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Children (All of Them)

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All that Duke wanted was a glass of the homemade iced tea he knew Alfred had in the fridge. He swears he would have stayed holed up in his room with his calculus homework if he’d known he was about to run into this weird gathering around the door of the bathroom at the end of the hallway.

“It’s cause you’re the adult in this situation,” Jason was saying from where he sat relaxed with his back against the wall, legs pulled up and arms hanging casually over them—and was that some kind of bottle hanging from his fingers?

“Hey, I never said that,” Dick said evenly. He leaned against the opposite wall, arms folded. “Don’t put words in my mouth.”

Tim, leaned beside Jason, threw up his hands. “Why does everyone always say I’m the adult?”

“I’m not a child!” Damian screeched from inside the bathroom, followed by—was that retching?

Yup. Duke thanked the Lord he’d frozen in his tracks when he’d heard voices. He did not want to be involved.

Early during his stay at the manor, Duke had thought it would mostly be just him, Damian, Bruce and Alfred. The others stopped by now and then—but never more than one or two were around at the same time (even when Cass had visited from Hong Kong, she’d spent as much time at each of her siblings’ apartments as at the manor.)

“You kind of are, Dames.”

That is, until Dick, who had apparently been hopping apartments (mostly Jason’s and Tim’s) after the whole Spyral thing, finally settled at the manor. (Or so it seemed. He’d been here for three weeks.)

“—I’d like to point out I’m still a teenager—”

A week later Tim had showed up. (“Ra’s figured out where I live. Well, actually that’s no surprise but he’s started sending ninjas every other day and leaving notes in my bedroom and frankly it’s getting kinda creepy.” “How were you even living alone for so long? You’re like, practically my age.” “Emancipated minor. Plus I convinced everyone that if I can be a solo superhero, a CEO, and a college student I’ve proven myself mature enough to live alone.”)

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. The point is, Timmy, you’re s’posed to be the good, mature one.”

Jason showed up when his apartment blew up (Duke was not privy to the whole story. Damian said it was only because he hadn’t asked to be, and advised him not to. Duke figures he should probably take that advice.)

“He tried to kill me twice, attempted serious injury 47 times, still constantly informs me that I am somehow 'inadequate' in every aspect of my life, AND just tried to poison me. I think I’m entitled to being a little immature.” Annnd there went the claim to early maturity, it seemed. Although Duke was starting to wonder just what exactly he’d have been looking at, if it had still been just him and Damian at the manor.

No other brothers to take Damian’s ire? He shuddered.

Jason smirked. “You ain’t got nothing to say, Dickie?”

Dick raised his hands. “I tried. I said my lines. I did my part. I’m calling a strategic retreat, here.”

Damian vomited again. Loudly. “Good. Hurry up and leave, Grayson, so I may get my revenge on Drake in peace.”

Dick winced, poking his head into the bathroom door briefly before quickly pulling back out. “Figuratively speaking.”

Revenge?” Tim demanded, leaning forward so he could, presumably, see Damian. “You’re the one who slipped poison into my coffee! That’s your own freaking poison you’re spilling all over the toilet.”

Jason nodded sagely. “Wise choice, Grayson.”

Damian’s sound of rage was interrupted by a strangled, gargling noise. All three of his brothers startled to attention, sticking their heads into the bathroom. Duke, alarmed by the idea that his new youngest-brother could possibly be dying on his own vomit, took a step forward, too.

(Thankfully he came to his senses and quickly retreated again as Dick said “He’s okay,” and they all resumed their former positions, looking relieved.)

There was silence, for a moment (apart from Damian still throwing up), and Duke started edging back towards his room.

“It’s gold, isn’t it?”

Duke jumped. “Holy shit, how long have you been there?”

Stephanie Brown grinned at him, tilting her bowl of popcorn invitingly. “In this hallway? Longer than you, actually.” She waved a hand at the boys still by the bathroom door. Jason was considering the bottle in his hands. “This here is quality entertainment. Even better than Netflix.”

“Yeah well,” Duke said, slowly backing away from the doorway, “I’m just gonna—”

“How the hell did you even figure it out, Timmers?” Jason asked, and against all his instincts, Duke’s curiosity stilled his socked feet. Steph grinned.

“I’m not an idiot, Jason.”

“Ya know, if the brat tried to poison me it wouldn’t even matter. I’ve got immunity to these things.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yup.”

Dick straightened. “Guys…”

“You wanna bet?”

“Fifteen dollars,” Jason offered, raising—an energy drink?

“Jason no,” Dick said, lurching forward but Tim had already given a sharp nod and Jason had gulped down half the bottle.

There was silence.

Duke had the feeling he should really get out of there.

Jason scrunched up his face.

And promptly scrambled into the bathroom. There was a squawk of indignation as Damian was evidently pushed aside. And more retching. (Duke was glad he couldn’t see inside the bathroom. Of all things, vomit still made him a little squeamish, and though he hadn’t been around long, he’d been around long enough to know not to let anyone else know that. On pain of painful death by humiliation.)

Although he was wondering, now…where was Alfred?

“Alfred’s out for groceries,” Steph whispered.

Duke blinked at her.

She grinned and shrugged cheerfully. “Ah, you’ll learn our ways soon, little one.”

Duke began to protest the nickname but—

Dick sighed. “You know what? I’m gonna go before I find out this was some elaborate plan on both of yours part to get Jason to drink that.”

Duke took that as his cue to scramble for his own room.

“Steph? Was that Duke?”

Oh great. Now Damian would know Duke had been witness to his humiliation. Just great.

And he’d never even gotten that damn glass of iced tea.