Chapter 1: Day 1: Hold me
He’s missed the burn and strain his muscles get whenever he does these types of exercises. Light stretching and jogging were good ways to get him back on track, but no other type of physical activity brings him this type of relaxation. No other activity feels so his either.
With a grunt, Dick presses his legs together, grasps the rings tighter and extends his arms. He holds the position a few seconds, sweat rolling down face, his body already tired from his usual, tame routine. Sure, he’s out of practice, but the eight/nine months he didn’t get to use the rings won't surpass the fifteen plus years of experience he has.
Taking a deep breath and filling himself with steely resolve, he swings his legs backwards until he's in a fully vertical position, all his weight in his hands. Letting out the same breath, he lets his body fall, and he proceeds to execute three perfect loops forward and three backward before ending fully vertical once more. There. This is more than he managed yesterday, and the day before, and that had been only because he was interrupted those two other times.
Speaking of which, how come he wasn’t interrupted today?
Curiosity taking over him, Dick swings off the rings and stretches out properly. He downs his water, grabs his towel and ambles out of their new training room. Well, to be fair, the whole house is new. They had only moved into the house in Happy Harbor about two months ago, not that long after they came back from Kansas. The place still feels foreign and puzzling sometimes, although it certainly has many perks. They have a nursery, a training room and a mini-Cave at the house, not to mention a huge backyard. Bruce had certainly outdone himself with this “gift for the twins”, but it’s not like Dick even wants to complain.
Smiling at the memory of Bruce handing him the keys with a grunt and a few monosyllables, Dick checks Carter and Colin’s room first. He finds the nursery empty, and when he peeks into the master bedroom, there’s no one there either.
The beginning of a frown appearing on his forehead, he hops down the stairs and heads to the living room, mouth open in a half-formed sentence. “Hey, Conner, where—?”
Conner glances up from one of the armchair, lowers his tablet and presses his finger to his lips. Dick closes his mouth, and Conner points at the sofa. When Dick is close enough, he can see his baby boys, now almost four shocking months old, deeply asleep, nestled between blankets and pillows to keep them from falling. Carter’s pacifier has fallen out of his mouth, but Colin’s still got his thumb in his mouth.
“Have they been asleep long?” Dick whispers.
“Colin was fussy when you first went into the training room, but as soon as Carter settled in with his pacifier, Colin followed suit with his thumb and they fell asleep quickly. They’re probably exhausted after their stroll.”
“Huh. I knew there had to be a reason as to why I managed to finish without any interruptions.
Conner rolls his eyes. His expression then shifts into one of thoughtfulness. “I guess we haven´t had a lot of silent afternoons lately, have we?”
“We haven´t had a lot of silent anythings lately,” Dick corrects, amused.
“… Good point.”
Shaking his head, Dick wipes at his forehead with his towel, then drops it on top a pillow. “Hold me,” he says.
Conner sets the tablet aside and opens his arms without any protest. Dick hums his approval, then settles on Conner’s lap. He picks up the tablet, lets out a pleased sigh when Conner’s arms wrap around his waist.
“Are you looking at ugly Christmas sweaters already?” he asks after he’s gotten a chance to glance at the screen.
Conner presses his cheek against Dick’s shoulder. “Clark sent me a few links. He said we should get matching ones for us and the boys. The idea is not bad, but there’s some silly ones out there, and I am so not wearing a sweater with ‘Papa Bear’ on the front.”
“How about ‘Mama Bear?’”
Conner wrinkles his nose. Dick chuckles. “It might not be a bad idea to look at some of these, you’re right about that,” he murmurs, and glances out the closest window. It’s not snowing yet, but the days are already shorter, and the weather is dropping. “’Tis the season, after all.”
Chapter 2: Day 2: First Snow
Let the floofiness overload begin XD!
Snow falls the very next day while they’re out buying the last batch of decorations. It had been cold when they´d left the house, and they had made sure to bundle up the babies as much as they could before they left, but it didn’t stop Conner from almost panicking when they came out of the dollar store and found the street already covered in a light coat of snow, with more still falling.
“Aren’t you going to freeze?” Dick asks, raising an eyebrow when he sees Conner placing his tote bag on the ground, taking his coat off and placing it over the twin on his carrier. Despite what he just said, Dick proceeds to take off his heavy coat and does the same with the baby he’s carrying on his back.
“I don't really get cold,” Conner replies. He starts unbuttoning his flannel. “Can you take Colin for a second? You do get cold, and you now need another layer.”
Dick rolls his eyes, but he takes Colin from Conner’s chest, coat and all, and bounces him gently while Conner takes the flannel off. Once he’s got it off and he ends up only with his usual S-symbol t-shirt, Dick hands Colin back. A series of confused questions and movements ensues as Conner takes Carter so Dick can drop his own tote bag and put the flannel on… then change Carter to a front carry as well. Eventually, they manage.
“The flannel is so warm,” Dick comments as they begin walking down the stairs. “I guess I had forgotten that you do run hotter than us normal humans.” He peeks under the coat, find Carter’s big round eyes train on him. “I think the boys have a higher body temperature as well. Do you think they’re not actually cold and we’re overreacting?”
Conner peeks at Colin, who’s asleep against his chest. He appears to be on cloud nine. “I hadn’t considered it until now.”
“I'm leaning towards a yes. I mean, they always feel so warm, and we know it’s not because they have a fever.”
“They might be melting under all these layers, then. Although… I’d rather they sweat a bit on the way home than take any clothes off and end up with two sick and fussier babies.”
“Such an overprotective dad already,” Dick teases with a laugh, bumping their shoulders together.
Conner gives a lopsided smile. “I’m trying my best,” he says.
By the time they reach the house and drop everything in the living room floor, the snow has gotten stronger, strong enough that even Conner is feeling a light chill. It could be because all the snow has melted onto his clothes.
“Go change into some dry sweats. We’ll start unpacking when you get back down,” Dick says, removing the heavy coats off both twins and then taking Colin from Conner’s carrier.
