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The Bat and The Peahen

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There was blood everywhere

The iron rich scent of it hit her nose violently as she fell to her knees. She reached out to the body on the ground, wishing she could cradle him. His blond hair was caked in blood as his green eyes stared into the distance. He was bleeding out. He was bleeding out, and there was nothing she could do. The child was whimpering for his mother. She wished she could touch him. She wished she could hold him as he died, let him know that he hadn’t died alone.

When the boy’s labored breathing stopped, she got to her feet. Tears rolled down her face as she stared at the woman crushed in the driver’s seat. She had pretty platinum blonde hair that fell along her left shoulder. Her eyes were shut, and her body was limp. She had died before her son, not that the boy knew. Now they were together...but this wasn’t the way she wanted it.

The ghost whirled around, screaming at the top of her lungs.

“STOP! STOP! I don’t want to go back! This wasn’t supposed to happen! This wasn’t supposed to happen! I want to stay here! I want to die! Please, please don’t take them!” she begged to the void around her. “Please! Please! Oh God, Amelie! Félix!”

Balance must be kept. A wish has been made, your life returned. Another life must be taken for balance to remain.

“But Félix—”

An unfortunate consequence. Amelie’s life was traded for yours. Amelie died driving, and an accident occurred which cost your nephew his life. These are natural consequences, Mrs. Agreste.

“DON’T CALL ME THAT!” the ghost screeched. “I don’t want to live! Take it back! TAKE MY LIFE BACK!”

Apologies, Emilie… but that is not how this works. You must go back.

The ghost was engulfed with light as Emilie let out an agonized scream.

She did NOT want to go back.

Chapter Text

Her throat felt like sandpaper as she took her first gulp of air.

She coughed and coughed, trying to get used to breathing once again. She blinked slowly, trying to take in everything. Her mind was racing a mile a minute as she recalled what she had just seen. Her sister and nephew— the car wreck— the voice telling her about a wish. What wish? What was that voice? Why wasn’t she dead?

Emilie Agreste took a moment to gather herself to what was going on.

Amelie and Félix were dead.

Emilie was not in the purgatory-like place her conscious had resided in.

Nathalie was laying eerily still on the floor in front of her.

Gabriel was kneeling on the floor, surrounded by three unhappy... kwamis.

Adrien was laying on the floor—

Emilie’s world screeched to a halt as the last thought processed. Her green eyes scanned the room again and found the body of her child lying limp on the ground. He was breathing— thank whatever God existed— but it was clear he was badly injured. A few feet in front of him was a young girl that Emilie didn’t know, but she’d been hurt as well. She saw Gabriel standing there, not even looking over at the children who needed help.

He only had eyes for her.

“It worked! It worked, Emilie!” Gabriel whispered, walking slowly towards her. “My wish brought you back.”

What?

“Remember the jewels, my little doll? The things I discovered in Tibet? I’m sorry I broke your brooch, little doll, but it was your fault for making me angry. You knew I’d get mad, but you contacted him anyway.”

Him? Oh, Bruce...Bruce Wayne...he never got my letter, did he?

“I couldn’t lose you, my little doll. You tried again and again to leave me, and you got sicker and sicker each time you used the brooch.”

Brooch...my miraculous...Duusu...what did he do to you? What’s happening?

“You fell into a death-like state, little doll. Modern medicine could do nothing for you, so I turned to the miraculous. I became Hawkmoth, villain of Paris. I defeated the superheroes Ladybug and Chat Noir. I did it all so I could bring you back!”

I don’t understand. Why is my baby hurt? Why is Adrien here? Why is that girl here? They’re children. Why are they hurt? Gabriel— 

“You see, little doll, if you combine the powers of the ladybug miraculous and the black cat miraculous the user is granted one wish. I wished for your return. Of course someone had to replace you, but fret not, Nathalie was more than willing to give her life in exchange for yours.”

It was your fault. It was your fault. It was your fault. It was your fault. It was your fault— 

Emilie’s eyes darted down to the prone figure on the ground. Nathalie was not breathing. She was lying lifeless on the ground by her feet, and she couldn’t figure out why. Amelie had died to take her place— 

The universe must remain in balance. Amelie’s life was taken in exchange for mine, but Félix died as a result of the wish...throwing the number of dead and living off when someone who shouldn’t have died did die. Someone’s life had to be taken to re-balance the number of living and dead. Gabriel killed Nathalie. Gabriel had been planning to kill Nathalie the whole time.

Emilie felt her heart pounding in her chest as rage built in her soul. Her twin sister was dead. Her nephew was dead. Her best friend from university was dead.

And it was all her husband’s fault.

Emilie screamed, despite the pain it caused her. Emilie screamed like she’d never dared to scream before. She stumbled out of her pod, half-dazed and extremely pissed off. She bent down and took the miraculous from Nathalie’s body, realizing that the brooch was no longer fractured. She pinned it to herself before hissing, “Duusu, spread my feathers.”

She could hear a soft voice say, “I missed you, Emilie. I won’t let him hurt you this time. I promise.”

As soon as the light cleared from her vision, the woman snapped her fan open, yanking feathers free. She looked at her husband, who was now sporting the last thing she could remember him wearing. That atrocious suit. The disgusting mask. The cane— with a sword in it — clenched tightly in his hand. He was wearing the butterfly miraculous. 

Emilie swore to whatever higher power that she was going to tear it off his throat.

She sent her feathers flying at her husband. She didn’t really care where all of them hit, except for one. Thankfully, this feather met with its mark...her husband’s cane. Gabriel’s eyes widened as the cane wretched itself free from his grasp. He’d clearly been expecting something different when the feather landed, but Emilie didn’t have time to dwell on it for long.

The cane twisted itself, growing arms which it used to unsheath the hidden blade, before floating in front of Emilie. She also noted that the railings around her husband had been hit, and they were wrenching free. The metal twisted into a monstrous shape with piercing shrieks of metal on metal. In the end, two metal monsters stood behind Gabriel.Her creations stayed still as if waiting for her to speak. Emilie swallowed, feeling pins and needles down her throat the entire time.

“My amoks, I am Paonne. I need your help. This man has committed a great crime and we are the only ones who can stop him. Gollum one, I need you to grab the two children behind you. You and Gollum two will protect them. Cane, stand at the ready and attack on my signal!” she said, snapping her fan shut. 

She attached the fan to her belt before charging at Gabriel. The fury burned into her soul as she realized that Gabriel was trying to head towards the children. She would not allow it. She would not allow her son to be used as a weapon against her. She would not allow her son to be used by his father. She was no longer afraid of the man she once called her husband.

Emilie slammed into Gabriel’s back, causing them both to fall onto the platform. Thanks to the miraculous, she was much stronger than she should have been for having just been revived. She pulled her fist back and slammed it into Gabriel’s ribs, causing him to flop back down from his attempt to get up. Emilie struggled to keep control, to keep Gabriel on his back.

