddle of alien insides.

“nah. gross but not deadly. you’re safe.”

“that’s disgusting, kon,” tim says as conner straightens, wiping his finger on his shirt. “please tell me you’re throwing that away.”

“sorry, are we missing the point where b complimented us,” jason says, a little disbelievingly. “what the fuck just happened?”

“superman got on his case for not being more encouraging to us,” tim answers, still watching conner with a grossed-out look on his face. “so he tries in front of supes.”

“that’s fuckin’ weird.”

“superman gives really good lectures. i mean, they’re awful to sit through, but they make you shape up quick,” says conner. he’s still running his finger over his shirt, trying to clean it off. “even if you’re batman.”

“but still,” steph points out, “batman usually doesn’t take advice from anyone. i’m with jason; it’s weird.”

“i think it’s a requirement of being on the justice league,” tim says, gloomy, and rubs at his face. “hey, does that count for our team?”

“batman paying compliments? hell no,” replies steph.

“fair enough. plus we’ve already got the brilliant save by the hood earlier.”

boys,” steph hisses and takes off the roof without another word.

 

in hindsight, they shouldn’t have told damian about anything. leaving him out wasn’t really an option, especially when jon was on a team, but they really, really, really shouldn’t have told damian about anything.

it starts off innocently enough; he takes a keen interest in the spreadsheet, ostentatiously to make sure that tim and barbara didn’t cheat at keeping score. it’s a valid concern so they let him look, let him be quality control for team superlame. it’s helpful when he catches tim and barbara fudging the numbers a bit, just a few points here and there.

“we’re losing,” damian says scornfully when dick and cass come into the batcave. he’s sitting on a gurney with jon gleefully perched next to him. not for the first time, dick wonders if they realise they’re best friends or if they still consider themselves enemies. they spend a lot of time together for two boys who say they hate each other’s guts.

“sorry?” dick asks. damian’s scowl gets bigger.

“the contest. we’re losing.”

“by a lot,” jon says happily, drifting a tiny bit above the surface of the bed. his legs are still crossed. cass looks at them both and laughs, reaching over to ruffle their hair in turn. jon bears it but damian jerks out of the way, glaring.

“don’t laugh, cass! this is serious.”

“it’s war,” jon agrees, adopting a serious face. damian doesn’t answer but tugs him down so he’s closer to the gurney.

“we need to strategize!”

dick pauses, glancing between them. “with the enemy in the room?”

“tt. jon’s memory isn’t good enough to remember our plans.”

hey.”

“rude, dames,” dick tells him and damian scowls again, folding his arms over his chest. “also is jon supposed to be in the cave?”

“we were sparring.”

“you guys are supposed to have supervision.”

damian pulls himself straight up and fixes on his haughtiest expression, staring dick down. “i am eleven, grayson. i am practically an adult and i do not need to watched every single moment of the day.”

“yeah!” jon chimes in.

“last time you were here alone, you almost destroyed the economy of a small european country--”

“their economy was unstable anyway!”

--and you set off a small chemical explosion.”

“i was trying to find an antidote and i simply mixed the wrong solution!”

“and you’re still not trusted, let alone with someone who’s not a part of the bat team. no offence, jon.”

“none taken,” says jon.

“grayson--”

“bruce’s rules, not mine,” dick says firmly. damian narrows his eyes.

“bruce doesn’t get mad when drake brings conner down here.”

dick laughs, shaking his head. “he does, actually, which is why tim’s smart enough to turn off the cameras when they’re here.”

“they kiss,” cass says and wrinkles her nose. dick stops halfway through what he’s saying and turns to look at her.

“what?”

“they kiss. sometimes. after fighting. no cameras.”

“gross,” damian and jon both say at the same time, looking thoroughly disgusted. dick can relate.

“they have a whole mansion to kiss in,” he says and cass shrugs. “right, okay. that still doesn’t mean you two are allowed down here.”

“well, you’re here now so we are supervised. we can talk battle strategy!”

“i have work i need to do,” dick says.

cass nods. “practice.”

“i am not going to lose to team superbutt,” damian snarls, vicious, and it would be hilarious if damian didn’t look so serious.

“you are going to lose because our team is better!” says jon and he’s floating again, just enough so he sits taller than his friend.