Conner nods, sprints upstairs. He rummages his closet for a nice and warm hoodie and sweatpants, but he realizes that even his hair is wet, so he might as well take a quick shower first.
He comes back down some fifteen minutes later, freshly showered and I acceptable clothing. When he gets to the living room, he finds Dick holding Carter and Colin near the window, eyes sparkling as he takes in all the whiteness outside.
“Are the boys enjoying the first snowstorm of their lives?” Conner asks, sliding an arm around Dick’s waist and huddling close to the three of them.
“I think I’m enjoying it way more than them,” Dick says with a laugh. He turns his head and kisses Conner’s cheek. “Ready to start the decorating odyssey?”
Conner moves his own head so their lips can meet, brief and sweet. “Yes, sir.”
Chapter 3: Day 3: Blizzard
Look at me trying to make short drabbles *facepalm*.
This is not the way he imagined he would make it back into the Cave, even for mission control. He figured he’d be benched both voluntarily and by general consensus until the twins were at least six months old. However, plans change when emergencies happen, and Dick hopes this doesn't end up being a major one.
“Alpha, do you read? I’ve lost all video signal around the site. You better tell me you’re close already,” Dick says into the comms, eyes scanning the many screens in front of him. Two of the screens have been lost to static, the others are pretty much useless as well, given they’ve probably been buried under snow by now.
“Almost there,” Conner mutters in his ear. He lets out a sigh. “Who would have thought the snowfall would end up turning into a blizzard this bad? It didn’t seem likely yesterday.”
“Uh, the weather forecasts? Duh.” Artemis replies.
“Conner and I didn’t quite get to catch the news last night or this morning,” Dick says absently, typing as fast as he can to try and hack into other nearby cameras to the place where the two buses had run off the icy highway. Rescue teams had been deployed as soon as the accident went public, but after hours of hard work, they hadn´t been able to safely remove the wounded from inside the buses without causing an avalanche on the right or plunging everyone into the water on the left. Due to a lot of team members being in missions off-world, Conner and Dick had found no other option but to get to the Cave and help Artemis out however they could.
There’s an awkward silence. Artemis lets out a huff. “I was going to make an adult joke, but I’m guessing you two don't really have time for that sort of things right now.”
“We were up all night decorating the house, if you must know. Decorating and dealing with crying babies at two in the morning,” Dick says.
Artemis lets out a groan. “Look, your kids are adorable and I love babysitting for them, but that just sounds… rougher than what we’re about to do.”
“It can be,” Conner admits, then says, “We’re here.”
“Copy that. I’ll try to get some live signal, and anything I can help with here from the cave, let me know.”
“Will do,” Artemis says. Conner signs off as well. Once there’s silence, Dick turns around. He can't help but smile upon seeing Bart coming back into the main part of the cave, pushing the stroller and talking animatedly to the boys.
“Sorry to make you babysit,” he says, walking over to them. He finds Carter and Colin wide awake, and they each appear to have a fingerless glove either in their lap or between their hands. Dick raises an eyebrow.
Bart grins. “I love kids! And these two are just so freaking adorable. I took them on a detailed tour of the Cave because those big eyes were just begging for it, you know? And I mean! I had to show them their dad’s old room here in the cave. Conner still has a lot of stuff here, by the way.”
Dick crouches down and tugs at the glove Carter is holding. He gets a long stare, a warning almost, but in the end Carter does let go of the glove.
“Thank you, my sweet and oh-so-kind baby,” Dick says, amused. He checks the glove over, brings it up to his nose. It’s clean, at least, though it still holds Conner’s scent quite strongly.
“They pulled these from his room?” he asks, handing Carter his glove back.
Bart nods. “I took them out of the stroller when we were inside, and they kept trying to reach an old pile of folded clothes. They didn’t seem satisfied until I gave them the gloves.”
Dick smiles. He tries to reach for Colin’s glove, but Colin moves his arm back and forth, almost batting Dick away. “The gloves smell like him, that’s probably why they wanted them. They might have been missing his scent already.”
Bart’s eyes widen, and Dick shrugs. “The two of us haven´t really left them alone since they were born. I mean, even when Artemis or Roy and Lian go over to watch them for a little while, we’re always in the house or the yard.”
“They’re that attuned to you both, huh?”
“Well, we do love spending time with our kids. It’s a blessing we get all these opportunities to be together,” Dick says with a nod. One of the screens starts pinging, and Dick gives Bart another smile, this one apologetic. “Could you please watch them just for a bit longer?”
Dick nods his thanks and trots back to the screens. The comm in his ear crackles to life, and he’s back to business.
Nighttime arrives. Dick really has to go back home with the kids by now. He calls Karen, and Malcom is the one who offers to stay in his place, so Dick heads home. He’s exhausted by the time he gets there, and luckily, the kids also seem to be tired. They fall asleep after being fed, the gloves still in their tiny hands. Dick follows suit in the nursery’s rocking chair.
He wakes up when a quilt is thrown over him. His eyes snap open. He finds Conner arranging the babies’ blankets.
Dick yawns, gets to his feet and wraps the quilt around himself. “Did everyone make it out okay?”
Conner glances at him over his shoulder. Dick leans his head against said shoulder and lets out another yawn. “No one else got injured, and all the wounded made it safely to the nearest hospitals. There was only property damage.”
“That’s great to hear.” Dick yawns for a third time. Conner chuckles, turns around and wraps him in a hug. Their lips meet in a slow and tantalizing kiss.
“Are those some of my old gloves?” Conner murmurs when the kiss is over.
“They still smell like you, and they’ve been holding them since Bart found them in the cave.” Dick presses their foreheads together. “You could say they missed you.”
“I missed you guys too,” Conner says with a smile.
Chapter 4: Day 4: Power outage
Supertbat as a side pairing joining for this drabble.
Also, poor Bruce... :P
Truth be told, there are way worse ways to spend the night. Sure, this hadn’t been part of the plan at all, but as plans go, this is literally the best way they could go wrong.