If he couldn’t get his hands on her, then he could pin her.

“My little doll, please stop!” Gabriel pleaded with her. “I don’t want to have to hurt you.”

“LIES!” Emilie screamed, digging her elbow into his back hard. “You would have let me leave if you didn’t want to hurt me!”

The blonde haired woman had little time to react before she was shoved to the ground hard.

It seemed like something inside her husband had snapped as he slammed her on the edge of the platform. His eyes had glazed over like she remembered before, and the scowl was back on his face. He looked furious as he reached out with one hand towards her throat, while ranting about how ungrateful she was. He was taken by surprise when Emilie managed to jab her heel into his side, forcing him off balance just enough for her to slip off the platform.

Emilie fell into the water with a splash, but quickly gained hold of herself. She couldn’t be sloppy. She couldn’t afford to lose. Amelie and Félix had already lost their lives to this madman. Emilie and Adrien had lost their freedom to him...and lord knows what else had happened to Adrien while she’d been gone. She wouldn’t let Gabriel take anything else from her.

He’d already taken so much, after all. 

Her eyes darted over to the metal gollums, taking in that they were protecting the two children, just as she’d ordered. Good, that gave her less to worry about and more attention to devote to tearing Gabriel apart. She watched as he jumped down to meet her, and that was when Emilie noticed something odd.

Gabriel was wearing earrings.

Rip them out, then go for the ring .

Emilie whistled to Cane, and the cane sword followed. She snapped her fingers, and Cane began his assault. He lunged at Gabriel, forcing the man to keep moving while Emilie stared him down. She began to look at his costume and noted that there was a silver ring on his one hand as well as the earring that somehow peaked through his mask. Emilie smiled before racing towards one of the metal outcroppings holding the platform up. She jumped onto one and waited for Cane to lead Gabriel over to her.

She then whistled, causing Cane to pause and Gabriel to look up in shock. Emilie dropped down on him without any hesitation, her hands flying to his head. She yanked both earrings out, earning a howl of pain from Gabriel. She was knocked back into the water, still holding onto the earrings as Gabriel screamed, holding his now bleeding ears. A flash of red greeted Emilie, and she handed the earrings to the Kwami without hesitation or questions.

Good, now we need the ring.

Something told Emilie that she wouldn’t be the one to recover the butterfly like she originally wanted to. She couldn’t explain why, but once she noticed the earrings, the earrings and ring became the most important things to retrieve. She whistled quickly once more as the red fairy zipped back up to the platform.

Cane managed to buy her time once more as she scurried to her feet. Getting the ring would be a hell of a lot harder than the earrings. He would be expecting an ambush, and she’d have to get near his hands to get the ring. She didn’t like her odds or her options, but Emilie knew deep down that this had to be done. She couldn’t let Gabriel rule her anymore. Not if she wanted to keep her son safe.

Emilie called off Cane, telling him to standby in case she needed him. Emilie squared her shoulders and prepared for a fight. Gabriel charged first, not a big shock to her, and she darted to the side. He might have been stronger, but she was certainly faster. She always had been. She did this a few times, making sure to be out of his range every time he swung.

Emilie had learned her lesson the last time they fought.

She couldn’t beat him head to head. The petite blonde had to wait for Gabriel to tire himself out before she could even dream of having a chance to get close to that hand. She continued to weave in and out of his hits, noticing him weakening. Good, he was getting tired. Once he was down, she could move in for the final blow.

Gabriel eventually fell to his knees, having hit his wife several times, but unable to get a hold on her. Using more than one miraculous had drained him, especially since he had combined the ladybug and black cat miraculi. He tried to take a few deep breaths until he felt a sharp pain in his stomach.

Emilie had quietly crept over to him while he was trying to catch his breath and kicked him hard. While he was winded, she slammed her entire body weight down on him, taking him by surprise. She grabbed the arm she needed and bit down hard. Gabriel thrashed as she kept her hold on him. Her slim fingers managed to slip the ring off of his finger, though he did manage to grab onto her wrist.

Emilie bit back a cry of pain as Gabriel twisted her wrist hard, but instead of letting the ring go, she bit him even harder in response. The only thing keeping her from drawing blood or ripping out a chunk of flesh was his suit, and the ferocity surprised Gabriel. Emilie thrashed around and kicked at Gabriel, no longer holding anything back.

Once she’d slipped free of him, a black blur came to reclaim the ring. Exhausted herself, Emilie stumbled back towards one of the walls, panting. She wasn’t sure she could do this. The anger and adrenaline that had been coursing through her earlier was waning, and she wanted to rest. She watched Gabriel get up again, his expression murderous, before she smiled. She could see the marks she and Cane had left on him, and Emilie felt pride. She almost accepted that she was to die again until a red and black yoyo came flying out of nowhere.

A small heroine swung down into the water and things began to make more sense. The dark haired girl with her son must be the superheroine. She was the holder of the ladybug miraculous. She was the one who would reclaim Gabriel’s butterfly. Emilie felt strangely okay with that, but she pegged that up to Duusu’s influence on her while she was transformed.

A boy clad in leather jumped down as well, and Emilie felt her heart leap out of her throat. That was her baby. Her baby boy had a miraculous?! He was the holder of the black cat miraculous? Suddenly all the anger and resentment she’d felt towards Gabriel came flooding back. Their son was the black cat holder, and Gabriel still fought him? Gabriel fought their son? Gabriel had hurt her baby!

Before either teen could react, Emilie stomped forward and decked Gabriel with all her might.

They heard a crack, and Gabriel passed out. The ladybug heroine said nothing, but carefully removed the butterfly miraculous from Gabriel. Emilie had her hands ready, allowing the small purple kwami to fall into her hands.

“I’m so sorry, Nooroo,” she said somberly. “I should have never encouraged Gabriel to follow those legends back in Tibet. I should have never helped him find the miraculous. I should have taken you, Duusu, and Adrien and left Gabriel before any of this could happen. I’m sorry I’m a coward.”

“It’s not your fault,” Nooroo replied weakly. “Someone would have found us eventually. Things may have turned out the same way, just with different people. You were scared, Emilie. He hurt you. He threatened you, threatened your family, and threatened to hurt Adrien if you didn’t do what he wanted. You did your best to protect your family.”

“Duusu, feathers fall,” Emilie whispered. “It wasn’t enough, and I’m sorry.”

A dark blue kwami joined the light purple one in her hands as the peahen looked up at her. Duusu was smiling sadly, her pinkish red eyes knowing. The kwami gently pat her hand before saying there was no need to apologize. The kwamis then floated towards the ladybug to speak with her, leaving Emilie alone with her son.

“...is it true? Did fath-I mean, Mr. Agreste, threaten to hurt your son if you didn’t do what he wanted?” he asked quietly, his eyes somber and distant.

Emilie felt the tears begin to fall as she grabbed her son and held him tightly.