“your team is far inferior to ours, kent.”

“yeah, well. we’re winning,” insists jon and then cocks his head to the side. “oh, mom’s calling me. she says it’s almost time for dinner.”

“are you going to make it back in time? do you need a lift?” dick asks but jon’s already hopping down from the gurney, his shoes untied and the laces trailing.

“nah, i’ll be fine. thanks for havin’ me, damian!”

“don’t come back,” he grumbles but waves goodbye anyway as jon takes off through the skylight, a blur of black and blue. “now we can strategize openly.”

dick rolls his eyes and crosses to the computer, pulling up some case files. “i told you, i have work. also the cameras are still on and tim or babs might check.”

“ugh.”

“fight with me,” cass urges and pulls on his wrist. he lets himself be led to the mats, sullen as she bounces on her toes. “no swords, no bites.”

“ugh,” he repeats and kicks off his socks, adjusts his stance and starts to fight. dick listens to them spar, the shuffle of their feet punctuated by a thud or a groan every once in a while. cass will keep damian entertained, work out all his misguided aggression and energy. damian’s not easily distracted but maybe cass will wear him out enough that he doesn’t do anything drastic. dick can only hope.

 

“damian,” dick says, surprised. “what are you doing awake? and dressed?”

“i could ask the same of you.”

he runs his hands through his hair. “tim would only go to bed if i promised to look over his case for him.”

“you haven’t slept yet.”

“no. you?”

“i woke up early,” damian says stiffly and fidgets with his silverware. “i have an appointment.”

“an appointment.”

“yes.” it’s far too stilted for an eleven year old and dick narrows his eyes at his brother. “with father.”

“hmm.”

damian looks at him for a second, scowls, and then glances down at his plate. ”he should be here any second.”

“what’s that in the cup beside you?”

“father’s coffee.”

“bruce doesn’t take milk in his coffee and you don’t know how to use the coffee maker.”

“drake showed me.”

“tim showed you. and you didn’t break anything?”

“okay, it was thomas,” damian growls and shoves a piece of toast in his mouth. dick eyes him for a long minute, arms folded across his chest.

“okay, what’s up,” he asks after a bit, when the toast is half gone. damian doesn’t look at him.

“nothing is wrong.”

“you’re grumpy.”

“i’m always grumpy,” damian says stiffly and dick bites back on a snort.

“you’re extra grumpy. did you not get enough sleep last night?”

“i slept fine. i’m just excited for this appointment with father.”

“why’d you make b coffee?”

“because i wanted to be a good son,” he answers and shifts the tiniest bit, almost imperceptibly. dick narrows his eyes.

“you’re lying.”

“tt, i’m not lying.”

“you’re hiding something.”

damian lifts his chin, just the tiniest bit. “hiding something is not the same as lying.”

“those are some really interesting semantics you have going there.”

“maybe you need to be more precise in your language.”

dick sighs, rubbing at his face with a hand. “fine then. what are you hiding?”

damian holds out for three minutes, staring his brother down, before dick snags the coffee cup from off the table and makes to drink it. damian yelps and grabs for the cup, wrestling it away before dick can bring it anywhere close to his mouth.

“‘fess up, dames.”

damian sighs and carefully sets the coffee next to his elbow before slumping down in his seat.

“i had… a plan.”

“a plan.”

“we’re losing, grayson. i cannot lose, especially not to drake and his band of idiots.”

“so this is about the competition?” unease slides its way down dick’s spine. “damian, what did you do?

damian bites his lip for a second, nudging the napkin by his plate. “it’s not as bad as todd pushing father off a rooftop.”

“damian.”

“or as bad as steph calling for superman in ikea!”

damian.”

damian looks behind dick, presumably to make sure they’re alone, and then huffs out a breath. “father is going to metropolis today, as bruce wayne, and he’s meeting with superman. it’s for a charity but i am unclear on the details or rationale.”

“okay,” dick says and the unease gets stronger.

“there will be press there. if anything was to… happen, it would result in our team gaining a lead.”

“oh no.”

“i found some of poison ivy’s concoction in the cave.”

“oh my god, damian. you didn’t. that’s-- do you know what ivy’s poison does?”