Dick drops the last marshmallows into the cups of hot chocolate, picks up the tray and balances it in one hand while reaching for the candle with the other one. Once he’s got the two things under control, he walks back to the living room, where Clark, Conner, Bruce and the twins await. There’s a Monopoly board on the coffee table, bags of chips all over the floor and candles placed in strategic places to provide some light to the very dark room. It’s the new moon, and the blizzard continues, so it’s not like they can rely on exterior nocturnal lighting to help them out with this power outage. It’s so dark and cold and creepy outside that even Bruce had admitted going back to Gotham was a bad idea, which is how they ended up having dinner and playing Monopoly together in the first place.
“Here we go,” Dick says, folding himself down to the floor before passing out the warm cups. Clark takes his with a grin, Conner mutters his thanks. Bruce… Bruce shifts where he’s sitting on the couch, first one way, then another. He looks so darn uncomfortable. Then again, Dick knows firsthand how awkward and frustrated he felt when he was six months pregnant. If he had a rough time, he knows Bruce feels maybe a bajillion times worse.
“You’re not going to crush the baby by moving around normally,” he offers, leaning closer to Bruce to place the cup in his hand.
“I can't move normally,” Bruce grits out, scowling.
“You can, even if it doesn't feel like it. Or rather, just stop being mad about being pregnant and deal with it.”
Bruce’s frown deepens. “I’m not—”
“Take someone else’s advice for once, Bruce. It’s harder if you fight the pregnancy and the limitations it brings you. When you do that, you realize there weren’t even many limitations to start with.”
Bruce grunts. He shifts, manages to find a comfortable position and proceeds to ignore Dick, opting instead to focus on Monopoly. Dick rolls his eyes.
“I’ve tried telling him the same thing,” Clark pipes up, taking a sip of his chocolate while letting Colin play with his fingers. “He doesn't listen to me either.”
“Bruce doesn't listen to anyone,” Dick says.
“I know, but I still feel like trying to be reassuring and you know, helpful.” Clark looks over at Bruce. “You know that, right? I know it isn't easy for you, not one little bit, and I don't want to make anything harder for you.”
Bruce hums. He doesn't answer, only nods in Dick’s direction. “Your turn.”
Clark sighs. “Any tips on how to be helpful?” he asks.
Conner and Dick glance at each other.
“I’m not sure,” Dick starts. “I mean, I didn’t like being benched at first, or having to change my workout routine, but by the sixth month I knew I was carrying twins and… well, I knew their safety was more important than me being sulky.”
“I am not being sulky,” Bruce says.
They all ignore him. Conner clears his throat, then speaks. “I don't think I have any particular tip or bit of advice to give. Dick was a real trooper, and despite the drastic turn it brought into his life, he hardly complained, and he never seemed to regret it… right?”
Dick shakes his head. “Not once, and I never will. Carter and Colin will always be the best thing to happen to me. To us.”
Conner motions at him. “Yeah. He was always so strong, and I just… I don't know. I always wanted and tried to be there, for whatever he needed, whenever he needed it. If Dick could handle being the pregnant one, what type of partner would I be if I didn’t support him every way I possibly could?” Conner shrugs. “It sounds cheesy, but that’s how I always felt.”
Clark looks thoughtful for a few seconds. Then, he nods. “Thanks,” he says.
They play a few more rounds in silence. Then, much to everyone’s surprise, Bruce is the one who sighs, and glares at each of them in turn, ending with Clark, and he holds the glare as he speaks.
“I don't regret a single thing,” he growls, enunciating each word carefully. “I do not regret… conceiving a child with you, or carrying them. I don't like the changes I have had to make. I don't like not being in control of my own body. I don't like having to adapt. But listen to me, because I will only say this once, Clark. I love this child, and I will adapt, because I want the best for them and for us, as a family.”
Clark’s breath catches. His mouth drops to the ground. Conner takes Colin from his arms just in case, places him next to his brother.
“It’ll be more than worth it, you’ll see,” Conner says, when several minutes have gone by and Clark still hasn’t said a word, and Dick couldn’t agree more.
Chapter 5: Day 5: Caroling
Me? Forgetting already that she had to write today? NEVER! *hides.
Exhausted doesn't even begin to describe how tired and drained he feels. His head hurts, his feet drag, his muscles ache. The worst part is: nothing bad in particular happened, and it’s not the first time he feels this particular brand of utter and complete exhaustion. There is no particular trigger, Dick’s body and mind just seem to collapse every three or four weeks, usually after settling the babies in their cribs for the night… ahem, the first two hour three hours of the night.
Dick wonders why it only happens now, but to be honest, he kind of knows the answer. Years and years of sleepless nights and erratic, hectic schedules are nothing compared to caring for baby twins.
Dragging his feet, Dick manages to walk out of the nursery and into their bedroom. He hears water running, and as much as he’d love to join Conner in the shower for the warm water and other things, his body has already entered exhaustion mode… so he decides he’ll just faceplants onto the bed for now.
He’s starting to drift off when the water stops and he hears Conner step into the room. He cracks one eye open, but instead of speaking right away, he waits until Conner is dressed and approaches the bed by himself.
Once Dick feels the bed sink, he turns around and tugs on Conner’s shirt. He lets go only when Conner is sprawled all over him and he can relish the feeling of being pinned down on the bed and being surrounded by Conner’s scent.
“You crashed?” Conner asks, wiggling around as to not crush Dick’s abdomen. Once he’s settled, he buries his face in Dick’s neck, presses his lips against the warm skin. Dick lets out a soft groan, wraps his legs around Conner’s waist.
“Let’s go to bed early tonight,” is all Dick replies.
Conner makes his way up his neck to his lips, leaving a warm and gentle trail of kisses behind. “We’ll even skip dinner?”
“I can’t cook anyway, and I'll let you off the hook for tonight.”
“And here I was going to ask if you wanted to go check out the group of children caroling near that old church. It seemed like something you would enjoy.”
“Uh-huh, like we’d be dumb enough to even think of leaving the kids alone.”
“I was going to call Roy.”
“Liar,” Dick insists. His eyes droop even more than before, and he sighs. “Liar or not, let’s just go to bed for now. I really am tired out of my freaking mind.”