“I’m so sorry, Adrien. I never wanted you to find out. I didn’t want you to think your father was a bad person. I wanted to protect you,” she sobbed. “But I didn’t protect you at all! I locked you up out of fear. Sure, I tried to make up for keeping you home all the time, but that’s no excuse. I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough to leave your father. I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough to get us out.”

She felt her son tense in her arms for a moment before melting into the embrace. She could feel his body start to tremble as he began to cry as well. She gently ran her fingers through his hair like she used to when he was little and rocked him. It wasn’t until his ladybug partner tapped his shoulder that her son looked up.

“Chat Noir, can you take Mrs. Agreste—”

“Emilie, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Take Emilie and get back onto the platform. I’ll bring Hawkmoth up, and we’ll execute our plan. Emilie, I’m afraid you’ll have to get back in the...pod until the police come. That way you’ll be cleared of any criminal activity, seeing as you didn’t have anything to do with his decision to become Hawkmoth—”

“What about my son, Miss—”

“Ladybug,” the girl replied. “And what about your son?”

“Well, since he’s Chat Noir, he won’t be in any of the video surveillance. How are we going to ensure he isn’t charged with helping his father without outing him as Chat Noir?” Emilie asked. “I don’t know you personally, young lady, but you and my son where the only ones down here when I woke up, so you two must be the people standing before me.”

Ladybug looked at her partner in shock before gasping, “Adrien?!”

Emilie had to bite back a laugh as her son pouted.

“No fair, Bugaboo! You know my secret identity, but I don’t know yours!” he said.

“There will be time for that later,” Emilie said, releasing him from the hug. “Now we need to implement whatever plan Ladybug has cooked up. We’ll talk about this after we deal with the police.”

She looked at the two teens, two children who had more responsibility thrust on them than they ever should have, with a soft smile. She reassured them that she’d help deal with the police and the legal matters. Emilie promised both of them that she wasn’t going anywhere. She was happy when they seemed to relax slightly, knowing they weren’t going in all by themselves.

Emilie squeezed Ladybug’s shoulder before saying, “It’s going to be okay.”

Ladybug just smiled anxiously in response.

Chapter Text

The legal proceedings had been a nightmare. 

The press was even worse though. 

Thank the higher powers for Audrey Bourgeois. Once her old friend had heard the news that Emilie was found alive in a secret room, the fashion queen had barreled her way into the Agreste Mansion. No one had dared to stop the mayor's wife, not when she was on the warpath like this. She had almost immediately begun handling the press for Emilie, tossing out journalists left and right for being disrespectful. 

"She and her son just went through something extremely traumatic! You animals truly have no soul and are utterly ridiculous! Leave her alone!"

Emile had smiled at her long-time friend before sighing heavily. She had then rubbed the bridge of her nose, stressed beyond belief. She had wanted this to be over already, if not for her sake, for the children's. 

Adrien hadn't left her side since she woke up. He had regressed into the little boy she remembered fondly. The little boy who was afraid to leave his mother's side. The little boy who preferred his mother over everyone else. The little boy who was unsure and scared of everything. The little boy who knew fear and loneliness better than any child ought to.

The cameras and added stress didn't help Adrien process his father's betrayal. They had tried asking the poor boy about Gabriel, and if he knew his father was a terrorist. No matter how many times he told them he had no idea, the press still continued to run their tabloid stories on whether or not Adrien actually knew. Not to mention having to use illusions when Chat needed to be in the same place as Adrien had caused considerable strain on both her son and Ladybug. 

Ladybug, who she'd come to discover was Miss Marinette Dupain-Cheng, a friend of her son's, who was doing everything in her power to help them. 

Marinette was a sweet girl, and Emilie hated Gabriel for pulling her into his mess. The girl had been trying so hard to keep Adrien safe. She had worked herself to the bone to protect their identities. She had also tried to ensure that Gabriel would not escape punishment for terrorizing Paris. All while continuing to be her son’s only and most stalwart supporter. 

Meanwhile, their classmates were trying to paint her as the villain. They all felt bad for her son, but accused Marinette of being involved. These rumors caused more distress as the press descended on Marinette’s family. They demanded to know why these people would support the son of a terrorist. To their credit, Tom Dupain and Sabine Cheng argued fiercely that Adrien was a good boy and that he’d always been nothing if not polite and respectful every time he entered their home. It was easy for Emilie to see where Marinette got her sense of loyalty and good heart after her parents’ defended not only her, but Adrien as well. 

Emile had put a firm stop to everything by having a firm conversation with Maria Rossi and her lawyers. After all, it was her daughter’s fault that these rumors began. Emilie’s legal team had managed to prove that there was no evidence linking Marinette or Adrien to Hawkmoth’s doings. The legal team had even managed to dig up proof that Lila Rossi was the one who had connection to Gabriel, and she was trying to pass the buck to Marinette and Adrien.

By the end of that week, the Agrestes and Marinette had a restraining order against Lila Rossi. Emilie had went to the school and made it very clear that Lila Rossi wasn't to be anywhere near her son or Miss Dupain-Cheng. When the teacher and principal tried to protest, Emilie had given them the coldest smile she could before telling them her lawyers were on speed dial. They had buckled easily under the pressure.

Especially due to everyone's new-found fear of her family. 

Emile took a deep breath, continuing to clean out the room she and her husband once shared. She had packed up most of her clothes already but was now choosing what items she'd take. She had already made the decision to sell all the jewelry Gabriel had given her. Now she was rifling through her drawers, deciding what to throw out and what to keep. 

Her phone rang as she continued digging through her nightstand. She looked at it before putting the phone on speaker. 

"Bonjour, Audrey—"

"Don't you, 'Bonjour, Audrey' me! Is it true you're looking to leave Paris?!"

"France if I can manage it. Audrey, you were right. I deserved more. I should have left him. I should have taken Adrien and run. Gabriel’s a monster. Adrien's a mess, Queenie. His friends half-pity half-fear him. He's hounded relentlessly by journalists asking if he helped his father with actual terrorism. Marinette is his only friend, and she's getting it just as bad—"

"So what are you going to do, Emmie?"

Emilie paused in surprise. She thought her oldest and most stubborn friend would try and argue that she needed to stay in Paris. She thought Audrey would tell her she needed the support of her friends… especially now that she had buried Amelie and Félix...another reason her son was suffering. 

"Emmie? I know things have been rough, but you can't just rush into things. You need to have a plan. Where are you going to live? Who will be your support when you're so far away from Paris? Is this good for Adrien? What about Marinette?"

Emilie's heart stuttered as she came across an old letter, one from early in her marriage. It wasn't from her husband. She looked down at it, rereading the letter as if she was searching desperately for something. Suddenly, everything came back to her in a heart-wrenching flood. 

"Audrey, I'm going to Gotham,” she said firmly. “I’m going to see an old friend...and I’m taking Adrien and Marinette with me.”