“i assumed if i put just a tiny bit it would lessen the impact, just enough for father to embrace kent in public,” damian protests, bright red in the face, but sullen nevertheless. dick doesn’t know whether to laugh or be outraged. “we would have a solid lead!”

“oh my god,” dick repeats, half dazed. “that’s-- oh my god. it doesn’t work like that. damian, i can’t believe you would even think about that.”

“i will not lose, grayson!”

there’s the telltale creak of the bannister that means they’ll be joined in a few seconds. dick closes his eyes, his voice falling slightly into batman’s timbre, trying to impress the seriousness of the situation. “listen, i don’t have the time to give you a lecture on consent and ivy’s poisons now but trust me when i say that this was a very bad idea. understood?”

“understood,” damian repeats with a mullish expression, poking at his toast again. dick snags the tainted coffee cup with a hand and is pouring it down the sink when bruce makes his appearance.

“good morning,” says bruce distractedly, one eye on his phone. he glances up when no one answers. “excellent, damian, you’re ready.”

“tt.”

“have a good time at the event,” dick says and hands bruce a different coffee, this time without anything added.

“hn,” he answers, frowning the tiniest bit and sitting down at the table. his expression matches his son’s and it makes dick turn away to hide a smile. he pulls out his phone and shoots off a text to barbara.

we might need to think about ending this little contest.

“sex pollen, huh,” wally says and dick groans from his place on the floor, rolling over so he can squish his face into a pillow.

“he was so set on going through with the plan, wally. what would’ve happened if i didn’t catch him?”

“c’mon, bruce knows how to handle that by now, doesn’t he? he’s fought poison ivy enough.”

“i don’t know. it would’ve been a disaster, could’ve easily been a disaster.”

“ah,” wally says, “about that.”

something in his tone makes dick sit up immediately. wally nods at the television and dick takes in the scrolling headline.

breaking news: hostages taken at metropolis event, including billionaire bruce wayne. details to follow.

“shit,” dick says because the camera has lingered on bruce’s face. he looks terrified but dick knows him well enough to know he’s not scared, he’s furious. “oh my god, he’s so mad.”

“why, because they ruined his day?”

“no, because bruce is supposed to be incompetent, which means he’s not going to let himself break cover unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

“dick, he’s literally being kidnapped at gunpoint. i think that’s absolutely necessary.”

“it’s metropolis,” dick says, fumbling for his phone. “superman’s going to be there in a second.”

he hits barbara’s number as awareness slides over wally’s face, a combination of delight and mischief that has been known to make grown men cower in fear.

“hey babs, you watching the news?”

“you know, i’m not actually an all-seeing, all-knowing entity,” she comments dryly but he can hear her typing in the background. “i’m not glued to my computer twenty-four seven.”

“uh huh,” says dick, carefully neutral. “you might want to get the spreadsheet out.”

“oh my god, bruce,” she says and he laughs, focusing back on the television. wally’s nearly vibrating with glee, grinning wide enough that it could almost light up the room. dick’s phone buzzes against his ear and he’s not surprised to see a bunch of texts in various group chats. steph is having the time of her life, razzing on superbutt with little grace.

“should we be prepared to back him up?” barbara asks idly and dick snorts.

“just be prepared to be losing, gordon,” he tells her. she hangs up and he slumps down on the sofa, satisfied. “oh, shit, where’s damian?”

“pretty sure they got him too,” wally says around a handful of popcorn. dick’s not sure where that came from. “think i spotted him in the back but everyone’s mostly focused on bruce. i almost pity the kidnappers, you know?”

“excuse me?”

“c’mon, dickie. you gotta feel a little sorry. they’ve accidentally taken batman and the most murderous robin hostage in superman’s hometown. that’s so stupid, it’s almost a shame.”

dick can kind of see it. “they are going to be hurting a lot in a little bit,” he says as his phone chimes with a text.

channel thirty three.

he switches the channel before wally can protest and is greeted with a split screen courtesy of barbara. three screens are cameras inside the town hall, bruce and damian visible in all of them, and the fourth is the news station they were just watching. they get to watch this go down from all angles.