“I can see that.” Conner rolls off Dick, falls onto the bed and doesn't waste any second in embracing Dick and holding him as close as possible. Once he’s got Dick in a tight and secure grip, he kisses the back of Dick’s neck.
“Sleep well,” he says. It’s what Dick needs to hear, because his whole body relaxes immediately, and a few minutes later, his breathing has evened out.
Conner listens to him as he sleeps. He’s tired, though not yet exhausted. Besides, he should stay awake and aware for a while longer. The babies would wake up or they would need a checkup, and Conner was going to make sure Dick didn’t even feel the need to stir during the rest of the night… and the following morning, hopefully.
Chapter 6: Day 6: Snowball fight
It's 23:55 where I live. I STILL MADE IT!
Conner wishes he could say he’s surprised this is how Dick decides to spend their date night, though to be honest, he’s really not. He had half-expected the night to go off the rails at least after they had dinner, not before they even made it into the restaurant, and not with a snowball hitting him square in the face.
Wide-eyed, he glances down at his shoes, now covered in the snow that hit his face a second ago. He looks up slowly, finds Dick standing several feet away from him, a huge grin on his face.
“Really?” Conner demands.
Dick’s answer is him leaning down to scoop more snow and hurt it at his face once again.
Ok, if this is what Dick wants…
Dick lets out a gasp when Conner leans down to scoop some snow into his palms.
“Remember to not use your full strength! I don't want to have my literal brains sprawled all over the gr—” Dick doesn't even finish speaking. Conner’s ball is already sailing through the air, and he’s already looking for cover.
“No need to remind me. I don't want to be a single dad,” Conner says. He quickly forms another couple of snowballs and throws them in quick succession, keeping Dick hidden behind the tree he took cover at.
“Just because of the boys? And here I thought you would want to keep my brains intact because you love the wit I bring into your life,” Dick’s voice comes. Conner hears Dick moving behind the tree, so he decides he might as well take cover too. It’s a good thing he does, given a flurry of snowballs rains down on the car he decided to hide behind.
“Nah. It’s just because of the kids,” Conner calls out. He crouches down and gathers more snow. As Dick’s laugh rings out, Conner forms a medium-sized pile of snowballs in seconds, plans on making more.
“No superhuman speed either! That won't be a fair fight!” Dick warns.
Oh, darn. Conner stops forming snowballs, lets out a sigh. “You making up all these rules won't make it a fair fight either.”
Dick laughs again, but he says nothing. Conner peeks over the hood of the car. He’s met by another cold and direct hit.
“That’s it, Grayson!” he shouts. “You’re going down.”
“I’d love to see you try and win this fairly, Kent.”
The snowballs start flying after those cries of war, and old habits start kicking in. They end up moving down the street, hiding behind cars, signs, whatever trees or shrubs are available, and being as stealthy as they can be under the bright street lamps. Conner’s clothes get wet, with his hair and his chest being in worse shape than his pants. Dick seems to love hitting him in the head and face with the snowballs.
The war comes to and end when they’ve reached the end of the street. Conner’s breathing has quickened, and he can hear Dick gasping for breath.
Conner sags against a street pole. He squeezes water out of his dripping hair.
“Ready for dinner?” he calls.
Dick pokes his head from around a car, raising an eyebrow. “Are you giving up?”
Conner shrugs. “We can keep going if you want, but I'm not the one who’ll get pneumonia after getting drenched in more snowballs.”
Dick rolls his eyes at him, but he stands, walks away from the car. “Fine. A truce,” he says, raising his hands in surrender.
Conner meets him halfway, claps one of Dick’s hands in his own and beings pulling him down the street. “Come on. If we don't get to the restaurant soon, you’ll end up with pneumonia anyway, and I'll have to take care of three babies instead of two.”
Chapter 7: Day 7: Homemade
“Don't forget to put the pie in the fridge.”
“And I would advise to put the cookies inside the oven and not in a jar, just to keep them fresher.”
“Oh, you should probably place the bread inside the—”
“I’ve got it, Ma. I will keep all the food fresh and delicious,” Conner interrupts with amusement. He transfers the last slice of blueberry pie into a big container, then puts it inside the fridge. He and Dick devoured two slices each when Clark dropped it off less than an hour ago, but since it’s one of Ma’s homemade delicacies, there’s still plenty to go around, not to mention they now have two whole loaves of bread to go through, and about a dozen cookies too.
Ma’s hum comes from Conner’s tablet, where it rests on top of a counter. “Do you have something to eat the bread with? John and I just finished our batch of strawberry jam so if Clark can't come in the next few days, I can ship you a jar… or two.”
Conner chuckles. He pulls out the loaves of bread and puts them inside their bread box. “I really appreciate all this, Ma, more than you can imagine, but we do have stuff to put on bread.” He pauses, then adds, “Not that Dick or I don't love the jam you make at the farm.”
Ma sighs. “All right, all right, but don't forget to call me when you run out of pie. I'll send another over in no time.”
“I won't forget to call,” Conner promises.
She hums again. Then she clears her throat several times. Conner can't help but tense right away. Ma doesn't usually do that, both because she doesn't get sick and because she doesn't hesitate before speaking.
“Yes?” Conner ventures.
There’s silence on the other end of the line. Conner transfers the cookies to their designated place. After about a minute, Ma speaks again.
“Have you given the engagement any more thought?”
… He had a feeling she was going to ask about that.
“Not much,” he admits, and he really hasn’t. Since coming back from Kansas, his mind has been more on moving into the new house, Dick’s recovery and re-integration into his hero life, learning to be a good father and enjoying his time with his boys, not so much on his desire to legally formalize their union, their family and their lives.
Ma is silent for another minute. “You don't want to think about it anymore?” she asks. There’s no judgment in the question, no offense taken, and no heat behind those words. It’s merely that: a question.
This time, Conner is the one who goes quiet before speaking. “No. I just haven´t had time to give it much thought. Between the twins and going back to our old lives… my mind has been busy.”
“Of course. That’s more than perfectly understandable.”