The blonde didn’t listen to Audrey’s reaction. Her thoughts raced at a mile a minute. Emilie knew Marinette’s parents weren’t happy with the treatment of their daughter, but did not have enough money to move. She could offer Marinette a way out. She could offer to take Marinette with her and use her old ties to help their daughter have a chance at a future. Adrien would then have a friend when they left, and Marinette would no longer have to fear being ostracized by her peers. 

Marinette might be hesitant, but considering that she was now the guardian of the miracle box, she might want to leave Paris. The dark haired girl may appreciate moving to somewhere where no one knew her name or had any preconceived notion of her. She’d thrive too, and Emilie was positive about that fact. Emilie recognized the girl’s dedication and talent that would serve her well in the world. She’d probably have a job soon after their arrival. 

Emilie just had to convince Sabine Cheng and Tom Dupain that this would be the best choice for their daughter.

She told Audrey that she’d call back before hanging up the phone. Thin fingers quickly dialed a number that she prayed still worked. She could hear her heart beating rapidly as the phone rang. Her grip on her phone was firm. Her entire body was rigid as she listened to the drone of the dial tone until she heard someone pick up. A voice she hadn’t heard in many years came across the receiver. Tears welled up in her eyes as she gulped before responding to the speaker.

“Bonjour, Alfred...it’s Emilie. Emilie Graham de Vanily. I’m sorry I haven’t called in so long. How have you been?”

———————————

Alfred’s quiet day was shattered upon receiving that one phone call.

He’d been doing his regular routine of dishes and laundry when he’d heard the phone ring. Bruce was down in the cave working and staying out of Jason’s way. Dick was currently in Bludhaven, and Damian had gone to visit his eldest brother. Jason was in the manor, but that was only due to injuries he’d received during a sting gone wrong. 

Jason had been shot in the abdomen several times and was currently recovering in his old room. Tim was the only one, surprisingly to everyone else, that Jason would let change his bandages. Jason was still angry with Bruce for the argument that had resulted after his injuries. Bruce was too proud to tell his son he’d only screamed at him because he was afraid he’d lost him again. Jason, on the other hand, was too stubborn to ever tell Bruce that he knew the bust would go bad, and that’s why he took the job.

For all his huff and puff, Jason loved his family. He’d put himself in deadly situation before them every time...not that the young man would ever admit that.

So, Jason was sedated and resting. Last time Alfred had passed his room, he had noticed Tim sitting at the foot of Jason’s bed, quietly doing Wayne Enterprises paperwork. With all his boys preoccupied, and the ladies currently out of the house, Alfred had been enjoying just being able to go about his day without having to worry about extra cleaning. He never would have dreamed he’d pick up the phone to hear her voice.

Emilie Graham de Vanily...why he hadn’t heard her voice in over a decade! Which was a pity to Alfred, as she was one of the only people a younger Bruce Wayne had ever relaxed around. Emilie’s family had been friends with the Waynes, Emilie’s father having run in similar social circles as Bruce’s father. Emilie had enjoyed coming to Gotham with her father, and when they got older, Bruce had often went out with her. 

He had claimed it was to keep an eye on her, as she was a lovely young woman in Gotham, but Alfred knew that Bruce genuinely liked Emilie. She had never pitied him for being an orphan. She had tried to take the focus off of his past and focus on the now. She had wanted him to smile and laugh, to enjoy the life he had. Emilie also had a way of seeing through Bruce in ways the man himself had never understood. 

It was a shame that Emilie had married Gabriel.

The man truly didn’t deserve Emilie’s good heart and warmth. As much as it pained both of them to admit, neither Bruce nor Alfred had thought that Gabriel would go so far as to cut Emilie off from the rest of the world like he did. He had isolated her from most of her childhood friends, though they noticed that for a while, Emilie had fought back in her own little ways. Little gifts and short letters had come from her, but nothing more.

Now she was on the other end of the phone, shy and timid sounding.

“Miss Emilie? Is that really you, my dear?” Alfred asked quietly. “Are you all right?”

He could hear the hollow laughter on the other end of the phone, and it made his stomach sink.

“Have you seen the news?” she asked, her voice breaking.

“What news—”

“My ex-husband is a terrorist. The press is convinced my son knew, but he didn’t. He and his best friend are easily the most feared and hated children in Paris. I can’t leave my home without people asking me if I knew my husband was going to hold me hostage in a secret room, separating me from my child,” Emilie croaked. “I was packing up my things, and I came across an old letter of Bruce’s… is the offer of a safe place to hide still on the table?”

Alfred’s eyes widened as he looked towards the figure who’d just walked in the door. The dark haired man looked at Alfred with a confused and slightly concerned expression. He quietly asked the butler who was on the phone, and Alfred responded by saying, “I’ll have you ask him yourself, Miss Emilie. I’d personally love to see you again.”

He held out the phone to his former charge. Bruce looked almost lost as he took the phone from Alfred. His expression was troubled, yet almost hopeful, as he lifted the phone to his ear. Bruce quietly said hello, listening carefully to the person on the other line. It could be a trick, and Bruce wasn’t willing to take the chance. After all, Emilie hadn’t responded to one of his letters in years. She could have been dead for all Bruce knew, and this could be someone impersonating her to get close to him.

“Bonjour, mon râleur,” a soft voice came, tearful and broken. “I missed you. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you. You were right. Something was wrong. Something was always wrong.”

The nickname hit Bruce in the chest, leaving him almost breathless. 

No one but Emilie called him that. She had called him that from the day they met. He had complained to his father that he didn’t want to play with the little five-year old French girl. She had immediately started calling him mon râleur and had refused to call him anything else. His mother had later translated it for him as ‘my grumpy’ or ‘my complainer’. 

Emilie had continued to call him that, even after his parents had died. Her voice had always been teasing or loving when she referred to him by that nickname. She’d continued to call him that despite her boyfriends’ distaste towards her having a pet name for someone other than her significant other. Gabriel, in particular, had told Emilie never to refer to him by such a term of endearment again. Emilie had refused, citing that Bruce was one of her oldest friends, and that Gabriel would have to get over it. That was one of the last times he’d seen Emilie in person.

“Ma colombe,” Bruce said quietly. “What do I owe for the pleasure of receiving a phone call? Does Gabriel know you’re calling-”

“Gabriel’s been arrested, Bruce.”

Bruce’s eyebrows shot up at those words. Gabriel had been arrested? What for? Was Emilie okay? What was going on? Was that why she was calling him? Why hadn’t he heard about this before? Had he just not been paying attention to the news?

“Emilie, are you all right?” he demanded. “Is your child all right? You have a son, don’t you? Did Gabriel hurt either of you? Do I need to come get the both of you?”

Harsh laughter came over the phone, causing his anxiety to go up. 

“Physically? Both me and Adrien are fine. Emotionally? Mentally? Bruce, my ex-husband is a terrorist. He nearly killed me for trying to leave him. Then he locked me up. He psychologically manipulated my son the same way he did to me. The press are monsters, and now I have two vulnerable teenagers who are being preyed on and accused of terrorism,” Emilie began. “We need to leave...and I was wondering if your offer of a place to hide had an expiration date?”