“she’s a genius,” wally breathes, impressed. dick nods.

they watch with mouthfuls of popcorn, their fingers turning buttery as the kidnappers argue and the vein at bruce’s temple gets more and more pronounced. he’s still got the playboy persona on, but his eyes are keen and sharp, even through the grainy security footage. damian is slouched against the wall opposite, looking sullen and furious, his fingers twitching every couple of minutes. he’s taking his cues from bruce, refusing to reveal their identity and peeved about it.

“you know, in a normal family, two members getting kidnapped would not be a party.”

dick rolls his eyes. “what about our family is normal in any way?”

“point,” wally says. “where is superman? shouldn’t he be here already?”

“bruce is probably telling him to wait so they can figure out what the demands are. if clark gets in too soon, they could freak. it’s what i would do.”

it’s wally’s turn to roll his eyes. “bats.”

“it’s logical.”

“it’s ridiculous.” wally pelts him with a popcorn kernel. “how many weapons do you think damian has on his person right at this moment?”

“oh, at least three. more if bruce let him pack his brass knuckles.”

“he has brass knuckles?”

“mmm, talia gave them to him for his seventh birthday.”

wally shakes his head. “again, normal family.”

“mama didn’t raise no idiot.”

“i’m gonna tell bruce you called him mommy,” wally teases and dick goes slightly red, bashing his best friend in the head with a pillow. wally throws up his hands to protect himself, but only just.

“that is not what i meant and you know it.”

“a freudian slip?” dick hits him again, harder this time. “okay, okay. wait, look, something’s happening.”

and something is; the would-be kidnappers are floundering, yelling about something. bruce has gone tense, watching the guns flail in the air, and then there’s a blur of red and blue. dick and wally cheer as superman materializes, taking out the masked men in a few seconds. the hostages in the bank are moving almost before all the men are incapacitated, fleeing the scene. damian waits untili everyone’s almost all gone before walking over to where bruce is still sitting, his back dignified. dick imagines bruce is getting an earful because damian wasn’t allowed in the fight. he can see the amusement in both bruce and clark’s eyes, watches as damian’s expression gets coy.

there’s a brief exchange between the three and then damian puts on his wayne darling persona, curling into bruce’s side. superman escorts them out, a hand on bruce’s back, and damian can barely keep back a triumphant smile.

dick snaps a picture of the news when the three emerge and sends it to the group chat. update that spreadsheet babey!!! #superlame

jason texts back almost immediately. boo u whore

damian didn’t even need the poison, in the end. it’s a win-win situation, for everyone except team superbutt.

 

“bruce,” steph says, upside down on the sofa so her feet are kicking in the air. “brucella.”

bruce raises an eyebrow but doesn’t answer, shuffling his papers around studiously. fitting, since they’re in a study. steph blows out a stream of air through her mouth.

“bruce wayne,” she says, pronouncing wayne like kanye. bruce looks torn between amusement and horror, pride and mortification. it’s her favorite version of bruce.

“yes, stephalicious?”

steph flips right side up so she can grin at him as hugely as she can. “ooh, that’s a good one. bonus points for the fergie reference.”

“hn.”

“anyway, i need to go to walmart.”

bruce gives her a confused look. “okay. so go?”

“i can’t, though. my car’s dead again and you won’t let me drive any of the ones in the garage and everyone else is busy.”

“why do you need to go to walmart?”

“i just do, okay bruce?”

he narrows his eyes slightly. “is this… a girl thing?”

“oh my god,” she says, rubbing at her eyes with a hand. “a girl thing, holy hell, b.”

“i’m sure cassandra--” he starts, looking like he’s trying not to be supremely uncomfortable and failing miserably.

“with all due respect, this is not a topic i want to talk to you about, but no, i am not on my period. i just need to go to walmart.”

“then why?”

“i’m out of-- well, pretty much everything, but especially laundry detergent.”

“you can do laundry here,” bruce offers, a little crease between his eyebrows. “it’s free.”

“thanks, but sometimes i don’t want to lug all my dirty clothes all the way across town, you feel? and i’m tired of stealing your detergent.”

“you’ve been stealing our detergent?”

“for, like, a month. you haven’t noticed?”

“i’m not in charge of the laundry, stephanie,” bruce says flatly and she rolls her eyes, pulling a leg up to her chest to set her chin on top of her knee.