Conner nods, even if she can't see him. Now that she’s mentioned it, he starts mulling it over again. Getting engaged and getting married is an idea he is fond of, although at this point, he’s not even sure Dick would be interested in doing those things. It would change so little in their daily lives that one could almost say it was unnecessary.
Would Dick think so, though?
“Conner?” Ma asks.
“Sorry. Got lost in thought.” He frowns. “I guess I'll give the whole idea more thought now.”
“Oh, I didn’t want to force you or pressure you in anyway.”
“You’re not,” he assures her. “Actually, thanks for reminding me. I think it is about time I give it more serious thought.”
And he will think about it, but first…
Well, first he has to figure out Dick’s thoughts on the subject. Yeah. He has to do that. Somehow.
Chapter 8: Day 8: Slippery
“Has mission control always been so boring? I could swear it wasn’t this dull last week when we had to come to the Cave and help Artemis.”
“It was an emergency. There probably wasn’t a lot of time to think about much else besides… the emergency.”
“Well, of course I know that, but things were quite calm at the Cave that day. It wasn’t exciting, and there was a lot of waiting involved, but it wasn’t this unbearable.”
“Unbearable? I don't think I’ve ever heard you use that word before.”
Dick sighs into the comm in his ear. “I’m using it now. Don't get me wrong. I’m relieved and glad I’m back at the Cave once more. It’s just…” his voice trails off. He lets out another sigh, this one filled with more frustration.
Conner doesn't reply right away. He’s busy with other things, things that require his full attention. Deciding to ignore Dick for a few seconds, Conner rinses the shampoo out of Carter’s hair and lathers up the little sponge. He cleans Carter with extremely soft yet quick movements, making sure to get the bends of his tiny elbows and knees. Once Carter is all soapy and slippery, Conner talks again.
“Maybe you’re bored because the kids aren’t there with you this time,” he says. He begins rinsing Carter’s body, and is grateful for the comm when Carter starts squirming around and he has both arms to finish the bath with.
“I thought I'd lost the signal,” Dick says.
“Sorry if I space out. I’m bathing the boys.”
Conner can almost see Dick sitting up straighter in his chair. “Is everything okay?”
He rolls his eyes, finishes rinsing Carter off and places him in the towel he’d left ready. He bundles the baby up, starts patting him dry. “Of course it’s okay. It’s not the first time I bathe them on my own.”
“I know, and it’s not like I'm doubting you, though If you need me to sign off—”
“Dick, I love you, but if you think I'll prioritize a consistent conversation with you instead of giving Carter and Colin my full attention while bathing them, I’m giving what’s left of Ma’s pies to the neighbors.”
“No, I wouldn’t, but you get my point.”
Dick bursts out laughing. Once Carter is dry, Conner is quick to put him in a diaper and some warm Superman pajamas. Dick had gotten a matching pair a few weeks ago.
“There we go,” Conner tells Carter, who only replies with a gurgle and what resembles a frown. “Don't worry, we’re all done for tonight. I won't bother you anymore.” He proceeds to leave Carter in his swing, straps him in before readying a new baby bath and reaching for Colin in his own swing. “And now it’s your turn.”
“Let me guess. You just finished with Carter,” Dick says.
“He seems to prefer it when you bathe him. Colin doesn't mind as much, and he’s okay waiting longer.”
“Carter got your impatience, didn’t he?”
“If that isn't the pot calling the kettle black,” Conner mutters. He undresses Colin and wets a few cotton pads to clean his face and bottom.
Dick laughs again. Conner focuses on getting Colin into the warm water and begins the bathing process all over again. Dick goes silent after he finishes laughing, at least for a while.
“I really am bored,” Dick admits. “And I think you’re right. The other time I brought them with me and that’s why I didn’t find this job so boring.”
“Are you wishing you could be home instead? Bathing them on your own?”
“Or helping you do it. I don't know. I just miss you guys already.”
“You’ve gone soft on me, Grayson.”
“And now who’s being the pot?”
Conner smiles. “I'll finish up with Colin and send you a picture of the two of them all cleaned up and in their best clothes.”
“Oh, please do. Include yourself in the picture so I can print it out and hang it up somewhere around here,” Dick says. He sounds dead serious.
Conner snorts… and then gets a flash of inspiration.
“What? When a new member joins you’ll show them the picture and go, ‘by the way, meet my husband and sons’?” He manages to sound sarcastic, which is exactly what he wants.
He expects Dick to laugh or at least show some sign of amusement. He also expects an immediate reply. None of those things happen. Instead, he’s met with silence, followed by a very slow: “Yeah… that sounds perfect, actually.”
Chapter 9: Day 9: Ice skating
“Do you swear this is the first time you’re doing this?”
“Why would I lie?”
“Because you love lying.”
“What on Earth is that supposed to mean?”
“Exactly what I said. Anyways, do you swear on your kids’ life that this is your first time?”
“… I am not involving the twins in this.”
“So you're lying!”
“No! But I’m not going to use my kids that way!”
Unable to contain his amusement anymore, Conner bursts out laughing in a quite loud and uncontrolled way. It’s not something he does often, or at all, so it’s no wonder Artemis and Dick halt their argument to turn and glare at him.
“Sorry,” he manages to choke out. He tries to stop laughing, ends up snorting and laughing harder than before, careful not to jostle Colin too much. Artemis and Dick eventually end up going back to the middle of the ice rink to face off against each other… again.
M’gann, who’s sitting next to him on a nearby bench and holding Carter, looks at him curiously. “I don't think I’ve seen you laugh like this before.”
He shrugs, still smiling. “I don't find things this highly amusing often,” he explains.
“And what was so funny about this? Dick being ruthless when lying and finally drawing the line at the twins?” she asks.
“Yes. Did you see his face? I’ve never seen him go pale so fast. And he keeps saying I’m the one who’s gone soft.”
She seems to think about it, then smiles. Bouncing Carter on her leg, she says, “Can you blame him, though? Your sons are the cutest babies I have ever seen, and they have such beautiful innocent eyes that anyone would gladly die for.”