“You want to come to Gotham?”

“Yes, Bruce. I need to leave France. My baby can’t stay here...neither can his friend. Not with all of this. We’ve already finished all the legal things, so don’t worry about our clearance to travel. I’ve already checked, and we’re clear to leave the country.”

Bruce’s thoughts raced. Back when he’d offered that to her, he hadn’t been Batman yet. He hadn’t adopted Dick yet, let alone thought he’d adopt three more children and have one of his own. What would the boys think? What were the risks of having them here? Would they be at risk if he brought them to Gotham?

At the same time, this was Emilie.

Emilie, the girl who had been his best friend for years. Emilie, the girl who’d stayed with him and watched him cry after his parents died. Emilie, the woman who’d offered her endless support even if it ended her romantic relationships. Emilie, the woman who he had loved despite everything that had happened, and now she was asking for his help.

He made a split-second decision.

“Of course you’re welcome here, Emilie,” he said. “So long as you’re okay with me having five children of my own. How soon?”

“How soon can you get us there?” she asked. “And since when did you have kids? God, I’ve missed so much. I need to work out things with Marinette’s parents, but I don’t think I’m going to have any issues. Oh, Marinette is Adrien’s best friend, and since she refuses to renounce him, she’s also being accused of terrorism. This has been a nightmare…”

“Emilie, clear things with Marinette’s parents and any other legal things you may need to do, then call me back. I’ll send a plane as soon as all the paperwork is straightened out. I’ll do what I need to do on my end. Yes, I have four adopted children and one biological child. I believe my youngest is around the same age as your son.”

“Bruce?”

“Emilie?”

“Thank you...for everything. For being there for me when I needed it. For trying to warn me. For accepting me now...I’m sorry I wasn’t a better friend.”

Bruce felt his chest ache. He wanted to hug her so much. He’d missed her constant sunny presence in his life. He had thought he’d never get to see her again. He’d forgiven her long ago for Gabriel’s actions. Sure there were some things they’d need to talk about once she got there, but Bruce found that he really wasn’t all that worried about it. 

“Ma colombe, you are one of my best friends,” he said slowly. “He manipulated you, and you don’t need to apologize for that, but you’re welcome. I will happily take you and the kids in. Just get everything settled, okay?”

Bruce could hear the relief in her voice as they finished their call. He looked down at the phone quietly for a few moments before looking at Alfred. Alfred simply smiled at him before telling Bruce he didn’t need to worry. Alfred would have three rooms ready for their guests in no time. He thanked Alfred before taking a deep breath. First things first, call his lawyers and sort out the legal things. Second, he’d have to talk to his children. 

Somehow, he felt like talking to the lawyers was going to be easier...maybe he could get Tim to tell Jason?

Chapter Text

Telling Jason did not go well.

Not at all.

Though, Bruce wasn’t sure if it was caused by sedatives, or if it was the fact that Jason was still angry with him, even after almost two weeks. The young man had a lot of colorful words for Bruce, most of which was about how he wasn’t prepared to have another brother and sister to protect. He went on to rant about how it was damn near impossible to protect the family he had now because all of them were self-sacrificing assholes, and now there would be more , probably as equally self-sacrificing, assholes for him to try and keep alive.

Tim had simply looked exhausted before rubbing the bridge of his nose and sighing, “He’s fuckin’ drugged to all hell, especially after the dumbfuck ripped his stitches out. Twice. Now, what’s this about you stealing more children?”

“I’m not stealing them, Tim,” Bruce sighed. “An old friend of mine,with two children she’s responsible for, is coming to Gotham. She...she just got out of an abusive marriage and needed somewhere to go. I expect the lot of you to be on your best behavior…and maybe we should wait until Jason is off the painkillers to introduce him.” 

“Fuck you, Bruce! Imma goddamn DELIGHT!”

The Wayne patriarch shook his head in exasperation before asking Tim where his other two sons were. Tim reported that Dick had taken Damian and Jon (who’d flown in to visit Damian) to that new trampoline park that had opened up. Damian had told Tim they’d be back in a few hours and that he would ensure ‘the other patrons’ safety as well as Grayson’s’. That made Bruce smile a little. Hopefully the trio would have fun, and Damian wouldn’t flip out once he told the boy of their impending house guests.

Bruce thanked Tim while the clearly exhausted teen waved him off. He walked out of the room, feeling his anxiety bubbling in his stomach. Yesterday Emilie had phoned him saying all of their preparations had been made. In one week, Emilie and the children would be on their way to Gotham. He was supposed to pick them up from the airport so he could meet Adrien and Marinette. She had sounded so elated at the prospect, and Bruce couldn’t help but feel warm at that.

Even after all these years, Emilie still trusted him.

That meant more to Bruce than he believed the blonde woman knew. He’d put on such a persona for years that many had lost their faith in him. He was just a no good play-boy, chasing after the next skirt. He’d have to explain the persona to Emilie, though he was certain that she would see through it in seconds. She’d probably scold him once she arrived. Emilie would tell him that he needed to be honest with people, otherwise they’d never know the real him. 

So why was Bruce so anxious about their arrival?

His children.

Tim seemed to accept the fact there were new people coming without much fuss or care. However, he also knew Tim was a very mental individual. The boy was probably thinking of all that could go wrong with having new people in the house. He’d probably wait until he met them to make any further judgements on them...after looking over every piece of data available on them.

Jason was too drugged to really do much at the moment. Honestly, the worst Bruce could see his second eldest doing was teasing him over Emilie. He was sure that there would be many innuendos and other filthy jokes coming his way once Jason was fully recovered. He just hoped that the young man would have enough sense not to do that in front of Emilie and her children. 

Dick would be fine...or at least Bruce hoped he’d be fine. Dick was the most extraverted of his children, and he got along well with other people. He enjoyed getting to know others and was generally pretty easy going. He also had rather impeccable big brother instincts. Bruce was sure that the second Dick met the kids, he’d be mother henning them in no time.

Damian would be the wild card in the situation. His youngest son had grown a great deal since his mother left him. He’d learned how to get along with his brothers. He learned how to implement non-lethal force. He’d learned how to better regulate himself and was now more aware of others emotions then before. 

That being said, Damian was still the product of him and Talia al Guhl. The boy was cautious, still treating new things as a threat until they were proven to be otherwise. He still had some difficulties relating to kids his age. He was overprotective and still had a temper. Bruce wasn’t sure how Damian would react to having two new children in the house.

And that’s completely leaving out another big factor...Emilie herself.

When Damian was younger, he’d been hopeful that Bruce would reunite with Talia. Now that he was older, and could see and understand how much pain she caused, Damian hadn’t spoken of his mother. The only thing he’d expressed involving Bruce’s love life was his disdain over his father’s former relationship with Selina Kyle. He’d not found her a worthy partner for his father and had no problem saying that in front of her.