“i figured you kept a very strict inventory of everything in the house.”

“and still you stole?”

“i think you can afford a couple tide pods, bruce. if not, let me know and i can spot you a few bucks to buy some more.”

“hn,” bruce says again. “inventory is alfred’s responsibility. not mine.”

“noted. now take me to walmart.” he frowns but stands up anyway, weaving his way to the garage that houses all the civilian cars. stephanie follows, bouncing a little with every step. “this is a genuine question but have you ever been to walmart? like, seriously.”

“i am sure i have been to walmart.”

she tips her head to look at him over the nondescript midrange car hood, looking at him closely. “i don’t think you have.”

“i have been dragged into a walmart before. clark took me. it’s red and white, with that ridiculous dog mascot.”

“no, bruce,” she drawls out, rooting around the compartments until she finds a pack of gum. “that’s target. whole different ballgame.”

“they’re both giant monstrosities of a store that hold almost anything the average person might need. i don’t see the difference.”

she pops a stick of gum in her mouth and chews for a second. “target’s a lot more bougie.”

“bougie,” bruce repeats flatly.

“mmhm. ah frick, i don’t know the rich person equivalent. armani vs gucci? is that comparable? oh, it’s like target is the wonder woman and walmart is the batman of superstores.”

bruce gives her a look out of the corner of his eyes. “stephanie.”

“what? it’s a good comparison.”

“i don’t think it is.”

“are you saying diana’s not the best person on the justice league? that’s a real bold stance to take there, bruce.” the corners of his mouth twitch up into a smile and she leans back in her seat, vaguely satisfied.

“i can get you a new one,” he says after a few seconds of silence. she twists to look at him, frowning.

“what?”

“a car. if your old one is dead, i can get you a new one. any kind you like.”

“oh. uh.” she doesn’t know what to say, truly and honestly. she knows bruce is loaded, knows he’s got cash to spare, but it’s a little hard to remember what that means on a day to day basis. until he does something like this.

“you don’t have to say anything now,” bruce continues, like she isn’t having a tiny crisis. “we can call it payment for watching damian occasionally, if that’s better.”

“you’re going to give me a car for eating all your fancy gala food and following your eleven year old around for three hours?”

bruce shrugs. “why not?”

she crosses her arms, rolling her eyes. “okay, so you’ve definitely never been to walmart. prepare yourself, b, because it’s a whole other world.”

“i’ve been to other worlds.”

“semantics. anyway--”

she’s interrupted by a loud alarm sounding through the car, a smaller version of the alarm that goes off in the batcave.

“bruce…”

“it’s the watchtower,” he says grimly and he’s flipping through the radio channels quickly. “it’s the emergency signal.”

he finds the right frequency and there’s a voice steph kinda recognizes cutting through the speakers. “--code green, level orange, all members report. no time for assignments at the watchtower, prepare to defend at the coordinates sent to your devices. all hands on deck, affiliates included.”

steph looks at bruce. “code green, level orange?”

“alien invasion, hostile, medium alert.”

“ah. affiliates?”

“some people took issue with the word sidekick. text everyone, tell them to go to the coordinates we’ve been sent,” he says shortly and makes an illegal u-turn, speeding back in the direction they just came.

“it’s halfway between here and metropolis,” steph says as she taps out instructions to the whole group. “are we teaming up with the supers?”

“could be.”

“oh, tim says kon has the same location. why are they concentrating us?”

“they must be landing in specific spots. questions later, stephanie.”

she shuts up as they speed through gotham, faster than they have any right to go. damian, duke, and cass meet them with the batplane at the manor, already dressed and ready to go.

“where’s everyone else?” bruce asks as they take off, his batsuit in hand. cass gives steph her costume, the batgirl logo half visible.

“meeting us there,” says duke. “they were all in different places.”

“where?”

“tim’s with kon, jason was with roy and kor’i, dick was in bludhaven.”

bruce grunts and disappears towards the changing room, emerging in a minute as batman. steph’s always impressed with how fast he can do that; the suit isn’t easy to get in and out of but she supposes bruce has had a lot of practice over the past decade. she drops into the seat next to duke and squints at the screen.

“what are we dealing with?”

“imminent alien invasion. they’re not here yet, but will be soon.”