Her smile widens, and she runs her hand through Carter’s hair before looking back at the ice rink. Artemis and Dick circle around each other on their ice skates, shouting who knows what before performing the exact same trick.
“It has to be Dick’s first time skating, shouldn’t it? I mean, since I’ve known him I’ve never seen him do it,” she says.
“It is his first,” Conner confirms. “But it’s also Artemis’s first, right?”
“I think so, yeah.”
“How is either of them any good at it?”
This time, M’gann is the one who laughs. “We’ll have to ask them when they’re done, but I'm in no mood to hurry them up. I’m having fun just being here with you and the twins.”
“Thanks for babysitting with me, by the way.”
“It’s my pleasure.” She looks at the twins, then back to Conner’s face. “I don't think I’ve ever seen you this happy.”
Conner brushes Colin’s soft hair out of the baby’s eyes, trails his finger down the small cheek. Carter wiggles in M’gann’s arms, and in the background, he can hear Dick’s iconic laugh at whatever he and Artemis are doing.
“I’ve never been this happy,” he tells her. And he doesn't think he’ll ever be any happier.
Yeah, he needs to start giving that some serious and actual thought.
Chapter 10: Day 10: Below zero
Apparently, being related to the Wayne family, and hence to the Bats, meant that along with the emotional baggage and the wealth, one also inherited all the crazy people the Waynes fought.
Sure, it might have something to do with being in Gotham when it happens, and also that Bruce can't come down and kick Mr. Freeze’s butt himself. But still. Conner would rather believe the rogue gallery comes with the… ah, “job”.
His fist connects with Mr. Freeze’s chest, and he flies through the air. He crashes into a bunch of dumpsters. Conner doesn't give him time to get up. Instead, he closes the distance in a few strides, pulls Mr. Freeze from the dumpsters and holds him up with one arm. He pulls back his fist, gets ready to smash through the man’s he—
“Wait! Wait! Don’t shatter his helmet! He’ll die if you do that!”
Tim’s voice brings him to a halt. Conner freezes –ha!– with his fist a few inches away from Freeze’s face, who tries to shoot at Conner with his gun. Conner, however, manages to bat it away before he can do it, and releases the man when Tim lands next to their little scene.
“I guess you made it just in time,” Conner says.
Tim, in full winter camouflage, scurries around the dumpsters to restrain Mr. Freeze. Once he’s done, he turns to Conner. “How did you make it to the scene before any of us did?”
“I was actually on my way to your place when I heard sirens go off and screams ring out. I followed the sounds and found… him.”
Tim nods, pushes a few buttons on his gauntlet, then beckons for Conner to follow him. He shoots a grapple hook and disappears over the closest rooftop without waiting for an answer. Conner gives Mr. Freeze one last glance before jumping onto the same building.
“What brings you to Gotham? Did Dick and the twins come with you?” Tim asks. He huddles his cape around him, shudders.
“What about Mr. Freeze?” Conner asks.
“He might be able to deal with temperatures below zero, but this suit can't, and neither do I. You took care of him and the police are on their way, so I’d say we head back home.” As he says the last, Tim takes off running.
Conner runs after him, vaults over another couple of rooftops before answering Tim’s question. “I came alone,” he calls out. “I had to.”
“I need to talk to Bruce. And you. And everyone else in your family.”
Conner goes silent. They run and jump and roll for another couple of blocks. Eventually, Conner speaks again. “I wanted to hear and share some ideas. I’m… going to ask Dick to marry me.”
Tim’s mouth drops, but much to Conner’s amazement, he doesn't miss a single step. He keeps running and looking surprised until Conner asks, “What?”
“Marriage? Oh man! Let’s pick up the pace. With the moods Bruce has been in as of late, I can't wait for him to bite your head off when you tell him that,” Tim laughs.
Those are the exact words he needs to hear, Conner thinks with an inner sigh.
Chapter 11: Day 11: Pine tree
Of all the things he’d expected to happen, Mr. Alfred Pennyworth inviting him to his favorite tea house in Gotham to discuss marriage proposal was the one thing he had not thought about. Nonetheless, when Alfred puts on his hat and scarf and tells Conner to follow him, Conner does it.
Twenty minutes later, they’re sitting in a lovely and quiet establishment, with Alfred taking small sips of his Earl Gray. Conner doesn't even try to poke at the gorgeous and tiny piece of cake in front of him. Instead, he stares at hard as he can at the adorned pine tree in the corner.
“I apologize for making you walk to this place, but I found it quite necessary. The manor is no place to discuss any subject these days,” Alfred says.
Conner gives a single nod. “Bruce is not in a good mood?” he guesses.
“Master Bruce has been utterly impossible for weeks now. More impossible than usual, in any case.” Alfred speaks with a neutral tone and expression, though Conner does catch the slight quirk of an eyebrow. “I thought it would be better to escort you out of the manor before he blew up after your announcement.”
Conner hadn’t even gotten the chance to say much besides a greeting and a ‘I’m going to propose to Dick’. Still, he understands what Alfred means.
“I didn’t mean to ruin anybody’s day,” Conner begins.
“I assure you, young man, you did no such thing. Master Bruce would not have been able to help you anyway. He is quite bad when it comes to planning anything but special ops.” Alfred gives a good-natured eye roll, then clears his throat. “I, on the other hand, would think it quite an honor if I can help you in any way. Master Dick was my first grandson, and you and Master Clark have also become part of this special family.”
“Thank you, Alfred. That really means a lot.”
“I am sure it does.” Alfred puts down his cup and pulls a tiny notepad and pen from somewhere on his person. Readying the pen, Alfred fixes him with those serious and wise eyes.
“We both know Master Dick well, but we know him in different ways. Why don't you tell me what fleeting thoughts you have had, and we start from there?” he suggests.
Conner takes a deep breath. He still has to call his mom, and he knows she’ll want to brainstorm with him as well. This, however, is an opportunity to solidify some thoughts with someone who knows Dick more than Ma, and in a different way than Conner does.
“I don't want to go the most traditional route,” he begins. He purses his lips. “In fact, I don't exactly want to go with a ring, or not just a ring.”