Bruce had no idea how he would react to this woman coming into their home, especially a woman that was so different from his mother.

His older boys would be polite, but Bruce also worried about them being distant. Dick would keep cautious boundaries until he figured out that Emilie wasn’t a threat to them. Once that happened, Bruce predicted he would get along well with Emilie...they had similar personalities after all.

Tim did not have a good relationship with his mother before her death. Janet was largely absent from Tim’s life. He never expressed hating the woman, but he also couldn’t say he was ever close to her. Having a maternal figure in his life would change things, and that might stir up emotions that Tim had never dealt with properly. Whether he would reject Emilie or cling to her was up in the air.

Jason was the most at risk, and the fact weighed heavily on Bruce. Jason had lost Catherine Todd to an overdose. He’d told Bruce time and time again that Catherine did what she could with what she had. She was a far cry from perfect, but she’d tried her best. Then Sheila Haywood came into their lives, and Jason died. His birth mother had worked with the Joker and sealed her son’s fate. He’d been betrayed by her. 

If anyone was to take Emilie’s presence bad, it would be Jason. 

Bruce wouldn’t be able to blame him either. 

He rubbed his forehead, feeling so exhausted. He really hoped he was doing the right thing.

———— 

Emilie knew she was, at least half-way, doing the right thing.

The looks of relief on the children’s faces when she, Tom, and Sabine told them they were leaving Paris had spoken volumes. Marinette had looked close to tears, slumped in her mother’s arms. Adrien had nearly collapsed, but Tom thankfully kept him steady. Both children looked so exhausted, and none of the adults could blame them.They’d not only had to go through the police, but the media as well. Both had been forced to delete all of their social media accounts, and Marinette shut down the little online store she had set up. This was, of course, done after both were severely harassed on the internet.

They’d been called just about every name in the book. Marinette’s store had been trashed with terrible reviews. Both children’s phones had been ringing off the hook, as several of their classmates had sold their phone numbers to the media. Several death threats were received, and it was after Marinette received a death threat that Tom and Sabine agreed with Emilie’s plan to take Marinette with her.

They’d finally be away from the Paris circus media and away from the people who wished them harm. With Bruce at Emilie’s back, she was hopeful that he’d be able to help keep the children hidden for a little while. Gotham could be a dangerous place, but for Emilie, Bruce’s home had always been a place of comfort.

It was the first place Emilie’s father had taken her after he divorced her mother.

She had been sad and lonely without her mother and Amélie. Playing with Bruce under the watchful eye of Alfred Pennyworth, and occasionally Martha Wayne, had helped her heal from the separation. Going to the Wayne Manor in Gotham meant Emilie got to have another child as a playmate. Going to Gotham meant Emilie was somewhere with people who paid attention to her.

Alfred may have taught Emilie how to act like a lady, but he was also a willing participant in many games. The old Englishman had allowed Bruce and her to help him cook sometimes as well as several other things. Alfred was the one who’d taught Emilie how to garden and had encouraged her literary interests. He was key in acquiring several different books when she and Bruce had hit a mythology kick. 

This is where Emilie’s anxieties were currently making their home.

She was positive removing Adrien and Marinette from Paris was the correct response. They needed to be somewhere they could recover without being constantly reminded of their sacrifices and pain. It was no longer safe for them in Paris, and until people forgot Gabriel, it may never be safe again.

What she wasn’t positive of was how Adrien would react to Bruce of his kids.

Adrien had just been betrayed by his father. He had just discovered that Emilie and Gabriel’s marriage was not what it seemed. He had learned that the reason he’d never been allowed out of the house was that Gabriel had threatened to take Adrien away from Emilie several times. He’d learned how Emilie had gotten the miraculous, taking it from Gabriel to try and escape from him with Adrien. He learned that his father had broken the peacock on purpose. He learned that it was all his father’s fault that Emilie had gotten sick.

Adrien had also learned just how often Gabriel hit Emilie.

Her son might feel threatened by Bruce’s presence. Adrien might fear that Bruce would try to hurt her and develop anxiety around keeping her safe. Should Bruce try to extend a fatherly hand, Adrien might even reject him outright. Adrien could become aggressive and defensive, and that’s not what Emilie wanted for her son.

Adrien’s lack of social skills would also have to be addressed as well as the trauma he’d been through. Emilie worried that he would regress and stay regressed, refusing to leave her side. The concern grew when Emilie realized she had no idea how to help him reclaim the confidence he had before she died. She’d discussed this with Bruce, and he’d reassured her he knew several excellent counselors, but she was still anxious.

Because she needed therapy too.

Years of being threatened had taken their toll on her, and Emilie was now struggling to let her son out of her sight for even one moment. She was terrified that Gabriel would pop out of nowhere and take Adrien from her. She was afraid she’d be unable to protect him again.

Emilie shook her head violently, putting her hands down on the box she was packing. She couldn’t think about this right now! Emilie forced herself to continue packing what she was going to donate to charity. She had to get rid of everything before she could leave with the kids.

As she placed another item in the box, Emilie prayed to whatever higher power the universe ran on that she was doing the right thing.

Chapter Text

Emilie was practically vibrating with anxiety. 

Adrien was holding onto her coat in the same way he used to as a child. It almost sent her into a panic. The last time Adrien held onto her like this Gabriel had been in a foul mood. She could feel his firm grip, and she could tell he was shaking too. She felt him press against her side as they walked out into the crowd. 

Marinette was holding onto the back of Adrien's coat with a vice grip. Aside from the whiting of her knuckles, Emilie saw no outward signs of anxiety in Marinette. The girl's steely grey- blue eyes were focused on the path ahead of her. Her shoulders were squared, and it seemed she was channeling her inner Ladybug to get through the airport.

Thankfully, the trio managed to get to the exit without much fuss. It appeared that news had either not reached Gotham, or the Gothamites simply didn't care about them. From experience, Emilie knew it was probably the second one. 

The city of crime was infamous after all. Many people had connections to some kind of crime or illicit activity. There was hardly a single person who could claim their families were saints, so none of them really had any room to talk. The average people of the airport probably wouldn't bother her or the children. It was the upper class individuals that concerned her. 

"Ms. Graham de Vanily—"

"Emilie, Marinette," the blonde woman kindly reminded her. 

"Emilie… who are we supposed to be meeting?" the dark haired girl asked quietly. 

"An old friend of mine...Bruce. He's a very kind man," she said softly. "He was my best friend as a child. He offered me a place in his home after I married Gabriel...just in case anything happened. It’s been over a decade, but he insisted the invitation was still open.”

Marinette nodded, keeping her body squared and her nod firm. Emilie felt her heart break a little as she saw the scarlet heroine who had been battling her husband in the eyes of a sixteen year old girl. Instead of her biggest worry being who she would date, she’d had the fate of Paris shoved onto her tiny shoulders. Marinette beared the burden well, but Emilie firmly believed it shouldn’t have been hers to begin with.