“watchtower intel gives us twenty minutes before they land,” oracle’s voice sounds over the overface. “i’d say more like twenty five, but who knows. they’re concentrating on these places.” the screen lights up with a map, different points scattered across the globe.

“why aren’t they sending superman to somewhere remote?” duke asks, pointing at an island that’s glowing. “somewhere like that?”

“wonder woman’s got that covered. the biggest ship seems to landing down at your location, probably drawn to the power of the supers.”

“it’s a world’s finest team up,” steph says happily. “kara too?”

“kara was in europe, so she was sent to a place on that end of the world. she’ll come if you need a hand.”

damian scoffs. “i think the--” he pauses, counting briefly on his fingers, “eleven of us can handle it. no need for supergirl’s intervention.”

barbara laughs, harsh with static over the connection. “noted, robin.”

“steph,” bruce says and bangs the headrest of her chair. “go change. we’re almost to the landing point.”

“you’re not the boss of me,” she grumbles but slips out to the changing room anyway, fitting the mask over her head as they land. they’re the last ones here, everyone else standing in a loose circle.

bruce takes charge as soon as his boots hit the ground, examining the group with a critical eye. they’re all paired up, people drifting towards their preferred fighting partners almost subconsciously. it’s not that they can’t get along with everyone, but there’s a few people who you don’t even have to talk about coordination, you just click. damian and jon, tim and conner, dick and wally-- wait.

“kid, what are you doing here?” says bruce and wally waves halfheartedly.

“just along for the ride.”

“aren’t you needed elsewhere?”

wally shrugs. “i was closer to this location and flash doesn’t need my help. he’s got a green lantern and green arrow on his side. think roy and kori were meeting up with them too.”

“roy and ollie will do more damage to each other than the fuckin’ aliens will,” jason says with a snort, his helmet tucked into the crook of his arm. “i hope dinah’s there too, or we’ll be scraping them off the ground.”

“not the time, hood,” says tim and jason rolls his eyes.

“why are you here with us and not with them?” steph whispers and jason shoots her a little smile.

“and miss that team up? hell nah,” he says, nodding to where bruce and clark are conferring. “something’s gonna happen, i feel it.”

“nice.”

“guess we’re partners, princess,” he tells her and she looks over the field again. usually she’d go with cass, but duke’s already got her covered.

“ugh, if i have to,” she says with a fake roll of the eyes, kicking him lightly in the leg.

“incoming,” clark booms and then it’s all business, fighting stances at the ready as the air starts to whip around their bodies, a spaceship descending. jason jams his helmet on his head and pulls out his gun, shifting so he’s at her back and here they come.

“how far ahead are you?” steph yells in between punches. jason twists his chin just a little bit.

“twenty points? i think?”

“not bad. not good, but not terrible either.”

“you could catch up,” jason agrees, nailing an alien in the forehead. “dick’s ready for this all to end, and i think if we have one more argument about it, duke’s going to snap.”

“you just don’t want us to win,” she accuses and aims her boot at an alien’s neck. jason laughs behind her and they fight like that for a while, in pairs, tackling everything that comes at them. steph pushes an alien into jason’s path and he finishes it off; steph covers his back as he moves. it’s a good system, especially as it’s repeated around the circle.

as far as alien invasions go, this one’s not bad. everyone’s disarmed in about fifteen minutes of hard fighting, but steph’s barely broken a sweat. she finds more action in a single night in gotham, if she’s being honest. straightening, she surveys the field.

everyone’s fine; damian looks vaguely bored as he wipes his hands on his thighs, like it wasn’t enough of a challenge. jon’s still full of energy beside him, bouncing up and down on his toes. dick and wally are talking with cass and duke and tim and conner are doing their own thing off to the side.

and there, in the middle, are bruce and clark, heads bent together in a way that’s much too close. clark’s got one hand around bruce’s back again, like he did after the kidnapping, and bruce has a faint smile on his face.

“kiss,” someone shouts and steph jerks, looking to where conner has his hands wrapped around his mouth. “kiss, kiss, kiss!”

jason joins in on the second cheer, loud and bellowing, with tim and jon not far behind.