“What would you be interested in doing, then?”
Something more personal, something that speaks more with actions instead of words. Something much more significant to their lives, both as civilians and heroes. Something that states, ‘through thick and thin, as Dick and Conner and as Nightwing and—
Wait a minute. There’s an interesting idea.
Chapter 12: Day 12: Holiday lights
The Cave gets a Christmas makeover only because Bart and Cassie insist, or that’s the story everyone on the team is going with to cover up the fact that they’re all a bunch of saps.
Dick finishes hanging a string of multicolored lights, then shoots M’gann a thumbs up. Her eyes and palm glow, and she brings him back to the floor before flying off to finish the lights on the higher part of the Cave.
Dick turns and surveys how everyone else is doing, if they’ve finished the main area or not. The rooms and hallways are done. This is the only part left to finish. It’s so big and everyone goofs off so much that it’s taking forever.
Bart has all but given up on decorating, deciding to go around with the twins to oversee other people’s work. Gar hangs a couple of garlands before joining Bart and the twins. He appears to be explaining some things to Carter and Colin. The twins seem more than happy to just sit in their stroller and stare at the boys an everyone else around them.
Dick smiles and turns to the rest of the room. Jaime and La’gaan are finishing up the tree with Cassie hovering nearby. And Conner…
Dick walks towards the many monitors, where Conner seems to be glaring at an offensive piece of ground.
“Don't tell me you’ve got complaints about the decorations. Because if you do, you have to take them up to Cassie or Bart,” he says as he approaches. Conner doesn't seem to hear or notice him, not even when Dick is already standing in front of him.
“Conner?” Dick asks, softer this time. He places his hand on Conner’s shoulder, and that seems to shake Conner out of whatever trance he’d been in.
“Hmm?” Conner mutters.
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah. I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?”
Conner’s frown deepens, then smooths out. While he still looks thoughtful, he doesn't look mad anymore. “I am fine,” he promises Dick. When Dick crosses his arms and gives him a look, Conner shrugs.
Conner pushes away from the monitors, grabs Dick from the shoulders and leans in to kiss his cheek.
“Kryptonian history,” he says. He walks away without further clarification, and Dick is confused instead of worried. He turns to try and ask Conner more questions, but he’s already walking down a hall with Bart and the twins.
Now, Dick is the one who frowns. Kryptonian history? Maybe it has something to do with the kids?
Chapter 13: Day 13: Mistletoe
Conner is running late for their date, and that has been the weirdest thing that has happened in the last several months. Well, Conner being late and Bruce actually managing to not die with the pregnancy.
Dick pulls his phone out of his pocket and checks the time. Twenty minutes late, and it’s not like Dick can call and check up on Conner. The jerk still refuses to have his own phone arguing that the comms and his tablet are enough to communicate. In most cases, Dick supposes the comms and tablet do suffice. In such mundane and normal situations as this... well, looks like Dick will have to try again and insist Conner gets a freaking phone.
A heavy and horrible weight has started settling deep inside his gut by the time Conner finally decides to grace him with his presence.
“You’re late,” is his greeting.
Conner fidgets with the buttons on his coat, and at least he has the decency to look embarrassed. “Sorry,” he says.
“I was beginning to think Cadmus had captured you, or heck, that Lex himself had come to get you. Maybe you were trying to stop a bank robbery and one of the guys happened to have a Kryptonite bullet. Hell, I even thought that maybe one of the New Gods had come and taken you to New Genesis,” Dick rants, frowning a bit more as he keeps talking. Conner’s eyes widen, and he appears to be at a complete loss of what to say.
His sheer confusion makes Dick stop rambling, and instead he pinches the bridge of his nose, counts to ten.
“With the world we live in, I know I tend to be paranoid sometimes, but you didn’t even tell me where you were going, Conner. Not to mention, I have no way to contact you out of a mission or out of the house. I’m not mad, okay? I was just worried,” he says. As he speaks, the weight in his gut starts to lift.
Conner stays right where he is for a few seconds. Then, he shakes his head and closes the small distance between them. “Is this where you tell me I need to get a phone?” he asks as he wraps his arms around Dick’s waist to pull him in for a hug.
Dick snorts, wraps one arm around Conner’s shoulder and uses the other hand to pull on Conner’s ear. “I was going to take it as an opportunity to drive my point home, yes. Where on Earth were you anyway? Last thing I knew, you mentioned something about the farm and then disappeared.”
Conner ducks his head. “Yeah… uhm. Ma had a small emergency and needed some extra hands at the farm. I had to… ah, take the closest tube to Smallville and then run the rest of the way.”
Dick tilts his head to one side. “Is everything okay now?”
Conner nods vigorously.
“Right. All right. Let’s pretend I believe you and let’s get moving. We were supposed to start rock climbing one hour ago.”
“I don't understand why you wanted to come here and climb walls when that’s what you do all the time.”
“Hey, I haven´t been able to do any climbing at all since I was pregnant. Humor me.” Dick reaches for Conner’s hand and pulls him forward. “Besides, I’ve heard people say this place is ridiculously decorated. Mistletoe and garlands everywhere. It’s the chance for a perfect romantic evening.”
“I am sure it is,” Conner says, letting himself be pulled. Dick wants him to cooperate, so that’s what he’ll do. At least there won't be a snow fight during this date.
Chapter 14: Day 14: Long scarf
“Oh? That’s great.”
“… Did you hear what I said?”
“I don't think you did. Dick called, Conner. To ask. About the emergency.”
The word ‘emergency’ is what really catches Conner attention, and he drops the spanner he’d been using, slides from under the bike Mal had brought into their backyard that morning and reaches for his tablet.
“He called?” Conner repeats.
Through the camera, Conner can see Ma reach for a new ball of yarn before she settles back in her rocking chair and continues knitting a small scarf. It’s the second one she’s knitting, and they’re for the twins. She’d already finished Colin’s when Conner went to Smallville the other day. “He called,” she confirms.