“Are you sure about this, Maman?” Adrien asked again. “Madame Bourgeois offered us a place in New York if we chose as well.”

“I’m certain, mon petit chaton,” Emilie said, looking down at her son.

He was almost as tall as her, and her heart broke more as she thought about all the time she’d missed with her son. Adrien looked so grown up now, and Emilie couldn’t help the bitter smile that found its way to her face. Her son looked so much like his grandfather...her father. The sixteen year old boy’s green eyes were searching his mother’s for any hint of deceit. Her baby had gotten wiser in his pain, and she wished with all her might that she could take everything back.

She loved her son dearly, but she wished he hadn’t needed to learn about the world’s cruelty this way.

Emilie gave both children a reassuring smile before looking around.

Bruce said he would be coming with Alfred and his eldest adopted son. Apparently, the young man had wanted to meet them right away, and Bruce hadn’t been able to stop him from tagging along. He’d apologized several times and told her that he would make sure Dick didn’t smother them.  He then mentioned that his eldest was the best with people, so the young man was probably the best child to start with as far as introductions went.

Emilie’s green eyes scanned the crowd before she stopped on a figure she never thought she’d see again. A delighted smile broke out on her face before she cupped her hands and hollered, “ALFRED! ALFRED, OVER HERE!”

An elderly gentleman dressed in a fine suit looked over at her. His kind blue-grey eyes locked onto them and a smile crossed his face. He tapped two other men on the shoulders and pointed them in their direction. As the trio made their way over to them, Emilie felt her son press harder against her.

“Miss Emilie! Oh, it’s so wonderful to see you again. I hope your tastes haven’t changed too much since we last met. Dinner tonight is going to be soupe à l’oignon… a favorite of yours if Master Bruce remembered correctly,” the elderly man said, opening his arms wide.

Emilie genuinely laughed before hugging Alfred tight.

“I missed you too, Alfie,” she said, her voice cracking. “I wanted to come back so badly…”

Alfred gently rubbed Emilie’s back as the woman continued to hug him. He couldn’t help but note how...grown Emilie was. She was no longer that little girl chasing after Master Bruce. She was a grown woman, just a little shorter than Alfred himself. She had a child, who he assumed was the blond boy critically eying him. The distressing thing to Alfred was the fact that both mother and son were much too thin for his tastes. 

“Maman?”

Emilie immediately released Alfred and turned to Adrien. She gently grabbed her son’s hand and pulled him forward. She gave Marinette another reassuring smile before gesturing to her to come out from behind Adrien.

“Adrien, Marinette, this is Monsieur Alfred Pennyworth. He was practically like a second father to me growing up. He is the Wayne family’s butler, and he spent quite a bit of time chasing after me and Bruce when we were little,” Emilie said happily. “Alfred, this is my son Adrien. The young lady behind him is Mademoiselle Marinette Dupain-Cheng.”

Alfred smiled at the two children before extending his hand.

“Master Graham de Vanily, Miss Dupain-Cheng, it is wonderful to meet you,” he said softly. 

Marinette stepped forward and took the outstretched hand. She shook it carefully, smiling hesitantly. She cleared her throat before whispering, “Bonjour, Monsieur Pennyworth.”

Adrien glared for a few moments before hesitantly taking his hand after Marinette. Emilie breathed a sigh of relief as Adrien didn’t lash out. It probably helped that Alfred was smiling and speaking with Marinette about dinner, and the young girl seemed to relax. Alfred broached the topic of baking, and the dark haired young lady seemed more than happy to discuss it.

Emilie heard a cough and turned to the left. Her heart thudded violently in her chest as she met a pair of familiar icy blue eyes. 

“Hello, ma colombe,” a soft baritone voice said. “It’s wonderful to see you again.”

———————

Bruce could feel his heart fluttering in his chest.

There she was.

She was waving her hand in an attempt to aid them in finding her. Her golden blonde hair was loose, falling in waves around her shoulders. Her green eyes were bright, and she had a beautiful smile on her heart shaped face. She looked positively delighted to see Alfred, her entire face lit up with happiness.

The children standing behind her though seemed more hesitant about their situation. The blonde boy was holding tightly onto her coat and seemed to be anxious. Bruce assumed that the boy was Emilie’s son, Adrien. The boy looked much like his mother, with the same golden blonde hair and bright green eyes. Bruce would guess he probably had his mother’s kind face where it not scrunched up in distrust and distress.

The young lady behind him was the smallest of the bunch. Bruce guessed the black haired little lady was Marinette. Her grey eyes were full of steel and resolve as she looked around them, as if she was trying to gauge if there were any threats around. There was a hesitant smile on her pretty face as she watched Emilie hug Alfred tightly.

“Maman.”

The boy didn’t seem as relaxed with the development as his friend was. Bruce watched Emilie turn around and introduce Adrien and Marinette to Alfred. Thankfully years of practice kicked in, and Alfred greeted the children in his softest voice. He held out his hand, and for a moment, Bruce was afraid that the children wouldn’t accept it.

Marinette proved herself to be a pillar of strength as she stepped out from behind her friend and his mother. She grabbed Alfred’s hand and shook it with purpose as she whispered her greetings. She had a sweet sounding voice, one that was soothing to hear. Once she was done, she stepped back looking at Adrien.

Adrien glared at Alfred for a few moments before taking his hand and shaking it as well. Adrien let go of Alfred’s hand and watched carefully as he engaged Marinette in conversation. The boy seemed to relax as his friend relaxed, gazing almost lovingly at her as her face lit up in excitement. A hesitant smile even appeared as Marinette giggled in delight at Alfred’s suggestion of teaching him how to make true French pastries. 

Bruce watched as Emilie relaxed, her shoulders no longer tense. He slowly began to walk towards her, not noticing the absence of his eldest child. He stopped just off to the side of her before coughing into his fist. He watched her beautiful green eyes turn to look at him. 

“Hello, ma colombe,” he said softly. “It’s wonderful to see you again.”

He watched her smile widen almost sadly before she threw her arms around him tightly.

“Mon râleur,” she whispered, buiring her face in his chest. “Mon râleur, I missed you.”

Bruce gently wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. He rested his cheek against the top of her head, inhaling slowly. She was so small in comparison to him. She’d always been small, even when they were children, but she seemed so tiny now. She was thin, too thin, but he knew that Alfred would fix that quickly. She was still as warm as he remembered her being and just as strong. She still smelled like that lavender perfume she favored as a child...one his mother had introduced her too as a little girl. She was trembling in his arms, her fingers clenched in his coat.

Bruce gently ran his fingers through her hair, whispering his greetings to her. His eyes only left Emilie’s to quickly survey his surroundings. He noted that people were beginning to pay attention. They’d have to move quickly to avoid being surrounded by reporters. He also noted that Adrien was no longer smiling.