“don’t do it,” dick shouts back and steph can hear the joy in his words. “take the cowl off and kiss him like that!”

clark’s shoulders are shaking, making the red cape ripple, and he drops his head against bruce’s shoulder, hiding his face. bruce glances behind him, rolling his eyes when he realises what they’re yelling, and calls their bluff.

“holy shit,” steph whispers as bruce nudges clark, lifts his head up, and kisses him in full view of everyone. clark startles but responds quickly, wrapping his arms around bruce and lifting them up off the ground a tiny bit.

“disgusting,” tim yells. “no pda allowed!”

“leave six inches for jesus,” jason agrees. cass pretends to vomit into the grass, wally is bent over double laughing, and damian and jon look somewhere between disgusted and awed. duke just looks resigned.

“does this mean i’m done being referee?” he asks and conner whoops, slapping tim’s hand in a high five.

“it means we won,” he crows. “team superbutt forever!”

clark drops bruce abruptly, both turning to look at conner with twin confused expressions. “superbutt?” clark asks and folds his arms over his chest.

duke drags a hand down his face. “oh my god,” he says. “they didn’t know.”

“we’ve kept it a secret!” dick argues and duke shakes his head.

“no, you really haven’t. it’s the worst kept secret in the family.”

“father didn’t know about it,” damian says smugly, looking to bruce. “did you?”

bruce narrows his eyes. “know about what?”

“oh my god,” steph says and she’s laughing like wally, tapping frantically at her comm. “o, are you getting this?”

“every word,” barbara says around her own giggles. “god, this is incredible.

“would anyone tell me,” bruce growls, his hands twitching like they do when he’s annoyed, “what the hell is going on.”

it takes them ages to explain, everyone talking over each other in their excitement, correcting each other and referencing the spreadsheet approximately every ten seconds.

“this is ridiculous,” clark says, chuckling still. they’re all in civilian clothes now, spread out across one of the many family rooms in the manor. “you were reading into half of these interactions. i smile at everyone.”

“not like you smile at bruce,” dick replies cheerfully. “or batman, for that matter.”

“are you two going to start dating now?” jon asks with a wrinkle of his nose. bruce raises an eyebrow and clark laughs again.

“start dating? we’ve been dating for what, four months now? is that right?”

“hn,” says bruce. “something like that.”

everyone stares.

“four… months?” dick asks weakly after a moment, when he can stop his mouth from hanging open. bruce sighs.

“four months, three days, seventeen hours, forty four minutes, and twenty one seconds,” he says. “if you want to be particular about it.”

“and you didn’t tell us?”

bruce shrugs a little, sinking back into the sofa. “you didn’t need to know.”

and, for the third time that day, the room erupts into chaos.

 

“this is extremely important, pennyworth!” damian yells. he’s on top of the kitchen room table for some inexplicable reason, furious and dressed for bed. “i need to know who won the competition!”

alfred looks at him mildly, not bothered by the hysterics in the slightest. “i believe master richard said something about it being a tie.”

current circumstances had made it impossible to figure out the winner, what with trying to decide who superman was dating.

“technically,” tim had announced with great gravitas, “batman won the spreadsheet count, but since it’s bruce that clark is dating… everyone wins!”

damian had been inconsolable since.

“ties are for children and i am not a child,” damian insists in the present, stomping his foot. it would be more intimidating if he wasn’t wearing nightwing patterned footie pyjamas, his favorites.

“of course you’re not,” alfred says patiently and hands him a juicebox. “but you have been told to go to bed, after the excitement of the day.”

“i don’t want to go to bed. i want to win.”

“i know, master damian. perhaps we can set up another competition in the morning?” damian squints at alfred suspiciously, sucking juice noisily through the straw. “i’ll make the favorite cookies of whoever wins.”

“okay,” damian says after a moment’s thought, flipping on his way down from the table in a move that’s entirely stolen from dick. alfred presses his lips together to hide a smile. “i will concede to those terms.”

“a good decision, sir.”

“i am full of good decisions.”

“you get that from your father,” alfred says dryly and damian’s shoulders get a little straighter.

 

four hours later, stephanie stops in the middle of her empty apartment, covered in dirt and sweat and strange extraterrestrial blood, her eyes wide.

“oh fuck,” she says to the darkness. “i never got my laundry detergent.”