“A few hours ago. He was in a rush and said something like, ‘ok, now that Conner is distracted in the yard, do you know what he’s up to?’ Apparently, you’ve been acting strange and he’s worried.”
“I haven´t been acting strange,” he protests. About Dick being worried… yeah, Dick had already voiced those concerns.
“Dick seems to think there’s something happening. You’ve either done a terrible job at being discreet or he’s just that observant. Maybe both.”
Conner frowns. “And what did you tell him?” he asks, deciding to ignore the subliminal scolding.
Ma sighs. “I told him one of our helpers had gotten food poisoning, that we had a big cauliflower and lettuce delivery to make and we needed all hands on deck.
“And he believed you?”
“I love Dick as my own son, but he grew up with Bruce. I doubt he believes any words most people say.”
Conner lets out a chuckle. He nods before reaching for a rag nearby to clean some spots of oil on the chassis. “Sorry to put you through this. I really appreciate your help, and I’ll make sure to be more careful from now on.”
“Oh, you know it makes me so happy to help you with something this meaningful and sweet. I’ll help you sow and cut all you need.”
“Thank you. I’ll go back as soon as I figure out what special materials I need. It seems like I have very little choice when it comes to Kevlar and other protective paraphernalia.”
“Who are you going to ask?”
“Ah. Good luck.” The two of them share a laugh, and then Ma stops knitting. She picks up her device, and suddenly her face is too close to the camera.
“Woah,” Conner says.
“What are you doing?”
“A friend brought his old bike to our yard today and asked if I could help him fix it. I didn’t know much about motorcycles this morning, but Mal is a good teacher and I find this very interesting to do.”
Ma pulls away from the camera, beams. “That’s great to hear!”
Conner gives her a smile. He hears the back door open, but he doesn't even bother to turn around. “Dick’s coming,” he says.
“Say no more. Call me when you’re ready to get started.”
“I will. Bye, Ma.”
He hangs up just as Dick gets to where he is, carrying both boys in his arms.
“Being secretive again, I see,” Dick comments.
“I don't know what you’re talking about.” Conner checks his hands, dusts them off on his jeans and reaches for Carter. “Do you need something?”
“Not really. We just came to check up on you. You look like you’re having fun taking the bike apart and putting it back together.”
“It is fun.”
Dick nods. He shifts his weight from one foot to the other. “Can we stay and watch? The kids need some fresh air, and it’s not too cold today.”
“Like you even have to ask,” Conner replies. He rolls his eyes, waits for Dick to sit down on the ground and helps him accommodate the twins in his arms and lap.
“Besides, if I stick around for a little while you might feel inclined to tell me what you’re planning,” Dick adds.
Conner hums. “Not that I’m planning anything, Dick, but if I were… not a chance.”
Chapter 15: Day 15: Sick
Up to date. Finally.
Turns out, the air had been cold. Granted, the temperature hadn’t been as terrible as those during the snow days and when the blizzard hit, but still. It had been a cold day.
Cold enough that they end up with a pair of sick twins a couple of days later.
Dick becomes pale and petrified when Carter starts coughing. Mere hours later, Colin gets a fever, and Dick goes even paler than before.
They’ve managed to handle parenting so far, but seeing their babies with the start of a cold feels like the toughest curveball yet. Panic, along with a knack for overthinking and inexperience lands them in Dr. Thompkins’ office the very next morning.
The doctor seems more amused than anything by the two of them.
“You two can breathe now,” she teases them, handing Colin back to Conner and caressing the babies’ cheeks one last time.
“I take it this means they’ll be okay,” Dick says.
“They certainly will. This is their first cold ever, correct?”
“I understand why you two were so frantic, and I appreciate you coming down to the clinic right away, but rest assured. Babies’ immune systems certainly haven’t finished developing when they’re barely months old, so it’s quite common for them to catch colds or the flu several times before their first year of life. Unless the child is neglected, it’s nothing they won’t survive and nothing that won't help them grow stronger. In your case, the babies’ Kryptonian genes probably helped them in getting their first cold now and not earlier. It means your babies have another advantage to help their immune system from here forward.”
Conner nods. Dick hasn’t lost his appalled demeanor and pale color, so Conner rubs his shoulder and speaks to the doctor. “What do we do to help them cope with the symptoms?”
“The same things you would do with human babies. Wipe their noses if they get runny, get them lots of fluids, elevate their heads and in case of a fever, use damp cloths. I wouldn’t recommend any Tylenol or ibuprofen. They might not be just human, but that medicine can still have bad side effects on babies.”
Conner nods once again. He turns to Dick. “Ready to go home?”
Dick doesn't answer. He pays the doctor, bids her farewell and the two of them make their way back home in complete silence.
Once they’re home and the kids are asleep in the middle of Conner and Dick’s bed, Dick collapses onto the foot of the mattress.
“I got Carter and Colin sick,” Dick groans against the sheets.
Conner sighs. “I knew you were going to do this.”
Conner allows his body to fall on top of Dick’s, who lets out an ‘oomph!’ when Conner lands on him and keeps him pinned.
“It’s not your fault. Everyone gets the cold, Dick, no matter the age. It’s normal.”
“If I hadn’t been so curious about your secret plans, I wouldn’t have taken them out for so long in the first place. I wanted an answer, and I was careless and didn’t think of the kids.”
“I told you, I have no secret plans, and we’re new at this. We’re bound to make dumb mistakes. We don't know how to be model parents. We’re learning along the way.”
Dick groans. “Learning shouldn’t involve the boys’ health, and I should just leave you alone. I know you’re up to something, but you won't tell me, and I shouldn’t force or pressure you. It’s your business.”
Conner rolls off Dick, stares up at the ceiling and lets out another sigh. “It is my business, and you should respect it,” he concedes. “But I understand your curiosity and your worry, and I can't hold those things against you.”
“It’s okay. I also apologize for making you worry.”
Dick rolls over as well, places his hands on top of his stomach. “Not for keeping me in the dark?”
Conner shakes his head. Dick is the one who sighs this time.
“I’ll back off,” Dick promises after a few minutes of silence.
I’ll work harder and faster, Conner vows as well.