The young man was tense, and was intently watching Bruce. Bruce figured Adrien was not exactly happy with some strange man hugging his mother. After everything Emilie had told him about, he really couldn’t blame the young man for being suspicious. If someone had abused Martha, he was certain he wouldn’t have wanted anyone to touch his mother either.

Marinette had a hand gently gripping Adrien’s shoulder. She seemed to be trying to get Adrien to relax, but wasn’t having much success. Seeing the young woman’s face becoming more and more distressed, Bruce gently patted Emilie’s shoulder.

“Ma colombe,” he said quietly. “We should get moving before the reporters descend on us—”

Bruce was cut off by his phone ringing. He answered the call, seeing the caller ID as ‘Dick’.

“Bruce, you need to hurry! Someone’s tipped the press off that Bruce Wayne is meeting someone here. I’ve got the car ready. Thank Alfred later.”

He hissed quietly, eyes locking with Emilie’s. He quickly thanked Dick, hanging up his phone. He gestured to Alfred, and the older man assisted the children with their bags.

“Someone tipped off the press. We need to move fast,” Bruce said quickly. “We’ll finish introductions in the car.”

Upon hearing the word press, Emilie’s expression changed drastically. The smile fell off her face as she shoved her bag in Bruce’s direction. He took it from her, slightly shocked, as she raced over to her kids. She wrapped her arms around Adrien and Marinette and hurried them towards the exit. The two children had their heads down, but Emilie had her head held high. Her green eyes turned venomous and people rushed to get out of her way.

Bruce and Alfred followed behind her without a word until they reached the exit. Alfred swiftly pointed out their vehicle, and Emilie pushed the children towards the car. Adrien took Marinette’s hand, and the pair quickly shuffled into the back row of the van.

Once the children were safely in the car, Emilie began to help Alfred and Bruce load up the trunk. Bruce had never seen Emilie move so fast and with such anxiety. Even when she was dating Gabriel, she hadn’t acted like this. Something had changed…

He didn’t have time to dwell on it as he could hear people whispering his name. Bruce stood in front of Emilie as she slid into the car, shielding her from sight. He climbed in after her, and Alfred got into the passenger’s seat beside his eldest. Once they were buckled, Dick quickly took off, trying not to give the reporters any time to catch on to whose van this was.

Bruce looked to Emilie, who was clutching something tightly against her chest. He looked at it for a moment, his brow furrowing.

Did Emilie always own a peacock brooch?

He didn’t remember her owning one before. He also doubted that it was a gift from Gabriel either. He remembered that she had gotten rid of the majority of what Gabriel had gifted her. So where did she get that brooch? And what was so important about it that Emilie’s hands kept returning to it every time she tried to settle down?

Bruce’s train of thought was broken by a firm, yet gentle voice.

“Excuse me, are you Monsieur Wayne? Emilie said we would be meeting you at the airport,” Marinette asked.

Bruce turned to face the two children in the backseats. Marinette’s grey eyes were focused on him intently, but they contained a cautious warmth to them. She seemed to be trying to make the best of this, despite being hesitant, and Bruce appreciated it.

“Yes, I am Bruce Wayne. Emilie, mentioned you during her phone calls as well. You’re Marinette, are you not? Emilie said you were an aspiring fashion designer. I’d love to see some of your work—”

“Ah, ah, Master Bruce,” Alfred interrupted. “Not until Miss Marinette shows me her skills in the kitchen. Emilie has mentioned that she makes exquisite baked goods, and I’d love to try some.”

“Ooo! You can bake, Miss Dupain-Cheng? I would love to try some as well,” the driver said excitedly. “Hi, I’m Richard Grayson, one of Bruce’s adopted sons. I’m the eldest, and everyone calls me Dick. It’s very nice to meet you both.”

Marinette’s face was almost entirely flushed, stammering and flustered. It seemed that the young lady was unused to getting this much positive attention. She seemed uncertain of how to cope with their interest, so Bruce changed his focus.

“And you must be Adrien,” Bruce said to the blond boy. “Your mother was right. You do look a great deal like your grandfather Graham de Vanily.”

This seemed to get Adrien’s attention. The boy looked at Bruce, surprised, before asking, “Did you know him?”

“Yes, I did. He was good friends with my father. He used to bring your mother to Gotham every summer. It was how we first met—”

“He complained the whole time,” Emilie laughed. “I think you were what, six years old? He complained to his mother that he didn’t want to play with a ‘little girl’.”

“And you proceeded to drag me around the manor for the rest of the day,” Bruce said fondly. “You got me into trouble—”

“I got you out of it!” Emilie interrupted. “Your mom couldn’t stay mad at you when I started crying about how the flowers were all my fault.”

“Your father was so apologetic,” Alfred said with a smile. “He couldn’t believe you’d manipulated young Master Bruce into picking his mother’s tulips.”

“Wait, wait, WAIT! Are you telling me that Bruce, Mr. Serious Grumpypants, was actually a kid once? He wasn’t always a hardass?” Dick said incredulously.

“Oh, he was always grumpy,” Emilie giggled. “Why do you think I call him my complainer? But yes, I was a very persuasive playmate. We got into all sorts of trouble, didn’t we, Alfred?”

“Absolutely,” Alfred sighed. “Gave me grey hairs early.”

As Alfred and Emilie recounted more childhood stories, Bruce looked at the children. Marinette was smiling now, more relaxed than before. She was leaning against Adrien, who also appeared to be more relaxed. He was smiling as he watched his mother talk with Dick and Alfred.

Dick himself seemed to be having a ball. The young man seemed to take to Emilie the second Alfred backed up her stories, but that didn’t surprise Bruce. All of his boys respected Alfred, so if Alfred liked someone, so did they. Alfred loved Emilie, so Dick was more than willing to give her a chance. Bruce also knew his son was excited to learn new things he could torment him about.

Emilie had just finished the story of how she and Bruce had smuggled a kitten into the manner behind their parents’ backs when he heard Adrien laugh for the first time.

Right after his eldest had made a cat-pun.

“You’re right. It sounds like Maman and Mr. Wayne weren’t kitten around!” Adrien replied.

Dick’s grin grew wider as he began using more puns. Adrien seemed to be right behind him. The two shared puns back and forth while Emilie laughed. Bruce rolled his eyes and shared a pained look with Marinette. Poor girl looked close to screaming, her left eye twitching.

“I’m sorry about Dick,” he said quietly.

Marinette gave him a defeated sigh.

“It’s fine...Adrien’s entire sense of humor is puns…” she said.

Bruce almost put his head in his hands, and he could see Marinette struggling not to bang her head against the seat. On the one hand, he was very happy to see Dick and Adrien getting along. On the other hand...there were now two pun-loving beings in his home.

Oh God, Damian was going to kill them...or him.

Only time would tell exactly who his youngest son would target.

Maybe he should talk to Alfred about that...